What is Fidya?
If one does not fast some days during Ramadan, it is obligatory to make up these missed fasts before the next Ramadan arrives, regardless of whether these fasts were missed with a valid excuse (e.g. menstruation, travel, sickness, etc.) or without a valid excuse. If one does not make them up before the next Ramadan, one is sinful and must pay a “mudd” (a volumetric measure defined below) of food to someone poor (faqeer) or short of money (miskeen) in addition to making up the missed fasts (I`anatu’l-Talibin, 2.242; Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 3.445-446).
Imam Daraqutni and Imam Bayhaqi (Allah be pleased with them) have related the following hadith from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace):
Whoever lives to meet Ramadan, does not fast because of an illness, then regains his health and does not make up [the missed fasts] until another Ramadan should fast [the Ramadan] that he has reached, then make up what he owes, and then feed someone short of money [miskeen] for every day [he missed].
Both Imam Daraqutni and Imam Bayhaqi (Allah be pleased with them) said this hadith was weak (da`if), but Imam Ramli has mentioned that it has been narrated with sound (sahih) chains of transmission as a statement of a companion (a mawquf hadith). All this is also strengthened by the fact that six companions gave this fatwa and no one objected to them (Hashiyat al-Sharqawi, 1.413).
Q1. What is the fidya that must be paid?
One must give one “mudd” of the main staple of one’s area to either someone who is poor (faqeer) or short of money (miskeen) (those who are considered poor or short of money are defined in Reliance, h8.8, h8.11). A “mudd” is the amount one can hold in both hands when cupped together. It is estimated in the Reliance as 0.51 liters (Reliance, i1.33). The type of food one gives varies from place to place. One must pay whatever food is considered the main staple in the area where one lives. This could be wheat, barley, rice or something else (al-Minhaj al-Qawim + al-Hawashi al-Madaniyya, 2.194).
One mudd needs to be given for every day of fasting that one delayed making up (al-Minhaj al-Qawim, 2.194).
Q2. Does the fidya accumulate from year to year?
Yes, it does. One must pay one mudd per day per year (I`anatu’l-Talibin, 2.242). For example, if a woman missed six fasts during Ramadan because of menstruation, and she did not make them up until after three more Ramadans had passed, she would have to pay 18 mudds (1 mudd per day per year * 6 days * 3 years = 18 mudd’s).
Q3. Can I feed all the people on one day at a big feast?
Feeding (it`am) a poor person, as Imam Bajuri (Allah have mercy on him) explains in the section on expiating (kaffara) for fast days that one has invalidated, means giving him ownership (tamleek) of the food. It is not sufficient to cook the food and then invite him to one’s house for lunch or dinner (Hashiyat al-Bajuri, 1.319). Rather, the poor person must be given possession of the food (e.g. a bag of wheat) and then he can do what he wants with it (e.g. eat it, sell it, give it away to someone else, give it back to you and ask you to cook it for him, etc.). As such, it would not be sufficient to invite the people to a feast. One would have to give them the actual staple food.
It is valid, however, to give everyone the food the same day. It suffices to give multiple mudd’s to one person (so one could calculate everything one owes and give everything to one person). However, it is not acceptable to divide a single mudd between multiple people (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 3.446).
Q4. What qualifies as an excuse for not making up these days?
For example, if one never knew that it was obligatory to make up missed fasts before the next Ramadan despite being raised Muslim, does one still have make them up?
Just like missed prayers, there is no excuse for not making up the fast days. Obligatory fasts must be made up. They are a debt one owes to Allah, just like missed prayers.
There are, however, excuses for not paying the expiatory payment (fidya). The fuqaha mention that someone who was not aware that it was obligatory to make up missed fasts before the next Ramadan does not have to perform the expiation (fidya), even if he or she lives among scholars. Non-scholars (`awamm) are excused for being ignorant of minor, subtle points such as these even if they live in Muslim lands among scholars. If, however, one knew that it was obligatory to make up the fasts before the next Ramadan, but was not aware that one had to make an expiatory payment (fidya), one would not be considered excused (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 3.445).