Zakatul Fitr is a means to purify your negative actions during Ramadan. Ibn`Abbas said:The Prophet pbuh enjoined Zakat Al-Fitr so that those who fast are purified of their sins and the poor and needy people are enabled to arrange for their basic needs of food, clothing etc. Therefore, the Sadaqah (charity) of the person who gives before the`Eid prayer is the real Sadaqah, but if someone delays and gives it afterwards, his charity will be an ordinary one.
Reported By: Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah.
Zakat al-fitr is given at the end of Ramadan. Zakat al-fitr is obligatory for every Muslim, to be paid on his own behalf and on behalf of those on whose maintenance he is obliged to spend, if he has wealth surplus to his and his dependents’ needs for the day and night of Eid: one saa‘. It is not compulsory if what he has is limited to his own and wife to be given as charity. With concrete evidence; it is permissible to give zakatul fitr to feed one’s family if they have more need to it.
Unlike zakatul Mal zakat al-fitr is not obligatory to be stipulated with a specific minimum threshold of wealth or that one full year should have passed since acquiring it, or any of the other stipulations that are applicable to zakaah on one’s wealth.
It also has nothing to do with what a person owns of wealth, property or cars, because he pays zakat al-fitr on his own behalf and on behalf of the people on whom he is obliged to spend.
As for the wealthy and those that are capable of shouldering the task it is mandatory to give zakatul fitr unbehalf of those that he spend upon except the unborn baby. As for the foetus, no zakaah is required on his or her behalf, according to scholarly consensus, but if you do pay zakaah on his or her behalf, there is nothing wrong with that.
What is required in the case of zakat al-fitr is to give it in the form of the usual local staple food.
We read that Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
In as-Saheehayn it is narrated that Abu Sa‘eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) said: We used to give it at the time of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), a saa‘ of foodstuff, or a saa‘ of dates, or a saa‘ of barley, or a saa‘ of raisins.
A number of scholars interpreted “foodstuff” in this hadeeth as referring to wheat; others are of the view is that what is meant is the foodstuff of a region, no matter what it is, whether it is wheat, corn, pearl millet, and so on. This is the correct view, because zakaah is a means by which the rich help the poor, and the Muslim is not required to help with anything other than the staple food of his country.
This is the view favoured by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him). It was also favoured by Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen and others. This is more right and just.
However, there are certain condition that may warrant you to give in cash or other form of funding while the custodian give in normal form on your behalf. Such case are mentioned below;
If you live in an environment where no one is entitle to your Zakatul Fitr and you intend to send it to a place where the poor dependants stay.
In a situation where the needy has gotten enough food stuff but has no means of turning the food stuff into eatable material e.g like cooking.
If the zakatul fitr is intended to be sent to a muslim countries where drought or crises disturbs them.
In a situation where you met a wayfarer that is in need of transportation to feeding, you can convert it to money for transportation. Allah say: “As-Sadaqaat (here it means Zakaah) are only for the Fuqaraa’ (poor), and Al‑Masaakeen (the poor) and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allaah’s Cause (i.e. for Mujaahidoon — those fighting in a holy battle), and for the wayfarer (a traveller who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allaah. And Allaah is All-Knower, All-Wise” Al-Tawbah 9:60.
We should Alps know that there is nothing wrong with transferring the zakaah on your wealth, or your zakat al-fitr, to your homeland and giving it to your family or other people that are there, if they are in need of it. This is confirmed in the case of many workers who work in countries where most of the people are well off and independent of means, when the people in their homelands are in need or are poor, especially when many of them know more about the poor in their homelands than about who is entitled to zakaah in the country where they work.
This is also confirmed if the zakaah will be transferred from the country where he is working and given to poor relatives of his in his homeland.
There is stipulated deadline for Zakat al-fitr. It becomes obligatory when the sun sets on the last day of Ramadan, and must be paid before the Eid prayer. It is permissible to pay it two or three days before that, if need be.
Based on that, it is said that it is not permissible for you to give it a week or two before Eid, and the like. However, this is applicable to those that will do it on there own at rest assured area. For those that would like to transfer cash for the employed person, it is advisable to do it any time because of the transaction delayed that may occur. In line with the distribution the employed person that will share the zakatul fitr must not do so until the proper time mentioned in the sunnah.
But if you are afraid that two or three days before Eid is not enough time for the money transfer to reach your homeland, then you can send it earlier, so as to allow enough time, even if that is before Ramadan, and you may appoint someone trustworthy to buy your zakat al-fitr for you, but he should not give it except at the prescribed time.
And Allah knows best.