Sadaqa Al-Fitr (also known as Zakatul-Fitr) is a small amount of food to be given in charity at the end of Ramadan, before the holiday (Eid) prayers. This amount is separate from the annual payment of Zakat, which is one of the pillars of Islam. Unlike Zakat, which is calculated annually as a percentage of extra wealth, the Sadaqa Al-Fitr is to be paid equally by every Muslim man, woman and child at the end of Ramadan.
Amount of Sadaqa Al-Fitr:
According to the Prophet Muhammad, each person should give away in charity an amount equivalent to one sa'a of grain. A sa'a is an ancient measure of volume, and various scholars have struggled to interpret this amount in modern measurements. The most common understanding is that one sa'a is equivalent to 2.5 kilograms (5 pounds) of wheat. Each individual Muslim is to give away this amount -- man or woman, adult or child, sick or healthy, old or young. The senior member of the household is responsible for paying the amount on behalf of the family. So a family of four individuals (2 adults + 2 children of any age) should purchase and give away 10 kilograms or 20 pounds of food.
It is recommended that the Sadaqa Al-Fitr be given as an amount of non-perishable staple food, not cash. The purpose of this charitable donation is to ensure that all members of the community have food to eat after Ramadan and during the Eid holiday. The recommended foods may vary according to local diet, but traditionally include:
Some scholars advise that donations of cash are permissible, if one is living in an area where food is readily available for purchase. However, most scholars agree that giving food products is preferable.
When to Pay Sadaqa Al-Fitr:
Sadaqa Al-Fitr is a charitable donation linked directly to the month of Ramadan. One must make the donations in the days or hours just prior to the Eid Al-Fitr holiday prayer. This prayer occurs early on the first morning of Shawwal, the month following Ramadan.
Who Benefits From Sadaqa Al-Fitr:
Sadaqa Al-Fitr is intended for members of the Muslim community who do not have enough to feed themselves and their family members. It is traditionally given directly to individuals in need. In some places, one may take the donation directly to a known needy family. In other places, the local mosque may collect all of the food donations for distribution to appropriate community members. It is recommended that the food be donated within one's local community. However, some Islamic charitable organizations accept cash donations which they use to purchase food for distribution in famine or disaster-affected regions.