By Dr. Shabir Ally
Some people cannot fast during Ramadan, and they might be feeling a little bit left out.
It's important to recognize that God does not hold a person responsible for any more than they can do. The Quran is very clear about this. Moreover, God has already given express permission to not fast in certain circumstances in the Quran. In 2:184, the Quran says that those who find fasting difficult have the possibility of giving a fidya, which is a sort of compensation, which entails the feeding of a poor person.
So they should not feel bad to begin with. They’re not deficient. They won’t be penalized for the fact that they can't fast. And they will continue getting rewarded for doing all of the good things that they do.
The Quran says fasting is about achieving God consciousness. So for those who are able-bodied and they're able to fast, that is the best means. But there are other means.
One way is through dua or supplicating to God. One of the verses that come in the whole string of verses dealing with fasting is 2:186, which says, "When my servants ask you about Me, say, I am close. And I answer the call of the one who makes dua to Me." We should make dua to God and achieve closeness to him during the month of Ramadan.
And of course, there are many other acts of worship we can do, like reading and reflecting on the Quran, remembering God, engaging in extra prayers, helping those who are fasting, and improving our behaviour.
We should also think of Islam holistically. We shouldn’t think that the only way to draw close to God is through pious devotion or the intellectual exercise of studying the faith. An integral part of Islam is to do good to humanity and care for the environment. When we think of worship in Ramadan, we should incorporate into that definition things like looking after the poor and needy, visiting people in hospitals and prisons, and taking care of widows and orphans in society.