Live Stream
Radio Ndarason Internationale


Fasting during a heatwave

15 March 2024
Reading time: 5 minutes

Scorching temperatures, even higher food prices, soaring inflation and the collapsing naira add to the challenges of observing the fast during Ramadan.

Scorching temperatures – averaging around 42°C and 44°C – are adding to the challenges faced by Borno State Muslims as they observe the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan began on Monday, March 11, and will end on Tuesday, April 9. It is one of the most sacred times for Muslims, a month in which it is believed that the Holy Qur’an was sent down from heaven “as a guidance for men and women, a declaration of direction and a means of salvation”.

The main rules include abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual activity from dawn until sunset. Devout Muslims are expected to practise self-restraint, prayer and acts of charity.
In Nigeria’s northeastern states – Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – Muslims have to fast in scorching weather without even a drop of water passing between their lips. And they may not eat for 14 hours each day.

Citizens of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, have had to deal with a prolonged power outage, which has added to their discomfort. Fortunately, power was restored on Thursday evening.
But, because of the power outage, water has become scarce and the price has soared. The cost of ice blocks has also skyrocketed from ₦50 to ₦300.

The price of food spiked long before the holy month. It was compounded by the ever-increasing inflation rate and the collapsing naira.

But the hike in the prices has meant that even basic food items are out of reach for most of the poor and indigent in the state. This has resulted in many – particularly displaced persons – being unable to eat a decent meal when they break the fast between sunset and dawn.
Musa Usman, a resident of Maiduguri, said: “The current hardship is beyond imagination. We are really suffering. Food is extremely expensive. We spend our days under the scorching sun. We are fasting so we cannot even have a sip of water. Then, when we are allowed to break the fast, we do not have enough food to enjoy a full meal.

“When we break the fast we also need cold water because it is so hot. That means we have to buy ice blocks, but because of the long power outage the price of ice blocks increased sharply from about ₦50 to ₦300. Many people cannot afford that, particularly because food is so costly.”

Mohammed Tahir said: “We don’t have cold water to drink because of the power outage. It is hard. We fast for 14 hours and in the evening when we break the fast we don’t have enough water to drink and we don’t have enough food to eat.”
Aisa Maina, who lives in an internally displaced persons’ camp among the Fariya community, said: “We are really going through a lot. There are many orphans in the camp who we have to care for. Often there is no food. When we break the fast all we have is warm water.

“Elderly people in the camp often go without food. Sometimes there is a little pap for us to eat.”

A displaced woman, who identified herself only as Aisha, said: “Because we do not have money and most of us are hungry, many of us cannot fast properly. We don’t have any means to earn a living. Those of us who have children rely on them to fend for us. During the day they go out on to the streets to beg for food or money. We eat whatever they can find. Often there is no food. We are suffering and it is even harder during Ramadan.”

Doctor Abdullahi Bukar advised people to stay indoors to avoid the extreme heat.
“If people go out in the sun, they should wear large beach hats to cover their heads and necks. Women should try to wear lighter outfits.

“The best thing in this heat is to stay indoors. And, when it is time to break the fast, everyone should drink as much water as they can to keep hydrated. Ideally, everyone should drink glucose water because it will give them energy but not everyone can afford it.”
The Qur’an states that fasting is obligatory for all adult Muslims who are physically and mentally capable of doing so. However, there are some exemptions:

– Children who have not reached puberty;
Individuals who are travelling long distances;
– Individuals who are ill or have a medical condition that could worsen due to fasting;
– Elderly people who cannot bear the strain of fasting;
– Pregnant and breastfeeding women who fear for their health or the health of their baby;
– Women who are menstruating or experiencing postnatal bleeding; and
Individuals who are experiencing extreme hunger or thirst that could harm their health.

The exemptions are intended to make fasting easier for those who are not physically or mentally capable of doing so.

Fasting can be physically demanding and the exemptions allow Muslims to prioritise their health and wellbeing while still fulfilling their religious obligations.

Islam recognises the physical and emotional capabilities for each person.
In some instances – for example those who are travelling long distances – people can make up for the missed fasts when they are able to do so, outside the holy month.

And for those who are unable to fast due to a chronic illness or a permanent health condition, giving in charity is an alternative to fasting.


About the author