What is Fidyah?
In Ramadan if a person is unable to fast because he is elderly or sick with no hope of recovery, then he is not obliged to fast. Instead he should feed one poor person for each day (Fidyah).
How to perform the Fidyah
With regard to the manner of feeding, one has the choice between giving each poor person half a saa’ of food such as rice and the like (i.e., approximately one and a half kilograms) or making food and inviting the poor to eat.
Al-Bukhaari said: “As for an old man who is unable to fast, after Anas grew old, for one or two years he fed a poor person with bread and meat and he did not fast.”
Fasting is an Obligation
“O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)” 2/184.
What if you are sick?
“Observe Sawm (fasts) for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days.”
What If you can fast but with difficulty?
“And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskeen (poor person) every day. But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast is better for you if only you know.” [al-Baqarah 2:183-184]
Al-Bukhaari (4505) narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “This has not been abrogated. It refers to old men and old women who are not able to fast, so they should feed a poor person for each day.”
The sick may be divided into two categories:
1 – Those for whom there is the hope of recovery, such as those with temporary sickness from which there is the hope of recovery. In this case the ruling is as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “But if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days.” [al-Baqarah 2:184]. All they have to do is wait until they are better, then fast. If it so happens that the sickness continues and the person dies before recovering, then there is no sin on him, because Allah has only enjoined him to make it up from other days, but he died before those other days came. This is like a person who dies in Sha’baan before Ramadaan begins – so it should not be made up on his behalf.
2 – Cases where sickness is ongoing, such as cancer – Allah forbid – kidney disease, diabetes and similar chronic diseases where there is no hope of recovery. These people are allowed not to fast in Ramadaan, but they have to feed one poor person for each day, like old men and women who are unable to fast, so they may not fast and should feed one poor person for each day. The evidence for that in the Qur’aan is the verse in which Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskeen (poor person) (for every day)” [al-Baqarah 2:184].
What about an elderly woman who was unable to fast – what should she do?
“She should feed one poor person for each day, giving half a saa’ of the local staple food, such as dates or rice equivalent to approximately one and a half kilograms.” This was stated by a number of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), such as Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him).
Can one give cash to the poor as Fidyah?
No, paying cash does not count as the fidyah for not fasting. Actual food must be given because Allah says: “And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskeen (poor person) (for every day)”