Who Can Fast?
Fasting the month of Ramadan fulfills one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is compulsory for anyone of age who prays. Excpetions are given as follows:
- All under age children (not of the age of which prayer is mandatory).
- The sick. There are two categories here: those who are temporarily ill and thus they make up the days later on and those who are so ill or have a medical condition that inhibits them from fasting. The later may compensate by feeding the poor.
- Pregnant women. A woman may fast, however if there is any risk of harm to the child then she must not. The days are made up later on.
- A breastfeeding woman. She has the choice of either making up that fast when she is able to, or paying for that day by feeding a poor person.
- A menstruating woman. It is not permissible to fast while menstruating. The days are made up later on.
- Travelers. Anyone on a journey may make up the days later on.
Shaykh Joe Bradford raises a good question: "Does a person have to pay for the day AND make up the fast for that day as well?" He states, "the companions of the Prophet ﷺ have ruled that they are exclusive and do not have to be done together". For the full article, read here.
In general, the fast is about putting one's focus on God, striving to do actions that will bring you closer to God and engaging in all manner of worship (prayer, dhikr, reading Qur'an, giving charity, visiting the sick and elderly, etc.). Abu Hurayrah narrated,
“The Prophet ﷺ as saying: Fast is a shield ; when one of you is fasting, he should neither behave in an obscene manner nor foolishly. If a man fights or abuses him, he should say: I am fasting, I am fasting.” Sunan Abi Dawud, 2363
الصِّيَامُ جُنَّةٌ إِذَا كَانَ أَحَدُكُمْ صَائِمًا فَلاَ يَرْفُثْ وَلاَ يَجْهَلْ فَإِنِ امْرُؤٌ قَاتَلَهُ أَوْ شَاتَمَهُ فَلْيَقُلْ إِنِّي صَائِمٌ إِنِّي صَائِمٌ