If one is unable to fast during the blessed month of Ramadan then one should never despair for Allah (All-Merciful) provided the believers with multiple paths of attaining the rewards, degrees and blessings of this sacred month. The following is a brief list of how one may reap the benefits of this month despite the fact that one may be unable to fast.
Strengthening the intention (niyyah)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “One can reach through ones intention what one can never reach through ones deeds” and “The intention of the believer is better than his action.”
Imam Abdullah bin ‘Alawi Al-Haddad (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “A sincere intention may change the merely licit into the devotional” and “Know that many intentions can attach to a single act, and that each of them will attract its full reward”.
What does this mean? It means that if you are unable to perform certain acts of obedience which are high in merit like jihad, because it is effectively beyond your reach; or feeding the poor, due to your own poverty; or from establishing justice, which may be practically impossible for you because you possess no power and no jurisdiction over such matters, then you must make the intention that if those acts were to become possible, you would perform them. Meanwhile, do whatever you can to help the people responsible for those things by whatever means lie within your power, even if only by praying for them and exhorting them to be thorough in their works.
In this way you will gain the reward which they earn and will join them via your sincere intention, for the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “One who shows the way to an act of goodness is equal to the one who does it.”
If you are unable to fast for example, then make the intention: If I were able to fast I would do so sincerely to please my Lord” and you will receive the reward for fasting based on your sincere intention.
One may extend these ideas to very mundane acts including putting on clothes or sleeping. Before you put on your clothes, you could make the intention to cover your private parts, which is in fact a command. The very act of dressing becomes an act of worship if adorned by sincere intentions. Before you sleep you could make the intention to rest your body so as to worship Allah, Most High, properly when you rise from sleep. Your very sleep becomes an act of worship through your high intention.
Partake in voluntary good deeds
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever draws near to Allah during it (Ramadan) with a single characteristic from the characteristics of (voluntary) goodness, he is like whoever performs an obligatory act in other times. And whoever performs an obligatory act during it, he is like whoever performed seventy obligatory acts in other times.”
Source: Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah, no. 1887
Feed a fasting person
Feeding one who fasts has many benefits, immense reward and attracts the prayers of the Angels.
It was narrated that Zayd ibn Khalid al-Juhani said: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever feeds one who is fasting will have a reward like his, without that detracting from the reward of the fasting person in the slightest.”
Source: Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 807; Ibn Maajah, 1746. Classed as saheeh by Ibn Hibaan, 8/216 and by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami, 6415.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) told his companions that a person who provides food for a fasting person gets the same reward as the fasting person and the angels pray for him because of his actions.
Source: Riyadh-us-Salihin Vol II page 611 and 612, hadith 1265 and 1267
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said: “Whoever feeds a fasting person has forgiveness for their sins, and their necks have been saved from the hell fire, and they have the same reward as the fasting person without diminishing from the fasting person’s reward. The companions asked, ‘not all of us find that which to feed a fasting person’ and he (peace be upon him) responded, Allah gives this reward whoever provides breakfast for the fasting person be it a sip of milk, a date, or a drink of water.”
Supplication with sincerity
Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an: “When my servants ask you concerning me, (tell them) I am indeed close (to them). I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on me.” (2:186)
The place of du’a is so high that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Nothing is more honourable to Allah the Most High than du`a.”
Source: Sahih al-Jami` no.5268
He (peace be upon him) also said: “The most excellent worship is du`a.”
Source: Sahih Al-Jami` no. 1133
Abu Ad-Darda reported: The Messenger of Allah, (peace be upon him) said, “There is no Muslim servant who supplicates for his brother behind his back except that the angel says: For you the same.”
Source: Sahih Muslim 2732
The pursuit of knowledge is a fruitful quest which yields immense blessings and rewards in both this life and the next.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.”
Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 224
An increase in knowledge comes when one is sincere and humble as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There is no human being except that the wisdom of his mind is in the hands of an angel. When he shows humility, the angel is ordered to increase his wisdom. When he shows arrogance, the angel is ordered to decrease his wisdom.”
Source: al-Muʻjam al-Kabīr 12771
Finally, Abu Umamah Al-Bahili reported: Two men were mentioned before the Messenger of Allah, (peace be upon him), the worshiper and the scholar. The Prophet said, “The merit of the scholar over the worshiper is like my merit over the least of you. Verily, Allah, his angels, the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth, even the ant in his hole and the fish, send blessings upon the one who teaches people virtue.”
Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2685
These are but some of the ways one may partake in the rewards and blessings of this blessed month of Ramadan.
Allah knows best