Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan
Question: I belong to Hanafi madhab. I understand that a person can pay expiation for fasting days as well as prayers he missed.
1) Can a healthy person skip fasting and prayer by paying expiation?
2) Can a person’s sin for not praying and fasting be forgiven if his relatives pay expiation for him after he dies?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.
1) Expiatory payment is not an ‘option’ or ‘alternative’ to praying and fasting for someone of sound health and state. Intentionally missing one obligatory prayer or one day of obligatory fasting is one of the greatest enormities (kaba’ir) in Islam, may Allah protect us from that and all sin. [Dhahabi, Kitab al-Kaba’ir]
Rather, expiatory payment is what is to be left as a bequest in the will by someone who missed prayer[s] or fasting for a legally valid excuse, namely, sickness (that would prevent one from fasting, or that would prevent one from praying even with head movements) or traveling (in the case of fasting), assuming the person’s condition changed and they were thereafter able to pray/fast, yet they did not yet perform their obligatory makeups and passed away with that debt owed to Allah Most High.
Having said that, if someone led a sinful life of intentionally missing obligatory prayers/fasts, then that would be a debt owed to Allah. The obligation on such a person would be to physically make those up (assuming sound health, etc, even if they afterwards did repent and since then regularly perform their current obligatory prayers/fasts). Yet if they continue in sin by not making those up, and are on the verge of death, then the obligation changes to a financial debt that must be stipulated as a bequest in their will, i.e., the expiatory payment. Note that it was not an option from the beginning, yet only became their last resort to fulfill the debt owed to the Divine.
2) In light of this last point, if such a person failed to make such a bequest (which was obligatory on them before dying), then the heirs (or a third party) can voluntarily pay it off on their behalf. There are details for this for which a scholar should be consulted.
It is hoped that Allah, out of His divine mercy and grace, will accept it on behalf of the deceased and forgive them. However, we cannot be sure since the person failed to fulfill the obligation on their own. Had they done so, then although we can never be sure of Allah’s acceptance, the hope is much stronger since the person did what was in their capacity.
[Tahtawi/Shurunbulali, Hashiyat al-Tahtawi ala Maraqi l-Falah]
And Allah knows best.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani