When the month of Ramadan finishes, there is a specific payment known as Zakaat ul fitr (or sadaqaat ul fitr) that is made which the prophet (ﷺ) made obligatory on all people whether they fasted or not. It is a zakaah on the individual rather than on wealth and must be paid for each individual.
Ibn Umar narrated that Allah’s Messenger has made sadaqaat ul fitr obligatory, (and it was), either one sa’ of barley or one sa’ of dates (and its payment was obligatory) on young and old people, and on free men as well as on slaves. [Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 2.588]
It has the virtue for compensating for any shortcomings during Ramadan.
Abdullah ibn Abbas narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) prescribed the sadaqah (alms) relating to the breaking of the fast as a purification of the fasting from empty and obscene talk and as food for the poor. If anyone pays it before the prayer (of ‘Eid), it will be accepted as zakaah. If anyone pays it after the prayer, that will be a sadaqah like other sadaqahs (alms). [Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 1605]
It is usually paid by the head of the household for each and every one of his (Muslim) dependents, providing he has the ability.
Nafi narrated that Ibn ‘Umar said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) made incumbent on every male or female, free man or slave, the payment of one sa’ of dates or barley as sadaqaat ul fitr (or said sadaqaah ramadaan).” The people then substituted half sa’ of wheat for that. Ibn ‘Umar used to give dates (as sadaqaat ul fitr). Once there was scarcity of dates in Medina and Ibn ‘Umar gave barley. And Ibn ‘Umar used to give sadaqaat ul fitr for every young and old person. He even used to give on behalf of my children. Ibn ‘Umar used to give sadaqaat ul fitr to those who had been officially appointed for its collection. People used to give sadaqaat ul fitr (even) a day or two before the ‘Eid. [Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 2.587]
The amount of zakaat ul fitr that needs to be paid is one sa’ of staple food. A sa’ is four double handed scoopfuls and equates to approximately 2-3 Kg. The discrepancy occurs because the sa’ was not a measurement by weight but more by volume.
The food that is given should be the staple food of the area.
Tha’labah ibn Su’ayr narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) stood and gave a sermon; he commanded to give sadaqah, at the end of Ramadan when the fasting is closed, one sa’ of dried dates or of barley payable by every person. The narrator Ali added in his version: “or one sa’ of wheat to be taken from every two.” Both the chains of narrators are then agreed upon the version: “payable by young and old, freeman and slave.” [Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 1616]
Most of the scholars were very strict in terms of how the payment should be made, stipulating that the payment must be in the form of food and cash equivalents are not acceptable. However, many scholars now allow cash equivalents, even preferring it as it gives more flexibility for the needy and the payment is made for their benefit.
The predominant view is that it should be given locally, but if there is greater need elsewhere it is permitted to send to different areas.
The recipients of zakaat ul fitr are essentially the same as those stipulated for zakaat ul maal. However, preference is often given to the poor and needy as the purpose of paying zakaah is to make them free from need on the day of Eid.
Abdullah ibn Abbas narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) prescribed the sadaqah (alms) relating to the breaking of the fast as a purification of the fasting from empty and obscene talk and as food for the poor… [Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 1605]
It needs to be paid before the Eid ul Fitr prayer, or towards the end of Ramadan. The time for paying it becomes obligatory from sunset of the last day of Ramadan, although can be paid anytime during Ramadan, with the greater reward being toward the end.
This was based on the practice mentioned by Ibn Umar.
Nafi narrated that Ibn ‘Umar said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) made incumbent on every male or female, free man or slave, the payment of one sa’ of dates or barley as sadaqaat ul fitr (or said sadaqah-Ramadan).” ….. People used to give sadaqaat ul fitr (even) a day or two before the ‘Eid. [Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 2.587]
It must however be paid before the Eid prayer.
Ibn Umar narrated that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) enjoined the payment of one sa’ of dates or one sa’ of barley as sadaqaat ul fitr on every Muslim slave or free, male or female, young or old, and he ordered that it be paid before the people went out to offer the ‘Eid prayer. (One sa’ = 3 Kilograms approx.) [Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 2.579]
If it is not paid before the Eid prayer, on has sinned, but is still liable to pay it.