Are pregnant and breastfeeding women required to make up their missed fasts?

This particular essay is against the usual nature of articles published on this site; however, I decided to still publish it here. If you would like this site to cover more intra-Islamic topics not necessarily related to polemics or apologetics, then please let me know in the comments.

Are pregnant and breastfeeding women required to make up their missed fasts or is it sufficient to feed the poor instead?

Those upon the opinion that pregnant and breastfeeding women have to make up the missed fasts present their evidences while the opposing views are given a cursory look. Let us look at the views of both sides with a balance.[1]

Sh. Ibn Baaz, while discussing the stance of Ibn ‘Umar (r) and Ibn ‘Abbas (r), states:

‘but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days’ (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:184)[2]… [and] what was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn ‘Umar, that pregnant and breastfeeding women have to feed the poor instead, is a weak view that goes against the Shariah evidence[3]… Pregnant and breastfeeding women are likened to those who are sick, and do not come under the ruling on old men who are unable to fast. Rather they come under the ruling on those who are sick, so they should make up the fasts when they become able to do so, even if that is delayed.

Reasoning of those who say pregnant and breastfeeding women need to make up the missed days:

  • The report narrated by al-Nasa’i from Anas (r) that the Prophet (s) said: “Allah has waived half of the prayer for the traveler, and fasting, and for the pregnant and breastfeeding.” Classed as Sahih by al-Albani in Saheeh al-Nasa’i. The Prophet (s) stated that the ruling on pregnant and breastfeeding women is like the ruling on the traveler. The traveler may not fast and has to make it up later and this also applies to pregnant and breastfeeding women. (See Ahkaam al-Qur’an by al-Jassaas)
  • Analogy to the sick: Just as the sick are allowed to not fast and have to make it up later, the same applies to those who are pregnant and breastfeeding. (See al-Mughni; al-Majmu’).

Let us examine the evidences:

In the first case, the prayer is waived off for the traveler and the pregnant and breastfeeding. The general allowance has been specified elsewhere with conditions for the traveler i.e. travelers are required to make up their fasts as per other Hadiths, whereas conditions for the pregnant and breastfeeding have not been specified in other Hadiths; therefore, to close that general concession in the absence of a specific text would be over-applying the context to the situation where it does not deserve to be so and hence one would be missing out on the concession granted by Allah and His Messenger (s). We have plenty of examples from the Sahaba where they utilized the general concessions as they did not find evidence to limit them. This is discussed in further detail later on.

As for the second case, it is also an analogy, albeit not a convincing one. Pregnant or breastfeeding women being compared with the sick is an applied analogy (qiyas) that is not only unconvincing in this case but also against the explicit text (nass) that allows concession to the pregnant and breastfeeding.

General vs. specific rulings:

Aisha (r) said: كان يصيبنا ذلك فنؤمر بقضاء الصوم ولا نؤمر بقضاء الصلاة

We passed through this (period of menstruation), and we were commanded to complete the fasts (later), but were not commanded to complete the prayers.

We see here that Aisha (r) mentions skipping fasts during menstruation with a specific instruction that those missed days were/are to be made up later. The same specific instruction does not exist for pregnant or breastfeeding women and the only way a ruling applies to them is through extrapolation (and analogy), as stated earlier. See here again: Allah has waived half of the prayer for the traveler, and fasting, and for the pregnant and breastfeeding.

Salamah b. al-Akwa’ (r) said:

لمّا نزلت: {وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ} كان من أراد أن يفطر ويفتدي حتى نزلت الآية التي بعدها فنسختها

When this verse was revealed {And as for those who can fast with difficulty, they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a miskeen (poor person) (for every day)}. Those among us who did not want to fast would pay the fidyah, until the verse after it was revealed and abrogated this.

The verse and its abrogation again do not apply to pregnant or breastfeeding women. Those who chose to not fast can no longer do so and a pregnant or a breastfeeding woman is not from this category of people. She has been specifically mentioned by the Prophet (s) in a Hadith discussed earlier.

