MDF English Corner (20/04/2023) – The History behind Zakat Fitrah


Welcome to another edition of English Corner, my name is Rifki Kusmana. This is an article about the history behind Zakat Fitrah. An Indonesian version of this article is available here.

As Eid al-Fitr approaches, Muslims must fulfill their obligation to pay zakat fitrah. This obligation is one of the five pillars of Islam. How did zakat fitrah originate in Islam?

When the Prophet Muhammad SAW migrated to Medina, zakat was not yet practiced. At that time, the Prophet SAW, his companions, and all the muhajirin (Quraysh Muslims who migrated from Makkah to Madinah) were still preoccupied with how to run a business to support themselves and their families in the new place. In addition, not everyone had enough money, except for Uthman bin Affan, because all their possessions and wealth had been left behind in Makkah.

The anshar had indeed welcomed the Prophet and his companions with great help and hospitality. Nevertheless, they did not want to burden others. That is why they worked hard for the good life. They also thought that a hand up is better than a hand down.

The muhajirin’s specialty was trading. One day, Sa’d bin Ar-Rabi’ offered his wealth to Abdurrahman bin Auf, but Abdurrahman refused. He only asked to be shown the way to the market. It was there that he started trading. In no time, thanks to his trading skills, he became wealthy again. In fact, he already had caravans going and returning with his merchandise.

Apart from Abdurrahman, many other muhajirin also did the same thing. This skill of the people of Makkah in trading made people outside Makkah say, “With those skills in trade, he can turn the sands of the sahara into gold”.

Not all the muhajirin made a living by trading. Some of them worked on the land of the Anshar. A few also experienced hardship and difficulty in their lives. However, they still tried to earn their own living because they did not want to be a burden to others.

Then the Prophet SAW provided for those who had difficulty living a shuffa (roofed part of the mosque) as their residence. Therefore, they were called Ahlush Shuffa (shuffa dwellers). The salaries of these Ahlush Shuffa came from the wealth of the Muslims, both the muhajirin and the well-to-do anshar. After the economic situation of the Muslims began to improve and the implementation of religious duties was carried out continuously, the implementation of zakat in accordance with its laws began to be carried out.

By the second year of Hijri, the Prophet (SAW) had laid down the basic rules, the forms of wealth that are subject to zakat, who should pay zakat, and who is entitled to receive zakat. Since then zakat has evolved from a voluntary practice to an institutionalized religious social obligation that is expected to be fulfilled by every Muslim whose wealth has reached the nisab, the minimum amount of wealth that is subject to zakat.

It was in Yastrib, Medina that Islam began to find its strength. Zakat was established in Medina in the second century AH. Zakat that was established in Madinah was zakat with a special value and amount of obligation. After the application of sadaqah in the first year of Hijri, the application of zakat in Mecca in the second year of Hijri coincided with the year 632 AD. The implementation of zakat was just beginning to get better. The zakat was known as zakat fitrah.

Zakat al-fitr was imposed on the people of Mecca who were obliged to pay zakat in the amount of 1 saa’ of kurma, flour, soft cheese, or half a saa’ of wheat for each Muslim including slaves, and paid before the Eid prayer. Today, around 5 million people in Indonesia pay zakat, Allah SWT explains that zakat is one of the believers’ institutions that distinguishes them from the hypocrites. Allah SWT instructed His Messenger and all those in charge of leading the people after him to collect zakat.

And that’s it for today’s English Corner, I hope you have enjoyed this article and I hope to see you again. Thank you for reading.

Editor: Rifki Kusmana

Editor of the MDF English Corner