12 Kinds of People Exempted From Fasting
As the month of Ramadan has begun all over the world today, I will like us to revisit some issues we are mostly confronted with in this holy month. First of all, let us refresh our minds on the purpose of fasting.
According the Qur’an, the main purpose of fasting is to seek the pleasure of Allah. It is literally referred to as Imsaak (abstention). Muslims fasting are prohibited from eating upon hearing the athan for Fajr prayers. For persons who live in distant communities where the athan may not be heard, they are to make use of time tables as per their communities. For instance, here in Ghana, the local timetable states that Fajr starts at 4:30am and Iqaama is 5:00am. Therefore, one must stop eating suhoor latest by 4:45am.
Suhoor is the meal you eat before the Fajr Adthan. This meal is regarded as Sunnah Mu’akkadah (Certainty). Salmaan (RA) narrated the Allah’s Messengerﷺ said: “Blessings are found in three things, the Group (Al-Jama’ah), Ath-thareed (a type of food) and As-Suhoor (the Pre-dawn meal).” [Al-Bukhari (1923) and Muslim (1095)]
Anas ibn Malik (RA) narrated the Prophetﷺ said: “Eat sahoor, for in sahoor there is blessing.” [Al-Bukhari (1923) and Muslim (1095)]
It is recommended to eat your Sahoor until the last minute possible. Persons should not think it is better to stop eating prematurely or a little early before Fajr Adthan. On a side note, you should rush to break your fast when the time is due.
Let’s move on to the main subject of the day; persons exempted from fasting.
- A mad person (insane or mentally challenged)
Such a person is exempted because he can’t formulate an intention to fast and without an intention to fast, anything done in that regard is invalid.
Ali reported that Allah’s Messengerﷺ said: “The pen has been raised for three persons (meaning they are not held accountable for what they do): one who is sleeping until he gets up, a child until he reaches the age of puberty, and an insane person until he becomes sane.” [Musnad Ahmad (1/154) No. 1327, Sunan Abu Dawud (4/140) No. 4402, Sunan Tirmidhi (4/32) No. 1423, Sunan Ibn Majah (3/198) No. 2041, al-Sunan al-Kubra al-Nasa’i (5/265) No. 5596, Mustadrak al-Haakim (2/67) No. 2350]
2. Children who haven’t reached puberty
Ibn Qudaamah (RH) said: “The age of ten is more likely, because the Prophetﷺ enjoined smacking children for not praying at this age, and regarding fasting as being like prayer is better, because they are close to one another, and because they are both physical actions that are pillars of Islam. But fasting is harder, so attention should be paid to when the child becomes able for it, because some may be able to pray who are not yet able to fast.” [Al-Mughni (3/161)]
Uthaymeen said: If he is young and has not yet reached puberty, he is not obliged to fast, but if he is able to do it without hardship, then he should be told to do so. The Sahaabah (RA) used to make their children fast, and if the younger ones cried they would give them toys to distract them. But if it is proven that it is harmful to him, then he should be stopped from fasting. If Allahﷻ has forbidden us to give youngsters their wealth if there is the fear that they may abuse it, then it is more appropriate that they be stopped from doing something if there is the fear of physical harm. But that should not be done by force, because that is not appropriate in raising children. Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 19/83
3. The elderly
The elderly who have no physical capacity to do the fast are not supposed to fast especially when it is clear such fast may harm their health. However, if the elderly are rich, they should donate amount of money in charity; the amount is dependent on their capabilities.
4. The sick
There are two types of people who fall in this category. First is the terminally ill and then the temporarily ill. An example of a terminally ill person is someone with diabetes. Such a person is exempted from fasting. This person should donate an amount of money in charity.
An example of a temporarily ill person is someone with a fever. The person who is temporarily ill has to make up the missed fasting days after Ramadan.
5. The pregnant woman
6. The Breastfeeding mother
The pregnant woman and breastfeeding mother have the same ruling and their ruling is similar to that of someone who is terminally ill. It is possible that, the baby could be affected should the mother fast. In such an instance, charity should be given out in replacement of the fast. After Ramadan, such persons do not have to make up for the fast.
