Many of us at NMA (New Muslims) are eager to fast and to show our dedication to God. Some of us are feeling guilty for not being able to fast due to our health condition. It is important for us to realize that God does not desire for us to put ourselves in harm’s way. Showing dedication to God is to obey Him, even if it means taking the legal concessions He has given us instead of doing a ritual devotion that we may desire.
I want to remind you that God knows your condition and does not hold you accountable for what you cannot do physically.
The general principle with acts of devotion is that they are based on one’s ability to perform them. This is taken from the text of the Quran and the prophetic teachings.
God says, “…..He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty.” 22:78
“God does not charge a soul except with that within its capacity.” 2:286
“Keep your duty to God as best you can” 64:16
Islam is not meant to overburden you or cause you stress, neither are its regulations and commands. What is meant is peace of mind, heart and soul through devotion to Almighty God.
Sicknesses are of different types and degrees of severity. Some sicknesses affect the fast while others do not.
A sick person has one of these three scenarios
Does not get effected by fasting. Examples of this are having a minor cold, a light headache, toothache etc. This individual is obligated to fast.
Experiences difficulty by fasting but it does not risk definite personal bodily harm. Examples of this are flu (unless the person is very old); certain common infections like tonsillitis; migraine headaches or severe tension headaches, etc. This individual is recommended not to fast.
Experiences difficulty by fasting and it causes personal bodily harm. Examples of this are kidney failure, diabetes, cancer etc. This individual is forbidden to fast and will be sinful for doing so. Hence, a person with a chronic disease is obligated not to fast.
As for making up the missed days of fasting: If the sickness is temporary with the hope of recovery, the person should make up those days sometime in the near future after recovery. However, if you have a chronic condition where the sickness is permanent and there is no hope of recovery, the person atones for the missed days by feeding a poor person twice daily for the amount of days he/she has missed.
A sick person who has a chronic condition does not fast. Instead, you get the same reward of fasting by feeding a poor person for everyday you miss.
This is an example of how to do so utilizing one of the many Muslim charity organizations.
If you live in the USA, by paying $10/per day ($300 total) to a charity organization. They will handle the rest of giving the money to those eligible.
One such organization is Islamic Relief