What Is the Reasoning behind Paying the Fidya for Missed Fasts of the Deceased?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question

A Hadith in Bukhari mentions that the successors of the deceased have to make up for their missed fasts, while the Hanafi fiqh allows for fidya to be paid. Can you please share the basic evidence, references, and reasoning behind this decision, for this question has caused some confusion among our friends?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

In short, the Hanafi scholars deemed the narration of Bukhari from ‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her), which you quoted, to be abrogated. The hadith in full is as follows:

Our Mother ‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever dies and has fasts due, his guardian/caretaker/relative (waliy) fasts on their behalf.” [Bukhari]

Large Spectrum of Differences in Opinion

The narration you quoted is one of many narrations used in this issue. Due to the various narrations, the scholars of the various schools of legal thought have differed greatly. Furthermore, even the scholars within the individual schools have differed.

Those Who Used This Hadith as Evidence

Among the scholars who used the narration of Bukhari below are Imam al-Nawawi (Allah be pleased with him) of the older Shaf‘ii opinion:

Ubayd bin J‘afar narrates from Muhammad bin J‘afar from ‘Urwa from Our Mother ‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever dies and has fasts due, his guardian/caretaker/relative (waliy) fasts on their behalf.” [Bukhari]

Beyond this, the scholars differed with up to five opinions on the matter, each with their details and proofs.

How Did the Scholars Deal with the Hadith of Bukhari

Scholars have speculated about the chain of narrators of the hadith mentioned above from ‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her).

The chain is as follows: ‘Ubayd bin J‘afar narrates from Muhammad bin J‘afar from ‘Urwa from ‘Aisha from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace): “Whoever dies and has fasts due…

Imam Badr al-Din al-Ayni, commentator of Sahih al-Bukhari, writes that Muhanni’ said, “I asked Imam Ahmad about this narration, and he said, ‘This narration is not preserved (mahfuz), and it is from ‘Ubaid Allah bin J‘afar whose hadith are not taken (munkar).’” [‘Ayni, ‘Umda al-Qari]

Furthermore, there are other narrations from the same narrator of the Hadith of Bukhari. Our Mother ‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates with his chain from ‘Amra bint ‘Abdur Rahman saying, “I ask ‘Aisha saying, ‘My mother died, and she owes fasts for Ramadan, is it right for me to make them up for her?’ She replied, ‘No. Rather to give in place of each day of fasting, charity is better than your fasting.” [Ibid. citing Tahawi]

The Principle of Contradictory Narrations from the Same Narrator

Thus the scholars of the Hanafi school and the Maliki school declared this narration (i.e., the Bukhari narration). This is because the narrator of the hadith, in this case, also narrated hadith contrary to this ruling.

Imam Ibn ‘Abidin of the Hanafi school (Allah be pleased with him) said, “The narration is abrogated. This is because the ruling of a narrator that is contrary to their own narration is a direct indication of their deeming that narration an abrogation. Also, Imam Maliki (Allah be pleased with him) said, ‘I have not heard of any of the Companion (Allah be pleased with them), nor any of the Followers in Medina say that any of them ever command anyone to fast on behalf of someone else – and this indicates to abrogation.’ And that the ruling that has established by the Sacred Law” [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

Summary: The Hanafi Ruling

That said, based on the other authentic texts, the opinions, and narrations of the companions (such as that of Our Mother ‘Aisha, and the supporting opinions of other great scholars  – the Hanafi school has legislated that a person cannot fast on behalf of another. Likewise, one cannot pray on behalf of others (as mentioned in clear hadith as well); rather, they will pay the fidya charity instead.

Hope this helps

Allah knows best

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.