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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 there?
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. (8) Haraam.

Q.        Which fasts are fard mu’ayyan?
A.        Fasting for one month from the whole year—during the month of Ramadaan—is fard mu’ayyan (time-specific obligation).

Q.        What fasts are fard ghayr mu’ayyan?
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 mu’ayyan?
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 ghayr mu’ayyan?
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 Fridays.

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).



Fasting During Ramadaan

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 Ramadaan.

Q.        For whom is fasting in Ramadaan fard?
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.



Visibility of the Moon and its Testimony

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 fast.

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 not clear.

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[12] 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 saadiq.

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.



Mustahabbaat of Fasting

Q.        What things are mustahab during fasting?
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.



Makroohaat of Fasting

Q.        What things are makrooh during fasting?
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 fast makrooh?
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.



Mufsidaat of Fasting

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 (compensation).

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.




The Qadaa of Fasting

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 due?
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 fasting?
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.



Kaffaarah (Compensation)

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 person?
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 the surplus.

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 be waajib.




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 there.

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 are there?
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 mu’akkadah?
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 condition.

Q.        What things are mustahab in I’tikaaf?
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 for I’tikaaf?
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 day.



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 allowed.

Q.        What other things are allowed in I’tikaaf?
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 in I’tikaaf?
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 faasid (invalid)?
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 valid vow?
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.



[12] Or telephone, TV, radio, computer networks, etc. And Allâh knows best.


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