Likewise, the following report also speaks of other situations not covering pregnant and breastfeeding women:

كُنَّا في رمضان على عهد رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – من شاء صام ومن شاء أفطر فافتدى بطعام مسكين، حتى أُنْزِلت هذه الأية: {فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ

We, during the period of the Messenger of Allah (s), used to (observe fast with a choice). He who wished to fast lasted and he who wished[4] to break broke it and fed a needy person as an expiation until this verse was revealed: {He who witnesses among you the month (of Ramadan) he should observe fast during it} [Al-Baqarah: 185]

As we have seen above, Ibn Umar (r) is of the opinion that such women are to feed the poor and are not required to make up the fasts, below is a decisive statement from Ibn Umar (r):

“أنه قرأ: (فدية طعام مساكين) قال: «هي منسوخة»” “He recited the verse: {a ransom to feed the poor (for every day)} and said: This is abrogated”.

Even though he knew that the initial ruling of the verse was abrogated, he still held on to his opinion. This shows that those who use these Ayaat to apply to pregnant and breastfeeding women are not using a strong argument. Likewise, to allege that Ibn Abbas (r) did not know of this abrogation or held an incorrect opinion otherwise would be problematic and stepping out of one’s lane against evidence to the contrary.

Additional note to ponder over:

Hamza b. ‘Amr al-Aslami (r) said: “O Messenger of Allah (s), I find myself strong enough to fast when travelling; am I blameworthy?” ‎‏The Messenger of Allah (s) replied: “It is a concession from Allah; if one takes it (the concession) then that is good, and if he fasts then there is no blame upon him.” [Muslim]

‎‏Al-Majd said: “There is a strong indication in this (report) that breaking the fast (for the traveller) is better (than fasting).” ‎‏This is the Mazhab of Ahmad, al-Awza’i and Ishaq, and is narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn ‘Umar.

There are clear apparent differences between difficulty and harm. A traveler may fast with difficulty but it may not be harmful to him whereas a pregnant woman would be harmed even if she does not feel any difficulty in fasting in that state. Likening the two and then giving a ruling that ‘since a traveler has to make up the missed fasts, pregnant and breastfeeding women also need to make up their missed fasts’ would not be the correct thing to do so. While one attempts to refute Ibn Abbas (r) and Ibn Umar (r), using their own Ijtihad, they must make sure to not fall into modernist traps.

Ibn Umar (r) and Ibn Abbas (r) are of the view that pregnant and breastfeeding women are to feed the poor and are not required to make up the missed fasts. Despite their view on the traveler, they did not liken the situation of making up the fasts of a traveler with pregnant and breastfeeding women. They did not adhere to this analogy or to the idea that a general statement can be overruled in the absence of a specific text (more on this below). All the same time, they held on to the view that the traveler has to make up the missed days later. Hence, as stated earlier, we can safely conclude that to allege that Ibn Abbas (r) or Ibn Umar (r) did not know of such and such or held an incorrect opinion would not only be problematic but disrespectful towards the Sahaba and stepping out of one’s lane because all evidence here dictates that that Ibn Abbas (r) or Ibn Umar (r) were aware of all the sides of the matter.[5]

More on general vs. specific rulings:

The distinction between general and specific evidences may sound strange to those not well-versed in fiqh or those who look down upon the jurists (fuqaha) but the fact is that the legal maxims laid out by them are based on Nass and the Muslim scholars have Ijma on these. Besides the one shared above (in footnote 4), some of the relevant ones that one should study are as follows:

  • Al-mutlaq yajrî ‘alâ itlâqih mâ lam yaqm dalîl at-taqyîd nussa aw dalâlah. A general discourse is not restrained except by text or a connotation.
  • Al-‘âmm yabqq ‘alâ ‘umumih ilâ ann yarid dalîl youkhasesuh. General text remains till evidence particularizes it.
  • Istis-hâb-Al-‘Umûm: An authenticated matter because of a general proof must stay as it was until specific evidence comes to individualize it.
  • Istis-hâb-an-Nuss: An authenticated matter because of Nass must stay as it was until abrogating Nass comes to abrogate it.

