Zakatul-fitr: Uses of

Q740 :Is it permissible to collect zakatul-fitr and pool it together so that the money collected may be used for the purpose of financing the marriage of poor Muslim girls in our locality?

A740 : Zakatul-fitr is a charitable donation which is payable as a duty by every Muslim who has any amount of money over and above what he needs for the food which he and his family eat on the last day of Ramadhan. If he has any amount in excess of that, then it is obligatory for him to pay zakatul-fitr which is a small amount of money estimated normally by a certain measure of the staple diet of the city or area in which he lives. Thus it maybe measured by flour, barley, corn, dates, rice, raisin, etc. It may be paid in cash if such produce is plentiful and widely available and if cash is more beneficial to the recipients, as it is nowadays in most Muslim countries. Every head of a Muslim family is required to pay zakatul-fitr for himself and his dependents including his wife and children whom he supports and also for either or both of his parents who are his dependents. It is also payable on behalf of every child, even one who is born a few minutes before the Eid prayer on the first day of the month of Shawwal. Some scholars are also of the opinion that it is payable for an unborn baby as long as the pregnancy is confirmed. The purpose of zakatul-fitr is to make the poor feel rich or at least self sufficient on the day of Eid which is a joyous occasion succeeding the month of fasting. The Prophet has impressed on his followers that they should make the poor feel in need of nothing on that day. Zakatul-fitr is payable a few days before the end of Ramadhan, with some scholars arguing that it may be paid at any time during Ramadhan, while others insist that it is payable on the last day. In the light of the foregoing, you can see that the purpose of zakatul-fitr is different from that of getting Muslim girls married. This is a worthy cause, no doubt, since it enables the poor girls to have homes and families of their own. But, if you collect zakatul-fitr and establish a fund for the marriage of poor Muslim girls, you are actually depriving the community of achieving a goal for which zakatul-fitr has been made a duty, namely, that the poor should not feel in need on the day of Eid. Moreover, Islamic marriage is not costly for the girls or her family. From the Islamic view-point, it is the bridegroom who must pay a dower to his wife, so that the marriage can go through. Moreover, he has to provide her with a home and he must look after her. Social traditions in some parts of the Muslim world have, however, made marriage a difficult task for either of the two parties or both. Islam is not responsible for that. The community should change its traditions in order to bring them in line with Islamic teachings. We should not make Islamic legislation subservient to social traditions. If it is the tradition in a certain Muslim society that a girl should give her husband some articles of gold on her marriage, we should make it clear to that community that this is not part of an Islamic marriage. It is a social tradition, which has been most probably picked up from a non-Muslim community. We should try to change this tradition, not to institutionalize it by spending zakatul-fitr for a purpose which is not its own. Zakatul-fitr is payable to the poor in the Muslim community. It is indeed the purpose of all zakah to help the poor overcome the burden of poverty. The Prophet instructed his governor of Yemen that zakah should be taken "from the rich among them and paid to the poor." This applies more strongly to zakatul-fitr which must be paid to poor Muslim people. Having said that I should add that when the Muslim community is affluent and poverty is virtually non-existent in it, zakah maybe paid to the poor among the Christians and the Jews. At the time of Umar ibn Abdelaziz, one of his governors wrote him that he could not find poor people to whom he should give zakah. Umar instructed him to pay it to poor Christians and Jews. When the governor said that he could not find any, Umar suggested that he should buy Muslim slaves and set them free. If we have such a situation when the Muslim community is so affluent that there are no poor in its ranks, then we consider paying zakatul-fitr to non-Muslims.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )