By Ishola-Haroon Balogun
Fasting in Ramadan is a duty every adult Muslim of sound mind, good health and not in transit must perform. Thus, those who are not required to fast are non-Muslims, people with insanity, little children, the ill, the aged, travellers and women who are in their menstruation or postnatal periods, pregnant or breast-feeding.
However, some of these people are not required to fast at all, such as the non-Muslims and people with insanity; while some will have to pay back later when their conditions improve. The aged, for instance, will not get younger, so they are required to do fidyah. So also those with protracted illnesses, or those who have recovered yet find fasting as being too much of a strain on their health.
Women, who are pregnant or breast-feeding may not fast if they fear for themselves or for their babies on the basis that fasting will impede the flow of breast milk or hinder a mother from carrying out her statutory duty of nursing or breast-feeding the baby or on the advice of a competent doctor.
They are still required to pay back their missed fast at a later date, though. A lot of women get confused at this point by engaging in fidyah. Feeding the poor as compensation for Ramadan fasting is premised on when the situation will not improve in the nearest future.
Nursing or breast-feeding mothers can be freed from this task at a later time, so they will fast before the next Ramadan.
Aisha (r.t.a) said: “When we had our periods at the time of the Prophet, we were ordered to compensate for fasting but not for prayers.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
To explain further, those who are ill and hope to recover and those who are travelling may not fast, but they have to compensate by fasting later.
Allah says in the Qur’an: “But he who is ill or on a journey shall fast, instead, for same number of days later on.” (2: 185). A healthy person who fears to get ill by fasting is treated as ill; he is exempt from fasting.
As for those who are travelling, the question arises: which is preferable, fasting or not fasting base on the distance, fatigue and convenience? The Hanafi, Shafi and Maliki schools of thoughts prefer fasting for anyone who finds it easy. Not fasting is preferable for those who find fasting too much of a strain.
The distance, which qualifies a traveller to make use of the exemption, is the same which qualifies for shortening prayers. Some scholars say a minimum standard of three marches is prescribed by some commentators of the Quran. Others make it more precise by saying the journey is equivalent to 48 miles. Again that is on foot.
However, there are various degrees of fatigue whether on horse riding, motor car, train, or aeroplane. Yusuf Ali opines that the standard must depend on the means of mobility and the relative resources of the traveller.
Lastly, those required to do Fidyah: read Quran 2:184.
Scholars, who commented on that verse, said it is a concession to aged men and women who can hardly fast, or those whose condition, that prevented them from fasting ab initio, will not improve. Then they can do fidyatu-toham.
May Allah accept it as act of Ibadan.