Q. My question is about making up of broken fasts. I am aware of the rule for making up fasts either by keeping them yourself or giving money to feed a poor person for every broken fast. Why is a menstruating or post-natal woman obligated to make up her broken fasts? It is not that she has intentionally broken her fast; she is forbidden to fast during these times, so why does it feel like she is being penalized? There is no requirement to make up prayers that are missed during these times. Salah in order of importance in our five pillars comes before sawm, so I would have assumed that a woman would not be required to make up her fasts. As I understand the five Islamic pillars, the first and second (belief in God’s Oneness and prayer) are obligatory to every believing person with no exceptions, the other three (charity, fasting, and hajj) are prescribed for Muslims with conditions. I have read your article on fasting in the summer when the daylight hours are very long, and it gave me some food for thought (no pun intended!). Fasting is an act of worship, but being made to make up broken fasts does not feel very much like worship to me. Also, if a person who has no health conditions that prevent him / her from fasting wants to pay a person to make up their fast, can they do this?

A. The issue you have raised about menstruating or post-natal women having to make up the missed fasts is a ruling from the jurists, and as you rightly point out, it is not something that is within the worshipper’s control. This making up of missed fasts in the situation you mentioned seems to be the reasoning of the jurists and over time has been accepted as part of the religion. It may be that they put it into the category of 'sickness' and made their ijtihad along those lines. It is for this reason we suggest that worshippers become more learned in the religion and do what is based on their intellectual analysis of certain rules and regulations. The Qur'an says that "God wants that which is easy for you", and also that "God does not tax a human being with more than he / she can bear", yet many of the fiqh rulings seem to violate these two basics. We will take the Maliki position here and suggest that you do what you deem is right. I am not a medical doctor, and Imam Malik suggested that women's issues be decided by women who are familiar with their own bodies and their functions. Regarding the last part of your question about paying someone to fast for you, this type of vicarious atonement is not within the spirit of 'dhawq al Qur’an' (the taste of the Qur’an), since religious duties and accountability are between the servant and the Lord. Deputizing of religious obligations ought to have a valid reason.

Posted January 7, 2012