Zakat al-Fitr is the Wajib on every Muslim and it has to pay before offering Eid prayer. However, it can be paid earlier than that to enable the poor to provide their needs for the Eid day. The purpose of paying Zakat al-Fitr is to provide the poor with their needs and make them happy on the blessed day of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Zakat al-Fitr is different from Zakat, the first difference between Zakat and Zakat al Fitr is of eligibility. All Muslims must pay Zakat al- Fitr regardless of their age or financial status. The second difference lies in the amount due. The amount attributed to Zakat al Fitr is very small so that everyone can easily pay it. However, Zakat is eligible on the amount to a larger number because of its 2.5% of all net savings. The third difference is of their due dates. Zakat can be paid at any time, with the only condition being that the earnings reflect one year’s worth of net savings while Zakat al- Fitr goes hand in hand before the end of Ramadan.
Ibn ’Abbas (RA) narrated that, ‘The Messenger of Allah Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) enjoined Zakat ul-Fitr on the one who fasts (i.e. fasted during the month of Ramadan) to purify him from any indecent act or speech and for the purpose of providing food for the needy. It is accepted as Zakat for the person who pays it before the Eid prayer and it is Sadaqah (i.e. voluntary charity) for the person who pays it after the Eid prayer.’ (Abu Dawood)
It is essential to give Zakat Al-Fitr to those who are eligible to receive it. The recipients consist of the eight-group mentioned in Surah al-Tawba. In the Holy Quran, Almighty Allah mentioned the group of people who are eligible to pay Zakat al-Fitr. “Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakat] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” (Quran, 9:60)
A person has to be a Muslim to be required to pay/give and qualify to receive Zakat al-Fitr. It is stated in hadith in these words: “Prophet Muhammad (SAW) made it incumbent on all the slave or free Muslims, male or female, to pay one Sa’ of dates or barley as Zakat-ul-Fitr” (Bukhari).
One should start giving Zakat Al-Fitr in the last few days of Ramadan and it must be completed before conducted the Eid ul-Fitr prayers. Ibn ‘Abbas (RA) narrated, that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
“Whoever gives it before the prayer, it is accepted zakat, and whoever gives it after the prayer, it is a kind of charity.” (Abu Dawood).
May Allah Almighty accept our fasts and give us the strength to complete them in a better way by paying Zakat al-Fitr. Ameen!