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Everything You Wanted to Know About Fasting in Ramaḍān

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Mathabah.org
By Shaykh Omar Subedar

What is fasting (ṣawm)?

Ṣawm is defined as ‘to intentionally not eat, drink and have sex from dawn to sunset.’

Why is ṣawm important?

Ṣawm is an integral practice of Islam. It is an activity that yields great benefits.  For example:

  • It draws you closer to Allāh, the Almighty.
  • It helps you keep your carnal desires under control.
  • It absolves you of sin.
  • It is a means of you being privileged to enter Paradise (Jannah) through an exclusive gate.
  • It will serve as a barrier for you against the Fire of Hell (Jahannam).

Who must fast during Ramaḍān?

You must fast during Ramaḍān if you are:

  • Muslim
  • Mature (bāligh).
  • Sane
  • Aware of the obligation of fasting.

Can I be excused from fasting?

You do not have to fast during Ramaḍān if you are ill, or you are travelling to a destination that is beyond 77 km and you do not intend to stay at a particular location for more than 14 days at that destination. In these circumstances, you may forgo the fasts and make up for them at a later date. If you are travelling, you should still try to fast, provided fasting will not have a negative impact on your health during your trip.

If you are pregnant or nursing a baby, you will be excused from fasting during Ramaḍān if you fear that fasting will have a negative impact on your health or on your child’s health. You will however have to make up for the missed fasts at a later date

If you are frail and do not possess the strength to fast or you are diagnosed with a chronic illness that prevents you from fasting, you are completely excused from fasting. You will instead give a payment (fidyah) of 1.6 kg of wheat or 3.2 kg of barley to a poor person or give its value in cash for each fast. No one can fast on your behalf.

Underage children should be encouraged to fast but not forced.

What are the preconditions of the Ramaḍān fasts?

  • To make the intention to fast.
  • If you were to abstain from eating, drinking and having sex throughout the day without making the intention to fast, you will not be considered a fasting person.
  • You are not required to verbally express your intention. Making an intention in your heart is sufficient.
  • You should make the intention to fast the night before. If, however you fail to do so, you have up to midday to make it.
  • You must be free from menses or postpartum bleeding. Being pure from the state of major ritual impurity (janābah) is not a precondition for fasting.
  • You must be free from things that would nullify your fast.

What are some recommended activities for ṣawm?

  • To have the predawn meal (suḥūr).
  • To delay the predawn meal until shortly before dawn.
  • To hasten in breaking the fast immediately after sunset.
  • To recite the Qurʾān daily.
  • To dedicate some time for dhikr daily.
  • To give charitable donations.

What should I not do when fasting?

  • To chew on something.
  • To taste something for no reason.
  • To collect saliva in your mouth and then swallow it to quench your thirst.
  • To engage in any type of sexual activity that would lead you to having sex. Minor acts of compassion are allowed though.
  • To engage in sinful acts such as backbiting, slandering and quarrelling.

What invalidates my ṣawm thus resulting in me having to do a makeup (qaḍāʾ) ṣawm and give a penalty (kaffārah)?

  • To deliberately break your ṣawm by eating, drinking or having sex, irrespective of whether you ejaculate or not, for no acceptable reason.
  • To swallow medication.
  • To swallow the saliva of your spouse.

You will be excused from the kaffārah if you break your ṣawm due to becoming severely ill or after your menses begins.

If you set out on a journey after deliberately breaking your ṣawm, you will not be excused from the kaffārah.

The kaffārah is;

  • To fast for 60 consecutive days. If you are unable to do this, you may;
  • Feed 60 people 2 meals.
  • Feed one poor person two meals a day for 60 days.
  • Give 60 poor people 1.6 kg of wheat or its equal value in cash.
  • Give one poor person 1.6 kg of wheat or its equal value in cash every day for 60 consecutive days.

Note: If while fasting for sixty consecutive days you decide to take a day off and not fast for any reason, with the exception of having your menses and postnatal bleeding, you will be required to restart your 60 days of fasting. All the fasts that were kept till that point will now be considered nafl.

What invalidates my ṣawm thus resulting in me having to only do a makeup (qaḍāʾ) ṣawm?

  • To eat something that is not considered food e.g. paper, dough, flour etc.
  • To be forced to eat, drink or have sex.
  • To take an enema or to insert medicinal drops into your nostrils.
  • To insert an object in your vagina e.g. tampon.
  • To put eardrops in your ear.
  • To accidently swallow water when rinsing your mouth.
  • To swallow blood mixed with your saliva when the taste of the blood is evident or the volume of blood is more than the saliva.
  • To deliberately throw up a mouthful of vomit, or to unintentionally swallow vomit after vomiting, irrespective of its quantity.
  • To eat or drink deliberately after eating or drinking accidently thinking that you broke your ṣawm by eating or drinking accidently.
  • To have sex intentionally after having it accidently thinking that you broke your ṣawm by doing it accidently.
  • To engage in other forms of sexual activity that result in ejaculation.
  • To smoke.
  • To inhale second hand smoke.
  • To break the fast due to extreme hunger or thirst.
  • To eat something stuck between your teeth that is the size of a chickpea or larger.
  • To break your fast before sunset assuming the sun has already set.

What activities will not invalidate my ṣawm at all?

  • To eat, drink or have sex forgetfully.
  • To have a wet dream.
  • To kiss your spouse without swallowing their saliva.
  • To vomit unintentionally or to vomit less than a mouth full deliberately.
  • To gather saliva in your mouth and swallow it.
  • To take an injection or give a blood test.
  • To apply koḥl to your eyes.
  • To apply oil on to your body or hair.
  • To have water enter your ear holes while taking a bath or shower.
  • To clean your ears out with a cotton swab.
  • To swallow something stuck between your teeth that is smaller than a chickpea.


This answer was collected from Mathabah.org. It’s an Islamic educational institute based in Canada. The questions are generally answered by Sheikh Yusuf Badat and Sheikh Omar Subedar.

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