In some circumstances, a Muslim is not able to fulfill his or her religious obligation to fast during the month of Ramadan, or may want to recompense for a broken oath. Fidya and kaffara are two solutions offered that can help a Muslim compensate for not fasting or breaking other obligations—paying of fidya or kaffara also benefits members of the community who live in impoverished conditions. The following answers are meant to provide a basic understanding of fidya and kaffara, and were derived through the consultation of a council of imams who follow the Fiqh Council of North America. It is advised that you consult with your local imam or scholar for more detailed inquiries.
“Fidya” is a donation type within the Islamic tradition paid by individuals who cannot fulfill the obligation of fasting due to illness or old age. Fidya payments are meant to feed a miskeen (person in need) for each of the fasting days missed, and are equivalent to the price of one meal each for two people or two meals for one person. The estimated cost, on guidance from the Fiqh Council of North America, is $10 for each day missed or $300 for all of Ramadan. That price is based on the average cost of a basic meal throughout the country. Of course, if, on average, you spend more per meal, it is permissible to adjust the price accordingly. In addition, if the donor is from a low-income family, he or she should then care for the family’s needs first before considering giving a separate fidya donation.
“Kaffara” is also a donation type within the Islamic tradition that provides individuals who deliberately miss or break a day of fast during the month of Ramadan without a valid reason. According to Islamic guidelines, if a person misses a day of fasting unnecessarily, he or she should either fast for 60 consecutive days or feed 60 masakeen (underprivileged people) per day. The estimated cost is $10 per person for 60 people, which equals $600 a day for each missed or broken-fast day.
Beyond Ramadan, kaffara may also be given to recompense for broken oaths or promises. In these cases, 10 masakeen (underprivileged people) should be fed for each occurrence. The amount paid should be about the average you would pay for a meal. The estimated cost is $10 per person for 10 people, which equals $100 per broken promise. If the donor is from a low-income family, and cannot afford the payment, it is recommended that he or she should fast for three days, and make sure to “protect your oath,” meaning he or she should stay true to his or her word going forward.
Please remember, the prices noted are listed on guidance from the Fiqh Council of North America, and are calculated based on an average. If you typically spend more on a meal, you can adjust the price accordingly.