Having a chronic illness is certainly difficult and it can affect one’s happiness and contentment with life in many ways. As Muslims, we believe that all conditions and states are from Allah Most High – health and sickness, wealth and poverty, fame and obscurity, etc. The Beloved Prophet ‘alay salatu wassalam said, “Wondrous are the affairs of the believer. His affairs are all good, and this is only the case for the believer. When something pleasing happens to him, he is thankful, and it is good for him. When something harmful happens to him, he is patient, and it is good for him” (Sahih al-Muslim). Knowing this helps us see chronic illnesses as a way to acquire patience and to accept the will of Allah Most High. Allah Most High tells us that He is Ever-Gentle with His servants (Quran 2:207). The trials and afflictions that we experience in this world are expressions of this gentleness, even when it is hard to understand why they are happening. We must consider that in His gentleness, Allah Most High is forgiving our sins, raising our ranks, and drawing us closer to Him by humbling us.
In this great blessed month of Ramadan, our good deeds are multiplied and the opportunities to draw close to Allah Most High are magnified. The Prophet ‘alay salatu wassalam reminded us to be avid for that which will benefit us. In Ramadan, we are eager to pursue Allah’s pleasure through fasting, offering extra prayers, reciting Qur’an, and acting in the best possible way. However, the way in which we respond to Allah’s call to worship Him this month depends upon our personal situations and states. There are some people that cannot stand for long prayers in the evening, others who do not know how to recite the Qur’an in Arabic, others who cannot fast, and so on. All of these individuals receive the same reward as the one who is able to do them, based on their intention. The Prophet ‘alay salatu wassalam taught us that actions are by their intentions and every person will have what they intended (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih al-Muslim). An individual with a chronic illness who cannot fast achieves through their intention what they could not in action.
This is important because Allah Most High does not impose difficulty upon us. He tells us, “The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights (the new moon of) the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship” (2:185). It is from Allah’s mercy and generosity that the obligation of fasting has been lifted from those that are ill and experiencing sickness. Yet, the sick person is still rewarded for fasting because if he had been able to, he would have fasted. In this way, the Sharia takes into account situations that excuse one from fasting, and in fact obligate one not to fast. For example, women who are menstruating, elderly individuals, and – as the verse indicates – those that are ill or traveling, are all excused from fasting. A person who is chronically ill is obligated to look after his health; if fasting would harm him, then he is actually obligated to not fast. Such a person is actually rewarded for not fasting, because he is responding to the call of Allah in the most appropriate and correct manner for him.
When the door to one act of worship is not facilitated, we turn towards the other opportunities that are available for us. There are many other things which you *can* do this month to draw closer to Allah Most High, such as reciting Qur’an, praying, going to the mosque, doing good works and so on. In addition to having the intention to fast if it were possible, take the means to help and assist those that are fasting. In this way, you continue to be connected to fasting and can even receive the reward of their fasts. For example, pray for the fasting Muslims, support a local iftar gathering by providing food, and donate charity to assist Muslims without sufficient food or water. Remember that this month is special and unique for everyone, whether that person is fasting or not. Stay motivated and set goals for yourself this month; the virtue of this blessed month does not dissipate whether or not you are fasting. Rather, the way that you can personally find fulfillment in this month is by doing those things that Allah Most High has blessed you with the capability to complete. Focus on those things and you will find through them a sense of satisfaction, connection to Allah, and gratitude for His immense blessings.
While we cannot say with confidence that these words were spoken to Musa ‘alay salam, the Qur’an provides confirmation that Allah Most High responds to the supplication of the servant. In the verses on fasting, Allah Most High says, “And when my servants asks you concerning Me, indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they might be rightly guided ” (2: 186). Allah Most High did not qualify his closeness to His servants based on their state; in other words, whether the person is sick or healthy, poor or wealthy, and so on, Allah is near and responds to the one who calls upon Him.
May your Ramadan be full of benefit, barakah, and proximity to Allah Most High.