Can I break my fast if I am not feeling well?

Can I break my fast if I am not feeling well?

Fasting, which is a pillar of Islam, cannot be underrated. It is an obligation for all Muslim adults who are sane and well. Once you have made the intention to fast, breaking a fast is not a light matter. Not fasting In Ramadan without a valid excuse is punishable. Breaking a fast deliberately without a valid reason carries a penalty.

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is not optional

The obligation of fasting for is ordained by Allah in Surat al-Baqarah:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become righteous. (2:183)

Ramadan is a month which is sanctified. It is a major sin to break the sanctity of this month by not fasting without a valid reason.

Valid reasons for not fasting

Allah made an exception in the Quran for those who are sick or travelling. He said:

أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَاتٍ ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۚ وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ ۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُ ۚ وَأَن تَصُومُوا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

For a specified number of days. But whoever among you is sick, or on a journey, then a number of other days. For those who are able: a ransom of feeding a needy person. But whoever volunteers goodness, it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew. (2:184)

School exams and school trips, business trips, sports fixatures are not valid reasons to abstain from fasting. Many parents think that GCSEs and A Levels are sufficient reason to abstain from fasting, however that is not the case.

Valid reasons for not fasting are chronic medical conditions e.g. where you need to take medication during the day or fasting while make your condition worse.

This is why it is important to teach children that once they pass puberty they do dismiss fasting lightly, or to think that they can be skip fasting during Ramadan and make them up later when it is more convenient.

Do not break a fast unecessarily

In a weak narration, but one where the overall message is in line with the Sunnah it says that missing a fast without a valid reason is not acceptable to the extent that fasting for the rest of your life for a missed fast will not absolve you of the sin.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

If anyone breaks his fast one day in Ramadan without a concession granted to him by Allah, a perpetual fast will not atone for it. [Abu Dawoud]

Penalty for breaking a fast without a valid excuse

If someone begins a fast and then breaks it without a valid excuse they have to pay Kaffarah. It is not due for eating or drinking accidentally out of forgetfulness or because one began to feel too ill to carry on, rather it is for a fast that was deliberately broken by eating or drinking or having sexual intercourse.

To atone for the intentionally broken fast, the Hanafi and Maliki schools say you must make up the fast and pay kaffarah which is to fast continuously for 60 days. However, if you are unable to do that, then you have make up the fast and feed a meal to 60 poor people.

What happens if you started a fast but then feel unwell during the fast?

It may happen that you intend to fast and begin fasting and then become unwell during the day. Is it permissible to break the fast early? For instance you develop a fever, or you throw up and you feel you cannot manage to carry on, or you have severe pain. Throwing up does not break your fast, unless you swallow your vomit.

There are two possibilities: if you can rest and complete the fast you should carry on. However if you feel your condition will worsen due to fasting, or your recovery will be delayed by fasting, or the fasting will cause intense hardship, or the doctor advised you should not fast, you can break your fast.

Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: 

“The kind of sickness in which it is permitted to break the fast is intense sickness which will be made worse by fasting or it is feared that recovery will be delayed. It was said to Ahmad: When can the sick person break his fast? He said, When he is unable to fast. It was said, Such as a fever? He said, What sickness is worse than fever? 

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.