Rules of Fasting

Fasting in the days of Ramadan is obligatory (fard) on every Muslim. The one who does not believe it to be obligatory is not a Muslim, and the one who, without a valid excuse, does not fast in a day of Ramadan is a sinner. 

"Fast" means "to refrain from eating, drinking and having sexual intercourse throughout the day, right from the break of dawn upto sunset, with a clear intention of seeking the pleasure of Allah." If somebody refrains from food, drink and sex for any reason other than seeking the pleasure of Allah, it cannot be called a "fast" in the terminology of the Shariah. It is thus necessary that there should be an intention which is called the "niyyah".

For the fasts of Ramadan it is advisable that the "niyyah" be made in the night, i.e. before the commencement of the fast. However, if a person had no intention of keeping fast before dawn, he can also make "niyyah" in the morning at any time before midday, i.e. about 11/2 hours before Zawal (noon). But this rule is applicable only for the fast of Ramadan and for the nafl (optional) fasts. As for fasts of qada' it is always necessary to make niyyah before dawn.

Since the niyyah means intention, it is an act performed by one's heart. It need not be pronounced in words. However, it is also permissible to express this intention in spoken words, but those who take it as 'necessary' to pronounce the words or "niyyah" are not correct.

Acts Nullifying the Fast

Acts nullifying the fast are of two kinds. In the first place, there are some acts which not only nullify the fast, but also make one liable to both qada' and kaffarah. The number of these acts is only three, namely:

1.     Eating something;
2.     Drinking something;
3.     Having sexual intercourse.

These three acts are liable to kaffarah when they are committed deliberately after one has started a fast, provided that the person committing them knows that they render the fast broken.
In such cases both qada' and kaffarah are obligatory on him. qada' means to keep another fast in lieu of the broken one. And kaffarah means to perform an act to expiate the sin of having broken the fast.

Kaffarah may be given in the following three ways respectively:

1.     Freeing a slave;
2.     Fasting for two months constantly without a break;
3.     Giving food to sixty persons.

Since slavery has come to an end in our days, only the latter two ways can be adopted today. But the person who has strength enough to fast for two months constantly has been bound to fast. He cannot adopt the third way, i.e. giving food to sixty persons. If he is too weak to fast for such a large number of days, he can give kaffarah by giving food to sixty persons.

In the second place, there are some acts which nullify the fast, but do not make the relevant person liable to kaffarah. In such cases only qada' is obligatory. These acts are:
1.     Eating or drinking unintentionally. For example, while making wudu, if a drop of water slips into the throat unintentionally, the fast stands broken, but only the qada' will be enough to compensate for the mistake;
2.     Dropping medicine or anything else in the nose or the ear;
3.     Smoking;
4.     Emission of semen while touching, kissing or caressing a woman;
5.     Eating or drinking under the wrong impression that the dawn has not yet broken, or the sun has set, while otherwise was true.
6.     If someone eats or drinks while he does not remember that he is in a state of fasting, his fast is not broken. He should continue with his fast after he remembers. However, if he eats or drinks after he remembers, his fast will stand broken, and if this eating or drinking was due to his wrong impression that his fast stood broken by his first eating or drinking, he will be liable to qada' only.

Acts Rendering the Fast Makrooh:

The following acts do not nullify the fast, but render it makrooh in the sense that they lessen the reward of the fast. Hence it is not advisable to indulge in any of the following acts when one is in the state of fast:

1.     Chewing something or tasting it with the tongue without eating it;
2.     Using tooth paste or tooth powder. However, cleaning the teeth with a miswak or a brush (without paste or powder) is allowed;
3.     Remaining in the state of janabah (major impurity) for the whole day;
4.     Giving blood to anyone;
5.     Quarrelling with someone or abusing him;
6.     Gheebah, i.e. to abuse or to blame someone in his absence;
7.     Telling a lie.

The latter three acts are absolutely prohibited even when one is not in the state of fasting, but they become all the more prohibited when one keeps fast.

Acts Which are Allowed:

The following acts are allowed in the state of fasting:

1.     Cleaning teeth using a miswak or a brush and ears with cotton swabs;
2.     Applying oil or henna or color to the hair;
3.     Using eye-drops or kohl ;
4.     Wearing perfume or feeling it, or using lipstick or chapstick;
5.     Taking a shower;
6.     Using medicine through injection;
7.     Vomiting unintentionally;
8.     Entrance of smoke or dust into the throat unintentionally;
9.     Ejaculation while dreaming;
10.Bleeding from the teeth unless blood slips into the throat;
11.Delaying the ghusl of janabah upto the sunrise.

