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Women and fasting at Ramadan

By Ishola Balogun

This topic is in response to the a couple of questions sent in by our readers a few days ago about exemption of pregnant women during Ramadan fast. Islam is absolutely a complete religion. It has all the answers to any question about what affects us and could later in life affect us as human beings.

It is clear that  women have   the permission to leave out fasting during Ramadan  due to issues such as pregnancy, menstrual cycles, and breast feeding.  In providing an insight into the matter,the permission on pregnant and nursing women is slightly different from that of the terminally sick persons or the aged. To the pregnant women, the rule is that if they can’t bear the rigours of fasting, they should not fast but they have to pay back after delivery or when they become free from the impediments before the next Ramadan. It should be noted that they are not exempted, they are to pay back the number of days missed as a result of menstural circle, pregnancy or breast feeding. Most women mix up these issues and go on to feed the poor as a replacement for Ramadan fast instead of paying back the fast at a later date. No sound Muslim is permanently exempted from fasting unless the aged and the terminally sick persons. The pregnant woman or nursing mother still has the opportunity to fast at a later date, and therefore the ruling by most scholars is that she pays back her missed fast at a later date. Ibn ‘Abbas (r.t) said: Concession to feed the poor refers to old men and old women who cannot fast, so they should feed one poor person for each day. —– Narrated by al-Bukhari, 4505.

The Quran injuction explicitly states:  “and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Sawm (fasts) must be made up] from other days.”

The situation of a pregnant or breastfeeding woman is no different from that of a sick person or person on a journey who have to make up their fasts. An hadith says: Allah has waived half of the prayer and fasting from the traveler, and from pregnant and breastfeeding women.” Narrated by al-Nasaa’i, 2274; classed as hasan.

In most cases, two  scenarios apply in the case of a pregnant woman. The first is if she is healthy and strong, and does not find fasting difficult, and it does not affect her  fetus. In this case the woman is obliged to fast, because she has no excuse for not doing so  when she is fit to do it.  The second is where the pregnant woman is not able to fast, either because the pregnancy is advanced or because she is physically weak, or for some other reason. In this case,  she should not fast, especially if her fetus is likely to be harmed, in  this  case,  it may be obligatory for her not to fast. If she does not fast, then like others who do not fast for a valid reason, she has to make up the days when that  circumstance no longer applies.

When she gives birth, she has to make up those fasts after she becomes pure from  nifaas. But, again,  sometimes,  the excuse may  now be  ‘breastfeeding’. The breastfeeding mother may need food and drink. So,  she may need not to fast, but all the same, it is not enough to immediately embark on feeding the poor, what is appropriate is the look for a better period to pay back the missed fast. Allah knows best. Ramadan Keree


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