2:184 Just for a fixed number of days. But if any of you is sick or is on a journey, he may make up the same number of days later. For those who can go through 'Saum' only with hardship, there is an alternative: the feeding of an indigent. But the one who gives more on his own volition, it will be good for him. However, going through the training program of 'Saum' is good for you if you knew better.
You have mentioned:
//“For those who can go through 'Saum' only with hardship” in 2:184 is NOT referring to the sick already mentioned therein. Rather, it is a third category by itself that covers any and all who though can do fasting but with difficulty. This category may include breast feeding moms, old people, people who are doing jobs which involve extraordinary hardships, people flying high performance planes, so on and so forth. The purpose is obviously to cover any and all situations beyond the first two categories.//
Ok, let’s analyze this a bit further:
- breast feeding moms
Where do you find them exempted from fasting in Quran?
Researchers have compared the health of fasting breastfeeding moms with breastfeeding moms who weren't fasting. Both sets of moms had roughly the same chemical balance in their blood, suggesting that their bodies were functioning equally well.
* Prentice AM, Prentice A, Lamb WH et al. 1983. Metabolic consequences of fasting during Ramadan in pregnant and lactating women. Hum Nutr Clin Nutr
* Bener A, Galadari S, Gillett N, et al. 2001. Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan does not change the composition of breast milk. Nutrition Research 21(6): 859-64
* Tigas S, Sunehag A, Haymond MW. 2002. Metabolic adaptation to feeding and fasting during lactation in humans. J Clin Endocrin Metabol 87(1):302-7. press.endocrine.org
However, breastfeeding SOMETIMES can make the moms thirsty which could be a sign of dehydration which in turn can make you unwell or sick. So this set of breastfeeding moms can fall under SICK category, and thus can be exempted.
- old people
I have a distant uncle who fasted until last year at the age of 99 years. Allah never told him to stop so he didn’t. This year the doctor strongly advised him against it due to his delicate health so he has opted to feed the indigent this year. Again falling under the SICK category due to imminent health issues should he fast.
There is no excuse for the elderly. You cannot take it for granted that old people are exempted from fasting. Only unless the older (or even younger) folks expect to fall sick, unwell, or mal-nutritioned if they fast. Only then they can avail exemptions under the sick category. Otherwise, NO EXEMPTIONS are granted in the Quran.
- people who are doing jobs which involve extraordinary hardships,
Can you point out in the Quran where you found the exemption for such hardworking people? The Third category?
- people flying high performance planes,
Either these high flyers are on a journey or are sick. No exceptions!
The hardships in observing Saum has been clearly defined in one single verse to include sickness and journey only. There is no third option!