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Islamic Voice Logo
MONTHLY    *    Vol 11-01 No:121    *  JANUARY 1997/ RAMADAN 1417H
email: editor@islamicvoice.com

Fasting (Sau'm)
Excellence of Fasting:
Fasting is obligatory in Ramadan
On whom fasting is obligatory?
Who is exempted from fasting in Ramadan
Things necessary for a fast to be valid:
Sehri
IFTAR :
Things which do not break the fast:
Things which breaks the Fast:

Fasting (Sau'm)

The fourth Institution of Islam is Sau'm Fasting in the month of Ramadan, which means restrain and Ramadan being named Ramad, means burning up something in the fire. In this instance, it is burning up the greed in the fire for the love of Allah. Indeed the concept of Sau'm in Islam does not primarily mean fasting. But it primarily means acquiring the love of Allah, which is done through the process of fasting. Therefore, fasting is the secondary meaning of sau'm. Allah does not want to test our love for Him by keeping ourselves aloof from eating, drinking, sexual intercourse as well as from bad behaviour and evil thoughts, for the love of Allah, from day-break to sunset. As such sau'm may also be regarded as a purification for establishing the love of Allah, especially by burning the residue of greed and other propensities which remain untamed even after the observance of Shahadah, Salat and Zakat.
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Excellence of Fasting:

The Prophet (Pbuh) said: "Whoever established prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven: and whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven." (Bukhari)

The Prophet (Pbuh) said: "Allah (SWT) said, All the deeds of Adam's sons (people) are for them except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it. Fasting is a shield from the fire and protection from committing sins. If one of you is fasting he should avoid sexual relations with his wife, and quarrelling, and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say I am fasting: By Him in whose Hands my soul is! The smell coming from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the scent of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he meets his Lord". (Bukhari) The Prophet (Pbuh) said: "There is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Raiyan, and those who observe fasts only will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection. it will be said, where are those who used to observe fast? They will get up, and none except them will enter through it. After their entry the gate will be closed and nobody will enter through it". (Bukhari)
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Fasting is obligatory in Ramadan

The month of Ramadan is a very sacred month for the Muslims, because it was in this month that the revelation of the Holy Qur'an began, and fasting as an obligatory institution was prescribed by Allah:

"O believers, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you; perchance you will guard yourselves against evil. Qur'an (2:183)

"Ramadan is the month in which the Qur'an was revealed, a book of guidance (to mankind) with proofs of guidance distinguishing the right from the wrong. Therefore, whosoever of you is well in that month, let him fast. But he who is ill or on a journey shall fast a similar number of days later on. Allah desires your well-being, not your discomfort. He desires you to fast the whole month so that you may magnify Him for giving you His guidance, and that you may render your thanks." Qur'an (2:185)

There is a meaningful relation between Holy Qur'an and fasting. it is through Divine guidance that man learns self-discipline and it is by means of self-discipline that one becomes a true and devoted servant of God.
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On whom fasting is obligatory?

Fasting is compulsory for all Muslim men and women who are adult, of sound mind, healthy and strong and are in their home towns during the month of Ramadan.
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Who is exempted from fasting in Ramadan

i) Children are exempted from fasting till they attain the age of puberty. However their guardians should make such children fast who can withstand the rigour of fasting, so as to inculcate in them the habit of fasting early.

ii) The Insane and invalid persons are exempted from fasting. In case a person is insane throughout the month of Ramadan then fasting is not obligatory on him and he need not compensate for it later. However, if during a part of the month of Ramadan he is insane and rest of the month he is sane, then he should fast on the days in which he is sane and he must observe compensatory fasts later equal to the number of fasts missed in Ramadan.

iii) Women during Menses: Women are exempted from observing fast during the days of menses, but they are required to complete these fasts before the commencement of Ramadan in the next year. There is no hard and fast rule about the time in which the abandoned fasts are to be completed. They can be completed at any time during the year.The Prophet (Pbuh) said: "Menstruating woman should fast in lieu of her missed fast, but she is not to offer the prayers in lieu of her missed prayers."

iv) Aged and feeble men or women: All the scholars have a common opinion that the old men or women who find it difficult to fast are permitted not to observe fast in the month of Ramadan but have to give fidya in recompensation i.e. by feeding a poor person for each day (with two meals) of the month he does not fast. This is because the aged are not expected to be able to fast at any time during the year.

v) Pregnant and suckling women: Pregnant and suckling women are permitted not to observe fast, if they feel that by observing fasts it is harmful to herself or the child or to both.

