Is it a sin not to perform fasting in the month of Ramadan without any excuse? Will it be a sin if i skip Ramadan fasting without any excuse with the intention of fasting in winter? Will fasting performed in winter replace the fasting skipped in Ramadan?

The Details of the Question

Assalamualaikum, I have been struggling to fast since being diagnosed with Graves Disease. I push myself to make sure I can perform but last year I nearly suffered a stroke, though I still continued to fast, since then my medications has increase to 12 tablets/day, without it I am very, very sick. I don't know what the hukum is when it comes to this type of sickness? Is it still wajib (compulsory) for me to fast? What must I do? Wassalam... Zalifah Aron

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The following is stated in the Quran:

"O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint." (al-Baqara, 2/183)

It is fard to fast in the month of Ramadan because Allah Almighty says, "Fasting is prescribed to you". Besides, there is definite consensus that it is fard.

It is known that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stated the following:

"Fasting is a shield that protects man from the fire of Hell just like the shield that protects you from death in war." (Nasai, Sawm, IV, 167)

Fasting is a deed of worship that keeps a believer away from all kinds of lust and that increases his sincerity. It is very important to resist hunger, thirst and other desires of the soul. The believers who believe in Allah and decide to fight in the way of His religion obtain a strong will thanks to fasting. The lunar calendar changes based on the movement of the moon and hence Ramadan comes ten or eleven days earlier every year. Therefore, a believer sometimes fasts in winter in a very cold weather and sometimes in summer in a very hot weather. In a sense, the believer makes the following promise: "I am ready to fulfil the commands of Allah both in freezing cold weather and scorching hot weather." Besides, it is something very important for man to refrain from the lustful desires of his soul for a month to attain Allah’s consent.

Excuses that make it permissible not to fast in Ramadan:

The following decree is stated in the Quran:

"O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint.― (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship) is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more of his own free-will―it is better for him, and it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew. " (al-Bakara, 2/183-184)

If it is noted, it can be seen what states make it permissible not to fast can be seen.

1) Being ill: If a person who is obliged to fast is afraid that he will die or he will lose one of his organs, he does not fast. Imam Marghinani says, "The increase in the illness or lengthening of the illness may sometimes cause a person’s death." He says, in that case, it is necessary to avoid it (increasing or lengthening it), pointing out its sensitivity. An illness becomes certain through experience or the diagnosis of a believing specialist (doctor). 

2) Going on an expedition (Traveling): A person who is obliged to fast and who goes on an expedition in the month of Ramadan does not make niyyat (have the intention) for fasting at night if he does not want want to fast. It is permissible and it is definite by verses. 

3) Being very old and weak: A very old person who is too weak to fast eats every day and pays a poor person fidyah (amount of money necessary for a person to fill his stomach for one day) for each day he does not fast. Imam Marghinani says "What is essential here is the decree of Allah that says “it is necessary for those who cannot fast to pay fidyah to the poor” If he can fast, the fidyah becomes invalid. The condition for the fidyah is the continuation of the weakness.” (al-Hidaya, I, 127).

How old should one be so as not to fast? Fiqh scholars gave different answers to that question. However, being very old and weak changes from person to person. Fatawa al-Hindiyya (I, 207):

"A very old and weak person is someone whose strength decreases day by day and dies before gaining strength again”. It is the definition in Bahru'r-Raiq. People who are in that state can pay their fidyahs at the beginning of Ramadan wholly or pay it at the end of the month. If they gain strength and can fast after paying the fidyahs, their fidyahs become invalid. They have to fast for those days.

4) Menstruation and Post-Partum (Puerperium) Bleeding: It is haram for women who are in menstruation and puerperium to fast. It is recorded that Hazrat Aisha, our mother, (may Allah be pleased with her) said,

"During the period of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), when one of us became clean after menstrual period, she would fast for the days that she could not fast but would not perform the prayers that she missed." (Fathul-Qadir, I, 114).

Therefore, the women in menstrual period and puerperium do not fast as long as they are in those states. Then, (after being clean) they perform fasting for those days.

5) Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: In Durru'l-Mukhtar, the following is written: “A pregnant woman who is afraid that her life or her child’s life will be endangered, or according to zahiru'r riwaya, a breastfeeding woman whether she is the mother or wet nurse does not have to fast." (Ibn Abidin, IV, 338). What is essential here is that, whether pregnant or breastfeeding, the danger of destroying their bodies or their children. As a matter of fact, the following is stated in Fatawa al-Hindiyya: "If pregnant or breastfeeding women are afraid that they or their children can be destroyed they do not have to fast or they can break their fast. Kaffarah (fasting for 60 days as a punishment of breaking fast intentionally) is not necessary; they can fast later one day for each day (ibid, I, 207).

6) Danger of Being Destroyed or Being Bitten by a Snake: A mujahid (Muslim who fights for Allah) who knows that he will fight the enemy in the month of Ramadan and who is worried that he will become weak and will not be able to fight as necessary if he fasts does not have to fast  (ibid, I, 208). In Durru'l-Mukhtar, the following is written, "A person who is forced, who is afraid of being destroyed or going mad and a person who has been bitten by a snake may break their fast." We can think that those states are covered by the expression “who is ill” in the verse. Those who break their fast due to the reasons mentioned above fast later one day for each day because the danger of being destroyed is in question in case of delaying. It is certain that it is an acceptable excuse. 

It is a great sin not to perform fasting in Ramadan apart from the excuses mentioned above. Even if a person fasts later for those days, he will still be regarded responsible. He should both perform fasting for those days, repent and ask forgiveness from Allah. To work during the summer days is not an excuse not to perform fasting.

Another important issue that needs to be known is as follows:

Yes, the fasting that is skipped without any excuse in Ramadan is performed as qada (is made up) as one day for each day. However, the Prophet (pbuh) states that if a person fasted every day in order to attain the thawab of fasting skipped one day in Ramadan, he would not be able to attain it:

If a person broke fasting during Ramadan without an excuse or illness and if he fasted for all time, his fasting would not make up for it.” (Tirmidhi, Sawm, 27; Abu Dawud, Sawm, 38; Ibn Majah, Siyam, 14)

Therefore, it is a major sin to skip fasting in Ramadan without any excuse; besides, it is disrespect to the month of Ramadan and to all Muslims.

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