Pakistan's heat wave: When fasting is a sin

Heat wave in Pakistan has claimed 1000 lives.  For the Muslim Times' collection about fasting

Heat wave in Pakistan has claimed 1000 lives. For the Muslim Times’ collection about fasting

By Dr. Kashif N. Chaudhry, who is a cardiovascular medicine fellow at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)In October of 2005, during the month of Ramadan, a devastating earthquake claimed close to 100,000 lives in the north of Pakistan, and injured just as many. I had the opportunity to serve the victims of this tragedy in the Kashmiri city of Bagh.

Of the many things I vividly remember is caring for some men and women with life-threatening injuries who refused treatment because they were fasting. They considered it a grave sin to break the fast.

As a medical professional, this was especially frustrating. Similarly, I have come across pregnant women who had suffered from hypoglycemic episodes (low blood sugar) but still continued to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, putting two lives at risk.

Similar, if not worse, conditions are prevalent right now in parts of Pakistan. It pains me immensely to read that more than 1,000 people have already succumbed to heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Karachi heat wave: Unforgiving heat claims more lives

I do not know how many of these victims were fasting, but this tragedy has brought back memories of Kashmir. As a physician, and a fellow Muslim, I feel this calls for some serious education and awareness.

It is true that fasting is a virtue in many faiths. But it no longer remains a virtue in such extreme circumstances. In fact, it becomes a sin.

The Holy Quran states that fasting is not a compulsory obligation for those who suffer from sickness or endure the hardships of travel, or find great difficulty for any other reason. As, and when, these conditions of adversity change, the missed fasts can be repaid.

This is because Allah desires ease for us, and not hardship. Why then do some Muslims think it is an absolute compulsion to fast during Ramadan? Do they think they can forcibly please God, despite His own clear commandments to take it easy and not put their lives at risk?

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Categories: Asia, Fasting

1 reply

  1. Actually the verse of the Holy Quran prescribing fasting tells us that Allah wants ease and not hardship for humans, through the teachings of fasting and other teachings of Islam:

    The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination. Therefore, whosoever of you is present at home in this month, let him fast therein. But whoso is sick or is on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days. Allah desires to give you facility and He desires not hardship for you, and that you may complete the number, and that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you and that you may be grateful. (Al Quran 2:186)

    The verses about fasting and several other verses in the Holy Quran stress that all Islamic teachings have a utilitarian value and are aimed at benefiting humanity in this very world, as these are from All-Knowing God. For example:

    The prescribed fasting is for a fixed number of days, but whoso among you is sick or is on a journey shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty is an expiation — the feeding of a poor man. And whoso performs a good work with willing obedience, it is better for him. And fasting is good for you, if you only knew. (Al Quran 2:184)

    Luckily, there were no political interests to be served, so on the issue of heat wave in Pakistan and fasting, the Fatwas or religious edicts by the Mullahs are also or on the right tract:

    Fatwa: Let Muslims Break Fast Amid Scorching Weather