(بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious the most Merciful. All praise is due to Allah SWT. Let Allah’s Peace and Blessing be upon our Messenger, his family, his Companions, and those who will follow his Sunnah until the Day of Judgment.
Some Muslims may go through some hardships or difficulties that would make the fasting a real challenge for them. Therefore, Allah SWT has given such Muslims the facility that allows them not to fast during the blessed month of Ramadan.
Allah SWT says in Surat Al-Baqarah:
يريد الله بكم اليسر ولا يريد بكم العسر (الآية 185)
Allah SWT intends for you ease not hardship (2-185).
In Surat Alhajj, Allah SWT also says:
وما جعل عليكم في الدين من حرج (الآية 78)
Allah SWT has not meant for you any hardship in the matter of religion (17-78)
The categories of the Muslims who have excuses that could allow them not to fast during the blessed month of Ramadan are as follows.
1- Old age Muslims
Muslims with old age don’t have to fast the month of Ramadan if they feel unable to do so.
Allah SWT says in Surat Al-Baqarah:
لا يكلف الله نفسا إلا وسعها (الآية 286)
Allah SWT does not task any soul beyond its capacity (2-286).
Instead of fasting, Muslims with old age could offer a Fidayah (ransom). They can feed a needy person for each day they would not fast.
Allah SWT says in Surat Al-Baqarah:
وعلى الذين يطيقونه فدية طعام مسكين (الآية 184)
Those who find hardship in fasting could offer instead a Fidyah by feeding a needy person (2- 184)
To offer the Fidyah, they have the option of giving dry food like rice, in the amount of one kilogram and a half (about three and half Libras), or providing one meal for each needy person, to make up for each missed day. This can be offered at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the month of Ramadan.
2- Muslims with chronic or permanent illnesses
Muslims could be inflicted with chronic or permanent illnesses, diseases or any kind of impairment, with no hope for recovery. In this case, those Muslims are excused from fasting the month of Ramadan.
In such cases, a Fidayah has to be offered, as in the case of the Muslims with old age.
3- Muslims with temporary sickness
Muslims who feel unable to fast due to temporary sickness for a period of time, short or long, they could be excused from fasting the month of Ramadan during the period of sickness.
Allah SWT says in Surat Alabaqrah:
أياما معدودات، فمن كان منكم مريضا أو على سفر فعدة من أيام أخر (الآية 184)
You have to fast a fixed number of days. But whoever among you would be sick or on a journey, the missed days have to be fasted on other days (2-184).
However, after recovery, those Muslims have to make up for the missed days, by fasting those days either separately or consecutively. This should be done before the start of the following Ramadan. Failing to do so, some scholars said that a Fidyah has to be offered, over and above fasting the missed days.
In the case of temporary illnesses, there could be three cases.
The first case, when fasting would not cause any kind of hardship or harm. In this case, the Muslim has to fast, because sickness could not be considered as an excuse.
The second case, if fasting would cause some kind of hardship or harm to the sick Muslim. In this case, it would be makrooh (disliked) for the Muslim to fast.
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said in a Hadith Sahih narrated by Imam Ahmad:
إن الله يحب أن تؤخذ رخصه كما يكره أن تؤتي معصيته.
Allah SWT would like that His facilities to be used and benefited from, the same as He dislikes being disobeyed.
However, the Muslim has to make up for the missed days, by fasting those days after recovery.
The third case, if fasting would hurt the Muslim during sickness or delay his recovery. Fasting, in this case, would not be permitted.
Allah SWT said in Surat Al-Baqarah:
ولا تلقوا بأيديكم إلى التهلكة (الآية 195)
Don’t lead yourselves into destruction (2-195).
In Surat Annisa Allah SWT says:
ولا تقتلوا أنفسكم إن الله كان بكم رحيما (الآية 29)
Don’t kill yourselves, indeed Allah is so Merciful towards you. (4-29)
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said in a Hadith Sahih narrated by Imam Ahmad and others:
لا ضرر ولا ضرار.
No causing of harm and no reciprocation of harm.
This means that the Muslim is not allowed to harm either himself or others.
4- The traveler
In general, it is allowed for the Muslim, when traveling, not to fast during the month of Ramadan. The distance of traveling should be at least 48 miles (86 kilometers), for this facility to be granted.
