How to Benefit from Ramadan if you are Unable to Fast
By Musa Bukhari
Many of us love the feeling of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan. There is something deeply satisfying about collectively abstaining from food and drink, from dawn till dusk, and then nourishing your parched lips and dehydrated bodies with a glass of water. It can recharge your iman, recalibrate your heart, and provide spiritual nourishment to your soul. However, for some Muslims, Ramadan is a difficult time of the year because they are unable to fast. This may be due to a chronic illness or other circumstance that requires them not to fast for the sake of their health.
It is important to adopt the right perspective on matters outside of our control; this will impact us greatly, and allow us to be positive and hopeful during a juncture of adversity in our lives.
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Wondrous are the affairs of the believer. His affairs are all good, and this is only the case for the believer. When something pleasing happens to him, he is thankful, and it is good for him. When something harmful happens to him, he is patient, and it is good for him” (Muslim)
When we understand this concept, we will be able to navigate through our hardship with this lens. Allah states in the Qur'an that He wants ease for us, so when we are tested and specifically unable to fast, know this is a mercy from Allah, because there is good in it for us. It is a means for us to come closer to Him, to seek patience and persevere. It is an opportunity to cleanse ourselves of our sins, allowing us to undergo a process of humility – a coveted virtue for a believer.
In the Qur'an Allah says:
“The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights (the new moon of) the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” (2:185)
Reward for not fasting?
It is important to know when the obligation of fasting has been lifted from a person for whichever reason; this is part of the generosity of Allah (SWT). In fact, Allah will reward you for not fasting. This is because you are doing something to protect your health and take care of yourself, thus responding to the advice of Allah in the best manner for you. SubhanAllah.
Often, when one door closes another one opens. This is from the Mercy of Al Fattah (The Opener of Doors). If you are unable to fast in the month of Ramadan, you can still do an array of good deeds to maximise your efforts in this month, and seek the pleasure of Allah.
The goal of Ramadan is to gain piety, and fasting is a means to achieve this. But if this door is not accessible, try another one with the intention of reaching the goal of Ramadan.
Here is a list of acts of worship that you can do in place of fasting:
1. Read more Qur'an
This is the month of the Qur'an and it is therefore of great virtue to know what Allah is speaking about in His Book. If you struggle with the recitation, know you are blessed, because there are two rewards.
“Verily the one who recites the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have twice that reward.” (Bukhari)
2. Pray your Salah
It is one of the most important pillars of our faith and distinguishes us as believers to non-believers. Without Salah, you are truly in a state of deprivation.
"And seek help in patience and as-salat (the prayer) and truly, it is extremely heavy and hard except for al-khashi'un. (They are those) who are certain that they are going to meet their Lord, and that unto Him they are going to return."(Al-Qur'an 2:45-46)
3. Give in charity
Ramadan is often synonymous with charity giving. Make it a priority to give as a much as you are able to, and do not be shy if you consider the amount small. If you are struggling and still you give, it will weigh heavier on your scales insh'Allah.
“Give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
If you not able to give in charity monetarily, then remember:
“A charity is due for every joint in each person on every day the sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity; a good word is a charity; and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
4. Pray Taraweeh prayers
There is great virtue in praying at the masjid with the fellow brothers and sisters. If you are not able to attend the masjid, then listen to the recitation of your local Masjid online, or tune into the live Taraweeh prayers in Makkah which are available to stream online.
5. Make du'a
Ramadan is a month of giving and no one likes to give more than Allah to His creation. Use this month to pour your heart out to Allah, and ask Him from that which you need. Allah is shy to turn away a believer who asks.
Salman al-Farsi reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, Allah is shy and generous. He would be shy, when a man raises his hands to him, to turn them away empty and unfulfilled.” (Tirmidhi)
It is important to remember that this month is for everyone and not just for the fasting person. Make your intention clear with every deed you endeavour to perform and Allah will give you the reward and benefit of the intended insh'Allah.
May Allah allow us to make the most of this blessed month despite our health circumstances. May we see beyond the obstacles and focus on the light, always. Ameen.