Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3: The Fast of Ramadan

Introduction to Fiqh-us-Sunnah

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The fast of Ramadan, according to the Qur'an, sunnah and consensus, is obligatory.

The evidence from the Qur'an consists of the following two verses: "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for the people before you in order for you to gain God consciousness, and, "...The month 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 is resident, let him fast the month" [al-Baqarah 185].

From the sunnah we have the following statements of the Prophet: "Islam is built upon [the following] five pillars: testifying that there is no God except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, the establishment of the prayer, the giving of zakah, the fast of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Makkah." Talhah ibn 'Ubaidullah reported that a man came to the Prophet and said: "O Messenger of Allah, tell me what Allah requires of me as regards fasting." He answered, "The month of Ramadan." The man asked: "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 is one of the pillars of Islam, and if one disputes this, he cannot be called a Muslim.l

Volume 3, Page 109: The Virtues of Ramadan and the Deeds Done During It

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "The blessed month has come to you. Allah has made fasting during it obligatory upon you. During it, the gates to Paradise are opened and the gates to hellfire are locked, and the devils are chained. There is a night [during this month] which is better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of its good is really deprived [of something great]." This is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa'i, and al-Baihaqi.

'Arfajah testifies to this: "We were with 'Utbah ibn Farqad while he was 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 during Ramadan: "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 good deeds, have glad tidings. O you who intend to do evil, refrain, until Ramadan is completed.'"

Muslim relates that Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet saying: "The time between the five prayers, two consecutive Friday prayers, and two consecutive Ramadans are expiations for all that has happened during that period, provided that 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 and guarding himself against what is forbidden, has in fact atoned for any sins he committed before it." Ahmad and alBaihaqi related this hadith with a good chain.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan with faith and seeks Allah's pleasure and reward will have his previous sins forgiven." This hadith is related by Ahmad and the compilers of the sunan.

Volume 3, Page 110: The Consequence of Breaking the Fast of Ramadan

Ibn 'Abbas reported that the Prophet said: "The bare essence of Islam and the basics of the religion are three [acts], upon which Islam has been established. Whoever leaves one of them becomes an unbeliever and his blood may legally be spilled. [The acts are:] Testifying that there is no God except Allah, the obligatory prayers, and the fast of Ramadan." This hadith is related 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 excuses that Allah would excuse him for, then even a perpetual fast, if he were to fast it, would not make up for that day." This is related by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and atTirmizhi.

Al-Bukhari records from Abu Hurairah in marfu' form: "Whoever breaks the fast of Ramadan without having a legitimate excuse or being ill, he cannot make up for that day, even if he were to undertake a perpetual fast." Ibn Mas'ud has also reported this.

Azh-Zhahabi says: "According to the established believers, anyone who leaves the fast of Ramadan without being sick is worse than a fomicator or an alcoholic. In fact, they doubt his Islam and they suspect that he might be a zandiqah and one of those who destroy [Islam].

Volume 3, Page 111: The Arrival of Ramadan

This event is confirmed by sighting the new moon, even if it is seen by only one just person, or by the passage of thirty days in the immediately preceding month of Sha'ban.

Ibn 'Umar said: "The people were looking for the new moon and when I reported to the Messenger of Allah that I had seen it, he fasted and ordered the people to fast." This is related by Abu Dawud, al-Hakim, and Ibn Hibban, who declared it to be sahih.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet instructed: "Fast after you have seen it [the new crescent] and end the fast [at the end of the month] when you see it. If it is hidden from you, then wait until the thirty days of Sha'ban have passed." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

Commenting on these reports, at-Tirmizhi states: "Most knowledgeable people act in accordance with these reports. They say that it is correct to accept the evidence of one person to determine the beginning of the fast. This is the opinion of Ibn alMubarak, ash-Shaf'i, and Ahmad. An-Nawawi says that it is the soundest opinion. Conceming the new moon of Shawwal [which signifies the end of the fast], it is confimmed by completing thirty days of Ramadan, and most jurists state that the new moon must have been reported by at least two just witnesses. However, Abu Thaur does not distinguish between the new moon of Shawwal and the new moon of Ramadan. In both cases, he accepts the evidence of only one just witness."

