Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3: The Fast of Ramadan
The fast of Ramadan, according to the Qur'an, sunnah and consensus, isobligatory.
The evidence from the Qur'an consists of the following two verses: "Oyou who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for thepeople before you in order for you to gain God consciousness, and, "...Themonth of Ramadan, during which the Qur'an was revealed, a guidance for mankind,and clear proofs of the guidance and the criterion; and whoever of you isresident, let him fast the month" [al-Baqarah 185].
From the sunnah we have the following statements of the Prophet: "Islamis built upon [the following] five pillars: testifying that there is no Godexcept Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, the establishment of theprayer, the giving of zakah, the fast of Ramadan and the pilgrimage toMakkah." Talhah ibn 'Ubaidullah reported that a man came to the Prophetand said: "O Messenger of Allah, tell me what Allah requires of me asregards fasting." He answered, "The month of Ramadan." The manasked: "Is there any other [fast]?" The Prophet answered: "No,unless you do so voluntarily."
The whole Muslim nation agrees that the fast of Ramadan is obligatory. It isone of the pillars of Islam, and if one disputes this, he cannot be called aMuslim.l
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Theblessed month has come to you. Allah has made fasting during it obligatory uponyou. During it, the gates to Paradise are opened and the gates to hellfire arelocked, and the devils are chained. There is a night [during this month] whichis better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of its good is reallydeprived [of something great]." This is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa'i, andal-Baihaqi.
'Arfajah testifies to this: "We were with 'Utbah ibn Farqad while hewas discussing Ramadan. A companion of the Prophet entered upon the scene. When'Utbah saw him, he became shy and stopped talking. The man [the companion]spoke about Ramadan, saying: 'I heard the Messenger of Allah say duringRamadan: "The gates of Hell are closed, the gates of Paradise are opened,and the devils are in chains. An angel calls out: 'O you who intend to do gooddeeds, have glad tidings. O you who intend to do evil, refrain, until Ramadanis completed.'"
Muslim relates that Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet saying: "The timebetween the five prayers, two consecutive Friday prayers, and two consecutiveRamadans are expiations for all that has happened during that period, providedthat one has avoided the grave sins."
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said:"Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan, obeying all of its limitations andguarding himself against what is forbidden, has in fact atoned for any sins hecommitted before it." Ahmad and alBaihaqi related this hadith with a goodchain.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said:"Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan with faith and seeks Allah's pleasureand reward will have his previous sins forgiven." This hadith is relatedby Ahmad and the compilers of the sunan.
Ibn 'Abbas reported that the Prophet said: "The bare essence of Islamand the basics of the religion are three [acts], upon which Islam has beenestablished. Whoever leaves one of them becomes an unbeliever and his blood maylegally be spilled. [The acts are:] Testifying that there is no God exceptAllah, the obligatory prayers, and the fast of Ramadan." This hadith isrelated by Abu Ya'la and ad-Dailimi. Azh-Zhahabi called it sahih.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said:"Whoever breaks his fast during Ramadan without having one of the excusesthat Allah would excuse him for, then even a perpetual fast, if he were to fastit, would not make up for that day." This is related by Abu Dawud, IbnMajah, and atTirmizhi.
Al-Bukhari records from Abu Hurairah in marfu' form: "Whoever breaksthe fast of Ramadan without having a legitimate excuse or being ill, he cannotmake up for that day, even if he were to undertake a perpetual fast." IbnMas'ud has also reported this.
Azh-Zhahabi says: "According to the established believers, anyone wholeaves the fast of Ramadan without being sick is worse than a fomicator or analcoholic. In fact, they doubt his Islam and they suspect that he might be azandiqah and one of those who destroy [Islam].
This event is confirmed by sighting the new moon, even if it is seen by onlyone just person, or by the passage of thirty days in the immediately precedingmonth of Sha'ban.
Ibn 'Umar said: "The people were looking for the new moon and when Ireported to the Messenger of Allah that I had seen it, he fasted and orderedthe people to fast." This is related by Abu Dawud, al-Hakim, and IbnHibban, who declared it to be sahih.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet instructed: "Fast after you haveseen it [the new crescent] and end the fast [at the end of the month] when yousee it. If it is hidden from you, then wait until the thirty days of Sha'banhave passed." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Commenting on these reports, at-Tirmizhi states: "Most knowledgeablepeople act in accordance with these reports. They say that it is correct toaccept the evidence of one person to determine the beginning of the fast. Thisis the opinion of Ibn alMubarak, ash-Shaf'i, and Ahmad. An-Nawawi says that itis the soundest opinion. Conceming the new moon of Shawwal [which signifies theend of the fast], it is confimmed by completing thirty days of Ramadan, andmost jurists state that the new moon must have been reported by at least twojust witnesses. However, Abu Thaur does not distinguish between the new moon ofShawwal and the new moon of Ramadan. In both cases, he accepts the evidence ofonly one just witness."
