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Fasting means to refrain and abstain, from dawn till sunset, from certain things forbidden by Islamic Law. These are dealt with later. Fasting is divided into two main categories:

a) Fard (obligatory fasting), which comprise the following:

(i) Ramadan fast.

(ii) Kaffara (the fasting of atonement).

(iii) Nazr (relating to the taking of a vow).

b) Tatawwu' (voluntary fasting), which is confined to those additional day throughout the year which the Prophet used to observe as fasting days Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam.

The Prophet said:

"Islam is built on five pillars: the shahada (profession of faith) that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, salah (prayers),Zakah (alms-tax), sawm Ramadan (fast) and hajj (pilgrimage)".

Ramadan fast was prescribed on the second Monday of the month of Sha'ban, in the second year of the Hijra.

Fasting is obligatory for every Muslim provided that he or she is adult and in full possession of his or her faculties.

Exemptions for temporary causes include:

(i) Women in menstruation or child-birth bleeding.

(ii) Persons in sick bed or on a journey.

These exemptions will be discussed later.

It is preferable that children, though they are not under obligation to fast, should be trained in fasting in order to prepare them for carrying out their adult obligations in this respect. "Al-Rabi Bint Mu'awwad" said in this connection:

"On the Day of Ashoura, the Prophet had a man tour the villages of the Ansar (the original inhabitants of Madina who reported the Prophet) ordering those who had those yet partaken of food to fast during the day and those who had eaten to abstain and fast the rest of the day. Later, we used to fast that day and have our small children fast upon it. We used to take them to the mosque and give them toys made of wool to distract them from their hunger until 'iftar' time". (i.e. the breaking of the fast).

THE OFFICIAL BEGINNING AND END OF RAMADAN

The beginning of Ramadan becomes official when the new moon is seen. Its end is officially fixed when the new moon of the next month (Shawwal), is seen. Once the new moon of Ramadan is seen, fasting becomes obligatory for all those who are required to fast it. When the new moon of Shawwal is seen, the fast comes to an end, and everybody should break the fast. The Prophet said:

"Fast when you see it (the new moon) and break the fast when you see it (the new moon)".

2) The seeing of the new moon becomes official by the testimony of one upright Muslim. "Ibn 'Abbas" reported: A Bedouin came to the Prophet announcing that he had seen the new moon of Ramadan, whereupon the Prophet asked him:

"Do you profess that there is no God but Allah ?"

The Bedouin said: "Yes". Then the Prophet asked him:

"Do you profess that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah?"

The Bedouin answered: "Yes". The Prophet then ordered "Bilal" (his muazzin) to call on the Muslims to fast the next day.

3) As to the seeing of the new moon of Shawwal, announcing the end of Ramadan fast, the testimony of one upright Muslim is not enough. In his commentary on "Muslim's" collection of hadith, "al-Nabawi" said that the 'ulamas were unanimous that the testimony of one upright Muslim for the Shawwal new moon is not enough, except "Abu Thawr" who considered it fair.

4) In the event of it being impossible to see the new moon of Ramadan because of weather conditions, then the month of Sha'ban (the month preceding Ramadan) should be a full thirty days. The Prophet said:

"Fast when you see the new moon and break the fast when you see the new moon; but if it is hidden, let Sha'ban be completed as thirty days".

5) Likewise, in case of the new moon of Sha'ban not being visible because of bad weather conditions, Ramadan shall be a full thirty days, on the strength of the Prophet's instruction to

"fast when you see the new moon and break the fast when you see the new moon and if it is hidden by cloud or fog, count thirty days".

6) Man's knowledge of astronomy is now very accurate, so much so that astronomers can calculate the hour, minute and second (every day of the lunar year) of the appearance and disappearance of the moon in every country of the world. This information is published in advance of every lunar year. Therefore, a man who has acquired this information can, even when he cannot actually see the new moon, fix the beginning and end of his fast accordingly. The Prophet says in this connection:

"Fast when you see it, and break the fast when you see it; but if you cannot see it, calculate it".

In his commentary on the Qur'an, "al-Qurtubi" said: "Matraf Ibn Abdullah, a prominent figure of the generation following the Prophet, and Ibn Qutayba, a famous linguist, stated that astronomical calculations should be resorted to in cases of cloudy skies, and that these calculations be regarded as official". This verdict was accepted at a time when the knowledge of astronomy was not so extensive and accurate as it is today. Such a verdict. should be even more acceptable at the present time. It is to be noted here that the Prophet, addressing the ordinary man, ordered that the month be counted as thirty in case the new moon could not be seen; whereas, addressing people to whom astronomical knowledge was available, said that the month should be calculated. This is an example of the wisdom of the Prophet in addressing each group of people according to their educational standards.

