The Ruling on a Sick or Traveling Person Fasting
Imaam Muhammad bin Saalih Al-'Uthaimeen
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Lesson Three: The Ruling on a Sick or Traveling Person Fasting
Allaah, the Most High, says: And whoever amongst you is sick or on a
journey, then (he may make up) the same amount of missed days on other
days. Allaah wants ease for you and He doesn’t want to make things
difficult for you.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 185] [Surah An-Nisaa: 29]
A sick person falls into two types:
First: Whoever has an illness that is permanent and there is no
anticipation of it being cured (near term), like cancer for example,
this person is not required to fast. This is because he does not have a
condition in which it is expected that he will be able to do it (i.e.
the fast). However, for every day missed, he must feed a needy person
whether if it is by him gathering the same amount of needy people as the
days he missed and feeding all of them at once as Anas bin Maalik (radyAllaahu ‘anhu)
used to do when he was old, or it could be by dividing up the food for
the needy people according to the days missed and then giving every
needy person a quarter of a Prophetic saa’, i.e. what weighs
about half a kilo and 10 grams of good wheat. It is better if one serves
meat or fat along with it in order to compliment the meal. The same
applies to an elderly person that is not able to fast, in that he should
feed a needy person for every day missed.
Second: Whoever has a temporary illness that they will recover
from, such as a fever and what resembles that. This kind of illness has
1. Fasting will not burden or cause harm to him. Such a sick person is obligated to fast since he has no excuse to abandon it.
2. Fasting will be difficult on him but it won’t cause any harm to him.
In this situation it is detested for him to fast because one is actually
refraining from using Allaah’s allowance, while at the same time he is
3. Fasting will harm him. In this situation, it is forbidden for him to
fast because of the harm that he will be inflicting upon himself. Allaah
says: “And do not kill yourselves. Verily Allaah is All-Merciful to you.”
And He says: “And do not throw yourselves into destruction with your own hands.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 195]
And in a hadeeth, the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “There is to be no harming (of others) nor harming (of oneself).” Reported by Ibn Maajah and Al-Haakim, and An-Nawawee said: “Its paths of narrations strengthen one another.”
One can find out if fasting will be harmful to a sick person by (1) that
person feeling it to be harmful on himself or by (2) him being informed
of it by a trustworthy doctor. When a person who falls under this
category of being sick breaks his fast, he must make up the number of
days he missed when he recovers. But if he dies before he recovers then
making up the missed days is no longer binding upon him, since he is
only obligated to fast the number of days missed on other days, which he
was not able to reach.
A traveler falls into two types:
First: Whoever intends by traveling to cheat his way out of
fasting. It is not permissible for such a person to break his fast,
since cheating one’s way out of Allaah’s obligations does not remove
those obligations from him.
Second: Whoever does not intend the above by traveling. This person may fall into one of the following three situations:
1. Fasting is extremely difficult upon him. In this case, it is forbidden for him to fast since one time “The Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)
was fasting while on the military expedition to conquer Makkah, when
news reached him that the people found it difficult to fast and they
were looking at him to see what he would do. So he (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)
called for a cup of water after ‘Asr and drank from it while the people
were looking at him. Later it was said to him: ‘Some people are still
fasting.’ So he (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied: ‘Those are the disobedient ones. Those are the disobedient ones.’” [Reported by Muslim]
2. Fasting is difficult upon him, but not so severe. In this situation
it is detested (makrooh) for him to fast since he is refraining from one
of Allaah’s allowances, while putting a burden upon himself.
3. Fasting is not difficult upon him. In this case he may do whatever is
easiest on him – whether it is fasting or choosing not to fast. This is
based on Allaah’s statement: “Allaah wants ease for you and He doesn’t want to make things difficult for you.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 185]
The word “want” here takes on the meaning of love (i.e. He loves ease
for you). If there is no difference between fasting or not fasting, then
fasting is more preferable, because this is what the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did, as is reported in Saheeh Muslim from Abud-Dardaa (radyAllaahu ‘anhu) who said: “We went out (on a journey) with the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)
during Ramadaan under intense heat conditions to the point that each of
us would put his hand over his head (to cover it) due to the severe
heat (of the sun). And no one would be fasting among us except for the
Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and ‘Abdullaah bin Rawaaha.”
A traveler is considered to be traveling from the time he leaves his
country to the time he returns to it. And if he takes up residency in
the land he travels to for a period of time, he is considered to be
traveling as long as he holds the intention that he will never reside
there after the objective for which he traveled there for in the first
place is fulfilled.
So he is entitled to all of the allowances a traveler has even if the
length of his residency extends for a long time. This is since the
Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not mention any time
limit defining when a travel ends. And the foundation with regard to
this issue is that one remains in a traveler’s state and under its rules
until there comes a proof that the travel has ended and that its rules
fail to apply.
There is no difference in breaking the fast while traveling between a
time-constrained travel, such as Hajj, ‘Umrah, visiting a relative,
business travel, and so on and between a continuous travel, such as
journeys made by car service drivers such as taxis or other larger forms
of transportation (i.e. buses). When these drivers exit from their
countries, they all enter into the state of travelers and it is
permissible for them to do whatever other travelers are permitted to do,
such as not fasting during Ramadaan, shortening the four rak’ah prayers
into two rak’ahs, and combining the Dhuhr and ‘Asr prayers and Maghrib
and ‘Ishaa prayers, when there is a need for it.
Abstaining from the fast is better for them than fasting, if that is
easier for them. And they can make up the days missed during the winter.
This is because these car service drivers have their own country, which
they ascribe to. So when they are in their country, then they are
considered residents and whatever applies for or against all other
residents also applies for and against them. And when they travel, they
are considered travelers and whatever applies in favor or against
travelers also applies in favor or against them.