Q: I have been told that the amount for Sadaqah al-Fitr when one is a follower of the Shafi`i Madh-hab is twice that of the followers of the Hanafi Madh-hab. Is this true? Would you kindly also explain how the amount is arrived at?

A: In the Shafi'iyy madhhab the quantity to be given in sadaqat al-fitr is 1 sa. This is a standard quantity that does not fluctuate for different commodities. In this regard the Shafi'iyy madhhab differs from the Hanafi madhhab, since in the Hanafi madhhab, the quantity is 1/2 a sa for wheat and 1 sa for other commodities such as maize and rice.

Converting the sa into weight:

There exists a further difference between the Shafi'iyy madhhab and the Hanafi madhhab on the weight of the sa. In the Shafi'iyy madhhab the sa is given as 5 1/3 ritl. (This is also the position of Imam Abu Yusuf). Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Muhammad's opinion is that the sa is 8 ritls. A ritl, according to Imam Nawawi, equals 128 4/7 dirhams; and a dirham is 2,97 grams. Thus:

1 dirham = 2,97 grams

128 4/7 dirhams = 1 ritl = 381,857 grams

381,857 grams x 51/3 = 2036,443 grams = 2,036443 kilograms

therefore 1 say = 2,036 kg

This amount is in accordance with the views of Imam Shafi'iyy, (as well as Imam Abu Yusuf), who hold that the sa is 5 1/3 ritls. According to Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Muhammad, the sa is 8 ritls, so the conversion will look as follows:

381,857 grams x 8 = 3064,856 grams = 3,064856 kilograms

therefore 1 sa = 3,064 kg

and 1/2 sa = 1,532 kg

Note, however, that the above calculation was done on the basis of Imam Nawawi's view that the ritl is 128 4/7 dirhams. There might well be slight differences in this regard.

Misconception:

There is a common misconception that sadaqat al-fitr for Shafi'iyy is is double the quantity for Hanafis. This is not accurate.
Firstly, it is true (though only partially so) when the commodity considered is wheat. For other commodities, such as maize or rice, it would not be true. For maize or rice it would be 1 sa for Shafi'iyys as well as Hanafis.

Secondly, the generalization that "Shafi'iyys have to pay twice the amount Hanafis pay" overlooks the important fact that for Hanafis a sa is 8 ritls, while for Shafi'iyys it is 5 1/3 ritls. For Hanafis 1/2 a sa would be something like 1,5 kg, while for Shafi'iyys 1/2 a sa would be about 1 kg and a full sa would be closer to 2 kg.

It would be more correct to say that where wheat is taken as staple food, Shafi'iyys have to pay 1 1/2 times the amount Hanafis pay (i.e. more than what Hanafis pay), while for commodities other than wheat Shafi'iyys have to pay 2/3 of what Hanafis pay (i.e. less than what Hanafis pay).