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The Fiqh of Fasting: Essential Elements of Fasting – Part 2

The Essential Elements of Fasting

These are the mandatory acts that must be observed so that fasting can be valid.

 1. The niyyah (intention)

Fasting in which the intention is not observed is invalid. Allah says,

“though they were not commanded, but to worship (One) God – making the practice of their religion pure and, sincere to Him alone, being ever upright of heart. (Qur’an 98:5)

It has been narrated on the authority of Umar b. al-Khattab that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

The Fiqh of Fasting Essential Elements of Fasting Part 2

The Essential Elements of Fasting are the mandatory acts that must be observed so that fasting can be valid. Read more about them here..

(The value of) an action depends on the intention behind it. A man will be rewarded only for what he intended. The emigration of one who emigrates for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ) is for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ) ; and the emigration of one who emigrates for gaining a worldly advantage or for marrying a woman is for what he has emigrated. [Al-Bukhārī and Muslim]

When must a person state or confirm the intention of Fasting?

Scholars differentiate between compulsory and voluntary fasting.

The compulsory fasting

The majority of scholars are of the opinion that the person must state the intention of fasting any time during the night until the time of dawn. Thus, if a person states their intention or makes up their mind to fast after the time of dawn, fasting is invalid.

To support their opinion, they used the above mentioned hadith along with the following one:

“Whoever does not form his intention to fast before to fajr (dawn), his fasting will not be accepted.” Related by the five Imams, but At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i consider it to be related by Hafsah and not connected to the Prophet (ﷺ).

In Imām Abū Ḥanīfah’s opinion, it is allowed for a person to intend to fast after dawn and during the day in both voluntary and compulsory fasting as long as they have not had any food or drink.

The voluntary fasting

In voluntary fasting, the majority of scholars say that it is allowed to intend to fast during the day. For example, if a person wakes up in the morning of a certain day, they may intend to fast that day. However, this is only allowed if the person has not eaten, drunk or had sexual intercourse from the time of dawn.

There are a number of hadiths that support this opinion. Here is one of them:

‘A’isha, the Mother of the Believers (Allah be pleased with her), reported:

The Apostle of Allah (ﷺ) came to me one day and said: Is there anything with you (to eat)? I said: No. Thereupon he said: I shall then be fasting. Then he came to us another day and we said: Messenger of Allah, hais (a compound of dates and clarified butter) has been offered to us as a gift. Thereupon he said: Show that to me; I had been fasting since morning. He then ate it. (Saḥīḥ Muslim)

It should also be noted that intending to break one’s fast invalidates it.

2. Abstaining from food and drink

It is agreed upon that eating or drinking intentionally breaks one’s fast. There are proofs from the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the Consensus that indicate that the person observing fasting is not allowed to eat or drink from dawn to sunset. Allah says,

“Moreover, you may “now” eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes clear to you, as distinguished, from the black thread “of night”. Then complete the fast until the night” (Qur’an 2:187)

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If one does not eschew lies and false conduct, Allah has no need that he should abstain from his food and his drink.” [Al-Bukhari]

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah says: ‘(The person observing fasting) has abstained from food and drink, and sexual pleasures for My sake; fasting is for Me, and I will bestow its reward. Every good deed has ten times its reward’.” [Al-Bukhari]

The consensus among the Muslim scholars is that intentional eating and drinking during the time of fasting invalidates it.

3. Abstaining from sexual intercourse

The person observing fasting must also abstain from having sexual intercourse during their fast. There are proofs supporting this ruling from the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the Consensus. Allah says,

“Permitted for you (believers), on the night of the fast is intimate approach to your wives. They are a garment for you. And you are a garment for them. God knows that (before granting this permission), you used to betray yourselves. Thus He has granted you repentance (for what is past), and pardoned you. So now you may lie with them and seek whatever (offspring) God has decreed for you…” (Qur’an 2:187)

Narrated Abu Huraira: A person had sexual relation with his wife in the month of Ramadan (while he was fasting), and he came to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) seeking his verdict concerning that action. The Prophet (ﷺ) said (to him), “Can you afford to manumit a slave?” The man said, “No.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Can you fast for two successive months?” He said, “No.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Then feed sixty poor persons.” [Al-Bukhārī and Muslim]

As for the Consensus, Imam al-Nawawi (may Allah shower him with His mercy) said, “The Muslim nation have reached a consensus that having a sexual intercourse is prohibited for the person observing fasting and on the invalidity of their fast.

4. Abstaining from intentional vomiting

Islam Question & Answer website discusses this issue as follows:

Vomiting refers to when food etc. is expelled from the stomach outside the body. With regard to whether this breaks the fast or not, the ruling depends on whether it was done deliberately or not. If a person vomits deliberately, this breaks the fast and he has to make up that day. If he cannot help vomiting and vomits involuntarily, then his fast is still valid and he does not have to do anything else.

If a person needs to vomit because he is sick and vomiting will help him to recover, then it is permissible for him to do that, but he has to make up that day after Ramadan, because Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Sawm (fasts) must be made up] from other days” [Qur’an 2:185]

According to the correct scholarly view, it makes no difference whether the amount of vomit is great or small. If a person vomits deliberately and only a small amount comes out, the fast is broken. It says in al-Furoo’: If a person makes himself vomit and vomits anything, then his fast is broken, because of the report of Abu Hurayrah: “Whoever cannot help vomiting does not have to do anything but whoever makes himself vomit deliberately has to make up that day.” Al-Furoo’, 3/49. This hadeeth was narrated by Abu Dawood, 2380; al-Tirmidhi, 720 – he said the scholars follow this. It was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani.

