Significance of Zakat-ul-Fitr

Dr. Bilal A. Bhat & Intizar Ahmad

Islam is a religion of peace. If, with an open mind, one reads the Holy Quran, or studies the life of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W), or examines the principles of Islam, or examines Islamic history from its primary sources, the first thing that would become evident is that Islam is not a religion of warfare, or of bloodletting and terrorism. Islam commands us to be greatful to Almighty Allah (SWT) by using His favours in proper manners. We should share Allah’s favours on us, with others. Allah can provide them (needy ones) better than what He has given to us, but He wants to test us: Is the love of Allah more in our hearts or the love of Dollars? Sadaqah al-Fitr (voluntary charity) is a very important part of Fasting in Ramadan. One very important aspect of fasting is that we become aware of how poor people feel. Poverty is a cause of many problems. Zakaah al-Fitr is often referred to as Sadaqah al-Fitr. The word Fitr means the same as Iftaar, breaking a fast and it comes from the same root word as Futoor which means breakfast. Thus, Islamically, Zakaah al-Fitr is the name given to charity which is distributed at the end of the fast of Ramadaan. Every Muslim is required to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan as a token of thankfulness to Allah for having enabled him to observe fasts. Its purpose is to purify those who fast from any indecent act or speech and to help the poor and needy. This view is based upon the hadith which reads, “The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W), enjoined Zakat-ul-Fitr on those who fast to shield them from any indecent act or speech, and for the purpose of providing food for the needy. It is accepted as Zakah for the one who pays it before the `Eid prayer, and it is sadaqah for the one who pays it after the prayer.” Al-Qaradawi comments on this hadith by saying that there are two purposes: one is related to the individual; for completion of his fast and compensation for any shortcomings in his acts or speech. The other is related to society; for the spreading of love and happiness among its members, particularly the poor and needy, during the day of `Eid. It also purifies one’s soul from such shortcomings as the adoration of property, and from miserliness. Furthermore, it purifies one’s property from the stain of unlawful earnings. It is also a cure for ailments. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “It would be better that you treat your patients with charity.” In addition, it provides for the needs of the poor and the indigent and relieves them from having to ask others for charity on the day of `Eid. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Fulfil their need on this day (i.e., the day of `Eid)” Zakat-ul-Fitr is incumbent on every free Muslim who possesses one Sa` of dates or barley which is not needed as basic food for himself or his family for the duration of one day and night. Every free Muslim must pay Zakat-ul-Fitr for himself, his wife, children, and servants. This is the opinion of Imam Malik, Al-Shafi`i, and Ahmad. Imam Abu Hanifah, however, said that it is only obligatory for one who possesses a nisab (a minimum amount of property) after fulfilling the costs of his house, servant, horse, and weapon. We have to bear in mind that Zakat-ul-Fitr is obligatory for everyone who lives until the sun sets on the last day of Ramadan. This is the point of view of the Shafi`is, Hanbalis, and Malikis. Accordingly, whoever dies before the sun sets on the last day of Ramadan is exempted. Likewise, a person who has a baby on the last day of Ramadan should pay Zakat-ul-Fitr for the baby. The majority of jurists argue that we should not pay Zakat-ul-Fitr for an embryo. But Imam Ahmad holds that Zakat-ul-Fitr is also obligatory for an embryo, because it is permissible to assign property to an embryo by means of a will. The jurists agree that Zakat-ul-Fitr is due at the end of Ramadan. They differ, however, about the exact time. Al-Thawri, Ishaq, Malik (in one of two reports), and Al-Shafi`i (in one of his two opinions), are of the opinion that it is due at the sunset of the night of breaking the fast, for this is when the fast of Ramadan ends. However, Al-Layth, the Hanafi school, Al-Shafi`i (in his other opinion), and the second report of Malik say that Zakat-ul-Fitr is due at the start of Fajr (dawn) on the day of `Eid because it is an act of worship connected with `Eid, so the time of its payment should not be before `Eid just as sacrifice on the `Eid of Adha.
