The daily fast is expected of all Muslims who have reached adulthood, as marked by puberty, but many children also fast in preparation for their adult responsibilities.
During Ramadan, accommodations can be made when someone is unable to fast because of sickness or other health reasons.
People regarded as insane are exempt from fasting, as are children, elderly people of feeble health, and women who are pregnant or who are in menstruation.
A person who is traveling during Ramadan is not required to fast during the period of travel. Anyone who fails to fast due to temporary causes, however, must make up the days later, if possible, or compensate in other ways.
For some people, fasting during Ramadan would be detrimental to their health. The Quran recognizes this in Surah Baqarah:
But if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (of Ramadan days) should be made up from days later. For those who cannot do this except with hardship is a ransom: the feeding of one that is indigent… Allah intends every ease for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties… (Quran 2:184-185).
Who Makes up for Missed Days of Ramadan?
Islamic scholars have summarized the rules as follows:
- If someone is temporarily sick or has a condition that resolves later (such as with pregnancy), one should make up each day of Ramadan missed with another day of fasting later—one day for each day missed—at any other time of year. These days need not be continuous. One should try to make up these missed fasting days as soon, but certainly before the beginning of the next year’s Ramadan.
- If someone has a chronic health condition that is not expected to resolve, one should donate enough food to charity to feed one person for each day of the fasting month. This is often the solution for the elderly or those with other health issues that make fasting dangerous, such as diabetes or intestinal problems.
- If someone deliberately breaks the fast or misses a day of fasting for no legitimate reason, it is also necessary to also make up the missed day later. When someone breaks the fast by engaging in sexual intercourse, they must also observe a penalty: fasting 60 continuous days or feeding 60 poor people.