Spending zakat ul-fitr over the course of the year
Among the activities of our association are the following:
1. The Friends of Patients Project which caters to poor patients.
2. The Orphans Welfare Program which provides financial and material assistance to orphans.
3. The Social Assistance Project which provides financial and material assistance to the impoverished.
Is it permissible to spend on these projects from zakat ul-fitr throughout the year or is it obligatory to distribute the sum of zakat ul-fitr received by the association during the month of Ramadan?
Recipients of zakat ul-fitr
According to the majority of scholars, the recipients of zakat ul-fitr are the same as those of zakat on property, contrary to Maliki scholars and one report from Imam Ahmed who limited giving zakat ul-fitr to the poor and the impoverished.
Time of payment
Hanafi scholars have maintained that the time of paying zakat ul-fitr extends throughout one's lifetime though it is disliked in their school to delay it beyond the day of 'Eid. Hasan Ibn Ziad and the majority of scholars hold a different opinion and maintain the obligation of its payment on the day of 'Eid; they further consider it sinful to delay its payment beyond this day.
There is no objection to adopting the opinion of the Hanafis who permit spending zakat ul-fitr on the poor throughout the year if the benefit and interests dictate this. However, it must be noted that this practice must not be generalized without restriction so as not to undermine the main objective of zakat ul-fitr which is to meet the needs of the poor and provide them with abundance on this day. It is for this reason that the majority of scholars prohibited delaying its payment beyond the day of 'Eid.
This is what the Prophet referred to when he said, "Spare them the need to beg on this day" (recorded by Ibn Sa`d in Al-Tabaqat, al-Darqatni and al-Baihaqi through Ibn Umar, may God be pleased with them both).
It is impermissible to forgo the objective of solidarity during the 'Eid by giving zakat ul-fitr to other categories of recipients as long as people are in need as is the case in many poor countries and societies where many may not be capable of being generous towards themselves and their families on the day of 'Eid.
And God Almighty knows best.