But there is a difference between spitting and vomiting. Spitting and hawking etc do not come from the stomach, so there is nothing wrong with expelling that matter. But vomiting comes from the stomach as explained above.

And Allah knows best.

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Fasting New Muslims

Legal Excuses for Breaking the Fast

If fasting causes any harm to the person or he or she is unable to observe it, this can be a legal excuse that allows him or her to break the fast. There are a lot of excuses; however, this article will discuss the most common issues, i.e. illness, old age, pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Illnesses are temporary or chronic. Temporary illnesses may cause a person to break their fast. In this case, they must make up the missed days after they recuperate. As for chronic illnesses, there will be no chance to make up the missed days. This raises the following questions:

What is the legal ruling regarding an old man or woman who cannot fast or make up the missed days?

What if the person suffers from a chronic disease such as diabetes or kidney failure?

But one among you who is sick or is on a journey shall then fast the same number of other days.

To answer these questions, let us first look at the interpretations of the following ʾaya (verse of the Qurʾan): Allah says:

“It is for a specified number of days. But one among you who is sick or is on a journey shall then fast the same number of other days. Yet for those who are (yuṭīqūnahu) (hardly) able to endure it, and do not fast, the redemption for each day, is feeding an indigent person “instead”.” (Quran 2:184)

Ibn ʿAbbas’s opinion

Ibn ʿAbbās (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) holds the opinion that the word yuṭiqunahu means that if a person finds it very difficult to fast or cannot fast, they should break their fast and feed an indigent person instead.

The majority of the Companions’ Opinion

However, the majority of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) say that the above mentioned ʾaya is abrogated.

In fact, the obligation of fasting was gradual. At first, it was optional for a person to fast or to feed an indigent person. Then, fasting became obligatory and the option of feeding was abrogated.

Thus, in the majority’s opinion, the word yuṭīqūnahu means if a person who can fast but chooses not to fast, they must feed an indigent person.

In short, Ibn ʿAbbās (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) disagrees with the other Companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) in the following two points:

1. Ibn ʿAbbās interprets the word (yuṭīqūnahu) ‘those who are able to endure it’ as ‘those who are hardly able to endure it.

2. He uses the verse as a proof while it is abrogated.

The Majority of scholars hold the opinion that the abrogating verse is the following:

Allah says:

“So whoever among you bears witness to the month shall then fast it. Yet if one among you is sick or is on a journey (such a person shall then fast,) the same number of other days.” (Qurʾan 2:185)

Another proof that supports Ibn ʿAbbās’s opinion:

Some scholars also hold the opinion that old age and sickness are legal excuses for breaking one’s fast but the person must feed in indigent person instead.

This is the proof for that:

In a Mu’allaq Hadith (Suspended Hadith) related in Saḥīḥ Al-Bukhārī, Al-Bukhārī said,

“After growing old, Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) (was not able to fast and he) used to feed an indigent person bread and meat every day”

In short, there are two opinions regarding the answer to the two questions mentioned above:

1. Feeding an indigent person is a substitute for fasting in case of long-lasting inability. This opinion is more popular as it is better to avoid disagreement.

2. There is no substitute for fasting in case of inability. Feeding is only recommended if a person wants to emulate Anas (may Allah be pleased with him).

Breast-feeding and pregnant women

If pregnant women and those who breast-feed fear that fasting may cause harm to them or to the fetus or baby, they should break their fast.

What should breast-feeding and pregnant women do if they break their fast?

There are here a number of opinions:

First, Some scholars treat pregnancy as illness. Allah says,

“One’s mother bore one in feebleness upon feebleness” (Qurʾan 31:14)

In this case, they are treated as sick people who break their fast and make up the missed days later.

Second, scholars who adopt the opinion of Ibn ʿAbbās mentioned above say that they should break their fast and feed an indigent person for every day.

Third, other scholars like Ibn Ḥazm al-Ẓahirī say that they should break their fast without making up the missed days later or feeding an indigent person for every day.

Ibn Ḥazm used the following Hadith as a legal proof to support his opinion:

Narrated Anas ibn Malik:

A man from Banū ʿAbdullahh ibn Kaʿb brethren of Banū Qushayr (not Anas ibn Malik, the well-known Companion), said:

A contingent from the cavalry of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) raided us. I reached (for he said went) to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) who was taking his meals.

He said: Sit down, and take some from this meal of ours. I said: I am fasting, he said: Sit down, I shall tell you about prayer and fasting.

Allah has remitted half the prayer to a traveller, and fasting to the traveller, the woman who is suckling an infant and the woman who is pregnant, I swear by Allah, he mentioned both (i.e. suckling and pregnant women) or one of them. I was grieved for not taking the food of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).

(Related by Al-Tirmidhī, Abū Dāwūd and Ibn Mājah)

Other scholars say that this hadith allows the pregnant and breast-feeding women to break their fast. However, it did not disallow them to make up the missed days. Thus, it is a weak opinion.

The preferred opinion is the first one as it is in agreement with the explicit meaning of the verses related to fasting.

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