What are the excuses that make it permissible not to fast and to break the fast?
Allah the Almighty has not burdened his servants with responsibilities they are not able to carry out. This principle can also be applied to the issue of fasting. Thus in the following verses, Allah has made clear the facilities that have been provided on the matter of fasting:
“O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil). For a certain number of days; but whoever among you is sick or on a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; and those who are not able to do it may effect a redemption by feeding a poor man; so whoever does good spontaneously it is better for him; and that you fast is better for you if you know.”
If there no valid excuse, not making the intention to fast and not fasting in the month of Ramadan is a major sin. Such people must repent for missing the fast and then make up the days they did not fast.
The following is a list of legitimate excuses that make it permissible not to fast/break the Ramadan fast:
- Journey: It is allowed for the person who is on a journey in the month of Ramadan. However, it is more virtuous to fast for those who have the opportunity to eat something before dawn and who will have a comfortable journey.
The journey, which makes not fasting permissible, should be to a place at least 90 km away. One should set out on the journey and leave the borders of his place of residence before dawn. The journey should be for a lawful purpose and the traveler should intend to stay in his destination for less than four days.
If one begins to fast before setting out on a journey, he is allowed to break his fast if fasting causes undue hardship. Those who are continuously on a journey due to their professions, such as pilots, bus and truck drivers, captains, etc. cannot benefit from the permission of not fasting during a journey.
If a traveler is not fasting the fast of Ramadan during his journey, but is fasting due to a vow or is making up a missed day, his fasting would be accepted neither as a vow/make up nor as a fasting from Ramadan.
- Illness: Those who are very ill or those who are ill and have been advised not to fast by a trustworthy believing Muslim doctor. The illness, which makes not fasting permissible, should be so severe that fasting during it might lead to death, loss of a limb, worsen the illness or delay recovery. One who is ill should make intention to benefit from this concession when breaking his fast.
One who cannot fast due to being on a journey or illness must make it up until the subsequent Ramadan. If somebody delays making up fasting days from a previous Ramadan until the subsequent Ramadan has begun, he must pay a redemption in addition to making up the missed days. The redemption required in this context is to feed one needy person for every day of fasting one must make up, while the amount given to the needy person is equal to one mudd (two handfuls of grain which is about 543 gr) of the most consumed food item of the region. The redemption must be paid again for every year that passes without the fasting days being made up. However, if the excuse continues and does not offer an opportunity to make up the missed days until the subsequent Ramadan, one does not need to pay the redemption.
If a competent believer (mukallaf) finds the opportunity to make up the days he missed, but dies before making them up, it is recommended for his guardian to make them up. According to A’isha (r. anha), Allah’s Messenger said in this matter, “Whoever died and he ought to have fasted (the missed days of Ramadan) then his guardians must fast on his behalf.” If the guardian does not fast on behalf of the deceased, then he needs to pay redemption for the missed days. This is because this ruling is based upon another report narrated by Abdullah b. ‘Umar (r. anhuma): “Whoever died while he had a month to fast, then a needy person should be fed on his behalf (by his guardian or heirs) in place of every day.”
As a manifestation of respect, it is more appropriate for those who do not fast due to illness or being on a journey to eat secretly during the month of Ramadan days. If the justifications of such people end in the middle of the day, it is recommended for them to pretend like they are fasting for the rest of the day.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: if the pregnant and nursing women, based on their previous experience or a Muslim doctor’s diagnosis, have a strong opinion that it will physically or mentally harm their children or themselves when they fast, it becomes permissible for them not to fast. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) expressed this matter as follows: “Allah has waived fasting and half of prayer from the traveler, and he has granted a concession to pregnant women and the ill.”
If women fear that fasting will lead to their and their children’s death, it becomes forbidden for them to fast. Later they can make up the days (a day for a day) that they missed. However, if they did not fast due to the fear that their children alone would be harmed, then they not only need to make up the fasting, but also pay redemption for every day that they have missed.
- Old Age: The men and women who are too old to fast are allowed not to fast. Those who are too ill to fast are subject to the same ruling. If they are unable to fast throughout the year, they should pay redemption for everyday they could not fast.
If one who is not able to fast in the month of Ramadan, but has the ability to fast after Ramadan, then he must make up the days missed when he is able.
- Severe hunger and thirstiness: If one feels hunger and thirstiness so severe that he fears to die or lose a limb, it is permissible for him not to fast or to break the fast he has already begun.
- To work in a very hard job to earn a living: If those, who work in mines, hot furnaces, and heavy and risky professions that wear out the body, and who are not in a very good financial situation, feel severe thirst and fear a physical harm from fasting, then it becomes permissible for them to break their fast. Still, later they have to make up the days that they could not fast.
- The State of War: The soldiers who are ordered to fight on a day during Ramadan are allowed not to fast in order to remain strong before the enemy. It is permissible for them to break their fast by the order of their commander who should be knowledgeable in religious matters.
Trying to finish a fast, which has already been started and not breaking it, is a requirement of respect to Allah. However, when it is a matter of obedience, it is permissible for a husband to ask his wife to break her supererogatory fast that was performed without his permission, and the same rule applies for parents to their children, for a commander to his soldiers, and for a host to his guests. It is also permissible to break a supererogatory fast if one is insistently invited to a feast.
According to the Hanafi and the Maliki Schools, it is necessary for one to make up the supererogatory fast if it is untimely broken. It is not obligatory according to the Shafii and the Hanbali Schools to make them up. It is left to the person’s choice to make them up or not. This is because the person has started an act of worship, which is not obligatory upon him. Therefore, the making up of a performance of an act of additional worship cannot be obligatory upon him.