Part IV: Fasting (As-Saum)

Chapter 28

Rules and Regulations

         Fasting, as we have already defined in the preceding chapter, means abstaining completely from eating and drinking and also from sexual intercourse during the day, i.e. between dawn and sunset. The Prophet has also prohibited from backbiting, lying, quarrelling, frivolous talk or doing harm to others during fasting.

Following are some of the rules and regulations of the fasting:-

1- Persons on whom fasting is obligatory

         As observed earlier, fasting for the month of Ramadhan is obligatory on an adult Muslim male and female who is sane and healthy. In other words, the conditions for the obligation of fasting according to the jurists are; That he or she must be a Muslim; he or she must be adult; he or she should be sane, and that he or she must be healthy.

2- Persons on whom fasting is not obligatory

         The Islamic Shariah exempts the following persons from fasting or permits them to postpone fasting:

a)            Minors: Minor children are not under obligation to observe fasting. Age on which one attains adulthood is not prescribed and thus has been left to the wisdom of the people to decide it keeping in view the circumstances of their time and clime. Some jurists prescribe age of adulthood at 15 years, some at 16 years and some at 18 years. Generally age of 18 years is considered the age on which minor comes to attain adulthood. According to a Hadith, a child should be persuaded to learn the rules of fasting and start doing it occasionally so that by the time he reaches the age of adulthood he must have learnt and experienced fasting.

b)            Insanes: Fasting is not obligatory on insane persons and neither they should keep fast. According to Ali the Prophet said: There are three persons from whom pen is lifted (i.e. the responsibility of actions in removed): An insane person till he recovers from insanity, a sleeping person till he awakes, and a child till he attains adulthood (Abu Daud, Tirmizi, Ahmad). However after recovery from insanity, he would be required to fast.

c)             A woman in menstruation and post partum bleeding: A woman who is in condition of menstruation (Haidh) or a post-partum bleeding (Nifaas) is not obliged to keep fast. However, she would offer Qadha for the missed fasts i.e. she would make up for the missed fasts in other days when she recovers from Haidh or Nifaas. It has been reported by Hadhrat Ayesha that in the times of the Prophet we were enjoined to offer Qadha for the missed fasts in Haidh (or Nifaas) but were not required to perform Qadha of the prayers missed during Haidh (or Nifaas).  – (Bukhari, Muslim)

d)            A pregnant or suckling woman: During pregnancy or during period of suckling of a child a woman is permitted not to fast if fasting would harm her or her child. However, there is a difference of opinion among the jurists whether she should make up Qadha of the missed fasts or she should give Fidyah (ransom). Some of them say that both are essential, but Hanafees and Malikees say that only Qadha is required.

e)            Old and very weak persons: The men and women who are very old and are physically unable to bear the rigours of fasting are not required to fast. However, some jurists suggest that if they are well-to-do-, they should give ransom (Fidyah).

f)              Sick persons: The Qur’an, in its verses 184-185 of Surah Al-Baqarah, permits sick persons (men and women) not to fast during sickness if fasting would aggravate their disease or delay recovery. However, some jurists suggest that fasting should not be abandoned on mere whims or flimsy grounds. It should be done on the advice of a competent doctor. But it should be kept in mind that the missed fasts will have to be made up after recovery from disease.

         But those persons who are suffering from permanent diseases like diabetes, heart problems, kidney problems, cancer or blood pressure or T.B. problems, etc. and the doctors advice that fasting is very risky for their life, they may not fast. They are not required to offer Qadha also. But they should give Fidyah i.e. feed a needy person for every missed fast.

g)            A person on Journey: A person on journey is permitted to abandon fasting during journey by the Qur’an in its verse 184 and 185 of Surah Al-Baqarah. But he would be required to make Qadha of missed fasts.

         However if he considers that he can bear the rigours of journey and can fast, he is permitted to do so. But, according to a Hadith, not to fast is better than fasting. In case he is fasting and it causes him much hardship which he could not expect, he is allowed to break the fast and keep it later on without paying any expiation. It is reported that the Prophet and his companions were fasting when they came out on journey to conquer Makkah in 8 A.H. But at some place during the journey he saw that fasting was causing hardship to some of the companions, he ordered for water, broke the fast and enjoined the companions to break their fast. With those who did not break it, the Prophet was very displeased.

         According to the jurists, the conditions regarding length and duration of journey for abandonment of fasting are the same which are applicable to curtailment of prayer.

h)            Miscellaneous situations: A person is allowed to abandon fasting in case of Jihad against the enemy, in case of fear of a cruel master, in case of fear of enemy attack or in case of risk to life or in any other critical situation. However, he is required to make Qadha after fear or risk disappears.