When one studies these maxims in detail and grasps them firmly, then one would appreciate that the matter is not so simple and that what is easily dismissed as a weak view is in fact, the stronger view in line with Shariah evidence. Allah knows best.

What did Ibn Umar (r) and Ibn Abbas (r) (and the scholars) actually say?[6]

Ibn Umar (r) was asked regarding a pregnant woman who fears for her unborn child (due to her fasting/staying hungry for a long while). Ibn Umar (r) said: Ask her to abandon fasting and instead feed a poor person one mudd’ (approx. half kilogram) of wheat (for per fast which she misses). [Ref: Sunan al-Kubra of Imam Bayhaqi 4/230 with an authentic chain.

Another woman asked Ibn Umar (r) regarding her fasting to which he replied: Leave fasting and feed one poor person per day instead (as the messenger of Allah (s) commanded) and you do not have to make up your missed fasts later on. [Ref: Sunan Daraqutni (1/207; H: 2363) with an authentic chain]

Nafi reports that one of Ibn Umar (r)’s daughters was wedded to a Quraishi man and was pregnant. (During Ramadan while fasting) she experienced thirst so Ibn Umar (r) commanded her to break her fast (for her and her child’s need and safety) and instead feed a poor person. [Ref: Sunan Ad-Daraqutni (1/207; H: 2364) with an authentic chain].

Ibn Abbas (r) explaining the verse: And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. [2:184] said: (The ruling of this verse) is established for pregnant and breast feeding women.[7] [Ref: Sunan abi Da’ood, 3217]

The tabi’i (successor) Sa’eed b. Jubayr (r) says, regarding a pregnant or breastfeeding woman who fears for her child or her health (that will also affect her child) due to fasting, that such a woman is to avoid fasting and instead feed a poor per fast and they don’t even have to make up for their fasts later on. [Ref: Musannaf `Abdur-Razzaq 4/216 H: 7555; with an authentic chain].[8]

Abu Dawood narrated from Ibn ‘Abbaas and ‘Ali that this phrase – “those who can fast with difficulty” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:184) was a concession granted to old men and old women who find it difficult to fast, allowing them not to fast and to feed one poor person for each day instead, and the same for pregnant and breastfeeding women if they are afraid. Abu Dawood said: i.e., for their children – they may not fast and may feed (the poor) instead. Al-Nawawi said: its isnaad is hasan.

The opinion of Ali (r) is the same as Ibn Abbas (r) and Ibn Umar (r) but the only difference he sees is if they are afraid i.e. he does not view it as an unconditional concession but dependent on the fear. However, he did not define fear. See more on this in the next section.

If she fears:

The words if she fears or if they are afraid sound very general and open and may be open to interpretation and scholarly Ijtihad. How would one define fear and concern? Since Ibn Abbas (r) also states that she should not fast if they are afraid, we could look at how he defines this fear. He has stated that the ruling of the Ayah (And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person) remains valid for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Hence, he defined the fear as hardship, i.e. those who can fast with difficulty. Ibn Umar (r) also defined it as such when he allowed women to break their fast at the slight feeling of thirst and he even allowed them to not fast simply upon them asking this question and their asking itself was considered their difficultly. In the absence of specific text from Ali (r), we are to understand his definition of difficulty the same way as the other two Sahaba. Moreover, this way we see that there is no contradiction between the Qur’anic way stipulating difficulty as the criteria and the Hadith allowing general concession.

The Sahaba had difference of opinion pertaining to relaxations allowed by the Sunnah and they were not outright strict or outright lenient but differed based on issues. For e.g. Umar (r) did not consider it a superior practice to perform Hajj with two Ihrams where one Ihram would be released and one would be intimate with their spouse. However, on the other hand, he prayed one Raka’h as tahiyyat al-Masjid (the prayer offered at the time of entering the Masjid).[9]

Ibn Mas’ud (r) had stricter practice when it came to tayammum contrary to majority of the Sahaba and he felt that tayammum should only be used in extreme cases and that if a free concession is allowed, everyone would perform tayammum even if the water was cold. In such situations, what do we do? We keep our intentions pure and follow scholarly advice (as stated in the conclusion section in the end).

