Fasting the month of Ramadan is an obligation and a great worship.
It is among the best acts of obedience. In Fasting there is great reward. Imam al-Bukhariyy related the Qudsiyy hadith that the Prophet peace to be upon him said that Allah said:
كُلُّ حَسَنة بعشْرِ أمثالها إلى سبعمائة ضعف إلا الصيّام فإنَّهُ لى و أنا أجزي بِه
which means: <<The reward of every good deed is multiplied from ten up to seven-hundred times–except that of the Fasting–which is usually done in sincerity, will be multiplied by as many times as Allah wills.>>
One of the doors of Paradise, named ar-Rayyan, is specified for those Muslims who used to fast in this world. On the Day of Judgment it will be opened, and those who used to fast in obedience to Allah will be called to enter through that door. Then ar-Rayyan will be closed, and no others will enter through it.
The month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar year. It is the best month of the year, as the night of al-Qadr in Ramadan is the best night of the year. Fasting became an obligation on the Muslims in the second year after the Prophetic emigration. Prophet Muhammed peace to be upon him fasted Ramadan for nine years after which he died.
The obligation on the believers of fasting Ramadan is known from the Qur’an and the hadith. It was explicitly stated in Verse 183 of Surat al-Baqarah:
ياأيها الذين آمنوا كتب عليكم الصيام كما كتب على الذين من قبلكم لعلكم تتقون
which means: [ O believers, Fasting is an obligation upon you as it was ordained upon the [Muslim nations] before you–to help you become pious.] Fasting was an obligation upon the nations before the nation of Prophet Muhammad peace to be upon him , however, fasting the month of Ramadan in particular is a specification for the nation of Prophet Muhammad peace to be upon him only.
Moreover, Prophet Muhammad peace to be upon him named Fasting (the month of Ramadan) as one of the five most important matters of Islam in the famous hadith known as “Hadith Jibril” as related by al-Bukhariyy and Muslim. Angel Jibril came to the Prophet in the shape of a man with white clothes and asked the Prophet to inform him about Islam. In response, the Prophet said:
الإسلام أن تشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وأن محمدا رسول الله، وتقيم الصلاة، وتؤتي الزكاة، وتصوم رمضان، وتحج البيت إن استطعت إليه سبيلا
which means: <<Islam is bearing witness that no one is God except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, performing Prayer, paying Zakah, Fasting the month of Ramadan, and performing Pilgrimage if you are able. >>
Consequently, for the one who has learned of its obligation, renouncing the obligation of fasting the month of Ramadan is blasphemy because it entails belying Allah and the Prophet. However, the one who believes Fasting is an obligation, yet does not perform it (without a valid excuse) does not blaspheme–although his neglecting to fast is an enormous sin.
DETERMINING THE BEGINNING OF THE MONTH OF RAMADAN
The obligation of fasting the month of Ramadan becomes incumbent upon the occurrence of one of two matters: to sight the crescent of Ramadan after the sunset of the 29th day of Sha^ban (the month directly preceding Ramadan) or, if the crescent is not seen, then completing thirty (30) days of Sha^ban.
So, the beginning of the month of Ramadan, as well as the end of the month, is determined by sighting the crescent. If the crescent is not sighted, then the month would be completed by 30 days–as is the case with determining all the months of the lunar calendar. This is taken from the hadith of the Prophet related by al-Bukhariyy and Muslim:
لا تقدموا رمضان بيوم أو يومين صوموا لرؤيته و أفطروا لرؤيته فإن غم عليكم فأكملوا عدة شعبان ثلاثين
This means: <<Do not fast one or two days before Ramadan. Start the month when you see the crescent and end the month when you see the crescent. If you are blocked from seeing it, complete thirty days of Sha^ban.>>
Hence, on the 29th day of Sha^ban, directly after the sun sets, the Muslims look towards the western horizon. If the crescent (of the new moon) is seen, the following day will be the first day of Ramadan. If it is not seen, because of cloud cover or another reason, then the next day will complete thirty (30) days of Sha^ban, and the day after that is the first day of Ramadan.
The judge confirms the beginning of Ramadan if one upright Muslim, whose testimony is acceptable to the judge, bears witness he saw the crescent. Several conditions must be met for a person’s testimony to be acceptable to the judge in this matter. He must be Muslim, male, pubescent, free, clear of enormous sins, clear of having his small sins exceed his acts of obedience, and one who abides by the ethics and manners of the people of his class.
