Sheikh `Abd al-Rahman b. `Abd Allah al-Luhayyi'
Zihâr is unlawful and sinful. Allah says: “…and most surely they utter a word that is iniquitous and false” [Sûrah al-Mujâdilah: 2]
The oath of zihâr is where a man swears an oath declaring his wife to be “like the back of his mother” in order to make sexual relations with her unlawful to him while not actually divorcing her. Zihâr is an explicit, intentional oath in order to make sexual relations permanently unlawful without giving a divorce. This was a great oppression upon women practiced in the pre-Islamic days of ignorance.
Whoever makes this oath of zihâr, then his wife will be unlawful for him. He may not have sexual relations with his wife again until after he frees a slave. If he is unable to do this (which he is today in the absence of slaves) then he must fast two consecutive months before he can have sexual relations with his wife again. If he is unable to fast, because of sickness or the like, then he must feed sixty poor people.
Ilâ', by contrast, is simply a vow that a man makes not to have sexual relations with his wife. If a man swears such a vow, he can break it and pay the normal expiation for breaking an oath. If he refuses to break his vow and four month go by, his wife can take the matter to court, where the judge will oblige him to break his vow and have sexual relation with his wife and pay the expiation. Otherwise, at the wife's request, the judge will order the husband to divorce his wife. If the husband refuses this a well, then at the wife's request, the judge will effect the divorce by his decree.
And Allah knows best.
Please note: The expiation for a broken vow is to choose between feeding ten poor people or clothing them or freeing a slave. If the person is incapable of doing one of these, then and only then may he fast for three days. In that case, it is better but not necessary to fast the days consecutively.
He may not opt to fast for three days unless he truly cannot fulfill one of the above mentioned three requirements for expiation, because Allah says: “Allah will not call you to account for what is vain in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom. If that is beyond your means, fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths ye have sworn.”
The quantity of food that must be given to each poor person is roughly 1.5 kilograms (1/2 sâ`) of food. The total would be roughly 15 kilograms of food in total. Clothing a person is what is sufficient for a person to wear to prayer. It is not right to give money in lieu of food or clothing.
And Allah knows best.
Fatwa Department Research Committee of IslamToday under the supervision of Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî
Source: Islam Today