zakaatul-fitr is an obligatory charity on every muslim at the end of the month of ramadan. ibn 'umar said: "the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, enjoined the payment of one sa'a (a volume measure corresponding approximately to the volume of 5 lb) of dates or one sa'a of barley as zakaat al-fitr on every muslim, young and old, male and female, free and slave." [al-bukhaari and muslim]
the purpose of zakat al-fitr is to purify the one who has fasted from any type of indecent act or speech he might have committed while fasting. it also helps the poor and the needy. ibn 'abbaas said: "the messanger of allah, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, enjoined zakaat al-fitr on the one who fasts to shield him from any indecent act or speech and for the purpose of providing food for the needy." [abu daawood and ibn maajah]
the amount of zakaatul-fitr
as the first hadeeth indicated, the amount of zakaatul-fitr is one sa'a. sa'a is a volume measure corresponding approximately to the volume of 5 lb of good wheat. the material of the zakaat can be either dates, barley, wheat, rice, corn or similar items considered as basic foods. abu sa'eed, may allaah be pleasdd with him, said: "we used to give for zakaatul-fitr on behalf of every child, aged person, free man or slave during the lifetime of the messanger of allaah, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, one sa'a of food, or one sa'a of dried yogurt, or one sa'a of barley, or one sa'a of dates, or one sa'a of raisins." [al-bukhaari and muslim]
the time for zakaatul-fitr
zakaatul-fitr has to be paid by the end of ramadhaan. there are two times to pay zakaatul-fitr. either one or two days before 'eed as 'umar used to do, or the day of 'eed before the 'eed prayer. ibn 'umar reported that the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, ordered them to pay zakaatul-fitr before they go out to perform the 'eed prayer. if zakaatul-fitr is paid after the 'eed prayer, it will only be considered as regular charity. the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, said: "if one pays zakat al-fitr before the salat, it is considered an accepted zakat, if he pays it after the salat, it is considered an ordinary charity." [abu daawood]
zakaatul-fitr is to be given to the same eight categories or people as in the other types of zakat. some scholars say that the poor and the needy are the most deserving ones since the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, said that it had "...the purpose of providing food for the needy."
playing, recreation, and eating on the day of 'eed:
these are permissible as log as they stay within the acceptable bounds of islam. anas said: when the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, came to al-madeenah, they had two days for amusement. the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, has exchanged these days for two better days: the day of breaking the fast and the day of sacrifice. [an-nasaa'i and ibn hibbaan]
taking women and children to the prayer area:
the prophet sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, used to take his wives and daughters to the two 'eeds. umm atiyah, may allaah be pleasd with her, said: "we were ordered to go out with the single and menstruating women to the two 'eeds in order to witness the good and the supplications of the muslims. the menstruating women though would stay away from the prayer area." [al-bukhaari and muslim]
going to the prayer area:
the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, used to go to the prayer area on foot. jaaber narrated: "on the days of 'eed, the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, would go to the prayer area by one route and come back by another route." [al-bukhaari]
eating before going to the prayer area:
since 'eed al-fitr is the day on which muslims break their ramadhaan fast, it is preferable to eat before going to the 'eed prayer. it is a sunnah of the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, to eat an odd number of dates before going to pray salaat al-'eed. anas reported: "the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, would not go out on the day of 'eed al-fitr without eating an odd number of dates." [al-bukhaari]
preparation for 'eed prayer:
it is preferred to make ghusl (take a bath), wear one's best clothes and, for men, to put perfume before going to salaat al-'eed. ibn al-qayyim said: "the prophet, sallaallahu alayhi wa sallam, used to wear his best clothes for the 'eed prayers and he had clothes that he reserved for the two 'eeds and jumu'ah."
takbeer starts from the night of 'eed's eve until the imaam comes out to start the prayer. allaah says (which means): "allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify allah (i.e., say takbeer) for that [to] which he has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful." [quran; 2: 185] the form of takbeer is related by 'umar and ibn mas'ood: "allahu akbar, allahu akbar, la illaha illallaah. allahu akbar. allahu akbar wa lillaahil-hamd."
congratulating each other:
it has been narrated that when the prophet's companions met each other on the 'eed day, they would say to each other: "may allah accept from us and from you." [ahmad]