Obligation of making Kaffarah for Zhihar and having intercourse with the wife out of ignorance

Q: My wife and I disagreed a long time ago, and I said to her, "Now you are like my sister." I had no idea about the gravity of such words; I only intended to threaten her so that she does not disobey me again or abuse my family. She went to her sister, who is my maternal uncle's wife. When they knew the problem, they interfered to solve it. We reconciled; she returned home and we had intercourse normally.However, when I asked a Muslim brother, he told me this is considered Zhihar (a man likening his wife to an unmarriageable relative), and that I had better ask a scholar about it. I was not convinced by this, as I was ignorant of such matters. One day, I went to the Masjid (mosque) to offer the `Isha' (Night) Prayer. The Imam (leader of congregational Prayer) read Surah Al-Mujadalah, and he interpreted it to us. Please advise, may Allah reward you. I started to observe Sawm (fasting) on 1/3/1420 A.H. Is my Sawm valid? What about the intercourse we have been having all this time? What should I do? May Allah reward you.

A: What you did is considered Zhihar, and you must make a Kaffarah (expiation) for it, which is emancipating a believing slave. If you cannot do that, you must observe Sawm for two consecutive months. If you cannot do that, you must feed sixty needy people, (Part No. 20; Page No. 322) a kilogram and a half of food for each. This sequence must be followed. As you cannot emancipate a slave, and you have already started Sawm, you have to go on observing Sawm consecutively for two months. You are excused for the intercourse you had before the Kaffarah out of ignorance. However, you should avoid having intercourse until you complete the Sawm. May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.