It is not unusual to encounter questions, especially from friends, brothers, and sisters from other faiths, about the concept of “compulsory or mandatory fasting in Ramadan.” These important questions, among others, inspired me to “attempt to highlight” the principles and conditions under which fasting is mandatory for a Muslim in the month of Ramadan.

The Concept of Fasting                                                                                          

Undoubtedly, fasting is said to be as old as humanity. It is described as an important activity in many circles, including religion, science, and medicine in certain instances. Accordingly, from a physiological perspective, fasting may be referred to as the metabolic state of a person who has not eaten overnight, or the metabolic state achieved after complete digestion and absorption of a meal.

In the religious space, fasting is highly encouraged and promoted albeit in different ways and forms. Accordingly, all Messengers and Prophets of God practiced and promoted fasting during their time on earth. For example, King David (AS) said, “…I humbled myself with fasting…” (Psalm 35:13, New King James Version; see Ezra 8:21). Elijah (AS) fasted while escaping Jezebel (1 Kings 19:4-8). Moses (AS) fasted before receiving the Commandments (Deuteronomy 9:9-18), Jesus (AS) fasted before temptation by Satan (Matthew 4:1-2), and 2024 Lent (40 days of fasting) is ongoing among the Christian faith across the globe and is expected to end by end of March.  

In Islam, the concept of fasting is derived from both the Hadith of the Prophet (Muhammad, PBUH) and the Qur’an. There are two main types of fasting in Islam namely; Voluntary Fasting, which can be done in any other month, and “Compulsory Fasting in the Month of Ramadan”.

In the Qur’an (2:183), Allah (SWT) says: "O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous". In another verse, Allah says: "...But to fast is best for you, if you only knew." (Qur’an 2:184).

Fasting in the Month of Ramadan

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of the Muslim faith. It is believed that the blessed month of fasting contains great virtue. It is a means of attaining piety and the consciousness of our maker, Allah (God). One of the Quranic verses mentions taqwa, which means doing what Allah has enjoined and avoiding what He has forbidden. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the greatest means of helping a person fulfill the commands of Allah.

The Messenger of Allah (Muhammad, PBUH) is reported to have said: “There has come to you Ramadan, a blessed month which Allah has enjoined you to fast, during which the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the rebellious devils are chained up. In it, there is a night which is better than a thousand months, and whoever is deprived of its goodness is indeed deprived.” (Nasai, 2106; Ahmad, 8769). He also said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and in hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven (Bukhari: 38) and (Muslim: 759).

Fasting teaches restraint, the ability to control worldly desires, and spending time in prayers and meditation. Ramadan is a gift from Allah (SWT), an opportunity for Muslims to earn His blessings, as well as a way to seek salvation and forgiveness.


The principles behind fasting in Ramadan are deeply rooted in Islamic teachings and carry both spiritual and practical significance, some of which are:

Renewal of Faith, Consciousness of, and Obedience to Allah: Fasting is the time of renewal of faith with Allah. During this period, Muslims recommit themselves to living according to Islamic principles and values, and strengthen their obedience to Allah's commands. For Muslims, it is regarded as an essential obligation, and carrying it out is seen as a sign of surrender to Allah's will.

Spiritual Reflection, purification, and Self-Discipline: Fasting during Ramadan means more than just giving up food, liquids, and other necessities during the day. It also entails introspection and self-control. During this month, Muslims are urged to pray more, recite the Quran more often, and perform charitable deeds. They also develop self-discipline and self-control by resisting physical desires.

Seeking Forgiveness and Mercy: Ramadan is regarded as a month of mercy and forgiving. For Muslims, fasting during this month offers a chance to purify the soul, ask for pardon for past transgressions, and obtain Allah's forgiveness and blessings.

Solidarity and Empathy: Fasting cultivates compassion and understanding for the less fortunate. Through fasting, the rich can feel and understand the situation of the poor, and how they suffer from hunger. Muslims are reminded of their privileges and are urged to express gratitude for what they have while feeling compassion for those who are less fortunate and go without food regularly. It promotes charity.

Bonding and Unity: Ramadan fasting fosters bonding and community unity. The shared experience of preparation for fasting (Suhoor) and breaking the fast (iftaar) with family, friends, and fellow Muslims fosters a sense of unity and belonging.


Although fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam binding on every mature and able Muslim, there are certain categories of people (Muslims) who are exempted from fasting. Allah says “…Whoever of you witnesses the month, shall fast it. But whoever is sick, or on a journey, then a number of other days. God desires ease for you, and does not desire hardship for you, that you may complete the number, and celebrate God for having guided you, so that you may be thankful” (Qur’an 2:185).

He further says “…For those who can only fast with extreme difficulty, compensation can be made by feeding a needy person for every day not fasted. But whoever volunteers to give more, it is better for them. And to fast is better for you, if only you knew” (Qur’an 2:184). These exemptions are provided to ensure the well-being and health of individuals and to accommodate specific circumstances.

A breakdown of those who are exempted from fasting during Ramadan include:

Children: Children who are not yet in puberty do not have to fast. But when they approach puberty, which usually occurs around the age of adolescence, they MAY start learning how to fast progressively.

The Sick: Those who are ill or have health conditions that could be exacerbated by fasting are exempted. For temporal illness, a person is NOT supposed to fast when NOT well but will fast after Ramadan, in fulfillment of the number of days missed during Ramadan. Therefore, when a person falls sick even in the course of fasting during the day, one is encouraged to break the fast for the sake of his or her health until one is fully recovered. In the case of permanent health-related issues, a person in this category IS NOT supposed to fast at all. Instead, the person is required, if capable, to provide for the needy who is or are fasting. According to Islam, this act, if genuine and sincere, will accord you the rewards as though you fasted. It is therefore recommended for individuals to consult healthcare professionals to determine if fasting would negatively impact their health.

The Aged: Older people who are too feeble or have memory issues or health problems related to aging are not mandated to fast. This category of people MAY feed a needy person for the days as compensation for the days not fasted.

Pregnant Women or Expectant Mothers: If fasting would be harmful to either the pregnant woman or the expectant woman's health, they are excused from fasting. If at all possible, they should try to make up for any missed fasts at a later date. They are encouraged to make up for any missed fasts at a later time if possible.

Breastfeeding Mother: Women who are breastfeeding are exempted from fasting if they fear it would harm their health or the health of the child. However, they are also encouraged to make up for any missed fasts at a later time if possible.

Menstruating Women: Menstruating women are also exempted from fasting throughout their menstrual period. They are however obligated to make up for the missed fasts at a later time.

The Wayfarer or Traveler: Travelers or wayfarers who are undertaking a journey where fasting will be burdensome are not required to fast. Until they have finished their journey, they can choose to fast or delay fasting. They are however required to fast for the number of days missed after Ramadan.

Those Experiencing Extreme Hardship: accordingly, people who are facing extreme hardship or exceptional circumstances that make fasting excessively difficult or harmful are exempted. In such cases, it's important to seek guidance from knowledgeable religious authorities.

Overall, it's important to reiterate that while individuals in these categories are exempted from fasting during Ramadan, they are encouraged to make up for missed fasts when they can do so. Additionally, for those who are unable to fast due to, especially permanent, health reasons are required to feed the needy (fidya) for each day missed. …and Allah knows best. May He forgive us and grant us the full blessings and rewards for our efforts. Ramadan Mubarak.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.