Imam Zijad’s Corner: Ramadan and Health

Imam Zijad’s Corner:  Ramadan and Health

Muslims who are healthy and fulfill other requirements are obliged to fast. On the other hand, Muslims who are chronically ill without any hope of recovery are exempt. This permission does not include simple illnesses, such as a headache or stomach ache.

Those who are exempted from fasting should still compensate by feeding a needy person for every day of missed fasting. If a Muslim who is sick hopes to recover from the illness, he / she should wait and make up for the days he / she has broken.         (Al Baqarah 184, 185}

There are two types of sick persons:

a)         A person who has a disease for which no cure is known yet, and which impairs his/her ability to fast. Such a person is exempt from fasting but has to compensate for the missed fasting days by feeding a needy person for each day he/she did not fast. This can be done by gathering a number of needy people equal to the number of missed days of fasting and feeding them as Anas ibn Malik did when he got old and weak. Or, one can distribute food to those needy people. We estimate about ten (10) dollars per day for each missed day’s fast.

b)         A person whose sickness is curable. There are three categories in this type:

         A person who is slightly sick such that is neither harmful nor hard for him/her to fast i.e. headache, toothache, etc.

         A person for whom fasting is hard but not harmful. Such a person should better not fast because fasting would be a sign of rejecting the permission of Almighty Allah, Who granted it to us, to break fast when it is accompanied by hardship. This permission from Allah is a charity from Allah that one should accept, for He says in the Qur’an: “Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you.” {Al Baqarah 185}  Yet, when such person is cured from his/her illness, then he/she should fast a number of days equal to the days during which he/she had to break his/her fast to make up for them. But if he/she were to die before being cured, then he/she will not be accountable for these days since the order to make up these days is after he/she gets cured, which did not happen.

         A person for whom fasting may be harmful. This possibility of harm can be determined by the sick person or by the decision of a trustworthy physician who would tell the person that fasting may harm him/her. Fasting for such a person is not allowed, rather it is forbidden because of the harm it could cause him/her. Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an: “And do not throw yourselves into destruction.”                     {Al Baqarah 195}