Ibn-Rushd comments that: "The opionion of Abu Bakr ibn alMunzhir, whichis also that of Abu Thaur and, I suspect, that of the Zhahiri school ofthought, is supported by the following argument given by Abu Bakr al-Munzhiri:there is complete agreement that breaking the fast is obligatory, thatabstaining from eating is based on one person's report, and that the situationmust be like that for the beginning of the month and for the ending of themonth, as both of them are simply the signs that differentiate the time offasting from the time of not fasting."
Ash-Shaukani observes: "If there is nothing authentic recorded thatstates that one may only accept two witnesses for the end of the month, then itis apparent, by analogy, that one witness is sufficient, as it is sufficient forthe beginning of the month. Furthemmore, worship based on the acceptance of onereport points to the fact that such singular reports are accepted in everymatter unless there is some evidence that specifies the peculiarity of specificcases, such as the number of witnesses conceming matters of wealth, and so on.Apparently this is the opinion of Abu Thaur."
According to the majority of scholars, it does not matter if the new moonhas been sighted in a different location. In other words, after the new moon isseen anywhere in the world, it becomes obligatory for all Muslims to beginfasting, as the Prophet said: "Fast due to its sighting and break the fastdue to its sighting." This hadith is a general address directed to thewhole Muslim world - that is, "if any one of you sees the moon in anyplace, then that will be a sighting for all of the people."
According to 'Ikrimah, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, Salim, Ishaq, the correctopinion among the Hanafiyyah, and the chosen opinion among the Shaf'iyyah,every "country" (or territory) is to take into consideration its ownsighting and not necessarily to follow the sighting of others. This is based onwhat Kuraib said: "While I was in ash-Sham, the new moon of Ramadan appearedon Thursday night. I retumed to Madinah at the end of the month. There, Ibn'Abbas asked me: 'When did you people see the new moon?' I said: 'We saw it onThursday night.' He said: 'Did you see it yourself?' I said: 'Yes, the peoplesaw it, and they and Mu'awiyyyah fasted.' He said: 'But we saw it on Fridaynight. We will not stop fasting until we complete thirty days or until we seethe new moon.' I said: 'Isn't Mu'awiyyah's sighting and fasting sufficient foryou?' He said: 'No . . . This is the order of the Messenger of Allah.' "This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and at-Tirmizhi.
About the hadith, at-Timmizhi says: "It is hassan sahih ghareeb.Scholars act in accordance with this hadith. Every land has its sighting."In Fath al-'Alam Sharh Bulugh al-Maram, it is stated: The [opinion] closest [tothe truth] is that each land follows its sighting, as well as the areas thatare connected to it."
The scholars of fiqh agree that if only one person sees the new moon, he isto fast. 'Ata differs and says that he is not to fast until someone else alsosights the new moon with him. The correct position is that he is to break thefast, as ash-Shaf'i and Abu Thaur have ruled. The Prophet has based the fastand its breaking on the sighting of the moon. One's own sight is enough for himand there is no need for another person's sighting.
The fast has two essential elements (literally, "pillars") thatmust be fulfilled for it to be valid and acceptable. They are:
This point is based on the Qur'anic verse: "Eat and drink until thewhite thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Thenstrictly observe the fast until nightfall."
This is also based on the following hadith: "When the verse 'Eat anddrink until the white thread becomes distinct to you...' was revealed, I took ablack thread and a white thread and placed them underneath my pillow. Duringthe night I looked at them to see if I could distinguish between them. In themorning I went to the Messenger of Allah and mentioned that to him and he said:'It is the black of the night and the white of the day.'"
Allah instructs in the Qur'an: "And they are ordained nothing else thanto serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him." The Prophet, upon whom bepeace, said: "Actions are judged according to the intention behind them,and for everyone is what he intended."
