Forms of Expiation & Ransom in Shari`ah

Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr, former head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee states that: “In general, kaffarah (expiation) is of two kinds: major expiation (kaffarah mughallazah) and minor expiation (kaffarah mukhafafah). The latter is also called fidyah (ransom). It is worth stressing here that expiation is considered as an act of worship, which necessitates an intention prior to doing it.
There are four kinds of expiation: expiation for manslaughter, expiation for having sexual intercourse with one’s spouse during the fast of Ramadan, expiation for zihar (declaring one’s wife as unlawful as the mother) and expiation for breaking one’s oath.
The first three involves freeing a believing slave. If one is unable to do this, one may resort to fasting two consecutive months. If it is not possible to do so, one is to feed sixty needy persons. One is not allowed to move from one to the next unless one is really unable to do the first.
Allah says, “Those who put away their wives (by saying they are as their mothers) and afterwards would go back on that which they have said; (the penalty)in that case (is) the freeing of a slave before they touch one another. Unto this you are exhorted; and Allah is well acquainted with (all) that you do. And he who finds not (the wherewithal), let him fast for two successive months before they touch one another; and for him who is unable to do so (the penance is) the feeding of sixty needy ones…).” (Al-Mujadalah: 3-4) ‏
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to a man who committed sexual intercourse intentionally during the fast of Ramadan, “Could you set free a believing slave?” The man replied “No”. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then said, “Could you fast two consecutive months?” Yet again the man answered “No” . Then the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) brought some dates and said to him, “(Take this and) give it as charity.” The man then said, “Is there anyone who is poorer than me?!” Therefore, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Go and offer it to your family.”(Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Fasting, in this case, should be performed successively. In case of breaking it, it should be resumed and started from the beginning even if there is an excuse for breaking it. However, menstruation and post-natal bleeding, in the case of a woman who committed unintentional murder, does not break its successiveness.
As for the fourth expiation, namely, the expiation for breaking an oath, one is to free a believing slave. If this is not possible, one should feed ten needy persons. If it is not possible, then may fast three days either successively or otherwise.
On the other hand, fidayah is of three types:
1. Feeding a needy person for a day from the same food one usually offers to his family. This kind of ransom is for whoever breaks the fast in Ramadan for one day due to an excuse such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, chronic sickness, and old age. Allah says, in regard to fasting during Ramadan, “For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent.”(Al-Baqarah: 184)
Furthermore, the ransom should be fulfilled by one who removes or plucks one’s hair or cuts one’s nail in the period of Ihram (state of ritual consecration) during Hajj.
2. Feeding two needy persons a day. This is also applied in many cases, for example, when cutting two hairs or two nails during the period of ihram for Hajj or `Umrah.
3. Offering sacrifice, and this kind is to be fulfilled if one, for example, kills an animal of the chase in the sacred precincts or while wearing ihram, cuts a lock of his hair or cuts more than two nails at once, wears perfume, or fails to assume ihram at its due and fixed place.”
Allah Almighty knows best