The month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar year. It is the best month of the year, as is the night of al-Qadr in Ramadan the best night of the year. Fasting became an obligation on the Muslims in the second year after the emigration. Prophet Muhammed fasted nine years of Ramadan after which he died.
The obligation of fasting Ramadan on the believers is known from the Qur’an and the hadith. It was explicitly stated in Verse #183 of Surat al-Baqarah:
which means: [ O believers, Fasting is an obligation upon you as it was obligated upon the [Muslims] before you so it would help you to reach piety.] Fasting was an obligation on the nations before the nation of Prophet Muhammad, however, fasting the month of Ramadan in particular is a specification only for the nation of Prophet Muhammad.
Moreover, Prophet Muhammad named Fasting (the month of Ramadan) as one of the five most important matters of Islam in the famous hadith known as Hadith Jibril related by al-Bukhariyy and Muslim. Angel Jibril came to the Prophet in the shape of a man with white clothes and asked him to inform him about Islam. In response, the Prophet said:
which means: <<Islam is to bear witness that no one is God except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, performing Prayer, paying Zakat, performing Pilgrimage if you are able, and Fasting the month of Ramadan. >>
Consequently, renouncing the obligation of fasting the month of Ramadan, for the one who has learned of its obligation, is blasphemy because it entails belying Allah and the Prophet. The one who believes it is an obligation, however, does not perform this obligation (without a valid excuse) does not blaspheme--rather he is an enormous sinner.
Determining The Beginning Of The Month Of Ramadan
The obligation of fasting the month of Ramadan becomes incumbent upon the occurrence of one of two matters: to sight the crescent of Ramadan after the sunset of the 29th day of Sha^ban (the month directly preceding Ramadan) or, if the crescent is not seen, then completing 30 days of Sha^ban. So, the beginning of the month of Ramadan, as well as the end of the month is determined by sighting the crescent, and if not cited, then by completing the month with 30 days--as is the case with determining all the months of the lunar calendar. This is taken from the hadith of the Prophet related by al-Bukhariyy and Muslim: which means: <<Do not fast one or two days before Ramadan. Start the month when you see the crescent and end the month when you see the crescent. If you are blocked from seeing it, complete Sha^ban thirty days.>>
So, on the 29th day of Sha^ban, directly after the sun sets, the Muslims look towards the western horizon, and if the crescent (of the new moon) is seen, the following day will be the first day of Ramadan. If it is not seen, because of cloud cover or another reason, then the next day will complete 30 days of Sha^ban, and the day after that is the first day of Ramadan. The judge confirms the beginning of Ramadan if one upright Muslim, whose testimony is acceptable to the judge, bears witness that he saw the crescent. The conditions which must be met in a person for his testimony to be acceptable to the judge in this matter are several. He must be Muslim, male, adolescent, free, clear of enormous sins, clear of having his small sins exceed his acts of obedience, and one who abides by the ethics and manners of the people of his class. So if a person who did not satisfy these conditions testified to the judge that he saw the crescent, like, for example, a woman, or a child, or an enormous sinner, or a slave, the judge would not confirm the beginning of the month of Ramadan and announce to the general public to commence fasting--relying solely upon their testimony. However, if just one upright Muslim, who has the conditions listed above satisfied in him, testifies to the judge that he saw the crescent, the judge would confirm the beginning of Ramadan for the next day. This is for the hadith related by Abu Dawud from the route of ^Abdullah Ibn ^Umar who told the Prophet he had sighted the crescent and so the Prophet fasted the next day and ordered the others to fast as well.
Be warned of those who determine the month of Ramadan relying upon astronomical calculations. Prophet Muhammad informed us that such calculation is not relied upon in determining such matters. Imam Ahmad related in his Musnad that the Prophet said:
which means: <<We are a nation which does not depend on writings and calculations [to determine the beginning of the month]. The month is either twenty-nine or thirty days.>> Praise be to Allah, how easy the matter is. Any Muslim with a sound sight can observe the crescent. He does not need to rely on complex calculations only a few people understand.
