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Differentiating Zakat And Fitrana (zakat-al-fitr)

The Zakat and the Zakat-al-Fitr are two of the many obligations that Islam requires during the month of Ramadan. These are very similar yet different from each other.

Eligibility is the first and foremost difference between these 2 obligations. In fitrana, all Muslims are required to pay regardless of financial standing or age. Minors, old, young, male or female must be counted for the calculation of the fitrana. Even the unborn (still in the mothers womb) is required to be included. There is a sole exception to the eligibility. Families that do not have at least one sa or about 2.5-3 kg of staple food more than their needs is not required to pay fitrana. This means that the poorest are not required to pay fitrana. While this is an Islamic obligation, those who absolutely and honestly have to means to pay can be exempted.

Fitrana is paid by the head of the household. Computation includes everyone under the care of the household. Hence, children are included in fitrana and their parents are the ones responsible for making the payments in their behalf. On the other hand, zakat is paid only by Muslims who have met the nisab values after the calculations of the zakatable earnings for the year are made.

The second important difference is the amount. Zakat is larger because it is equivalent to 2.5% of a Muslims net savings. The higher the worth of the net savings, the larger the zakat that must be paid. Fitrana is considerably smaller. It does not usually exceed £5. It is calculated by the amount of staple food (dates, raisins, wheat, rice) equivalent to four double handfuls. For a more universal standard, scholars have equated this amount to the value of staple food at 2.5 to 3 kg. Some peg the fitrana to certain amounts, often not more than £5. Some use the prevailing price of staple food (often of wheat) and multiply it by 2.5 kg. Then the amount is multiplied by how many people are in a household, including all dependents under the households care. Computation for zakat is much more complex, as it entails making a thorough assessment of all assets and liabilities. The value of liabilities are deducted from the total value of assets (including earnings), then the result is compared to the nisab values to see if it is indeed zakatable or not.

The last difference is the due dates for payments. Eligible Muslims can pay the zakat anytime. The condition is that the calculation reflects the earnings made within 1 lunar year, based on that years net savings worth. With fitrana, the payment is in relation to the month of Ramadan. It has to be paid before the day of the Eid. In fact, it is highly advisable that payments be made a few days before the month of Ramadan ends. At the very latest, it has to be paid before the Eid prayers (Eid-ul-Fitr). Payments made after the prayers are considered invalid. There is no chance in making up for the failure to perform this obligation.