Note on abrogation:

Certain Qur’anic verses have been abrogated and replaced with others. There are no abrogated verses present in the Qur’an; if there are some, then they carry a new meaning which also makes perfect sense and the new meaning is not forced onto it. Here is an example: Q.5:90-91 gives us a complete prohibition of alcohol, however, when we read Q.2:219, we find that there is a strong discouragement of drinking alcohol but not explicit prohibition; moreover, Q.4:43 indicates that drinking should not be done at certain times of the day. It makes sense to prohibit alcohol gradually for heavy drinkers; however, if 5:90-91 prohibits drinking altogether and abrogates 2:219 and 4:43, how do we understand the latter two Ayaat? The answer is not complicated. Q.2:219 mentions some facts about alcohol both positive and negative and from that and other Ayaat of the Qur’an, the scholars have deduced that alcohol may be allowed in certain circumstances such as absolutely essential medicines. Hence, Q.2:219 continues to make sense and hold value even if it is abrogated from its originally revealed intended meaning. If a person continues to drink even though the Qur’an prohibits it, Q.4:43 would still apply to him/her; they should not come to prayer in a drunken state. All this is regarding abrogation where the Ayaat are still found in the Qur’an. Therefore, one cannot say that certain verses in the Qur’an are abrogated and carry no meaning now and that portion of the Qur’an is redundant. They do carry meanings as explained above.

Using this understanding, we see that the stance of Ibn Abbas (r) that Q.2:184 continues to apply for pregnant and breastfeeding women even though the verse’s original intended meaning is abrogated.

But pregnancy and breastfeeding are illnesses (!)(?):

The following is quoted in this regard:

Al-Mardh & As-Suqm refer to sickness or ailment and is the opposite of health and well-being (Sihhah). Al-Mardh & As-Suqm are used for both the body as well as the religion, just as Sihhah can be used for both the body and religion. Sickness of heart is referred for anything that brings a person out of the state of well-being in the religion. And the root of al-Mardh is: Al-Nuqsaan (deficiency). When it is said: A sick body, it means the deficiency of strength, and when it is said: A sick heart, then it means the deficiency of Deen. So Al-Mardh in heart is negligence from the truth; and in the bodies, it is weakness of the organs (Lisan al-Arab by Ibn Manzoor (7/231-232), Al-Qaamoos ul-Muheet by Al-Fayrozabadi (P. 843), Al-Mu’jam ul-Waseet (2/863), Mukhtaar us-Sihaah (P. 259)]).

Also, Al-Mardh (pl. Amraadh): is corruption of the mizaaj (nature/state of mind) and deterioration of the well-being after its stability. And Maradh al-Mawt (Sickness of Death): the cause that the doctors attest as the cause or ailment of death (Mu’jam Lighat ul-Fuqaha by Muhammad Ru’waas (p. 391)).

Thus, based on this, Al-Mareed (Sick) is the one whose health is deteriorated, no matter it affects only a part of his body or the whole body (Al-Sharh al-Mumti’ by Ibn Uthaymeen (4/459)).

As stated earlier a pregnant woman is neither ill nor on a journey. She may fall ill during pregnancy but her pregnancy itself is not an illness and the reason for her skipping fasts is prevention of harm. Likening it to illness is not justified in this case. Moreover, using dictionaries against the explicit texts of Qur’an and Hadiths is something only the Mu’tazilis would approve of. A minor headache is an illness or lice in hair is also an illness and as per the definition from the dictionary, a balding man, for instance, would also be classified as suffering from ailment. Since a balding man may suffer from male pattern baldness his entire life, would one consult the dictionary and grant him concession to skip his fasts his entire life? Alternatively, how would one fit in depression with the dictionary definition and Shariah definition? One could think of numerous sicknesses or ailments that are opposite of health and well-being, that corrupt the mizaaj and deteriorate the well-being which affects a part of the body or the whole body.