3- Intention (Niyyah) of Fasting

         It is Hadith of the Prophet of Islam that Niyyah (intention) is the basis of all deeds (Bukhari). So making intention is essential for all the acts of Ibadah (worship) and all virtuous deeds. Thus making intention is imperative for fasting as it is imperative for performing Wudu or prayer or Hajj or making payment of Zakat. Making of Niyyah (intention) in one’s mind is sufficient. It is not necessary that intention should be expressed verbally or announced.

         For each fast of Ramadhan (or of vow or expiation) intention should be made at the time of dawn or before it i.e. during the night. Ibn Umar reports from Hadhrat Hafsah that the Prophet said: He who does not make intention (of keeping fast) at the time of dawn or before that, he is not fasting (Ahmad, Tirmizi, Abu Daud, Nisai). It is not sufficient to express the intention of fasting only once in the beginning of the month. According to some jurists, to eat Sahri meal at the dawn is sufficient for making intention of fasting as it is taken for this purpose. Eating, drinking and sexual intercourse is allowed during the night till dawn even if you make intention of fasting for the next day before going to sleep.

         Although intention of fasting can be made in any language and there are no prescribed words for that, yet the Ulema suggest following words in Arabic. If intention is made during night you say:   (I have intention to observe tomorrow a fast of the month of Ramadhan). If intention is make at down you say:  (I make intention for observing today a fast of the month of Ramadhan.

4- Sehri and Iftaar

         In the relevant portion of verse 187 of Surah Al-Baqarah the Qur’an enjoins: “…… therefore, you are allowed to have sexual intercourse with your wives and seek (enjoyment and children) which Allah has ordained for you. And eat and drink until white thread (of light) of dawn becomes distinct to you from black thread (of night). Then strictly observe the fast till nightfall……” Thus this verse beautifully tells us the times of commencing the fast and breaking the fast which are respectively dawn and dusk (sunset). It also tells us the things which are allowed to us during the night but disallowed to us during the day i.e. during fasting). These things are eating and drinking and having sexual intercourse with wives, abstaining from which is fasting.

         Sehri means dawn meal which is taken before the commencing time of the fast. And Iftar (or commonly called Iftari) means the meal with which fast is broken at the time just after sunset. In other words, sehri is the meal which is taken just before the Adhaan (call) of Fajr (the Morning) prayer and Iftar is the meal with which fast is broken just after the Adhaan of Maghrib (the evening) Prayer.

         The practice of the Prophet was to eat and drink something at the time of Sehri and also to eat and drink something at the time of Iftar. He also enjoined to delay Sehri uptil dawn i.e. just before the call of morning prayer and hasten Iftar i.e. taking it immediately after sunset or the call of evening prayer.

         Following are some of his Ahadith which throw light on his instructions regarding Sehri and Iftari:-

1)            Do take your Sehri meal, because the Sehri meal has many blessings in it.

2)            Take support from the Sehri meal for fasting the day and take help from the mid-day nap for the night (Taraveeh) prayer.

3)            Eating of the Sehri meal is full of blessings, so never miss it even if it be draught of water, because Allah sends His mercy on those who take the Sehri meal and the angels implore for Allah’s forgiveness for them.

4)            The difference between our fasting and the fasting of the people of the Book is Sehri meal (the pre-dawn Tiffin).

5)            The people will continue in prosperity so long as they are quick in breaking fast and delaying sehri till dawn.

6)            Three things are characteristic of Prophetic conduct and practice: To delay eating of the Sehri meal; to hasten in Iftar (breaking of the fast), and to place the right hand over the left hand in the prayer.

7)            When one of you is fasting, he should break it with dates or if, these are not available, with water; water is indeed the purest of things.

8)            The person who gives something to a faster with which he may break his fast, will have the same Thawab (reward) as is meant for the faster.

9)            At Iftar (time of breaking of the fast) following supplication should be read:

O Allah! I have observed the fast for your sake and have broken it with provisions given by you.

5- Fard (Compulsory) and Sunnat parts of the Fast

         Fard parts of the fast (as enjoined by the Qur’an) are:

1)            To abstain from eating,

2)            From drinking and

3)            From having sexual intercourse during the day i.e. from dawn till sunset.

Sunnat and recommended parts are:

1)            Meal at Sehri should be taken although a little.

2)            Sehri should be delayed till just before dawn

3)            Iftari should be hastened and be immediately taken just after sunset.

4)            Fast should be broken with dates or water.

5)            One should abstain from lying, slandering, backbiting, quarreling and indulging in other moral and social evils.

6- Things which break the fast and the things which do not break the fast.

