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
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
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
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
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:
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.
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
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.