Understanding the Obligations of Zakaat Al-Fitr

Zakaat Al-Fitris an individual obligation upon every Muslim who can afford it, prescribed by theSharee‘ah(Islamic legislation) based on the texts of the Quran andSunnah(Prophetic tradition), and scholarly consensus. It was ordained, along with fasting, in the second year afterHijrah(Emigration). The recipients ofSadaqat Al-Fitrare the same recipients of generalZakaah(obligatory charity), based on what Allaah The Almighty Says (which means):{Zakaah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy…}[Quran 9:60]

There is a consensus among the scholars on the obligation ofZakaat Al-Fitr,which has two conditions:
1.The amount (oneSaa’) should be superfluous over one’s own need and the need of his dependants for the day and night of ‘Eed.
2.It should be given upon (and not before) the arrival of its due time, which is sunset of the last day ofRamadhaan.
The amount given asSadaqat Al-Fitris a singleSaa‘ for each Muslim, but it can be less than oneSaa‘ if the Muslim does not find any more than that.Sadaqat Al-Fitris obligatory upon every Muslim individually, and the Muslim is not obligated to give it on behalf of others according to the majority opinion of scholars. However, one can give it on behalf of those under his care with their consent. An exception to this ruling is the slave, for whomSadaqat Al-Fitris, of course, an obligation, but in his case it is acceptable for his master to pay on his behalf. The Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ), said:"There is no charity to be paid on the slave (i.e. for owning him) except Sadaqat Al-Fitr."[Muslim]
It is recommended that the Muslim givesSadaqat Al-Fitron behalf of the fetus if it is four months old as ‘Uthmaan did so, and he was one of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs regarding whom we are ordered to follow their practices.
According to an authentic narration, it is permissible to giveZakaat Al-Fitrearly but only by a maximum of two days before ‘Eedas reported from Ibn ‘Umar . In aHadeeth(narration), it was said,"Ibn ‘Umar gave Sadaqat Al-Fitr for those who would accept it, and they used to receive it one or two days before ‘Eed Al-Fitr."[Al-Bukhaari]
However, it is preferable to give it before the ‘EedPrayer due to theHadeethwhich was narrated on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar where it was mentioned that the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ), orderedSadaqat Al-Fitrto be distributed before Muslims go out for the ‘EedPrayer. It is not permissible to delay it until after the ‘EedPrayer, and if it is, it would not be valid. The Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ), said:"Whoever introduces something to our affairs (i.e. religion) which does not belong to it, it will be rejected."
Therefore, the time for givingZakaat Al-Fitrcan be one of three:
1- Permissible: Two days before‘Eed Al-Fitr.
2- Recommended: On the morning of the day of‘Eedbefore the Prayer.
3- Prohibited: After the ‘EedPrayer, when it is not considered valid.
It is permissible to authorize someone to giveSadaqat Al-Fitron one's behalf. There is no harm in delaying it for a valid reason.Sadaqat Al-Fitrcan be given out of the common staple food of the country, and according to the majority of scholars, it is not permissible to give the monetary value ofSadaqat Al-Fitr. The Muslim may give one person manySaa‘s or oneSaa‘ to many people.
It is preferable for the Muslim to give it personally so that he canbe sure that it is delivered on time.
The Commander of the Believers, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul-Azeez would command the Muslims to giveSadaqat Al-Fitrand recite the verse (which means):{He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself. And mentions the Name of his Lord and prays.}[Quran 87:14-15]
Ibn ‘Umar said,"The Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )ordained Zakaat Al-Fitr to be given as one Saa‘ (handful) of dates or barley for every slave and free Muslim, male or female, young or old. He ordered it to be given out before the Muslims go to the ‘Eed Prayer."[Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

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