Islamic legal rules of Fasting
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. We testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad ﷺ is His slave and Messenger.
Allah s.w.t. says in the Qur’an: “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may achieve righteousness, God-fearing.” [Al-Baqarah – 183]
The prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “Whoever observes the fast during the month of Ramadhan, believing in Allah s.w.t. and seeking His rewards, will have his past sins forgiven.” [Reported by Imaam Bukhaari, Muslim and others]
Fasting the month of Ramadhan is one of the main pillars of Islam. It is obligatory upon every sane, healthy Muslim whose reached puberty and is not traveling during the time of fasting. As for women, they must not fast if they are menstruating or having post-childbirth bleeding.
Rules of Fasting
A. Who should fast?
Fasting in the month of Ramadhan is obligatory upon every adult Muslim, male or female, who has reached puberty, is sane, who is not sick or traveling has no menstruation for women.
B. The Essential Elements of the Fast
There are two essentials elements for your fast to be valid and accepted. They are:
You must have the intention to fast before fajr (dawn) every night during the month of Ramadhan. The intention does not need to be spoken, because in reality it is an act of the heart, which does not involve the tongue.
- Abstaining from acts that nullify the Fast
The second essential element for your fast to be accepted is that you abstain from the acts that nullify the fast from dawn to sunset.
If you maintain these two essential elements during fasting, then your fast will be valid and accepted.
C. Actions That Invalidate or Nullify the Fast
All scholars have agreed that the following acts will invalidate the fast. They are:
- Eating, drinking or smoking deliberately, including taking any non-nourishing items by mouth or nose.
If someone eats, drinks or smokes due to forgetfulness, a mistake, or coercion, then his fast is still valid and should continue to fast. If you choose to eat or drink, for any reason, then your fast will become invalid.
- Intentional Vomiting
If one is overcome by the urge to vomit, and vomits unintentionally, then he should continue to fast. If someone chooses to vomit, for any reason, then his fast will become invalid.
- Intentional Sexual Intercourse
If one has sexual intercourse while fasting, then he must perform Kaffarah, expiation of the sin. (Fasting continuously for sixty days or if unable then one should feed sixty poor people).
- Menstrual or Childbirth Bleeding
The fast becomes invalid during menstrual or post-childbirth bleeding. Even if such bleeding begins just before sunset, the fast of that day is invalid and the day must be made up at a later time.
All the actions mentioned above are agreed upon by all scholars. However, there are some other actions that are not mentioned above which are not agreed upon.
D. Actions That Are Permissible during Fasting
There are some actions that are permissible to do while fasting, which will not nullify the fast. For example:
- Taking a bath or shower.
If water is swallowed involuntarily it will not invalidate the fast. According to most of the jurists, swimming is also allowed in fasting, but one should avoid diving, because that will cause the water to go from the mouth or nose into the stomach
- Using perfumes, wearing contact lenses or using eye drops.
- Taking injections or having a blood test.
- Using miswak (tooth-stick) or toothbrush (even with tooth paste) and rinsing the mouth or nostrils with water, provided it is not overdone (so as to avoid swallowing water).
5 . Eating, drinking or smoking unintentionally, i.e., forgetting that one was fasting. But one must stop as soon as one remembers and should continue one’s fast.
- Sleeping during the daytime and having a wet-dream does not break one’s fast. Also, if one has intercourse during the night and was not able to make ghusl (bathe) before dawn, he or she can begin fast and make ghusl later. Women whose menstruation stops during the night may begin fasting even if they have not made ghusl yet. In all these cases, bathing (ghusl) is necessary but fast is valid even without bathing.
- Kissing between husband and wife is allowed in fasting, but one should try to avoid it so that one may not do anything further that is forbidden during the fast.
E. Who May Be Excluded From Fasting?
There are certain situations when it is optional to fast during the month of Ramadhan, however, the fast must be made up at a later date.
- The sick
- Sickness could be a temporary sickness from which a person expects to be cured soon. Such a person should not fast during the days of his or her sickness, but he or she must fast later after Ramadhan to complete the missed days.
- Those who are sick with incurable illness and expect no better health are also allowed not to fast but they must pay the fidyah, which is giving a day’s meals for each fast missed to a needy person. Instead of food for one day one can also give equivalent amount of money to a needy person.
- A travel according to the Shariah is any journey that takes you away from your city of residence, a minimum of 48 miles or 80 kilometers.
- The journey must be for a good cause. If possible one should try to change their travel plans during Ramadhan to be able to fast and should not travel unless it is necessary.
- The traveler who misses the fasts of Ramadhan must make up those missed days later as soon as possible after Ramadhan.
- Women who are experiencing post-childbirth bleeding or are in their menses are not allowed to fast until their bleeding ends.
- Pregnant and nursing women, who are afraid that fasting may weaken them or the child, have the option of fasting or not. After Ramadhan ends, they have the choice of fasting or paying fidiyah (feeding one poor person) for each day that they had missed during Ramadhan.
- According to the Hanafi School of jurists, such women are only to make up the missed days of fasting, and they are not supposed to feed one poor person a day.
- But according to Imaams Ahmad and Ash-Shaaf’i, hold the opinion that if such women fear only for the baby, they must pay the fidiyah and make up the days later. If they fear only for themselves or for themselves and the baby, then they are only to make up the missed days at a later date.
F. Recommended Acts during Ramadhan
There are some acts that are recommended, and if you practice them, you will gain more rewards from Allah s.w.t. such as:
- Take sahur (pre-dawn meal). It is Sunnah and there is a great reward and blessing in taking sahur. The best time for sahur is the last half hour before dawn or the time for Fajr prayer.
- Take iftar (break-fast) immediately after sunset. Shariah considers sunset when the disk of the sun goes below the horizon and disappears completely.
- During the fast, abstain from all false talks and deeds. Do not quarrel, have disputes, indulge in arguments, use bad words, or do anything that is forbidden. You should try to discipline yourself morally and ethically, besides gaining physical training and discipline. You should also not make a show of your fasting by talking too much about it, or by showing dry lips and a hungry stomach, or by showing a bad temper. The fasting person must be a pleasant person with good spirits and good cheer.
- During the fast, do acts of charity and goodness to others and increase your worship and reading of the Quran. Everyone should try to read the whole Quran at least once during the month of Ramadhan.