7) The appearance of the new moon may differ from one country to the other, even though they may all be in the same altitude. For instance, if the new moon is seen in one country, the appearance is valid so far as those countries to its west are concerned, but not so for countries to its east.

"Kurayb" told the following story..

"I saw the new moon in Damascus on Friday. At the end of the month I arrived in Madina. "Ibn 'Abbas" asked me about the new moon and I said that I and everyone else had seen it on Friday, and that everyone including "Mu'awiya" observed the fast on that day. "Ibn Abbas" said that the people in Medina had seen the new moon on Saturday and that they were still fasting in order to complete thirty days. I asked if the witnessing of the new moon and the fasting of Mu'awiya were not enough testimony for him. Ibn 'Abbas replied: "No, for this is how the Prophet instructed us". Madina, where Ibn 'Abbas lived, is to the east of Damascus. That is why Ibn 'Abbas had to abide by the Prophet's instructions until the new moon could be seen on Saturday in Madina.

8) If the new moon is seen in any country, the people of every other country falling in the same longitude should observe the fast on the same day.

9) There is a school of Muslim thought which considers that the people of any country where the new moon is seen can deputize for all Muslims everywhere in the world, Thus fasting begins with the, seeing of the new moon in that country, likewise in all other countries even though the new moon might not have been seen there.

THE INTENTION TO FAST DURING RAMADAN

For the fast of Ramadan to be valid, one has to make up one's mind, or formulate the intention, during the night of the day he will fast.

"Hafsa" reported that the Prophet said:

"whoever did not make up his mind to fast before dawn, then his fast is not valid".

The intention is an act of the heart; it is not necessary to utter it; it is enough to harbour it. The Prophet said:

"Acts are judged by the intentions prompting them".

Commenting on the hadith reported by Hafsa, "al-Shukani" said that it makes it necessary to formulate the intention to fast at any time of the night and that it is necessary to renew the intention every day of fasting. The intention is essential only in the fard (obligatory fasting), It could be formulated during the day in the tatawwu' (i.e. voluntary) fast.

THE FAST OF DOUBTFUL DAYS

The Prophet's Companions had different opinions as to the fast of doubtful days. Some of them permitted it, while others forbade it. The opinion of the opposite has more weight because of a verdict pronounced by Abu Ammar to the effect that "whoever fasts a doubtful day would, in fact be disobeying the Prophet".

However, a man is permitted to fast a doubtful day should such a day fall within the number of days which a man has been actually fasting. The prophet's instruction in this connection is :

" No man shall fast one or two days before Ramadan, unless he was already observing a fast ".

It is the custom of the Muslims to look for the crescent moon on the evening of 29th of Sha'ban. If it does not appear, the following day is considered a doubtful day being neither the end of Sha'ban nor the beginning of Ramadan. The Muslims are not allowed to fast on such a day.

THINGS TO ABSTAIN FROM DURING THE FAST

The person who fasts should abstain from the following:

1) Food, drink and sexual intercourse from dawn until sunset, in accordance with the verse of the Qur'an:

"Now therefore go unto them and seek what Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct from the black thread, then observe the fast till nightfall".

The black thread means the darkness of night and the white thread means the light of day at dawn. Smoking, drug taking and the injection of nourishing solutions into the body (e.g. calcium or vitamins) are strictly forbidden. Sexual intercourse must be followed by complete ablution, i.e. a bath covering all parts of the body. The Prophet forbade Muslims who are fasting to indulge in any of the following:

(a) Obscene speech. The Prophet said:

"While fasting, you shall not indulge in obscene speech or boisterous talk. If someone insults you or quarrels with you, tell him: 'I am one who fasts' ".

b) Falsehood in speech or action. The Prophet said: "He who does not abstain from falsehood in words or deeds, Allah has no need for him to abstain from his food and drink."

c) Slander. One day, the Prophet passed by women who, while fasting, were gossiping. He said:

"These two women abstained from what Allah had ordered them to do an indulged in what Allah had forbidden them to do".

"These two women abstained from what Allah had ordered them to do an indulged in what Allah had forbidden them to do".

"Five things spoil a man's fast lying, slander, calumny, the false oath and the lustful look".

Some 'ulama believe that those forbidden things spoil one's fast. They base their verdict on the Prophet's warning that

"five things spoil a man's fast... etc."

and other savings mentioned earlier. They also base their verdict on a definite quotation. The Prophet said:

"There may be a man whose gain from his fast is confined to hunger and thirst".

