Answered by Shaykh Ashraf Ali al-Thanawi
Conditions which Permit one not to Fast
1. A person experiences a sickness which could be aggravated by fasting and he fears that if he had to fast, his sickness would worsen or that his recovery would be delayed or that he would die. In all these instances he should not fast. Once he recovers from his sickness, he must make up for the fasts which he missed. However, this concession cannot be obtained by mere thinking and the fast cannot be left out merely on this basis. Instead, when a pious Muslim doctor says that fasting would be detrimental to the sickness, only then will it be permissible to leave out a fast.
2. If the doctor is a non-Muslim or he is not religiously minded, his advice cannot be relied upon. One cannot leave out a fast merely on his advice.
3. If the doctor did not say anything, and the person has some past experience or noticed certain signs whereby his heart says that fasting will be detrimental to his health, he should not fast. But if he has no past experience, nor does he know anything about this sickness, then his mere thinking is not considered. If a person breaks his fast without consulting a pious doctor or without having any past experience, he will have to give expiatory payments (kaffarah). And if he does not fast at all, he will be sinning.
4. A person recovered from his sickness but continued feeling weak and he feels that if he fasts, he will fall ill again. It will be permissible not to fast.
5. If a person is travelling, it is permissible for him not to fast. He must make qada of the missed fast whenever possible. “Travelling” in this context is the same as that mentioned in the chapter on offering salaat while travelling, i.e. one must have the intention of travelling approximately 77 kilometres or more.
6. If by travelling, a person will not experience any difficulties by fasting, e.g. he is travelling by train and feels that he will reach his destination by the evening or he has all the necessary items which will give him comfort during the course of the journey, in such a case it will be preferable to fast even though he is still regarded as a traveller (musafir). But if he does not fast despite all these comforts, even then there will be no sin on him. However, he will be deprived of the virtue of fasting in the month of Ramadan. If a person experiences difficulties because of fasting during the course of his journey, in such a case it will be better not to fast.
7. A person did not fast due to some sickness and passed away in that very sickness, or a traveller did not fast and passed away before he could reach his destination or before he could return home – in both cases they will be absolved from making qada and will not be taken to task for this on the day of judgement. This is because they did not get the opportunity to make qada of the fasts which they had left out.
8. A person left out 10 fasts on account of sickness. Thereafter his health returned to normal for 5 days and he passed away. However, he did not keep any of the missed fasts in these 5 days. He will therefore be accountable for not keeping qada for 5 days of missed fasts and will be absolved from the other 5 days. If the person returned to normal for 10 days but did not make qada of the 10 fasts which he had missed, he will be accountable for all 10 days. It is therefore necessary for the person to advise his near ones before he can pass away to pay compensatory payments (fidya) on his behalf for all the fasts which he will be accountable for. This is if he has any money to be given as compensatory payments (fidya). The legal rulings related to compensatory payments (fidya) will be mentioned in a later chapter – Insha Allah.
9. Similarly, if a person misses a few fasts on account of travelling and passes away after reaching his house, he will only be accountable for the number of days that he was at his house. It is also necessary on this person to make a bequest that compensatory payments (fidya) be paid on his behalf. If the number of fasts missed are more than the duration of his stay at home, there is no accountability for them (i.e. for the number of fasts which exceed the duration of his stay at home).
10. During the course of his journey, a person stopped over at a place with the intention of staying there for 15 days or more. It will not be permissible for him to miss out any fast because he is no more regarded as a traveller (musafir) according to the Shariah. However, if he made the intention of stopping over for less than 15 days, it will be permissible for him not to fast.
11. A pregnant or a breast-feeding woman is permitted not to fast if she fears for the life of her child or her own life. She must make qada of the missed fasts at a later date. However, if her husband is wealthy and he can afford to pay a wet nurse to breast-feed his child, it will not be permissible for her to miss out any fast on account of breast-feeding. However, if the child is such that he refuses to drink the milk of anyone other than his mother’s, it will be permissible for the woman not to fast on account of breast-feeding.
12. A wet nurse accepted the job of breast-feeding before Ramadan. When Ramadan commenced, she feared over the life of the child by her fasting. It will also be permissible for this wet nurse not to fast.
13. A woman experienced the monthly menstrual period or gave birth and was therefore in a state of post-natal bleeding. As long as the state of menstrual period or post-natal bleeding remains, it will not be permissible for such a woman to fast.
14. If a woman becomes pure from her menstrual period or post-natal bleeding during the night, she should not leave out fasting the following day. Even if she did not have a bath at night, she should fast and have a bath in the morning. If a woman becomes pure after dawn, it will not be permissible for her to make the intention of fasting. In addition to this, it will not be permissible for her to eat or drink anything. She will have to spend her entire day like normal fasting persons.
15. Similarly, when a person accepts Islam during the day or reaches the age of puberty during the day, he should abstain from eating or drinking anything for the rest of the day. If such a person eats or drinks something during the day, qada fast will not be wajib on him.
16. A traveller had the intention of not fasting. However, he reached his house one hour before noon, or, one hour before noon he made the intention of staying over at a place for 15 days or more. In addition to this, he had not consumed any food or drink since dawn. Such a person should make the intention of fasting and fast for the rest of the day.
And Allah alone gives success.