Should you fast during Ramadan if you're especially vulnerable to coronavirus?

Muslims will begin the holy month of Ramadan from today, meaning they’ll be fasting from sunrise to sunset every day.

This is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when fasting is mandatory for all adult Muslims who are not acutely or chronically ill, travelling, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, or menstruating.

This is also the first Ramadan unde the lockdown conditions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

That means no Taraweeh nightly prayers or any congregations in the mosques as they are closed.

It is a deeply spiritual time for followers of the Islamic faith and many will choose to fast.

However, some people are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus. They may choose not to fast if they are showing symptoms of Covid-19, or if they fear refraining from food and drink may weaken their immune system.

The elderly and the poor may be excused for this reason.

Who is classed as the vulnerable?

Amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, the government has advised stricter social distancing measures for those who are considered to be more vulnerable.

This group includes those who:

  • Are aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • Are under 70 with an underlying health condition (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds): including chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis, chronic heart disease, such as heart failure, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, such as hepatitischronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy, diabetes, problems with your spleen
  • Have a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • Are seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • Are pregnant

The above groups should observe stringent social distancing measures. This means avoiding anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, non-essential use of public transport, working from and staying at home where possible, no unnecessary outings, avoiding large gatherings or gatherings in small public spaces (eg pubs, cinema, theatre, bar, clubs), avoiding gatherings with family and friends, using email or phone to seek GP advice or contact other essential services.

Other people who are considered at high-risk include:

  • people who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukemia who are at any stage of treatment
  • people with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets)
  • people with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis)

The general consensus is you are feeling well and don’t have an underlying health condition, it should still be safe for you to fast during Ramadan.

Unfortunately, many of the coronavirus victims have been from minority backgrounds, including Muslims, including the first four NHS doctors to die from the virus.

Dr. Asim Yusuf, scholar, chair of British Board of Scholars and Imams and consultant psychiatrist for the NHS, tells ‘Fasting in Ramadan is a beautiful opportunity to draw near to God and develop bonds of empathy with the poor and downtrodden. 

‘However, it is a religious responsibility to delay its performance if it would adversely affect one’s health.

‘As such, we sincerely advise Muslims to consider their health conditions and discuss them with their health professionals as well as imams, especially in light of the recent comprehensive guidance produced by the British Islamic Medical Association, which provides balanced, clear and evidence-based directions about both COVID and chronic health conditions.’

High-profile British Muslims have also been sharing social distancing advice this week with the #RamadanAtHome campaign, in conjunction with the Mayor of London.

The video compilation encourages British Muslims to adhere to the government guidelines whilst observing Ramadan this year. The key messages are to stay at home, pray from home, and to break fast, share iftar at home in order to protect our NHS and save lives.

The video features several prominent British personalities such as Riz Ahmed, Mehdi Hasan, Konnie Huq, Naughty Boy, Mehreen Baig, Tez Ilyas and Sadiq Khan.

One of the actors and influencers in the video is Islah Abdur-Rahman, who tells ‘It’s important to take responsibility and look after our elders at home during Ramadan and this pandemic.

‘A lot of elders are so used to fasting but if they are unable to for health reasons then Islamically they can be excused.

‘Sadly I won’t be visiting my nan this Ramadan, but she is self-isolated with other family members and I’ll be video calling often to check up on her.’


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