Part IV: Islamic Duty of Fasting
Q. What is fasting?
A. Fasting means to intentionally
leave eating, drinking, and fulfillment of other human desires from the time subh
saadiq (dawn) until sunset. Fasting is called Sawm or Siyaam
in Arabic, and breaking the fast is called Iftaar.
Q. How many types of fasts are
A. (1) Fard mu’ayyan.
(2) Fard ghayr mu’ayyan. (3) Waajib mu’ayyan. (4) Waajib
ghayr mu’ayyan. (5) Sunnah. (6) Nafl. (7) Makrooh.
Q. Which fasts are fard
A. Fasting for one month from the
whole year—during the month of Ramadaan—is fard mu’ayyan
Q. What fasts are fard
A. If one leaves fasting with or
without an excuse during Ramadaan, the duty to make up these afterwards
is fard ghayr mu’ayyan (non-time-specific obligation).
Q. What fasts are waajib
A. Fixed offering, or the pledge
to fast on a fixed day or date (which is called nadhr mu’ayyan)
makes fasting on those dates waajib. For example, one promises to keep
fast for Allâh as nadhr on a particular date, say on the first of
Rajab, for the success in an examination.
Q. What fasts are waajib
A. The compensatory fast for
redressing a wrong, or the fasts for nadhr ghayr mu’ayyan are waajib
ghayr mu’ayyan. For example, one promises to fast for Allâh for three
days (but does not specify the exact days) if one comes first in an examination.
Q. What fasts are sunnah?
A. No fast is sunnah
mu’akkadah. But the fasts which the Holy Prophet ()
kept or are proven that he induced others to keep are called sunnah. For
example, fasts for the two days of ‘Ashoora (the 9th and 10th
of Muharram), or on ‘Arafah on the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah,
or on Ayyaam abiaad (13th, 14th, and 15th
of every month).
Q. What fasts are mustahab?
A. After fard, waajib,
and sunnah, all fasts are mustahab. But there are certain fasts
which carry more blessings. For example, six days of fasting in Shawwaal,
fasting on the 15th of Sha’baan, fasting on Mondays, Thursdays, and
Q. Which fasts are makrooh?
A. Fasting only on Saturday.
Fasting only on ‘Ashoora, or fasting on the new year’s day, and the wife’s
nafl fasts without her husband’s permission.
Q. What fasts are haraam?
A. Five fasts are haraam
during the year: Fasting on ‘Eid-ul-Fitr, ‘Eid-ul-Adha, and on
the three days of ayyaam-ut-tashreeq (the 11th, 12th,
and 13th of Dhul-Hijjah).
Q. What are the virtues of
fasting during Ramadaan?
A. There are great blessings for
fasting during Ramadaan and its virtue and superiority have been referred to in
many ahaadeeth. For instance, the Holy Prophet ()
has said that those who keep fast during the month of Ramadaan for Allâh’s
pleasure, the sins of their whole life are pardoned. Another hadeeth says
that, to Allâh, the smell from the mouth of one who is fasting is sweeter than
the fragrance of musk. A third hadeeth says that Allâh has said that
fasting is entirely for Him and He will give reward for it. In the same way,
there are many ahadeeth which indicate the value of fasting during
Q. For whom is fasting in Ramadaan
A. It is fard on
every adult, sane Muslim man or woman. One who denies its being obligatory is a kaafir
and one who leaves it without any excuse is sinful and a faasiq. Although
it is not compulsory for children to keep fasts and perform prayers, it has been
ordered that they be asked to fast and perform prayers at a young age so that
the habit is formed. In a hadeeth it has been said that when a child is
seven, he should be ordered to say the prayers, and at the age of ten, he should
be beaten if he does not say the prayers. In the same way, he should be asked to
keep as many fasts as possible when he or she becomes capable of keeping fasts.
Q. What are the excuses which
permit leaving of fast?
A. (1) Traveling: A musaafir
is allowed not to keep fast while he is traveling; but it is better to fast
during the travel if one can do it without much trouble. (2) If one is suffering
from a disease and fasting aggravates it. (3) If one is very old. (4) If a woman
is pregnant and fasting may do her or her pregnancy harm. (5) A feeding mother,
if fasting harms the mother or the child. (6) If one is so much overwhelmed with
thirst or hunger that he will die if he does not eat or drink. (7) Fasting of
women during their monthly periods is also not allowed.
Q. What is the ruling for
looking for the Ramadaan moon?
