Saturday | 22 February 2020 | 28 Jamadiul-Thani 1441
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Fatwa Answer

Question ID: 857 Category: Worship
Zakat

Mufti Sahib,.......

 
I live in Saudi Arabia and in today’s Jummah prayer the Imam explained about the zakat-ul-fitr. He said a couple of things:
 
It is not permissible to give the money for the zakat-ul-fitr. Rather the food (wheat, Rice, Dates etc.) should be given to the poor. 
 
He also said that zakat-ul-fitr cannot be given well in Advance of the EID-ul-Fitr. He said the right time is to give when the Moon for Shawl has been seen and before the eid prayer. He said that 1-2 days in advance can be used to facilitate the distribution of the food to the poor and needy. But it should not be given weeks in advance. 
 
There is a company here (under the government watch) that collects the food material (Rice, Dates, Wheat etc.) on the last two nights of the month of Ramadan and food donations can be given to them and they distribute the food to the needy and poor people. It is not a program run by the Government but government is involved to ensure the distribution is justly done. 
 
Could you please shed some light on the above points. This is the first time I have learnt that it is Not Permissible to give the money for zakat-ul-fitr and also the timing of giving the zakat-ul-fitr is very close to EID prayer not well in advance. 
 
While I was living in US for 14+ years, we always give money and emphasis was to give zakat-ul-fitr well in advance so that it can be sent overseas to the needy and poor people. Was that criterion only for US as there may not be local muslims whose the zakat-ul-fitr can be given, However, in Saudi Arabia should we follow the above described local method i.e., “Giving food material and giving just before the EID day”? Will following this method be closer to following the Sunnah? 
 
Please advise. 
 
May Allah SWT bless you for your advice and guidance. I look forward to hearing from you soon. 

الجواب وبالله التوفيق

Paying money instead of goods (such as equivalent weight of wheat etc.) is permissible and in fact considered afzal(i.e. preferable).

(وقع القیمۃ ای الدراھم افضل من دفع العین علی المذھب المفتی بہ (فتاویٰ حقانیہ ص39، ج4، بحوالہ در مختار

It is mustahabto pay Sadaqatul-Fitrbefore going to the Eid salah. It is also correct to pay it before the Eiddays during the month of Ramadhan.

(وصح لو قدم اواخر) ای صح اداؤھا اذا قدمہ علی یوم الفطر او اخرہ    الخ (فتاویٰ رحیمیہ، ص147، ج 4)

واللہ اعلم  بالصواب