The Fiqh of Fasting

Answered by Sidi Mujib

The Fiqh of Fasting

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Ta`limu’l-Haq chapter on Fasting (Sawm) taught by Shaykh Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf on Sunday, October 20th, 2002 and Sunday November 3rd, 2002. Notes in brackets [such as (F: )] are from Faraz Rabbani.

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is fard upon every Muslim, male and female, who is sane and mature.

Almighty Allah has promised great reward for those that fast, whilst severe punishment is in store for those who do not fast in the month of Ramadan.

Fasting has many physical, moral and social benefits. However, Allah has made fasting compulsory so that we become pious, God-fearing and God-conscious.

Fasting in Islam means to stay away from eating, drinking and cohabitation from true dawn (subh sadiq, beginning of fajr time) to sunset with an intention of fasting.



There are eight types of fasting. They are as follows:

  1. Specific obligatory (fard) fast: Fasting for the whole month of Ramadan once a year.
  2. Non-specific obligatory (fard) fast: The duty upon one to make up a fast missed in the month of Ramadan with or without a valid reason.
  3. Specific necessary (wajib) fast: To vow to keep a fast on a specific day or date for the sake of Allah, upon the fulfillment of a wish or desire (nadhr)
  4. Non-specific necessary (wajib) fast: To vow or pledge to keep a fast without fixing any day or date, upon the fulfillment of a wish (nadhr). Those fasts which are kept for breaking one’s qasm (oath) also fall under this category.
  5. Confirmed sunna fast: Those fasts which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) kept and encouraged others to keep. E.g., fasting on the 9th and 10th of Muharram, and the 9th of Dhul Hijja, etc.
  6. Recommended fast: All fasts besides fard, wajib, and sunna are mustahabb. E.g., fasting on Mondays and Thursdays.
  7. Disliked fast: Fasting only on the 9th or 10th of Muharram or fasting only on Fridays. Some scholars hold it permissible to fast on the 9th and 10th of Muharram since distinguishing our fast from that of the Jews no longer applies, as the Jews no longer fast on those days.
  8. Impermissible fast: It is haram to fast on five days during the year. They are: `Eid al-Fitr, `Eid al-Adha, and three days after `Eid al-Adha.



The intention of fasting is necessary. If a person stays away from all those things that break one’s fast without an intention, the fast will not be valid.

It is not necessary to express the intention verbally as intention simply means to intend. Thus, the firm determination of the heart will suffice. However, it is better to express the intention verbally also: Bi sawmi ghadin nawaytu (‘And I intend to fast tomorrow’)

The time for intention lasts up to midday for specifically obligatory, specifically necessary, sunna and recommended fasts. This is mid-way between the beginning of fajr time to sunset (the beginning of maghrib time).

The intention for non-specifically obligatory and non-specifically necessary fasts must be made before the beginning of fajr time.

[F: The time for intention starts from Maghrib time of the night before.]



Allahumma inni laka sumtu wa bika amantu wa `ala rizqika aftartu or

Allahumma laka sumtu wa bika amantu wa `alayka tawakkaltu wa `ala rizqika aftartu


(‘O Allah, I have fasted for You, believed in You, placed my trust in You, and broken my fast on your provision’)


  • To partake of the pre-dawn meal (suhur) before fajr time enters.
  • To delay this meal to a little before fajr time.
  • To break the fast immediately after sunset.
  • To break one’s fast with dry or fresh dates if available. If dates are not available, then with water.
  • To make the intention at night.


  • To chew gum, rubber, plastic items or other such things (F: which are chewed, but not swallowed, and nothing reaches the stomach, for otherwise the fast would be broken).
  • To taste any article of food or drink and spit it out (F: without anything being swallowed). If a woman has a very ill tempered husband, it is permissible for her to taste the food, provided it does not go down her throat.
  • To collect one’s saliva in the mouth and then to swallow it, trying to quench thirst.
  • To delay a bath that has become obligatory intentionally until after fajr time.
  • To use paste or tooth powder to clean one’s teeth. It is permitted to use a miswak of any permissible fresh branch or root (tooth stick). [If one wishes to use toothpaste, one should brush one’s teeth before the fast begins.]
  • To complain of hunger and thirst.
  • To take the water too much up the nostrils when cleaning the nose.
  • To gargle more than necessary (f: because if any water goes down the throat, even accidentally, the fast is invalidated).
  • To quarrel, argue, use filthy or indecent words.
  • To backbite, tell a lie and swear are sinful acts even when one is not fasting. Therefore they become even worse when fasting.



Things that break one’s fast are of two kinds. Some make only a makeup necessary, whilst others make both a makeup and expiation (kaffara) compulsory.

(A) Makeup: To keep one fast in place of one that breaks, or is broken intentionally.

(B) Expiation: To fast for sixty consecutive days.

However, if a person is genuinely unable to keep these 60 fasts, for a truly valid reason, such as continuous sickness (F: based on reasonable surety, which requires either clear signs, relevant past experience, or the reporting of a qualified and upright Muslim doctor), then one has the option of choosing from one of the following four:

Feed sixty poor people to their fill for two meals, or

Feed one poor person two meals a day, for sixty days; or

Give sixty poor persons 3½ lbs. (approx. 1.6 kg.) of wheat or its value in cash or food grains;

Give to one poor person not less than 3.5 lbs. of wheat, rice or food grains, etc. or its value in cash for sixty days.


