Chapter 4

Checklist: What is Required for Fasting in Islam

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In this chapter we will go into detail regarding the conditions and rulings about fasting. The topics we will discuss include:

  1. Why is fasting in Ramadan obligatory?
  2. Who is fasting obligatory upon?
  3. Who is exempt from fasting?
  4. What are the pillars of fasting?
  5. What nullifies the fast?

1. Why is Fasting Ramadan Obligatory for Muslims?

The obligation of fasting is mentioned in Surah Baqarah in the following verse:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ O’ you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be God-fearing” (Qur’an, Chapter 2: Verse 183).

Allah (SWT) is talking to the believers in this verse, telling them that fasting has been enjoined (prescribed) upon them. This is a direct command from Allah and anyone who rejects it can be committing a major sin.

The Prophet (pbuh) also mentioned Ramadan to be amongst the 5 pillars of Islam, and all the scholars share a consensus that fasting Ramadan is obligatory for the one who is able to do so. The hadeeth is as follows:

عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: سَمِعْت رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم يَقُولُ: " بُنِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ: شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لَا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ، وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ، وَحَجِّ الْبَيْتِ، وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ". [رَوَاهُ الْبُخَارِيُّ] ، [وَمُسْلِمٌ].

On the authority of Abdullah, the son of Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra), who said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say, "Islam has been built on five [pillars]: testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the salah (prayer), paying the zakat (obligatory charity), making the hajj (pilgrimage) to the House, and fasting in Ramadhan." [Saheeh Bukhari & Muslim]

In the following verse there is more proof of this obligation upon Muslims:

فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ “So those of you who witness the month must fast in it."Qur’an, Chapter 2: Verse 185

In this verse it states anyone who  knows it is  the month (of Ramadan) should fast; it is a command (فَلْيَصُمْهُ  - it means they must fast). 

And if Allah or his Messenger(pbuh) command you to do something you must do it as it becomes an obligation. 

The verse continues and highlights certain conditions in place for fasting to become obligatory on someone. These conditions will be mentioned in the following section below.

2. Who is Fasting Obligatory Upon? Who is Obligated To Fast in Ramadan?

When it comes to fasting the month of Ramadan or any other fast, there are certain conditions which must be met. 

These are the 2 pillars of fasting (arkan as-sawm) and 5 prerequisites which makes fasting obligatory (shurut al-wujoob as-sawm). If any one of these 7 is not in place, then the fasting is null and void. There are also certain individuals who are exempt from fasting and require fasting to be made up. We will cover these topics in detail in this section.

The 5 Conditions of Fasting

The following 5 conditions must be in place before fasting begins:

(1) The person must be a Muslim

(2) The person must be sane

Fasting is not obligated upon an insane person. The reason is because sanity takes the mind, but the mind is needed for the intention of fasting. Additional proof of this point is in the following hadith.

Ali ibn Abi Talib reported: The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “The pen is lifted from three people: a sleeping person until he awakens, a child until he becomes an adult, and an insane person until he regains his sanity.” In another narration, the Prophet said, “A young boy until he reaches puberty.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1423]

(3) The person must have reached the age of puberty

(4) The person should have the ability to fast

Fasting is not obligatory on the person who is not able to do it physically such as the chronically ill. We can see this from the following verse:

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلْقُرْءَانُ هُدًۭى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍۢ مِّنَ ٱلْهُدَىٰ وَٱلْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍۢ فَعِدَّةٌۭ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِكُمُ ٱلْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ ٱلْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا۟ ٱلْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَىٰكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur’ān was revealed as guidance for mankind, and as clear signs that show the right way and distinguish between right and wrong. So those of you who witness the month must fast in it. But the one who is sick, or is on a journey (should fast) the amount or the number from other days (as he missed). Allah intends (to provide) ease for you and does not intend (to create) hardship for you. All this is so that you may complete the number (of fasts as prescribed) and proclaim the Takbīr of Allah for having guided you, and (so) that you may be grateful.” Qur’an, Chapter 2: Verse 185

(5) There should be no preventative factors that stop you from fasting.

Some examples of preventative factors include women who are menstruating  or have post-natal bleeding, or someone who is chronically ill, or someone who would be risking their own life if they were to fast.

The 5 Types of Adults Who Are Exempt from Fasting

The 5 adults who are exempt are as follows:

  1. The person who is ill/sick
  2. The traveler 
  3. The pregnant/breastfeeding woman
  4. The elderly person who is unable to fast due to their age
  5. Menstruation or post natal bleeding

For those categories mentioned above anyone that is able to make up the days later must make them up after Ramadan, in particular the traveller, the one with a temporary sickness, and the women in her menstration. However, for those who cannot make these days later after Ramadan like the one with prolonged diseases or eldeerly people then they must feed a person in need for each day they missed a fast.

