There is one type of charity all Muslims should pay, and it’s due before Eid al Fitr prayer. Zakat al-Fitr, sometimes referred to as sadaqat al-fitr, or fitrah, can be paid as food or as money.
When do I have to pay Zakat al-Fitr?
Different Islamic schools of thought place different deadlines on Zakat al-Fitr. The Shafi’is, Malikis and Hanbalis say it's due at the last sunset in Ramadan. The Hanafis and others (including another Maliki position) say it’s due before the Eid Salah.
Some schools say the best time to pay it is on Eid morning. Others say it can be paid a day or two before. The Shafi’s school says Zakat al-Fitr can be paid any time in Ramadan. The Hanafi school rules it can even be paid at the beginning of the year, like Zakat al-Mal.
All scholars deem it sinful to delay its payment until after Eid al Fitr prayer and Eid day.
Who owes Zakat al-Fitr?
In the words of Abu Hurayrah, it is due on “every Muslim, free or bondsman, male or female, young or old, poor or rich” (Bukhari).
Some legal schools hold that women (both married and unmarried) must pay Zakat al-Fitr from their own wealth. Others require a husband to pay it for his Muslim wife. Similarly, a parent or guardian can pay Zakat al-Fitr on behalf of a child. The child can also pay from his or her own wealth if that child has accumulated enough to do so.
Many scholars say even the poor should pay Zakat al-Fitr. That, of course, comes with exceptions. Someone who doesn’t have enough food for Eid day — or doesn’t have shelter, clothes or similar essentials — is not expected to pay.
There are six conditions regarding a Muslim’s wealth to determine if he or she must pay Zakat from it.
Why do we have to pay Zakat al-Fitr if we already pay Zakat al-Mal?
Whereas Zakat al-Mal is paid based on how much wealth (in varying forms) a Muslim has and on how long that individual has had the wealth, Zakat al-Fitr is paid based on the time of year in the Islamic calendar.
Zakat al-Fitr is a specific charity meant to ensure the poor and underserved can celebrate on Eid morning just as the more privileged do. For many Muslims around the world, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are the only times they cook meals with fresh meat. Organizations like Zakat Foundation of America administer distributions to help make sure those Muslims have another reason to smile on either Eid.
That’s why Zakat Foundation of America begins collecting Zakat al-Fitr when Ramadan starts. It can then make sure fitrah payments for those in different countries serve their purpose on time. Zakat Foundation of America also accepts Zakat al-Fitr until Eid al Fitr prayers around the world are complete.