So if a person who did not satisfy these conditions testified to the judge that he saw the crescent, like, for example: a woman, a child, one who commits enormous sins, or a slave, then the judge would not confirm the beginning of the month of Ramadan and would not announce to the general public to commence fasting–relying solely upon their testimony.
However, if just one upright Muslim, who has satisfied the aforementioned conditions testified to the judge he saw the crescent, the judge would confirm the beginning of Ramadan for the next day. This is known from the hadith related by Abu Dawud from the route of ^Abdullah Ibn ^Umar. ^Abdullah Ibn ^Umar told the Prophet he had sighted the crescent, so the Prophet fasted the next day and ordered the others to fast as well.
Be warned of those who determine the month of Ramadan relying upon astronomical calculations. Prophet Muhammad peace to be upon him informed us that such calculations are not relied upon in determining such matters. Imam Ahmad related in his Musnad that the Prophet said:
إنَّا أُمَّةٌ أُمّـِيَّةٌ لا نكتُب ولا نَحْسُبُ، الشهرُ هكذا وهكذا
which means: <<We are a nation which does not depend on writings and calculations [to determine the beginning of the month]. The month is either twenty-nine or thirty days.>> Praise be to Allah, how easy the matter is! Any Muslim with sound sight can observe the crescent. He does not need to rely on complex calculations which only a few people understand.
WHO MUST FAST RAMADAN
The first condition for one to be obligated to fast is to be Muslim. In this world we do not request from the non-Muslim to fast; however, in the Hereafter, he will be punished for neglecting to fast–as he will be punished for his blasphemy. Rather, the obligation on the non-Muslim is to embrace Islam, then among many obligations, is to fast Ramadan.
Secondly, the Muslim must be pubescent. The child is not obligated to fast. However it is an obligation on the guardian of the child to order him or her to fast once he or she is 7 (lunar) years old, with the condition that the child’s body can withstand fasting, without being harmed.
Also, for one to be obligated to fast, he must be of sound mind. Fasting is not obligatory on the insane person.
Fasting is not obligatory on a person whose body cannot tolerate fasting, either due to old age or severe illness. Moreover, if a person may be harmed by fasting, that is, as a result of his fasting his sickness may worsen or he may die, then fasting is prohibited for him.
The person who does not fast because of old age or an illness he is not hopeful to be cured of, does not have to make up the missed days of fasting. Instead, he pays an expiation to a poor Muslim for every day of fasting he missed. He can pay the expiation for every missed day to the same person or he can choose to paay it to different people. The expiation is a pair of average-sized hands cupped together (mudd) filled with the most common staple food of the town. In the United States, for example, the most common staple food is wheat.
Fasting is not obligatory on the menstruating woman or the woman who is in her postpartum bleeding period. In fact, it is unlawful for them to fast. The woman who missed days of fasting during Ramadan for these reasons has to make up each missed day.
Also, the pregnant woman is allowed not to fast if she fears harm may come to her or her baby from her fasting. This includes the breast-feeding woman as well. She is allowed not to fast if she fears harm may come to her or her baby from her fasting. Both the pregnant and nursing women must make up every missed day of fasting.
If the reason such a woman did not fast was solely the fear of harming her baby, then in addition to making up the missed days of fasting, she must pay an expiation This expiation is a pair of average-sized hands cupped together filled with the most common staple food of the area where she lived, for each day she missed.
The person who is traveling a walking distance of two or more days (about 80 miles) is allowed not to fast–provided his traveling is not sinful. This traveler is permitted not to fast even though he would not encounter hardship during his trip–such as if he crosses this distance quickly, by plane, or comfortably, in a car or a train.
The matter of traveling is not based on the hardship; rather, it has to do with the distance. This facility for the traveler was mentioned in the Qur’an. Allah said in Surat al-Baqarah, Verse 185:
ومن كان مريضا أو على سفر فعدة من ايام أخر
which means: <<If one is sick or traveling, then one is allowed not to fast and one makes up the missed days later.>>
INTEGRALS OF FASTING
The integrals of fasting are two:
- To make the intention each night to fast the following day of Ramadan.
- To abstain during time of the dawn untill sunset, from inserting any substance into the head or the body cavity through an open inlet, excluding one’s pure, tahir saliva while still inside the mouth and to abstain from sexual intercourse, masturbation, inducing vomit, and apostasy.
Making the intention at night to fast the following day of Ramadan means to have the intention in one’s heart to fast during the night preceding the fasting day, i.e., after the sunset and before the dawn of the following day.
