When Can a Sick Person Break Their Fast?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Dr. Mohammad Fayez Awad


Is fasting mandatory for a sick person?


All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. Blessings and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah, his Family, and his Companions.

Allah (Most High) has legislated decrees that ensure the preservation of life and protect it from harm, and He has mandated that people do everything possible to preserve their lives and avoid what damages them. Allah (Most High) said:

“And do not kill (each other or) yourselves. Surely Allah is ever Merciful to you.” [Quran, 4:29]

Therefore, Allah (Most High) has granted a concession to those who are unable to fast to break their fast during the month of Ramadan. Allah (Most High) said:

“But whoever of you is ill or on a journey, then (let them fast) an equal number of days (after Ramadan).” [Quran, 2:184]

The scholars unanimously agree that illness generally justifies breaking the fast.

The illness referred to here includes any disease that may worsen with fasting or delay recovery due to fasting; both situations allow for breaking the fast during Ramadan. If fasting leads to destruction or severe harm, then it is obligatory for the sick person to break their fast. Imam Shirbini (Allah have mercy on him) said: “Breaking the fast is obligatory if there is fear of destruction, as explicitly stated by Imam Ghazali and others, and decisively by Imam Adhra‘i.” [Shirbini, Mughni al-Muhtaj]

There are two types of illness:

First: Chronic and Persistent Illness

Those whose illness is chronic and persistent, with no hope of it going away, are not required to fast because there is no foreseeable condition in which they could. However, they should feed a poor person for each day of missed fasting, and the same applies to the elderly who are unable to fast.

Second: Temporary Illness

Those whose illness is temporary and there is hope of it going away fall into three conditions:

The first condition: If fasting does not cause hardship or harm, then fasting is obligatory, as there is no excuse. This includes conditions like headaches, fever, toothaches, or pain in a finger or leg. This also covers diseases where one can delay taking the medication until after breaking the fast or during the pre-dawn meal. Imam Nawawi said:

“As for the minor illness which does not cause noticeable hardship, it is not permissible for him to break without any dispute among us.” [Nawawi, al-Majmu‘]

The second condition: If fasting causes hardship but does not harm, it is disliked for him to fast because it deviates from the concession provided by Allah (Most High), despite the hardship it imposes on himself. This is what scholars call “the illness for which breaking fast is permissible,” meaning it permits the individual to break the fast but does not obligate it. This illness allows one to fast, but with harm and hardship that does not lead to destruction, or increase in illness leading to destruction, or exacerbation and worsening of illness in the body.

Imam Nawawi stated:

“The condition for an illness to permit breaking fast is that fasting with it causes harm and hardship that are difficult to bear.” [Nawawi, Rawdat al-Talibin]

The third condition: If fasting harms him, then it is forbidden for him to fast due to the harm it brings upon himself. Allah (Most High) said:

“And do not kill (each other or) yourselves. Surely Allah is ever Merciful to you.” [Quran, 4:29]

He (Most High) also said:

“Do not let your own hands throw you into destruction (by withholding). And do good, for Allah certainly loves the good-doers.” [Quran, 2:195]

In a hadith from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), he said:

“There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.” [Malik; Hakim; Bayhaqi]

The harm of fasting on a sick person is identified either by the person’s own sense of harm or through the advice of a trustworthy doctor.

What Is Required of a Sick Person If They Break Their Fast?

  1. If someone with a curable illness breaks their fast and then recovers, they are required to make up the days they missed fasting, as Allah (Most High) said:

    “But whoever of you is ill or on a journey, then (let them fast) an equal number of days (after Ramadan).” [Quran, 2:184]

    Ibn Hajar al-Haytami said: “If the traveler and the sick break their fast, they must make it up, according to the verse, as well as menstruating women and postpartum women, by consensus.” [Haythami, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj]

  2. If someone with an incurable disease, such as a chronic illness, breaks their fast, they must feed a poor person for each day missed, as Allah (Most High) said:

    “For those who can only fast with extreme difficulty, compensation can be made by feeding a needy person (for every day not fasted).” [Quran, 2:184] [Nawawi, al-Majmu‘; Ramli, Nihayat al-Muhtaj]


In summary, breaking the fast is permissible due to illness, worsening of the illness, or delayed recovery caused by fasting. Those who are able to make up the fast should do so after Ramadan, while those unable to do so must pay expiratory payment (fidya).

We ask Allah (Most High) to grant a complete recovery that leaves no trace of illness. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds.

[Shaykh] Dr. Muhammad Fayez Awad

Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Fayez Awad, born in Damascus, Syria, in 1965, pursued his Islamic studies in the mosques and institutes of Damascus. A graduate of the Islamic University of Medina in 1985, he holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Bahauddin Zakariya University in Pakistan.

He has extensive experience developing curricula and enhancing the teaching of various academic courses, including conducting intensive courses. Shaykh Awad has taught Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Quranic sciences, the history of legislation, inheritance laws, and more at several institutes and universities such as Al-Furqan Institute for Islamic Sciences and Majma‘ al-Fath al-Islami in Damascus.

He is a lecturer at the Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih Waqf University in Istanbul, teaching various Arabic and Islamic subjects, and teaches at numerous Islamic institutes in Istanbul. Shaykh Awad is a member of the Association of Syrian Scholars, a founding member of the Zayd bin Thabit Foundation, a member of the Syrian Scholars Association, and a member of the Academic Council at the Iman Center for Teaching the Sunna and Quran.

Among his teachers from whom he received Ijazat are his father, Shaykh Muhammad Muhiyiddin Awad, Shaykh Muhiyiddin al-Kurdi, Shaykh Muhammad Karim Rajih, Shaykh Usama al-Rifai, Shaykh Ayman Suwaid, Shaykh Ahmad al-Qalash, Shaykh Muhammad Awwama, and Shaykh Mamduh Junayd.