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Zakāt al-Fiṭrah (The Fiṭrah Alms Tax)

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى

Prosperous is he who purifies himself.
(Al-Aʿlā 87:14)

قَالَ أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع‏ إِنَّ مِنْ تَمَامِ الصَّوْمِ إِعْطَاءُ الزَّكَاةِ يَعْنِي الْفِطْرَةَ كَمَا أَنَّ الصَّلَاةَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ ص مِنْ تَمَامِ الصَّلَاةِ لِأَنَّهُ مَنْ صَامَ وَ لَمْ يُؤَدِّ الزَّكَاةَ فَلَا صَوْمَ لَهُ إِذَا تَرَكَهَا مُتَعَمِّداً وَ لَا صَلَاةَ لَهُ إِذَا تَرَكَ الصَّلَاةَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ ص إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ قَدْ بَدَأَ بِهَا قَبْلَ الصَّلَاةِ قَالَ‏ قَدْ أَفْلَحَ‏ مَنْ تَزَكَّى. وَ ذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ‏ فَصَلَّى‏

Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq (a) said: ‘One of the signs of the completion of fasting [the month of Ramaḍān] is to give the zakāt, that is, fiṭrah, just as sending blessings upon the Prophet (s) is one of the signs of the completion of ṣalāt. This is because whoever fasts but does not give zakāt al-fiṭrah, their fasting is not accepted if they intentionally abandon giving zakat. Likewise, ṣalāt is not accepted if one abandons sending blessings upon the Prophet (s). God, Mighty and Majestic is He, has mentioned zakāt before ṣalāt – He says: “Prosperous is he who purifies himself [which is also interpreted to mean ‘gives his zakāt al-fiṭrah’], and mentions the name of his Lord, then performs prayers.”’
(Man lā yaḥḍuru al-faqīh, vol. 2, p. 183, hadith no. 2085)

FAQs on Zakāt al-Fiṭrah
The answers that follow are according to the rulings of His Eminence al-Sayyid Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani (may God protect all our scholars).

When does zakāt al-fiṭrah become obligatory (wājib)?
Zakāt al-fiṭrah becomes obligatory at the time of sunset (ghurūb) on the eve of Eīd al-Fiṭr.

If a person performs Eid prayers, then based on obligatory precaution he must give fiṭrah before Eid prayers. However, if he does not perform Eid prayers, he can delay giving fiṭrah until the time of ẓuhr prayers on the day of Eīd al-Fiṭr.

With what intention must a person must give zakāt al-fiṭrah?
A person must give fiṭrah with the intention of qurbah – i.e. to humbly obey Allah.

What happens if someone forgets or does not give zakāt al-fiṭrah on time?
If a person does not give fiṭrah until the time of ẓuhr prayers on the day Eīd al-Fiṭr and does not set it aside either, then based on obligatory precaution he must give fiṭrah afterwards without making the intention of giving it within its prescribed time (adāʾ) or belatedly (qaḍāʾ). He must give it with the intention of qurbatan ilallāh only.

Who must give zakāt al-fiṭrah?
Every Muslim who is of the age of legal responsibility (bāligh), sane, and not poor must give zakāt al-fiṭrah. A poor person is someone who cannot meet his and his family’s living expenses for one year (e.g. through their savings) and does not have an occupation by which he can meet his and his family’s expenses for one year.

A person who must give fiṭrah must also give it on behalf of those who are financially dependent on him (e.g. wife and children), whether they are in his town or in another town.

What must be given as zakāt al-fiṭrah?
One ṣāʿ – which is approximately three kilograms – of food per head. The food that one gives must be considered to be a staple food in his town, such as wheat, barley, dates, raisins, rice, millet, or something similar. It suffices if one gives the food’s monetary value instead.

What is the ruling on guests?
It is obligatory on one to give the fiṭrah of a guest who arrives at his house before sunset on the eve of Eīd al-Fiṭr and spends the night at his place and is considered to be his dependent for the night.

The fiṭrah of a guest who arrives at one’s house after sunset on the eve of Eīd al-Fiṭr is, based on precaution, obligatory on the host provided that the guest is considered to be the host’s dependant; otherwise, it is not. If a person is invited to break his fast (ifṭār) on the eve of Eīd al-Fiṭr, he is not considered to be the host’s dependant and the guest’s fiṭrah is not the responsibility of the owner of the house.

What if I am dependent on someone who is not going to give zakāt al-fiṭrah on my behalf?
If the person on whom it is obligatory to give your fiṭrah does not or cannot give it, then based on precaution it becomes obligatory on you to give your own fiṭrah provided that the conditions mentioned previously are fulfilled.

The obligation on the one who should have given it is not exempted.

What is the ruling about sayyids?
A person who is not a sayyid cannot give fiṭrah to a sayyid, but the reverse is permissible.

Can we give zakāt al-fiṭrah in advance?
You cannot give fiṭrah (as fitrah) before the month of Ramadan. However, there is no problem if you give a loan to a poor person before Ramadan and then count the loan as fiṭrah (i.e. you change your intention to fiṭrah) once fiṭrah becomes obligatory on you.

As for during Ramadan, it is better that you do not give fiṭrah during the month of Ramadan unless you opt for the loan formula mentioned above.

To whom must zakāt al-fiṭrah be given?
Based on obligatory precaution, fiṭrah must only be given to poor Shias. If there are no poor Shias in one’s town, it can be given to other Muslims who are poor, but in any case, fiṭrah must not be given to a nāṣibī (i.e. someone who shows enmity towards the Imams (a).

The obligatory precaution is that fiṭrah must not be given to someone who consumes alcohol, or does not perform prayers, or publicly commits sins. Furthermore, fiṭrah must not be given to someone who spends it for sinful purposes.
It is recommended that in giving fiṭrah one should prefer his poor relatives and neighbours over others, and it is befitting that one also gives preference to learned, religious, and virtuous persons over others.

Chart illustrating the rules of fiṭrah depending on when it is given