The Prophet (s) explicitly said: Allah has waived half of the prayer for the traveler, and fasting, and for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding.[10] The fasting and breastfeeding woman may be able to fast (and hence fall out of the dictionary definition of sick) but she is still exempt. One must keep Qur’an and Hadith before any other texts; moreover, fiqh must not be looked down upon.

What about Ijma?

Yeah, what about it? Ijma does not exist here but it can be created when one only looks at the mashoor opinions of the modern day mazahib while ignoring all the dissenting voices. Shawkani states that even if one amongst the mujtahideen opposes the scholars forming consensus, then the majority of the scholars are of the view that it can neither be considered consensus nor decisive evidence. Scholars have debated as to how many dissenting voices break the Ijma with some going for three but, as Shawkani states, the majority even take one mujtahid’s opposition as a breaking of Ijma.

There are some statements of some scholars saying: We do not know any difference of opinion relating to this between the people of knowledge. We Muslims assume good of our scholars and to say that they missed out on alternate opinions would not be exactly respectful as some people do with the Sahaba (i.e. Ibn ‘Abbas (r) and Ibn ‘Umar (r) missed out) and hence such statements of some scholars, even if they actually missed out on alternate opinions, should be understood this way: We do not know any difference of opinion (that is acceptable to us) relating to this between the people of knowledge (of our time).

Dr. Jonathan Brown states in Misquoting Muhammad (Ch. 2, pg. 35):

… Consensus (Ijma) was the most powerful proof that Muslim scholars could invoke. Quoting an early Muslim scholar, Shah Wali Allah explained how, when the ‘leading and best of the people’ came to a consensus on an issue of law or dogma not specified in scripture, that opinion carried the day. But often both sides in a scholarly dispute claimed consensus, as occurred in contentious correspondences between Abu Hanifa’s student Abu Yusuf and Awza’i, the leading scholar of Beirut. Aware of these absurdities, Shafi’i rejected most claims of consensus as fanciful, though be affirmed the soundness of the concept. Only the most basic, core elements of Muslim faith and practice were in fact agreed upon by all, such as the five daily prayers or the prohibition on wine – ‘the roots of sacred knowledge, not its branches,’ he explained (Al-Shafi’i, al-Risala, 534-35; idem, al-Umm, 7:257).

Someone may go by the argument that there is a Shariah principle that an early diversity of opinion is erased and replaced when later scholars come to Ijma, but even this is hardly agreed upon. Even those who insist on such late-round consensus must recognize, as Zarkashi reminds us, that ‘it is not the rock-solid consensus that quashes all objection’. It is only a ‘probable consensus.’ A lengthy list of classical scholars denied that consensus wipes out the dissent of earlier scholars, for their arguments remain valid, as if the dissenting scholar himself still sat in debate. As Imam Shafi’i himself once said, ‘mazhabs do not die with the death of their practitioners.’ Dismissing early diversity of opinion is especially ironic today when one claims to adhere to the Salaf.

But you’re still a very small minority!

It is argued that besides Ibn Umar (r) and Ibn Abbas (r) there aren’t many who held on to this view and hence the opinion of Ibn Umar (r) and Ibn Abbas (r) must be discarded as being against Qur’an, Sunnah, and Shariah. Is this really so?

Ibn Kathir (r) states regarding Q.2:184:

This point, which al-Bukhari attributed to Anas without a chain of narrators, was collected with a continuous chain of narrators by Abu Ya`la Mawsuli in his Musnad, that Ayyub bin Abu Tamimah said; “Anas could no longer fast. So he made a plate of Tharid (broth, bread and meat) and invited thirty poor persons and fed them.” The same ruling applies for the pregnant and breast-feeding women if they fear for themselves or their children or fetuses. In this case, they pay the Fidyah and do not have to fast other days in place of the days that they missed.[11]

From the Tafsir of Jalalayn, we find:

