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The Expiatory Payment: How to pay to make up for missed prayers and fasts and why?

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Qibla.com

Answered by Shaykh Sohail Hanif, SunniPath Academy Teacher

This is to request you to send me the details on the expiatory payments to be made when a person passes away without performing his compulsory prayers or fard fasts.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Assalamu alaykum

The basis of the expiatory payment

Linguistically the word fidya means ‘property given as a substitute or a ransom for a captive’. So it is something paid to earn someone freedom, and in the case of religious duties it is to earn freedom from being brought to task for one’s short comings.

It is established from the Qur’an that feeding the poor is an expiation for those unable to fast, interpreted by Ibn ‘Abbas as referring to the aged. [Ahkam al-Qur’an, Zafar al-‘Uthmani, 191]

As for those who missed fasts without such an excuse, Imam al-Sarakhsi explains the basis for expiation on their behalf,

In the hadith of Abu Malik al-Ash’ari (Allah be pleased with him) a man asked the Messenger of Allah about someone who was sick during Ramadan [such that he was unable to fast] and subsequently died. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said “If he died before being able to fast then there is nothing upon him, and if he was able to fast [thereafter] and did not fast until he died then it should be made up on his behalf.” i.e. made up by feeding on his behalf…[This is because of the] hadith related by Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) stating that “No one can fast on anyone’s behalf and no one can pray on anyone’s behalf”. Furthermore, the fast is an act of worship and there can be no substitution in performing it whilst one is alive so likewise after death, like the prayer. This is because the meaning of worship is it’s being strenuous on the body and that is not attained by being performed on someone’s behalf but rather food is fed to a poor person for every day missed…the paying of the expiation taking the place of the fast as it does for the weak aged man. And it is only obligatory on the inheritors to pay this out of a third of his wealth if he directs them to do so, not otherwise. [Al-Mabsut]

 As for how the fuqaha deduced that the prayer should also be made up by an expiation, this was mentioned by Ibn ‘Abidin, quoting Fath al-Qadir of Kamal ibn al-Humam,

 The prayer being like the fast [in paying the expiation] was legally deduced by the fuqaha. It’s basis is that a similarity has been established by the sacred law between fasting and feeding the poor [as feeding makes up for missed fasts for the weak aged man] and the similarity between the prayer and the fast is also established [both being obligatory acts of worship] and the like of a like of something is permissible to be the like of that something [i.e. if A=B and B=C then A=C, where A is prayers, B fasts and C feeding the poor]. Based on affirming this relation then feeding the poor would be obligatory for missed prayers and if the relation is not affirmed then it would not be obligatory. The precaution is in obligating it, for if the reasoning is accurate then the purpose has been attained which is the making up for the missed duty and if not then it is a good deed to start with and is able to wipe away sins [from the deceased. Based on the hadith “Charity wipes out sins like water puts out a fire”]. This is why Imam Muhammad said concerning it “it will suffice him [in making up his missed duty], Allah willing” without being certain about it, just as he said concerning the inheritors voluntarily feeding the poor on the deceased behalf, as opposed to the case where the deceased specifically directed that an expiation be paid on behalf of missed fasts for in that case Imam Muhammad was certain that it would make up for them. [Radd al-Muhtar, 2:119, Bulaq ed.]

The fiqh of paying the expiation

It is obligatory for the deceased to make a direction from a third of his wealth that it be paid in expiation for missed prayers and fasts. If he doesn’t have inheritors then it must be paid by more than a third of the wealth if the third does not suffice. 

The expiation is paid by someone appointed by the deceased person or an inheritor. For each obligatory prayer missed as well as the witr prayer and for each obligatory fast missed, one pays the equivalent of half a sa’ of wheat. This amount has been measured to be equivalent to 2.25 Kg. [The relative price of this will depend on where one is.]

It is permissible to pay the expiation for the prayers and the fasts to a single person in one bulk payment. If the wealth that the deceased person had directed be used to pay for the expiation is not enough or if the deceased didn’t leave any direction but the inheritor wishes to pay but is not able to cover the complete amount, he pays what he has to a poor person to cover that amount of what was due of the expiation. The poor person then gifts him the money which he again gives to the poor person who again gifts it back and so on until they have covered what was due of the expiation. [This might seem a strange thing to do. It’s basis is in displaying one’s slavehood and resolve. As if to say ‘O Allah, if I had enough money I certainly would pay the full amount’. It is hoped that based on this, Allah Most High will accept it as though paid in full]

One also pays to make up for missed zakats, for someone to offer the hajj on his behalf [which unlike other acts of worship, is permissible to offer on the deceased’s behalf], for supererogatory prayers and fasts that were not completed, for not having slaughtered on ‘id, for the sadaqa al-fitr, and other missed financial obligations. [al-Hadiyya al-‘Ala’iyya, 117; Radd al-Muhtar, 5:415]

What we can all learn from this is the extreme seriousness of having missed our religious obligations. We must all strive to calculate exactly what we have missed of our prayers, fasts and other duties, and then form an effective plan to make these up while we still can. In addition a record should be kept of what remains of one’s make-ups so that inheritors will know how much expiation is to be paid. 

We ask Allah for tawfiq in offering that which is due of us and in making up that which we owe and acceptance for that which we have offered.

Sohail Hanif

This answer was indexed from Qibla.com, which used to have a repository of Islamic Q&A answered by various scholars. The website is no longer in existence. It has now been transformed into a learning portal with paid Islamic course offering under the brand of Kiflayn.