Legal Excuses for Breaking the Fast

Legal Excuses for Breaking the Fast

Illnesses are temporary or chronic. Temporary illnesses may cause a person to break their fast. In this case, they must make up the missed days after they recuperate. As for chronic illnesses, there will be no chance to make up the missed days. This raises the following questions:

What is the legal ruling regarding an old man or woman who cannot fast or make up the missed days?

What if the person suffers from a chronic disease such as diabetes or kidney failure?

But one among you who is sick or is on a journey shall then fast the same number of other days.

To answer these questions, let us first look at the interpretations of the following ʾaya (verse of the Qurʾan): Allah says:

“It is for a specified number of days. But one among you who is sick or is on a journey shall then fast the same number of other days. Yet for those who are (yuṭīqūnahu) (hardly) able to endure it, and do not fast, the redemption for each day, is feeding an indigent person “instead”.” (Quran 2:184)

Ibn ʿAbbas’s opinion

Ibn ʿAbbās (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) holds the opinion that the word yuṭiqunahu means that if a person finds it very difficult to fast or cannot fast, they should break their fast and feed an indigent person instead.

The majority of the Companions’ Opinion

However, the majority of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) say that the above mentioned ʾaya is abrogated.

In fact, the obligation of fasting was gradual. At first, it was optional for a person to fast or to feed an indigent person. Then, fasting became obligatory and the option of feeding was abrogated.

Thus, in the majority’s opinion, the word yuṭīqūnahu means if a person who can fast but chooses not to fast, they must feed an indigent person.

In short, Ibn ʿAbbās (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) disagrees with the other Companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) in the following two points:

1. Ibn ʿAbbās interprets the word (yuṭīqūnahu) ‘those who are able to endure it’ as ‘those who are hardly able to endure it.

2. He uses the verse as a proof while it is abrogated.

The Majority of scholars hold the opinion that the abrogating verse is the following:

Allah says:

“So whoever among you bears witness to the month shall then fast it. Yet if one among you is sick or is on a journey (such a person shall then fast,) the same number of other days.” (Qurʾan 2:185)

Another proof that supports Ibn ʿAbbās’s opinion:

Some scholars also hold the opinion that old age and sickness are legal excuses for breaking one’s fast but the person must feed in indigent person instead.

This is the proof for that:

In a Mu’allaq Hadith (Suspended Hadith) related in Saḥīḥ Al-Bukhārī, Al-Bukhārī said,

“After growing old, Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) (was not able to fast and he) used to feed an indigent person bread and meat every day”

In short, there are two opinions regarding the answer to the two questions mentioned above:

1. Feeding an indigent person is a substitute for fasting in case of long-lasting inability. This opinion is more popular as it is better to avoid disagreement.

2. There is no substitute for fasting in case of inability. Feeding is only recommended if a person wants to emulate Anas (may Allah be pleased with him).

Breast-feeding and pregnant women

If pregnant women and those who breast-feed fear that fasting may cause harm to them or to the fetus or baby, they should break their fast.

What should breast-feeding and pregnant women do if they break their fast?

There are here a number of opinions:

First, Some scholars treat pregnancy as illness. Allah says,

“One’s mother bore one in feebleness upon feebleness” (Qurʾan 31:14)

In this case, they are treated as sick people who break their fast and make up the missed days later.

Second, scholars who adopt the opinion of Ibn ʿAbbās mentioned above say that they should break their fast and feed an indigent person for every day.

Third, other scholars like Ibn Ḥazm al-Ẓahirī say that they should break their fast without making up the missed days later or feeding an indigent person for every day.

Ibn Ḥazm used the following Hadith as a legal proof to support his opinion:

Narrated Anas ibn Malik:

A man from Banū ʿAbdullahh ibn Kaʿb brethren of Banū Qushayr (not Anas ibn Malik, the well-known Companion), said:

A contingent from the cavalry of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) raided us. I reached (for he said went) to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) who was taking his meals.

He said: Sit down, and take some from this meal of ours. I said: I am fasting, he said: Sit down, I shall tell you about prayer and fasting.

