Zakat al-Fitr

Zakat al-fitr | Time of payment

Zakat al-fitr – Time of payment

Zakat al-Fitr

Time of payment
It is not permissible to delay giving Zakat al-Fitr after the day of `Eid (i.e. one may give it up to the time of the `Eid prayer). However, there are some jurists who think that it is permissible to delay giving it even after the `Eid prayer.

The founders of the four schools of Fiqh hold the first opinion, but Ibn Sirin and al-Nakha‘i say that its payment can be delayed. Ahmad says: “I hope that there is no harm [in delaying the payment].” Ibn Raslan says that there is a consensus that payment cannot be delayed merely for the reason that it is a type of Zakah. Thus, any delay is a sin and is analogous to delaying one’s prayers without an acceptable excuse.

Anyway, the founders of the four accepted Islamic legal schools agree that Zakat al-Fitr is not nullified simply by failure to pay it on its due time. If it is not paid before `Eid prayer, one is not exempt from it. It becomes a debt payable even after death. The heirs must not distribute the deceased’s legacy before payment of the deceased’s unpaid Zakat al-Fitr.

Most scholars believe that it is permissible to pay Zakat al-Fitr a day or two before `Eid. Ibn `Umar reported that the Messenger, upon whom be peace, ordered them to pay Zakat al-Fitr before the people went out to perform the `Eid prayer.

Nafi‘ reported that `Umar used to pay it a day or two before the end of Ramadan. However, scholars hold different opinions when a longer time period is involved. According to Abu Hanifah, it is permissible to pay it even before Ramadan so long as you make the intention of Zakah.

Al-Shaf‘i holds that it is permissible to do so at the beginning of Ramadan. Malik and Ahmad (in his well-known view) maintain that it is permissible to pay it only one or two days in advance.

Al-Qaradawi explains the reasons for these differences in opinion by saying that the Prophet, peace, and blessings be upon him, used to pay Zakat al-Fitr after Fajr prayer on the day of `Eid but before the `Eid prayer for the reason that the Muslim community was still small and limited in number. During the time of the Companions, the payment was made one or two days before the `Eid.

After the spread of Islam, the jurists permitted its payment from the beginning and middle of Ramadan so as to ensure that the Zakat al-Fitr reached its beneficiaries on the day of `Eid, thereby avoiding the possibility that the process of distribution would delay reception of the payment after the day of `Eid.

After explaining the different views regarding the time of payment, Sheikh Atiyyah Saqr stated that these differences of opinion among the jurists justify some leniency for Muslims in regard to the time of payment, and therefore a Muslim can pay at any of these times. He also took the view that paying it at different times gives the poor and needy the opportunity to benefit from Zakat al-Fitr and fulfill their needs for longer periods.

In my opinion, these differences are due to taking into consideration both the needs of the poor and the opportunity of attaining the wisdom behind the obligation of Zakat al-Fitr. Therefore, the most acceptable and practical approach is to apply whichever practice fulfills the purpose and wisdom behind Zakat al-Fitr, that is bringing happiness to the poor on the day of `Eid and giving their children a chance to enjoy this day as others do.

Zakat al-Fitr

 

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