The Ramadhan Diaries

Fasting in London and beyond

When to fast and when not

So I might have slipped in my blogging obligations but to be fair I was exempt from fasting in the first week. I was on the lady’s holiday. So I am now a week behind in acclimatisation. But whilst we are at it I thought I would go through what the rules are for who can fast and who is exempt and what they can do to feel part of the gang.

Essentially fasting during Ramadan is compulsory for Muslim adults who are in good mental and physical health. The age of when Muslims are supposed to fast is when they have past the age of puberty. Those who have a chronic health condition which would result in a deterioration of their condition are of course exempt. A good idea for those in doubt is to check things out with your doctor first. The aim is not to make yourself unwell by pushing your body to do something it is not able to do because of ill-health. So be sensible people and don’t try to be a hero! There are other things you can do to make up for the missed days.

If you’re travelling and on a journey you are also exempt. but this is a case of do as I say and not what I do. I went to Libya in 2011 and my journey came towards the end of Ramadhan. I thought about not fasting during the journey – it was going to be a bit of a crazy one from a sleepy little village in Essex to Gatwick onto Tunis and then Tataouine near the Libyan-Tunisian border. Yes it was a hike and a half. But my flight was in the late afternoon and so I thought I’d tough it out and fasted. I am pretty glad I did. On the flight with Tunis Air I found that fellow travellers were also fasting and when it came to the iftar – breaking the fast  – I have never seen an inflight meal like it. We all got min-banquets on a tray. It was such a lovely sight and I felt really humbled by the respect given to us as travellers and Muslims observing Ramadhan. We even got an announcement from the pilot on the time when the fast was open. And that sealed my thoughts on whether I was going to fast for the rest of the days spent travelling even though I was exempt. Fasting in a Muslim country is a far different experience than fasting here in the UK and I wanted to embrace it.

The Muslim Council of Britain website suggests the following list of exemptions but acknowledges that some of them are optional:

• People who are mentally incapacitated or not responsible for their actions
• The elderly
• The sick
• Travellers who are on journeys of more than about fifty miles
• Pregnant women and nursing mothers
• Women who are menstruating

It is kind of widely appreciated that if you miss fasts you make them up later. And if you can’t do that then you feed those who can’t afford food.

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