What is the guidance about fasting during a journey or illness?
Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Quran:
فَمَنْ كَانَ مِنْكُمْ مَّرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ
“And whoso among you is sick or is on a journey [shall fast] the same number of other days.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.185)
The above-mentioned Quranic injunction clearly states that one should refrain from fasting during a journey or in sickness and make up the lost count on other days.
Hazrat Amrra ibn Umayyah reported, “I came to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, from a journey and he said, ‘Stay, so that we can eat, O Abu Umayyah.’ I said, ‘I am fasting.’ The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa said, ‘Come close to me and I will tell you about the traveler. Surely, Allah Almighty has relieved him from fasting and half of the prayer.’” (Sunan al-Nasai, Kitab as-Saum)
It should be noted here that we find certain sayings of the Holy Prophetsa which show that he did sometimes fast whilst travelling but this happened only when he was keeping voluntary fasts and not the fasts of Ramadan.
Hazrat Jabirra relates that once, the Holy Prophetsa was on a journey and he saw a crowd around a person over whom a shade had been erected. The Holy Prophetsa asked “What is the matter?” to which the people replied that the man was fasting. The Holy Prophetsa said, “It is no virtue to keep a fast while travelling.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab as-Saum)
The Promised Messiahas states:
“Whosoever fasts in Ramadan during sickness or journey clearly disobeys the command of God. God has clearly said that the sick and travellers should not fast. A sick person should fast after recovering from sickness and the traveller should fast after completing the journey. This injunction should be heeded for repentance is through the grace of Allah and not by a forceful exhibition of one’s physical strength. God has not specified what the length of the journey should be, nor has he set a criterion for the degree of sickness. The injunction is general and thus, if a person keeps a fast, they are succumbing to transgression against the command of God.” (Badr, 17 October 1907, p.7)
Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra writes that Mian Fazl Muhammad Sahib (shopkeeper, Mahalla Dar-ul-Fazl) wrote to him saying,
“During litigation with Maulvi Muhammad Hussain Batalvi, for a court hearing, we had to go to Dhariwal. It was a hot summer’s day and in the month of Ramadan. Many friends had convened at Dhariwal, many of whom were fasting. One of the influential chieftains [who was a lady] extended an invitation to the Promised Messiahas. Huzooras accepted the invitation. The chieftess presented sweet rice alongside other foods. Some companions asked Huzooras regarding their fasts. Huzooras said, ‘It is not permissible to fast while on a journey.’ Therefore, all of the companions broke their fasts.” (Siratul-Mahdi, Vol. 2, p. 303)
During Ramadan, if a woman’s menstrual cycle begins, she should stop fasting and make up for the remaining fasts on other days. The woman who is pregnant or breast feeding is exempted from fasting because she falls in the category of sick. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa said:
“Allah has relieved the pregnant woman and the suckling woman from fasting.” (Sunan Abu Dawood, Kitab as-Saum)
According to the saying of the Promised Messiahas, those who are permanently sick, travellers or mothers who know that they will not find the opportunity to fast, either because of being very old or breast-feeding, they should not fast and should give Fidya because it is almost impossible for them to fast. (Al Badr, 24 October 1907, p. 3)
What is the guidance for the one who journeys for work?
If someone travels far for work or their livelihood is based on travelling, then they must fast because they are used to this routine.
Once the Promised Messiahas was asked about the person who travels for work whether such a person’s travel fall in the category of a journey? Huzooras replied:
“[The person who travels for work] their journeys should not be considered journeys because they are part of their work.” (Al Fazl, 16 August 1948)
What is the guidance for the one who travels to Markaz or temporarily settles somewhere during Ramadan?
Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra said:
“When Jalsa Salana was due in Ramadan and the question arose of whether or not the visitors should fast during the days of Jalsa, an individual reported that in the time of the Promised Messiahas, when the Jalsa was held during Ramadan, they personally served Sehri [as breakfast] to the guests. In the given circumstances, on the basis of the edict given by the Promised Messiahas, I have permitted the visitors of Jalsa to observe fasts. Previous scholars even permitted observing fasts on journeys, and non-Ahmadi maulvis of today do not consider modern-day travels worthy of being called a journey. Nonetheless, the Promised Messiahas forbade observing fasts during journeys, however he himself has permitted to observe fasts whilst staying in Qadian [the Markaz]. Thus, it is improper to consider one of his edicts and abandon another.” (Al Fazl, 4 January 1934, pp. 3-4)
The general guidance is that if someone settles somewhere for at least 15 days or more and they are able to make preparations for Sehri and Iftari, they should observe fasts.
However, Hazrat Syed Muhammad Sarwar Shahra states that the Promised Messiahas said about fasting:
“If somebody stays somewhere for more than three days, they may fast but they may not do so if they are staying for less than three days. If somebody who is staying for less than three days observes fasts in Qadian, then there is no need to fast again [in compensation].” (Fatawa Hazrat Syed Muhammad Sarwar Shah Sahib, Register no. 5, Dar-ul-Ifta, Rabwah)
Thus, it all solely depends on the heart and intention of the person. If someone considers their journey worthy of falling in the category of a journey, they should refrain from fasting. On the other hand, if they realise that their travel does not fall in the category of journey, they should fast.
What is the guidance for the one whose illness does not affect their fast?
The term “illness” has not been defined by Allah the Almighty in the Holy Quran. Thus, regarding an illness, one should decide with Taqwa if someone is able to fast or not. The Promised Messiahas said:
“There are certain kinds of illnesses in which a person continues to perform other works … Hence, if one can find time to perform other works, then what is the reason that he does not observe fasts?” (Al Fazl, 16 August 1948)
It should be borne in mind that if doctors do not recommend fasting, one must refrain from fasting.
The Promised Messiahas states:
“As far as I am concerned, I do not leave a fast unless it is likely to cause my death; I do not feel inclined to leave a fast. These are blessed days and the days of the showering of God’s blessings and mercy.” (Al Hakam, 24 January 1901)
What are those actions and conditions by which a fast does not break?
Below is the list of certain actions and situations which do not render a fast invalid:
Brushing your teeth or using miswak (a teeth cleaning twig)
Rinsing your mouth
Rinsing your nose
Putting oil on your beard or hair
Smelling or wearing perfume
Taking a shower
Putting on surma (but it is better to apply it at night)
Forgetfully eating or drinking