It is also said[12] that the lā negation of the verb yutīqūnahu is not actually implied because at the very beginning of Islam they could choose between fasting or offering the redemption; but later on this was abrogated by fixing the Fast as an obligation where God says So let those of you who are present at the month fast it Q. 2185 Ibn ‘Abbās said by way of qualification ‘Except for the pregnant one and the one breastfeeding if they break their fast out of concern for the child; in the case of these two the verse remains valid and has not been abrogated’.[13],[14]

Ibn Aqeel said:

If a pregnant or breastfeeding woman fears for the pregnancy or the nursing infant, it is not permissible to fast, and she must offer the fidyah. If there is no such fear then it is not permissible for her not to fast.[15]

The following is quoted and taken from here:

Anas Ibn Mālik (r) said: “A rider from Allah’s Messenger came to us. So I went to the Prophet (s) and found him taking lunch. So he said to me: “Come and eat.” I said: “I’m fasting.” So he said: “Come and I will narrate to you about fasting: Indeed Allah alleviated from the traveller half the prayer, and He alleviated the fast from the pregnant and breastfeeding woman.” By Allah, the Prophet (s) said one of them or both of them. So woe to me, because I did not eat from the meal of the Prophet (s).” Hadeeth declared hasan by Al-Albāni, Saheeh Sunan Ibn Mājah (1/279), Saheeh Sunan An-Nasā’i (2/484), Saheeh Sunan At-Tirmidhi (1/218). At-Tirmidhi said regarding this hadeeth: “Some of the people of knowledge acted upon this [hadeeth], whilst others said: “The pregnant and the breastfeeding women may break their fast, make up their missed days and feed a poor person for each day.” And this was the saying of Sufyān, Mālik, Ash-Shāfi’i, and Ahmad. Yet others said: “They break their fast and feed a poor person [for each day], and they are not to make up the day. And if they wish, they can make up the days and they do not have to feed.” And that was the saying of Ishāq.[16]” Saheeh Sunan At-Tirmidhee, 1/218.

Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Umar Bazmool said: “That which seems more correct to me is that the pregnant woman and the breastfeeding woman, if they fear for themselves, they break their fast, and feed a poor person for each missed day, and there is no making up the missed days (i.e. no qadā)…”

Argument simplified:

Here is a simplification of general vs. specific part of the discussion. If a teacher says the following:

Statement 1: Persons A, B, C, D, and E are exempt from attending classes for a month.

Statement 2: Persons A, B, and C must still complete the weekly assignments.

It is apparent that statement one is general while two is specific.

Five of them would not attend classes but three of them are, however, required to do the homework. Statement 1 is general and statement 2 is specific. One cannot argue that persons D and E are like persons A, B, and C and must also submit the weekly assignments; it’s because they have received a general exemption while the general exemption to persons A, B, and C was narrowed down by the specific instructions.


Man is a product of his environment and his conceptualisation of fiqh comes from that environment. Here is an example to understand this better: When the Muslims, under the Umayyads, were at war with the Romans, and some Muslims sought encouragement from the scholars for fighting beyond borders; some senior scholars, who happened to not be supporters of the government, said that there is no harm in doing so instead of encouraging them with the virtues of fighting for Islam and Muslims. The scholars have recognized the role of societal conditioning in creating subtle biases and this is in no way disrespecting them.[17]

Ibn Taymiyyah (r) said:

Whoever acts according to the opinions of scholars in matters of juristic discretion (Ijtihad) should not be condemned or boycotted. Whoever acts according to one of two different opinions should not be condemned for it.

(Among) the matter of Ijtihad, whoever practices upon it based on (one of) the saying of some scholars, then there is no denouncing over it and there shouldn’t be any boycotting of that person (for merely following a difference of opinion), and whoever practices one of the opinion from two different ones, there is no reprimanding/criticising him.

Books of fiqh state:

There is no (criticism in the form of) rejection on disputed (Ijtihadi) matters; (rather) the rejection should be on the matters which are agreed upon.

