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The Fiqh of Fasting: Definition and Prerequisites – Part 1

Definition of the Sawm or Siyam

Sawm or Siyam (fasting) means in language to abstain from something.

Maryam (Mary) (peace be upon her) said,

“Indeed, I have vowed a fast to the All-Merciful. Thus, I shall not speak today to any human being.” (Qurʾan 19:26)

In the legal usage of the term, fasting means to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset.

Fasting

In the legal usage of the term, fasting means to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset.

This must be accompanied by the niyyah, intention.1he great commentator Al-Qurṭubī, the author of Al-jamiʿ lī Aḥkam Al-Qurʾan, adds to this definition that the perfect and complete Fasting is that in which acts of disobedience are avoided and acts of worship are maintained.

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-Bukharī].

Observing the niyyah here means that you observe fasting as an act of worship only for the sake of Allah and out of obedience to Allah.

The legal ruling regarding fasting the month of Ramaḍan:

It is obligatory to fast the month of Ramadan according to the Qurʾan, the Sunnah and the Consensus.

Allah says:

“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it has been prescribed for those (who have believed) before you, so that you may be (ever) God-fearing. … So whoever among you bears witness to the month shall then fast it.” (Qurʾan 2: 183-185)

On the authority of ʿAbdullahh, the son of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭab (ra), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) says, “Islam has been built on five [pillars]: testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the Salah (prayer), paying the zakat (obligatory charity), making the hajj (pilgrimage) to the House, and fasting in Ramaḍan.” [Al-Bukharī and Muslim]

There is a consensus among all Muslim scholars that fasting Ramadan is obligatory.

The prerequisites for the obligation of fasting:

There are four prerequisites:

1- Islam

If non-Muslims fast or do any act of worship, it will not be accepted. Allah says,

“Yet truly it has been revealed to you, O Prophet, and to those of the prophets before you: If ever you were to associate any gods with God, then utterly futile would be all your good works. And, most surely, you yourself would have become among the losers, of an everlasting Paradise.” (Qurʾan 39:65)

ʿAʾisha reported: I said: Messenger of Allah, the son of Judʿan established ties of relationship, fed the poor. Would that be of any avail to him? He said: It would be of no avail to him as he did not ever say: O my Lord, pardon my sins on the Day of Resurrection. (Saḥīḥ Muslim)

2- Reaching puberty:

This is the second prerequisite. In Islam, there are three signs that denote a certain person has reached puberty.

  1. The first wet dream and menstruation

There is an agreement among scholars on only one of these signs which is having the first wet dream for boys and the first menstruation for girls. This is the most authentic sign.

  1. being 15 years old (only lunar years are used here)

Some scholars hold the opinion that if a person is 15 lunar years old, he or she is an adult who is obliged to fast and do other acts of worship.

However, the first sign is the most famous among the scholars.

What is the legal ruling regarding the child who fasts? 

If the child fasts, his or her fast is valid and acceptable. In addition, he and his or her parents will be rewarded. So, it is recommended for the children to train and learn to fast before they reach the age of puberty but it is not obligatory.

Narrated Al-Rubayiʿ bint Muʿawadh: “The Prophet (ﷺ) sent a messenger to the village of the AnSar in the morning of the day of ʿAshuraʾ (10th of Muḥarram) to announce: ‘Whoever has eaten something should not eat but complete the fast, and whoever is observing the fast should complete it.’ “She further said, “Since then we used to fast on that day regularly and also make our boys fast. We used to make toys of wool for the boys and if anyone of them cried for, he was given those toys till it was the time of the breaking of the fast.” (Saḥīḥ  al-Bukharī)

3- Sanity

An insane person cannot be asked to perform any act of worship because they cannot understand the Shariʿa address. Narrated Alī ibn Abū Ṭalib: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: There are three (persons) whose actions are not recorded: a sleeper till he awakes, a boy till he reaches puberty, and a lunatic till he comes to reason. (Related by Al-Nasaʾī, Abū Dawūd and Ibn Majah)

4- Ability

In addition to the three prerequisites mentioned above, fasting is only obligatory if the person has the ability to observe it. Allah says:

“God does not task a soul beyond its capacity.” (Qurʾan 2:286)

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Read also:

The Best 10 Virtues of Fasting in Islam: What Are They?
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Fasting New Muslims

The Best 10 Virtues of Fasting in Islam: What Are They?

After few days, Muslims all over the world will be witnessing the blessed month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the lunar calendar.  In some Islamic countries, people celebrate this month of fasting through decorating streets and houses with lanterns and ribbons.

May the new moon of the month of Ramadan be bringing guidance and good! They say that the night just before the first day of the month.

The many names of the month of Ramadan highlight its importance to Muslims. It is called the month of Fasting, the month of the Gracious Qur’an, the month of the night prayer, and the month of patience.

