Question: What are the excuses that allow a person not to fast?
The legal excuses that allow a person not to fast are as follows:
1. Illness: A person who is ill or whose illness becomes worse when observing the fast does not fast, or can break the fast if fasting. The same rule applies to the one who cares for an ill person. If one has difficulty in caring for an ill person, one is allowed not to fast.
2. Traveling: A person who travels to a distance of 104 km or more becomes a traveler (safari) at a place where he/she stays less than 15 days. If fasting during a journey causes inconvenience or problems with your work or a situation that may result in an accident, then it is permissible to abandon the fast and to make up for it later. It was declared in a hadith-i sharif, "It is not piety to observe the fast with difficulty during a journey" (Bukhari).
3. Pregnancy and breastfeeding: A pregnant or a nursing woman does not fast if fasting harms her or her baby. It was stated in a hadith-i sharif, "Allahu ta'ala gave permission to a pregnant woman and a nursing woman not to observe the fast. He postponed their fasting" (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai).
The rule is the same whether a woman nurses her own baby or someone else's baby.
4. Hunger and thirst: When a person is overcome by extremely strong hunger and thirst, if there is the danger of death or if he/she is to lose his/her mind or if he/she is to become ill and suffer harm, then the fast can be broken.
5. Old age: If no recovery is expected from the illness of an elderly person who cannot fast, such a person gives special alms termed fidya for each day missed. The fidya for 30 days is 53 kg of flour, or it is also permissible to give the equivalent of the same in gold.
6. Being under duress: If people threaten a fasting person by saying, "If you do not break your fast, we will kill you or will cut off your limb," and if they are not bluffing and have the power to do what they are saying, then the fasting person can break the fast.
It is very thawab to fast in the holy month of Ramadan, and it is a grave sin not to fast without a good excuse. However, if there is a religiously sanctioned excuse, then it is not sinful not to observe the fast. It was declared in a hadith-i sharif: "If a person does not fast for a single day in Ramadan without a good excuse, he cannot earn the thawab of this single day, even if he fasts for all the year round instead of it" (Tirmidhi).