Ramazan, the month of fasting, is starting or has already started based on where you live and who you believe. Since Amber is breastfeeding Michelle nowadays, what better topic to discuss for Ramazan than pregnant and breastfeeding moms?
Let’s start with some amusement from an Islam-Online chat.
Question: My question is : “Is it allowed for a woman to fast while she is breastfeeding”?
Answer: […] To the best of our knowledge, the fuqaha have agreed that breast feeding does not invalidate a fast. It is permissible to breast feed while fasting. On a counseling note, we would like to remind our sisters that breast feeding can be very exhausting on one’s system if one has not eaten well during the suhur. Some babies require being breast fed several times a day and this could be even more tiring for the mother. So if one intends to fast and breast feed, it is highly recommended to not skip the suhur. Finally, always check with your medical doctor regarding this issue because your particular case might warrant not fasting if your body is unable to withstand the burden of fasting and breast feeding.
Let me repeat a part of the answer so I can laugh some more.
Some babies require being breast fed several times a day and this could be even more tiring for the mother.
You don’t say!
So what is the ruling of Muslim scholars on whether breastfeeding women should fast or not? Here is Moiz Amjad.
[W]hether a feeding mother should fast or not is, basically, a decision regarding the fitness of the woman for fasting. If she feels and is declared to be fit for fasting, she may decide to do so. On the contrary, if she feels weak and is advised to refrain from fasting during these days, then the Shari`ah allows her to miss fasting, during the month of Ramadhan and then complete the number of missed fasts, when she is fit to do so.
Islam Online has a similar position.
As regards a pregnant woman or a suckling mother, if she is worried lest fasting should harm her, the majority of jurists are of the view that she is allowed not to fast, provided that she makes up for the fast-days she missed.
[…] Though jurists have unanimously agreed that a pregnant or a suckling woman who apprehends harms to her embryo or her new-born child is allowed to abstain from fasting, they have disagreed as to whether she must make up for the fast days she missed later, or feed one poor person for each day she missed or both. Ibn `Umar and Ibn `Abbas maintain that she is to feed poor people equal in number to the fast days she missed. The majority of scholars are of the view that she must make up for the fast days she missed. Others yet hold that she is to do both. It seems to me that only feeding the poor is enough on its own for a woman who is constantly either pregnant or suckling, so that she has not got an opportunity to make up for the fast days she missed. So it may be the case that a woman is pregnant this year and a suckling mother the next and pregnant again the following year, and so on. She is therefore unable to make up for the fast days on which she refrained from fasting. So if she is commanded to make up for those days, she will have to fast for several years incessantly, which is definitely going to be difficult, and Allah does not want His servants to suffer hardships.
The strict Salafi Islam Q&A puts it a bit more strictly as expected.
With regard to breastfeeding mothers – and also pregnant women – two scenarios may apply:
- If the woman is not affected by fasting, and fasting is not too difficult for her, and she does not fear for her child, then she is obliged to fast, and it is not permissible for her not to fast.
- If the woman fears for herself or her child because of fasting, and fasting is difficult for her, then she is allowed not to fast, but she has to make up the days that she does not fast.
It seems that a majority of scholars allow a breastfeeding woman to fast or not fast based on whether it’s hard on the child or the woman or not. My guess is that it is hard on a pregnant or breastfeeding woman to not eat or drink anything for 10-15 hours.
(Amber adds: If I don’t drink enough water, my milk supply goes down.)
The other question is what to do if a woman does not fast in Ramazan. Most scholars want her to fast the 29-30 days later when she can. That attitude shows the sexism of these scholars in my opinion.
Consider a woman who has one child. These same scholars recommend breastfeeding a child for 2 years. Add in the 9 months pregnancy and a woman would miss almost 3 months of fasting. That is a lot of fasting to make up. Plus she also has to make up the week of fasting she misses in Ramazan when she’s not pregnant or breastfeeding because of menstruation.
But most of these scholars are also against birth control. So a woman is likely to have 4 kids than one. Multiply 2 years and 9 months by four and you get 11 months of Ramazan fasts missed. Let’s ask one of these scholars to actually make up 11 months of missed fasts in addition to the month of fasting every year. It is not impossible but is definitely extremely hard.