Who Must Fast And Who Is Excused From Fasting
The first condition for one to be obligated to fast is to be Muslim. In this world, the non-Muslim is not requested to fast, however, in the Hereafter, he will be punished for neglecting to fast, as he will be punished for his blasphemy. Rather, the obligation on the non-Muslim is to embrace Islam, then afterwards, to fast Ramadan.
Secondly, it is the pubescent Muslim who is obligated to fast. The child is not obligated to fast. Rather, it is an obligation on the parents or the guardian of the boy or girl to order him to fast once he is 7 (lunar) years old, with the condition that the child’s body can withstand that fasting, and he would not be harmed by it.
As well, for one to be obligated to fast, he must be of sound mind. Fasting is not obligatory on the insane person.
Fasting is not obligatory on a person whose body cannot tolerate fasting, either due to old age or because of a severe illness. Moreover, if a person would be harmed by fasting, that is, because of his fasting his sickness would get worse, or he would die, then fasting is prohibited for him. The one who does not fast because of old age or an illness he is not hopeful to be cured of does not have to make up the missed days of fasting. Instead he pays an expiation to a poor Muslim for every day he missed of fasting. The expiation is two average-sized, cupped hands of the most common staple food of the country, which in this country, is wheat.
Fasting is not obligatory on the menstruating woman or the woman who is in her postpartum bleeding period. It is unlawful for them to fast. The woman who missed days of fasting during Ramadan for these reasons has to make up each missed day.
As well, the pregnant woman is allowed not to fast if she fears that harm would come to her or her baby from her fasting. As well, the breast-feeding woman is allowed not to fast if she fears harm would come to her or her baby from her fasting. Both must make up every one of the missed days of fasting. As well, if the reason they did not fast was solely the fear of harming their baby, then in addition to making up the missed days of fasting, they must pay an expiation, or two cupped, average-sized handfuls of the most common staple food of the country, for each day they missed.
The one who is traveling a distance of two or more walking days is allowed to not fast provided his traveling is not sinful. Two or more walking days distance is about 80 miles. This traveler is permitted to break his fast even though he would not encounter hardship in his trip, such as if he crossed this distance quickly, by plane, or comfortable, in a car or a train. The matter of traveling is not based on the hardship, rather it has to do with the distance. This facility for the traveler was mentioned in the Qur’an. Allah said in Surat al-Baqarah, Verse 184: which means: <<If you are sick or traveling, then you are allowed to break your fast and make up these days later.>>
Integrals of Fasting
The integrals of fasting are two:
1. Each night to make the intention to fast the following day
2. To abstain from sexual intercourse, masturbation, and inserting anything with a volume into the head or the body cavity through an open inlet, excluding one’s pure, tahir saliva while still inside the mouth during the time from the dawn until the sunset.
Making the intention at night to fast the following day means to have the intention to fast in one’s heart during the night preceding the fasting day, i.e., after the sunset and before the dawn of the following day. Sometime during that time the person must make the intention to fast the following day, and this must be done each night for the following day. As related by at-Tirmidhiyy, an-Nasa’iyy, and others, the Prophet said: which means: <<There is no fasting for the one who does not establish the intention for fasting the night before.>>
The intention is in the heart, and does not have to be uttered with the tongue. The one who slept at night without having had the intention to fast and woke up after the dawn is obligated to abstain from whatever a fasting person would abstain and then fast a make up for that day. If the menstrual or postpartum bleeding of a woman stopped at night, then she must intend to fast the following day. The purificatory bath is not required to start fasting, but rather to start praying.
The intention for any obligatory fasting during Ramadan, must take place the night before the fast. However, for the one who is fasting an optional fast, it is not a condition that he must intend to do so the preceding night. It is valid for him to have the intention to fast that same day during the morning, before the sun moves from the center of the sky towards the west, as long as he had not committed any of the invalidators of fasting since the dawn appeared.
