Fitr Alms

One of the five basic principles Islam offers to man to gain happiness in this world and the next is the Ramadan fast. The five basic things that the religion of Islam aims to protect are religion, nafs (ego or soul), the mind, property and chastity (maslahat al-khamsa). When looked at in the light of these principles, it can be seen that all of religion's commands and prohibitions serve the protection of these five things.

From the perspective of the individual and society, Ramadan is a month in which different forms of worship that gain benefits (jalb al-manafi) and remove harm (daf al-mafasid) are interwoven. With many special qualities, this month decreases the snares of the devil and confronts the nafs with deprivation. "When the month of Ramada begins, the gates of heaven are opened and the doors of hell are closed. In Ramadan the devils are constrained in chains."  (1)

Iftar, sahur, tarawih, itiqaf, fitir alms are players on the stage of Ramadan that serve the same purpose. Fitra means "creation, nature, temper, and disposition." Fitr means ending a religious fast. Being cognizant of Ramadan and grateful for encountering eid, a person gives mandatory alms for himself and those under his guardianship.

Regarding who is responsible for fitir, together with different interpretations among sects, generally responsibility for fitir is evaluated separately from the poor tax. Possession of 85 grams of gold and property more than a year is not required as it is for zakat. Every Muslim who can meet his basic needs and has food to eat the next day can give fitir for himself and his family. Thus, a person who can receive zakat can give fitir and experience the feeling of being the giving party.

Regarding the amount of fitir, different measurements of foods like wheat, barley and grapes are given. Together with this, the verse on atonement for breaking a vow gives an idea about determining the amount of fitir: "...Feed ten poor people from the average food your family eats."  (2)

Just as fitir can be given several days before the Ramadan Eid, it can also be given on the first day of Eid together with making an intention to do it. In this special time when we find the opportunity to confront our nafs and worldly ambitions, the fitir is a second opportunity for eliminating our defects; in another sense it is an act of gratitude to our Lord for allowing us to live this experience. Perhaps the rule that everyone who is responsible can give fitir regardless of whether or not they fasted is an incentive for everyone to get his share from this ocean of Mercy.

There are important points in the choice of giving food rather than money. Being face-to-face with the poor, shopping for them, and taking them food - their most basic need - in the shortest and easiest way can be considered to be among these points. Thus, it is possible for everyone from seven to seventy to experience the joy of eid. Of course, here it is possible for the giver of fitir to make the most appropriate choice for the recipient. The determination of those in need and their needs can be left to the discrimination of various institutions and organizations.

It is preferred that the poor tax be given in Ramadan when the condition of the poor can be felt more keenly. Thus, the joy of eid and gratitude will be felt by every kind of social class. Consequently, Ramadan will be a beginning in the direction of social trust and stability.

Acting from fear of not getting a share of Mercy, a believer will avoid making the receiving party indebted to him with the good deed that he does. "O ye who believe! Cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury, - like those who spend their substance to be seen by men, but believe neither in God nor in the Last Day. They are in Parable like a hard, barren rock, on which is a little soil; on it falls heavy rain, which leaves it (just) a bare stone. They will be able to do nothing with aught they have earned, and God guideth not those who reject faith." (3)

With Ramadan, Muslims are called to account on every front and receive training during this process that belongs only to Ramadan. It is such training that it does not resemble that of other times. Inhaling this atmosphere, of course, will determine our direction in other times. By the way, one of the important aspects of Ramadan training is worship related to finances. Ramadan is a month when we can better see our responsibilities towards ourselves and the society we live in.

An important step in breathing Ramadan and experiencing eid is enabling our family, relatives, the poor and the needy to experience the joy of eid, as well. As the poet Harun Rashid said, "Eid is not wearing new clothing; it is trying to be safe from hell."

1. Bukhari, "Fasting," 5., Muslim, "Fasting," 2.

2. Al-Ma'idah, 5:89.

3. Al-Baqara, 2:264.



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