The Prophet (s) said:

يَسِّرُوا وَلاَ تُعَسِّرُوا، وَسَكِّنُوا وَلاَ تُنَفِّرُوا

Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repulse (them) [Sahih al-Bukhari, book 78, Hadith 152].[18]

Although it may be safest to make up the missed fasts and feed the poor for each day missed, one would not be sinning for only feeding the poor as this view is the strongest and also held by Ali (r), Ibn ‘Abbas (r), and Ibn ‘Umar (r), several from the successors (tabi’een), and many senior scholars of the past and present.

Allah knows best.

References and footnotes:

[1] If you’re more interested in visuals than reading, then take a look at this short video here.

[2] A pregnant woman is neither ill nor on a journey. She may fall ill during pregnancy but her pregnancy itself is not an illness and the reason for her skipping fasts is prevention of harm. Likening it to illness does not appear justified in this case. Allah knows best.

[3] The evidence is based on analogy, which the claimants of this view admit themselves, while the explicit texts allow a general concession. Wherever general concession is limited, it is supported by nass and in the case of pregnancy and breastfeeding, specific nass does not exist.

[4] One of the reasons why the Prophet (s) allowed pregnant and breastfeeding women concession is that they do not leave fasting because of a wish, they do so because Allah and His Messenger (s) have concerns for the safety of the woman and the child(ren).

Moreover, if a woman gets pregnant, she would miss the fasts of that year and the following year (due to breastfeeding) and if she continues to get pregnant every alternate year as long as she remains fertile, how will she make up those missed days? She is exempt from making up the fasts not only under the specific Hadith discussed in this paper but also under the fiqh maxim: التيسير تجلب المشقة (hardship shall bring alleviation). There is Ijma over these fiqh maxims. The Prophet (s) said: أكاثر بكم الأمم فلا تسودوا وجهي (I will be proud of your great numbers before the nations, so do not blacken my face). The believers are encouraged by the Prophet (s) to have more offspring (in a number of Hadiths) and due to this, it makes perfect sense that Allah and His Messenger (s) allow this concession to pregnant and breastfeeding women. One may use logic and say that those women who do not get pregnant every year or every alternate year, should make up their fasts while others don’t – this would be a faulty modernist approach to Ijtihad: Read more here for the reasons.

[5] Does this mean that holding on to one view is disrespectful to those Sahaba who held the other opinion? Of course not! Doing injustice to their stance, misrepresenting them and then declaring them wrong would be disrespectful.

[6] The material for this section has been taken from here and some of it is used in the conclusion.

[7] The Prophet (s) made a du’a for Ibn Abbas (r):

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيل

O Allah! Bestow on him knowledge in the religion and teach him the Ta’wil (interpretation).

[8] Similar opinion has been narrated from Amir al-Sha’bi but surprisingly, found in a Shia Tafsir (Tabarsi) and he quotes from them (tabi’een and Sahaba) without disrespecting them.

[9] Umar (r) understood the Sunnah to put the number of two raka’h as recommended and the matter remaining open:

أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّزَّاقِ قَالَ : أَخْبَرَنَا الثَّوْرِيُّ ، عَنْ قَابُوسَ ، عَنْ أَبِي ظَبْيَانَ قَالَ : دَخَلَ عُمَرُ بْنُ الْخَطَّابِ الْمَسْجِدَ فَرَكَعَ رَكْعَةً ، ثُمَّ انْصَرَفَ ، فَقِيلَ لَهُ ، فَقَالَ : إِنَّمَا هُوَ تَطَوُّعٌ ، فَمَنْ شَاءَ زَادَ ، وَمَنْ شَاءَ نَقَصَ ، إِنِّي كَرِهْتُ أَنْ أَتَّخِذَهُ طَرِيقًا

Umar b. al-Khattab (r) entered the masjid, offered one Rak’ah and sat down. When this was pointed out to him, he said: “But if someone wants to volunteer to increase or decrease may do so, I disliked taking a path (i.e. to make it a habit).

