Paying expiation from money received as gift
Fatwa No: 333370

Question

If a person broke an oath to Allah and has to give an expiation but does earn any money, then do they have to use the money that they received as a gift to feed the poor? Or is it sufficient for them to fast given that they do not have an income?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

Breaking an oath entails the due expiation, which is to feed ten poor persons or clothe them or free a slave. If one cannot afford this, then he must fast three days. Feeding the poor must be done with the average kind of food with which one feeds his family. Allah, The Exalted, says (what means): {So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your (own) families.} [Quran 5:89]

One is not allowed to choose to fast except if the person is unable to feed ten poor people or clothe them. The criterion for the person's inability to do that was underlined by Ibn Qudaamah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him in his book Al-Mughni:

"In brief, the expiation for breaking an oath includes both a choice and a certain order. The person is given the choice to do any of the three options (feed ten needy people, clothe them, or free a slave), and if he cannot afford any of them, then he expiates by fasting. Not being able to afford means that he has no wealth that exceeds the basic needs of himself and his dependents for a day and a night to offer the due expiation. This was the scholarly view held by Is-haaq, Abu ‘Ubayd and Ibn Al-Munthir. Ash-Shaafi‘i, on the other hand, said, 'Whoever is eligible to receive zakah may choose fasting (for expiation) because he is poor...' This is because Allah, The Exalted, made fasting contingent upon not finding enough money to expiate with; Allah, The Exalted, says (what means): {But whoever cannot find (or afford it) – then a fast of three days (is required).} [Quran 5:89] If the person has wealth in excess of his and his family's need (for a day and night), then he is obliged to offer it because it is a right of a fixed amount that does not increase with the increase of wealth. Therefore, it is due in case the person has wealth surplus to his and his dependents' needs for a day and night, just like zakat-ul-fitr."

As for the food offered to you as a gift, it has become your personal property, and there is no difference between it and earned money, because when the gift is accepted and taken into possession of the beneficiary, it becomes part of his legal property. Hence, if this wealth that was gifted to you exceeds your basic needs for one day and night and it is sufficient to feed or clothe ten poor people, then you should pay the due expiation from it, and you may not choose to fast as an expiation in this case.

This view was declared the preponderant one by Ibn Qudaamah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him in his book Al-Mughni. However, some scholars held that you may choose to fast if you are poor and eligible to receive zakah. Ash-Shirbeeni  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, "The poor person, in this case, means the one who has no source of income or wealth that can be sufficient to meet his basic needs and those of his dependents, such as food, clothes, accommodation, and the like of essential needs to lead a decent life with no extravagance or stinginess..." [Excerpted with modifications]

Allah knows best.

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