Ibn-Rushd comments that: "The opionion of Abu Bakr ibn alMunzhir, which is also that of Abu Thaur and, I suspect, that of the Zhahiri school of thought, is supported by the following argument given by Abu Bakr al-Munzhiri: there is complete agreement that breaking the fast is obligatory, that abstaining from eating is based on one person's report, and that the situation must be like that for the beginning of the month and for the ending of the month, as both of them are simply the signs that differentiate the time of fasting from the time of not fasting."

Ash-Shaukani observes: "If there is nothing authentic recorded that states that one may only accept two witnesses for the end of the month, then it is apparent, by analogy, that one witness is sufficient, as it is sufficient for the beginning of the month. Furthemmore, worship based on the acceptance of one report points to the fact that such singular reports are accepted in every matter unless there is some evidence that specifies the peculiarity of specific cases, such as the number of witnesses conceming matters of wealth, and so on. Apparently this is the opinion of Abu Thaur."

Volume 3, Page 112: Different Locations

According to the majority of scholars, it does not matter if the new moon has been sighted in a different location. In other words, after the new moon is seen anywhere in the world, it becomes obligatory for all Muslims to begin fasting, as the Prophet said: "Fast due to its sighting and break the fast due to its sighting." This hadith is a general address directed to the whole Muslim world - that is, "if any one of you sees the moon in any place, then that will be a sighting for all of the people."

According to 'Ikrimah, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, Salim, Ishaq, the correct opinion among the Hanafiyyah, and the chosen opinion among the Shaf'iyyah, every "country" (or territory) is to take into consideration its own sighting and not necessarily to follow the sighting of others. This is based on what Kuraib said: "While I was in ash-Sham, the new moon of Ramadan appeared on 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 on Thursday night.' He said: 'Did you see it yourself?' I said: 'Yes, the people saw it, and they and Mu'awiyyyah fasted.' He said: 'But we saw it on Friday night. We will not stop fasting until we complete thirty days or until we see the new moon.' I said: 'Isn't Mu'awiyyah's sighting and fasting sufficient for you?' 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 [to the truth] is that each land follows its sighting, as well as the areas that are connected to it."

Volume 3, Page 113: Sighting of the Crescent by one Person

The scholars of fiqh agree that if only one person sees the new moon, he is to fast. 'Ata differs and says that he is not to fast until someone else also sights the new moon with him. The correct position is that he is to break the fast, as ash-Shaf'i and Abu Thaur have ruled. The Prophet has based the fast and its breaking on the sighting of the moon. One's own sight is enough for him and there is no need for another person's sighting.

Volume 3, Page 113a: The Essential Elements of the Fast

The fast has two essential elements (literally, "pillars") that must be fulfilled for it to be valid and acceptable. They are:

Volume 3, Page 113b: Essential elements of fasting, abstaining from acts that break the fast

This point is based on the Qur'anic verse: "Eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Then strictly observe the fast until nightfall."

This is also based on the following hadith: "When the verse 'Eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you...' was revealed, I took a black thread and a white thread and placed them underneath my pillow. During the night I looked at them to see if I could distinguish between them. In the morning 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.'"

Volume 3, Page 113c: Essential elements of fasting, the intention

Allah instructs in the Qur'an: "And they are ordained nothing else than to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him." The Prophet, upon whom be peace, 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 Prophet said: "Whoever does not determine to fast before fajr will have no fast" (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 Hibban have 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. It will be fulfilled by one's intention to fast out of obedience to Allah and for seeking His pleasure.

If one eats one's pre-dawn meal (sahoor) with the intention of fasting and to get closer to Allah by such abstinence, then one has performed the intention. If one determines that one will fast on the next day solely for the sake of Allah, then one has performed the intention even if a pre-dawn meal was not consumed.

According to many of the jurists, the intention for a voluntary fast may be made 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 is related by Muslim and Abu Dawud.

The Hanafiyyah and Shaf'iyyah stipulate that the intention must be made before noon (for voluntary fasts). The apparent opinion of Ibn Mas'ud and Ahmad is that the intention may be made before or after noon.

Volume 3, Page 114: Essential elements of fasting, who must fast

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 must not be menstruating or having post-childbirth bleeding. People who are insane, minors, and those who are traveling, menstruating, or going through post-childbirth bleeding, and the elderly and breast-feeding or pregnant women do not need to observe the fast.

