Can Air Force Pilots Leave Obligatory Fasting

Question

I was a fighter pilot in the Pakistan Air Force. Pilots are not allowed to fast for safety reasons. At that time I was not very particular about fasting and prayers. I was also under the impression that feeding a person compensates for missed fasts. However, after I stopped flying some 18 years back, I have been keeping all of my obligatory fasts. It is only recently, after listening to Ghamidi Sahib's programs and those of Dr Khalid Zaheer and some reading that I have come to realize that I have been wrong and that I have to keep all the missed fasts, which total about 480. Since the end of the last month of Ramadan, I have been trying to keep one or two fasts a week. However, there are many who argue as follows: That when I missed the fasts I wasn't aware of the due compensation and I did what I thought was right. Allah is the most Merciful and will forgive me. Since I have been steadfast in fasting after the end of my flying tenure, I should seek forgiveness and continue to fast regularly in the future. That fasting in lieu of missed fasts is tantamount to not believing that Allah is Rehman and Raheem (most Merciful). That deen (religion) is not unduly burdensome and therefore I should not put myself through the gruel of keeping all the missed fasts. While I have resolved to keep all the missed fasts, health and remaining life permitting, I just wish to ensure that by doing so, I am not being unbelieving of Allah's attributes of Rehman and Raheem. Please advise.


Answer

Thank you for writing to us. We believe that according to the express directives of the Shari'ah one has to complete the left over fasts once one is able to. However, this is when we leave a fast because of travelling or being sick. Your case has not been dealt with in the Shari'ah. You left them thinking that they can be compensated for by feeding the poor. Later on you came to know that you were obliged to fulfil the numbers and started offering the left over fasts. I believe that though the true repentance washes away our sins and failures in the past and God Almighty forgives us for anything done in the past even committing (shirk) polytheism. But that does not mean that offering the left over fasts negates our belief in God. Your attitude and action expresses your resolve and determination to remain a true believer and this earns you great reward. Don't we pay someone what we owe to them when after a long period of delinquency we resolve to settle the issue and clear ourselves? Similarly if we owed God something and now even after a long time has elapsed we start fulfilling the duty that is only virtuous. You may keep on fasting as much as you can but what is within your reach. For example if extensive fasting makes you weak and you may not be able to discharge other duties and even fast for the next Ramadan then you should stop. God is merciful and knows our intentions fully. He will not hold you into account for what you failed to do in the past.

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