Rulings for Fasting that are Specific for Women
Author:Shaikh Saalih Al-Fawzaan
Fasting the month of Ramadaan is an obligation on every male and female Muslim, and it is one of the pillars and great foundations of Islaam. Allaah says: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you in order that you may attain Taqwaa." [Surah Al-Baqarah: 183] The word "kutiba" (prescribed) here means "furida" obligated. So when the young girl reaches the age in which she will be held accountable for her actions, by having one of the signs of puberty become apparent in her, among which is menstruation, then the obligation of fasting begins for her. She could begin menstruating as early as when she is nine years old. However, some young girls are not aware that they are required to begin fasting at that point, so she doesn’t fast thinking that she is too young, nor do her parents order her to fast. This is a great negligence, for one of the pillars of Islaam is being abandoned. If this occurs to any woman, she is obligated to make up for the days of fasting that she abandoned since the point when she began menstruating, even if a long time has passed since that time, for it remains in her obligations.
Who is obligated to fast Ramadaan?
When the month of Ramadaan comes, every male and female Muslim that (1) has reached the age of puberty, is (2) healthy and (3) a resident (i.e. not traveling) is obligated to fast. And whoever is sick or traveling during the month, may break the fast and make up the number of days missed on other days. Allaah says: "So whoever sights the (moon indicating the beginning of the) month, then he must fast. And whoever is sick or on a journey, then (he may break the fast and instead fast) the number of days missed on other days." [Surah Al-Baqarah: 185] Likewise, whoever enters into Ramadaan and he is very old and not able to fast or has a chronic illness, which does not expect to be cured any specific time - whether male or female - may break the fast and instead feed a needy person half a saa’ (four handfuls) of the food from that people’s land for every day missed. Allaah says: "And as for those who can fast (but) with difficulty, they (may break their fast and) feed a needy person." [Surah Al-Baqarah: 184] Ibn ‘Abbaas (raa) said: "This ayah is for the old man of whom it is not anticipated that he will be cured." [Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree] And the sick person of whom it is not hoped that he will be cured from his sickness falls under the ruling of the old person. And he does not have to make up the missed days because of his inability to fast.
A woman is specified with certain excuses that permit her to break the fast in Ramadaan, on the condition that she makes up the days she missed fasting due to these excuses on other days. These excuses are:
1. Menstrual and Postpartum Bleeding: A woman is forbidden from fasting while she is in these two conditions. And she is obligated to make up these missed days of fasting on other days. This is based on what is reported in the two Saheeh collections from ‘Aa’isha (raa) who said: "We were ordered to make up the (missed) days of fasting but we were not ordered to make up the (missed) prayers." She gave this answer when a woman asked her: "Why does a menstruating woman have to make up the (missed days of) fasting and not have to make up the (missed) prayers?" So she (raa) clarified that this is from the matters dependent on revelation, which must comply with the reported texts.
As for the wisdom behind that, then Shaikh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taimiyyah said in "Majmoo’-ul-Fataawaa" (15/251): "The blood that comes out of the woman because of menstruation has a discharge of blood in it. A menstruating woman can fast in times other than when the blood that comes out of her due to menstruation contains her blood. So her fasting in this situation is a moderate and balanced fast - no blood, which strengthens the body and which is its main substance - comes out of her during these times. But her fasting when she is menstruating necessitates that her blood come out during this time - the blood, which is the main component of her body and which will lead to a weakness and deficiency in her body. And this will necessitate that her fast not be that of a moderate and balanced nature. So that is why she is commanded to fast in times when she is not menstruating."
2. Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding: If because of fasting there is harm caused to the woman or the baby or to both of them, then she may break the fast while she is pregnant or breastfeeding. But if the harm for which reason she is breaking her fast only applies to her baby and not her, then she must make up for the days she missed of fasting and feed a needy person for each day missed. And if the harm only applies to herself, then it is sufficient for her to only make up the missed days. This is based on the pregnant woman and breastfeeding woman falling under the generality of Allaah’s saying: "And for those who can fast (but) with difficulty, they (may break their fast) and instead feed a needy person." [Surah Al-Baqarah: 184]
Al-Haafidh Ibn Katheer (rahimahullaah) said in his Tafseer (1/379): "Amongst those who fall into the meaning of this ayah are the pregnant and breastfeeding women if they fear for themselves or for their children." And Shaikh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taimiyyah said: "If a pregnant woman fears for her fetus, then she may not fast and instead make up each day of fasting that was missed on other days and feed a needy person around 2 kilograms of bread." [Majmoo’-ul-Fatawaa: 25/318]
1. Istihaadah (Irregular Bleeding): This is the condition in which a woman has blood come out of her, which is not her menstrual blood. She must observe the fast and it is not permissible for her to break her fast because of this type of bleeding. When mentioning the allowance of the menstruating woman of breaking her fast, Shaikh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taimiyyah (rahimahullaah) said: "This is contrary to the woman in the state of Istihaadah, for this state comprises an unfixed period of time, and there is not a time in it in which she can be commanded to begin fasting (again). So because of this, it is not possible to caution against it, the same as for throwing up unexpectedly, emitting blood due to a wound, getting a boil, Ihtilaam (when sexual fluid comes out of the private parts not due to intercourse or foreplay), as well as all the other things that do not have a fixed time in which they could be cautioned against. So this (Istihaadah) was not made as something that nullifies the fast, such as the blood of menstruation." [Majmoo’-ul-Fataawaa: 25/251]
2. The Menstruating woman as well as the pregnant and breastfeeding women, if they break their fast in Ramadaan, must make up for the missed days of fasting in the time that occurs between the Ramadaan in which they broke their fast and the forthcoming Ramadaan. But to complete them early is better. And if there only remain a few days before the next Ramadaan begins, then they are obligated to make up the missed days of fasting (from the previous Ramadaan) such that the new Ramadaan will not come upon them while they still have to fast days from the previous Ramadaan. But if they don’t do this and Ramadaan comes upon them while they still owe days of fasting from the previous Ramadaan, and they have no (valid) excuse for delaying it, they are obligated to make up the missed days and to feed a needy person for each day. But if they have a valid excuse, then they must only make up the missed days of fasting. This goes the same for those who must make up the missed days of fasting due to sickness or traveling. Their ruling is like the ruling of the woman who broke the fast due to menses, with the previously mentioned details.
3. It is not permissible for a woman to observe a recommended fast if her husband is present unless she has his permission. This is based on what Al-Bukhaaree, Muslim and others have reported from Abu Hurairah (raa) that the Prophet (saws) said: "It is not permissible for a woman to fast while her husband is present except with his permission." In some narrations of the hadeeth in Ahmad and Abu Dawood, there occurs the wording "...except Ramadaan." But if the husband permits her to observe a recommended fast or he is not present around her or if she doesn’t have a husband, then it is encouraged for her to observe this recommended day of fasting. This is especially for the days in which it is recommended to fast such as Mondays and Thursdays, three days in every month, six days in Shawaal, the tenth day of Dhul-Hijjah, the Day of ‘Arafah and the Day of ‘Aashooraa along with the day before or after it. However, she should not observe a recommended fast while she owes days to make up for (the previous) Ramadaan, until she first makes up these missed days and Allaah knows best.
4. If a menstruating woman stops bleeding during the day in Ramadaan, she must begin her fasting for the remainder of the day but still make it up with the days that she didn’t fast because of menses. Her fasting for the remainder of the day in which she stops bleeding is an obligation on her out of respect for the time (i.e. Ramadaan).