  • Anything put by force into the mouth of a fasting person.
  • Water going down the throat whilst gargling, (whilst being conscious of one’s fast).
  • To vomit mouthful intentionally or to return vomit down the throat.
  • Intentionally swallowing a pebble, piece of paper or any item that is not used as food or medicine.
  • Swallowing something edible, equal to or bigger than a grain of gram which was stuck between the teeth. However if it is first taken out of the mouth and swallowed, it will break the fast whether it is smaller or bigger than the size of a gram.
  • Dripping oil into the ear canal (F: such that it goes beyond the ear drum).
  • Inhaling snuff into the nostrils.
  • Swallowing the blood from the gums if the color of the blood is more than the saliva with which it is mixed.

To eat and drink forgetting that one is fasting and thereafter thinking that the fast is broken, to eat and drink again. [F: There are three ways something can enter your body cavity while fasting:

  • Deliberately. This breaks the fast;
  • Forgetfully. This does not, because of the Prophetic (Allah bless him & give him peace) guidance that it does not. (Otherwise, legal reasoning (qiyas) alone would have indicated that it does.)
  • Mistakenly/Accidentally. This breaks the fast. An example: what you mentioned; or if one ate thinking that fajr time had not come in or maghrib time come in, when the contrary was true.]

To eat and drink after subha sadiq or to break the fast before sunset due to a cloudy sky or a faulty watch, etc., and then realizing one’s fault.

N.B. Any fast other than a Ramadan one, whether broken intentionally or with a good and valid reason, makes only a makeup necessary [F: this is true even for non-obligatory fasts, because of the legal principle in the Hanafi school that, ‘. There is no kaffara for breaking any fast besides that of Ramadan.


(Note that this applies only to a current Ramadan fast only)

  • Intentionally eating, drinking or breaking the fast in any other manner, such as smoking, without a valid reason (f: that is, deliberately, while aware) will make both qada and kaffara necessary (F: unless there is a legal excuse that wards off the necessity of expiation, such as it not being a complete offense, such as in the case of ejaculation through any means other than actual intercourse).
  • Applying kohl (antimony or surma) into the eye or rubbing oil on the head and then, thinking that the fast is broken, to eat and drink intentionally.
  • To drink any kind of medicine intentionally (when one is not seriously sick).
  • To eat and drink something unintentionally.
  • A mosquito, fly or any other object going down the throat unintentionally.
  • Water entering the ears.
  • Dust or dirt going down the throat.
  • Swallowing one’s own saliva.
  • Taking an injection.
  • Applying of surma (kuhl: antimony) into the eyes.
  • Taking a bath to keep cool.
  • Rubbing oil onto the body or hair.
  • To vomit unintentionally.
  • Applying itr or perfume. It is not permitted to inhale the smoke of loban or agar batti whilst fasting. It is also not permitted to smoke cigarettes or inhale its smoke.
  • Brushing the teeth without tooth paste or powder, e.g., using a miswak, etc.
  • A dream which makes ghusl wajib (necessary) does not break the fast.


  • Sick people when their health is likely to be badly affected by fasting. (F: This needs to be established by reasonable surety of one’s actual or effective inability through manifest signs, relevant past experience, or the medical advice of a qualified and upright Muslim doctor.) They should make up the loss, a day for a day, when they recover after Ramadan.
  • A traveler (one who is undertaking a journey of more than 77 kms (48 miles) and does not intend staying more than 14 days at his destination). However, it is better for him to fast in Ramadan than to fast later, provided the journey is not a demanding one.
  • If it is feared that hunger or thirst will lead (F: during the fast) to death (F: or harm, by reasonable surety, as described above), it is permitted to break one’s fast.
  • It is necessary (wajib) to makeup of a nafl fast that was broken before completing it.

A very old person who does not have the strength to fast or a very sickly or diseased person who has no hope of recovering after Ramadan must make an expiatory payment for each fast missed in Ramadan.

The expiatory payment for a fast is similar to that of a missed obligatory or necessary prayer:

To give 3½ lbs (approx. 1.6 kg) of wheat or 7 lbs (approx. 3.2 kg) of barley.

Or the equivalent of the above in cash or kind.

If, however, an old or sick person gains strength or recovers after Ramadan, he must keep the missed number of fasts and whatever was given as fidya will be a reward for him from Allah Most High.

No one is allowed to fast for another (sick or fit) person. [Hajj can be made for another person (F: under certain conditions), but one it is not valid to pray or fast for another person.]

NB: Children should be encouraged to fast, but should not be forced to complete the fast up to sunset if they are unable to bear the hunger or thirst.

I`TIKAF (retreat)

I`tikaf means to enter the masjid with the intention of remaining therein (f: in worship).

Mu`takif: One who makes i`tikaf.


WAJIB: To vow or pledge to make i`tikaf (on a fixed day) for the sake of Allah upon the fulfillment of some wish or desire. The least duration of a wajib i`tikaf is one day and night and it must be accompanied by a fast.

SUNNA MU’AKKADA: To reside the last ten nights and days of Ramadan in the masjid is sunna mu’akkada `ala kifaya, i.e. If a person from the community fulfils the obligation of i`tikaf the entire community will be absolved of this sacred duty. Otherwise all the residents will be sinful of neglecting this sunna of our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

MUSTAHABB OR NAFL: This i`tikaf can be for any amount of time, even for a few minutes.

No fast is conditional for mustahabb or nafl i`tikaf.


  • Islam.
  • Sanity i.e. a person should not be mad.
  • Tahara – to be free from hadath akbar (major impurity).
  • Intention – intention.
  • It is makruh to remain silent intending it to be a form of worship.
  • A woman’s i`tikaf is in her area of prayer and `ibada (musalla) in her home. The middle of the house is better than the front part, and the back is better than the middle.