Zakāt al-fiṭr is an obligatory religious duty. ( It is not to be confused with the zakh of wealth (zakāt al-māl), whose rulings differ) “Fiṭr” refers to the cessation of Ramadhān fasting, which is when it is due. It is an obligation for the head of every Muslim household possessing sufficient food to last for a day and night to give it on behalf of his dependents, servants and permanent guests. ( A baby born any time before the ‘Eid prayer should be counted as a member of the household, while a person who died before then need not be included.) Ibn ‘Umar reported: “The Messenger of Allah made zakāt al-fiṭr obligatory at the end of Ramadhān – a measure of dates or barley – for the slave and the freeman, the male and the female, the young and the old among Muslims.” (Al-Bukhāri and Muslim)
Zakāt al-fiṭr becomes obligatory at sunset of the final day of Ramadhān, although it may be given a few days earlier. But it must be distributed by the morning of ‘Eid al-Fiṭr before the people go out for the ‘Eid prayer, and it is not permissible to delay it beyond that unless one is prevented by circumstances beyond his control, in which case it remains a debt until cleared.
Its purpose is to purify people from any minor sins or improper behavior they might have committed unconsciously while fasting, and to enable the poor to enjoy their ‘Eid without having to work or search for food. Although its recipients are the same as those for zakāh of wealth, the poor and needy have the greatest right to zakāt al-fiṭr. The Prophet instructed: “Let them be satisfied on that day [of ‘Eid].” (Al-Bayhaqi)
Abu Sa‘eed al-Khudri reported: “During the time of the Prophet , on the Day of Fiṭr, we used to give out one measure ( Sā‘, equivalent to approximately 2.5 kilograms.) of food, and our food was barley, raisins, dried cheese and dates.” (Al-Bukhāri) Scholars today include similar staples such as rice, wheat and corn, and an increasing number of them are subscribing to the opinion that allows the price of that portion to be given instead, according to need.
‘Eid celebration was instituted soon after the hijrah of Allah’s Messenger . When he saw the people of Madinah observing two pagan festivals, he said, “Allah, the Exalted, has given you in place of those two something better than them: the days of al-Fiṭr and al-Adh∙ḥā.” (Narrated by an-Nasā’i and al-Ḥākim – ṣaḥeeḥ)
Since it was Allah who decreed the two days of ‘Eid, a Muslim is rewarded for observing them in a lawful manner and establishing ‘Eid as a family tradition. ‘Eid al-Fiṭr allows one to celebrate the completion of his fast and the conquest of his body, his achievement of patience and good manners, the immeasurable reward earned for his ṣadaqah, his prayer, his du‘aa’ and recitation of the Qur’ān – but most of all, the anticipation that he has become closer to Allah.
The Muslim should attend Ṣalāt al-‘Eid with his family and instruct them to listen and benefit from the khuṭbah (sermon). As in the Jumu‘ah prayer, one must not speak during the khuṭbah. Afterwards he may greet his fellow Muslims ( The Prophet’s companions used to say, “May Allah accept your worship and obedience.” Sūrah Fuṣṣilat, 41:30-31.) and visit with them. He should strive to improve his relationship with any of his relatives or friends with whom he has had a disagreement or misunderstanding and renew ties of kinship. He should provide lawful entertainments for his family and prevent what is unlawful, remind others of righteousness and encourage them to maintain the level they achieved in Ramadhān. For a sign that one’s worship and repentance has been accepted is that he has become a better person than he was before. And when he continues in righteousness after Ramadhān it is a sign that his fast has been accepted by Allah.