Should sick people fast in Ramadan?

Many of us suffer from chronic illnesses, which honestly put in a dilemma – should we fast during the holy month of Ramadan or not? While nobody wants to miss out on the rewards of Ramadan, health doesn’t always permit us to reap its benefits. So what happens when we are sick? Are we still required to fast for the sake of Allah or is it okay to skip the fasts? In a nutshell, should sick people fast in Ramadan?

Should sick people fast in Ramadan?

Should sick people fast?

The general ruling is that if fasting will be too harmful or difficult for the one who is sick, it is better for him/her not to fast, and to make up for the missed days fast later on. It is not mustahab for him to fast if it is too difficult. 

Ibn ‘Umar said: The Messenger of Allah SAWS (peace be upon him) said: “Allah loves His concessions to be accepted just as He hates for acts of disobedience to be committed.”
Ahmad (5832) 

‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “The Messenger of Allah SAWS (peace be upon him) was never given the choice between two things but he would choose the easier of them, unless it was a sin. If it was a sin he would be the furthest away from it.” 

al-Bukhaari (6786) and Muslim (2327)

Both of these Hadith show that it is mustahab to choose the easier option .i.e. of not fasting if it’s detrimental to your health. 

On the contrary, scholars say that it is makrooh for one who is sick to fast if fasting is too difficult for him because it falls under the category of self harm. In fact, His fasting may be haram if there is the fear that he may be harmed because of fasting. 

Two scenarios may apply here: 

  1. One is not able to fast at all, so he has to break his fast and it is obligatory for him not to fast. 
  1. If he is able to fast but that will cause him harm and be difficult for him. In this case it is mustahab for him to break his fast. In this case only an ignorant person would fast.

    This is substantiated by a single, but clear verse of the Qur’an:
    “And do not kill yourselves”
    [al-Nisa’ 4:29]

When scholars were asked should sick people fast…

Ibn Qudaamah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Mughni, 4/404: 

If a sick person is able to put up with fasting and does so, then he has done something which is makrooh. This is because of the harm that results from that and because he has neglected the concession granted by Allaah. 

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Sharh al-Mumti’ (6/352): 

From this we realize the mistake made by the mujahideen and sick people for whom fasting is difficult and may even cause them harm, but they refuse to break the fast. We said that they are making a mistake when they do not accept the kindness of Allah and the concession He has granted, and they are harming themselves. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):