Question 045: What is Zakat al-Fitrah and on whom its payment is obligatory? Can you also please let me know the commodity for, and the quantity of and the time when Zakãt of Fitrah becomes obligatory Zakät?
Brief Answer 045: At the time of sunset on Eid ul fitr night (i.e. the night preceding Eid day), whoever is adult and sane and is neither unconscious, nor poor, nor the slave of another, he should give, on his own behalf as well as on behalf of all those who are his dependents, about three kilos per head of wheat or barley or dates or raisins or rice or millet etc. It is also sufficient if he pays the price of one of these items in cash. As per obligatory precaution, he should not give from that food which is not staple in his place, even if it be wheat, barley, dates or raisins.
Detailed Answer 045: Zakãt al-Abdan (or Zakãt of Bodies) is also called Fitrah. There are several traditions that have come down on this subject. Here are a few of them.
- ‘Who so ever fails to pay Zakãt-i Fitrah runs the risk of meeting (an early) death.”
- Verily, Zakãt-i Fitrah complements Fasting in the same way as the Salavat on the Prophet (May Allah send Blessings on him and his Progeny) complements Prayers.
Now, we shall discuss about those on whom its payment is obligatory, its commodity, its quantity, its time and its uses.
Those on Whom Payment of Zakat-i Fitrah is Obligatory:
1:The payment of Zakãt-i Fitrah is obligatory on a person who is Mukallaf, free and rich, in deed or virtually. So it is obligatory neither on a minor, nor on a lunatic, even if he has fits of lunacy periodically, in case he has had a fit of lunacy on the beginning of the night of Eid (al-Fitr). It is also not obligatory on their guardian (or Wali) to pay the Fitrah on their behalf out of their property. Rather, according to the stronger opinion, there is exemption from its payment as regards its payment for a minor or a lunatic even by the person who maintains a minor or a lunatic. Nor is its payment obligatory on one who has been unconscious on the beginning of the night of Eid (al-Fitr). Nor is it obligatory on a slave. Nor is it obligatory on a poor person who has no expenses for himself and his family sufficient for the whole year, indeed and virtually, as a surplus after deducting the debts and other exemptions. It is more cautious to take into consideration the debts the person has to pay during the current year and others. Of course, according to the more cautious opinion, if a person has something surplus from the expenses of a day and night even to the extent of a Sã (a cubic measure of varying magnitude = about 3 kilos), it would be better for him to pay the Fitrah. Rather it is approved even for a poor person to pay the Fitrah in all circumstances even if he revolves a single Sa’ throughout the members of his family until it comes back to himself, and then he should pay it to a stranger (poor person). This is the rule when there is no non-Mukallaf person among the members of his family, otherwise, he should confine the revolving process of the Sä among the Mukallaf members of his family only. If a Wali (or guardian) receives Fitrah from a non-Mukallaf, he should spend it on him alone and none else, and it is not to be paid to anyone else.
2: It is a condition that the above conditions should be there at the beginning of the night of Eid (al-Fitr) i.e., before the beginning of the night even if for a moment, in a way that the person should fulfill all the conditions when the night falls, so that it is not sufficient to possess these qualifications earlier but losing it as the night falls. Likewise, it is not sufficient if a person did not fulfill these conditions earlier, but happens to fulfill them afterwards. So the payment of Fitrah shall be obligatory on a person, for example, who attains the legal maturity (or Bulugh) at the time of the nightfall or he recovers of his lunacy. But it would not be obligatory on a person who attains legal maturity after the fall of night, or one who recovers of his lunacy. Of course, it would be approved to pay the Fit rah if a person attains legal maturity or recovers of his lunacy before noon on the day of (Eid al-Fitr).
3: Payment of Fitrah for himself and for those who are maintained by him is obligatory on person who fulfils all the conditions mentioned above, regardless whether the person maintained is a Muslim or an infidel, free or slave, minor or adult, including even a child born before the sight of the moon for the month of Shawwâl even for a moment. Similarly, everyone who enters the list of persons maintained by him before the sight of the moon for the month of Shawwàl including even a guest, although he may have not eaten anything (in his house), provided he falls under the persons maintained by him, although he may not be treated as a member of his family, contrary to a child born after the sunset. The same rule shall apply to a person who is included among the persons maintained by him after the sunset, so that he shall not be bound to pay their Fitrah. Of course, payment of Fitrah by him for them shall be approved if what is mentioned above takes place before noon on the day of Eid (al-Fitr)
4: A person the payment of whose Fitrah has become obligatory on another person due to his becoming the latter’s guest or being included among those maintained by him shall himself be exempted from its payment, even if he happens to be a rich person and would have fulfilled all the conditions required for the payment of Fitrah had he not been included among those maintained by the other person. Rather, according to the stronger opinion, payment of Fitrah shall be exempted if the host or one having the liability of maintenance happens to be poor while the guests were rich. According to the stronger opinion, the guest should himself pay the Fitrah if he comes to know that the host has not paid it due to forgetfulness or deliberate violation (of the relevant rule), though, according to the stronger opinion, it shall not be obligatory on him to pay his own Fitrah. According to the stronger opinion, payment of Fitrah is obligatory on the guest if he does not fall under the category of those maintained by the host, but the host should not give up caution by also paying the Fitrah for such guest in addition to the one paid by the guest.
