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Pregnancy & Making Up Fasts: Does She Really Have To?

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Seekersguidance.org

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: There was a recent post stating that women who are pregnant must make up their fast. This differs greatly from something that I’d read in another book. I am confused and would greatly appreciate your feedback.

Answer: assalamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

The position of the four schools, based on clear primary texts, is that a pregnant woman must make up the obligatory fasts that she has missed. However, one does not have to do so immediately but gradually when one is able to do so without burdening oneself excessively.

The Qur’an & Making-Up Missed Fasts

Allah Most High states, “Oh believers, prescribed for you is the Fast, even as it was prescribed for those that were before you — haply you will be godfearing — for days numbered, and if any of you be sick, or if he be on a journey, then [fast] a number of other days.” [2: 184]  He Most High says elsewhere, “So let those of you, who are present at the month, fast it; and if any of you be sick, or if he be on a journey, then a number of other days.” [2: 185]

These Qur’anic verses indicate that the basis for a morally responsible individual who witnesses the month of Ramadan is the obligation to fast.

However, due to the weak nature of human beings, Allah, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has allowed certain individuals to fast on alternative days due to certain excuses that would render fasting difficult. These excuses include (a) undertaking a legal journey and (b) sickness.

Thus, fasting these “alternative days” is obligatory. In addition to the Qur’anic verses, there is scholarly consensus that anyone who misses any obligatory fast is required to make it up, if they are capable of doing so. [Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah; Zayla`i, Tabiyin al-Haqa’iq; al-Haytami, Tuhfat al-Minhaj; ibn Qudama, al-Mughni]

Pregnancy, Sickness, & Missed Fasts

The obligation to make-up one’s missed fasts on alternative days also applies to the pregnant woman, a point upon which there is also scholarly consensus of the four schools based on the principle that any obligatory fast missed that one is capable of making up must be made up on an alternative day.

More specifically, the pregnant woman must make up her fast because the Qur’anic verse that commands fasting “a number of other days” for the “sick” person also applies to the “pregnant woman”. This is because the term “sickness” refers to any genuine hardship or harm that is feared from the act of fasting, which includes hardship from pregnancy.

Therefore, not fasting due to a genuine hardship while pregnant is akin to a “sickness”, and the ruling related to fasting during such a state is subsumed under the category of the ruling related to the fasting of the sick person. This includes being (a) allowed to break the fast when genuinely required and (b) making up such missed fasts at a later date. Thus, pregnancy is one of many subcategories of the general category of “sickness”. [Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an; Ibn `Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur’an; Illyish, Minah al-Khalil; Mubarakpuri, Tuhfa al-Ahwadhi]

Thus, Ibn Qudama, citing agreement on this point, states, “The upshot of this is that if the nursing and pregnant woman fear for themselves, they break the fast and make it up in accordance [with the amount they missed]. We do not know any difference of opinion relating to this between the people of knowledge, because they [s: the pregnant and nursing woman] are akin to the sick person who fears for himself.” [al-Mughni]

The Prophetic Narrative on the Issue

In addition to the explicit Qur’anic verse and scholarly consensus, there is also a Prophet narrative indicative of the pregnant woman’s obligation to make up missed fasts.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Indeed, Allah has unburdened the traveler from half of the prayer and fasting, and unburdened the pregnant and nursing woman from fasting.” [Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi]

Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas states, “Dont you see that removing the burden of fasting that He stipulated as a rule for the traveling person, He made it [s: this ruling] precisely the ruling for the pregnant and nursing woman as well… So, it is established from this that the ruling of removing the burden of fasting from the pregnant and nursing woman is akin to the ruling of removing it for the traveler, without any difference. What is known is that removing the burden of fasting from the traveler is from the perspective of being obligated to make it up due to [validly] breaking the fast, without paying compensation (fidya), and so it is necessary that this also be the ruling for the pregnant and nursing woman.” [Jassas; Ahkam al-Qur’an]

Therefore, in addition to the Qur’anic verses, this narration indicates that the pregnant woman must make-up such missed fasts as well.

The Position of the Four Schools

It has already been mentioned that there is consensus of the Sunni schools on the obligation to make-up missed obligatory fasts generally, for anyone who has missed them and is able to make them up, and that this consensus also includes the pregnant woman. This is what one will find when going through the relied-upon texts of the four schools, all of whom clearly stipulate that the pregnant woman who has missed obligatory fasts must make them up.

Among the Hanafis, this was clearly stated by Abu Bakr al-Jassas in his Ahkam al-Qur’an, Sarakhsi in his Mabsut, Quduri in his Mukhtasar, Ibn Nujaym in his Bahr al-Ra’iq, Shurunbulali in his Imdad al-Fattah, Haskafi in his Durr al-Mukhtar, Ibn `Abidin in his Hashiyah, and others. Some of these texts explicitly quote consensus on this point.

Among the Shafi`is, this was stated by Nawawi in his Minhaj, al-Khatib in his Iqna`, Ibn Hajar al-Hayatami in Tuhfat al-Minhaj, Ramli in Nihyat al-Muhtaj, and others.

Among the Hanbalis this was stated by Ibn Qudama in his al-Mughni, Ibn Muflih in al-Furu`, Mardawi in al-Insaf, and others.

Among the Malikis this was stated by Imam al-Abdari in Taj al-Iklil, Nafrawi in Fawakih al-Dawani, Shadhili’s Kifayat al-Talib, `Adawi’s Hashiya, and others.

Being Gradual & Appreciating the Blessings of Allah

If an individual has a number of missed fasts, then he or she should take gradual steps to make them up. In the Hanafi school, an individual who has not made up his fasts until next Ramadan enters is not required to pay an expiation or compensation. [ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

At the same time, one must appreciate the blessing of Allah in allowing one to make up these missed fasts, performing thereby an action of immense reward and merit.

In a narration, Allah Most High said, “Every good action is rewarded by ten times its kind, up to seven hundred times, except fasting, which is for Me, and I reward it.” [Tirmidhi, Muwatta]

One of the explanations given for this narration is that that the amount of reward earned by the one fasting is known only to Allah, and likewise only Allah is aware of the fasting person and his righteous act. Fasting is an act of sincerity, lacking the aspect of showing off, since it is hidden without any discernibly clear outward form. It allows one to imitate an angelic trait of freeing oneself from the needs of food, water, sexual intercourse, and the like. All of this is why Allah singled it out and gave it a noble status in the religion. [ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

So one should realize this, even with make up fasts. An intention can take a meager “form” or ritual and transform it into something eternal. This, coupled with genuine thankfulness towards Allah for allowing us to recognize our obligations and fulfill them opens the doors of mercy and blessings for one. We should never look at these actions as “burdens” but as opportunities that Allah thrusts at the feet of his servants indicating to them His desire to grant them good in this life and the next.

Always keep in mind what Allah has given us, among them these blessed opportunities to worship Him and make things right, and then observe what we “give” Him in return. When one contemplates on this, there is nothing one can do but say “Alhamdulilah”.

What He brings you,
What you bring Him
What a difference there is between them! [Ibn `Ata’illah, Hikam]


Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

This answer was collected from Seekersguidance.org. It’s an online learning platform overseen by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. All courses are free. They also have in-person classes in Canada.