The night of Decree is better than a thouthand month

Lailat al-Qadr, the night of Decree, is in the last ten days of Ramadan. It is better than a thousand months.

What is fasting?

It means abstinence from food, drink and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset during Ramadan. This must be accompanied by the niyyah, intention.

The great commentator Al-Qurtubi, the author of Al-jami’ li Ahkam Al-Qur’an, adds to this definition that the perfect and complete Fasting is that in which acts of disobedience are avoided and acts of worship are maintained.

Applying the niyyah here means that you observe fasting as an act of worship only for the sake of Allah and out of obedience to Allah. (look at virtue 6 below)

The legal ruling concerning fasting:

It is obligatory to fast the month of Ramadan; however, the following criteria should be met:

The person must be:

1- Muslim

2- Adult (it is recommended for young boys to fast if they have the ability to observe fasting)

3- Sane

4- Able to observe fasting (sickness and old age can be legal excuses for one to break their fast)

5- Resident (not travelling)

Women experiencing menstruation or post-natal bleeding are forbidden to observe fasting.

If fasting causes any harm to the worshipper, they do not fast and feed an indigent person instead.

The virtues of the Month of Ramadan

1- It is easier for Muslims in this month to do good and live in good as Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. That is why in most Islamic countries, people are more active and keen on doing all the acts that bring them closer to Allah.

2- The voluntary night prayer may be performed in congregation in this month.

Abu Hurairah narrated that The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

“Whoever prays during the night in Ramadan out of sincere faith and seeking its reward from Allah, will have all of his previous sins forgiven.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

3- The Gracious Qur’an was first revealed in Ramadan at the night of Decree. So, it is recommended to read the Qur’an and give to charity during this month.

Narrated Ibn `Abbas:

The Prophet (ﷺ) was the most generous of all the people and he used to become more generous in Ramadan when Gabriel met him. Gabriel used to meet him every night during Ramadan to revise the Qur’an with him. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) then used to be more generous than the fast wind. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

4- Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to perform I’tikaf (seclusion in the mosque) for the last ten days of Ramadan. This is because the night of Decree, which is better than a thousand month, occurs in these days. The worship at this night is better than the worship in more than 82 years.The reward for performing the night prayer at this single night is the forgiveness of all past sins provided that this is done out of sincere faith and in anticipation of Allah’s rewards. This is a great favour from Allah for Muslims.

The virtues of Fasting

1- Fasting is a shield or a screen from the Hell-Fire.

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:

He who observes fast for a day in the way of Allah He would remove his face from the Hell to the extent of seventy years’ distance. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

2- Fasting is a shield that protects or helps the worshipper to withstand temptations

Abdullah (b. Mas’ud) (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said to us:

O young men, those among you who can support a wife should marry, for it restrains eyes (from casting evil glances) and preserves one from immorality; but he who cannot afford it should observe fast for it is a means of controlling the sexual desire. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

3- Those who perform fasting are the al-sāiḥūna

Allah says:

” Such are the repentant, the worshipful, the praise-giving; al-sāiḥūna, who bow to Him alone and who bow their faces down to the ground in Prayer to Him; those who enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and who diligently observe the ordained limits of God. So give glad tidings to the believers of everlasting delight in Paradise”. (Quran 09:112)

The great commentator, Al-Tabari, explains the meaning of al-sāiḥūna as those who fast.

4- There is nothing equal to Fasting as it is a means to be admitted into the Paradise.

It was narrated that Abu Umamah said:

“I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, tell me of an action (I should do).’ He said: ‘Take to fasting, for there is nothing equal to it.”‘ (Sunan an-Nasa’i)

5- Fasting intercede on behalf of its observers on the Day of Judgment. This is mentioned in Hadith collected by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal in is Musnad.

6- Fasting is means to expiate sins and to have all one’s past sins forgiven.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

7- Fasting is a reason for happiness in this life and Afterlife.

Abu Hurairah narrated that:

The Messenger of Allah said: “There are two joys for the fasting person: the joy when he breaks his fast, and the joy of when he meets his Lord.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

8- Allah’s reward for Fasting is high and it highlights how great fasting is!

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “(Allah said), ‘Every good deed of Adam’s son is for him except fasting; it is for Me. and I shall reward (the fasting person) for it. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

9- The virtue of the smell of the mouth of the person observing fasting

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said “Verily, the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better to Allah than the smell of musk.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

10- The supplication of a fasting person when he breaks his or her fast at sunset is not rejected.

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
There are three whose supplications are not turned back: A just ruler, and a fasting person until he breaks his fast. And, the supplication of one who has been wronged is raised by Allah up to the clouds on the Day of Resurrection, and the gates of heaven are opened for it, and Allah says, ‘By My Might I will help you (against the wrongdoer) even if it is after a while.’” (Sunan Ibn Majah)
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