All praise be to Allah. Allah (may He be Exalted) ordained Zakat-ul-Fitr upon every Muslim who attends `Eid-ul-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast) whether that Muslim is old or young, male or female, free or slave, traveling or non-traveling, healthy or sick, rich or even poor who can afford a Sa` (1 Sa` = 2.172 kg) of food extra of his basic needs on the Day of `Eid.
It was authentically reported in Sahih Al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim from many ways on the authority of Ibn `Abbas and Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) that they said: "Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) ordained Zakat-ul-Fitr." It was also reported in Sahih Al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abu Sa`id Al Khudry (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: In the life-time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) we used to give one Sa` of food which was barley, raisins, cottage cheese, and dried dates." Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) enjoined the payment of one Sa` of dates or one Sa` of barley as Zakat-ul-Fitr on every Muslim slave or free, male or female, young or old." `Uthman ibn `Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) used to pay it upon the fetus before it is born and the Messenger (peace be upon him) commanded to pay it before the people would perform Salat-ul-`Eid. It was reported from many Pious Predecessors that the meaning of Allah's Saying: "Indeed whosoever purifies himself (by avoiding polytheism and accepting Islâmic Monotheism) shall achieve success * And remembers (glorifies) the Name of his Lord (worships none but Allâh), and prays (the five compulsory prayers and the Nawâfil - additional prayers)." is to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr before Salat-ul-`Eid.
Allah (may He be Exalted) ordained this Zakah to compensate any defect in fasting such as idle talks and sins, as it is: Purification for the fasting people, promoting for work, gratitude to Allah (may He be Glorified and Exalted), condolence for the poor and the needy, sufficing them from begging people in that `Eid day, and to share happiness with their rich brothers because it is one of the reasons of spreading love and joy with `Eid as it is a rite of Islam.
Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) prescribed Zakat-ul-Fitr as a purification of the fasting person from empty and obscene talk and as food for the poor."
The obligatory amount is Sa` like the Sa` of the Prophet (peace be upon him) estimated by four handfuls of good wheat which equal 2.5 kilos or 3 kilos.
It should be paid from the common food of the country, so if the food of the country is wheat, it is paid out of it. If their food is corn, it should be paid out of it. If their food is millet, it should be paid out of it.
Thus, it should be paid out of the common food of the country so as to please the poor by providing them food on the `Eid Day and to make them happy.
A Muslim should pay it from the best of his food or at least from medium-quality food. Allah (may He be Exalted) says: "By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness - here it means Allâh's Reward, i.e. Paradise), unless you spend (in Allâh's Cause) of that which you love."
The proper time for paying it is on the night of `Eid if the crescent of `Eid is ascertained. The best time for paying it is after the Fajr Salah on the `Eid day and before Salat-ul-`Eid.
It is permissible to pay it one or two days before `Eid, but it is important that the poor and the needy should receive it before Salat-ul-`Eid whether a person pays it by himself or by a proxy.
If Zakah does not reach the poor before Salat-ul-`Eid, the giver will be sinful if he does it on purpose, but if it happens unintentionally, he shall not be sinful.
Zakat-ul-Fitr should be paid as food not money because the Prophet (peace be upon him) had paid it food without paying the value which was available in his time.
It was not reported that any of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) paid the value, so if paying the value had been better, they would have done it.
Let it be known that goodness lies in following them and evil lies in disagreeing with them in terms of all religious affairs. Paying the value leads to wasting this great rite of religion and causing ignorance with its ruling, therefore Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul) said: value should not be paid. People said: `Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz used to take the value. Imam Ahmad said: I wonder how people leave the saying of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and adopt the view of so and so. Ibn `Umar said: the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) ordained Zakat-ul-Fitr a Sa` of...
A person should pay Zakat-ul-Fitr in his place of residence so as to solace the neighboring poor. Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) used to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr to the agent who collects or receives people's Zakah.
It was not reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he transferred it from one country to another as Zakat-ul-Mal (money) which is transferred from different countries to Bayt-ul-Mal (Muslim treasury).
This is a proof that it is safer for a Muslim to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr in his place of residence because it is better and safer to display this rite.
Sending it to countries leads to delay and paying the value for it, which is not permissible. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Give up what is doubtful to you for that which is not doubtful; for truth is peace of mind and falsehood is doubt." The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Adhere to my Sunnah and the practice of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs after me. Stick to it with your molar teeth and beware of new innovated matters (in religion)."
May Allah send His Peace and Blessings upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and all his Companions.
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