5: If a person is away from his family, it shall be obligatory on him to make the payment of the Fitrah for the members of his family, except when he has authorized them to pay it from his own property and they can be relied upon in the matter of payment (of the Fitrah).
6: Apparently the criterion for being a member of one’s family is being included among those maintained by that person and not among those whom he is liable to maintain, though it is to be more cautious to take into consideration either of the two aspects. If the permanent wife of a person is included among those maintained by another, payment of the Fitrah shall be obligatory on that person, and not on her. If the wife does not fall under those who are to be maintained by any one else, payment shall be obligatory on herself provided that she fulfills all the relevant conditions. In case she does not fulfill the relevant conditions, payment of her Fitrah shall not be obligatory on any person. The same rule shall apply to the case of a slave.
7: If a person is to be maintained by two persons, payment of his Fitrah shall be the liability of both, provided that they are capable to do so. In case only one of them is able to maintain the person, it shall be obligatory to pay the Fitrah of his share to the exclusion of that of the other. Caution must not be given up in both the cases.
8: The receipt of Fitrah of a non-Hãshemite by a Hàshemite is forbidden, the criterion in this case being the maintainer and not the person maintained. It is more cautious to observe caution in both the cases.
9: Like all the other cases of Ibädät, in Fitrah too, Niyyat is essential. It is permissible for a person on whom payment of Fitrah is obligatory to pay the Fitrah personally or authorize another to make its payment on his behalf. In such case, it is indispensable for the agent to make the
Niyyat of closeness (to Allah). If the principal authorizes another merely to take the Fitrah to the poor, the former shall be bound to have the Niyyat that what his agent is taking to the poor is the Zakãt (of Fitrah). It is sufficient to have such Niyyat in his heart, and it is not obligatory to bring it to his memory in detail. It is also permissible for a person to authorize another to make the payment of the Fitrah from his own property, and get its payment from him, so that the latter becomes an agent in payment of something from the property of his client. It is also permissible to authorize another to make payment of his Fitrah from his own property voluntarily without demanding its payment from him. Of course, there is difficulty in the permissibility of payment of Fitrah for another voluntarily without being authorized by that person to do so as his agent.
The Commodity for the Zakät of Fitrah:
1: The general rule for the commodity of the Zakãt of Fitrah is what is usually used for food in each community or area, though they may not suffice with it, as wheat, barley and rice used in most of the parts of Iran and Iraq, rice most of the areas of Gilan and its suburbs, dates, cheese and yoghurt are used in Nejd and the plains of Hijãz, though, according to the stronger opinion, it is permissible to pay the Fitrah in the form of (any of) the four grains in all circumstances. If in an area the staple food is maize or the like, it is permissible to pay the Fitrah in the form of maize, as also it is permissible to pay it in the form of (any of) the four grains. In case a particular grain is not the staple food of an area, it is more cautious to pay Fitrah in the form of the four grains. It is also permissible to pay Fitrah in value of the commodity. There is, however, difficulty in the permissibility of the payment of Fitrah in the form of anything else that is not of the same commodity in value; rather, it is not far from being insufficient. It is also a condition to take into consideration the time of payment and the place at the time of paying the value of the commodity of Fitrah
2: It is also a condition in whatever is paid as Fitrah that it must be sound and without any defect, so that it is not permissible to pay it in the form of anything defective, as also it is not permissible to pay it in the form of a commodity mixed with something pardonable. Rather there is difficulty in the permissibility of paying something defective and mixed in value for something sound without defect and unmixed.
3: It is preferable to pay the Fitrah in the form of dates and then in the form of raisins (or currants). Preference is given to the more useful in consideration of the external preferences, as, in case the staple food of a person is wheat of superior quality, it is preferable for him to pay Fitrah also in the form of wheat of a superior quality and not of a lower quality, or in the form of barley.