These 'ulama include "Ibn Hazm" and the late rector of Al-Azhar, Sheikh "Mahmoud Shaltout". A second group of 'ulama believe that these forbidden things do not spoil the fast, but abstention from them makes one's fast more complete.

THINGS WHICH SPOIL THE FAST

1) Ramadan fast is spoiled if a person deliberately eats, drinks, or indulges in sexual intercourse.

a) Deliberate eating or drinking, spoils the fast and necessitates asking for forgiveness.

b) Deliberate sexual intercourse spoils the fast and necessitates qada (restitution) of another days' fast in place of it as well as Kaffara (atonement)

Kaffara is to set free a slave, or a fast of two consecutive months, or the feeding of sixty poor people. This is based on the following story:

A man told the Prophet: "I have committed a deadly sin". The Prophet asked: "What was it.?" The man said: "I slept with my wife during Ramadan." "Have you any slave to set free?" the Prophet asked. "No," answered the man. "Can you fast for two consecutive months ?" the Prophet asked. "No," said the man. "Can you afford to feed sixty poor people ? " "No," again replied the man. Whereupon the Prophet went into his house, brought some dates and told the man: "Take these and give them to some poor people." The man asked: "Can I find any poorer than my own family?" Laughing, the Prophet said. "Then, take them to your family."

As for restitution, "Abu Da'ud al-Athram" and "Ibn Maja" reported that the Prophet had ordered the man who slept with his wife during Ramadan fast to fast another day instead, in addition to the Kaffara.

2) Fasting is also spoiled if a person deliberately vomits.

In this case he has to fast a day in restitution. "Abu Hurayra" reported that the Prophet had said

"He who forces himself to vomit shall fast another day instead".

THINGS WHICH DO NOT SPOIL THE FAST

1) Involuntary vomiting. Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet had said.

"He who is overcome by vomiting shall not make restitution".

2) The cupping of blood from the head. "Thabit Al-Bannani" asked "Anas Ibn Malik" "Did the Prophet forbid head bleeding for the person who fasts?" Anas said '. "Not unless a person is weak".

3) Wet Dreams, The Prophet is reported to have said that a man's fast is not spoiled for in voluntary vomiting or wet dreams".

4) Unintentional eating or drinking, The Prophet said.

"Allah forgives my people for acts committed by mistake, or out of absent mindedness, and acts performed under compulsion,"

He also said that,

"A man who fasts and who absent mindedly eats or drinks shall continue his fast"

5) Rising the mouth and bathing an attempt to reduce the effect of the summer heat, One of the Prophet's companions reported that he used "to see the Prophet pour water on his head while he was fasting".

6) If a man gets up in the morning in a state of ritual uncleanness it does not affect his fast.

7) A man who eats, drinks or sleeps with his wife thinking that it is still before dawn, The same applies if he thinks that it is after sunset, There are two opinions in this respect:

(a) The fast is valid, for Allah said:

"You are not to blame for what you do by mistake, but you are for premeditated acts".

Zayd Ibn Wahb" is reported to have said: "People broke the fast during the time of "Umar Ibn al-Khattab", I have seen water vessels, brought from the house of "Hafsa", from which the people drank. Immediately, the sun appeared from behind a cloud. The people wanted to fast another day in restitution, but Umar intervened. "Why?" he asked, "By Allah, we did not mean any wrong".

(b) The other school of thought makes restitution imperative.

8) 'Kohl' does not spoil the fast, The Prophet is reported to have used it while fasting in Ramadan. The rule about Kohl applies to eye drops, ear drops, or nose drops even if they reach the throat. This rule also covers snuff, road dust, intravenous, muscular, or subcutaneous injections, Some scholars have included enema under this heading because it comes out again, drawing forth that which it is intended that it draws out. The rule even applies to the smelling of strange scents, to chewing gum, or tasting food, provided nothing of it reaches the stomach, "Abu Muhammad Ibn Hazm" summed it up as follows;

"Allah forbade us, during the fast, from eating, drinking, sexual intercourse, deliberate vomiting and sins. We know of no food or drink which could be consumed through the anus, urethra, ear, eye, nose from a wound in the abdomen or head, Apart from food and drink we are not prohibited from letting anything reach the stomach".

EXEMPTIONS FROM THE FAST

As we have said earlier, every Muslim who is adult and in possession of his faculties must fast Ramadan, They are exempted, however, in the following cases:

(a) Women in menstruation, or in child birth bleeding.

