Mona new
'I have been fasting since I was eight years old and I cannot imagine not fasting during Ramadan,' says Mona Mohammad, a cancer survivor from Sudan. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: During Ramadan, individuals are exempt from fasting, under Islamic law, if they are unwell. Yet, many dedicated worshippers across the UAE are continuing to fast while adhering to their doctors’ advice. Despite certain challenges, they told Gulf News that they found it almost unthinkable not to fast during Ramadan — which has been a lifelong habit.

“I have been fasting since I was eight years old and I cannot imagine not fasting during Ramadan. This year, too, I am fasting throughout the month, under advice from my doctors. There are days when I do get headaches or my mood feels low, but I don’t feel like it warrants not to fast,” Mona Mohammad, 46, a cancer survivor from Sudan, told Gulf News.

Love for Ramadan

Mohammad was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago and underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a mastectomy to treat the condition. Last year, she also had her liver surgically removed after doctors detected a benign tumour. The cancer survivor and mother-of-three said she continued to fast through it all.

“I love Ramadan and everything that comes with it — the focus on the Quran, the nightly Taraweeh prayers and the spiritual connection we experience. And I am glad that I am able to fast,” Mohammad said.

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Cancer survivor Mona Mohammad said she continued to fast through all her health challenges. Image Credit: Supplied

Exempted individuals

Islam mandates fasting as a form of worship in Ramadan for all able-bodied, healthy adults. Yet, across the Muslim world, adults who are afflicted by a variety of conditions — including diabetes, asthma and hypertension — continue to fast under medical guidance.

Doctors, therefore, advise patients to discuss their medication regimens ahead of Ramadan, and also urge that all fasting individuals adopt healthy habits. This must include a healthy diet, adequate hydration and sufficient sleep.

Kairunnisa, a 53-year-old resident from India, is committed to her Ramadan fasting, even though she lives with lung fibrosis and needs supplemental oxygen throughout the day.

“A few years ago, I was hospitalised when my condition deteriorated and this was the only time I did not try to fast. I do face certain challenges during the day: It is difficult to talk much and I feel rather weak, but with the advice of my dedicated doctor Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, specialist pulmonologist at Medeor Hospital, I have managed to continue fasting. And I want to continue doing so, because you never know when it might be your last Ramadan,” she said.

Challenging for some

Fasting can be challenging for people with chronic conditions. It can also be harder for older individuals.

Despite being 68 years old, Ibrahim Shaikh, a retired Sudanese resident and father-of-nine, has continued to fast this Ramadan. “I have been living with bronchial asthma for more than two decades and I feel that fasting in Ramadan actually improves my condition. In fact, Ramadan is an act of discipline that helps train the mind and my doctor helps ensure that I fast in a safe manner,” Shaikh said.

He sticks carefully to his medication regimen and ensures that he visits Dr Rakesh Kumar Gupta, respiratory medicine specialist at Lifecare Hospital, before the start of Ramadan.

“I’ve been fasting since I turned ten years old. I believe the practise has myriad benefits and that these are now becoming evident even to proponents of western medicine,” Shaikh added.

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End fast if unwell

Experts at the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC) earlier advised individuals with chronic conditions to consult their doctors for a revised medication regimen during Ramadan. Dr Budoor Al Shehhi, section head for chronic diseases at ADPHC, added that these individuals should not hesitate to end their fast if they feel unwell.