Author(s): Nayer Taheri, Resident Chaplain Spiritual Care Department, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, WA; J. Carey Jackson, MD, Medical Director, International Medicine Clinic, Harborview

Community Reviewer(s): Aisha Dahir; Anab Abdullahi

Date Updated: March 15, 2023

It is anticipated that Ramadan 2023 will start on Thursday, March 23 and last for 30 days until Saturday, April 22. (See our Ramadan calendar event for more reading about medical and scheduling implications of fasting for some patients).

The fourth requirement of Islam is fasting during Ramadan: the 9th month of Islamo-Arabic lunar calendar. Ramadan is considered a month of community because religious practices such as prayers, fasting, charity, and self-accountability are often practiced within community setting. During fasting, Muslims avoid eating, drinking and smoking from sunrise to sunset. Muslims gather as family and community in the evenings to open their fast by prayers and read the Qur’an in the evenings. Patients may receive an increasing number of visitors during this month.

Photo by Steve Evans (cc license).

Abstention from food and drink may bring problems for Muslim patients who wish to fast.  They may wish to fast because, to most, Ramadan is believed to be the most blessed and spiritually-beneficial month of the Islamic year. Based on the Quran, those who are sick or on a journey, and women who are menstruating, pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year: [2:185]. Such persons as the sick elderly and chronically ill for whom fasting is unreasonably strenuous are required to feed at least one poor person every day in Ramadan for which he or she has missed fasting, and are then not expected to make up the fast later.

“The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur’an was revealed, as guidance for humanity, and demonstration in the way of guidance and discrimination. So whoever among you is present that month should fast. If anyone is ill or on a journey, then the prescribed term is to perform other days. God wishes ease for you, not hardship; and that you fulfill the prescribed terms, and that you celebrated God for guiding you, and to express your appreciation.”

The diurnal pattern of caloric intake is obviously reversed and diabetic schedules will have to be adjusted to accommodate this significant change. Sometime in the month prior to Ramadan a discussion between provider and patient should take place to plan medication schedules for the month of Ramadan.

Health care settings might consider providing support for patients to maintain their religious practices. Islamic patients are more likely to keep their clinic appointment if they know a room is available to maintain their prayer times during their month long Ramadan observance.

*Note that in the Muslim calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day. 

Note that these are dates adopted by the Fiqh Council of North America for the celebration of Ramadan based on astronomical calculations to affirm each date, and not on the actual sighting of the moon with the naked eyes.  Many Muslims, including many in the local community, will follow dates established by the sighting of the moon in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia. Beginning and ending dates may therefore vary.