Allah exempts some categories from fasting in Ramadan, to lighten their days, and to care about their health and safety, this is the true meaning of mercy and ease in Islam. The traveler who moves on foot or by other means of transport is one of these categories. What does Sharia law say about the fasting of the traveler in Ramadan? Is there a travel that requires fasting and another that authorize eating in Ramadan? What is the opinion of Islamic Scholars?
In general, Scholars believe that if it’s hard for the traveler to fast, he can benefit from Sharia permission to eat during the day in Ramadan and there is no blame on him. As evidence Allah (SWT) says: “Then whosoever among you is sick or journeying, for him the like number of other days” (Al-Baqara/184) and from Sunnah "We traveled with the Messenger of Allah and some of us fasted and some of us did not”. The divergence between the scholars on the issue of the traveler’s fasting is about the distance that allows him to eat, as Hanafis estimate it in a three days march, while for Malikis Shafi'is and Hanbalis it’s two days or a day and a night march, the equivalent of almost 88 km.
In connection with this subject His Eminence Dr. Khalid Al-Mosleh considers that with the development of means of transport, travel has become easy, but to him it’s a relative issue, because whatever the mean of transport, the description given by The Prophet (pbuh) still applies: “Traveling is a kind of torture”. Although he admits the difference between traveling on a camel, and traveling by car or other modern means of transport, Dr Al-Mosleh still believes that traveling is permissive to eating in Ramadan even if there is no hardship. Hamzah Bin ’Amro Al-Aslami (RAA) narrated, “I said to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh): ‘O Messenger of Allah! I find within me the strength to fast while traveling. Would there be any blame upon me if I were to do so?’ The Messenger of Allah said to him, "It is a concession from Allah. Whoever takes it has done well. Whoever likes to fast, there is no blame upon him."
Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned in his collection of Fatwas (Vol 25/Pgs 209…213) that breaking the fast is permissible for the traveler, whether it’s a travel for pilgrimage, jihad, trade or other travels that are not abominated by Allah and His Messenger. According to Sahih Al-Bukhari and Muslim, Anas (mabpwh) said:”We travelled with the Messenger of Allah during the month of Ramadan, but neither the observer of the fast found fault with the breaker of the fast, nor the breaker of the fast found fault with the observer of the fast”. In Sahih, Hamzah Bin Amr Al-Aslami asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) thus:”Messenger of Allah, I am a person devoted much to fasting. Should I fast during the journey? The Holy Prophet said: Fast if you like and break it if you like”.
When His Eminence Sheikh Muhammad Bin Salih Uthaymeen (mabpwh) was asked on this matter, he replied that for the traveler, fasting is matter of choice, and cited what was stated by the companions (mabpwt), when they travel with The Prophet (pbuh), some of them observe the fast while others don't. Sheikh Uthaymeen added that the Holy Prophet used to fast in the travel, as stated in the Hadith of Abu Darda (mabpwh): “We were with the Messenger of Allah on some of his journeys on an intensely hot day, and none amongst us was fasting but the Messenger of Allah and Abdullah Bin Rawaha”. According to Uthaymeen (mabmth), the traveler has the choice between observing and breaking the fast, and if fasting is not overburdening it’s better for him.
In the Fatwas published in his website, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Ibn Baaz (mabmth) believes that fast-breaking during travel is legitimate and authorized by Allah, he invokes what was mentioned in Sunnah, that the Prophet (pbuh) used to observe and break the fast during his journeys, and so did his companions, whether they fast or not, there was nothing wrong about it. His Eminence added that fast-breaking is a concession granted by Allah to travelers, no matter what means of transport the traveler is using. At the option of Sheikh, fast-breaking is better for the traveler if fasting is overburdening to him, he should take advantage of the concession of Allah as the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Allah likes that His Rukhsah (allowance) be used, just as He dislikes that disobedience to Him is committed”.
Written by: Amine Hilal