Cases in Which Fasting is Not Obligatory:

In the following cases, it is allowed for a Muslim to avoid fasting in Ramadan and compensate it by fasting on some other days:

1.     If a person suffers from a disease which has rendered him unable to fast, or a competent doctor has expressed his apprehension that fasting may increase the disease, he can avoid fasting until when it is clear that fasting is no more injurious to his health. But after recovery he is under an obligation to perform qada' of all the fasts he has missed due to his sickness.
2.     If a woman is pregnant, and it is seriously feared that fasting may harm her or her baby, she can postpone fasting in Ramadan and may fast after delivery as qada'.
3.     If a woman breast-feeds her baby, and it is seriously feared that, in case she fasts, she cannot feed her baby or her fasting may harm her or her baby, she can avoid fasting in Ramadan and perform qada'.
4.     Fasting in Journey

The one who travels to a distance of at least 48 miles from his hometown can also postpone fasting during his journey. But if he resolves to stay in a town for more than 14 days, he is not treated as a traveller for this purpose and he is obligated to fast in the days of Ramadan. However, if he has not made up his mind to stay in a place for more than 14 days, and he is doubtful whether he will stay for 14 days or less than that, he can also avail of the concession, unless he decides to stay for the prescribed period, i.e. more than 14 days. If he remained uncertain about his stay but stayed at a place for even more than 14 days in this state of uncertainty, he will remain entitled to this concession until he resolves positively to stay for another 15 days.

Although this concession is available to every traveller who leaves his hometown to a distance of at least 48 miles, yet if the journey is comfortable and fasting is not very burdensome on him, it is more advisable for him to fast for two reasons. Firstly, because such a traveller gets more thawab (reward) in case he fasts during his journey, and secondly, because if he avoids fasting while on travel, he will have to fast after Ramadan which can be more difficult for him.

But if the journey is a difficult one, and it is much burdensome to fast in such a difficult journey, then it is more advisable for him to avoid fasting, but if fasting seems to be nearly unbearable for him, it is not lawful to keep fast in such a journey.

If someone has started fasting, then he had to travel during the day, he cannot avail of the concession during that day; rather, he will have to complete his fast unto the sunset. However, if his journey continues on to the next day, he can benefit from the concession the next day.

Conversely, if someone was on travel in the beginning of a day, and he did not keep fast for that reason and began to eat and drink but he reached his hometown during the day, he must avoid eating or drinking after reaching his hometown unto the sunset. This abstinence from eating and drinking will not be counted as a fast, and he will have to perform qada' of that day also, but he is directed to abstain from eating and drinking only to honour that part of the day of Ramadan which he has passed in his hometown.

5. Fasting is prohibited for women during their monthly periods (menstruation) and during partition (i.e., normal bleeding after childbirth), but they have to perform qada' for the fasts they have missed in such a state.
6.     Those who are allowed a concession (of not fasting) in Ramadan can eat and drink during the day, but they should honour the days of Ramadan and should not eat and drink as far as possible at a public place or before other Muslims who are in the state of fasting.

Concession Given to a Sick Person:

1.     Where a person is attacked by a severe disease, and a competent doctor opines that, if he continues with his fast, it will bring a serious danger to his life. In such a situation breaking of the fast is not only allowed, but it is obligatory.
2.     A person feels such an extreme hunger or thirst that further abstinence from eating or drinking may endanger his life. In this situation also, breaking of the fast is obligatory.
3.     In any situation where refraining from eating or drinking may create a serious danger to one's life, it becomes lawful to break the fast.
In all these cases, the person breaking the fast is not liable to kaffarah, but he has to perform qada' whenever the danger is removed.


'Suhoor' is the meal one takes in the last hours of the night before the commencement of a fast. It is a sunnah to have suhoor. If someone has no appetite at that time, it is advisable for him to have something light. Even by having a few sips of water the sunnah of suhoor can be fulfilled. Although the suhoor can be had any time after midnight, but it is more advisable to have it in the last hour of the night immediately before the break of dawn.

The suhoor can be continued upto the break of dawn. But in order to be on the safe side, it is advisable to refrain from eating or drinking a few minutes earlier than the break of dawn. Eating or drinking after the dawn even for a single minute renders the fast void.

If one is doubtful whether the dawn has broken or not, he should refrain from eating or drinking. However, if he eats or drinks in this state of uncertainty, his fast is valid unless it is proved later that he had eaten or drunk after the break of dawn, in which case he will have to observe another fast.


Iftar means to conclude a fast after sunset by eating or drinking something. It is also a sunnah to make iftar soon after sunset, and it is makrooh to delay iftar after sunset without a valid excuse. However, if someone is doubtful whether the sun has set or not, he should not make iftar until he is sure about it, because if it is proved at any time that he had made iftar even half a minute earlier than the sunset actually took place on his horizon, his fast will be rendered nullified and void. Similarly, if the weather is cloudy, it is advisable to delay iftar for a few minutes after the time of sunset.

No particular meal is prescribed for iftar but it is advisable to make iftar using dates because the Holy Prophet (PBUH) generally used dates for iftar.

It is also sunnah to recite the following du'a (supplication) while making iftar:
اللّهُمّ لَكَ صُمْتُ وَبِكَ آمَنْتُ وَعَلَيْكَ تَوَكّلْتُ وَعَلَى رِزْقِكَ أفْطَرْتُ
O Allah, for You I have fasted, and in You I have placed my trust and with Your provision I make my iftar.

and after having and drinking water, it is advisable to say:
ذَهَبَ الظَمَاُ وَابْتَلَّت الُعُوْقُ وَثَبَتَ الأجرُ إنشاَءَللّه
Thirst has gone; veins have become wet and the reward (of the fast) has, God-willing, been established.

By Thaqi Othmani

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