What Does This Verse Mean: “For Those Who Can Only Fast with Extreme Difficulty, Compensation Can Be Made” [Quran, 2:183]?

Answered By Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Abu Bakr Badhib


What does it mean when Allah (Most High) says, “For those who can only fast with extreme difficulty, compensation can be made”?


In the name of Allah, and all praise is due to Allah, and blessings and peace be upon our master Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, his Family, his Companions, and those who follow him.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is known to be one of the pillars of Islam, as is necessarily known from the religion. Among the rulings related to obligatory fasting are the issues of expiatory payment (fidya) and expiation (kaffara).

Among the noble verses related to the fidya is the saying of Allah (Most High):

“For those who can only fast with extreme difficulty, compensation can be made by feeding a needy person (for every day not fasted).” [Quran, 2:183]

This noble verse encompasses several discussions, which we will try to summarize in the following:

First: Readings

Regarding the reading (interpretation) of “yutiqunahu (يطيقونه),” Imam Tabari said:

“The reading of all Muslims is ‘(وعلى الذين يطيقونه),’ and this is how their mushafs (copies of the Quran) are written. This is the reading that none of the people of Islam may contradict, as it has been correctly transmitted from generation to generation.”

He then mentioned that it has been narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas in a narration with the wording: “(وعلى الذين يطوّقُونه),” saying, “This is an odd reading not recited by anyone.” [Tabari, Tafsir al-Tabari]

Second: Meaning

Regarding the meaning of “yutiqunahu (يطيقونه)”:

  • Imam Tabari said: “Some said that this was in the beginning when fasting was prescribed. Those among the residents who were able to fast, fasted if they wished; and if they wished, they could break their fast and pay an expiation, feeding a poor person for each day they broke their fast until this ruling was abrogated.” [Ibid.]
  • Baghawi said: “Ibn Abbas read it (يطيقونه) with a damma on the ya, a fatha on the ta, lightening of the ta, a fatha on the waw, and a shadda on it, (meaning: yutawwaqunahu (يطوّقُونه)), i.e., they find fasting burdensome. Its interpretation is that it applies to the elderly man and woman who cannot bear fasting and the sick person whose recovery is not expected; they find fasting burdensome and are unable to do it, so they are allowed to break their fast and feed a poor person for each day, and this is the opinion of Sa‘id Ibn Jubayr, considering the verse not abrogated.” [Ibid.]

Third: Abrogated Or Not

Based on the previous disagreement regarding the ruling of capability and its timing, it becomes clear that this ruling is based on the disagreement regarding the abrogation of the verse or its continuity. There are two opinions on this matter:

The First Opinion: That it has been abrogated, and there is disagreement on the timing of its abrogation:

  • According to Ibn Umar, Salama Ibn al-Akwa, and others, at the beginning of Islam, they were given a choice between fasting, breaking their fast, and paying a fidya. Allah (Most High) gave them this choice so as not to make it difficult for them, as they were not accustomed to fasting. Then, the choice was abrogated, and the decree of fasting was revealed with His saying:“So whoever is present this month, let them fast.” [Quran, 2:185]
  • Qatada said: It specifically applies to the elderly who can fast, but it would be difficult for them. They were allowed to break their fast and pay a fidya, which was then abrogated.
  • Hasan said: This applies to the sick who bear a condition that falls under the definition of illness and who are capable of fasting. They were given a choice between fasting and breaking their fast to pay a fidya. This was then abrogated with His saying: “So whoever is present this month, let them fast.” [Quran, 2:185], and the exemption was established for those who are unable to fast.

The Second Opinion: A group believes that the verse is clear and not abrogated. Its meaning is that those who were capable of fasting in their youth but became unable to do so due to old age are required to pay the fidya (expiratory payment) instead of fasting. [Tabari, Tafsir al-Tabari]


Based on the above, Shafi‘i jurists have used this noble verse as evidence for rulings on fasting for those unable to fast due to incurable illness or severe hardship. Ramli said in (Fath al-Rahman):

“It is obligatory for one who breaks their fast due to old age that prevents them from fasting, or if it causes them severe hardship, to give a mudd (a specific measure) of food for each day. The same applies to one who cannot fast due to an incurable illness; as Allah (Most High) says: ‘For those who can only fast with extreme difficulty, compensation can be made by feeding a needy person (for every day not fasted).’” [Quran, 2:183]

Ibn Hajar al-Haytami said in (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj): As for the pregnant and breastfeeding women who are not confused and are neither on a journey nor sick if they break their fast fearing for their own safety that could lead to a situation permitting Tayammum (dry ablution); they are obligated to make up the fast without fidya (expiratory payment), similar to a sick person expected to recover.

And if the fear for the child is added to that, because it occurs subsequently, and because when the prohibitor, which is the fear for oneself, is combined. Don’t you see that for one who breaks their fast fearing death upon themselves for other reasons, the obligation of the mudd (a measure of food given as charity) and the cause, which is the fear for the child, are nullified; the prohibitor prevails.

Or if they feared for the child alone that it might cause miscarriage or decrease in milk, that could lead to a situation permitting Tayammum (dry ablution), even if it is from a volunteer who breastfeeds or is hired for it and is not exclusively designated as when multiple nurses are involved as stated in al-Majmu‘; they are most likely obliged to pay the fidya, according to Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) regarding His (Most High) saying: ‘For those who can only fast with extreme difficulty, compensation can be made’ [Quran, 2:184], that it is abrogated except in their case, and in other texts, they are obliged to make up the fast and also the fidya in the most likely view.” [Haytami, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj]

Marvels of the Quran

This verse can accommodate much more explanation and interpretation, and how many a marvel of linguistic and jurisprudential miracle does the Book of Allah contain, leaving the observer bewildered and amazed at the greatness of this miraculous speech.

We ask Allah to open up for us the understanding of His noble Book and grant us contemplation, insightful consideration, and benefit. Allah is the Grantor of success and the Helper.

[Shaykh] Dr. Muhammad Abu Bakr Badhib

Shaykh Dr Muhammad Abu Bakr Badhib is a prominent Islamic scholar from Yemen. He was born in Shibam, Hadhramaut, in 1976. He received his degree in Shari‘a from Al-Ahqaf University, a master’s degree from the Islamic University of Beirut, and a PhD in Usul al-Din from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

He studied under great scholars such as Shaykh al-Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad, Shaykh Fadl Ba‘ fadl, Habib Salim al-Shatiri, Habib Ali Mashhur bin Hafeez, and others. He has served as the Director of Publications at Dar al-Fiqh, the former Deputy Director of Cultural Relations at Al-Ahqaf University, a former Assistant for Employee Affairs at Atiyah Iron Company, a researcher at the Sunna Center affiliated with the Dallah al-Baraka Foundation, and a researcher at Al-Furqan Foundation’s Makka al-Mukarrama and Madina al-Munawwara Encyclopedia branch.

Currently, he is a researcher at Al-Furqan Foundation’s Makka al-Mukarrama and Madina al-Munawwara Encyclopedia branch, teaches traditionally through the Ijaza system at Dar al-Fuqaha in Turkey, supervises the Arabic department at Nur al-Huda International Institute (SeekersGuidance), and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Manuscript House in Istanbul.

His works include “The Efforts of Hadhramaut Jurists in Serving the Shafi‘i School,” “Contributions of Hadhramaut Scholars in Spreading Islam and its Sciences in India,” and “Hada’iq al-Na‘im in Shafi‘i Fiqh.” He has also verified several books in Fiqh, history, the art of biographies, and Asanid (chains of narration).