What Is The Difference Between Fidya and Kaffarah?

Fidya and kaffarah are prescribed for Muslims during Ramadan who break their fasts for specific reasons. For these instances, the measures of fidya and kaffarah have been ordained and it is important for us as Muslims to understand what these measures are so that our fasts for the month remain spiritually complete.

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Sometimes, we are compelled to break our 30-day fast for various reasons, such as illness, travel or even forgetfulness.

Read on to learn about exemptions from fasting and how fidya and kaffarah tie in with them:

What are the Valid Exemptions from Fasting?

In short, there are 5 major categories of exemptions from fasting in Ramadan:

  1. Illness

  2. Travel

  3. Age

  4. Hazardous Thirst or Hunger

  5. Coercion

The majority of these categories concern the preservation of one’s health, with the exception of the 5th category, coercion, which is also the rarest. Islam prioritizes the balanced wellbeing of the individual and these exemptions can be used throughout the month of Ramadan as needed.

Those who break their fast due to the reasons mentioned above are required to pay fidya (with the exception of illness and travel), while those who break their fast for other reasons are required to pay kaffarah.

What is Fidya?

Fidya is the amount of wealth one offers for each day of Ramadan fasting that he or she has missed for a reason from the 5 valid categories mentioned above. 

Fidya is paid to those in need and provides enough food to suffice 1 person for an entire day.

In Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace, established the rate of fidya as a half sa’ - or two double handfuls - of foodstuff per days missed. In today’s calculations, a half sa’ is equivalent to roughly 1 kg or 2.5 lbs of food and the amount to provide this amount of food would be roughly $10 USD. Calculating one’s fidya would thus be:

One-Half Sa‘ (or $10)  x  Days Missed = Total Fidya Payment

What is Kaffarah? 

Kaffarah is wealth paid for deliberately breaking a fasting day in Ramadan, i.e. through eating, drinking or engaging in sexual intercourse, without a valid reason.

As with fidya, each day of fasting missed requires its own kaffarah payment, with the 3 common forms of penance being:

  1. Freeing a Muslim from slavery

  2. Feeding a specified number of the poor (typically 60 people)

  3. Fasting for a specified number of days

For those inclined towards feeding the poor for their penance, feeding 60 people for one day would come at a rate of about $10 USD per person and the calculation for one’s kaffarah would look like this:

$600 x Days Missed = Total Kaffarah Payment

Being knowledgeable about the details of our faith is essential to our practice as Muslims, especially during Ramadan. While fidya is paid by one who is unable to fast due to valid reasons, kaffarah is paid by one who breaks their fast without a valid reason.

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