The intention must be made before fajr and during every night of Ramadan.This point is based on the hadith of Hafsah which reported that the Prophetsaid: "Whoever does not determine to fast before fajr will have nofast" (that is, it won't be accepted). This is related by Ahmad,an-Nasa'i, at-Tirmizhi, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah. Ibn Khuzaimah and Ibn Hibbanhave classified it as sahih.
The intention is valid during any part of the night. It need not be spoken,as it is in reality an act of the heart which does not involve the tongue. Itwill be fulfilled by one's intention to fast out of obedience to Allah and forseeking His pleasure.
If one eats one's pre-dawn meal (sahoor) with the intention of fasting andto get closer to Allah by such abstinence, then one has performed theintention. If one determines that one will fast on the next day solely for thesake of Allah, then one has performed the intention even if a pre-dawn meal wasnot consumed.
According to many of the jurists, the intention for a voluntary fast may bemade at any time before any food is consumed. This opinion is based on'Aishah's hadith: "The Prophet came to us one day and said: 'Do you have any[food]?' We said, 'No.' He said: 'Therefore, I am fasting." This isrelated by Muslim and Abu Dawud.
The Hanafiyyah and Shaf'iyyah stipulate that the intention must be madebefore noon (for voluntary fasts). The apparent opinion of Ibn Mas'ud and Ahmadis that the intention may be made before or after noon.
All scholars agree that fasting is obligatory upon every sane, adult,healthy Muslim male who is not traveling at that time. As for a woman, she mustnot be menstruating or having post-childbirth bleeding. People who are insane,minors, and those who are traveling, menstruating, or going throughpost-childbirth bleeding, and the elderly and breast-feeding or pregnant womendo not need to observe the fast.
For some, the fast is not obligatory at all, for example, the insane. In thecase of young people, their parents or guardians should order them to fast.Some are to break the fast and make up the missed days of fasting at a laterdate, while others are to break the fast and pay a "ransom" (in whichcase, they are not obliged to make up the days they missed). We shall discusseach group in more detail.
Fasting is not obligatory for the insane because of their inability tounderstand what they are doing. 'Ali reported that the Prophet, upon whom bepeace, said: "The pen is raised for three groups [of people]--that is,they will not be responsible for their actions: the insane until they becomesane, those who are sleeping until they awaken, and the young until they reachpuberty." This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and at-Tirmizhi.
Though the young are not required to fast, it is proper for their guardiansto encourage them to fast so they will become accustomed to it at an early age.They may fast as long as they are able to and then may break it. ArRabi'a bintMu'awiyyah reported: "The Messenger of Allah sent a man, on the morning ofthe day of 'Ashurah, to the residences of the Ansar, saying: 'Whoever has spentthe morning fasting is to complete his fast. Whoever has not spent this morningfasting should fast for the remainder of the day.' We fasted after thatannouncement, as did our young children. We would go to the mosque and maketoys stuffed with cotton for them to play with. If one of them started cryingdue to hunger, we would give them a toy to play with until it was time toeat." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Elderly men and women are permitted to break their fasts, as are thechronically ill, and those who have to perform difficult jobs under harshcircumstances and who could not find any other way to support themselves. Allof these people are allowed to break their fast, because such a practice wouldplace too much hardship on them during any part of the year. They are obligedto feed one poor person [miskin] a day (for every day of fasting that they donot perform). The scholars differ over how much food is to be supplied, forexample, a sa', half a sa', or a madd. There is nothing in the sunnah thatmentions exactly how much is to be given.
Ibn 'Abbas said: "An elderly man is permitted to break his fast, but hemust feed a poor person daily. If he does this, he does not have to make up thedays that he did not fast. This is related by ad-Daraqutni and by al-Hakim, whosaid it is sahih. Al-Bukhari recorded that 'Ata heard Ibn 'Abbas recite the'ayah: "And for those who can fast [but do not], there is a "ransom':the feeding of a person in need" [al-Baqarah 185]. Then Ibn 'Abbascontinued: "It has not been abrogated. [Its ruling applies] to elderly menand women who are not able to fast. Instead, they must feed one poor person ona daily basis."
The same is true for one who is chronically ill and as such cannot fast, andfor one who is forced to work under harsh circumstances and as such cannotendure the additional burden of fasting. Both groups must also feed one poorperson daily.