         Such things which do not break the fast are called Mubah (means allowed although undesirable) and things which break the fast are called Batil (meaning prohibited or disallowed). Following are some of these things along with their consequences.

1)            To brush teeth with tooth stick, which may be dry or green, even if one feels the taste of it in the mouth, does not affect the fast.

2)            It is permitted to a faster to take bath or to pour water on head or body or to use wet cloth on account of heat or thirst, as it does not affect the fast.

3)            If one vomits unintentionally and does not swallow it, his fast is not broken.

4)            If one vomits deliberately at least mouthful, his fast is broken, but he is required to repeat the fast and not to expiate it.

5)            To swallow a little blood produced while brushing the teeth or otherwise along with saliva does not break the fast provided one does not feel its taste in the mouth.

6)            Rinsing mouth or putting water in the nose while performing Wudu or otherwise is allowed. But much water should not be put in the mouth or nose, because if it goes into the stomach, it would break the fast according to some jurists.

7)            If water enters in the ear, it does not break the fast.

8)            Eating or drinking something in forgetfulness, even if one eats to his full, does not affect the fast.

9)            If you lie with your wife, kiss or embrace her, it does not break your fast unless in fit of passions you do sexual intercourse or you discharge.

10)         If you have a wet dream (ejaculation) during nap of the day, according to many of the jurists your fast is not broken.

11)         By swallowing saliva or phlegm, the fast is not broken.

12)         If one eats and drinks after dawn or he breaks fast before sunset on account of mistake, the fast is broken according to many of the jurists. In such a case, only repeating of fast is required but no redemption or expiation. However, some jurists consider the mistake and forgetfulness the same thing and say that the fast is not broken.

13)         If blood of a woman starts fllowing out on account of Haidh or Nifaas, her fast is broken and she is required to perform its Qadha i.e. to repeat it.

14)         If you swallow something which is not used as food, your fast is broken and you will have to repeat it.

15)         If a suckling woman suckles her child, her fast is not broken.

16)         According to Hanafees, if there is wound on head or ear or belly and on it some medicine is applied which somehow goes into stomach or brain, it breaks the fast. For it Qadha is sufficient.

17)         According to Hanafees, application of an injection to a patient breaks his fast.

18)         All the jurists recommend that if fast of a person is broken on account of anything, he should abstain from eating or drinking as a mark of respect to Ramadhan.

19)         By applying antimony to eyes, or oil to hair, or scent to body or massaging the body fast is not broken.

20)         Smelling perfume does not break the fast.

21)         Backbiting, lying, using obscene language, quarreling, etc. does not break the fast although it makes it defective and reduces its worth.

22)         Smoking pipe or cigarette or inhaling an incense invalidates the fast and one will have to repeat it.

7- Situations in which fast can be broken

         In the following cases or situations one is allowed to break the fast:

1)            If one has a fit or sudden attack of disease or one meets an accident and finds himself in a critical condition.

2)            If a diabetic who takes insulin injection keeps fast but suddenly his sugar level drops to a dangerous level.

3)            If one has a sudden attack of disease which may not be fatal, but it may worsen the condition if fast is not broken.

4)            If a pregnant woman meets an accident or a sudden attack of disease and there is a danger of harm or to her to her child.

5)            If a person is bitten by a snake and needs treatment immediately.

6)            If a person on journey keeps fast but due to heat or hardship of the journey he loses his consciousness or becomes too tired or exhausted that weakness overtakes him.

7)            If one experiences extreme hunger or thirst and fears that continuing the fast would be fatal or seriously harmful.

         In the above or similar situations, fast can be broken, but its Qadha would be due. No redemption or expiation is, however, required.

8- Qadha (Late Observing) of the missed Fasts

         Qadha means late. If you are not able to perform an act of Ibadah (worship) on its prescribed time, you are required to perform it later on. It is called Qadha or late performing. So if you miss the fasts of Ramadhan on account of illness or having gone on journey, you are required to observe them later on. The Holy Qur’an says: “The month of Ramadhan is that in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs of guidance and a criterion; therefore, any of you who witnesses (finds) this month must fast therein; and whosoever is sick or is on a journey should fast the same number of days (which have been missed) later on. Allah intends for you ease, and does not intend for you hardship ……” (2:185).

         Keeping in view the Verses of the Qur’an and Ahadith, The Ulema and the jurists have made rules and regulations regarding Qadha of the missed fasts. Some of these are:

1)            One must not miss the fasts on their prescribed days especially fasts of Ramadhan on flimsy grounds. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said: “He who abandons one fast of Ramadhan without a genuine reason or illness, cannot recompense it even if he fasts throughout the rest of his life”. – (Abu Daud, Tirmizi, Ahmad)

2)            The fasts of Ramadhan which have been missed on account of some genuine reason like sickness, journey, or some other hardship, should not be deferred for a long time. Rather they should be observed as soon as possible after the reason on which they were missed disappears.