An Occasion an Opportunity for the believers to forget all grudges and ill-feelings towards one another and start afresh in the brotherly spirit that Islam preaches
It is not permissible to delay giving Zakat-ul-Fitr after the day of `Eid (i.e., one may give it up to the time of the `Eid prayer). Zakat-ul-Fitr is not nullified simply by failure to pay it on its due time. If it is not paid before `Eid prayer, one is not exempt from it. It becomes a debt payable even after death. The heirs must not distribute the deceased’s legacy before payment of the deceased’s unpaid Zakat-ul-Fitr.Most scholars believe that it is permissible to pay Za kat-ul-Fitr a day or two before `Eid. Ibn `Umar reported that the Messenger, upon whom be peace, ordered them to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr before the people went out to perform the `Eid prayer. Nafi‘ reported that `Umar used to pay it a day or two before the end of Ramadan. However, scholars hold different opinions when a longer time period is involved. During the time of the Companions the payment was made one or two days before the `Eid. After the spread of Islam the jurists permitted its payment from the beginning and middle of Ramadan so as to ensure that the Zakat-ul-Fitr reached its beneficiaries on the day of `Eid, thereby avoiding the possibility that the process of distribution would delay reception of the payment after the day of `Eid. The jurists hold different views as to the types of food which must be given as Zakat-ul-Fitr. The Hanbali view is that the kinds of food which can be given are five: dates, raisins, wheat, barley, and dry cottage cheese. Imam Ahmad is reported to have said that any kind of staple grain or dates are also permissible, even if the above five types are available. The Malikis and Shafi`is are of the view that it is permissible to give any kind of food as long as it is the main staple in that particular region or the main food of the person. As for the Hanafis, they permit paying the value of Zakat-ul-Fitr in money. The amount of Zakat-ul-Fitr, is one Sa` of food. There is consensus on this amount among the scholars with regard to all types of food except wheat and raisins. As for these two types the Shafi`is, Malikis and Hanbalis agree that the prescribed amount is one Sa`, however the Hanafis say it is sufficient to pay half Sa` from wheat and they differed with regard to raisins.Sa` is a certain measure which equals 4 mudds (a mudd equals a handful of an average man). The contemporary equivalent weights of Sa` differs according to the stuff which is weighted. For example a Sa` of wheat equals 2176 grams, a Sa` of rice is 2520 grams, a Sa` of beans equals 2250 grams etc. Therefore some scholars are of the view that the criterion should be the measure not the weight for there are kinds of food which are heavier than others. But I think this is the case if the equivalent weight of a certain kind of food is not known. If there is no available measure or weight with the person, then he should pay 4 mudds. Nowadays, it is not that problem because ministries of religious affairs in Muslim countries and Masjids and Islamic centres announce the value of Zakat-ul-Fitr every year. Anyhow, this is the obligatory amount which every Muslim should pay. It is better and recommended that one pays an extra amount, particularly for those who are wealthy, for they will be rewarded for it. How to celebrate Eid amidst coronavirus pandemic? Islam teaches that all diseases such as the Coronavirus [Covid-19] are tests from Allah and a natural part of life. Such diseases afflict whomever Allah allows them to afflict and they take the lives of whomever He has decided to bring to an end. Tests are a natural, albeit difficult, part of life and should not be surprising for any Muslim when they occur. Allah says, “We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property, lives, and crops. But [Prophet], give good news to those who are steadfast.” [Qur’an 2:155] The holy Prophet said, “Whatever trouble, illness, anxiety, grief, hurt or sorrow afflicts any Muslim, even the prick of a thorn, God removes some of his sins by it.” [Bukhārī #5641] Regarding illnesses leading to death, the Prophet was asked about the plague. He responded, “It is a torment with which Allah afflicts those whom He chooses, but He has made it a mercy for the believers. If a servant [of Allah] is afflicted with the plague and patiently remains in his town, realizing that he has only been afflicted with what Allah has determined for him, he will have the reward of a martyr.” [Bukhārī #5734] Islam requires us to both put our trust in Allah and utilize the means to protect ourselves when possible. During the lifetime of the Prophet, some people thought that using medicine may go against the concept of relying on Allah [tawakkul]. Those people asked, “Messenger of