Time To Give It Out
As is clear from Ibn `Abbaas's report above, zakaat ul-fitr should be given on the `Eed day, no later than the prayer.
It has further been reported that Ibn `Umar used to give it out one or two days before the `Eed1. This provides a basis for giving it a few days before the Eed.
But it is wrong to give it too early in the month of Ramadaan. Doing that would conflict with its wisdom of being atonement of the sins during the month, and provision for the needy on `Eed ; it further conflicts with the practice of the sahaabah () and the Salaf.
However, it is permissible to give it early to those who collect it, trusting that they would not deliver it to those who deserve it before the end of the month. This was done at the time of the sahaabah, when the collectors used to finish collecting it one or two days before the `Eed 2.
It is permissible to appoint individuals to collect zakaat ul-fitr from the people; it is also permissible to give from it to those collectors if they need and deserve it. Ibn `Umar (t) used to do so3.
It is further recommended to appoint a person to take care of the collected zakaat ul-fitr. The Prophet appointed Abu Hurayrah to this job, as he () said:
"Allaah's Messenger entrusted me to look after the zakaah of Ramadaan."4
People Who Deserve It
Zakaat ul-fitr should be distributed to the miskeen (the needy), as was stated in the hadeeth of Ibn `Abbaas. It may not be distributed among all of the eight types to which the normal zakaah is given.
A miskeen is not a person in complete poverty, but is one whose financial means are very limited.