Eid-ul-Fitr and Fitra
Eid-ul-Fitr is the special reward from Allah(swt) for momineen upon completion of the fasting during Ramzan. It falls on the 1st of the Islamic month of Shawwal. It is known as Eid-al-Fitr because of the obligation for momimeen to pay the Zakat-al-Fitr also known as Fitra.
Fitra is obligatory and Shariah (jurisprudence) emphasises a lot on its observance. Abandonment of paying Fitra tantamounts to major sin (Gunaha-e-Kabeera). Imam Jafer Sadiq(a.s.) has said that "Just as if any person does not recite Salawat for Prophet Mohammad(pbuh&hf) and his Ahl-e-Bait(a.s.) during prayers, his/her prayer is not acceptable, likewise if a person does not pay Fitra at the end of Ramzan, his/her Fasts of Ramzan are not acceptable".
Obligation of Fitra
Fitra is obligatory on all sane (aaqil), mature (baligh), liberated - suggesting that it is not obligatory on slaves - and financially independent (Ghani) persons. Ghani in this context would mean that one can independently afford the expenses for the whole year. Whether sufficient cash for this purpose is readily available or one has a permament job/business which is sufficient for sufficiently providing expenses for a whole year. If these conditions do not exist, one would not be categorized as Ghani instead as Faqeer (Dependent or insolvent) and Fitra is not obligatory on a Faqeer instead it is Mustahab (recommended).
Fitra is obligatory on Ghani persons for themselves as well as for their family members. Irrespective of the fact that it is obligatory for one to bear the expenses of his family members and that the family members are mature (baligh) or not (na-baligh), are liberated/free or slave. Likewise, it is obligatory upon one to pay the Fitra for a guest (be it a Muslim or non-Muslim) who is staying with the person when the moon of the new month of Shawwal is sighted. However, if the guest arrives after the sighting of the moon then the Fitra of that guest is not obligatory on the host. And finally if the host is a Faqeer (dependent or insolvent) and the guest is a Ghani (solvent) then the guest would pay his/her own Fitra.
Timing of Fitra
Fitra becomes obligatory (wajib) upon sighting of the moon. It is preferable to separate the Fitra during the night. From that time onward, the Fitra can be distributed any time but not later that the Eid-ul-Fitr prayers the next day. If somehow, the Fitra is not distributed before the prayers of Eid-ul-Fitr then it can still be distributed until the evening of Eid-ul-Fitr with the intention (niyat) of proximity to Allah (Qurbatan il-Allah). Distinction of delayed (Qaza) or within time (Ada) is not necessary. If Fitra has been separated with the intention of giving it to some special person who has the right to receive it (mustahiq) then further delay is permitted.
Even with all these conditions, Fitra is still not distributed until the descending of the Sun starts (zawal), it is still recommended to pay the Fitra on that day and even if the day passes, Fitra is still to be paid on the following day.
Amount of Fitra
Measurement of Fitra - in Shariah terminology - is one Sa'ah which is an Arabic weighing equivalent to about 3 Kilos and 250 grams per person. To be on the safe side, 3 and a half Kilos of Fitra per person is recommended. The grain of Fitra could be wheat, barley, dates, rice or whatever item is more frequently used for eating. It is perfectly acceptable to pay the cost of instead of the 3 and a half Kilos of any of the above items to the deserving people. The amount will be determined as per prevalent market rates of the items.
Desrving people who can receive Fitra
The most deserving people for receiving amounts of Fitra are the poor people. Preference should be given to relatives if there are poor relatives. After the relatives, any poor neighbors should be preferred and then the Ulema - the scholors.During the period of occultation (ghaibat) of Imam Zamana(a.s.), it is preferable to give the amounts of Fitra to a Mujtahid Jame-ush-Sharaet (Learned scholors). The persons receiving the Fitra money should not be Syed, however if the Fitra is coming from a Syed then a deserving Syed can also receive it. In addition, the poor who receives the Fitra should not be dependant upon the person giving the Fitra. Fitra should be given to a person who is not expected to get involved in major sins. Finally, one deserving person should not be given less than the amount of one Fitra (equal to 3.5 Kgs of any item stated above), however, more than one Fitra can be given to any deserving person.
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