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.
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?