Sometime during that time the person must make the intention to fast the following day, and this must be done each night for the following day of fasting. As related by at-Tirmidhiyy, an-Nasa’iyy, and others, the Prophet peace to be upon him said:
لاصيام لمن لم يبيت النية
which means: <<There is no fasting for the one who does not establish the intention for fasting the night before.>>
The intention is in the heart, and does not have to be uttered with the tongue. The one who sleeps at night without having had the intention to fast and wakes up after the dawn misses the time of the intention. Although fasting is not valid for him that day, he is obligated to abstain from whatever a fasting person would abstain from that day, in addition he must later make up that day.
If the menstrual or postpartum bleeding of a woman stops at night, then she must intend to fast the following day. The purificatory bath (ghusl) is not required for her to start fasting, but rather to start praying.
The intention for any obligatory fasting of Ramadan must take place the night before the fast. However, the intention time for an optional fasting, is extended untill Dhuhr time as long as one does not commit any of the invalidators of fasting since the dawn appeared.
2. The fasting person must abstain from taking into his body cavity any substance from an open inlet whether this substance is food, drink, or otherwise. A person’s fast is invalidated if he intentionally inserts such a substance during the fasting day, while remembering he is fasting and knowing that it is unlawful to do so. However, if he breaks his fasting under threats of being killed, his fast is not invalidated. This person must make up the fast day(s) he invalidated without an excuse.
The open inlets of the body are like the mouth, nose, anus, vagina, and others. Materials which are absorbed by the pores of the skin do not invalidate the fast because the pores of the skin are not considered to be an open inlet to the body cavity. For example, rubbing oil into the skin does not invalidate the fast.
Swallowing one’s own pure saliva, while still inside the mouth, does not invalidate the fast. However, the fast would be invalidated if some saliva was dangled outside the mouth, and separated from the tongue–even to the lips–then was taken back in and swallowed. In addition, if the saliva in the mouth is mixed with something else, whether pure or not, then swallowed, this invalidates the fast.
One’s fast is not invalidated by what is too hard to protect oneself from swallowing. This includes the dust of the street, the dust of the flour, and the like. Although smoking a cigarette breaks the fast of the smoker himself, it does not break the fast of the person next to him who breathes in some of that smoke. It also does not break the fast for one to breathe in the odor of incense or other fragrances.
Another condition for the validity of fasting is for one to abstain from sexual intercourse during the day of fasting. If the person does not know the he must abstain from sexual intercourse during the fasting day, or he forgets that he is fasting and performs this act, then this does not invalidate his fast.
However, the man or woman who performs sexual intercourse during the day of fasting while knowing it is unlawful to do so and remembering that he/she is fasting, does invalidate his/her fast. The expiation, which is due on the man only, for invalidating his fasting by sexual intercourse is in the following order:
To free a Muslim slave;
If he unable, then to fast two consecutive lunar months, in addition to making up the day which was invalidated by his sexual intercourse;
If unable, then to feed each one of sixty (60) poor Muslims the fill of a pair of average-sized hands cupped together (i.e. one mudd) of the most common staple food of the area.
Masturbation by one’s own hand or the hand of one’s spouse or making the maniyy (sexual discharge from the man or the woman) come out of one, for example, kissing or other physical contact invalidates one’s fasting. If, however, one experienced a wet dream or maniyy exited from one because of certain thoughts, one’s fast is not invalidated.
One’s fasting is invalidated by forcing oneself to vomit, either by inserting the finger into the mouth or otherwise. In the case when one forces one to vomit, whether or not one swallows some of one’s vomit, one fast is invalidated and one has to make up that invalidated day of fast. However, the one who vomited involuntarily (without purposely forcing oneself to do so) does not break one’s fast as long as one does not swallow any of the vomit or saliva mixed with the najas-filthy vomit.
There are different sayings regarding the phlegm or congestion that drips from the nasal passage into the throat. According to Imam ash-Shafi^iyy, if the phlegm reached to the part of the throat above where the exit of the letter ha’ ح is, and the person swallowed it, this would invalidate his fasting. However, according to Imam Abu Hanifah, even if the phlegm reaches to the tongue and the person swallows it, his fasting is not invalidated–as long as he does not swallow it after it separates from his mouth.
Finally, the Muslim must abstain at all time from committing apostasy, i.e. committing any type of blasphemy which takes him out of Islam.
Apostasy invalidates Fasting even if one returns to Islam afterwards. After returning to Islam one must abstain from eating and other invalidators of Fasting during the whole day. Moreover, one must make up the invaldated day(s) of Fasting after Ramadan.
