The Ruling on a Sick or Traveling Person Fasting (by Imaam Muhammad bin Saalih Al-‘Uthaimeen)

Allaah, the Most High, says: And whoever amongst you is sick or on a journey, then (he may
make up) the same amount of missed days on other days. Allaah wants ease for you and He
doesn’t want to make things difficult for you.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 185]

A sick person falls into two types:

First: Whoever has an illness that is permanent and there is no anticipation of it being cured
(near term), like cancer for example, this person is not required to fast. This is because he does
not have a condition in which it is expected that he will be able to do it (i.e. the fast). However,
for every day missed, he must feed a needy person whether if it is by him gathering the same
amount of needy people as the days he missed and feeding all of them at once as Anas bin
Maalik (radyAllaahu ‘anhu) used to do when he was old, or it could be by dividing up the food
for the needy people according to the days missed and then giving every needy person a quarter
of a Prophetic saa’, i.e. what weighs about half a kilo and 10 grams of good wheat. It is better if
one serves meat or fat along with it in order to compliment the meal. The same applies to an
elderly person that is not able to fast, in that he should feed a needy person for every day missed.

Second: Whoever has a temporary illness that they will recover from, such as a fever and what
resembles that. This kind of illness has three scenarios:

1. Fasting will not burden or cause harm to him. Such a sick person is obligated to fast since he
has no excuse to abandon it.

2. Fasting will be difficult on him but it won’t cause any harm to him. In this situation it is
detested for him to fast because one is actually refraining from using Allaah’s allowance, while
at the same time he is burdening himself.

3. Fasting will harm him. In this situation, it is forbidden for him to fast because of the harm that
he will be inflicting upon himself. Allaah says: “And do not kill yourselves. Verily Allaah is
All-Merciful to you.” [Surah An-Nisaa: 29]

And He says: “And do not throw yourselves into destruction with your own hands.” [Surah
Al-Baqarah: 195] 
And in a hadeeth, the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “There is to be no harming
(of others) nor harming (of oneself).” Reported by Ibn Maajah and Al-Haakim, and An-
Nawawee said: “Its paths of narrations strengthen one another.”
One can find out if fasting will be harmful to a sick person by (1) that person feeling it to be
harmful on himself or by (2) him being informed of it by a trustworthy doctor. When a person
who falls under this category of being sick breaks his fast, he must make up the number of days
he missed when he recovers. But if he dies before he recovers then making up the missed days is
no longer binding upon him, since he is only obligated to fast the number of days missed on
other days, which he was not able to reach.

A traveler falls into two types:

First: Whoever intends by traveling to cheat his way out of fasting. It is not permissible for such
a person to break his fast, since cheating one’s way out of Allaah’s obligations does not remove
those obligations from him.

Second: Whoever does not intend the above by traveling. This person may fall into one of the
following three situations:

1. Fasting is extremely difficult upon him. In this case, it is forbidden for him to fast since one
time “The Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was fasting while on the military expedition
to conquer Makkah, when news reached him that the people found it difficult to fast and they
were looking at him to see what he would do. So he (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) called for a
cup of water after ‘Asr and drank from it while the people were looking at him. Later it was said
to him: ‘Some people are still fasting.’ So he (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied: ‘Those are
the disobedient ones. Those are the disobedient ones.’” [Reported by Muslim]

2. Fasting is difficult upon him, but not so severe. In this situation it is detested (makrooh) for
him to fast since he is refraining from one of Allaah’s allowances, while putting a burden upon

3. Fasting is not difficult upon him. In this case he may do whatever is easiest on him – whether
it is fasting or choosing not to fast. This is based on Allaah’s statement: “Allaah wants ease for
you and He doesn’t want to make things difficult for you.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 185]
The word “want” here takes on the meaning of love (i.e. He loves ease for you). If there is no
difference between fasting or not fasting, then fasting is more preferable, because this is what the
Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did, as is reported in Saheeh Muslim from Abud-Dardaa
(radyAllaahu ‘anhu) who said: “We went out (on a journey) with the Prophet (sallAllaahu
‘alayhi wa sallam) during Ramadaan under intense heat conditions to the point that each of us
would put his hand over his head (to cover it) due to the severe heat (of the sun). And no one
would be fasting among us except for the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)
and ‘Abdullaah bin Rawaaha.”

A traveler is considered to be traveling from the time he leaves his country to the time he returns
to it. And if he takes up residency in the land he travels to for a period of time, he is considered
to be traveling as long as he holds the intention that he will never reside there after the objective
for which he traveled there for in the first place is fulfilled.
So he is entitled to all of the allowances a traveler has even if the length of his residency extends
for a long time. This is since the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not mention any
time limit defining when a travel ends. And the foundation with regard to this issue is that one
remains in a traveler’s state and under its rules until there comes a proof that the travel has ended
and that its rules fail to apply.

There is no difference in breaking the fast while traveling between a time-constrained travel,
such as Hajj, ‘Umrah, visiting a relative, business travel, and so on and between a continuous
travel, such as journeys made by car service drivers such as taxis or other larger forms of
transportation (i.e. buses). When these drivers exit from their countries, they all enter into the
state of travelers and it is permissible for them to do whatever other travelers are permitted to do,
such as not fasting during Ramadaan, shortening the four rak’ah prayers into two rak’ahs, and
combining the Dhuhr and ‘Asr prayers and Maghrib and ‘Ishaa prayers, when there is a need for
Abstaining from the fast is better for them than fasting, if that is easier for them. And they can
make up the days missed during the winter. This is because these car service drivers have their
own country, which they ascribe to. So when they are in their country, then they are considered
residents and whatever applies for or against all other residents also applies for and against them.
And when they travel, they are considered travelers and whatever applies in favor or against
travelers also applies in favor or against them.
Source: Fusool fis-Siyaam wat-Taraaweeh waz-Zakaat

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