While the questioners can argue that they are only seeking to “advise” their fellow believer out of genuine concern, ultimately this advice is seldom doled out tactfully or correctly. The advisers don’t have real medical knowledge or even Islamic knowledge, nor do they have a full understanding of the non-faster’s circumstances, nor are those circumstances any of the questioner’s business.
The decision not to fast is a difficult one, not taken easily and often accompanied by much sadness from feeling that one is missing an opportunity to receive many blessings and join the rest of the ummah acting as one body during this holy month. Non-fasting people do not need to add to their grief with any shaming and misplaced judgment.
The following list is of things Muslims say to their brothers and sisters who are not able to fast in Ramadan for a variety of reasons and that you should avoid repeating:
1- “Did a Muslim doctor excuse you?”
Not everyone has access to a Muslim doctor, and some reasons not to fast are very clear and not needing medical advice.
2- “Did you talk to your imam about it?”
Don’t assume they haven’t already sought advice and that they need yours.
3- “Did your husband say you can skip fasting?”
A husband should not compulsively try to force his spouse to fast or not fast, the decision belongs to the individual adult.
4- “You don’t have to travel right now, just wait until after Ramadan.”
You don’t know the hardship that may incur if they wait to travel and it’s not your concern.
5- “Did you try getting up for suhoor? You just need to eat more in the morning.”
Just eating more at suhoor is not a solution for everyone, this is why some people are excused.
6- “You could just take your medicine during the same hours that you can eat.”
This is dangerous medical “advice” dispensed by many non-medical persons.
7- “You just need to drink more water.”
Again, more water is not going to help someone who has an excuse to not fast.
8- “We eat too much anyway, your body will adjust to eating less, like the Sahaba did.”
People do not skip fasting just so they can continue to eat exuberant amounts of food. Actually, many people who are not fasting still reduce their intake to some degree during Ramadan.
9- “But you were fasting last week, so why not now?”
No one owes you an exhaustive explanation to why they aren’t fasting. The question especially should not be directed at women.
10- “I had that too and I fasted.”
Each person has their very own physiology and respond to the same conditions in different ways, plus they likely have other conditions or variables which further make their situation uniquely theirs alone.
11- “It’s always hardest the first few days.”
Yes it is, but they are still excused from all of them.
12- “My (insert so and so relation here) had that too and they fasted.”
Again, each person has their very own physiology and respond to the same conditions in different ways, plus they likely have other conditions or variables which further make their situation uniquely theirs alone.
13- “Did you at least try to fast?”
In some situations fasting for just a short period can have detrimental effects, but no one has to reveal to you whether they ‘just tried’ or fully accepted that they cannot fast.
14- “Are you sure you can’t fast?”
How many times and how much time do they have to waste second guessing themselves?
15- “You are never going to be able to make up all these pregnancy, nursing and menstruation fasts, you should just fast.”
That’s not how the exemption goes.
16- “Have you made up your other fasts?”
That’s just none of your business.
17- “There would be a lot of blessings for you if you died trying to fast.”
No, there are a lot of blessings in living for the sake of Allah (SWT), trying to raise believing children, helping others to live better lives and ultimately fulfilling the many other acts of worship available to us.
Exemptions are a mercy from Allah so to push ourselves or each other instead of taking the exemption with a clear conscience is to deny that blessing and second guess Allah, which is a form of ingratitude and lack of trust in His decree.
We are exempted from fasting so that we may live and continue to worship and aim for the highest stations possible until He decrees that our time is done.
Editor’s note: Brooke Benoit is an editor for SISTERS Magazine (the magazine for fabulous Muslim women) and an occasional artist. She is currently working on a collection of assemblages using found people-made materials near her home. Her views are solely her own.