By Dr. Mateen Khan (Trenton, New Jersey)
The following is part of Enter the Sunnah’s Fiqh Series, concise posts on various fiqh topics about why we do what we do with proofs from the primary sources in Islam according to the usool of the Hanafis.
When a non-Muslim reverts to Islam, the scholars agree (ijmā’) he or she does not have to make up the fasts missed in previous years based on the Prophet’s (Allah bless and give him peace) saying, “Islam erases everything that preceded it.”2
Until a person reaches puberty, fasting is not mandatory for him or her since our Nabi (Allah bless and give him peace) said, “The pens [that write deeds] are lifted from three types of people. [One of them is] the child until he [or she] reaches puberty.”3
Furthermore, the child is not expected to make up the years of fasts he missed while being a child based on the usooli principle of “removing great difficulty” (daf’ al-haraj).
The āyah “Should any of you be sick or on a journey, then [he should fast] a [similar] number of days at another time”4 excludes the traveler from fasting. However, Allah subhana wa ta’ala states in the same āyah, “If you fast, it is better for you.” Meaning, if you can fast without much hardship, it is better for you because fasting during Ramadan is better than to make up its fast outside of Ramadan. The Companion Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah have mercy on him) informed us, “At times, while traveling, the Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) would fast and at times, he would not.”5
The Make-Up Fasts
It is better to perform the missed fasts early. If one were to die before performing them, fidya can be given.
It is permitted to delay the Ramadan make-up fasts since the āyah “Then [he should fast] a [similar] number of days at another time,” does not specify when or how early the fasts should be performed. However, making up the fasts as soon as possible is better and more cautious. The “deadline” for making up these fasts is before one’s death, and no one is aware of when that might be. To put it off without having any firm intention to make it up is sinful.
If the Ramadan of the following year comes before the fasts are made up, the make-up fasts should be delayed until after Ramadan. Also, to perform all of the make-up fasts in a row is better, but not necessary since the āyah, “Then [he should fast] a [similar] number of days at another time,” does not stipulate this.
The Companion, Ibn ‘Umar (May Allah have mercy on him), narrated if a person dies before he makes up his fasts and there was a time he was capable of making them up, “his heir should feed [a poor person] on his behalf for every [missed] day.”6 The caveat is that he or she stipulates this in his or her will. Otherwise, the heirs do not have to give it, but they may out of their own generosity. The narration indicates another person cannot perform the missed Ramadan fast on his behalf.
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_____ 1 It might seem logical a non-Muslim is not expected to fast, but based on Qur’anic proofs, the scholars disagreed as to whether they are included in the command to fast. 2 Sahīh Muslim #121 3 Sunan Abī Dāwūd #4402 4 Al-Baqara 184 5 Sahīh al-Bukhārī #1948 6 Jāmi’ al-Tirmidhī #718, also transmitted in Sunan al-Nasa’ī