Fatawa >Kaffarahs




1. Literally, "ka-fa-ra" may have a number of meanings, including "denial, obliteration, and cover". Technically, "kaffarah" means "what is paid to redress an imbalance or to compensate for commissioning a sinful act, i.e. a kind of punishment or penalty".

This penalty or expiation is defined by the Shari’a in accordance with the type of shortfall or sin; it may take the form of financial penalty, such as feeding a specific number of poor people, or clothing them; it could be personal, such as fasting and abstaining from some of life’s necessities and luxuries.

Every kaffarah is an act of worship; it should, therefore, be embarked on with the niyyah of qurbah. It can only be accepted from Muslims.

2. In paying kaffarah, the worshipper’s objective should be seeking forgiveness for his trespasses. Should there be more than one kaffarah, each of which must be identified when paid. This, of course, is irrespective of whether the kaffarah was that for commissioning a particular sin a number of times or for a number of different sins.

3. a. Should the worshippers deliberately break their fast, for one day, during the month of Ramadhan, they become liable to pay kaffarah, as has already been mentioned in the Chapter on Fasting the month of Ramadhan. The kaffarah for flouting the rules and breaching one’s fast could take one of three forms: a- emancipating a believer, b- fasting for two months, or c- feeding sixty poor people.

If the worshipper decided on choosing one of these three, it will be accepted as expiation for one’s sin.

4. The kaffarah is repeated commensurate with the number of days that fasting has been breached. However, should the worshipper halt their fast by, say, eating at one occasion and drinking on the other on the same day, this should not attract more than one kaffarah.

5. Having sexual union, or masturbation, twice on the same day should attract two kaffarahs. Having sex, or masturbation, and committing other things that invalidate fast would result in becoming liable to two kaffarahs for all the breaches; this is based on voluntary precaution.

6. b. Should the worshipper hold a lawful covenant with Allah, the Most High, only to break it, he should stand to pay the same kaffarah mentioned in the preceding para.

7. c. Whoever makes a lawful vow (nadhr), then violates it, must pay a kaffarah which could be any of the following: a- emancipating a person or b- feeding or clothing ten poor people. Inability to do either should lead to fasting for three successive days.

8. d. Whoever takes a lawful oath, i.e. by saying, "By Allah", then does not keep their word should choose one of the following: either: a- emancipating a person, or b- feeding or clothing ten poor people. If this is not feasible, fasting for three successive days should be observed.

9. e. If a man swears by The Almighty that he would refrain from sexual union with his wife for at least four months, it is obligatory on him to abrogate such an oath and resume his normal life/relation with his wife. This is called iela’.

But when husband annuls his oath and returns to having sex with his wife, a kaffarah, the same as that mentioned in the previous para., becomes due.

10. f. Should the husband resort to dhihar consisting in the words of repudiation: your are to me like my mother’s back - anti alyya kadhahri ummi(, and this was amenable to lawful conditions, the wife becomes out of bounds to the husband, until he pays a kaffarah, which could be emancipating a person; should this not be feasible, fasting for two months, or feeding sixty poor people is the alternative. This is called a "fixed penalty".

11. g. Should a person kill another by mistake, they should pay kaffarah, which is the same as the one mentioned in the previous para., i.e. freeing a person. Should there be more than one taking part in the killing, each one of them must bear a kaffarah.

12. h. If someone breaks his i’tikaf by having sexual intercourse, the i’tikaf shall be rendered batil, as has already been mentioned in para. 9 of the Chapter on I’tikaf. Kaffarah should, therefore, become due. As a matter of ihtiyat and obligation, he should be liable to the same kaffarah as that of the husband who resorted to dhihar.

13. i. If someone kills a believer wrongfully, he should pay kaffarah as well as receive the appropriate punishment. Should punishment not be coming soon, he has to settle the kaffarah, which can be all three, i.e. freeing a believing slave, fasting for two months, and feeding sixty poor people.

Should there be a number of people who took part in the killing, the same punishment and kaffarah should be meted out to every one of them.

14. Some jurists are of the opinion that whoever flouts the fasting of any day of the month of Ramadhan, by committing a sinful act, such as drinking alcohol or committing adultery, they should end up facing the same kaffarah mentioned in the previous para. However, we do not think that this should be obligatory on such a sinner.

15. j. Should the worshipper, who is engaged in compensatory fast for any days missed during the month of Ramadhan, break their fast sometime in the afternoon, they become liable to kaffarah, which takes the form of feeding ten poor people. If this is not feasible, fasting for three days would do.

16. k. It is forbidden for man to swear by way of disavowing either Allah, the Exalted, the Prophet, or the Imams. Should this be done, the person would be deemed sinner; he should therefore incur a kaffarah, which is feeding ten poor people.

l. A kaffarah by way of gift of bread, rice, flour, or any other type of foodstuff, equivalent to three quarters of a kg. should be paid in the following cases:

17. a. The worshippers may have outstanding days to fast from the previous month of Ramadhan. Should they be careless as not to fast until the following the month ofRamadhan has come, they are liable to a kaffarah equivalent to the number of days, i.e. one kaffarah for each day, as has already been discussed in the Chapter on Fasting the month of Ramadhan.

