By Ahmed Shaaban
15 September 2009
DUBAI — All Muslims — be they rich or poor, ill or well, young or old, male or female, and have fasted or not — are required to give Zakat Al Fitr, according to an eminent scholar.
“Zakat Al Fitr is a precious opportunity for all Muslims, irrespective of their financial status, to experience the ‘taste’ of giving, Chief Mufti with the Dubai Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department, Dr Sheikh Ali Mashael, told Khaleej Times.
Dr. Mashael said that most scholars agreed that Muslims prefer to pay Zakat Al Fitr, which is a compulsory charity for breaking the fast, in the place where they enjoy the first night of the month of Shawwal, which follows Ramadan.
“Expatriates are thus advised to pay Zakat Al Fitr here as it is paid for breaking the fast, rather than fasting. Should a Muslim die before the sunset of the last day of Ramadan, Zakat would not be obligatory upon him even if he fasted the whole month. Conversely, if a child is born after the sunset of the last day of Ramadan, it would be mandatory to pay Zakat on his or her behalf,” he said.
“However, Zakat Al Fitr may be paid elsewhere, like home country, if paid to poor people or a needy relative. It is basically associated with Eid which is meant for supporting the poor, satisfying their needs and making them happy during Eid. Zakat is also aimed at expiating for any mistakes or wrongdoings a person may have done during the blessed month.”
Highlighting the right time for giving Zakat Al Fitr, Dr. Mashael said it is advisable to give Zakat Al Fitr after the sunset on the eve of Eid night or after the dawn prayer on Eid day.
“However, some scholars said that Zakat Al Fitr may be given one or two days before Eid Al Fitr, even at the very beginning of Ramadan and all the Eid days. It may even be given after the Eid, but shall then be considered a mere charity not Zakat,” he added.
Warning Muslims about not giving Zakat Al Fitr, the scholar said fasting shall be suspended until Zakat is given.
“Muslim men are obligatorily required to pay Zakat Al Fitr for themselves and dependants such as their wives, children and servants. Failing to give Zakat is a big sin, and one shall also miss a valuable opportunity to have his or her fasting fully rectified and purified of minor mistakes,” he pointed out.
He said that Zakat Al Fitr may be given in food or money, as convenient for the poor.
“During the Holy Prophet’s time, Zakat Al Fitr was given in food; an average of Saa (2.5-3.5kg) of barley, date, raisin, dried yoghurt, or later wheat or rice, because these were common foods in Madinah and its surroundings, and currency was rarely used. The Holy Prophet’s companion, Moaz Ibn Jabal, and righteous Caliph Omar Ibn Abdulaziz (May Allah be pleased with them) later accepted Zakat Al Fitr in cloth,” he stated.
“Now, the situation is quite different. Many scholars, including Imam Abu Hanifa, agreed that Zakat Al Fitr may be given in money and that differs from time to time as per the value of currency,” he said, noting that Zakat Al Fitr has been set this year as Dh25. However people have the option to pay more.