The term Zakat al-Fitr is a combination of two Arabic words – ‘zakat’, which means ‘charity’, and ‘fitr’, which is also referred to as ‘Iftar’ meaning breaking a fast.
Zakat al-Fitr is a compulsory charity given by Muslims in the last days, or at the end, of Ramadan.
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This obligatory charity plays a very important role in the development of communal bonds.
The rich are obliged to come in direct contact with the poor, and the poor are put in contact with the extremely poor.
This contact between the various levels of society helps to build real bonds of kinship and love within the Muslim community and trains those who have to be generous to those who do not have.
Every Muslim is required to pay Zakat al-Fitr at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan as a token of thankfulness to God for enabling him or her to observe the obligatory fast.
Its purposes are:
- It is a levy on the fasting person. This is based on the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him):
“The fasting of the month of Ramadan will be hanging between earth and the heavens and it will not be raised up to the Divine Presence without paying the Zakat al-Fitr.”
- To purify those who fast from any act or speech that could have subtracted from their fasting
- To help the poor and needy celebrate Eid in a joyous mood, without worrying about where and how to get food the day.
A Muslim who is not dependent and has more than he needs to eat, gives on behalf of self and dependents.
The poor and the needy in the community where the one who gives resides, or another community if there are no more needy people around.
When to give?
Zakat al-Fitr is expected to be given out one or two days before Eid or on Eid day, before the prayer.
If it is given after the Eid prayer, it will be considered as a ‘sadaqah’ and not Zakat al-Fitr.
What to give?
One sa’ (estimated to be 2.40kg by majority of scholars), or four handfuls of an average man, of preferably the most consumed food in the community. This can be rice, maize, beans, millet etc.