18. b. A sick person did not fast the month of Ramadhan. Their sickness lasted till the following the month of Ramadhan. Such is not required to observe compensatory fast. Instead, they have to compensate for each missed day of fast with giving away three quarters of a kg. of food.

19. c. Old men and women, who are licensed not to fast and pay fidya instead(see paras. 21-24), can do with kaffarah. However, kaffarah here does not precisely mean some sort of penalty for committing a sin, rather a compensation.

There are, though, other kaffarahs which become due on the pilgrim, in a state of ihram, for umrah or hajj, for commissioning certain things which they are not allowed to do because of their ihram. These are discussed in some detail in our "Manual of Hajj Rituals - Manasikul Hajj".

20. At times of mishaps or bereavement, some women shear their hair or beat their face. This type of reaction does not warrant a kaffarah. However, such women have to repent, go back to their senses, arm themselves with patience, and submit to Allah’s decree.

21. No kaffarah shall be due on sexual union while a woman is in a state of haydh, although she is deemed guilty; she must, therefore, ask Allah’s forgiveness.

22. No kaffarah shall be due on the person who slept without saying isha’ prayer until the morning after. However, it is desirable, as a matter of voluntary act of worship, for them to fast that day.

Emancipating a Slave

As you may already know that "emancipation" is among kaffarahs where the mukallaf is given the choice of one of three types of kaffarah; in others it is a "fixed one", i.e. it is obligatory to stick to it alone, unless it proves not feasible to pay. In a third category, emancipation is part of the kaffarah, i.e. in addition to other kaffarahs.

23. In all these cases it is imperative that the person embarking on emancipating a slave be Muslim, that his aim is desiring nearness to Allah, the Most High, and that he aspires that his sin be forgiven.

At any rate, freeing a slave is called for in itself as it is ranked among the best of devotions; Allah, the most Exalted, has said, "But they would not attempt the uphill road, and what will make you comprehend what the uphill road is? It is the setting free of a slave, or the giving of food in a day of hunger. (11-14/90). Above all, it is an act of worship because niyyah of qurbah is a prerequisite for its validity.

24. If freeing a slave is not feasible, the worshipper can choose one of the other two alternatives when the kaffarah is of that ilk. Should the kaffarah be ordinal, fasting should be chosen. But, if it is one among others, freeing a slave shall be dropped and substituted for asking for forgiveness; the rest of the kaffarahs have to be discharged.

25. Freeing a slave should prove inconceivable, when there are no slaves to free or when the worshipper cannot afford buying one in order to set him free.


Fasting is one of the three alternatives of kaffarahs; it also occupies the second place in the ordinal type of kaffarahs, and thus it becomes obligatory in the absence of freeing a slave. In the third category of kaffarahs, fasting is added to the other kaffarahs.

26. In all the cases of fasting by way of kaffarah, fasting should be observed for two consecutive lunar months. For example, one could start from the first of Muharram till the end of Safar, or from the fifth of Shawwal till the fifth of Thil Hijjah, and so on.

However, should the worshipper fast the whole of the first month, and one day of the second month, they are allowed to fast the remainder of the second month not necessarily in one go. In the example just cited, having fasted Muharram and one day of Safar, the worshipper can clear the outstanding days of Safar by instalments. In the second example, fasting six days of Thil Hijjah should mean that the worshippers have already fasted one month and one day; accordingly, they are allowed to clear the backlog intermittently.

27. On this assumption, should the worshipper, observing fast by way of kaffarah, break their fast at any stage before completing one month and one day of the second month, they should start again. In breaking the cycle of one month and one day, they would have cancelled out all the days they may have fast.

The exceptions are halting one’s fast for a valid reason, such as sickness, unexpected travel, or realizing that Eid, during which fast is forbidden, falls within the fasting period, forgetting about niyyah of fast on some days, or in the case of women haydh may set in. In all these cases, the worshippers should resume their fast as soon as the cause of calling the fast off has been lifted.

28. Where the worshippers are given three alternatives to choose from to absolve themselves of the responsibility of the kaffarah, they may resort to that which is easier for them to deal with. That is, when fasting becomes unfeasible. If kaffarah was of the second category, i.e. ordinal, and both freeing a slave and fasting cannot be embarked on for justifiable reasons, feeding poor people should be the alternative. Should the kaffarah be of the third category, i.e. a number of kaffarahs at the same time, the unfeasible one should be dropped and replaced by asking for forgiveness; the remainder of kaffarahs have to be discharged.

29. Fasting becomes unfeasible when the worshippers are unable to fast two successive months, or doing so could prove very hard and put them in an untenable situation, or fast could endanger their health.

