Question # 73: Should the distribution of fidyah (for someone not fasting as a result of old age) be made on a daily basis for the entire Ramadan or can it made in lump sum by feeding 30 poor people in one go? Also, can fidyah be given to non-Muslims?
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: One must feed one poor person for each day, whether that is by giving this food to the poor on a daily basis, or by inviting the same number of poor people as days in the month to a single meal. Next, as for distributing fidyah, if the person is in a non-Muslim country and there are no Muslims in that country who are entitled to be given food, then he may send it to any Muslim country where the people are in need of this food. In summary, fidyah is kafarah (expiation), a duty owed to Allah, so the same conditions apply as with zakah.
Long Answer: Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said in Fatawa al-Siyam: “The sick person who has an ongoing sickness, and elderly people, both male and female, who are unable to fast, must feed one poor person for each day, whether that is by giving this food to the poor or by inviting the same number of poor people as days in the month to a meal, as Anas ibn Malik (ra) used to do when he grew old. He would gather together thirty poor people and that was instead of fasting for a month.”
[Next, as for distributing fidyah to non-Muslims,] if the person is in a non-Muslim country and he is obliged to feed poor people, then if there are any Muslim people in that country who are entitled to be given food, he should feed them. Otherwise he may send it to any Muslim country where the people are in need of this food.
Al-Shafi’i said in al-Umm: “It is not permissible to give food as expiation for a vow to anyone except a free Muslim who is in need; if the food is given to a dhimmi (non-Muslim living under Muslim rule) who is in need, or to a Muslim who is not in need, that does not count and the ruling is the same as one who did not do that; in that case he has to repeat it. The same applies if he gives food to one on whom he is obliged to spend.”
It says in Asna al-Mataalib: “With regard to the poor and needy, they are regarded as being among those who are entitled to zakah, and it does not count if it is given to a [non-Muslim]… or to one on whom one is obliged to spend… because the kafarah (expiation) is a duty that is owed to Allah, so the same conditions apply as with zakah.”
(Most part of the above reply is based on various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.