3)            For the missed fasts, one is required to fast the same number of other days as soon as one can. It is not necessary to observe the missed fasts consecutively or immediately afterwards.

4)            In case a person has missed some fasts of Ramadhan last year and he is not able to observe them before Ramadhan of this year, he must observe the fasts of Ramadhan of this year and should postpone the missed fasts to a later time.

9- Fidyah (Redemption)

         Fidyah means compensation or redemption or ransom. As a term of Islamic Shariah, Fidyah means compensation in the form of charity for missing an obligatory religious duty, e.g. fasting.

         The Holy Qur’an says: Fasting is for certain number of days; but if any of you is sick or is on a journey, he should fast the same numbers (which have been missed) from other days; and as for those who can fast only with extreme difficulty, there is a way to compensate, (and that is) the feeding of a needy person …… (2:184). Thus Fidyah (compensation) for each missed fast is feeding of a needy person.

         What is the standard of feeding and who is a needy person are the questions which arise here. According to the jurists, a needy person means here the same needy person who is eligible for or who deserves Zakat, and the standard of feeding is the same at which you generally feed yourself and your family. Most of the jurists also say that one must provide a needy person two meals instead of one meal a day i.e. morning and evening meal. But some go by literal meaning and say that only one meal is meant here. In case of missed fasts of one month of Ramadhan, you would feed sixty needy persons with one meal or thirty persons with two meals.

         If you want to give Fidyah in corn or in cash instead of feeding a needy person, you are permitted to do so. According to the jurists, in that case you can give corn (or its price) equal to that which has been fixed by the Prophet for Sadaqatul-Fitr, i.e. one sa’a (3.5 kilo) of wheat, barley, dates or dry grapes, (or honey) to a needy person for each missed fast.

         We have already discussed the persons who have no physical capacity to bear the rigours of fasting or who can do fasting with much difficulty which can be dangerous or harmful to them. Such persons are: old and very weak men and women, pregnant or suckling women, and persons permanently or always sick such as with diabetes or heart or cancer or kidney or liver problems.

         Some of other rules and regulations made in the light of the Qur’an and Ahadith regarding Fidyah are as under:

1)            If a sick person, after paying Fidyah, recovers his health and is able to fast, he must fast for the missed days later on as it would be better for him.

2)            If a person has died and has missed some fasts, his heirs cannot observe the missed fasts on behalf of him. According to a Hadith, one cannot perform prayer or fasting on behalf of a dead person. But you can give Fidyah for the missed fasts of a deceased relative out of his left property. However, according to some jurists, Fidyah can be paid on his behalf only when he has made a bequest for that.

3)            Fasts should not be missed on flimsy grounds thinking that paying Fidyah is much easy than undergoing the hardship of fasting.


10- Kaffarah (Expiation)

         Kaffarah means penalty which one has to pay for a sin or for a serious irregularity committed by him regarding a religious obligation. Kaffarah in respect of fasting means penalty to be paid on account of violation of regulations regarding fasting.

         Kaffarah in respect of violation of regulations of fasting has not been mentioned in the Qur’an. However, according to Ulema and Jurists, it is mentioned in Ahadith and following are some important principles of it:

1)            If one’s Ramadhan fast is invalidated on account of intentionally eating, drinking or doing sexual intercourse or some other irregularity relating to sex, he will have to give Kaffarah and that is fasting continuously for two months (or sixty days). If there is break in fasting, he has to start afresh and fast for full sixty days continuously regardless of the number of fasts observed earlier.

2)            If more than one fasts are redered void during the same month of Ramadhan, one will make only one Kaffarah. But in case of sexual sin for each fast rendered invalid, he will pay one Kaffarah separately.

3)            In case of women, if sixty days continuous fasting of Kaffarah is disturbed on account of menses, then the fasts observed by them before menses would be counted and they will be required to complete sixty days fasting by resuming it continuously after the menses. However, this facility is not available to them in case of Nifaas (bleeding associated with childbirth).

4)            In addition to Kaffarah, Qadha of the void or invalidated fast will also be made.

5)            If one is not able to observe fasts of Kaffarah, he should provide food to sixty needy persons or give corn or its price in lieu of that. If one can free a slave, this is better to do.

6)            According to some jurists, penalty for intentional eating or drinking is not Kaffarah. Only Fidyah and Qadha are sufficient.


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