Commenting on al-Baqarah's 'ayah, Sheikh Muhammad 'Abduh says: "What ismeant by those who can fast' [(but do not) in the Qur'anic verse] is the weakelderly people, the chronically ill, and so on, and similarly, those workerswho are working under severe conditions, such as coal miners. The same appliesto criminals who are sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. They haveto pay the 'ransom' if they have the means to do so."
Pregnant and breast-feeding women, if they fear for themselves or for the baby,can break the fast and pay the "ransom." They do not have to make upthe days missed. Abu Dawud related from 'Ikrimah that Ibn 'Abbas saidconcerning the 'ayah "And for those who can fast [but do not],":"This is a concession for the elderly, as they can fast. They are to breakthe fast and feed one poor person a day. Pregnant or breast-feeding women, ifthey fear for the child, can do likewise." This is related by al-Bazzar.At the end of the report, there is the addition: "Ibn 'Abbas used to sayto his wives who were pregnant: 'You are in the same situation as those who canfast [but do not]. You are to pay the "ransom" and do not have tomake up the days later.' " Of its chain, ad-Daraqutni says it is sahih.
Nafi' reported that Ibn 'Umar was asked about a pregnant woman who fearedfor her unborn baby. He replied: "She is to break the fast and to feed onepoor person a day one madd of barley."
There is also a hadith that states: "Allah has relieved the travelersof fasting and half of the prayer, and the pregnant and the breast-feedingwomen of the fast."According to the Hanafiyyah, Abu Ubaid, and Abu Thaur,such women are only to make up the missed days of fasting, and they are notsupposed to feed one poor person a day. According to Ahmad and ash-Shaf'i, ifsuch women fear only for the baby, they must pay the "ransom" andmake up the days later. If they fear only for themselves or for themselves andthe baby, then they are only to make up the missed days at a later date.
It is allowed for those who are (not chronically) ill and for travelers tobreak their fasts during Ramadan, but they must make up the days they missed.Allah says in the Qur'an: "And [for] him who is sick among you or on a journey,[the same] number of other days."
Mu'azh said: "Verily, Allah made the fast obligatory upon the Prophetby revealing: 'O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it wasprescribed for those before you...' until the words, 'And for those who canfast [but do not] there is a "ransom" payment...' Then, whoeverwished to do so would fast and whoever wished to do so would feed a poorperson, and that was sufficient for them. Then Allah revealed another verse:'The month of Ramadan in which the Qur'an was revealed...' to the words:'Whoever is resident among you during this month is to fast.' [By this verse,]the fast was established for those who were resident and healthy. A concessionwas made for the sick and travelers, and the feeding of the poor by the elderlywho could not fast was [left] confirmed." This is related by Ahmad, AbuDawud, and alBaihaqi with a sahih chain.
A sick person may break his fast which, if continued, would only aggravatethe illness or delay its cure.In al-Mughni it is stated: "It is relatedfrom some of the early scholars that any type of illness allows one to breakthe fast, even an injury to the finger or a toothache. They based their opinionon the following:
-1- the wording of the verse is general and applies to all types of illness,and
-2- a traveler is allowed to break his fast even if he does not need to and,therefore, the same must be the case for one who is sick." This was alsothe opinion of al-Bukhari, 'Ata, and the Zhahiri school of thought.
One who is healthy but fears that he will become ill if he fasts can breakthe fast, as can the person who is overcome by hunger and/or thirst and fearsthat he may die because of it, even if he is resident and healthy. He must makeup the days of fasting that he missed. The following two Qur'anic 'ayahssupport this point: "And do not kill yourselves, Lo! Allah is everMerciful to you," and "He has not laid upon you in your religion anyhardship."
If a sick person fasts and withstands the hardships of the fast, his fastwill be valid but disliked, for he did not accept the concession Allah gavehim, thereby causing himself much hardship. Some of the companions would fastduring the Prophet's lifetime while others would not (that is, if they wereill), thereby following the verdict of the Prophet. Hamzah al-Aslami said:"O Messenger of Allah, I find within me the strength to fast whiletraveling. Would there be any blame upon me if I were to do so?" TheProphet, upon whom be peace, answered: "It is a concession from Allah.Whoever takes it has done well. Whoever likes to fast, there is no blame uponhim." This is related by Muslim.
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported: "We traveled with the Messenger of Allahto Makkah while we were fasting. We stopped at a place and the Messenger ofAllah said: 'You are coming close to your enemies. You will be stronger if youbreak the fast.' That was a concession and some of us fasted and some of usbroke our fasts. Then we came to another place and the Prophet said: 'In themorning you will face your enemy. Breaking the fast will give you morestrength.' So we broke our fast, taking that as the best course of action.After that, you could see some of us fasting with the Prophet whiletraveling." This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.
