Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: I have a long term stomach ailment which prevents me from eating properly, the result of which is that I have a very low BMI (approximately 15.9). Also I am currently unemployed and have not been able to find a stable job for the last 5 years and I am in a very weak state financially. Also I owe money as a result of student loans.
1. Do I need to fast? – I fasted last year, and lost approximately 4lb in weight, which to the best of my knowledge I have not put back on again.
2. If I don’t fast what are my options? – I don’t feel that I have enough money to pay the expiation i.e. to feed a poor person by current standards of my location for every fast missed, as I myself am not able to eat to that standard as a norm.
3. I did not fast in 2011 and paid expiation, but in 2012 by the mercy of Allah I managed to make up for 10 of those fasts. Alhamdulillah! I’m considering fasting this year and making up for another 10 fasts, but would such an action be permissible if it could cause me harm? I keep on thinking to myself that I should have Imaan in Allah and fulfil my obligation and If I do this i.e. have Imaan then no harm will come to me and Inshallah I will earn the good pleasure of Allah — are these the thoughts of a sound rational mind? — or should I follow the advice of my doctor and not fast?
Answer: assalamu `alaykum
May Allah give you health and well-being.
In answer to your questions:
1. The default is that one is obliged to fast. However, if one is unable to do so due to an illness then there are two possible scenarios:
a. the illness is not chronic, namely it is likely that one will recover from it, or
b. the illness is chronic, namely it it highly unlikely that one will recover from it.
In the first case, one can miss fasts while they are in the state of illness but will have to make such missed fasts up later. No expiation (fidya) is due in this scenario.
In the second case, one can miss fasts and will pay expiation (fidya) for each missed fast. In other words, fidya is due only for those that have chronic illnesses that are not likely to be cured.
In order to determine whether you are suffering from a chronic illness, a reliable doctor needs to be consulted regarding the specifics of your health situation. Even if the illness is not deemed chronic, in which case you would have to make up the fasts rather than pay the expiatory payment (fidya), you should still consult a reliable doctor on what your body can reasonably handle, when the appropriate time is to undertake such make-ups, and how often it can be done (a schedule). To force yourself to make-up fasts when there are clear signs and warnings of bodily harm is to ignore the dispensation that Allah has blessed us with.
2. The expiatory payment (fidya) for missed fasts during Ramadan only applies to someone who has an illness that prevents him from fasting and he does not have any hope of recovering from it. The expiatory payment is the monetary equivalent of 2.2 kg of wheat per fast. One should consult a reliable local scholar to determine how much the monetary value of this would be.
A condition for this is that one possess sufficient wealth to actually pay these expiatory payments. If one is considered poor and unable to pay the expiatory payment then he should seek Allah’s forgiveness and have remorse for the non-fulfillment of such an obligation. [Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar; Ibn `Abidin, Hashiya]
However, it should be noted here that the expiatory payment is a very meager sum. One should take all means to try and pay it or some of it, even if it means spreading out such payments or attempting to save some wealth over a duration of time. Resorting to the ruling mentioned previously should only be done as a last resort when one is certain that one simply does not have the means to fulfill such payments or if such payments would lead to hardship in one’s life.
I hope this answers your questions, and we ask Allah to grant you a speedy recovery.