What Are the Excuses for Breaking One’s Fast?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered By Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Fayez Awad


What are the excuses that allow a fasting person to break their fast?


Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and peace and blessings be upon His noble messenger, his family, and all his companions.

Indeed, lifting hardship and not inflicting harm or difficulty on the obligated individual are among the primary objectives considered by Islamic law. This is supported by evidence from the Quran and the Sunna. In this regard, Allah (Most High) says:

“Allah intends ease for you, not hardship.” [Quran, 2:185], and

“And it is Allah’s Will to lighten your burdens.” [Quran, 4:28], and

“And (He) laid upon you no hardship in the religion.” [Quran, 22:78]

Narrated by Ibn ‘Umar from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), who said:

“Indeed, Allah loves that His permissions are utilized just as He hates that His prohibitions are violated.” [Ibn Khuzayma; Ibn Hibban; Ahmad; Ibn Abi Shayba]

Legal Maxims

Based on these texts, scholars have established a number of legal maxims that aim to lift hardship and remove harm and difficulty from the obligated; among these are their statements:

“Hardship brings ease,” “Harm is to be removed by Shari‘a,” “When matters become constricted, they also become broad,” and similar maxims established by jurists.

Allah (Most High) mentioned two excuses in the verses concerning fasting, saying:

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

The verses also hint at a third excuse, which is incapacity, in Allah’s statement:

“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]

Valid Excuses

Therefore, the valid excuses for breaking the fast are:

  1. Illness that causes severe harm, pain, or extreme discomfort to the individual. If the illness or pain intensifies to the point where one fears for their life, then breaking the fast becomes obligatory.
  2. Pregnancy and breastfeeding. Scholars have agreed that it is permissible for pregnant and breastfeeding women to break their fast if they fear for themselves or their children; this is based on the saying of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace):

    “Indeed, Allah has exempted the traveler from fasting and half of the prayer, and from the pregnant and breastfeeding women from fasting.” [Ibn Khuzayma; Abu Dawud; Tirmidhi]

    They must make up for the days they have missed whenever possible. It’s important to note that merely being pregnant or breastfeeding does not permit breaking the fast in Ramadan; rather, it is the fear for oneself or one’s child that does.

  3. Long-distance travel of at least 83 km, provided that the travel is permissible, and assuming the journey occupies the entirety of the day. However, if one begins the day fasting while residing and then undertakes travel during the day, it is not permissible to break the fast.
  4. Inability to fast due to old age or a chronic illness with no hope of recovery because fasting is only obligatory for those who are capable of it. This is evidenced by the verse:

    “For those who can only fast with extreme difficulty (يُطِيقُونَهُ), compensation can be made by feeding a needy person (for every day not fasted).” [Quran, 2:184]

    It has also been recited as (يُطوَّقُونَهُ), meaning they are obligated but cannot endure it. [Khin, Bugha, and Sharbaji, al-Fiqh al-Manhaji ‘ala Madhhab al-Imam al-Shafi‘i]

    Ata’ reported hearing Ibn ‘Abbas recite: “(وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطَوَّقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ ) For those who find it burdensome, compensation can be made by feeding a needy person (for every day not fasted).”

    Ibn Abbas said: “It is not abrogated; it refers to the old man and the old woman who are unable to fast, so they should feed a poor person for each day.” [Bukhari]

This elucidates the greatness and perfection of our Sacred Law. How could it not be when it is a revelation from the Wise, the Praiseworthy? Thus, it is incumbent upon a Muslim to adhere to it and follow its path to gain the pleasure of Allah (Most High). So, praise be to Allah for the blessing of fasting and for the relief granted to His servants. Indeed, He is All-Wise, All-Acquainted, All-Kind, and All-Merciful.

May Allah’s peace, blessings, and mercy be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his Family, and all his Companions.

[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.