ZAKAATUL FITR: MATERIAL OR MONETARY? By Sanni Kay Yusuf
Even if zakaatul fitr isn’t obligatory for the well-to-do, the spiritual benefits accruable to the deed is enough a propelling factor that should make one eager to do it nonstop. But glory to Allah who has obligated every able muslim – magnanimous and miserly – to offer eatables to the needy for a happy, joyous festivity.
Abdullah Bn Abbas narrated that the Prophet obligated zakaatul fitr to serve as طهرة للصاءم من اللغو والرفث (purification from vain talks – which might have been committed while fasting), and طعمة للمساكين (feeding for the needy).Therefore, refusal to give zakaatul fitr by a muslim who has the means is not only a self-deprivation of heavenly goodies, but a sinful disservice to the poor. And no one will do that except an insensitive, stingy and mingy fellow.
Without too much in too little, the focus here is as regards what to give as zakaatul fitr – food or money? I was moved to do this piece having read through several arguments as to the rightness or otherwise of monetizing zakaatul fitr. Can it be given in money in place of food?
There seems to be a consensus, even among debaters that all ahaadeeth with respect to zakaatul fitr pointed to food, not money, whereas there used to be money during the life of the one (the Prophet) who specifically mentioned eatables. There was money, and there were very rich people.
Abdullah Bn Umar, for instance, narrated that the Prophet obligated zakaatul fitr صاعا من تمر او صاعا من شعير (one saa’ of dates, or of wheat). This with other narrations (which only mentioned food) is enough a reason to conclude that the holy Prophet rather preferred food to money. If Allah had wanted His servants to give money, it would have been backed up by one or two of the narrations on zakaatul fitr. It could be further inferred that the holy Prophet never minced his words while repeatedly mentioning different kinds of food.
Apparently, the above glaring fact is the reason majority of scholars ruled that food rather than money should be given as zakaatul fitr. May Allah bless all our scholars.
Monetizing zakaatul fitr may even jettison the lofty essence of the exercise. From the aforesaid hadeeth, the rationale behind the obligatory legislation of zakaatul fitr is to make the needy feed to eid. If it is therefore, giving in money, and the receiver does something else with it, which may even be haram, is the essence of the exercise not largely defeated? I think it is rather better to top the food with some token than tactically, unintentionally proscribe the Prophet’s practice. With that, one will accrue to his load of good deeds reward for zakaatul fitr (food) and reward for sadaqah (money).
May Allah accept our ‘ibaadaat.
Sanni Kay Yusuf
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