A. It is waajib to see or
try to find the Ramadaan moon on the 29th of Sha’baan. It is
mustahab to watch the visibility of the moon of Sha’baan on the
29th of Rajab just to calculate the 29th of Sha’baan. If
the moon of Ramadaan is visible on the 29th of Sha’baan,
then keep fast from the following morning.
If the moon is not visible and the sky is clear, do not fast from the next
morning. But if the sky is dusty or cloudy, do not take any food until
mid-morning the next day. If news about the visibility of the moon comes through
any reliable source then do niyyah to fast, otherwise start eating.
However, conditional niyyah for fasting the following morning when the
moon could not be seen on the 29th of Sha’baan is makrooh.
Conditional niyyah means one fasts the next day with the intention that
it is fard fast if it is Ramadaan, otherwise it is a nafl
Q. What is the reliable
testimony or witness for visibility of the moon for Ramadaan?
A. In case the sky is not clear,
or it is dusty or cloudy, the testimony of only such persons will be reliable
for the Ramadaan moon who are truthful, pious and religious, whether they
are men or women, free persons or slaves. Thus, everyone who in appearance is
not faasiq and seems to be pious and religious.
Q. What is the reliable
testimony for ‘Eid moon?
A. The testimony of two pious and
true men, or one man and two women, of similar piety and character, will be
reliable for ‘Eid-ul-Fitr or ‘Eid-ul-Adha moon, if the sky is
Q. How many witnesses will be
required if the sky is clear?
A. If the sky is clear, then
witnesses in such a number will be required that it becomes beyond doubt to
suppose that so many people can conspire to tell a lie together, and the fact of
their being witness is enough to believe that the moon must have been seen. This
is true for the Ramadaan moon as well as for the two ‘Eids.
Q. Will the news about the
visibility of the moon be reliable if it comes from a far off city?
A. The news will be reliable, no
matter what the distance is. For example, if the Burmese people have not seen
the moon but a Bombay man gives evidence before them of having seen it, then qadaa
of one day’s fast will become due from these people. But the source should be
reliable from the viewpoint of Shari’ah. A telegram
is not a reliable source.
Q. If a person sees the moon but
his evidence is not accepted and nobody else has seen the moon and none keeps
the fast, will fasting be fard for him?
A. Fasting is waajib on
him, and when he, according to his own calculations, has completed 30 fasts, he
should still fast for the 31st day along with the others.
Q. Is niyyah (intention)
necessary for fasting?
A. Yes, niyyah is necessary
for fasting. A fast will not be considered a fast if one keeps away from all
those things which break the fast and does not take anything from subh
saadiq until sunset, if one does not have the niyyah.
Q. At what time should one
express the niyyah?
A. For Ramadaan, nadhr
mu’ayyan, and nafl fasts, one should make niyyah for the
fast during the night or before midday in the morning. “Day” in Shari’ah
means the time from subh saadiq until sunset. If subh
saadiq is at 4 A.M. and the sun sets at 6 P.M., the day is 14 hours
long and midday will be at 11 A.M. So one should express, at the latest, the niyyah
for fasting by 11 A.M.
For qadaa fasts for Ramadaan, kaffaarah, or nadhr
ghayr mu’ayyan, the niyyah should be expressed before subh
Q. How to express the niyyah?
A. For fasting of Ramadaan,
nadhr mu’ayyan, sunnah, and nafl fasts, whether one has
the specific intention for the particular fast, or whether one simply has the
intention of fasting, it will be enough. The fast for Ramadaan, during
the month of Ramadaan, nadhr mu’ayyan on the fixed date, and sunnah
and nafl fasts will be complete.
But in the case of ghayr mu’ayyan, kaffaarah, and the qadaa
(makeup) of Ramadaan fasts, it is necessary to have the particular
intention for that specific fast.
Q. Is it necessary to express
the niyyah by words?
A. Niyyah means to will or
to intend. It is enough to have the niyyah in the heart. Although it is
better to do so by tongue, there is no harm if it is not expressed in words.
Q. What things are mustahab
A. (1) To eat sehri
(meal before the break of dawn). (2) To make intention for keeping the fast at
night. (3) To eat sehri as late as possible, as long as it is
finished before the dawn. (4) To hurry in iftaar (breaking the fast), as
long as there is no doubt that the sun has set. (5) To avoid telling lies,
abusing, and backbiting. (6) To do iftaar with dry or fresh dates. If
they are not available, then with water.
Q. What is sehri
and what is the time for it?
A. Sehri is eating a
meal in the last hour of the night just before subh saadiq.
Sehri is sunnah and brings great blessings. One should take
one or two mouthfuls even if one is not hungry.
Q. What things are makrooh
A. (1) To chew gum or put anything
into the mouth. (2) To taste something; but a woman can taste the soup, etc.
by the tip of her tongue if her husband is ill-tempered. (3) To stretch one’s
legs too much during istinjaa, or putting too much water into the nose or
mouth when cleaning them. (4) Collecting much saliva in the mouth and swallowing
it to quench the thirst. (5) Telling lies, backbiting, or abusing. (6) To show
nervousness or restlessness. (7) If there is necessity to take a ghusl,
to delay it knowingly until after subh saadiq. (8)
To clean the teeth by rubbing powder or by crushing coal in the mouth.
Q. What things do not make the
A. (1) To put antimony (surma)
into one’s eyes. (2) To rub oil on one’s body or to put oil in the hair. (3)
To take a bath for the purpose of keeping cool. (4) To do miswaak with a
fresh branch or root. (5) To apply scent, or to smell it. (6) To eat or drink
forgetfully. (7) To vomit unintentionally. (8) To swallow one’s saliva. (9)
Swallowing flies or smoke down the throat unintentionally.
All these things neither break the fast nor make it makrooh.
Q. What is meant by mufsidaat?
A. Mufsidaat are the
factors which break the fast. These are of two types. One type makes qadaa
necessary and the other necessitates qadaa as well as kaffaarah
Q. What are the mufsidaat
which make qadaa waajib?
A. (1) If anybody puts something
by force into the mouth of one who is fasting and such a thing goes down the
throat. (2) One has the intention of fasting, but unintentionally water goes
down the throat while gargling. (3) One vomits and then intentionally returns it
down the throat. (4) Vomiting a mouthful intentionally. (5) Intentionally
swallowing a pebble, piece of stone, seed-nut, mud, or a piece of paper. (6)
Swallowing something eatable, equal to or bigger than a grain of gram which
remained in between the teeth, by pushing it with the tongue. But if it is first
taken out of the mouth and then swallowed, then whatever the size, kaffaarah
becomes waajib. (7) Putting oil in the ear. (8) To put snuff in the
nostrils. (9) Swallowing blood which comes from the gums, if the quantity of
this blood is more than the saliva with which it is mixed. (10) Eating something
unintentionally, then thinking that the fast is broken, intentionally eating or
drinking more. (11) To have sehri thinking that it is not yet subh
saadiq and learning later on that it was morning already. (12)
Knowingly breaking the fast in other than the days of Ramadaan. (13) To
break the fast before the sunset, mistaking cloudy or dusty sky for sunset.
Each of these things make qadaa (makeup) of the fast waajib.
Q. In what conditions are both qadaa
and kaffaarah waajib?
A. During the fasts of Ramadaan:
(1) Eating or drinking intentionally something which is used as medicine, food,
or is taken for pleasure. (2) Having sexual intercourse intentionally. (3)
Putting antimony into the eyes or having one’s vein punctured and then eating
intentionally, thinking that the fast has already been broken.
In all these conditions, qadaa and kaffaarah are both waajib.
Q. If one’s Ramadaan
fast is broken, is it right for him to eat and drink?
A. No, it is necessary for him to
wait until the evening. In the same way, if a traveller arrives at home or the
minor becomes major, the woman having monthly period becomes clean, or the
insane person becomes sane, they should wait until the evening like all those
who are fasting.
Q. Is kaffaarah necessary
for breaking any fast other than that of Ramadaan?
A. No, it is waajib only in
breaking the fard Ramadaan fast. Kaffaarah is not waajib
for breaking any fast other than that of Ramadaan. Breaking even the qadaa
of Ramadaan fast does not make the kaffaarah waajib.
Q. What are the conditions in
which qadaa for fasts becomes waajib?
A. (1) If fard or waajib
mu’ayyan fasts were not kept without an excuse. (2) Some fasts were missed
due to some excuse. (3) Fast was kept but broken, whether with or without
excuse. In these cases, it becomes fard to do qadaa
(makeup) of these fasts.
Q. When should the qadaa
of fasts be done?
A. It is better to do it as soon
as possible. To delay without an excuse is bad.
Q. Is it necessary to keep qadaa
fasts continuously, without any break?
A. They can be kept either
continuously or with intervals. Both ways are allowed.
Q. What to do if another Ramadaan
month comes and the qadaa of the last Ramadaan is still
A. Keep the fasts of this Ramadaan
now, and after Ramadaan, observe the makeup for the previous fasts.
Q. What if one keeps and breaks
a nafl fast?
A. Its qadaa will be
necessary because nafl fasts or prayers, once begun, become waajib
and must be completed.
Q. What to do if one has no
strength to keep qadaa fasts?
A. One can give fidyah if
he is too old to keep fasts and there is no hope of his gaining strength in the
future, or if one is so ill that there is no hope of regaining health.
Q. What is the fidyah for
A. To give 3 ½ lbs. of wheat, or
7 lbs. of barley, or the price of any of these two, or giving any other
foodgrain like rice, corn, etc. equal to the same price or quantity.
The quantity of fidyah for each fard or waajib salaah
is also the same. But saying prayers is fard as long as one can do
it even by gestures of the head. Prayers will no longer be fard if
one is not able to perform them by gestures and dies in this condition, or this
period extends the time of six prayers. Fidyah can be given if the
prayers become qadaa when there was strength to say them and the
person died without completing them.
Q. Is it allowed for any other
person to keep fasts for another person who dies with some missed fasts?
A. No. The responsibility will not
be shifted from the dead person, but his successors can give fidyah.
Q. What is the compensation for
breaking the fast?
A. The kaffaarah is to free
a slave. But in the countries where there are no slaves, the kaffaarah
can be given only by the following two means:
First, keeping fast daily continuously for two months.
Second, if one does not have the strength to keep fasts for two months, he or
she must feed 60 poor people to their fill twice a day, or give each of the 60
poor people 3 ½ lbs. of wheat or pay its equal price, or give rice, corn, etc.
of the same amount.
Q. Is it allowed to give the
foodgrains of 60 poor people, that will be 210 lbs. of wheat, to only one
A. It is allowed if one person is
given 3 ½ lbs. of wheat every day, or he is fed twice a day for 60 days. But if
he is given each day more than what is to be given to him, by cash or in kind,
then only the required quantity will be counted to the kaffaarah and not
Q. Is it allowed if one
deserving person is given less than 3 ½ lbs.?
A. No, it is not allowed to give
less or more than 3 ½ lbs. of wheat in kaffaarah as one day’s quantity
of foodgrains to a poor person.
Q. What if several fasts in one
Ramadaan were broken?
A. Only one kaffaarah will
Q. What is I’tikaaf?
A. Staying in a mosque where jamaa’ah
is said, for devotion and prayers, is called I’tikaaf.
Q. Why is it only staying in the
mosque which is ‘ibaadah (worship) in this way?
A. When a man leaves his
pleasures, recreations, and work and stays in a mosque just for Allâh’s
pleasure, this is obviously ‘ibaadah. (At other places there are many
distractions which prevent one from concentrating only on Allâh.)
Q. Where should a woman do I’tikaaf?
A. At a place in her own house
where she says her prayers, she should do the niyyah for I’tikaaf
and remain there. She must not leave from that place to the courtyard or to any
other part of the house, except when she goes to the toilet. If there is no
particular place in the house set aside for prayers, she should, before
beginning the I’tikaaf, fix a place for that and should observe the I’tikaaf
Q. What are the benefits of I’tikaaf?
A. These are: (1) One doing I’tikaaf
dedicates his whole being and time to the ‘ibaadah (worship) of Allâh.
(2) One remains safe from sins and evils of the worldly life. (3) One gets the
blessings of prayer all the time while one is in I’tikaaf because in I’tikaaf
a person is always eagerly waiting to join prayers and jamaa’ah. (4)
One is like the angels who worship and remember Allâh all the time. (5) A
mosque is “Allâh’s house,” so a mu’takif (one who is performing I’tikaaf)
is Allâh’s neighbor and His guest.
Q. How many types of I’tikaaf
A. Three types: Waajib, sunnah
mu’akkadah, and mustahab.
Q. What I’tikaaf is waajib?
A. I’tikaaf of nadhr
is waajib. That is, I’tikaaf as a promise for fulfillment of
some desire. For example, somebody promises to sit in I’tikaaf for Allâh
for two or three days if a certain work is accomplished.
Q. What I’tikaaf is sunnah
A. I’tikaaf in the last
ten days of Ramadaan is sunnah mu’akkadah. It starts from the
evening of the 20th of Ramadaan after the sunset and ends as
soon as the ‘Eid moon is seen. The sunnah will be fulfilled whether the
moon is seen on the 29th or 30th. This I’tikaaf
is sunnah mu’akkadah ‘ala-l-kifaayah: that is, if a few people do it,
the rest are absolved of its responsibility.
Q. What I’tikaaf is mustahab?
A. Other than the types mentioned
above, all other I’tikaaf is mustahab. I’tikaaf
can be done in all the days throughout the year.
Q. What are the conditions for
the propriety of I’tikaaf?
A. (1) To be a Muslim. (2) To be
free of menstruation period and hadath akbar. (3) To be
sane. (4) To make niyyah. (5) To sit for I’tikaaf in a mosque
where jamaa’ah is held. These conditions are necessary for all the
types of I’tikaaf, but for waajib I’tikaaf, fasting is also a
Q. What things are mustahab
A. (1) To do virtuous and good
deeds. (2) Recitation of the Holy Qur’aan. (3) Reciting darood shareef.
(4) Reading and teaching of religious books. (5) To give advice and sermons. (6)
To perform the I’tikaaf in the jaami’ mosque (where the
Jum’ah prayer is held).
The Timings for I’tikaaf
Q. What is the minimum period
A. It is necessary to keep fast in
the waajib I’tikaaf, so the least time for it is a day. Thus, to
vow for I’tikaaf of less than a day, for a few hours or for the night,
is not right.
The time limit for I’tikaaf which is sunnah mu’akkadah is
the last 10 days of Ramadaan.
For nafl I’tikaaf there is no limit. It may even be for 5 or 10
minutes. If one when entering the mosque makes the niyyah for I’tikaaf
each time, it will bring plenty of blessings for several I’tikaaf each
Permitted Actions During I’tikaaf
Q. On what grounds is a mu’takif
allowed to come out of the mosque?
A. (1) For the toilet. (2) For fard
bath. (3) To go out for the Jum’ah prayer at zawaal (when the sun
crosses the meridian), or to reach the jaami’ mosque at least for such
a time in advance that 4 rak’aat of sunnah can be said before
the khutbah. (3) To come out beyond the area of the mosque to call the adhaan.
Q. How far is one allowed to go
for the toilet?
A. It is right to go up to one’s
own house at whatever distance it may be. If he has two houses, it is necessary
to go to the closest one from the place of I’tikaaf.
Q. Is it right for the mu’takif
to come out for the Janaazah prayers?
A. If he made niyyah at the
time of the commencement of I’tikaaf that he would go out for Janaazah
prayers, then it will be allowed, but if he did not do so, it will not be
Q. What other things are allowed
A. To eat, drink, sleep in the
mosque or to buy something of necessity if it is not available in the mosque, or
to marry are all allowed.
Makroohaat and Mufsidaat of I’tikaaf
Q. What things are makrooh
A. (1) To be absolutely silent and
to consider it as an ‘ibaadah. (2) To buy or sell things brought inside
the mosque. (3) To quarrel or talk nonsense.
Q. What things make I’tikaaf
A. (1) Coming out of the mosque
intentionally or mistakenly without an excuse. (2) Sexual intercourse during I’tikaaf.
(3) To go out for a certain reason and stay unnecessarily for a long time. For
example, if one goes to the toilet but remains at home for some time after that.
(4) Coming out of the mosque due to fear or disease. In all these conditions,
the I’tikaaf becomes faasid.
Q. Is qadaa of I’tikaaf
necessary when it becomes faasid?
A. The qadaa of waajib
I’tikaaf is waajib, but for sunnah or nafl there
is no qadaa.
Nadhr or Vows
Q. How is it to make a vow that
if one succeeds he will offer such and such a thing?
A. It is allowed and after making
the vow, it is waajib to fulfill it.
Q. Is it waajib to
fulfill every vow?
A. A vow which does not go against
the Shari’ah and is according to the conditions laid down by Shari’ah should
be fulfilled and this is waajib. One must not fulfill a vow which goes
against the Shari’ah.
Q. What are the conditions for a
A. A vow should be a form of
worship. That is, one vows to Allâh to say two rak’aat of prayer if a
certain work is done, or to keep fast, or give food to so many poor people, or
to give sadaqah of a certain amount. The vow should not be beyond the
means and power of the one who makes it, otherwise it will not be proper. For
example, if someone says that if a certain work is done he will give away in
charity the goods of someone else’s shop. This vow is not right because it is
not in one’s power to given away someone else’s belongings. There are many
more conditions which you will read about in bigger books, inshaa-Allâh.
Q. How is it to make a vow in
the name of a spiritual father or a waliy?
A. A vow observed in any name
other than Allâh’s is haraam. A nadhr is a kind
of worship and none other than Allâh deserves to be worshipped.
 Or telephone, TV, radio,
computer networks, etc. And Allâh knows best.