We are nearing the end of Ramadan so this is the time you should reflect on how you did this month. Were you striving to uphold the Ramadan etiquettes the whole month, or did you fall short? If your Ramadan was perfect then thank and praise Allah and if your Ramadan was something less than perfect then seek His forgiveness in these last remaining days.
Allah, in his ultimate mercy, legislated zakat al-fitr at the end of this blessed month to give the Muslim a means to make up for whatever bad deeds he most surely committed during Ramadan. Ibn Abbas said:
“The Messenger of Allah obligated zakat al-fitr as a purification for the faster for any idle speech and inappropriate acts and to feed the poor, so whoever performs it before the prayer then the zakat will be accepted and whoever performs it after the prayer then it is a general charity.” (Ibn Majah, and Abu Dawud)
Zakat al-fitr is obligatory upon every Muslim male, female, adult and child according to the majority of scholars.
The zakat should be paid in the form of a staple food that is storable. The Sahabah used to give dates or barley, because they were staple food items for them at that time. Today it might be more appropriate to give rice, oatmeal, cereal, etc, depending on the food of the people in the area that you live.
Some of the Salaf, such as Abu Hanifah, Sufyan Ath-Thawree, Al-Hasan Al-Basree, and others were of the opinion that it is permissible to give the equivalent in money, but this opposes the clear hadith and the actions of the Sahabah.
The amount to be given is 1 saa’ per person in the family. A saa’ is a volumetric measurement equivalent to about 3 litres. Different grains have different weights so the best thing to do is weigh 3 litres of the food item you intend to give and then use that weight as a guide to how much you need to buy and disperse.
The following are the weights of common food items per person:
Rice = 82.5oz
Oatmeal = 40.5oz
Grits = 75oz
Cereal (Cheerios) = 12oz
So for example if you have a wife and two children (4 people total) and you want to give rice then the amount would be:
4 x 82.5 = 330oz or 20.6 lbs of rice.
The best time to distribute the zakat al-fitr is the morning of the Eid, before the prayer, but it is permissible to distribute it up to 2 days before.
The zakat al-fitr should be distributed to the poor people and the people who have debts they are unable to pay in the area that you live.
You can give your zakat to just one person or to a number of different people. It is also permissible for a group of people to give zakat to just one person.
It is also permissible for the poor person to take the zakat al-fitr given to him and give it out to someone else if they want the reward of giving zakat.
I ask Allah to accept all our fasts and bless us with a joyous Eid.
A simple method of working out the amount needed for zakat al-fitr if you live in America is to look at the “Nutrition Facts” label on the back. It usually shows the serving size in cups and the amount of servings in the container. A saa’ works out to be about 13 cups, so work out how many cups in the container then work out how many containers you will need to make 13 cups.
The label shows that a serving is 1/3 of a cup and there are 11 servings, therefore
11 x 1/3 = 3 2/3 cups in this container
So to make 13 cups we will need about 3 1/2 boxes of this food item. So either round up to 4 boxes or find a box that is 1/2 the size of this container.