Q: At times, I get very severe pain in my neck which needs analgesic tablets to relieve because I suffer from cervical spondylitis. It happened once or twice in the month of Ramadan that the pain was so severe that I could not bear it any longer and broke my fast to take the tablets. Should I still feed one poor person for breaking my fast? What procedure should I follow if it happens again? Perhaps I should add that I get such severe pain two or three times a month.
A: Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the main Islamic duties. Every Muslim who is able to do so must fast every day of the month of Ramadan from dawn to dusk, during which hours he may not eat or drink or have sex with his wife. Allah knows that people may go through certain conditions when they cannot fulfill the duties of fasting or when its fulfillment presents considerable hardship. Therefore, he has allowed people who may have such conditions not to fast on those days when fasting becomes too hard, outlining the conditions for doing so, requiring them at the same time to compensate by fasting later in the year an equal number of days to those days of Ramadan during which they could not fast. This principle is acceptable in fasting on certain conditions. If a person does not fast two days in Ramadan for valid reasons, he has to compensate for them by fasting two days [sometime] later. There is no punishment and no need for doing an additional duty by way of atonement. The situations which allow or require a Muslim not to fast during the month of Ramadan are illness, traveling and, for women only, being pregnant, breast-feeding and having menstrual or postnatal period. There are certain details for each of these conditions. When people know about the concession of not fasting when one is ill or traveling, they assume that the illness must be of the severe variety and the travel must be of the very tiring variety to qualify the ill person or the traveler to make use of this concession. This is not right. Allah has stated this condition in the Qur’an in the most general of terms. Therefore, any situation which people normally describe as illness is all that is needed for a person to make use of Allah’s concession. The only thing required of him is to compensate after Ramadan is over by fasting one day for each day of non-fasting in Ramadan. It is not necessary that those compensatory days be offered consecutively. Compensatory fasting may be taken at any time during the rest of the year until the next month of Ramadan is due. Exemption from fasting during illness or travel is a concession of which all Muslims may avail themselves. If they fast, then their fasting is valid, although it is perhaps more preferable they should avail themselves of the concession. In the case of a woman in her menstruation or her postnatal period, non-fasting is mandatory. If she fasts, her fasting is not acceptable. Indeed, she puts herself in a difficult position if she does. Compensation by fasting a similar number of days would still be required in these cases. As for a woman who is pregnant or who is breastfeeding, she may not fast if she fears for her health or [for the health of] her baby. I will come to the compensation she has to offer in a little while. My reader asks about feeding a poor person? This is a compensation, for not fasting, which was required of Muslims in the very early days of Islam when fasting was not obligatory. A Muslim could then choose not to fast, but to feed a poor person instead. Ever since the second year of the Prophet’s (Pbuh) settlement in Madinah, fasting in the month of Ramadan became obligatory on all Muslims who are able to undertake this duty. It is no longer a matter of choice between fasting and feeding a poor person. However, if a person is in such a condition that makes him unable to fast in Ramadan and unable to fast later, what can he do? The answer is that compensation by feeding a poor person is operative in this case. For each day of Ramadan, he should give every poor person two meals of the average type he has in his home normally. He may, if he so wishes, give the poor person the cost of that meal in cash, according to a number of eminent scholars. The persons to whom this opinion remains valid are: 1) a very old man or woman who can no longer bear the difficulty of fasting from dawn to dusk; 2) a person who is chronically ill and has little hope of recovery; and 3) a woman who is pregnant or breast-feeding, particularly one who finds herself pregnant this year, breast-feeding next year, pregnant again the following year and breast-feeding the year after that. She is thus in a similar situation to a person who is chronically ill. In all these cases, compensation may be offered by way of feeding a poor person for one day (two meals) in place of each missed day of fasting. In this condition which my reader has put to me, this last method of compensation does not apply. When he has this pain, which he says he has two or three times each month, he may go ahead and have his pain killer tablet. What he is required to do is to fast one day in compensation for each day of on- fasting in Ramadan. Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News – Jeddah )