'Purifying' your fasting in Ramadan with Zakat-ul-Fitr (Zakat Fitrah)

ramadhanZakat-ul-Fitr is a special charity of the month of Ramadan. This charity should be given during the month of Ramadan anytime before the `Eid-ul-Fitr prayer. Because it can be given until the `Eid-ul-Fitr time, it is called Zakat-ul-Fitr. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) urged Muslims to pay this charity in the month of Ramadan.
Zakat-ul-Fitr is obligatory upon every (capable) Muslim, whether male or female. The head of the household must pay this amount on behalf of his/her own self and on behalf of their spouse, children and even servants.
Zakat-ul-Fitr is also known as Zakat Puasa (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, and much of South East Asia), Zakat Ramadan, and Zakat Fitrah, as it is to be performed at the end of the month of Ramadhan and as Eid ul-Fitr approaches.

Zakat-ul-Fitr is a means of 'purifying' the act of fasting (which is the fourth principle of Islam) in the month of Ramadhan as we might have unconsciously commited certain sins while performing the fast. Also, the proceeds will help to lighten the burden of the poor and other needy groups. Zakat-ul-Fitr is compulsory (wajib) to all Muslims.

Amounts of Zakat-ul-Fitr

It is compulsory that the item to be given away as Zakat-ul-Fitr is the staple food of that country. In many countries in Asia, the staple food is rice. Hence, the amount to be given is about 2.3 kilograms of rice. For practical purposes, the monetary equivalent of that amount is allowed to be used as Zakat Fitrah.

Sheikh Yusuf Qardhawi explain about the amounts of Zakat-ul-Fitr:

“The amount of zakat al-fitr does not vary as it is estimated by Islamic Law as one saa` (2.176 kilograms or 4.797 pounds) and it was fixed by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). The wisdom behind estimating zakat al-fitr by the saa`,

The saa` is a measure that equals approximately 2 kilograms or 5 pounds. According to Abu Hanifah, it is allowed to pay zakat al-fitr in cash. If the one who gives zakat al-fitr is rich, it would be better for him to pay more than the amount of one saa`, as the food is not limited to rice, but there should be meat, sauce, vegetables, fruit, etc. along with the rice.”

Time to give Zakat-ul-Fitr

The payment of Zakat Fitrah can be done from the first day of the month of Ramadhan. However, it is encouraged, as it is the Sunnah (practice) of the Prophet of Islam that it be paid on the eve of Shawal (the month following Ramadhan) until before the Eid ul-Fitr prayers. After that any payment is considered as charity (sadaqah).

People Who Receive Zakat

There are eight categories of people and services for whom and which it is permissible to pay Zakat:

    * 1. The poor
    * 2. The needy
    * 3. Those who collect Zakah
    * 4. Those whose hearts are to be reconciled
    * 5. To free a captive
    * 6. Those in debt
    * 7. In the way of Allah
    * 8. For the wayfarers

References: islamonline.net, goldcoastmuslims.com