Fasting For The Senile


We seek your guidance for the following situation.

My wife, 67 years old, had a coronary by-pass a few years back and now recently has been diagnosed possibility of clot in her legs. Besides she is weak as well.

I have survived colon cancer recently. Our physicians are non-Muslims so we cannot discuss the fasting with them. We intend to skip fasting this year and as compensation send money to Pakistan for giving it to the needy there. Kindly advise what will be the amount for each of us. I am 78 years old.


Thank you for writing to us. The Shari'ah has explicitly mentioned that those who are travelling or are ill are not obliged to fast. They are however, obliged to complete the count later on when they are well. Now the permanently ill persons can either just leave the fast and wait for God's mercy when they would be able to complete the left over fasts or, in case when there is no hope for betterment, they can perform ijtihaad and feed the poor as was initially legislated by the Qur'an. Thus they can fee a destitute for ever missed fast if they do afford. The Almighty says:

Believers, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you attain piety, for a few numbered days. Even so, whoever among you is unwell or is on a journey, should complete the prescribed number during other days. And for those (of these travelers or the sick), who can afford, the penance for each missed fast is to feed a destitute, but whoever does more good spontaneously, it shall be better for him. And that you fast is even better for you, if you would understand. (Q 2:183-4)

Thought this directive was later on repealed and the obligation to fast remained intact for the sick and the traveler and the option to feed a poor was taken back yet we can use this directive in our ijtihaad for your case. You can therefore feed a poor for every fast you miss. This too is if you afford. If you do not afford then you cannot be expected to earn and give away amount or feed the poor. God knows our health and financial state better than we do and He is Just and Merciful.

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