Among the Sahabah, this was the view of Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA). Ibn Qudamah also narrated this in al-Mughni (3/150) from Ibn Omar (RA). Abu Dawood (231 narrated from Ibn Abbas (RA) and Ali (RA) that this phrase; ‘those who can fast with difficulty [Surah al-Baqarah (2):184] was a concession granted to old men and old women who find it difficult to fast, allowing them not to fast and to feed one poor person for each day instead, and the same for pregnant and breastfeeding women if they are afraid. Abu Dawood said, i.e., for their children they may not fast and may feed (the poor) instead.’ Al-Nawawi said, ‘its isnad is hasan.’ This was also narrated by al-Bazzar who added at the end, ‘Ibn Abbas used to say to a concubine of his who was pregnant: You are like one who cannot fast, so you have to pay the Fidya but you do not have to make up the fasts. [Al-Daraqutni classed its isnad as saheeh, as stated by al-Hafiz in al-Talkhees]
‘Ata’ said: “One should break the fast on account of illness, whatever it may be, as Allahﷻ has said (in Al-Baqarah: 184).”
And Hasan and Ibrahim said:
“Concerning the woman who gives suck and the one with child, when they fear about themselves or their child, they should break the fast, then fast on other days. And as to the very old man when he cannot bear fasting. Anas, after he became old, fed one who was needy, for a year or two daily with bread and meat, and broke the fast.” [Sahih Bukhari (6/25)]
NB: Some women miss multiple Ramadan due to pregnancy and breastfeeding. Making up those days missed will be a burden and a hardship.
7. The traveler
Aisha (RA) narrated: Hamza bin ‘Amr Al-Aslami asked the Prophetﷺ : “Should I fast while traveling?” The Prophetﷺreplied, “You may fast if you wish, and you may not fast if you wish.” [Al-Bukhari (1943) and Muslim (1121)
8. The Mujahideen
Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (RA) said: ‘We travelled with the Allah’s Messengerﷺ to Makkah (meaning at the Conquest of Makkah) and we were fasting. We stopped to camp and Allah’s Messengerﷺ said: “You are approaching your enemy and breaking the fast will make you stronger.” This was a concession, and some of us continued to fast and some of us broke our fast. Then we stopped to camp again, and he said, “You are going to meet your enemy in the morning, and breaking the fast will make you stronger, so break your fast.” So we had no choice but to break our fast.’ [Sahih Muslim (2/789) No. 1120]
9. Women on menses
The woman on her menses doesn’t fast. However, she has to make up the days missed after Ramadan ends.
Mu’adha narrated: I asked ‘A’isha: What is the reason that a menstruating woman completes the fasts (that she abandons during her monthly course). But she does not complete the prayers? She (‘A’isha) said: Are you a Haruriya? I said: I am not a Haruriya, but I simply want to inquire. She said: We passed through this (period of menstruation), and we were ordered to complete the fasts, but were not ordered to complete the prayers. [Sahih Muslim (1/265) No. 335]
10. A woman bleeding after childbirth
A woman bleeding due to childbirth is not allowed to fast. The ruling on this is similar to that of a woman who is experiencing her menses.
11. People engaged in difficult jobs
People with difficult occupations are exempted from fasting. For example, bricklayers or any job that requires a lot of manpower, such people are exempt but will have to make up the fast later.
12. People who find the fast unbearable (due to possible health complications)
A person is allowed to break the fast because should he/she find it unbearable and increased possibility of health complications. However, after Ramadan, such a person is obliged to make up for the missed days.
Ibn Taymiyyah stated:
If Fasting Causes Fainting and Madness, he was asked about a man who, whenever he wants to fast, he faints, and speaks incomprehensibly. He may continue for days in this state. Some people accuse him of madness, although this is not apparent from him?
He (Sheikh ul Islam) answered:
Praise be to Allahﷻ. If fasting causes such illness for him, he is permitted to break his fast and make it up. If this happens whenever he fasts, then he is unable to fast. Hence he is required to feed a poor person for everyday he breaks the fast. And Allahﷻ knows best.
Source: (Ibn Taymiyyah, ‘The Nature of Fasting’ (Dar us Salam: Riyadh, 2000) pg 79)