Even though the Sunnah is to offer two, he understood it to be open and not restricted. Previously we have seen that a general ruling cannot be overruled except if there is a specific text against it. In this case, we see an extra step from Umar (r); even though there is specific text (i.e. to offer two raka’h), he did not take it as decisive as he understood the text differently and considered the matter open.

Some people weaken the above narration but the fact is that Imam Shafi’i narrated it and considered it authentic as well and used it for rulings. However, even if weak, it does not change the fact that general discourse is not restrained except by text, general text remains till evidence particularizes it, and general proof must stay as it was until specific evidence comes to individualize it.

[10] Another narration (with weak authenticity but supported by stronger isnads as well) states the following:

وَلَدِهَا عَلَى تَخَافُ الَّتِي وَلِلْمُرْضِعِ تُفْطِرَ أَنْ نَفْسِهَا عَلَى تَخَافُ الَّتِي لِلْحُبْلَى اللَّهِ رَسُولُ رَخَّصَ

Anas bin Malik said: “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) granted a concession to pregnant women who fear for themselves, allowing them not to fast, and to nursing mothers who fear for their infants.” [Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 1, Book 7, Hadith 1668]

The message of this weak narration is the same as the stronger one quoted above with the difference being that this one excludes the traveler while only including the pregnant and nursing mothers. In any case, the point that the general has not been negated by the specific stands strong.

[11] Tafsir Ibn Kathir

[12] It is not said by Tom, Dick, or Harry but by senior and giant scholars throughout Islamic history.

[13] Tafsir Jalalayn

[14] These commentaries from tafaseer are not one-off events; they can be found in many other tafaseer including those of al-Tabari, al-Qurtubi, and al-Razi.

[15] This particular fatwa of Ibn Aqeel is slightly different from that of Ibn Abbas (r) and Ibn Umar (r) in that he distinguishes between fear and no fear. This has been explained above. Moreover, this is akin to adopting a safe approach in the fatwa i.e. to fast if you can and leave if you can’t; this is practical because a woman may get pregnant with her first day being the last day of Ramadan – in this case, she may not even feel any concern. As per the stronger opinion, she may even skip this single day’s fast and feed a poor person instead while according to some she should fast if she has no fear – the decision rests with the woman.

[16] Here we see that the opinion of Ishaq (r) allowed the choice to the woman between both i.e. either to make them up or to feed the poor.

[17] We see in our times that many scholars who have no worries about making a living and are not living a fast, busy life give stricter rulings on ibadat and look down upon those who only offer their obligatory duties – they hold the view that some nawafil are waajib while some Sunnahs are mu’akkidah and are not to be missed at any cost.

Likewise, many scholars from Muslim countries are not the biggest fans of some of the Western fatawa because of what they feel to be societal conditioning of the scholars in the West. This is not about the absolutely ridiculous ones, by modernists disguised as scholars, that go against explicit nass but more subtle ones such as those related to economics (dropshipping, mortgaging etc.), dressing (including isbal), education (psychology, biology etc.), and so on. For example, Masajid are not one of the eight categories of Zakah recipients. However, contemporary scholars, especially in the West, have permitted Zakah funds to be used for projects such as building Masajid based on the interpretation of seventh type “in the cause of Allah” (fi sabilillah) and if there are not sufficient funds (other than Zakah) for this cause, as there is a dire need to build and maintain Islamic institutes in the West. Had these same scholars been in their position, would they have changed their stance on all of these matters? Allah knows.

This is not to say that those who hold the view that ‘pregnant and breastfeeding women need to make up their missed fasts’ are biased and the opposing ones otherwise; this is simply stated to show that such a thing happens in real life. It is not something this paper is basing its argument on but has simply been stated for the readers’ knowledge.

[18] This does not mean that one starts forsaking the obligations or voluntary acts. Allah and His Messenger (s) made it easy for the pregnant and breastfeeding women and did not make it difficult for them; there is calmness for them and there is no repulsion.


One thought on “Are pregnant and breastfeeding women required to make up their missed fasts?

  1. Pingback: Misgivings regarding abrogation clarified | Qur'anic misconceptions addressed

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