Giving Zakat-ul-Fitr (also known as Fitrana) is one of the many obligations of the holy month of Ramadan. Like the Zakat on an individual’s savings, it also entails giving a small amount to charity. Zakat-ul-Fitr, however, must be given before the Eid prayers are performed after Ramadan. It is not uncommon to get Zakat-ul-Fitr mixed up with Zakat or vice versa. Both terms sound similar and even by definition have some similarities which often lead to confusion.
There are, however, some very notable differences between these two important Islamic rites. As long as you have a clear understanding of these differences, you will easily be able to differentiate between the two and know how to go about fulfilling their obligations.
The first difference lies in eligibility. Zakat-ul-Fitr is compulsory on all Muslims regardless of age or financial standing. The only exemption is for those who do not have one sa’ (approximately 2.6 – 3kg) of their staple food in excess of their needs.
Because of the wider range of people who have to pay Zakat-ul-Fitr, it is the responsibility of the head of the household to pay for those under their care. Thus, for children, this task is undertaken by their parents on their behalf. Zakat, on the other hand, compulsory for only for Muslims who meet the Nisaab values after all their yearly Zakatable earnings are calculated.
The second difference lies in the amount. The amount due for Zakat-ul-Fitr is very small, and rarely exceeds £5. Zakat, however, can amount to a larger number because its 2.5% of all net savings.
The third and final difference lies in their due dates. Zakat can be paid at any time, with the only condition being that the earnings reflect one year’s worth of net savings (one lunar year). Zakat-ul-Fitr, however, goes hand in hand with Ramadan. Zakat-ul-Fitr is paid during Ramadan before the month ends. It needs to be paid before the Eid prayers at the very latest. This is a very specific time frame that all Muslims must abide to. Giving Zakat-ul-Fitr before the Eid-ul-Fitr prayers is extremely important, as a late payment is invalid and the obligation can’t be made up for.