Question # 70: Please advice if a woman should fast or there is an exception when a woman is breast feeding her baby (time frame for how many months)

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: The view favored by most scholars is that if breast feeding women fear for themselves, they can break their fast and make up for it because she is similar to a sick person, and do not come under the ruling of old men and women, who are unable to fast. She may make it up for, either during the winter, when the days are shorter and the weather is cooler, or, if she is unable to do it in the winter, then in the following year. While Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has stipulated that the period of breastfeeding should be two years, the timeframe of breastfeeding depends on the child’s situation and therefore, the parents may agree on a shorter period, so long as that is not harmful to the child.

Long Answer: According to Shaykh Muhammad bin Salih Ibn ‘Uthaimin “If the breast-feeding woman fears that fasting will harm her child by reducing the milk, then she may break her fast, but she must make up for it later, because she is similar to a sick person, about whom Allah says: Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: “… and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Saum (fasts) must be made up] from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you.” (Soorah Al-Baqarah, 2:185)

Then once the danger is past, she may make it up for, either during the winter, when the days are shorter and the weather is cooler, or, if she is unable to do it in the winter, then in the following year. But as for feeding (poor people), it is not permissible except in a situation where the thing which prevents her from fasting or the excuse for not fasting is continuous, and it is not expected that it will be removed; in these circumstances, she may feed (poor people) instead of fasting. (Fatawa Arkanul-Islam)

The scholars [have] differed concerning the ruling on pregnant woman and breastfeeding mothers, if they do not fast. There are several opinions:

  1. That they have to make up the fasts only. This is the view of Imam Abu Haneefah (may Allah have mercy on him). Among the Sahabah, it was the view of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه).
  1. That if they fear for themselves, they have to make up the fast only, and if they fear for their children then they have to make up the fasts and feed one poor person for each day. This is the view of Imam al-Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad. Al-Jassas also narrated this from Ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه).
  1. That they have to feed the poor only, and do not have to make up the fasts. Among the Sahabah, this was the view of ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه). Ibn Qudamah also narrated this in al-Mughni from Ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه). Ibn ‘Abbas’s position is strong and is merciful to women who may be nursing or pregnant for many consecutive years. (‘Muwaffaq-ud-Deen’ by Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi)

Those who said that they only have to make up the fasts quoted the following as evidence:

  1. The report narrated by al-Nasa’i from Anas that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Allah has waived half of the prayer for the traveler, and fasting, and for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding.” (Classed as sahih by al-Albani in Saheeh al-Nasa’i) The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) 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. (Ahkam al-Qur’an by al-Jassas)
  2. Analogy to the sick. Just as the sick are allowed not to fast and have to make it up later, the same applies to those who are pregnant and breastfeeding. (al-Mughni; al-Majmoo’)

This view was favored by a number of scholars.

Shaykh Ibn Baaz said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa: “Pregnant and breastfeeding women come under the same ruling as those who are sick. If it is too difficult for them to fast then it is prescribed for them not to fast, but they have to make up the fasts when they are able to do so, like those who are sick. Some of the scholars are of the view that it is sufficient for them to feed one poor person for every day they missed, but this is a weak view. The correct view is that they have to make up missed fasts, just like travelers and those who are sick, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: “but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:184)””

[The timeframe of breastfeeding]… depends on the child’s situation. If he will be harmed by [discontinuing breastfeeding]… it is not permissible to do [so]; if he will not be harmed by it, then there is nothing wrong with weaning him, after consulting [child’s]… father and agree on that, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: “The mothers shall give suck to their children for two whole years, (that is) for those (parents) who desire to complete the term of suckling… If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no sin on them” (Soorah al-Baqarah 2:233) Al-Qurtubi said: “…Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has stipulated that the period of breastfeeding should be two years, except when the parents agree on a shorter period, so long as that is not harmful to the child…”

(Most portion of the above reply is based on various answers by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)

See Also Question # 41: Missed fast due to pregnancy and breastfeeding

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam