Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
Introduction Definition of Siyaam (fasting) – Ruling on fasting – The virtues of fasting – The benefits of fasting – Etiquette and Sunnah of fasting – What should be done during this great month – Some of the ahkaam (rulings) on fasting – How the onset of Ramadaan is determined – Who is obliged to fast? – Travellers – The sick – The elderly Niyyah (intention) in fasting – When to start and stop fasting – Things that break the fast – Rulings on fasting for women
Praise be to Allaah, we praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allaah from the evil of our own selves and from our evil deeds. Whomsoever Allaah guides cannot be misled, and whomsoever He leaves astray cannot be guided. I bear witness that there is no god except Allaah alone, with no partner or associate, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
Allaah has blessed His slaves with certain seasons of goodness, in which hasanaat (rewards for good deeds) are multiplied, sayi’aat (bad deeds) are forgiven, people’s status is raised, the hearts of the believers turn to their Master, those who purify themselves attain success and those who corrupt themselves fail. Allaah has created His slaves to worship Him, as He says (interpretation of the meaning): “And I (Allaah) created not the jinns and humans except that they should worship Me (Alone).” [al-Dhaariyaat 51:56]
One of the greatest acts of worship is fasting, which Allaah has made obligatory on His slaves, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):
“… Observing al-sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqoon (the pious).” [al-Baqarah 2:183]
Allaah encourages His slaves to fast:“… And that you fast, it is better for you, if only you know.” [al-Baqarah 2:184 – interpretation of the meaning]
He guides them to give thanks to Him for having made fasting obligatory on them:“… that you should magnify Allaah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him.” [al-Baqarah 2:185 – interpretation of the meaning]
He has made fasting dear to them, and has made it easy so that people do not find it too hard to give up their habits and what they are used to. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):“… for a fixed number of days…” [al-Baqarah 2:184]
He has mercy on them and keeps them away from difficulties and harm, as He says (interpretation of the meaning:“… but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days…” [al-Baqarah 2:184]
No wonder then, that in this month the hearts of the believers turn to their Most Merciful Lord, fearing their Lord above them, and hoping to attain His reward and the great victory (Paradise).
As the status of this act of worship is so high, it is essential to learn the ahkaam (rulings) that have to do with the month of fasting so that the Muslim will know what is obligatory, in order to do it, what is haraam, in order to avoid it, and what is permissible, so that he need not subject himself to hardship by depriving himself of it.
This book is a summary of the rulings, etiquette and Sunnah of fasting. May Allaah make it of benefit to myself and my Muslim brothers. Praise be to Allaah, Lord of the Worlds.
Definition of Siyaam (fasting)
(1) Siyaam in Arabic means abstaining; in Islam it means abstaining from things that break the fast, from dawn until sunset, having first made the intention (niyyah) to fast.
Ruling on fasting
(2) The ummah is agreed that fasting the month of Ramadaan is obligatory, the evidence for which is in the Qur’aan and Sunnah. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you who believe! Observing al-sawn (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqoon (the pious).” [al-Baqarah 2:183]
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Islam is built on five [pillars]…” among which he mentioned fasting in Ramadaan. (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 1/49). Whoever breaks the fast during Ramadaan without a legitimate excuse has committed a serious major sin, The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, describing a dream that he had seen: “… until I was at the mountain, where I heard loud voices. I asked, ‘What are these voices?’ They said, ‘This is the howling of the people of Hellfire.’ Then I was taken [to another place], and I saw people hanging from their hamstrings, with the corners of their mouths torn and dripping with blood. I said, ‘Who are these?’ They said, ‘The people who broke their fast before it was the proper time to do so,’ i.e., before the time of iftaar.” (Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/420).
Al-Haafiz al-Dhahabi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, “Among the believers it is well-established that whoever does not fast in Ramadaan without a valid excuse is worse than an adulterer or drunkard; they doubt whether he is even a Muslim at all, and they regard him as a heretic and profligate.” Shaykh al-Islam [Ibn Taymiyah] (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “If a person does not fast in Ramadaan knowing that it is haraam but making it halaal for himself to do so, kill him; and if he does it because he is immoral [but believes it is haraam], then punish him for not fasting.” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 25/265).
The virtues of fasting
(3) The virtues of fasting are great indeed, and one of the things reported in the saheeh ahaadeeth is that Allaah has chosen fasting for Himself, and He will reward it and multiply the reward without measure, as He says [in the hadeeth qudsi]: “Except for fasting which is only for My sake, and I will reward him for it.” (al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 1904; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/407).
Fasting has no equal (al-Nisaa’i, 4/165; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/413), and the du’aa’ of the fasting person will not be refused (reported by al-Bayhaqi, 3/345; al-Silsilat al-Saheeh, 1797).
The fasting person has two moments of joy: one when he breaks his fast and one when he meets his Lord and rejoices over his fasting (reported by Muslim, 2/807). Fasting will intercede for a person on the Day of Judgement, and will say, “O Lord, I prevented him from his food and physical desires during the day, so let me intercede for him.” (Reported by Ahmad, 2/174. Al-Haythami classed its isnaad as hasan in al-Majma’, 3/181. See also Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/411).
The smell that comes from the mouth of a fasting person is better with Allaah than the scent of musk. (Muslim, 2/807).
Fasting is a protection and a strong fortress that keeps a person safe from the Fire. (Reported by Ahmad, 2/402; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/411; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 3880).
Whoever fasts one day for the sake of Allaah, Allaah will remove his face seventy years’ distance from the Fire. (Reported by Muslim, 2/808).
Whoever fasts one day seeking the pleasure of Allaah, if that is the last day of his life, he will enter Paradise. (Reported by Ahmad, 5/391; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/412).
In Paradise there is a gate called al-Rayyaan, through those who fast will enter, and no one will enter it except them; when they have entered it will be locked, and no-one else will enter through it.” (al-Bukhaari, Fath, no. 1797).
Ramadaan is a pillar of Islam; the Qur’aan was revealed in this month, and in it there is a night that is better than a thousand months. “When Ramadaan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 3277).
Fasting Ramadaan is equivalent to fasting ten months (See Musnad Ahmad, 5/280; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/421).
“Whoever fasts Ramadaan out of faith and with the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, no. 37).
At the breaking of every fast, Allaah will choose people to free from Hellfire. (Reported by Ahmad, 5/256; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/419).
The benefits of fasting
(4) There is much wisdom and many benefits in fasting, which have to do with the taqwa mentioned by Allaah in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):
“… that you may become al-muttaqoon (the pious).” [al-Baqarah 2:183]
The interpretation of this is that if a person refrains from halaal things hoping to earn the pleasure of Allaah and out of fear of His punishment, it will be easier for him to refrain from doing haraam things.
If a person’s stomach is hungry, this will keep many of his other faculties from feeling hunger or desires; but if his stomach is satisfied, his tongue, eye, hand and private parts will start to feel hungry. Fasting leads to the defeat of Shaytaan; it controls desires and protects one’s faculties.
When the fasting person feels the pangs of hunger, he experiences how the poor feel, so he has compassion towards them and gives them something to ward off their hunger. Hearing about them is not the same as sharing their suffering, just as a rider does not understand the hardship of walking unless he gets down and walks.
Fasting trains the will to avoid desires and keep away from sin; it helps a person to overcome his own nature and to wean himself away from his habits. It also trains a person to get used to being organized and punctual, which will solve the problem that many people have of being disorganized, if only they realized.
Fasting is also a demonstration of the unity of the Muslims, as the ummah fasts and breaks its fast at the same time.
Fasting also provides a great opportunity for those who are calling others to Allaah. In this month many people come to the mosque who are coming for the first time, or who have not been to the mosque for a long time, and their hearts are open, so we must make the most of this opportunity by preaching in a gentle manner, teaching appropriate lessons and speaking beneficial words, whilst co-operating in righteousness and good deeds. The dai’yah should not be so preoccupied with others that he forgets his own soul and becomes like a wick that lights the way for others while it is itself consumed.
Etiquette and Sunnah of fasting
Some aspects are obligatory (waajib) and others are recommended (mustahabb).
We should make sure that we eat and drink something at suhoor, and that we delay it until just before the adhaan of Fajr. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Have suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing (barakah).” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/139). “Suhoor is blessed food, and it involves being different from the people of the Book. What a good suhoor for the believer is dates.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 2345; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/448).
Not delaying iftaar, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The people will be fine so long as they do not delay iftaar.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/198).
Breaking one’s fast in the manner described in the hadeeth narrated by Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him): “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to break his fast with fresh dates before praying; if fresh dates were not available, he would eat (dried) dates; if dried dates were not available, he would have a few sips of water.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 3/79 and others. He said it is a ghareeb hasan hadeeth. Classed as saheeh in al-Irwa’, no. 922).
After iftaar, reciting the words reported in the hadeeth narrated by Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both), according to which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), when he broke his fast, would say: “Dhahaba al-zama’, wa’btallat al-‘urooq, wa thabat al-ajru in sha Allaah (Thirst is gone, veins are flowing again, and the reward is certain, in sha Allaah).” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 2/765; its isnaad was classed as hasan by al-Daaraqutni, 2/185).
Keeping away from sin, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When any of you is fasting, let him not commit sin…” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 1904).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not stop speaking falsehood and acting in accordance with it, Allaah has no need of him giving up his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 1903).
The person who is fasting should avoid all kinds of haraam actions, such as backbiting, obscenity and lies, otherwise his reward may all be lost. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It may be that a fasting person gets nothing from his fast except hunger.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, 1/539; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/453).
Among the things that can destroy one’s hasanaat (good deeds) and bring sayi’aat (bad deeds) is allowing oneself to be distracted by quiz-shows, soap operas, movies and sports matches, idle gatherings, hanging about in the streets with evil people and time-wasters, driving around for no purpose, and crowding the streets and sidewalks, so that the months of tahajjud, dhikr and worship, for many people, becomes the month of sleeping in the day so as to avoid feeling hungry, thus missing their prayers and the opportunity to pray them in congregation, then spending their nights in entertainment and indulging their desires. Some people even greet the month with feelings of annoyance, thinking only of the pleasures they will miss out on.
In Ramadaan, some people travel to kaafir lands to enjoy a holiday! Even the mosques are not free from such evils as the appearance of women wearing makeup and perfume, and even the Sacred House of Allaah is not free of these ills. Some people make the month a season for begging, even though they are not in need. Some of them entertain themselves with dangerous fireworks and the like, and some of them waste their time in the markets, wandering around the shops, or sewing and following fashions. Some of them put new products and new styles in their stores during the last ten days of the month, to keep people away from earning rewards and hasanaat.
Not allowing oneself to be provoked, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If someone fights him or insults him, he should say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari and others. Al-Fath, no. 1894) One reason for this is to remind himself, and another reason is to remind his adversary. But anyone who looks at the conduct of many of those who fast will see something quite different. It is essential to exercise self-control and be calm, but we see the opposite among crazy drivers who speed up when they hear the adhaan for Maghrib.
(*) Not eating too much, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The son of Adam fills no worse vessel than his stomach.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2380; he said, this is a hasan saheeh hadeeth). The wise person wants to eat to live, not live to eat. The best type of food is that which is there to be used, not that which is there to be served. But people indulge in making all kinds of food (during Ramadaan) and treating food preparation as a virtual art form, so that housewives and servants spend all their time on making food, and this keeps them away from worship, and people spend far more on food during Ramadaan than they do ordinarily. Thus the month becomes the month of indigestion, fatness and gastric illness, where people eat like gluttons and drink like thirsty camels, and when they get up to pray Taraaweeh, they do so reluctantly, and some of them leave after the first two rak’ahs.
(*) Being generous by sharing knowledge, giving money, using one’s position of authority or physical strength to help others, and having a good attitude. Al-Bukhaari and Muslim reported that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was the most generous of people [in doing good], and he was most generous of all in Ramadaan when Jibreel met with him, and he used to meet him every night in Ramadaan and teach him the Qur’aan. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was more generous in doing good than a blowing wind.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 6). How can people exchange generosity for stinginess and action for laziness, to the extent that they do not do their work properly and do not treat one another properly, and they use fasting as an excuse for all this.
Combining fasting with feeding the poor is one of the means of reaching Paradise, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “In Paradise there are rooms whose outside can be seen from the inside and the inside can be seen from the outside. Allaah has prepared them for those who feed the poor, who are gentle in speech, who fast regularly and who pray at night when people are asleep.” (Reported by Ahmad 5/343; Ibn Khuzaymah, no. 2137. Al-Albaani said in his footnote, its isnaad is hasan because of other corroborating reports).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast, will have a reward equal to his, without it detracting in the slightest from the reward of the fasting person.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 3/171; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/451). Shaykh al-Islam [Ibn Taymiyah] (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “What is meant is that he should feed him until he is satisfied.” (Al-Ikhtiyaaraat al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 109).
A number of the Salaf (may Allaah have mercy on them) preferred the poor over themselves when feeding them at the time of iftaar. Among these were ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar, Maalik ibn Deenaar, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others. ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar would not break his fast unless there were orphans and poor people with him.
What should be done during this great month
(*) Preparing oneself and one’s environment for worship, hastening to repent and turn back to Allaah, rejoicing at the onset of the month, fasting properly, having the right frame of mind and fearing Allaah when praying Taraaweeh, not feeling tired during the middle ten days of the month, seeking Laylat al-Qadr, reading the entire Qur’aan time after time, trying to weep and trying to understand what you are reading. ‘Umrah during Ramadaan is equivalent to Hajj, and charity given during this virtuous time is multiplied, and I’tikaaf (retreat in the mosque for worship) is confirmed (as part of the Sunnah).
(*) There is nothing wrong with congratulating one another at the beginning of the month. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to tell his Companions the good news of the onset of Ramadaan, and urge them to make the most of it.
Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘There has come to you Ramadaan, a blessed month. Allaah has made it obligatory on you to fast (this month). During it the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are locked, and the devils are chained up. In it there is a night that is better than a thousand months, and whoever is deprived of its goodness is deprived indeed.’” (Reported by al-Nisaa’i, 4/129; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/490)
Some of the ahkaam (rulings) on fasting
(6) There is the kind of fasting that must be done on consecutive days, like fasting in Ramadaan, or fasting to expiate for killing someone by mistake, divorcing one’s wife by zihaar [a jaahili form of divorce in which a man says to his wife, “You are to me as the back of my mother” – Translator], or having intercourse during the day in Ramadaan. Also, one who makes a vow to fast consecutive days must fulfil it.
There is also the other kind of fasting which does not have to be done on consecutive days, such as making up days missed in Ramadaan, fasting ten days if one does not have a sacrifice, fasting for kafaarat yameen (according to the majority), fasting to compensate for violating the conditions of ihraam (according to the most correct opinion), and fasting in fulfilment of a vow in cases where one did not have the intention of fasting consecutive days.