Paying zakat-ul-fitr in cash instead of grains
- Is it permissible to pay zakat-ul-fitr at the beginning of the month of Ramadan?
- Is it permissible to pay it in cash instead of in grains?
The time for giving out zakat-ul-fitr
- According to Hanafi scholars, zakat-ul-fitr becomes obligatory upon the arrival of dawn of the day of 'Eid.
- Shafi'i and Hanbali scholars maintained that its payment becomes obligatory upon sunset of the last day of Ramadan.
- Maliki and Hanbali scholars permitted its payment two days before its time due to the words of Ibn 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) who said, "They [the Companions] used to give out zakat-ul-fitr one or two days before the 'Eid."
Hastening the payment of zakat-ul-fitr
According to the established opinion of the Shafi'i school, there is no legal objection to giving zakat-ul-fitr from the beginning of Ramadan and this is likewise the preponderant opinion of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence. In one opinion, Shafi'i scholars maintained the permissibility of giving out zakat-ul-fitr starting from the first day of Ramadan and not from the eve of the first day. In yet another opinion of their school, it is permissible before the beginning of Ramadan.
Cash or grains?
Hanafi scholars have maintained that the obligatory amount of zakat-ul-fitr is half a sa' of wheat grain, wheat flour, a mixture of wheat and barley flour, raisins or one sa' of dates or barely. As for its quality, it has been established that the obligatoriness of the above kinds of foods is their material value and not their kind. Therefore, it is permissible to give out the equivalent value of any of the above in cash, trade goods or in any other form.
Imam Al-Sarkhasi wrote in Al-Mabsut (vol. 3, p. 107-8): "It is permissible in our school to give out the value of wheat since the criterion is fulfilling the needs of the people and this is met by giving zakat-ul-fitr in cash as well as in the form of wheat grain. [However], Al-Shafi'i (may Allah have mercy on him) maintains that this is impermissible. The differences in opinion [on whether zakat-ul-fitr is to be paid in cash or in kind] are based on [the scholarly differences over] the payment of zakat on crops. Abu Bakr al-A'mash (may Allah be have mercy on him) used to say: 'It is better to give out [zakat-ul-fitr] as wheat grain than to give out its equivalent value because this is closer to conforming with the apparent meaning of the Prophetic hadith on the subject and evades the scholarly differences and is therefore, more religiously cautious.' [On the other hand], the scholar Abu Ja'far (may Allah have mercy on him) used to say, 'It is better to give out the equivalent value [of zakat-ul-fitr] because this is closer to benefitting the poor who will be able to buy their immediate needs.' The reason for specifying wheat grain and barley at the time of the Prophet was because they were used for barter at that time. But here, currency which is the medium of exchange, is used and so it is better to give out [zakat-ul-fitr] in cash." This is likewise the opinion of a group from among the tabi'in and trustworthy scholars such as:
- Hasan al-Basri. He has been reported to have said, "There is no harm in giving out zakat-ul-fitr in cash."
-Abu Is-haq al-Subai'i. Zuhair reported that he said, "I heard Abu Is-haq say: 'I lived at a time when the [the Companions and tabi'in] gave out the cash value as zakat-ul-fitr."
- 'Umar Ibn Abdul-Aziz. Waqi' related the following through Qura, "We received the letter sent by 'Umar Ibn Abdul-Aziz concerning zakat-ul-fitr. It said, 'Half a sa' for each person or its equivalent of half a dirham.'
These reports were recorded by Imam Abu Bakr Ibn Abu Shayba in Al-Musannaf (vol. 2, p. 398). Al-Thawri, Is-haq Ibn Rahwiya and Abu al-Thawr likewise maintained the same opinion, citing the permissibility of giving zakat-ul-fitr in cash. However, they restricted it to necessity as mentioned by Imam al-Nawawi in Majmu' Sharh Al-Madh-hab (vol. 6, p. 112). Sheikh Taqiy al-Din Ibn Taimiya, the Hanbali scholar, maintained its permissibility based on necessity and the overwhelming interests of the people. He wrote in Majmu' Al-Fatawa (vol. 25, p. 82-3): "The apparent opinion is that giving out the equivalent value without a necessity or an overwhelming interest is forbidden. Otherwise, there is no harm." The opinion maintaining that the obligation of zakat-ul-fitr is fulfilled by giving out the equivalent value in cash was mentioned in a report from Imam Ahmed which Al-Mawardi cited in Al-Insaf (vol. 3, p. 182).
The opinion we choose for fatwa in our present times and which, in our opinion, meets the objectives of Islamic law and the interests of the people, is the permissibility of giving out zakat-ul-fitr in cash. This is the opinion of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence and the opinion implemented in their school concerning zakat in general, kaffarat, vows, kharaj and others. It is likewise the opinion of a group from among the tabi'in as previously mentioned.
Allah the Almighty knows best.
A sa' is the equivalent of 2.4 kg.
Tax on agricultural land for which no zakat is due.