At the sales company where I work, my boss has the following rule: if I break a glass by accident, I have to replace it with a new one. However, if out of anger I hurl a glass across my office, I’ll be fined or punished. Leafing through the Quran, I stumbled upon some verses that appeared to reveal the inspiration behind my boss’s ingenious rule.
Following are the verses regarding the obligation of fasting. Allah (swt) says: “Observe Saum (fasts)] for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskin (poor person) (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him…” (Al-Baqarah 2:184)
In the pre-Islamic times, the believers were either required to fast or give a fixed amount of food or money to the poor to make up for a fast. This was called Fidya, and usually the rich used to give Fidya to escape the hardships of fasting.
With the advent of Islam, this ruling was abrogated – only the physically unfit were allowed to pay Fidya. This ensured uniformity between the rich and the poor. If the rich never fast and keep paying Fidya, they can never understand the trauma of an empty belly. Also, it inculcates in them pride and love for their wealth, as they start to believe that they can escape religious obligations merely by paying a certain amount of money. Thus, the fact that every rich person cannot pay Fidya is actually a blessing from Allah Almighty, as it allows them to stand in line with the unprivileged of the society and bridge the gap separating these two socially different classes.
If a person misses a fast due to a valid reason, he has to offer its Qada by fasting an equal number of days, whenever he is able to do so. However, if he is physically unfit for fasting, he has to pay Fidya for each missed fast. This basically includes the elderly and the sick people suffering from a chronic illness. According to a Hadeeth in Bukhari, in his last years Anas (rta) used to prepare some meat with bread and give them to the poor, as he was too weak to fast himself.
The scholars vary in opinion over the case of a person, who has paid Fidya and later finds out that he is able to keep fasts. Some say it is Wajib (obligatory) upon him to offer the Qada fasts, while others argue that since he has paid the Fidya, it’s not obligatory. However, all agree that it’s preferable (Mustahab) for him to offer Qada fasts as well. For a poor person, who can neither fast nor pay Fidya, the ruling is that he must invoke Allah’s (swt) mercy. That will, Insha’Allah, exempt him from offering the Qada or paying Fidya.
“If a pregnant woman fears for herself or a feeding mother is scared for her child, then it is no sin upon them, if they do not fast. And they should both offer Fidya and there is no need to offer the Qada that is to keep an equal number of fasts later.” (Muslim)
Most of the scholars term this Hadeeth as authentic, while some argue that the relaxation of Fidya is only for the physically unfit – the rest must offer Qada fasts. In such circumstances, it is Ihsan (better) for a woman to offer Qada as well, if she is able to do so.
Fidya can be paid in two ways: the person has to either feed a poor person with the area’s main staple food for each missed fast, or give an equal amount of money. The amount of food to be given for each fast is called Mudd. One Mudd is defined as the amount one can hold in both hands, when cupped together, which is equivalent to ½ Saa of the staple food or 1.5 kg in common terms. It amounts to approximately PKR 2000 for a month, almost PKR 67 per fast. It is better, in the eyes of Allah (swt), if it is paid with a little oil or meat, as that shows the individual’s sense of responsibility towards Allah’s (swt) creation. The concept, however, is to give away the food or equivalent in cash to the poor, that is, to give him the Tamleek (ownership) of the food or money. It is not sufficient to merely invite them to a feast and feed them.
Allah (swt) uses the word Miskeen in Al-Quran for those to whom Fidya can be paid. It literally translates to the English word ‘impoverished’. In Islamic Shariah, it refers to a person, who falls short of the basic necessities of life. According to some scholars, it is particularly used for those who are entitled to receive Zakat.
One point to consider in making up the missed fasts is that one should make haste. It is preferable to make up one’s missed fasts before the arrival of next Ramadan. Some scholars go as far as laying down a ruling that says that the amount of Fidya keeps mounting with each passing year.
The option of Fidya is another reason for us to glorify the beauty of Islam that lies in its perfectly comprehensive nature. Even though Allah (swt) places fasting in the category of Fard, He (swt) also considers our human weaknesses and provides us leeway in the form of Fidya and Qada if we fall short of our obligations. This shows us the infinite wisdom of Almighty Allah (swt)!
Allah (swt) says: “… He … has not laid upon you in religion any hardship…” (Al-Hajj 22:78)
The words of Prophet Muhammad (sa), as recorded in the compilation of Imam Ahmad (rta), confirm this verse: “Allah’s (swt) Deen is not of difficulties…”
May Allah Almighty (swt) give us all the ability to carry out our religious obligations sincerely and dutifully, Ameen. Happy Ramadan!