As Muslims begin their second month-long fast under a COVID-19 Ontario-wide lockdown — this time with vaccines available — some wonder whether they should be getting the shot while fasting.
The fasting period, from sunrise to sunset, each day of the holy month of Ramadan starts Tuesday and includes no food or drink, prompting some members of Ontario's Muslim community to turn to religious and health experts for guidance.
Aarij Anwer, interim imam and Islamic education co-ordinator with the London Muslim Mosque, said community members have asked him if they are permitted to get vaccinated while fasting.
"This is their question, 'Can I take it? I got the appointment on this day of April and then we'll be fasting on that day. What do I do, write it off?' Those are the most frequently asked questions. The answer is you can take your vaccine shot. No problem."
"That is something that we are encouraging Muslims to take, as part of their commitment to their faith, as part of their commitment to their well-being."
Referring to Islamic agencies in North America and internationally, Anwer said there is the understanding that "non-nutritious injections, for example vaccines, have no effect on the fast and will not invalidate the fast. A person can take this and their fast will continue to be intact."
Nour Al-Farawi, a primary-care nurse practitioner, said it's important for everyone, including Muslims, to get vaccinated as soon as they're able to, even if it's during the month of Ramadan.
"It is well established that intramuscular injection is not a form of sustenance or food, and therefore is permissible," he said.
"I do want to stress we are in the third wave of this pandemic and it's important, now more than ever, to keep ourselves and others around us safe and healthy, and this vaccine rollout is unlike any we may have experienced in the past," she said.
The Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force, which provides culturally appropriate guidance and messaging around the coronavirus, echoed that advice.
"This year, the COVID-19 vaccine will likely be available to many individuals during the month of Ramadan," the task force's website reads. "Everyone is recommended to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, and without delay."