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Fasting and Fidya Regarding the Pregnant and Breastfeeding Mother
By Osman Umarji
A common question and concern for Muslim women has been the rules regarding fasting and making up fasts or paying fidya during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There are numerous classical answers amongst the major scholars and companions. It should be made clear that there is one primary cause for these differences that will help us understand the issue.
Should the pregnant and breastfeeding mother be compared with the temporarily sick, who has to make up his fasts after Ramadan, or should she be compared with the elderly or chronically sick who are incapable of fasting and pay fidya (feeding a poor person) in place of fasting, or should she be compared to both?
Some Major Opinions on the Issue:
- She should only make up for her missed fasts.
- She should only pay the fidya.
- Differentiate between the two: The pregnant woman has to make up her fasts, and the breastfeeding mom should make up her fasts and pay fidya.
- She should both make up her missed fasts and pay fidya.
My Preferred Opinion:
Generally, the fidya is considered to be the equivalent of fasting (badl) and it is not normal in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) for one to have to perform the wajib (obligatory) and its equivalent (badl). Thus, it should be either fasting or fidya, and not both.
The reason that women are allowed a concession to not fast in Ramadan is out of concern for their health and well-being. If a woman wants to fast during her pregnancy and breastfeeding, she should consult her doctor to see if fasting during pregnancy or breastfeeding would be ok for her and her child. If the doctor approves, the woman may fast Ramadan or even parts of it (as long as she has the energy and health). However, even if the doctor gives his ok, but the woman is still concerned and scared, she may skip fasting Ramadan.
In regards to atoning for the missed fasts, there are a few considerations.
If a breastfeeding mother is concerned for her or her child’s health (like her milk running dry, her feeling weak, the baby not getting enough nutrition), then she may elect to pay the fidya for each day she missed and that would be sufficient. She would NOT have to make up any fasts. This applies to days she missed during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
However, if after delivering, she does not breastfeed her child and her health is okay, then she should make up her fasts that she missed during pregnancy.
Thus, the breastfeeding woman is compared to someone with continuous hardship in fasting (since she may not have fasted for one year during pregnancy, and 1-2 years of breastfeeding, and if she gets pregnant again this process would continue longer), while the mother who does not breastfeed is more like someone who was temporarily sick (her pregnancy) and capable of making up her fasts later.