Understanding The Prophet's Life
From Issue: 488 [Read full issue]
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: He who took an oath and (later on) found another thing better than that, he should do that which is better, and expiate for the vow (broken by him). [Muslim]
The expiation for breaking an oath consists of options in the order in which Allah mentioned them in the Quran (Maidah 5: 89):
1. Feeding ten poor person with the average kind of food that one feeds his family, or
2. Clothing them, or
3. Freeing a slave.
The one who does one of these things has fulfilled his duty and done what was required of him. If he is unable to do any of these three things, then he moves to the option of fasting, and he must fast three days.
The quantity of food that must be given to each poor person is roughly 1.5 kilograms (1/2 sā`) of food. The total would be roughly 15 kilograms of food. Clothing a person is what is sufficient for a person to wear to prayer.
There is no country in the world without needy or poor people. Even in a wealthy country, a person who is poor and hungry is still poor and hungry. However, if it is difficult to distribute the food, or there is a fear of giving it to people who are not deserving, then one may appoint someone more experienced like a charitable organization to distribute the food on his behalf. One may even give that agency money to purchase the food or clothing on his behalf and then distribute it to the poor.
One may distribute this food or clothing in another country. At times, this may be the better option, especially when there is a famine or natural disaster somewhere in the world where people desperately need assistance.
On the other hand, it would not be good for the one expiating for the broken oath to decide to carry out that expiation in some poorer country as a means of saving money, since the cost of food in his or her own country and consequently the cost of feeding the poor is much higher than elsewhere.