The word combinations Zakat-ul Fitr and Sadaqat-ul Fitr are different names for an obligatory alms or charity (I don’t like to use the word “tax”) that is paid in the month of Ramadaan immediately after its end. Sadaqat-ul Fitr became obligatory in the second year of Hijrah (2 AH).
Ibn ‘Umar (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) narrated: “Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) made Sadaqat-ul Fitr obligatory. This alms tax is equal to one Saa’ of dates or one Saa’ of barley. It is obligatory for everyone: both for men and women, children and adults from among Muslims. The Prophet ordered us to pay it till the Feast (‘Eid) Prayer”. [Bukhari, Muslim and others. See: Al-‘Asqalani A. Fat-h al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari: 14 volumes. Volume 3, p. 430]
“Saa’” mentioned in the hadith is a dry measure that is equal to about 3260 gr according to the scholars of the Hanafi school of thought, and – 2172 gr in the opinion of the other Islamic scholars. [Mu’jamu lugati al-fuqahaa’ [The Dictionary of Theological Terms]. Beirut: an-Nafais, 1988.p. 270]
Differences on the issue arose because of the fact that in different regions people who sold dry substances used measuring vessels different in their volume.
The importance of Sadaqat-ul Fitr is shown in the following hadith transmitted by ibn ‘Abbas (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) “Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) made obligatory the payment of Sadaqt-ul Fitr for the sake of the purification of a fasting person from empty or blunt words which he said to somebody, and as a source of nutrition for the needy [as a kind of support, help to them]. If a man carries out this duty [transmits or pays this alms in time] before the ‘Eid prayer, his action will be accepted as a Zakaah, whereas if he performs this duty after the Prayer, it will be equal to alms which man regularly gives”. [Sunan Abi Dawood]
So we know that Sadaqat-ul Fitr is an obligation for every Muslim, male or female, who owns 613.35 grams of silver or its equivalent, either in the form of money, ornaments, stock-in-trade or in the form of some goods or commodities beyond one’s normal needs. Every person who owns such an amount has to pay Sadaqat-ul Fitr, not only on behalf of himself but also on behalf of his minor children as we mentioned earlier.
The prescribed amount of Sadaqat-ul Fitr is between 2,36 to 1.75 or 1.6 kilograms of wheat or its value in money. As mentioned previously that a hadeeth in Bukhari records is half a Saa’ of wheat which is 1,6 kg of wheat or wheat flour. Or one Saa’ of barley or dates which is 3,2 kg of barley or barley flour or dates. Sadaqat-ul Fitr is calculated on the current retail value of 1,6 kg of wheat flour which is according to the Ahnaaf. Sadaqat-ul Fitr amount for Shafi’ee is is 2,36 kg of flour or it’s value in cash.
This amount is prescribed for paying Sadaqat-ul Fitr for one person only. If a person has some minor children, the same amount has to be paid on behalf of each one of them separately. The following points must be remembered with regard to the payment of Sadaqat-ul Fitr.
1. Sadaqat-ul Fitr is obligated on each adult male or female separately, and the relevant adult person himself is responsible to pay it. The husband is not required to pay Sadaqat-ul-Fitr on behalf of his wife nor is the wife supposed to pay it on behalf of her husband. Similarly, a father is not bound to pay Sadaqat-ul Fitr on behalf of his adult children or vice versa.
However, if the head of the family, by his own free will, wishes to pay Sadaqat-ul Fitr for each one of the members of his family, he should seek their authorisation for that purpose. In this case the Sadaqat-ul Fitr paid by him will be valid on their behalf. If he did not pay Sadaqat-ul-Fitr on behalf of his family, he will not be responsible for it. Rather, it is the duty of every adult member of the family to discharge his own obligation or request the head of the family to pay it on his or her behalf.
2. It is a Sunnah that the Sadaqat-ul Fitr is paid before performing the ‘Eid prayer. It can also be paid before the day of ‘Eid, but it is not advisable to delay it up to the performance of ‘Eid prayer. As mentioned earlier in the hadeeth narrated by ibn ‘Umar (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) that Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said “… If a man carries out this duty [transmits or pays this alms in time] before the ‘Eid prayer, his action will be accepted as a Zakaah, whereas if he performs this duty after the Prayer, it will be equal to alms which man regularly gives”. [Sunan Abi Dawood]
However, if a person has failed to pay on its proper time, he should pay it as soon as possible, whereupon the obligation will stand discharged.
Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said ” The fast is suspended between the heavens and the earth until the Zakaat-ul Fitr is discharged” [Targheeb]
3. Sadaqat-ul Fitr is not necessary on behalf of a child who has been born after the break of dawn in the ‘Eid day, nor is it necessary to pay Sadaqat-ul Fitr on behalf of person who dies before the dawn of the ‘Eid day.
4. Sadaqat-ul Fitr should only be paid to a person who is entitled to receive Zakaah.
Sadaqat-ul Fitr here in South Africa for the year 2012 or 1433 AH is R16.00 per person (minor or adult) or more according to the Hanafi school of thought and R21.00 per person (minor or adult) or more according to the Shafi’ee school of thought.
May Allah accept our Zakaat-ul Fitr and purify us.