Allah, should we use medicine?” The Prophet replied, “Yes, you may use medicine. Allah has not created any disease without also creating its cure, except one: old age.” [Abū Dāwūd #3855, graded ṣaḥīḥ by scholars] The Prophet clarified that the use of medicine is permissible and even encouraged, and that this does not violate the concept of trust in Allah. The Messenger of Allah said, “An ill person should not mix with healthy people.” [Muslim #2221b] The Prophet also said, “Avoid a [contagious] disease the way a person flees from a lion.” [Bukhārī #5707] Therefore, taking precautions to avoid the spread of infectious disease is something prescribed in Islam. Anyone testing positive for Covid-19 is not allowed to attend community events since they would be harming other people, and that is prohibited. The same applies for people who have traveled to the most affected areas such as China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea. Imam Ibn ʿAbdul Barr [d. 1071 CE] wrote: “Anything that would inconvenience one’s fellow worshipers in the mosque such as anyone afflicted with diarrhea… foul odor due to illness…infectious virus, or anything else that would inconvenience the public, it is permitted for people to keep such an individual away, as long as the ailment is present. Once the condition ceases, they may return to the mosque.” [At-Tamhīd] Caliph ʿUmar went to visit Syria when the plague of ʿAmawās broke out in 18 A.H. He sought consultation from his advisors on whether to return to Madīnah, the capital, or continue on. One of them said, “You left for the sake of Allah so this plague should not stop you.” Others advised the opposite. ʿUmar decided to return to Madīnah. Abū ʿUbaydah rebuked him, “Are you fleeing from the decree of Allah?” He responded, “Yes, I am fleeing from the decree of Allah to the decree of Allah. If you had camels and they entered a land with two sides, one fertile and the other barren, and you grazed them in the fertile area, wouldn’t you be doing that by the decree of Allah? And if you let them graze in the barren area, wouldn’t you be doing that also by the decree of Allah.” ʿUmar’s statement demonstrates an excellent example of how to balance between relying on Allah and taking sufficient precautions. This year, Eid will be celebrated with the coronavirus pandemic coming down heavily across the world and strict stay at home orders circulated, there’s no denying that the festivities will be a little dull than usual this year. But that doesn’t mean we can’t usher in the festival spirit. We will suggest few simple ways of celebrating the holy festival of Eid in a safe and healthy way this year. We suggest as
(a) Hold virtual parties: It might not be possible for you to visit your friends and family this Eid, but there’s no need to put a damper on the festivities. Connect to your loved ones online, hold virtual parties and this way, you can celebrate the festival with the ones all around the world.
(b) Have something healthy immunity rich for the day: Eid delights and delicacies are something everybody looks forward to. While we are sure most of us would be busy cooking up a storm in the kitchen, how about you also include something healthy and nutrition-packed in your meals as well? Make sure to include some source of Vitamin C, fruits, antioxidant-rich food items which will also balance our the feasting and ensure
(c) Follow social distancing: Even as the lockdown restrictions have eased out in certain parts of the country and movement has been allowed, it is crucial that you follow the rules of social distancing diligently, sanitize and disinfect all surfaces, avoid getting in touch with germy areas and wear a mask all the time.
(d) Help the poor and needy: Doing alms and charity is one of the biggest pillars of Islam and many Muslims around the world make it a point to practice social welfare. This year, it can be a good idea to help those in need. Many struck by the unprecedented crisis are finding it hard to manage rations or have protective equipment to stay safe. You can distribute money, grains to those in need right now. Charity, volunteering, practising gratitude are some of the ways to enjoy the festival. (e) 5. Don’t forget to dress up: The festival might mean that you will be staying indoors all day long but doesn’t mean you have to stay in your pyjamas. Dressing up for a change can brighten up your day and feel a change from the lockdown routine. We pray to Allah (S.W.T) on this great day of Eid Ul-Fitr to solve our problems, grant us with tawfeeq to follow in the path of Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W) and forgive us and our dear ones who are not in this world. (Ameen!)

(The authors write regularly on Islamic topics for Kashmir Horizon exclusively. Views are their own, [email protected])

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