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Fitrah – Zakat al-Fitr – Fitrana – Sadaqat al-Fitr

Q: What is Fitrah?
A: Fitrah is also often referred to as Sadaqat al-Fitr. The word Fitr means the same as Iftaar, “breaking a fast”, and it comes from the same root word as Futoor, meaning “breakfast”. Thus, in Islam, Fitrah is the name given to the charity that is distributed at the end of the fast of Ramadan.
Q: How is Fitrah calculated?
A: The amount of Fitrah payable is called a “sa’a”, ie the minimum prescribed amount. It is the same for everyone, regardless of their different income brackets. One sa’a is traditionally (two handfuls or 2.176kg, approximately) of food, grain or dried fruit. This calculation is based on Ibn ‘Umar's report that the Prophet (SAW) made Fitrah compulsory and payable by a sa’a of dried dates or a sa’a of barley.
Q: What is the status accorded to Fitrah?
A: It is a duty that is compulsory on every Muslim, whether male or female, minor or adult as long as he/she has the means to do so. The head of the household may pay the Fitrah on behalf of family members.
In reference to this, Abu Sa'eed al-Khudree said, "On behalf of our young and old, free men and slaves, we used to take out one sa’a of grain, cheese or raisins during Allah's Messenger's (SAW) lifetime". [Sahih Muslim 2:469 (2155)]
Bear in mind that Fitrah is only compulsory for a particular period of time. If one misses the time period without a good reason, he has sinned and cannot make up for it. This charity becomes obligatory from sunset on the last day of fasting and remains obligatory until the beginning of the Eid prayer (that is, shortly after sunrise on the following day). However, it can be paid prior to the above mentioned period, as many of the companions of the Prophet (SAW) used to pay Fitrah a couple of days before Eid.
Q: What is the main purpose of Fitrah?
A: The main purpose of Fitrah is to provide those who fasted with the means of making up for their errors during the month of fasting, thereby purifying their Ramadan fast. Fitrah also provides the poor with a means with which they can celebrate with dignity the Eid-ul-Fitr festival that concludes the end of Ramadan together with the rest of the community.  
Ibn Abbas reported, "The Prophet (SAW) made Fitrah compulsory so that those who fasted may be purified of their idle deeds and shameful talk (committed during Ramadan) and so that the poor may be fed. Whoever gives it before Eid prayer will have it accepted as Zakat, while he who gives it after the prayer has given Sadaqah." [Abu Dawood 2: 421 (1605)]
Hence, the goal of Fitrah is the spiritual development of the Believers. By making them give up some of their wealth, the believers are taught the higher moral characteristics of generosity, compassion (sympathy for the less fortunate), gratitude to God and the righteousness. But, since Islam does not neglect human material needs, part of the goal of Fitrah is the welfare of the poorer members of society.  Fitrah effects a circulation of wealth within society. Each individual is required to calculate how much charity is due from himself and his dependents, and consider who in the community at large are in need of such charity. Thus, Fitrah contributes to developing “compassion with action” towards the needy. Bonds of love, brotherhood and sisterhood, across levels of society are thereby built.
Q: Is it permissible to pay Fitrah in cash?
A: Nowadays, Muslims are generally allowed to pay in cash an equivalent value of “one sa’a” of Fitrah. Scholars opined that Fitrah can be paid in cash if it is better from the point of view of the recipients. If one who gives Fitrah is relatively wealthy, it would also be better for him or her to pay more than the amount of a sa’a..
Q: Who are the recipients of Fitrah?
A: The recipients (asnaf) of Fitrah are the same as those of Zakah.