A special exemption is given to women when they are pregnant or breast-feeding. These two conditions tend to make the women weaker. If she tries to fast when she is in either of these two conditions, she may find great difficulty in doing so and she or her baby or both may come to unnecessary harm. For this reason, Allah, who knows all our weaknesses, has allowed pregnant and breast-feeding women not to fast in Ramadan. According to Imam Abu Hanifa, they are, however, expected to fast an equivalent number of days when they are no longer pregnant or breast-feeding. No fidya or compensation is to be paid in lieu of the missed fasts. She should start fasting as soon as she can. The aim is that she should not miss out on the reward for fasting. vi) The Sick: Allah Ta'ala's statement :"but if any one of you is ill or on a journey, let him fast a similar number of days later on." (Qur'an)
A sick person is exempted from fasting in Ramadan but has to fast when he recovers. Exemption is granted to those sick persons when there is danger or there is a chance of increasing their sickness by observing fasts. If one does not feel the danger (it is improper to avoid fasting under this pretext), then one is not permitted to avoid the fast.

vii) Traveller:

The traveller is exempted from fasting provided he fasts when he is back in his home town or village. This concession is given to the Muslims for making the rigour of fasting bearable for them. The Holy Prophet (Pbuh) has, therefore, given an option to his followers to fast on a journey or to break it according to their convenience. If the journey is hard, then it is preferable not to fast, as Allah does not like to burden His servants with unbearable hardships. But if, on the other hand the journey is light and one can easily stand the rigour of fasting, fasting is preferable. Whether one should or should not fast during the journey depends upon one's peculiar condition, circumstances and one's own strength and power to bear it. The journey means the distance in which one is allowed to shorten the prayer.
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Things necessary for a fast to be valid:

1) Niyyah :(intention of fasting) is a must. This means to have intention of observing the fast, either while taking the Sehri meal or before noon on the day on which one observes fasting. " I have the intention of observing a fast today of the month of Ramadan". 2) From dawn to dusk one should abstain from eating, drinking, sex, foul talk and evil thoughts.
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Sehri :

The Prophet (Pbuh) said : " Take a meal of little before dawn, for there is a blessing in taking meal at that time". Sehri has so many blessings in it. Firstly, it equips the person with enough strength to undergo cheerfully the rigours of the fast. Secondly, it provides him with an opportunity to thank his Lord for the food provided to him. Since it is after taking Sehri that a Muslim commences the fast, he feels highly obliged to Allah for His immense favours on him. Thirdly, if the practice of eating before the day break is observed as a religious duty in a Muslim Society, it would provide opportunities to the well-to-do persons to invite their brethren to their dining tables. Fourthly, this practice of taking Sehri is the distinguishing mark of Islamic Society as the followers of Christianity and Judaism do not observe this practice. They unnecessarily put themselves to unbearable hardships with the result that they could not stand the rigours of the fast and were ultimately obliged to abandon this religious duty. The taking of Sehri is a sort of safeguard against this danger to which the non-Muslims exposed themselves.
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IFTAR :

The Prophet (Pbuh) said: that as soon as the sun sank in the West and darkness prevailed on the eastern horizon, it was the proper time for breaking the fast, and we should not cause unnecessary delay in doing so.