In case of traveling, the general rule is that, for Muslim traveler to benefit from the facility of non-fasting, his stay during travel should be four days or less. If the Muslim reaches his destination and stays there for more than four days, he is not permitted to break his fasting.
However, when the Muslim is traveling, there would be three cases.
The first case is when traveling would cause an unbearable severe hardship. In this case, fasting would not be permitted for the Muslim (the same as in case of severe temporary sickness mentioned above).
During the conquest of Makkah in the month of Ramadan, in the eighth year of Hijrah, some of the Companions of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم had complained that fasting was causing some hardship for them. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم asked for a cup of water and drank it before them, as an indication that they are permitted to break their fasting.
Later on, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was told that some Companions were still fasting. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم then said about them:
أولئك العصاة، أولئك العصاة.
These are the disobedients, these are the disobedients!
The second case is when traveling would cause a slight hardship. In this case, fasting is Makrooh (disliked) and it is recommended for the Muslim not to fast.
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was once traveling, he then saw a man surrounded by people trying to give him a shelter from the heat of the sun. When he inquired about the reason he was told that the man was fasting. Then, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said in a Hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari:
ليس من البر الصوم في السفر.
It is not a righteous act to fast during traveling.
In another Hadith Sahih narrated by Annasa’i the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم added:
وعليكم برخصة الله التي رخًّص لكم فاقبلوها.
Seize the facility that Allah has granted you and accept it.
The third case, when traveling would not cause any kind of hardship. In this case, the Muslim has the option of fasting or non-fasting.
One of the Companions asked the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم about fasting during traveling. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم answered by saying in Hadith narrated by Al-Bukhari:
إن شئت فصم وإن شئت فافطر.
You have the option of fasting or non-fasting.
In another Hadith narrated by Muslim, the same Companion said to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم “I have the ability to fast in travel, do I commit any sin by doing so? The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم answered:
هي رخصة من الله فمن أخذ بها فحسن، ومن أحب أن يصوم فلا جناح عليه.
It is a facility offered by Allah, whoever will accept it, this would be good for him and whoever would like to fast, there will be no blame on him.
However, the majority of the scholars consider that, if traveling is not causing any difficulty, hardship or harm, it is preferable for the Muslim to fast. The famous scholar Ibnotheimeen supported that opinion and explained the reasons as follows:
– The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was seen fasting in a hot day during traveling.
– It would enable the Muslim to fulfill the duty of fasting once and for all and not to worry about fasting later on.
– It would be easier for the Muslim to fast while people are fasting around him.
– It would give the Muslim the opportunity to attain the virtue of fasting in the blessed month of Ramadan.
Some Muslims will be in permanent travel, like drivers of heavy trucks moving non-stop from one place to another, pilots and other airplanes crews and other people whose jobs will require permanent traveling. Those Muslims could benefit themselves from the facility granted by Allah SWT and not to fast during the month of Ramadan. However, later on, when they are not traveling, they have to fast and make up for the missed days, either separately or consecutively, before the start of the following Ramadan.
5- Women in menstruation and childbirth bleeding
Women are permitted not to fast during the days of monthly period or childbirth bleeding. It is not permitted for them to fast such days and if they do so it would not be accepted.
However, they have to fast the missed days later on, either separately or consecutively, before the start of the following Ramadan.
Our mother Aishah said in a Hadith narrated by Albukhari:
كنا نحيض على عهد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فنؤمر بقضاء الصوم ولا نؤمر بقضاء الصلاة.
She said that during the time of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), we used to be in menstruation and were ordered to make up for non-fasting but not for non-praying.
The Hadith means that the same applies to the childbirth bleeding.
6- Pregnant and nursing women
Muslim women who are pregnant or breast-feeding are permitted not to fast if fasting would cause hardship to them or would harm, either themselves or the child. However, they have to make up for the missed days by fasting those days, either separately or consecutively, before the start of the following Ramadan.
Some scholars said that pregnant and nursing women, if they only fear for the safety of the child not for themselves, they have to offer Fidayah, over and above fasting. However, the majority of the scholars against that opinion and said that those women have only to fast the missed days without offering Fidyah.
Offering the Fidyah was mentioned as an opinion by the famous Companion Ibnabbas (peace be upon him and his father). However, the scholars pointed out that the Hadith containing that opinion is weak and strange.
We pray to Allah SWT to bestow upon us the right knowledge that would benefit us and others, Ameen.
Written by Sayed Abutaleb, Imam of Masjid Fatima