valid reasons for not keeping the fast during Ramadan
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Valid Reasons for Not Fasting during month of Ramadan.

In Islam there are five pillars which are to be upheld by all Muslims.

  1. First pillar: The Shahada
  2. Second Pillar: Salah
  3. Third Pillar: Zakat
  4. Fourth Pillar: Sawm (Fasting)
  5. Fifth Pillar: Hajj

These pillars form the foundation for what it means to be a Muslim.

Now, if you think about the tallest buildings in the world, for example the Burj Khalifa in Dubai or the Shanghai tower in China, do you think it would still be standing if these buildings were built on a foundation of sand rather than concrete?

No… it would be foolish to even try. When a storm comes, and it will eventually come, it would tear it all down.

The same can be said about the strength of the believer’s faith to Islam.

We must conquer the basic tenets of Islam before we try to advance and get into the nitty gritty details.

One day while the Prophet (ﷺ) was sitting in the company of some people, (The angel) Gabriel came and asked, “What is Islam?” Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) replied, “To worship Allah Alone and none else, to offer prayers perfectly to pay the compulsory charity (Zakat) and to observe fasts during the month of Ramadan.” [1]

Who must fast Ramadan During Ramadan?

The people who are obligated to fast is every accountable Muslim. A young child is not accountable, but once he or she reaches the age of maturity (puberty) then they are required to keep their fast as well.

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

“O you who believe! Observing the fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become righteous.”
Surah Al-Baqarah Ayah 183

There are health and circumstantial exceptions which allow for missing the fast.

who are exempted from fasting during the month of ramadan?

The groups of people who scholars agree are not required to fast during Ramadan are (1) elderly, (2) women that are pregnant, nursing, and/or menstruating, (3) people travelling, (4) those who are stricken with an illness, and (5) those who are forced to break their fast out of coercion.

There are differences of opinion when we get into specifics, for example who is exempt from fasting because they are travelling. Questions like what constitutes travel, how far must one go?

But generally, those are the accepted groups that have a valid reason and are excused from keeping the fast.

Fasting with An Illness

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“…whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” Surah Baqarah Ayah 185

Here’s the story of my mother who is type 2 diabetic and fasting. In the middle of the day she became very tired and lethargic and fainted while coming down the stairs (don’t worry, alhamdullilah there was no serious injury) but it was no longer safe for her to continue the fast and so she broke it by drinking some water to rehydrate.

If you are already fasting and have become sick and wish to break the fast due to sickness or illness there are four different conditions in which this would be permissible. [2]

  1. The sickness is severe and will be made worse by fasting. We later checked my mother’s blood sugar level and it was alarmingly low. It would have worsened if she continued her fast.
  2. Recovery will be delayed by fasting. In this case, we immediately needed to rehydrate and get some carbohydrates to spike the blood sugar level. Not doing so could have worsened the situation.
  3. Fasting will cause intense hardship. Let’s say my mother continued her fast she probably could’ve have made it to iftar, but this was risky and is hard to know without hindsight. One thing for sure is she wouldn’t be able to operate normally for the rest of the day. Some may be stubborn and try their best to continue but remember, “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.”
  4. The scholars also included those who fear that they may become sick because of fasting. Upon consulting with a doctor, if they were worried about my mothers health because of unstable or fragile diabetes, it would be better to avoid fasting because of the potential harm it could cause. Instead she should try to feed one person in need for every day missed.

Fasting in Old Age

There is a consensus that elderly do not need to fast, but there are no specific age criteria that needs to be met.

If he is old but healthy then he should consult a doctor and keep his fast upon approval. If keeping the fast leads to deteriorating a person’s health, then he is exempt. We know the older population are vulnerable making them more prone to falling ill and it’s important we do all the necessary steps to stay healthy.

Fasting While Pregnant or Breastfeeding

In the hadith of Ibn Majah, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)  reported that “Allah has relieved the traveler of half of the prayer, and He has relieved the traveler, the pregnant, and the nursing mothers of the duty to fast.” [3]

Fasting While on Journey or Travelling

The same hadith above is referenced as to why you don’t need to fast while travelling.

There is a difference of opinion among scholars about just how long is one exempt from fasting if he is travelling. What if, for example, a student is studying abroad for 2 months?

The majority of scholars say the condition for skipping the fast is same as qasr salat. The hanafi fiqh says 15 days, the others schools say a resident is anyone who intends to stay in the same city for more than four days and four nights.

Menstruation and Fasting:

When a woman is menstruating, she is also excused from fasting.

“This blood is like menstrual blood. When she sees it she should break her fast, and then make up the days she has missed. Then, when the blood has completely stopped, she should do ghusl and fast.” [4]

Coercion

There is one more group who can break their fast, and that is the one through coercion. If your livelihood is threatened by those looking to oppress you it is safer for you break the fast. You can always make these up another day before the next Ramadan. Don’t let your pride or stubbornness come in the way.

Allah knows best.

Inshallah this article has provided you something you did not know before. Please comment below with opinion or suggestions. Your comments do help and lead us to building a better site.

Jazakallah khairan.

References:

[1] Reference: Sahih al-Bukhari 50

[2]  Ibn Qudaamah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Mughni (4/403):

[3] It was narrated from Anas bin Malik that a man from the tribe of Banu ‘Abdul-Ashhal, while (one narrator) ‘Ali bin Muhammad said (he was) a man from the tribe of Banu ‘Abdullah bin Ka’b, said: “The cavalry of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) attacked us, so I came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) while he was eating a meal. He said: ‘Come and eat.’ I said: ‘I am fasting.’ He said: ‘Sit down and I will tell you about fasting. Allah has relieved the traveler of half of the prayer, and He has relieved the traveler, the pregnant, and the nursing mothers of the duty to fast.’ By Allah, the Prophet (ﷺ) said them, both, or one of them, and now I feel so disappointed that I had not eaten of the food of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).” Hasan (Darussalam) Ibn Majah English reference: Vol. 1, Book 7, Hadith 1667

[4] Malik was asked about a woman who began the day fasting in Ramadan and though it was outside of the time of her period, fresh blood (i.e. not menstrual blood) flowed from her. She then waited until evening to see the same but did not see anything. Then, on the next day in the morning she had another flow, though less than the first. Then, some days before her period, the flow stopped completely. Malik was asked what she should do about her fasting and prayer, and he said, “This blood is like menstrual blood. When she sees it she should break her fast, and then make up the days she has missed. Then, when the blood has completely stopped, she should do ghusl and fast.” Muwatta Malik Book 18, Hadith 49