Please give me details on Zakaat-ul-Fitr, is it possible to give money instead of food items? And what about Zakaat-ul-Fitr for couples living apart?
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, may Allah exalt his mention as well as that of his family and all his companions.
Giving Zakaat-ul-Fitr is an obligation on every Muslim who possesses enough food exceeding his or his family's basic needs for the duration of the day or night of 'Eed. Any Muslim who meets this condition has to pay Zakaat-ul-Fitr on behalf of everyone he is obliged to spend on, such as his wife, children and parents. It is confirmed that Ibn 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, enjoined the payment of one Saa' (2,480 grams) of dates or one Saa' of barley as Zakaat-ul-Fitr on every Muslim, free or slave, male or female young or old. He also ordered that it should be paid before people go to 'Eed prayer." [Al-Bukhari]
Zakaat-ul-Fitr should be paid out of the common food in the country and it should be given to the needy and the poor. It is better if it is given out on 'Eed day but if it is given on the first day of Ramadan then that is also sufficient.
As regards giving the value of the Zakat-ul-Fitr instead of food, Imam Malik, Ash-Shafi'ee and Ahmad, may Allaah have mercy upon them, are of the view that it should be given as food, not as money. However, Imam Abu Haneefah, may Allaah have mercy upon him, is of the view that if its value (money) is given instead of food then that is sufficient. Our view in Islamweb is in favour of the first opinion.
As for Zakat-ul-Fitr for couples living apart, the wife is among the persons whom the husband has to provide for, so he has to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr on her. This is the opinion of Imams Shafi'ee, Ahmad and Malik, may Allah have mercy upon them. However, it should be noted that the husband is not obliged to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr for his wife unless he is obliged to provide for her and sustain her. Spending on the wife is obligatory if the marriage is consummated. Just signing the contract without consummating the marriage does not obligate the husband to provide for her or pay Zakat-ul-Fitr on her. Therefore, if the husband has consummated the marriage, or consummation of marriage was arranged and made easy for him but he failed to consummate it, then he is obliged to provide for her and pay Zakat-ul-Fitr on her.
However, if he has not consummated the marriage or it was not made easy for him, or she refused, then he is not obliged to provide for her, or pay Zakat-ul-Fitr on her. In any case, if he pays Zakat-ul-Fitr on her with her permission, then that suffices her, even if he is not obliged to pay for her. Anyway, Zakat-ul-Fitr is not a great expenditure; it is only 2.5 kilograms of rice, wheat or the like.
Finally, if you want more details about Zakat-ul-Fitr then you can refer to the books of Fiqh.
Allah knows best.
Fatwa answered by: The Fatwa Center at Islamweb
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