In another report, Abu Sa'id al-Khudri said: "We fought under theleadership of the Messenger of Allah during Ramadan. Some of us fasted and someof us did not. The ones who fasted did not find any fault with those who didnot fast, and those who did not fast found no fault with those who fasted. Theyknew that if one had the strength to fast he could do so and it was good, andthat if one was weak, he was allowed to break his fast, and that wasgood." This is related by Ahmad and Muslim.
The jurists differ over what is preferred (that is, to fast or not to fastwhile traveling). Abu Hanifah, ash-Shaf'i, and Malik are of the opinion that ifone has the ability to fast, it is better for him to do so, and if one does nothave the ability to fast, it is better for him to break the fast. Ahmad saidthat it is best to break the fast. 'Umar ibn 'Abdulaziz says: "The best ofthe two acts is the easier of the two. If it is easier for one to fast than tomake up the day later on, then, in his case, to fast is better."
Ash-Shaukani has concluded that if it is difficult for an individual to fastor to reject the concession, then it is best for him not to fast (whiletraveling). Similarly, if one fears that one's fasting during travel will looklike showing off, then in this case, breaking the fast would be preferred. Ifone is not faced with such conditions, then fasting would be preferred.
If a traveler makes the intention (to fast) during the night, he can stillbreak his fast during the day. Jabir ibn 'Abdullah reported:
"The Messenger of Allah left for Makkah during the year of the conquest[of Makkah] and he and the people with him fasted until he reached a certainvalley. He then called for a cup of water, which he elevated so that the peoplecould see it, and then he drank. Afterwards, he was told that some people hadcontinued to fast, and he said: 'Those are disobedient ones, those aredisobedient ones.' " This is related by Muslim, at-Tirmizhi, andan-Nasa'i. At-Tirmizhi called it sahih.
If one has already made the intention to fast while resident but thendecided to travel during the day, the majority of scholars maintain that hemust fast. Ahmad and Ishaq say that he may break the fast. This opinion isbased on the report of Muhammad ibn Ka'b who said: "I came to Anas ibnMalik during Ramadan while he was planning on traveling. His mount was preparedfor him, and he was wearing his clothes for traveling. He asked for some foodand ate. I said to him: 'Is this a sunnah?' He said, 'Yes.' Then he mounted hisanimal and left." This is related by at-Tirmizhi, who called ithassan.'Ubaid ibn Jubair said: "During Ramadan, I rode on a ship with AbuBasra al-Ghafari from al-Fustat. He prepared his food and said, "Come [andeat]." I said: "Are we not still among the houses [of the city - thatis, they had not left yet]?" Abu Basra asked: "Are you turning awayfrom the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah?" This is related by Ahmad andAbu Dawud. Its narrators are trustworthy.
Ash-Shaukani contends: "These two hadith prove that a traveler maybreak his fast before he begins his joumey. Of its credentials, Ibn al-'Arabisays: 'Concerning the hadith of Anas, it is sahih and proves that one can breakthe fast when he is prepared to travel.'" This is the correct position.
The type of travel that allows one to break his fast is the same as thetraveling which allows one to shorten the prayers. We have discussed all of theopinions on this point under the section Shortening the Prayers, and we havealso recorded Ibn al-Qayyim's conclusions on this question.
Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Baihaqi, and at-Tahawi recorded from Mansur al-Kalbithat Dihya ibn Khalifah traveled a distance of one farsakh during Ramadan. Whenhe broke his fast, some of the people accompanying him did likewise. Some ofthem did not agree with this action. On his return to his city, Dihya said:"I saw some hing today that I did not suspect I would ever see. The peopletumed away the Messenger of Allah's guidance and that of his companions."He said that about the people who had fasted. Then he said: "O Allah, take[my soul] to you." All of its narrators are trustworthy, except for Mansural-Kalbi... although al-'Ijli affirms his credibility.
The scholars agree that it is obligatory for menstruating women and womenwith postchildbirth bleeding to break the fast and to make up the missed dayslater on. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that 'Aishah said: "When we wouldhave our menses during the lifetime of the Prophet, we were ordered to make upthe days of fasting that we had missed but were not ordered to make up theprayers that we had missed.