Permissibility of giving out the cash equivalent of zakat-ul-fitr
Is it permissible to give out the cash equivalent of zakat-ul-fitr?
This is permissible as it is the position of a group of jurists who can be followed in their legal reasoning. It is also one of the opinions of the followers of the Companions among who was Al-Hasan Al-Basri. He said, “There is nothing wrong in giving out dirhams for your zakat-ul-fitr.” Zuhayr cited Is-haq Al-Sabi as saying, “I saw people give out the cash equivalent of zakat-ul-fitr.” Umar Ibn Abd Al-Aziz said that the fitr charity is, “Half a sa’ for every person or its worth in dirhams.” This is also the opinion of Al-Thawri, Abu Hanifa, and Abu Yusuf.
Giving out one’s zakat-ul-fitr in cash is the opinion followed for fatwa in the Hanafi school. It is also the opinion of al-Nasir and al-Muayid Billah from the Zaydi school and Is-haq Ibn Rahiwih and Abu Thawr except that they said it should only be applied in circumstances of necessity.
The permissibility of giving out the cash equivalent of zakat-ul-fitr is the position of a group of jurists from the Maliki School such as Ibn Habib, Asbagh, Ibn Abi Hazim, Ibn Dinar, and Ibn Wahb which they applied to both zakat-ul-fitr and the general zakat on wealth. Ibn Qasim and Ashhab, on the other hand, maintained the permissibility of giving out charity in cash except for the charity of zakat and expiation of oaths.
Based on this, it is clear that a good number of jurists hold the permissibility of paying the cash equivalent of zakat-ul-fitr and this was during their medieval context when barter was common and possible with foodstuffs. In our time, however, money is the medium of exchange and therefore the opinion that allows paying the cash equivalent of zakat-ul-fitr is more appropriate. We could go as far as to say that if the jurists opposing this view were living today, they would permit it.
It is also clear that paying the cash equivalent of zakat-ul-fitr is better for the poor because it allows them to buy whatever they need on the day of ‘Eid; it may be that they need clothes and not certain foodstuffs.
The legal premise for zakat-ul-fitr is its benefit to the poor during the day which all Muslims are to enjoy. The notable scholar Ahmad Ibn Siddiq Al-Ghumari wrote a treatise on this issue titled “Tahqiq Al-Amal fi Ikhraj Zakat Al-Fitr bi Al-Mal” in which he gave preference to the Hanafi opinion using as many as thirty-two text proofs. We likewise opine that it is permissible to give out the cash equivalent of zakat-ul-fitr as it is the most appropriate alternative for our times.
And God Almighty knows best.