For some, the fast is not obligatory at all, for example, the insane. In the case 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 later date, while others are to break the fast and pay a "ransom" (in which case, they are not obliged to make up the days they missed). We shall discuss each group in more detail.

Volume 3, Page 114a: Essential elements of fasting, the fast of the insane

Fasting is not obligatory for the insane because of their inability to understand what they are doing. 'Ali reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "The pen is raised for three groups [of people]--that is, they will not be responsible for their actions: the insane until they become sane, those who are sleeping until they awaken, and the young until they reach puberty." This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and at-Tirmizhi.

Volume 3, Page 114b: Essential elements of fasting, the fast of the young [non-adults]

Though the young are not required to fast, it is proper for their guardians to 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 bint Mu'awiyyah reported: "The Messenger of Allah sent a man, on the morning of the day of 'Ashurah, to the residences of the Ansar, saying: 'Whoever has spent the morning fasting is to complete his fast. Whoever has not spent this morning fasting should fast for the remainder of the day.' We fasted after that announcement, as did our young children. We would go to the mosque and make toys stuffed with cotton for them to play with. If one of them started crying due to hunger, we would give them a toy to play with until it was time to eat." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

Volume 3, Page 115: Essential elements of fasting, those who are permitted to break the fast, but who must pay a "ransom" for not fasting

Elderly men and women are permitted to break their fasts, as are the chronically ill, and those who have to perform difficult jobs under harsh circumstances and who could not find any other way to support themselves. All of these people are allowed to break their fast, because such a practice would place too much hardship on them during any part of the year. They are obliged to feed one poor person [miskin] a day (for every day of fasting that they do not perform). The scholars differ over how much food is to be supplied, for example, a sa', half a sa', or a madd. There is nothing in the sunnah that mentions exactly how much is to be given.

Ibn 'Abbas said: "An elderly man is permitted to break his fast, but he must feed a poor person daily. If he does this, he does not have to make up the days that he did not fast. This is related by ad-Daraqutni and by al-Hakim, who said 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 'Abbas continued: "It has not been abrogated. [Its ruling applies] to elderly men and women who are not able to fast. Instead, they must feed one poor person on a daily basis."

The same is true for one who is chronically ill and as such cannot fast, and for one who is forced to work under harsh circumstances and as such cannot endure the additional burden of fasting. Both groups must also feed one poor person daily.

Commenting on al-Baqarah's 'ayah, Sheikh Muhammad 'Abduh says: "What is meant by those who can fast' [(but do not) in the Qur'anic verse] is the weak elderly people, the chronically ill, and so on, and similarly, those workers who are working under severe conditions, such as coal miners. The same applies to criminals who are sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. They have to 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 up the days missed. Abu Dawud related from 'Ikrimah that Ibn 'Abbas said concerning 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 break the fast and feed one poor person a day. Pregnant or breast-feeding women, if they 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 say to his wives who were pregnant: 'You are in the same situation as those who can fast [but do not]. You are to pay the "ransom" and do not have to make 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 feared for her unborn baby. He replied: "She is to break the fast and to feed one poor person a day one madd of barley."

There is also a hadith that states: "Allah has relieved the travelers of fasting and half of the prayer, and the pregnant and the breast-feeding women 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 not supposed to feed one poor person a day. According to Ahmad and ash-Shaf'i, if such women fear only for the baby, they must pay the "ransom" 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.

Volume 3, Page 116: Making up the Missed Days of Fasting

It is allowed for those who are (not chronically) ill and for travelers to break 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 Prophet by revealing: 'O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you...' until the words, 'And for those who can fast [but do not] there is a "ransom" payment...' Then, whoever wished to do so would fast and whoever wished to do so would feed a poor person, 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 concession was made for the sick and travelers, and the feeding of the poor by the elderly who could not fast was [left] confirmed." This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and alBaihaqi with a sahih chain.

A sick person may break his fast which, if continued, would only aggravate the illness or delay its cure.In al-Mughni it is stated: "It is related from some of the early scholars that any type of illness allows one to break the fast, even an injury to the finger or a toothache. They based their opinion on 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 also the 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 break the fast, as can the person who is overcome by hunger and/or thirst and fears that he may die because of it, even if he is resident and healthy. He must make up the days of fasting that he missed. The following two Qur'anic 'ayahs support this point: "And do not kill yourselves, Lo! Allah is ever Merciful to you," and "He has not laid upon you in your religion any hardship."

