Is it obligatory for individuals to fast during the Covid-19 pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic has raised concerns regarding the safety of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan:
- There have been claims that dehydration and dryness of the throat, which can occur with fasting, may result in individuals becoming immunocompromised and thus more susceptible to contracting the virus.
- Healthcare workers in hospitals are at a risk of dehydration and fatigue due to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that they are required to wear for lengthy periods of time. This may jeopardise their own health, as well as potentially have a detrimental impact upon their ability to provide care for patients.
There is no evidence to suggest that fasting increases the risk of contracting Covid-19. Accordingly, healthy individuals with no underlying health conditions are required to fast as usual. Any individual who shows symptoms of Covid-19, or has reasonable ‘fear’ that they can develop any other health condition, or is diagnosed with a long-term health condition, and/or is on regular medication prescribed by a doctor, should not fast without seeking medical advice. They can also consult the guidance provided by the British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA), which synthesises the existing medical evidence on fasting with various chronic conditions.
As for key workers such as doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants, whose occupations involve the safety of others, they should try to take leave from work or try to arrange changing to working night shifts. If it is not possible to do so (due to the severity of the pandemic and the crucial services they provide), then they should fast but can consider the following options: a) they can shorten the length of fasting if they reside in parts of the world that have extensive hours of day light; or b) they can consume the minimum amount of food or drink that would allow them to recuperate and continue fasting for the rest of the day. In both cases, they are not required to keep a lapsed (qaḍāʾ) fast or pay a penalty (kafāra).
- For the justification of fasting where there is a reasonable fear of developing a health condition, please see Can a person who suffers from illness fast during the holy month of Ramadan?
- For the justification of whether key workers should fast, please see Can a person whose occupation involves long hours of concentration and focus, and/or the safety of others, fast?
 World Health Organisation (WHO), Safe Ramadan practices in the context of the COVID-19, 15th April 2020: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331767/WHO-2019-nCoV-Ramadan-2020.1-eng.pdf
 British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA), Ramadan Rapid Review & Recommendations: https://britishima.org/ramadan-rapid-review/