Zakat-ul-fitr is an obligatory charity on every young and old; male and female; free and slave Muslim towards the end of the month of Ramadan. It is an addition to the annual Zakat also called as Sadaqa-al-fitr. Its prominence is such that it is the hallmark of Eid and aptly named as Eid-ul-fitr. It amounts to the value equivalent to feed a person for one day. Ibn Umar said: “The Prophet PBUH enjoined the payment of one Sa’a of dates or one Sa’a of barley as Zakat-al-fitr on every Muslim, young and old, male and female, free and slave.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Zakat-ul-fitr purifies one from any type of indecent act or speech which he/she might have committed while observing fast. This charity is imposed so that the needs of the poor are attained to thereby making them possible to celebrate Eid with other fellow Muslims. Ibn Abbas said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) enjoined Zakat-al-fitr so that those who fast are purified of their sins and the poor and needy people are enabled to arrange for their basic needs of food, clothing etc. Therefore, the Sadaqah (charity) of the person who gives before the `Eid prayer is the real Sadaqah, but if someone delays and gives it afterwards, his charity will be an ordinary one.” (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah)
The word Sa’a in Arabic, mentioned in the hadith is a measure approximated to the volume of 2.5 kg to 2.75 kg of good quality wheat. The material of the Zakat-al -fitr can also be dates, barley, rice, corn or similar items considered as basic foods that are habitually consumed. Abu Saeed said: “We used to give for Zakat al-Fitr on behalf of every child, aged person, free man or slave during the lifetime of the Messenger of ALLAH PBUH – one Sa’a of food, or one Sa’a of dried yogurt, or one Sa’a of barley, or one Sa’a of dates, or one Sa’a of raisins.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
The poor and the needy are the most deserving to receive Zakat al-Fitr as Prophet PBUH said “…the purpose of it is providing food for the needy.” Better that Zakat al-Fitr is paid during the end of Ramadan. It can be paid (or preferably paid) one or two days before Eid as ‘Umar RA used to do, or on the day of Eid before the Eid prayer. Ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet PBUH ordered them to pay Zakat al-Fitr before they go out to perform the Eid prayer.
Note if Zakat al-Fitr is paid after the Eid prayer, it will only be considered as regular charity. The Prophet PBUH said: “If one pays Zakat al-Fitr before the Salat, it is considered as an accepted Zakat, if he pays it after the Salat, it is considered an ordinary charity.” (Abu Dawud)