(b) Persons on sick bed, or on a journey.

WOMEN WHO ARE BLEEDING DURING MENSTRUATION OR CHILD BIRTH

1) Women in menstruation, or bleeding after giving birth, shall not fast.

2) If Ramadan begins while a woman is in menstruation or child-birth bleeding, she shall not fast until bleeding ceases in both cases and she takes the ritual bath.

3) If bleeding occurs during Ramadan, then a woman shall break the fast.

4) When bleeding ceases, a woman must wash and then fast.

If she does not find water, she must perform the ritual purification with sand (tayammum).

5) If bleeding ceases during the night, she can formulate the intention to fast and lose no time in washing but postpone taking a bath until after dawn, providing she does so before sunrise.

6) If a bleeding woman deliberately postpones the bath until after sunrise, thereby missing the morning prayers, then her fast shall not be valid.

7) A bleeding woman shall fast a number of days equal to those she missed because of bleeding. 'Aisha said,' "In the Prophet's time we were ordered to compensate for fasting days missed in bleeding but were not ordered to perform restitution for our missed prayers".

THE SICK, AND PERSONS TRAVELING

1) Out of Allah's mercy, a sick person or a traveler was instructed to fast a number of days equal to those he missed during Ramadan.

2) The Qur'an did not mention any specific kind of sickness and did not describe the sickness which exempts a person from the fast during Ramadan. Therefore, a person suffering from any ailment whatsoever of the stomach, side, eye, heart, etc... may apply this stipulation. The Qur'an contains a general statement and does not specify the severity of pain or degree of danger involved. Some of the early 'ulama granted the exemption even in tie case of a painful finger.

3) The Qur'an also did not specify, in the case of a journey, the distance or means of transport used. So the stipulation applies in all cases of travel whether a person is traveling on foot; on an animal; by train, or by plane.

'Ulama differed, however, as to the distance which grants the exemption. Several authorities reported that one of the Prophet's companions, a man by the name of "Dihya Ibn Kalifa" traveled during Ramadan for about three miles and had considered the distance sufficient to justify his breaking the fast, as did a number of people who were with him.

4) The following are some regulations regarding traveling in Ramadan:

(a) A person may or may not break the fast if he happens to be traveling during Ramadan, "Anas Ibn Malik" said: "We used to travel with the Prophet. He never criticized those who had been fasting or those who had broken the fast".

(b) To break the fast is preferable if the journey threatens a person's health, "Jabir" reported that the Prophet passed a crowd with a man in their midst Placed in the shade, Asking about the man, the Prophet was told he was fasting. Whereupon the Prophet said that it was not healthy to fast on the road.

(c) It is also preferable to break the fast when the warriors approach the enemy.

"Abu Sa'id" reported: "We traveled in the company of the Prophet to Mecca, We were fasting and we approached Mecca" The Prophet told us:

"You have neared your enemy and it will give you more strength if you break the fast".

(d) If a clash with the enemy is certain, then breaking the fast is imperative.

Abu Sa'id, continuing his previous report, said: "Then we came closer to Mecca". The Prophet told us: "Tomorrow you will meet your enemy; therefore break the fast". And we did so.

(e) A traveler, who happens to be observing the fast, may break it any time. he feels like doing. Ibn 'Abbas said: "The Prophet and the believers went out during Ramadan in the year of the conquest of Mecca".

On the road they passed by a stream. It was noon and the thirsty people stretched out their necks while their souls burned with the desire, to drink. The Prophet called for a vessel full of water which he held up on high so that every body could see it. Then he drank and everybody else followed his example.

(f) One may break the fast before starting on a journey. "Muhammad Ibn Ka'b said" :"I called at the house of 'Anas Ibn Malik' one day in Ramadan. Anas was preparing to go on a journey, His camel was saddled and he was dressed for the journey, He asked for food, which he ate, and I said to him: 'Is breaking the fast in this fashion a Sunna (an act of the, Prophet) ?' He answered: 'Yes, it is a Sunna.' Then he mounted and left".

g) If a man happens to enter during his journey a town where he does not intend to stay permanently, he may fast or break the fast. Ibn 'Abbas reported; "The Prophet embarked on the conquest of Mecca during Ramadan. He observed the fast until he reached al Kadid, a well between Qudayd and 'Usfan, then he broke the fast until the month had passed."