The Prophet (Pbuh) said:" The people will continue to prosper as long as they hasten the breaking of the fast".
Prayer at the time of Iftar : " O Allah! it is for thee that I observe fast and it is with Thine blessings that I break it". Do arrange Iftar Parties : This act entails a high reward. The Prophet (Pbuh) said : " Any man who supplies meal to a fasting person to perform Iftar Allah shall pardon his sins in reward for this act and grant him salvation from Hell-Fire. The man who supplies meal for Iftar to a fasting person will receive an equal reward with him. The reward of the fasting person will not, however be curtailed".

The people asked the Prophet (Pbuh) where shall all of us find money to make provision for the Iftar of a fasting person, and to feed him.

The Prophet (Pbuh) said : "It is enough to feed a fasting person at Iftar with a date or some quantity of milk or even to supply him a single glass of water for Iftar".
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Things which do not break the fast:

1. The using of Miswak.
2. To take bath during the day or to pour water, over head due to the pang of summer heat.
3. To smell perfume.
4. To apply Surmah (Kohl) in the eyes, or oil to the hair.
5. To eat or drink in forgetfulness.
6. To inhale a fly or smoke or dust without one's will or intention.
7. To pour water into the ear unintentionally.
8. To vomit unintentionally, but should not be swallowed back.
9. To swallow saliva or phlegm.
10. To gargle or take water in the nose, while performing ablution (wadu), but care should be taken that no part of water enters the throat.
11. To kiss one's wife. It is sexual intercourse which is prohibited during fast. One is allowed to kiss one's wife, provided one is sure that one would not yield to sexual lust.
12. To take out blood from the body for treatment.
13. To have a wet dream in the day.
14. Where one is in need of a Ghusl (bath) due to a wet dream or intercourse during the night, and did not perform bath before Subh Saadiq (dawn).
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Things which breaks the Fast:

These are of two types: I. The things which break the fast for which only compensatory fasts are to be kept:
1) Vomiting: To vomit intentionally or during vomiting a part of it is swallowed back the fast is broken. A person should compensate by fasting later (for one broken fast, he should later observe one compensatory fast)
2) To take Sehri after Subh Saadiq (dawn) thinking it is still night time, or by mistakenly breaking fast before Iftar timing thinking that the sun has set. Even then the fast is broken and compensatory fast for one day should be observed later.
3) Menses : If during the day of fasting a woman gets her menses, the fast is broken and she must later compensate by observing a fast.
4) Having intention of breaking the fast: The fast begins with the intention and ends with the intention. So during the day if one makes up his mind that he has intent of breaking the fast, then the fast is broken and one should compensate by observing a days fast later.
5) To swallow such things that are not normally eaten. Eg: wood, coin, rawmeat etc., the fast is then broken and one should compensate by observing a days fast later.
II. Things which break the fast: for which recompensatory fasts becomes due, i.e. setting a slave free or keeping fasts for sixty days without a break or feeding sixty persons.
i) if one has sexual intercourse with his wife during the day of fasting, the fast is broken. The required compensation in this case is to free a slave, since slavery is no longer in existence we move on to the next stage, namely, to fast for two consecutive months. This means that fasting must be observed by the person concerned for sixty days without intermission. Even if he fasts for 58 days consecutively and breaks his fast the following day for any reason he must start a new. His 58 days of fasting is no longer counted (exception is given to women to continue after menses). If the person concerned is unable to fast for health reasons, he may move to the next alternative which is to feed sixty poor people, two meal each of the same standard as he himself eats normally. These three forms of compensation must be taken by an order of preference. They are not given as three alternatives to choose from. Such a compensation is definitely required from the man who violates his fasting by having sexual intercourse during the day of fasting. The wife in question must also do the same if she responds willingly to her husband when he proposes intercourse or if she was the one who led him into it. If her husband had forced her to have intercourse with him, she only needs to compensate for breaking her fast by fasting one day extra.
ii) If one intentionally eats and drinks during the day of fast, the fast is broken. According to Imam Abu Hanifa, the person is required to compensate by setting a slave free or to observe fasts for two consecutive months or to feed sixty poor people.

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