Source: Huffington Post
By Antonia Blumberg
Not all Muslims are expected to fast during Ramadan.
Muslims around the world are fasting for the month of Ramadan, a time of devotion, community and prayer. Some choose not to perform the fast ― just like some Christians opt out of Lent and some Jews skip Yom Kippur.
But even among observant Muslims, there are those who may occasionally be exempt from fasting. Here’s a brief look at what that means and who falls into the exempt category:
What does it mean to be exempt?
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, a set of worship guidelines outlined in the Quran to which all observant Muslims are expected to adhere. The pillars also include professing one’s faith, praying five times a day, donating money to charity and making the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
But there are some exceptions to the requirements noted in the Quran and in the hadiths, recorded descriptions of the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad. Scholars of Islamic law, known as Sharia, have parsed through the nuances of these exceptions for centuries and make recommendations to observant Muslims on how best to observe the faith.
Ultimately, says Faiyaz Jaffer, an associate Muslim chaplain at New York University, it’s on every individual to practice their faith as they see fit.
“Sharia law is personal,” Jaffer told HuffPost. “The word ‘sharia’ in the Arabic language literally is translated as ‘the path to the watering well.’ Islamic scripture is derived from the Arabian peninsula, where the most prized resource is water. So the goal of Islam is to make sure that every person is walking on this path to the watering well, metaphorically, so we get closer to God.”
That means exempt or not, no one should face any kind of judgment over whether they’re fasting. “At the end of the day it’s an individual’s responsibility to perform one’s obligations,” Jaffer said.
Who is exempt?
There are several groups of people who scholars agree are not required to fast during Ramadan. These include the elderly, people who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, people who are ill and travelers. There’s a variation of opinion among scholars of Islamic law regarding what constitutes exemption within those groups. For instance, Jaffer noted, “What it means to travel and how far differs among scholars.”