PREGNANT AND NURSING WOMEN

Pregnant and nursing women may break the Ramadan fast but shall fast a number of days, equal to those missed, after pregnancy or nursing ceases, In other words, pregnant and nursing women are in the same position as a traveler, being free to choose between breaking the fast Or keeping it. According to a hadith related by Anas Ibn Malik al Kabi, the Prophet said:

"Allah has relieved a traveler from part of the prayers and relieved him along with pregnant and nursing women from fasting".

Pregnant and nursing women may also break the fast if they fear injury either to themselves or their infants However, they should perform restitution,

OLD AGE

'Ulama have Different opinions as regards old people Some 'ulama are of the opinion that if an old man is unable to fast , he may break the fast provided he feeds a pour man for each day he breaks the fast, This is what is meant by the term fidyah. Others said that an old person was free not to observe the fast without fidyah ,on the strength of the Qur'anic verse,

"On no soil does Allah place a burden greater than it can beer."

The stipulation regarding old persons applies to persons afflicted with incurable illnesses. Sheikh "Muhammad Abdu" (a prominent scholar and one time rector of Al-Azhar) was of the opinion that people engaged in hard manual work like mining, or prisoners sentenced to hard labor, may break the fast if they can afford the fidyah.

VARIOUS ADDITIONAL REGULATIONS

1) The Prophet recommended taking the sohur (night time meal), He said:

"Do not miss the sohur for it is blessed; take even a mouthful of water, Allah and his angels greet those who take their suhur ".

2) It is recommended to take the iftar meal as early as possible and the sohur meal as late as possible, The Prophet said.

"My people are blessed as long as they take their iftar early and their sohur late".

"Umar Ibn Maymun" stated that the Prophet's Companions were quick to take their iftar and slow in beginning their sohur.

3) The time for sohur extends until dawn, If the call to the fajr (dawn) prayers is announced and a man still has the cup in his hand , he should not throw it away, but can satisfy himself. The Prophet said:

"If a man hears the call while the cup is still in his hand, he shall not lay it down before he is through with it."

4) It is recommended that a man breaks the fast in the manner followed by the Prophet, Anas reported that the Prophet used to break the fast before he performed the sunset prayers, with a few ripe dates , or if not available, a few dry dates; or if not available, a few mouthfuls of water.

5) At iftar, offer your thanks to Allah in the same words used by the Prophet, "Mu'az Ibn Zahra" reported that the Prophet used these words before partaking of iftar:

"I fasted for Your sake and broke the fast on what You gave me."

6) Continuing the fast without a break for another day is reprehensible. "Ibn Umar" reported that the Prophet had forbidden continuation of the fast. When the Prophet's companions remarked that the Prophet himself did it, he retarded

"I am not like any of you. Allah feeds me and satisfies my thirst".

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet had said :

"Let no one continue the fast"

repeating the command twice, His companions observed that he did continue the fast whereupon the Prophet answered.

"You are not like me, Allah feeds me and quenches my thirst . Do only the things you are capable of."

QADA (RESTITUTION)

1) You may perform the qada ( fasting of other days as substitute for those missed in Ramadan ) consequently or without sequence. Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet had said;

"Ramadan qada may be consecutive or split".

Muhammad Ibn al-Munkadir said. "A man asked the Prophet about splitting the qada, The Prophet advised: 'It is up to you, If a man were in debt, he could repay his debt in installments this is qada. Consequently, doing the same in the case of Ramadan qada is acceptable".

2) You may perform the qada any time during the year. 'Aisha was reported to have said: "Sometimes I was unable to perform the qada other than in Sha'ban."

If a man postponed the qada until he is over taken by the next Ramadan, then he performs the qada after Ramadan.

Ibn Hazm said that the delay is, however reprehensible, according to a verse from the Qur'an which says:

"Be quick in the race for forgiveness."

I'TIKAF (RETREAT) DURING RAMADAN

The Prophet set an example for retiring for contemplation during Ramadan as a form of devotion. He used to spend the last ten days of Ramadan in complete retirement in his mosque, 'Aisha said. "The Prophet used to retire the last ten days of Ramadan and continued this custom to the end of his life".

Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet, during the retreat period, had his bed placed in the mosque behind a pillar. A person in retreat shall observe complete seclusion Aisha said that "a person in retreat abstains from normal social life, He shall not even visit a sick man or attend a funeral or touch a woman. He goes out only to perform his natural functions". A man in retreat may take a bath or have his haircut and combed. 'Aisha said that she used to comb the Prophet's hair while he was in retreat.

I'tikaf can be performed in any mosque where group prayers are performed. The best rewarded i'tikaf is the performed in one of three mosques, namely, at the Ka'ba in Mecca, the Prophet's Mosque in Medina and the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

 
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