The Ruling on a Sick or Traveling Person Fasting
Lesson Three: The Ruling on a Sick or Traveling Person Fasting
Allaah, the Most High, says: And whoever amongst you is sick or on a journey, then (he may make up) the same amount of missed days on other days. Allaah wants ease for you and He doesn’t want to make things difficult for you.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 185]
A sick person falls into two types:
First: Whoever has an illness that is permanent and there is no anticipation of it being cured (near term), like cancer for example, this person is not required to fast. This is because he does not have a condition in which it is expected that he will be able to do it (i.e. the fast). However, for every day missed, he must feed a needy person whether if it is by him gathering the same amount of needy people as the days he missed and feeding all of them at once as Anas bin Maalik (radyAllaahu ‘anhu) used to do when he was old, or it could be by dividing up the food for the needy people according to the days missed and then giving every needy person a quarter of a Prophetic saa’, i.e. what weighs about half a kilo and 10 grams of good wheat. It is better if one serves meat or fat along with it in order to compliment the meal. The same applies to an elderly person that is not able to fast, in that he should feed a needy person for every day missed.
Second: Whoever has a temporary illness that they will recover from, such as a fever and what resembles that. This kind of illness has three scenarios:
1. Fasting will not burden or cause harm to him. Such a sick person is obligated to fast since he has no excuse to abandon it.
2. Fasting will be difficult on him but it won’t cause any harm to him. In this situation it is detested for him to fast because one is actually refraining from using Allaah’s allowance, while at the same time he is burdening himself.
3. Fasting will harm him. In this situation, it is forbidden for him to fast because of the harm that he will be inflicting upon himself. Allaah says: “And do not kill yourselves. Verily Allaah is All-Merciful to you.” [Surah An-Nisaa: 29] And He says: “And do not throw yourselves into destruction with your own hands.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 195]
And in a hadeeth, the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “There is to be no harming (of others) nor harming (of oneself).” Reported by Ibn Maajah and Al-Haakim, and An-Nawawee said: “Its paths of narrations strengthen one another.” One can find out if fasting will be harmful to a sick person by (1) that person feeling it to be harmful on himself or by (2) him being informed of it by a trustworthy doctor. When a person who falls under this category of being sick breaks his fast, he must make up the number of days he missed when he recovers. But if he dies before he recovers then making up the missed days is no longer binding upon him, since he is only obligated to fast the number of days missed on other days, which he was not able to reach. A traveler falls into two types: First: Whoever intends by traveling to cheat his way out of fasting. It is not permissible for such a person to break his fast, since cheating one’s way out of Allaah’s obligations does not remove those obligations from him. Second: Whoever does not intend the above by traveling. This person may fall into one of the following three situations:
1. Fasting is extremely difficult upon him. In this case, it is forbidden for him to fast since one time “The Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was fasting while on the military expedition to conquer Makkah, when news reached him that the people found it difficult to fast and they were looking at him to see what he would do. So he (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) called for a cup of water after ‘Asr and drank from it while the people were looking at him. Later it was said to him: ‘Some people are still fasting.’ So he (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied: ‘Those are the disobedient ones. Those are the disobedient ones.’” [Reported by Muslim]
2. Fasting is difficult upon him, but not so severe. In this situation it is detested (makrooh) for him to fast since he is refraining from one of Allaah’s allowances, while putting a burden upon himself.
3. Fasting is not difficult upon him. In this case he may do whatever is easiest on him – whether it is fasting or choosing not to fast. This is based on Allaah’s statement: “Allaah wants ease for you and He doesn’t want to make things difficult for you.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 185]
The word “want” here takes on the meaning of love (i.e. He loves ease for you). If there is no difference between fasting or not fasting, then fasting is more preferable, because this is what the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did, as is reported in Saheeh Muslim from Abud-Dardaa (radyAllaahu ‘anhu) who said: “We went out (on a journey) with the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) during Ramadaan under intense heat conditions to the point that each of us would put his hand over his head (to cover it) due to the severe heat (of the sun). And no one would be fasting among us except for the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and ‘Abdullaah bin Rawaaha.”