The Quantity of Zakât of Fitrah:
The quantity of Zakàt of Fitrah is a Sã in case of each foodstuff, including even yoghurt. A Sa = 4 Mudds, which are equal to 9 Iraqi Ratls and 6 Medenese Ratis These 4 Mudds are equal to 614 1/4 Sayrafi Mithqäls. According to the Hiqqah of Najaf, which is equal to 933 1/3 Mithqals, it amounts to 1/2 Hiqqah, 1/2 Waqiyyah (a Waqiyyah being equal to 1/2 Ratl) and 31 Mithqäls minus two grams; while according to the Hiqqah of Istanbul, which is equal to 280 Mithqàls, it amounts to 2 Hiqqahs, 3/4 Waqiyyah and I 3/4 Mithqàls. According to the Shàhi Maund, which is equal to 1280 Mithqals, it amounts to 1/2 Maund minus 25 3/4 Mithqãls. According to the current measure in Kilograms, a Sa = about 3 Kilograms.
The Time When Zakãt of Fitrah Becomes Obligatory:
The time when payment of Fitrah becomes obligatory is the beginning of the night of Eid (al-Fitr) and continues till the noon (of Eid al-Fitr). It is preferable, rather more cautious, to delay the payment of Fitrah upto the day of Eid (al-Fitr). If a person offers the prayers of Eid (al-Fitr) he must not give up the caution by taking out the Zakãt of Fitrah before (offering) his prayers. If the time of payment of the Fitrah has already and he has set aside Fitrah, he must pay it to the person entitled to receive it. In case a person has not already set aside the Fitrah, then, according to the more cautious opinion, its payment shall not drop, and he should make its payment with the intention of seeking closeness (to Allah) without intending the payment being made on its due time or compensatory after the lapse of the due time.
1: It is not permissible to tender the Fitrah before the month of Ramadan, rather, according to the more cautious opinion, in all circumstances. Of course, there is no objection in its payment to a poor person and then accounting it for as Fitrah on the arrival of its time.
2: It is permissible to set aside Fitrah and specify it in the property of special commodities or set aside its value in cash. It is more cautious, rather more according to the guiding principles to confine to cash while setting aside the value of the commodity. If a person sets aside less than what is required, the rule shall be exclusively meant for that part, and the rest, shall remain unseparated. If a person sets aside more than required, then in setting it aside until the separated part is mixed with that belonging to Zakãt of Fitrah, there is difficulty. If, however, a person specifies the Zakãt of Fitrah in a property that is jointly owned by the master and another person, and his portion in it is equal to or less than Zakat, then apparently Zakât may be set aside in this way. If the time for the payment of Zakät of Fitrah has lapsed, but the person has set aside the Zakãt on its due time, it would be permissible for him to delay its payment to the person entitled to receive it, particularly in consideration of some preferences, though he shall be liable in case it is destroyed despite his capacity to pay it and the availability of the person entitled to receive it. On the contrary, if he were not capable, he shall not be held liable except in case of transgression of the rules or omission in the safeguard of the commodity like all other things deposited in trust.
3: lt is more cautious not to shift the commodity specified as Zakãt of Fitrah from one place to another when the person entitled to receive it is also there.
The Uses of Zakãt of Fitrah:
According to the stronger opinion, the uses of Zakãt of Fitrah are identical with those of the Zakat for property, though according to the more cautious opinion, it should be confined to payment to poor Mu’mins (i.e. Shi’ahs) and their children, rather the indigent among them, even if they are not morally sound. It is also permissible to pay the Fitrah to the Mustad’afs (i.e. those who have been rendered weak or poor) from among the opponents (i.e. the Sunnis) in case of unavailability of the Mu’mins (i.e. the Shi’ahs).
It is more cautious not pay to the poor less than a Sa (which is equal to about 3 Kilograms) or its value, even if the number of the poor is such that distributing the Fitrah to all of them in that way is not possible.
It is also permissible to pay several Sa’s (of Fitrah) to a single poor person, father even up to the extent of his yearly expenses.
According to the more cautious opinion Fitrah should not be paid or received more than required for the yearly expenses (of a poor person).
It is approved to pay Fitrah exclusively to the Dhawi al-Arham (relatives on the maternal side), neighbors, those who have migrated from their native places for the sake of (Islamic) faith, jurists, intellectuals, etc. who possess some preferences, and caution must not be given up by not paying Fitrah to one who drinks wine or commits such major sins in public.
It is not permissible to pay Fitrah to a person who spends it in the commission of a sin.
 . The official website of the office of Sayyid Sistani (ha), rules concerning Zakat of Fitrah.
 . Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 96, Pg. 109.
 . Wasael al-Shia, Vol. 6, Pg. 221.
 . Tahrir al-Wasilah of Imam Khomeini, Vol. 1, rules concerning ZAKAT OF BODIES (OR FITRAH).