By: El-Bahay El-Kholi

The Fast of Ramadan
The Merit of Fasting
Things to Abstain from During the Fast
Exemptions from the Fast
Various Additional Regulations
The Night of Preciousness (Laylat al-Qadr)
Voluntary Fasting (al-Tatawwu')

Islambasics Library: Al-Siyam "Fasting"

Exemptions from the Fast


Every Muslim who is adult and in possession of his faculties must fast Ramadan. They are exempted, however, in the following cases:

  1. Women in menstruation, or in child-birth bleeding.
  2. Persons on sick bed, or on a journey.


Women who are Bleeding during Menstruation of Child-Birth

  1. Women in menstruation, or bleeding after giving birth, shall not fast.
  2. If Ramadan begins while a woman is in menstruation or child-birth bleeding, she shall not fast until bleeding ceases in both cases and she takes the ritual bath.
  3. If bleeding occurs during Ramadan, then a woman shall break the fast.
  4. When bleeding ceases, a woman must wash and then fast. If she does not find water, she must perform the ritual purification with sand (tayammum).
  5. If bleeding ceases during the night, she can formulate the intention to fast and lose no time in washing but postpone taking a bath until after dawn, providing she does so before sunrise.
  6. If a bleeding woman deliberately postpones the bath until after sunrise, thereby missing the morning prayers, then her fast shall not be valid.
  7. A bleeding woman shall fast a number of days equal to those she missed because of bleeding. `Aisha said :"In the Prophet's time we were ordered to compensate for fasting days missed in bleeding but were not ordered to perform restitution for our missed prayers"


The Sick, and Persons Traveling

(1) Out of Allah's mercy, a sick person or a traveller was instructed to fast a number of days equal to those he missed during Ramadan.

(2) The Quran did not mention any specific kind of sickness and did not describe the sickness which exempts a person from the fast during Ramadan. Therefore, a person suffering from any ailment whatsoever of the stomach, side, eye, heart, etc... may apply this stipulation. The Quran contains a general statement and does not specify the severity of pain or degree of danger involved.

Some of the early `ulama granted the exemption even in the case of a painful finger.

(3) The Quran also did not specify, in the case of a journey, the distance or means of transport used. So the stipulation applies in all cases of travel whether a person is travelling on foot; on an animal ; by train, or by plane.

Ulama differed, however, as to the distance which grants the exemption. Several authorities reported that one of the prophet's companions, a man by the name of Dihya Ibn Kalifa travelled during Ramadan for about three miles and had considered the distance sufficient to justify his breaking the fast, as did a number of people who were with him.

(4) The following are some regulations regarding travelling in Ramadan:

(a) A person may or may not break the fast if lie happens to be travelling during Ramadan; Anas Ibn Malik said "We used to travel with the Prophet. He never criticised those who had been fasting or those who had broken the fast."

(b) To break the fast is preferable if the journey threatens a person's health. Jabir reported that the Prophet passed a crowd with a man in their midst placed in the shade. Asking about the man, the Prophet was told he was fasting. Whereupon the Prophet said that it was not healthy to fast on the road.

(c) It is also preferable to break the fast when the warriors approach the enemy. Abu Sa'id reported : "We travelled in the company of the prophet to Mecca. We were fasting and we approached Mecca. The Prophet told us "You have neared your enemy and it will give you more strength if you break the fast".

(d) If a clash with the enemy is certain, then breaking the fast is imperative. Abu Sa'id, continuing his previous report, said "Then we came closer to Mecca. The Prophet told us "Tomorrow you will meet your enemy ; therefore break the fast.' And we did so."

(e) A traveller, who happens to be observing the fast, may break it any time he feels like doing. Ibn `Abbas said : "The Prophet and the believers went out during Ramadan in the year of the conquest of Mecca. On the road they passed by a stream. It was noon and the thirsty people stretched out their necks while their souls burned with the desire to drink. The Prophet called for a vessel full of water which he held up on high so that every body could see it. Then he drank and everybody else followed his example."

(f) One may break the fast before starting on a journey. Muhammad Ibn Kab said: " I called at the house of Anas Ibn Malik one day in Ramadan Anas was preparing to go on a journey. His camel was saddled and he was dressed for the journey. He asked for food, which he ate, and I said to him : "Is breaking the fast in this fashion a sunah (an act of the Prophet) ?` He answered : `Yes, it is a sunnah.' Then he mounted and left".

(g) If a man happens to enter during his journey a town where he does not intend to stay permantly, he may fast or break the fast. Ibn `Abbas reported : "The Prophet embarked on the conquest of Mecca during Ramadan He observed the fast until he reached al-Kadid a well between Qudayd and `Usfan, then he broke the fast until the month had passed."  


Pregnant and Nursing Women

Pregnant and nursing women may break the Ramadan fast but shall fast a number of days, equal to those missed ,after pregnancy or nursing ceases. In other words, pregnant and nursing women are in the same position as a traveller, being free to choose between breaking the fast or keeping it.  

According to a hadith related by Anas Ibn Malik al Kabi, the Prophet said "God has relieved a traveller from part of the prayers and relieved him along with pregnant and nursing women from fasting."

Pregnant and nursing women may also break the fast if they fear injury either to themselves or their infants.  

However, they should perform restitution.


Old Age

`Ulama have different opinions as regards old people.

Some `ulama are of the opinion that if an old man is unable to fast, he may break the fast provided he feeds a poor man for each day he breaks the fast. This is what is meant by the term fidyah.

Others said that an old person was free not to observe the fast without fidyah) on the strength of the Quranic verse "On no soul does God place a burden greater than it can bear."

The stipulation regarding old persons applies to persons afflicted with incurable illnesses.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdu (a prominent scholar and one time rector of Al-Azhar) was of the opinion that people engaged in hard manual work like mining, or prisoners sentenced to hard labour, may break the fast if they can afford the fidyah.  


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