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Sick, travellers allowed to break their fast ‘Missed days must be made up for’

IT is allowed for those who are (not chronically) ill and for travellers to break their fast during Ramadan, but they must make up the days they missed. Allah says in the Holy Quran: “And [for] him who is sick among you or on a journey, [the same] number of other days.” Mu’adh said: “Verily, Allah made the fast obligatory upon the Prophet (PBUH) by revealing: ‘O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you…’ until the words, ‘And for those who can fast [but do not] there is a “ransom” payment….’ A concession was made for the sick and travellers, and the feeding of the poor by the elderly who could not fast was [left] confirmed.” A sick person may break his fast which, if continued, would only aggravate the illness or delay its cure. In al-Mughni it is stated: “It is related from some of the early scholars that any type of illness allows one to break the fast, even an injury to the finger or a toothache. They based their opinion on the following: (a) the wording of the verse is general and applies to all types of illness, and (b) a traveller is allowed to break his fast even if he does not need to and, therefore, the same must be the case for one who is sick.”


One who is healthy but fears that he will become ill if he fasts can break the fast, as can the person who is overcome by hunger and/or thirst and fears that he may die because of it, even if he is resident and healthy. He must make up the days of fasting that he missed. The following two Quranic ’ayahs support this point: “And do not kill yourselves, Lo! Allah is ever Merciful to you,” and “He has not laid upon you in your religion any hardship.” If a sick person fasts and withstands the hardships of the fast, his fast will be valid but disliked, for he did not accept the concession Allah gave him, thereby causing himself much hardship. Some of the companions would fast during the Prophet’s (PBUH) lifetime while others would not (that is, if they were ill), thereby following the verdict of the Prophet (PBUH). Hamzah al-Aslami said: “O Messenger of Allah, I find within me the strength to fast while travelling. Would there by any blame upon me if I were to do so?” The Prophet (PBUH), answered: “It is a concession from Allah. Whoever takes it has done well. Whoever likes to fast, there is no blame upon him.”

This is related by Muslim. Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported: “We travelled with the Messenger of Allah to Makkah while we were fasting. We stopped at a place and the Messenger of Allah said: ‘You are coming close to your enemies. You will be stronger if you break the fast.’ That was a concession and some of us fasted and some of us broke fast. Then we came to another place and the Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘In the morning you will face your enemy. Breaking the fast will give you more strength.’ So we broke our fast, taking that as the best course of action.

After that, you could see some of us fasting with the Prophet (PBUH) while travelling.” In another report, Abu Sa’id al- Khudri said: “We fought under the leadership of the Messenger of Allah during Ramadan. Some of us fasted and some of us did not. The ones who fasted did not find any fault with those who did not fast, and those who did not fast found no fault with those who fasted. They knew that if one had the strength to fast he could do so and it was good.

The jurists differ over what is preferred (that is, to fast or not to fast while travelling). Abu Hanifah, ash-Shaf’i, and Malik are of the opinion that if one has the ability to fast, it is better for him to do so, and if one does not have the ability to fast, it is better for him to break the fast. Ahmad said that it is best to break the fast. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdulaziz says: “The best of the two acts is the easier of the two. If it is easier for one to fast than to make up the day later on, then, in his case, to fast is better.” If one has already made the intention to fast while resident but then decided to travel during the day, the majority of scholars maintain that he must fast. Ahmad and Ishaq say that he may break the fast.

This opinion is based on the report of Muhammed ibn Ka’b who said: “I came to Anas ibn Malik during Ramadan while he was planning on travelling. His mount was prepared for him and he was wearing his clothes for travelling. He asked for some food and ate. I said to him: ‘Is this sunnah?’ He said, ‘Yes,’ Then he mounted his animal and left.” Those who must make up the missed days: The scholars agree that it is obligatory for menstruating women and women with post-childbirth bleeding to break the fast and to make up the missed days later on. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that ‘Aishah said: “When we would have our menses during the lifetime of the Prophet (PBUH), we were ordered to make up the days of fasting that we had missed but were not ordered to make up the prayers that we had missed.”

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