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In light of Pakistan heatwave, what are the exceptions to Ramadan?
The death toll from the Pakistan heatwave has topped 1,000, and Muslim clerics are urging reminders of the exceptions to fasting during Ramadan. - photo by Massarah Mikati
This past week, over 1,000 people in Pakistani died from a major heatwave that struck the country, CNN reported. Another estimated 14,000 people were hospitalized due to the sweltering heat.

The tragedy struck the country in the midst of the first week of Ramadan as many citizens suffered from dehydration while temperatures climbed to 122 degrees.

The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar calendar and is prescribed as one of the five pillars or obligatory practices of Islam. Ramadan entails abstaining from food, water and sexual relations from dawn until sunset.

However, there are multiple exceptions to fasting during Ramadan that Muslim clerics are urging the followers of the faith to follow, especially in light of Pakistan's catastrophe. In fact, fasting despite these exceptions becomes a sin, Kashif Chaudhry wrote for CNN.

"We (religious scholars) have highlighted on various television channels that those who are at risk, especially in Karachi where there is a very serious situation, should abstain from fasting," Tahir Ashrafi, a prominent Islamic cleric, told ABC.

"Islam has drawn conditions for fasting, it is even mentioned in the holy Quran that patients and travelers who are not able to bear fasting can delay it and people who are weak or old and are at risk of falling sick or even dying because of fasting should abstain."


"If an expert doctor says that your life is threatened due to the heat, or some condition you may have is going to get worse because of fasting, then you can forego the daily fast," Islamic cleric Mufti Mohammad Naeem told NBC about Pakistan's situation. "This is conditional on your medical condition and how you react to the heat, not a free-for-all."

However, for many pious Muslims, breaking the fast is a conflicting decision to make, as the Pakistani security guard Shamim ur-Rehman portrayed to The New York Times.

As long as I have some life in me, and strong intentions, I will fast, he said.


In the midst of fasting during a long journey, the Prophet Mohammed stopped and asked for a cup of water to break his fast. He raised his cup to ensure his decision was seen by all, and drank.

However, some people continued to fast. The Prophet Muhammed was upset with this and said these people were disobedient.

This hadith or story about the Prophet Mohammed and his companions was recounted by Chaundhry, who said this is one of many proofs embodied by the Prophet Mohammed that fasting during travel is banned.

"(The Prophet Mohammed) emphasized that to stubbornly continue fasting under harsh circumstances was not an act of righteousness, but of disobedience," Chaundhry wrote.


According to many prominent scholars, Muslim women are exempt from fasting when they are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating.

When it comes to pregnancy or breastfeeding, the ruling is more lenient women are not supposed to fast if their doctors tell them not to, The National reported. However, if doctors do not see risks in fasting though this is rare she may attempt to.

"We have to assess the situation," Imam Madani Abdur Rahman told BBC. "If the doctor says fasting could cause problems for the mother or her baby, then women should not fast. Health must always come first."

Fasting while menstruating, on the other hand, is forbidden in Islam.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shanqiti wrote that menstration is too much of a hardship, saying, "If something causes difficulties for people, then (God) lifts the obligation of its observance and removes its hardship."
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