CONDITIONS OF VALID FASTING
Among the conditions for the validity of one’s fasting is that the person does not become insane, not even for a moment, during the fasting day. If a person loses his sanity during the day or during part of the day, even for a moment, then his fasting will be invalidated. In addition to this, one’s fasting is invalid if one loses consciousness during the entire fasting day, that is, from the dawn until sunset. If one loses consciousness for only part of the day, this does not invalidate the fast even if one slept all day long.
DAYS OF UNLAWFUL FASTING
It is invalid to fast the day of the Feast of Fitr (^Id-ul-Fitr), the day of the Feast of Adha (^Id-ul-’Adha) and the three (Tashriq) days after the day of Adha. It is also invalid to fast the last half of Sha^ban and the Day of Doubt, except if one joins the fasting of these with those before them or if one is fasting for an expiation (kaffarah), make up (qada’), vow (nadhr), or habitual consistent practice (wird), like the one who usually fasts Mondays and Thursdays.
ZAKAH OF FITR
The Zakah of Fitr is due on every Muslim who is alive part of Ramadan and part of Shawwal (the month after Ramadan.) The due Zakah for each is a “sa^” or four times the fill of a pair of average-sized hands cupped together of the most common staple food of one’s area. It is an obligation upon the Muslim to pay the due Zakah for one and one’s Muslim dependents if on the day of the Feast of Fitr (^Id-ul-Fitr) and the night after it he has enough to meet his debts, clothing, lodging, and sustenance, and the sustenance of those whom he must support.
The man must pay the Zakah of Fitr for his wife, non-pubescent children, slaves, and poor Muslim parents. He may not pay for his pubescent children or solvent parents without their permission. It is permissible to pay the Zakah of Fitr any time during Ramadan, even on the first night. However, it is recommended to pay it during the day of the Feast, and before the ^Id prayer, because this mends the hearts of the poor people before the prayer. It is prohibited to delay paying the Zakah of Fitr until after the sunset of the day of the Feast without an excuse.
RECIPIENTS OF ZAKAH
For all types of Zakah, the intention is obligatory upon setting one’s Zakah portion aside. Zakah must be paid to the Muslims among the eight categories of people deserving of Zakah as mentioned explicitly in the Qur’an (at-Tawbah, 61):
إنما الصدقات للفقراء والمساكين والعاملين عليها والمؤلفة قلوبهم وفي الرقاب والغارمين وفي سبيل الله وابن السبيل
- Those (who are poor) who earn less than half their basic needs (al-fuqara’);
- Those (who are poor) who earn half but less than what meets all their basic needs (al-masakin);
- The Zakah workers who are assigned by the caliph (al-^amilun ^alayha);
- The new converts to Islam whose hearts are to be reconciled (al-mu’allafatu qulubuhum);
- The slaves who are short in satisfying their contract for purchasing their freedom from their owners (ar-riqab);
- Those who are unable to pay their debts (al-gharimun);
- The volunteer fighters (fi sabilillah);
- The travelers who do not have enough to enable them to reach their destination (ibn-us-sabil).
It is neither permissible nor valid to pay Zakah to other than those eight types of Muslims specifically mentioned. That is why it is not valid to pay Zakah for any charitable project, hospital, or the like to meet this obligation.
RECOMMENDED DEEDS WHILE FASTING
It is recommended (sunnah) to break one’s fast as soon as one is sure the maghrib (sunset) has begun. It is good to break one’s fast by eating dates, and if not available, then by drinking water. It is good to say the following statement upon breaking one’s fast:
اللهم لك صمت وعلى رزقك أفطرت
which means: <<O Allah, for Your sake I fasted, and with Your sustenance I broke my fast.>> It was narrated from Abu Dawud that the Prophet used to say this supplication upon breaking his fast. It is also good to delay the suhur meal until a time close to the dawn–but to stop eating before the dawn.
Refraining from backbiting, cursing a Muslim, and other sins, is more emphasized while fasting. In committing some sins, the reward of one’s fasting might be lessened or lost. If someone curses another, let the one cursed abstain from responding with a similar curse. Instead, let him say, “I am fasting. I am fasting.”
Paying the optional charity to the poor; reciting the Qur’an; staying in the mosque with the intention of i^tikaf, especially during the last ten days of Ramadan; praying the Tarawih prayer; and inviting others to break their fast on food which you provided are all rewardable acts.
The month of Ramadan is a great opportunity for one to gain a great deal of reward. Reward is earned by performing this obligation in worship and obedience to Allah, and by performing many of the recommended (sunnah) deeds. Let the person not waste his time during this blessed month.