Allah commanded the travelling person to make up their fast as seen in the verse: “Whoever from you is traveling or is sick then let him fast other days…” [Chapter 2 - Verse 184] 

As for those that are unable to fast due to acute health issues, they are allowed to feed the poor according to the verse: “and for those able to, they should expiate by feeding the poor” [2:184]. The verse continues and Allah then says “He that gives more, then it is better for him, and for you to fast is better for you, if you only knew.”

It is also noted that the menstruating women should also make up her fast as It was narrated that ‘Aishah said: “We used to menstruate at the time of the Prophet (pbuh), and he would order us to make up for the (missed) fasts.’ [Sunan Ibn Majah 1739]

The Pillars of Fasting (arkan as-sawm)

The 2 pillars of fasting, unlike the 5 conditions, must be in place whilst fasting is happening. If they are broken then the fasting becomes null and void.

Pillar 1 - The intention

The intention is a pillar of fasting that everyone must have. There are many hadith which can be used as evidence for this such as:

It was narrated from Hafsah: "There is no fast for one who does not intend (to fast) before dawn." [Sunan an-Nasa'i 2337]

However, for Ramadan it is enough to have the intention for fasting the whole month of Ramadan beginning from the night of the first day of Ramadan.

Pillar 2 - Withholding and abstaining from the things that break your fasting

If we look at the verses of fasting in Surah Baqarah (Chapter 2), we see Allah (SWT) sets certain conditions for both men and women regarding what we should abstain from when it comes to fasting:

أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ ٱلصِّيَامِ ٱلرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَآئِكُمْ ۚ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌۭ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌۭ لَّهُنَّ ۗ عَلِمَ ٱللَّهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ ۖ فَٱلْـَٔـٰنَ بَـٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَٱبْتَغُوا۟ مَا كَتَبَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۚ وَكُلُوا۟ وَٱشْرَبُوا۟ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ ٱلْخَيْطُ ٱلْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ ٱلْخَيْطِ ٱلْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ ٱلْفَجْرِ ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا۟ ٱلصِّيَامَ إِلَى ٱلَّيْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُبَـٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَـٰكِفُونَ فِى ٱلْمَسَـٰجِدِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ ٱللَّهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ “It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are a clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you [i.e., offspring]. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the night [i.e., sunset]. And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. These are the limits [set by] Allah, so do not approach them. Thus, does Allah make clear His verses to the people that they may become righteous.” Qur’an, Chapter 2: Verse 187

In this verse it clearly states that one should complete their fasting until night (Maghrib time), and the meaning of ‘complete’ means to stay away from things which will break your fast.

To go more in depth here are 10 actions which the scholars have listed which break the fast.

10 Actions Which Nullify the Fast

For some of the following 10 actions, we will provide references to hadeeth if you would like to research the evidence from the Sunnah.

(1) Deliberately eating or drinking. If one does this out of forgetfulness then their fast is still valid.

(2) Letting blood by means of cupping, including donating blood (Abu Dawood, 2367)

(3) Having sexual intercourse (Bukhaari, 1936; Muslim, 1111)

(4) Deliberately vomiting (Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 577)

(5) To deliberately ejaculate by any means such as contact with your spouse or masturbation. However, if one ejaculates in a wet dream in which they were not conscious of themselves (ie. asleep) then their fast is still valid. In this case they must still perform ghusl (a full body wash).

(6) Menstruation (Saheeh Bukhari 1951)

(7) Post-natal bleeding (Saheeh Bukhari 1951)

(8) If a person becomes insane during the time of fasting. The insane person loses the intention to fast which is a pillar of fasting as mentioned above.

(9) Apostasy - the fast is not accepted from anyone who is not a Muslim.

(10) The one who takes nutritional substances outside of food (eg. insulin, glucose drops, etc). If these substances act as food supplements then they nullify the fast, but if what you are taking does not nourish the body in any way then it does not break your fast. For example, the use of a medically prescribed inhaler to prevent an asthmatic attack. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about this point, you can always speak with a local Imam or scholar regarding your health circumstances.

These are the 10 actions which break the fast. If one breaks his or her fast from any of these things (as mentioned in 5 people exempt from fasting section) they must continue to fast the rest of the day and make up this fast at a later date, unless one performed sexual intercourse then one must offer a severe expiation in addition to making up their fast (Bukhari 1936 Muslim 1111).

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