Unless otherwise stated, the rulings below are based on the Hanafi Madhhab.
What is Sawm/Fasting?
Sawm is to abstain from eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse from dawn until sunset with the intention of fasting as an act of worship for Allah. The fasting of Ramadhan is one of the five Pillars of Islam. Believing in its obligation and status is a necessary part of Iman.
Who has to fast?
Fasting in Ramadhan is obligatory upon a Muslim who is sane, mature and not in the state of menstrual or post-natal bleeding.
Who is exempt from fasting?
Those Exempt from Fasting in Ramadhan
- Sick people when their health is likely to be badly affected by fasting. This needs to be established by reasonable surety of one’s actual or effective inability through clear signs, relevant past experience, or the medical advice of a qualified and upright Muslim doctor. They should make up the loss, a day for a day, when they recover after Ramadhan.
- A traveller who had set out on a journey of 48 miles or more before a day’s fast had begun, provided he has not stopped anywhere intending to stay for 15 days or more. However, it is better for him to fast in Ramadhan than to fast later, provided the journey is not a demanding one. If it is feared that hunger or thirst will lead to death or harm, by reasonable surety, as described above, it is permitted to break one’s fast.
- Pregnant women.
- Women who are breast-feeding.
What are the different types of fasting?
There are eight types of fasting. They are as follows:
Specific obligatory (fardh) fast: i.e. fasting for the whole month of Ramadhan once a year.
Non-specific obligatory (fardh) fast: e.g. the duty upon one to make up a fast missed in the month of Ramadhan with or without a valid reason.
Specific necessary (wajib) fast: e.g. to vow to keep a fast on a specific day or date for the sake of Allah (swt), upon the fulfilment of a wish or desire (nadhr).
Non-specific necessary (wajib) fast: e.g. to vow or pledge to keep a fast without fixing any day or date, upon the fulfilment of a wish (nadhr). Fasts which are kept for breaking one’s oath (yamin) also fall under this category.
Confirmed Sunnah fast: e.g. fasts which the Messenger of Allah (saw) kept and encouraged others to keep, e.g. fasting on the 9th and 10th of Muharram, and the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, etc.
Recommended fast: All fasts besides fard, wajib, and sunnah are mustahabb. e.g. fasting on Mondays and Thursdays.
Disliked (makruh) fast: Fasting only on the 9th or 10th of Muharram or fasting only on Fridays. Some scholars hold it permissible to fast on the 9th and 10th of Muharram since distinguishing our fast from that of the Jews no longer applies, as the Jews no longer fast on those days.
Impermissible fast: It is haram to fast on five days during the year. They are: `Eid al-Fitr, `Eid al-Adha, and three days after `Eid al-Adha.
Is verbal intention necessary?
The intention is what one consciously intends to do, and so it relates to the heart. Making a verbal intention is therefore not necessary although it is considered preferable according to the Hanafi, Shafi`i, and Hanbali Madhhabs as it helps to determine the intention at the right time and to avoid uncertainty. The time for making the intention lasts up to midday for the fasts of Ramadhan, specifically necessary, sunnah and recommended fasts, provided that nothing that would invalidate the fast had transpired before then. This is mid-way between the beginning of Fajr time to sunset (the beginning of Maghrib time). It is, however, preferable to make the intention before dawn.
The intention for non-specifically obligatory and non-specifically necessary fasts must be made before the beginning of Fajr time.
What are the sunan of fasting?
Sunan of Fasting
To eat or drink something in the night prior to fasting, known as the Suhur (or sehri), preferably in the last portion of the night.
To not delay in breaking the fast once the sun has set.
To abstain from unnecessary and useless talk and actions.
To immerse oneself in devotional acts of worship and good.
To be especially generous.
To offer the Tarawih prayers during the nights of Ramadhan.
To perform I`tikaf, particularly in the last ten days of Ramadhan.
Tarawih are the special night prayers offered in Ramadan. A whole reading of the Qur’an is completed in most mosques throughout the month in these prayers. This night vigil is a Sunnah for both men and women.
What actions are disliked while fasting?
Acts That Are Disliked While Fasting
- To taste or chew anything without there being a need to.
- To gather spit in the mouth and then swallow it.