Feeding, Clothing, and Gift-giving

Kaffarah of feeding could entail feeding either sixty or ten poor people. Feeding sixty poor people could become obligatory as one of three alternatives; it could also become obligatory as a last resort in the ordinal type of kaffarah, when both freeing a slave and fasting become unfeasible. On a third count, it becomes obligatory as part of other kaffarahs.

Feeding ten poor people could become obligatory by virtue of being one of three alternatives in the kaffarah of taking an oath . In another instance, it becomes obligatory by virtue of being the first on the list of ordinal kaffarah, such as the case in breaking one’s compensatory fast.

30. Feeding should be made available to a definite number of people, i.e. sixty, in kaffarahs, other than those of taking an oath and breaking one’s compensatory fast , as those require feeding ten poor people.

Feeding May Take Two Ways

a. Preparing food for the required number of poor people either collectively or separately in one’s home, in a restaurant, or in any other venue. The quantity of food should be sufficient enough for everybody to take their fill. As a matter of ihtiyat and obligation, the food should be of the average quality the worshipper and members of their family usually eat; this should be particularly so when it comes to the kaffarah for taking an oath.

b. Offering each one of them three quarters of a kg. of bread, wheat, or flour. Indeed, it goes without saying that it is permissible, in kaffarahs other than that for taking an oath, to give away the same weight in rice, dates, beans, or any other staple food.

It is desirable, though, that he who is landed with a kaffarah for dhihar and decided to discharge it by way of distributing bread, or the like, to increase the weight to a kilo and a half, instead of three quarters of a kg.

31. Anything short of these two forms of going about feeding is not acceptable. For example, resorting to paying the poor the equivalent of those weights in money would not do; nor would giving all the sixty or ten shares to one person or a lesser number than that specified by Shari’a law.

However, it is permissible to pick and mix according to the two forms already discussed in (a and b).

32. The Requirements that have to be Fulfilled by those to be Fed:

a. Poverty.

b. They should not be dependent, for their livelihood, on the person paying the kaffarah, such as their offspring and parents.

33. Just as it is permissible to feed grown ups, so is it permissible to feed the young. Whoever chooses the first way of feeding can feed children without the need to obtain the permission of their guardians. The number of children fed count as that of adults, i.e. feeding sixty children to their fill should count as feeding sixty adults. However, should the second form of kaffarah, i.e. by giving away certain quantities of food to children, be chosen, this has to be handed to their guardians.

34. Clothing ten poor people is one of the three alternatives of discharging the kaffarah for taking an oath. It entails giving each one of them one or, preferably, two garments.

35. As has already been discussed in paras. 19-21, giving away three quarters of a kg. of either bread, or a similar type of foodstuff, by way of gift is a kind of kaffarah or compensation called fidya.

The person discharging it must aim at coming closer to Allah, the Most High, in that it is a kind of expiation, as has been ordained by the Law-giver.

36. The recipient should be among the poor. In case there is more than one fidya, the worshipper can dispose of all of them by giving them to one person. Giving away its equivalent in money cannot be sanctioned. Nor is feeding allowed.

37. Once the month of Ramadhan has come to a close, those who are licensed not to fast because of old age, and the like, fidya becomes payable.

Those who have a fast liability because of illness that continued till the following month of Ramadhan, fidya becomes payable on the arrival of the following Ramadhan and not before that, even if they may be aware that their illness drags on.

This also applies to him who keeps postponing compensatory fast until the arrival of a second Ramadhan, i.e. fidya is payable on the advent of a second Ramadhan.

General Guidelines of Kaffarah

38. Should a person, liable to a kaffarah of any type, become unable to discharge it, asking Allah’s forgiveness is obligatory on them as an alternative.

39. Should a person be landed with a kaffarah, it is desirable, as a matter of voluntary precaution, for him to hasten to discharge it, although this is not obligatory. Postponing its payment, or paying it gradually is valid; the person should not be deemed sinful.

40. Should the worshipper be in any doubt as to whether or not he has done anything which may entail paying a kaffarah, he should dismiss it outright.

However, knowing that a kaffarah of a sort has become due, yet the worshipper is not quite sure whether or not he has discharged it, settling it should be the way out.

Maybe that a number of kaffarahs have become due. Yet, the worshipper is not sure of the number. If, for example, he thinks that the number was between three and four, they should make do with the lesser of the two figures, i.e. three in this case.

Becoming aware of a breach of one’s fast of the sort that entails a kaffarah, yet the worshipper was not quite sure whether he was engaged in fasting of the month of Ramadhan or a compensatory fast, they should resolve the matter by feeding sixty poor people; he may do with feeding ten poor people only.

Should the worshipper be landed with a kaffarah of the type that gives him a choice of three alternatives, yet he is not sure whether it was for breaching his fast during the month of Ramadhan or not keeping his pledge , he could embark on it with the intention of seeking expiation for what he has commissioned, although without specifying what it was.