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Fiqh of Fasting

by Musa Bukhari

Spiritual transformation is a process. This process is designed to be a life-long one, not one that is limited to just Ramadan. However, Ramadan is like a transformation booster, kind of like the boosters you get in a video game. It takes you multiple steps forward. It gives you extra points. It gives you multiple opportunities to win. Ramadan is the month in which we are able to combine many different elements from the deen and apply them to ourselves over a period of thirty days in order to transform ourselves spiritually. This Ramadan, let’s make an intention to take our worship to the next level, through learning the why we fast and taking lessons from the prophetic model. This will not only fulfil us but lead us to a beautiful transformation of our soul.

So why do we fast during Ramadan?

Before we delve into the Fiqh of fasting let us take a moment to review why Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan. Muslims fast during this month because Allah commanded us too. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. In the Quran, Allah says:

“O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so perhaps you will become mindful of Allah” [Qur’an 2:183]

Fasting offers many benefits. It encompasses our spiritual, mental, and emotional elements. It allows us to help control our desires (nafs), to understand what the less fortunate go through, and it gives our bodies a break to detox. But the most important benefit is that it brings us closer to Allah through our mindfulness of Him.

The Fiqh of Fasting

Now that we have established why we fast and the benefits of fasting, let us now understand the rules of fasting.

Who is required to fast?

All Muslims are required to fast except for the following exceptions:

  1. Anyone who has not reached puberty.
  2. Anyone with an illness where fasting will be detrimental to their overall well being.
  3. Someone who is traveling.
  4. Women who are menstruating.
  5. Pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Those who does not meet these exceptions are required to fast.

When do we fast?

Fasting begins when the new moon is sighted at the end of Shaban.

The Prophet, Peace be upon Him, said:

“Whenever you sight the new moon (of the month of Ramadan), observe fast, and when you sight it (the new moon of Shawwal), break it, and if the sky is cloudy for you, then observe fast for thirty days”. – Sahih Muslim

It is compulsory for Muslims to begin fasting right when the new moon is sighted. Follow your local community whom will inform you when Ramadan begins.

Now that we know when Ramadan begins and who is required to fast, how exactly do we fast?

The general understanding is that you begin eating before Fajr time. When Fajr time rolls in you stop your feasting and begin fasting. It's very important that you set your intention to fast. An intention is a nonverbal commitment that is made in your heart.

Once you make your intention read this dua:

وَبِصَوْمِ غَدٍ نَّوَيْتُ مِنْ شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ

Wa bisawmi ghadinn nawaiytu min shahri ramadan

(I intend to keep the fast for tomorrow in the month of Ramadan.)

What breaks my fast?

If you intentionally eat or drink while you are fasting, that will invalidate your fast.

If women start menstruating then their fast is also invalidated.

If you intentionally smoke or vape, that will invalidate your fast

If you intentionally have sexual intercourse, that will also invalidate your fast

If any of the above are committed (except menstruating women) then you are required to pay a penalty because you are intentionally violating the rules. In order to make up for the violations you are required to:

Fast for two months consecutively, and if that is not possible, then feed sixty people in need.

However if you unintentionally eat, drink, or smoke then your fast is still valid. If you are making wadu and you accidentally swallow water then your fast is still valid.

The rule of thumb is if you consume anything on accident then your fast is still valid. But if you do it intentionally then your fast becomes invalid and you are required to pay a penalty.

Breaking Your Fast

Muslims are required to close their fast before the fajr prayer (dawn) and break their fast at Maghrib. (Maghrib begins right after sunset.)

Read the following dua when you break your fast:

اللَّهُمَّ اِنِّى لَكَ صُمْتُ وَبِكَ امنْتُ وَعَليْكَ تَوَكّلتُ وَ عَلى رِزْقِكَ اَفْطَرْتُ

Allahumma inni-laka-sumtu, wa bika-aamantu, wa alayka tawakkaltu, wa ala rizqika-aftartu.

(O Allah! I have fasted for You, and I believe in You and have put my trust in You, and I break the fast with what You have bestowed.)

It is a sunnah to break your fast with a date and some water.

Remember, everyone of us is different and this difference can extend into the way we worship Allah. Some stay up all night in prayer, some make dua, some focus on specific dhikr, some give in charity. Its important to learn from others and see the difference as a blessing to enrich your worship. This will keep the momentum going and not feel depleted by one single act of ibadah.

May Allah allow us all to follow the example and the guidance of the Prophet (SAW) when it comes to the actions that we should do in Ramadan—the actions of the heart, tongue and limbs. May Allah instill us the type of generosity that the Prophet (SAW) had inside and outside of Ramadan. May Allah allow us to be mindful of Him and thank Him the way He deserves. May Allah shower us with His Forgiveness and Mercy in abundance. Ameen.

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