- To engage in kissing and fondling one’s spouse if there is a fear of ejaculating/intercourse.
- To delay in breaking the fast.
What invalidates the fast?
Acts which break the fast are of two types: those which necessitate Qada` (making up another fast in place of the broken one) and also Kaffarah (lit. expiation: a penalty beyond the replacement fast); and those which necessitate only Qada`.
Invalidators Necessitating Both Qada’ and Kaffarah
Any of the following done deliberately while aware that one is fasting during a current Ramadhan fast without a valid reason will make both Qada` and Kaffarah necessary:
- Consuming any kind of medicine when one is not seriously sick
- Breaking the fast through any of the above after presuming the fast to be already broken by an action that actually does not affect it, like applying kohl.
Invalidators Necessitating Only Qada`
- Anything put by force into the mouth of a fasting person.
- Water going down the throat whilst gargling, (whilst being conscious of one’s fast).
- To make oneself vomit or to swallow vomit back.
- Intentionally swallowing a pebble, piece of paper or any item that is not food or medicine.
- Swallowing something edible, equal to or bigger than a grain of gram which was stuck between the teeth. However if it is first taken out of the mouth and swallowed, it will break the fast whether it is smaller or bigger than the size of a gram.
- Dripping oil into the ear canal (such that it goes beyond the ear drum).
- Inhaling snuff into the nostrils.
- Swallowing the blood from the gums when the colour of the blood is dominant over the saliva with which it is mixed.
- To eat and drink forgetting that one is fasting and to eat and/or drink thereafter, thinking that the fast is broken. [There are three ways something can be consumed into the body while fasting:
- Deliberately. This breaks the fast;
- Forgetfully. This does not, because of clear Prophetic guidance that it does not.
- Mistakenly/Accidentally. This breaks the fast. An example: thinking that Fajr time had not come in or Maghrib time has come in, when the contrary is true.]
- To eat and drink after dawn or to break the fast before sunset due to a cloudy sky or a faulty watch, etc.
- To break anything other than a current Ramadhan fast, regardless of how.
What is kaffarah?
Kaffarah is to expiate by fasting for sixty consecutive days in addition to making up the broken fast.
However, if a person is unable to keep these 60 fasts for a reason such as continuous sickness then one has the option of choosing from one of the following four:
Feed sixty poor people to their fill for two meals, or
Feed one poor person two meals a day, for sixty days; or
Give sixty poor persons 3 lbs. (approx. 1.6 kg.) of wheat or its value in cash or food grains;
Give to one poor person not less than 3.5 lbs. of wheat, rice or food grains, etc. or its value in cash for sixty days.
Does eating forgetfully invalidate the fast?
Eating forgetfully does not invalidate the fast and one is obliged to carry on fasting as normal. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet (SAW) “(the burden of) mistakes and forgetfulness have been uplifted from my nation”.
Does taking an injection invalidate the fast?
No, it does not invalidate one’s fast, although it is better to avoid taking injections whilst fasting unnecessarily.
Is it allowed to use an Asthma Pump during the Fast?
If one has a genuine medical need for an asthma pump that cannot be otherwise fulfilled, then it would be permitted to use it. However, it would break the fast and require that the fast be made up later (Qadha). This is because anything that has a perceptible body breaks the fast if it enters the body through a normal channel.
Does one have to perform the Qadha fasts immediately after Ramadhan?
No, it is not necessary. However, it is recommended to complete the missed fasts of Ramadhan as soon as possible.
Does one have to keep the 6 sunnah fasts of shawwal consecutively?
One is not required to keep consecutively the 6 six fasts of shawwal.
What is incumbent upon an old person unable to fast?
A very old person who does not have the strength to fast or a very sick or terminally ill person who has no hope of recovering must make an expiatory payment for each fast missed in Ramadhan. This is known as Fidyah.
The expiatory payment for a fast is similar to that of a missed obligatory or necessary prayer:
To give 3.5lbs (approx. 1.6 kg) of wheat, or
7lbs (approx. 3.2 kg) of barley, or the equivalent of the above in cash or kind.
If, however, an old or sick person gains strength or recovers after Ramadhan, he must keep the missed number of fasts. No one is allowed to fast for another (sick or fit) person.
By: Shafi Choudhury and Sadique Ahmed