My brothers: Indeed this noble month is almost over, so whoever was good in this month, then let them praise Allah, and whoever wasn’t, then let them repent to Allah. Indeed Allah has made it obligatory to end this month with giving the zakatulfitr before the Eid prayer, we will talk in detail about it.
As for its ruling, it is an obligation that was obligated on us from the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam), and whatever he obligates or orders us, it is taken the same as something obligated on us from Allah (subhanahu wa ‘taala). As Allah (subhanahu wa taala) says, “Whoever obeys the Messenger then they have indeed obeyed Allah…” And it is an obligation on the young and old, male and female, free man and slave, from the Muslims. Abdullah bin ‘Umar (radiallaahu `anhu) said, “The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) made zakatulfitr from Ramadhan obligatory, a sa’ah of dates or barley on the slave, free, male, female, young, and old from the Muslims.” (Agreed upon)
It is not obligatory to be paid on the baby still in the mother’s stomach, but if they pay it for the rewards, then that is okay. ‘Uthman (radiallaahu `anhu) used to take it. Each person is responsible for paying it on themselves, if they can’t then their family can pay it for them. Whoever can’t afford to give one sa’ah, then they can give less as Allah (subhanahu wa taala) says, “Fear Allah as much as you’re able.” And the saying of the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam), “If I order you with something, then do it to the best of your ability.” (Agreed upon)
As for the wisdom behind paying zakatulfitr, it is sustenance for the poor, and it will stop them from begging on the day of Eid. They will be able to join the rich people in their happiness, and it will be Eid for everyone. It is also makes a person more generous, and it purifies the person’s fast and completes any deficiencies in it. It also shows a way to thank the blessings bestowed upon us from Allah, for finishing fasting in this month, and worshiping in it.
Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallaahu `anhu ) said, “The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) made zakatulfitr obligatory for the fasting person as a purification from sins committed during the fast, and to feed the poor, so whoever gives it before the Eid prayer, then it is an accepted zakah, and whoever gives it after the Eid prayer, then it is considered charity.” (Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah)
It should be given in the form of human food like dates, rice, raisins, or other types of food for humans. The zakatulfitr was given in dates or barley during that time because that is the food that they used to eat. Abu Sa’eid al Khudry (RA) said, “We used to give on the day of fitr during the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) a sa’ah of food, and our food was barley, raisins, cheese, and dates.” (Bukhari)
So it is not permissible to give animal feed, because the Prophet (sallalaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) obligated it to be eaten by the poor not by animals. Nor should it be given as clothes, covers, and other things, only food for humans, because the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) made it food, and you shouldn’t do other than that.
It is not permissible to give the equivalence of the food. This is going on something different than what the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) ordered, as the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) said, “Whoever does an action that is not from us, then it is rejected.” (Muslim) Also giving the equivalence is against the actions of the Sahaba (radiallaahu `anhu), as they used to give it as a sa’ah of food. As the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) said, “It is upon you to follow my way, and the way of the rightly guided caliphs after me.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Tirmidhee) Zakatulfitr is an obligatory act that is very specific, so it is not permissible to give it other than how it was specified, just like it is not permissible to give it in other than its specific time. It is something given in front of everyone publicly, not like money which is given secretly between the giver and the taker. The sa’ah should be given in terms of the measurements during the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) and adjusted to today’s measurements.
The time that it becomes an obligation is the night of Eid. So if someone dies before the setting of the sun, even it is by two minutes, then it doesn’t have to be paid. But if someone dies after the setting of the sun, even by two minutes, then it must be paid on them. Also if someone is born before the setting of the sun, then it must be paid on them.
As for the times to give the zakah there are two: a time that is preferred, and a time that is permissible.
As for the preferred time, it is the morning of Eid before the prayer. As the hadeeth of Abu Sa’eid al Khudri when he said they used to give the zakah on the day of fitr, and a hadeeth of Ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallaam) used to order the zakah to be given before the people leave for the Eid prayer. (Muslim) For this reason it is good to delay the Eid prayer so that the people can have time to give out the zakah. As for the time when it is permissible, this is before Eid by a day or two.
It is not to be given after the Eid prayer without an excuse, otherwise it is not accepted. If a person has a valid excuse then this is fine, like being at sea during the time of Eid, or being told about the day being Eid and it is a surprise to you. Or if you are relying on someone to distribute it for you and they forget, then this is fine to give after the Eid prayer as well.
As for the place where the people receive the zakah, they should be the poor people living in the area. Regardless if a person lives in a Muslim country or not, or if the people in a different country could use it more, it is to be given in the area where a person is living.
As for the people that receive the zakah, they are the poor people who have debts that they cannot pay by themselves. It is permissible for the zakah to be distributed on more than one poor person, and it is permissible for all of the zakah to go to just one person as well. It is also permissible for the poor person to take the zakah and use it as zakat ul fitr for themselves or their family members.