Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wassalam) said in a Hadith: "A person who attributes anything to me, which I have not said, is making his abode in the Hill." With that warning, I always leave interpretation and explanation of Islamic concepts and principles to our scholars who are professionally qualified to simplify every complex issue to our benefit. That is evident in the following article which comprehensively elucidates everything we need to know about Zakatul Fitr. The following article is from http://www.islam.com/copied in its entirety without any change in form or shape. May Allah accept our fasting and make us among those he emancipated from Hell. Ameen.
ZAKATUL-FITRE AND EID
A- Zakat Al Fitr
Zakat al Fitr is an obligatory charity on every Muslim at the end of the month of Ramadan. Ibn `Umar said: "The Prophet, sallaallahu `alayhe wa sallam, enjoined the payment of one Sa'a of dates or one Sa'a of barley as Zakat al-Fitr on every Muslim, young and old, male and female, free and slave." (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim) The purpose of Zakat al-Fitr is to purify the one who has fasted from any type of indecent act or speech he might have committed while fasting. It also helps the poor and the needy. Ibn Abbas said: "The Messenger of Allah, sallaallahu `alayhe wa sallam, enjoined Zakat al-Fitr on the one who fasts to shield him from any indecent act or speech and for the purpose of providing food for the needy." (Related by Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah.)
The Amount of Zakat al-Fitr
As the first hadeeth indicated, the amount of Zakat al-Fitr is one Sa'a. Sa'a is a volume measure corresponding approximately to the volume of 5 lb of good wheat. The material of the Zakat can be either dates, barley, wheat, rice, corn or similar items considered as basic foods. Abu Saeed said: "We used to give for Zakat al-Fitr on behalf of every child, aged person, free man or slave during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah, sallaallahu `alayhe wa sallam, one Sa'a of food, or one Sa'a of dried yogurt, or one Sa'a of barley, or one Sa'a of dates, or one Sa'a of raisins." (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) In U.K a cash payment of £4.00 is equivalent in value to Sa'a and is due on each person. And Allah knows the best.
The Time for Zakat al-Fitr
Zakat al-Fitr has to be paid by the end of Ramadhan. There are two times to pay Zakat al-Fitr. Either one or two days before Eid as 'Umar used to do, or the day of Eid before the Eid prayer. Ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet, sallaallahu `alayhe wa sallam, ordered them to pay Zakat al-Fitr before they go out to perform the Eid prayer. If Zakat al-Fitr is paid after the Eid prayer, it will only be considered as regular charity. The Prophet, sallaallahu `alayhe wa sallam, said: "If one pays Zakat al-Fitr before the Salat, it is considered an accepted Zakat, if he pays it after the Salat, it is considered an ordinary charity." (Related by Abu Dawud.)
Zakat al-Fitr is to be given to the same eight categories or people as in the other types of Zakat. Some scholars say that the poor and the needy are the most deserving ones since the Prophet, sallaallahu `alayhe wa sallam, said that it had "...the purpose of providing food for the needy.
Ahmed Hassan Arwo