Fasting in Extreme Conditions

Fasting in Extreme Conditions


Reflections

In the month of Ramaḍān, Fasting is an obligation imposed on Muslims by their religion. Muslims all over the world generally carry out this obligation with great fervour and enthusiasm. However, in certain places, the fasting hours are so extreme that it becomes very difficult to fast if a person has to observe his daily routine as well. In some places, extremely cold and hot weather even in normal fasting hours at times poses the same difficulty. What then should a person do in these circumstances?

If we turn to the Qur'ān, it guides us in this regard and helps us resolve this issue. The Qur'ān says that if a person is traveling or sick, then he is not required to fast. He can make up these missed fasts later when he can manage it:

وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ يُرِيدُ اللّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلاَ يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ(185:2)

And he who is ill or on a journey should fast a similar number of days later on. [This concession is because] God desires ease for you and not discomfort.(2:185)

Traveling and sickness understandably incapacitate a person. The relief given is for this reason. Analogously all situations which incapacitate a person can also be subsumed under this concession given. Hence we can conclude on the basis of analogical deduction that if a person finds it difficult to fast in a particular Ramaḍān because of extreme timings or extreme weather conditions, he can defer his fasts to some other part of the year when these timings or weather become manageable for him or her. Moreover, in order to lessen the number of fasts a person has to keep later in the year and to take part in the month of Ramaḍān and show his unity with the rest of the ummah, he can plan to fast on holidays or selected days of the month in the Ramadan which falls in extreme timings and weather conditions. He can make up the remaining fasts later in the year. In this way, it is hoped that he will be fulfilling his religious duty to the best of his ability and also carrying on with his life routine. Moreover, it is not required that the missed fasts be kept consecutively; they can be kept in various installments.

It is thus obvious that the nature of the decision of making up of the missed fasts is personal and its modalities would vary from person to person. Some people might be able to fast more in a certain Ramaḍān falling in extreme weather conditions and others less. Therefore, it would be better that a joint decision at the community level not be taken in this regard and people are given the freedom to exercise their free will in this regard keeping in view their specific circumstances.




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