Every adult Muslim should fast during the whole month of Ramadhan. However, Islam does allow certain exemptions from fasting. These exemptions can be temporary or permanent. They include; a sick person, one who is traveling, a woman breastfeeding a child, an old person, one who finds the severity of the fast hard to bear on account of age or other infirmity.
Plan to make up for missed fasts
When the reason for exemption is only temporary, for instance illness from which one recovers later on, or if the fasts were missed due to travel etc., the number of days of the fast that are missed should be made up at any time during the next eleven months before Ramadan of the following year. The Holy Quran says:
The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination. Therefore, whosoever of you is present at home in this month let him fast therein. But whoso is sick or is on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days. Allah desires to give you facility and He desires not hardship for you, and that you may complete the number and that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you and that you may be grateful. (2:186)
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
One who misses just one fast without any permissible reason, then even if he fasts whole life after that, he will not be able to make up for that and the mistake can never be rectified”. (Masnad Darmi).
It is narrated by Ibne Abbas that if missing fasts are not observed consecutively there is no harm in it as Allah just requires to complete missing fasts in other days. (Bukhari)
We should avail the exemptions as true virtue lies in obedience rather than putting oneself in hardship. However, at the same time, we should not forget the obligations that come with these exemptions. We must complete the missing fasts during rest of the year.
What is Fidyah and how does it apply to me? Can I just pay Fidyah and need not make up missed fasts?
Should the cause of the exemption continues over a lengthy period of time or becomes permanent, as in the case of old age or chronic infirmity, the exemption is absolute; but the person concerned, if he can afford it, should pay expiation (Fidyah ), i.e., the person should arrange to provide food for a poor person throughout the month of Ramadan or give cash. The Holy Quran says:
And for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty is an expiation -- the feeding of a poor man. (2:185)
One of the intentions of giving Fidya is that Allah may enable us to complete the missing fasts later on. So, in case of temporary exemption like travel, temporary sickness etc, when the cause of exemption is over, one should complete missing fasts regardless of whether Fidya was given or not at an earlier time.
Hadrat Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as) said about Fidyah:
Once I thought why Allah has prescribed Fidyah? I was given the knowledge that it enables one to fast. Allah alone gives strength and capacity to do anything and one should beseech only Allah for every need. He is Omnipotent. If He so Wills He can grant the strength to fast to even a person suffering from tuberculosis. Therefore, it is appropriate that if a person sees that he is being deprived of the fast, then such a person should supplicate that, O Allah! this is your blessed month and I could not benefit from its blessings and I do not know whether I shall be alive next year or not or I would be able to complete the fasts that I am unable to keep now. If he seeks the power and strength from Allah then I am certain that Allahwill bestow strength on such a soul." (Malfuzat, Vol. 4, p. 288)
Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih Khamis (aba) in Friday Sermon dated August 28th, 2009 said “The Holy Qur’an clearly states the conditions under which one may not fast, for example when ailing or traveling. The missed fasts should be made up later on. If one can, one may also give fidya (expiation). People with chronic illnesses should pay fidya.”
May Allah bless us with the ability to heed his words and follow his guidelines to better ourselves in this world and hereafter.