If a sick person fasts and withstands the hardships of the fast, his fast will be valid but disliked, for he did not accept the concession Allah gave him, thereby causing himself much hardship. Some of the companions would fast during the Prophet's lifetime while others would not (that is, if they were ill), thereby following the verdict of the Prophet. Hamzah al-Aslami said: "O Messenger of Allah, I find within me the strength to fast while traveling. Would there be any blame upon me if I were to do so?" The Prophet, 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 upon him." This is related by Muslim.

Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported: "We traveled with the Messenger of Allah to Makkah while we were fasting. We stopped at a place and the Messenger of Allah said: 'You are coming close to your enemies. You will be stronger if you break the fast.' That was a concession and some of us fasted and some of us broke our fasts. Then we came to another place and the Prophet said: 'In the morning you will face your enemy. Breaking the fast will give you more strength.' 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 while traveling." This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.

In another report, Abu Sa'id al-Khudri said: "We fought under the leadership of the Messenger of Allah during Ramadan. Some of us fasted and some of us did not. The ones who fasted did not find any fault with those who did not fast, and those who did not fast found no fault with those who fasted. They knew that if one had the strength to fast he could do so and it was good, and that if one was weak, he was allowed to break his fast, and that was good." This is related by Ahmad and Muslim.

The jurists differ over what is preferred (that is, to fast or not to fast while traveling). Abu Hanifah, ash-Shaf'i, and Malik are of the opinion that if one has the ability to fast, it is better for him to do so, and if one does not have the ability to fast, it is better for him to break the fast. Ahmad said that it is best to break the fast. 'Umar ibn 'Abdulaziz says: "The best of the two acts is the easier of the two. If it is easier for one to fast than to make 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 fast or to reject the concession, then it is best for him not to fast (while traveling). Similarly, if one fears that one's fasting during travel will look like showing off, then in this case, breaking the fast would be preferred. If one is not faced with such conditions, then fasting would be preferred.

If a traveler makes the intention (to fast) during the night, he can still break 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 certain valley. He then called for a cup of water, which he elevated so that the people could see it, and then he drank. Afterwards, he was told that some people had continued to fast, and he said: 'Those are disobedient ones, those are disobedient ones.' " This is related by Muslim, at-Tirmizhi, and an-Nasa'i. At-Tirmizhi called it sahih.

If one has already made the intention to fast while resident but then decided to travel during the day, the majority of scholars maintain that he must fast. Ahmad and Ishaq say that he may break the fast. This opinion is based on the report of Muhammad ibn Ka'b who said: "I came to Anas ibn Malik during Ramadan while he was planning on traveling. His mount was prepared for him, and he was wearing his clothes for traveling. He asked for some food and ate. I said to him: 'Is this a sunnah?' He said, 'Yes.' Then he mounted his animal and left." This is related by at-Tirmizhi, who called it hassan.'Ubaid ibn Jubair said: "During Ramadan, I rode on a ship with Abu Basra al-Ghafari from al-Fustat. He prepared his food and said, "Come [and eat]." I said: "Are we not still among the houses [of the city - that is, they had not left yet]?" Abu Basra asked: "Are you turning away from the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah?" This is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud. Its narrators are trustworthy.

Ash-Shaukani contends: "These two hadith prove that a traveler may break his fast before he begins his joumey. Of its credentials, Ibn al-'Arabi says: 'Concerning the hadith of Anas, it is sahih and proves that one can break the 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 the traveling which allows one to shorten the prayers. We have discussed all of the opinions on this point under the section Shortening the Prayers, and we have also recorded Ibn al-Qayyim's conclusions on this question.

Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Baihaqi, and at-Tahawi recorded from Mansur al-Kalbi that Dihya ibn Khalifah traveled a distance of one farsakh during Ramadan. When he broke his fast, some of the people accompanying him did likewise. Some of them 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 people tumed 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 Mansur al-Kalbi... although al-'Ijli affirms his credibility.

Volume 3, Page 120: Those who must make up the missed days

The scholars agree that it is obligatory for menstruating women and women with postchildbirth bleeding to break the fast and to make up the missed days later on. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that 'Aishah said: "When we would have our menses during the lifetime of the Prophet, we were ordered to make up the days of fasting that we had missed but were not ordered to make up the prayers that we had missed.

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