Allah has remitted half the prayer to a traveller, and fasting to the traveller, the woman who is suckling an infant and the woman who is pregnant, I swear by Allah, he mentioned both (i.e. suckling and pregnant women) or one of them. I was grieved for not taking the food of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).

(Related by Al-Tirmidhī, Abū Dāwūd and Ibn Mājah)

Other scholars say that this hadith allows the pregnant and breast-feeding women to break their fast. However, it did not disallow them to make up the missed days. Thus, it is a weak opinion.

The preferred opinion is the first one as it is in agreement with the explicit meaning of the verses related to fasting.

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The Fiqh of Fasting: Prohibited Fasts – Part 5

The Fiqh of Fasting: Prohibited Fasts – Part 5

The true meaning of worship is achieved through the true submission and obedience to Allah’s commands. This is very obvious here, but how?؟

When it is obligatory to fast, Muslims hasten to obey Allah through observing it. Also, when it is forbidden to fast, they do not. This article highlights those days on which fasting is prohibited.

When it is obligatory to fast, Muslims hasten to obey Allah through observing it. Also, when it is forbidden to fast, they do not.

What are the days on which fasting is prohibited?

1. Eid al-Fitr (festival of fast-breaking)

This festival marks the end of Ramadan and based on proofs from the Sunnah, it lasts only for the first day of Shawwal, the 10th month in the lunar calendar. Traditionally, it can last for up to three days.

2. Eid al-Ad-ha (festival of sacrifice)

This is the Muslims’ second festival that marks the end of the most important pillar of the pilgrimage to Makka (mecca), namely, standing on Arafat. It lasts only for the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah, the 12th month in the lunar calendar. Usually, it can last for up to four days. The three days that follow the first day of the festival will be discussed below.

Scholars unanimously agree on the prohibition of fasting on those two days, that is, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Ad-ha. Moreover, celebrating on these two days is an act of worship as long as acts of disobedience are avoided. This is supported by the proof from the Sunnah:

Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (RAA) narrated. ‘The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) has prohibited fasting on two days; the Day of Fitr (breaking the fast of Ramadan) and on the Day of sacrifice (‘Eid al-Ad-ha).’ (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

3. The days of Tashriq

These are the 11th, 12th and 13th days of Dhul-Hijjah. It is also prohibited to fast on these days except for the pilgrim who cannot offer a sacrifice.

‘A’isha and lbn ‘Umar (RAA) narrated, ‘Nobody was allowed to fast on the days of Tashriq except for those, who could not afford the Hadi (sacrifice).’ (Al-Bukhari)

Nubaishah Al-Hudhali (RAA) narrated that The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

“The days of Tashriq (the three days following ‘Idul Ad-ha, i.e. 11th , 12th and 13th of Dhul Hijjah) are days of eating, drinking and remembering (dhikr) of Allah, the Most Great and Glorious.” (Sahih Muslim)

4. The day of doubt

This is the 30th day of Sha’ban, the 8th month in the lunar calendar.

On the 29th night of Sha’ban, it is sometimes impossible or to see the new moon. This makes people doubt the beginning of Ramadan and whether the following day is the 30th of Sha’ban or the first day of Ramadan. That’s why it is called “the day of doubt”.

According to the opinion of the majority of scholars, Muslims are allowed to fast only if the sight of the new moon is proven.

Scholars differ on whether fasting on this day is reprehensible or prohibited. The preferred opinion is that it is prohibited to fast on the day of doubt. This is in agreement with the meaning of the following hadith:

‘Ammar ibn Yasir said: “Whoever fasts on the day concerning which there is doubt has disobeyed Abul-Qasim (Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).” Al-Bukhary related this Hadith as Mu’allaq1  (Suspended).

However, fasting on this day is only allowed if it happens to be on the usual days a person usually fasts. For example, the person observing fasting on Mondays and Thursdays is allowed to fast on the day of doubt if it happens to be on Monday or Thursday.


1: Mu’allaq Hadith is a hadith in which one or more narrators is removed from the beginning of the isnad i.e the chain of narration. Scholars consider Mu’allaq hadiths found in Sahih Al-Bukhary to be authentic.

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