The aim of Islam is not to burden people to a point that they will be incapable of carrying out the duties enjoined by Allah. This is evident in Allah’s words:
“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope…” (Al-Baqarah, Verse 286)
It is clearly evident that when fasting will result in the opposite of the intended outcome, such us causing danger to the sacredness of life, Islam gives room for the Muslims. Thus, it can be understood that when a Muslim is incapable of fasting due to any of the reasons mentioned below, feeding may become a substitute.
- The elderly person
When elderly men or women reach an age that weakens them from fasting, they do not have to fast but are required to feed a needy person for every day in Ramadan for which he or she has missed fasting. Allah the Highest said:
“And as for those who can fast (with difficulty) they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a poor person for every day).” (Al-Baqarah, Verse: 184)
Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) recited the verse concerning the elderly and said:
“For the old man or woman who is unable to fast, he/ she refrain from fasting and instead feeds a poor person with a measure equal to four times the quantity held by two outstretched hands of wheat. One year Anas Ibn Malik became too weak to fast so he prepared a large dish of Thareed (the quantity held the two outstretched hands) and invited thirty poor people who came and ate their fill. (Daraqutni)
Thus we can understand that the elderly men and women in poor health are permitted to break their fasts. Instead of fasting they are obliged to feed one poor person a day (for every day of fasting that they do miss).
However, when elderly people reach the point of absent-mindedness and aimless talk, there will be no fast for them, nor will they be required to feed the needy for the days missed, because their case is like that of insanity.
- Physical disability
When a person is mentally sound but physically weak, and observation of the fast would further weaken his body, he/ she does not have to fast but should feed a needy person for every day missed.
- One who is ill and the traveler.
It is upon them to make up (for any) days (of fasting in Ramadan they missed). Allah says:
Fast for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g., an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskin (poor person) (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that your fast is better for you if only you know. (Quran: Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 184)
As for the ill person who is suffering from an illness from which a cure is not anticipated, then he is required to feed a poor and needy person for every day he misses (of fasting in Ramadan).
- A woman on her menses or postpartum bleeding
But it is upon her to make up (for any) days she misses (of fasting in Ramadan). ‘Aisha said:
We (the women on their menses or post-partum bleeding) were commanded to make up for any days of fasting in Ramadan we missed and were not commanded to make up for any prayers missed. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
- The pregnant woman and the one breastfeeding.
If they fear for their health; they are required to make up (for any days of) fasting (in Ramadan they miss). However, if they fear for their child only, then they are required to make up (for any days of) fasting (in Ramadan they miss) in addition to feeding a poor and needy person for every day (of fasting in Ramadan) they miss.
May the Almighty Allah strengthen us and bless us with good health so that we can also benefit from this blessed month of Ramadan as much as we can.