2. The fasting person must abstain from taking into his body cavity any material that has a tangible volume from an open inlet, whether this material was food or drink or other than that. If a person intentionally takes into his body cavity any material that has a tangible volume during the fasting day, while remembering he is fasting, and knowing that it is unlawful to do so, and not because another threatened to kill him (or the like) if he did not break his fast, then this invalidates his fast, and he has to make it up. The open outlets of the body are like the mouth, nose, anus, vagina, and other. Materials which are absorbed by the pores of the skin do not invalidate the fast because the pores of the skin are not considered to be an open inlet to the body cavity. For example, rubbing oil into the skin does not invalidate the fast.
One’s own pure saliva, while still inside the mouth, if swallowed, does not invalidate the fast. If some saliva was spit outside the mouth, and separated from the tongue, even to the lips, then was taken back in and swallowed, it would invalidate the fast. However, if the saliva is mixed with something else, even something pure, then swallowed, it invalidates the fast.
In what is too hard to protect oneself from swallowing, like the dust of the street or the dust of the flour and the like, one’s fast is not broken. Although smoking a cigarette breaks the fast of the smoker himself, it does not break the fast of the person next to him who breathes in some of that smoke. Neither does it break the fast for one to breathe in what is other than a physical entity, like the odor of incense or other fragrances.
Also among the conditions for the validity of fasting is for one to abstain from sexual intercourse during the day of fasting. If the person did not know that one must abstain from sexual intercourse during the fasting day, or he forgot that he was fasting and he performed this act, then it does not invalidate his fast. However the man or woman who performs sexual intercourse during the day of fasting while knowing this is unlawful and remembering he is fasting, would invalidate his/her fast by that.
The expiation due for invalidating one’s fasting by sexual intercourse is in the following order:
1. To set a Muslim slave free;
2. If he was unable, then to fast two consecutive months, other than making up the day which was invalidated by his sexual intercourse;
3. If unable, then to feed each one of 60 poor people two cupped, average-sized handfuls of the most common staple food of the country.
Masturbation or making the semen come out of one by using the hand or the like invalidates one’s fasting, whether one used his own hand, or the hand of his wife, or because of a kiss, or because of other physical contact. If, however, one experienced a wet dream or semen exited from him because of certain thoughts, one’s fast is not invalidated.
For one to force himself to vomit, either by inserting his finger or other than that into his mouth invalidates the fasting. In the case when the person forces himself to vomit, whether or not he swallows some of his vomit, his fast is invalidated and he has to make it up. However, the one who vomited not because he purposely forced himself to do so does not break his fast as long as he does not swallow any of the vomit or saliva mixed with the najas-filth.
There are different sayings regarding the phlegm or congestion that drips from the head into the throat. According to Imam ash-Shafi^iyy if the phlegm reached to the part of the throat above where the exit of the letter ha’ is, and the person swallowed it, this would invalidate his fasting. However, according to Imam Abu Hanifah, even if the phlegm reached to the tongue and the person swallowed it, his fasting is not invalidated, as long as he does not swallow it after separating from his mouth. .
Conditions For The Validity Of The Fast
Among the conditions for the validity of one’s fasting is that the person does not become insane, not even for a moment during the fasting day. If a person loses his sanity during the day or during part of the day, even for a moment, then his fasting would be invalidated. As well, it is conditional for the validity of one’s fasting that he does not lose consciousness during the entire fasting day, that is, from the dawn until sunset. If he lost consciousness for part of the day only, this does not invalidate the fast. On the other hand, sleeping does not invalidate the fast, even if one slept all day long.
Days On Which Fasting Is Unlawful
It is invalid to fast the day of the Feast of Fitr (^Id-ul-Fitr), the day of the Feast of Adha (^Id-ul-’Adha) and the three days after the day of Adha (Tashriq). It is also invalid to fast the last half of Sha^ban , and the day of doubt except if one joins the fasting of these with those before them or if one is fasting for an expiation (kaffarah), make up (qada’), vow (nadhr), or habitual consistent practice (wird), like the one who usually fasts Mondays and Thursdays.
It is unlawful (haram) to fast the two days of ^Idul-Fitr and ^Idul-Ad-ha, and the three days after ^Idul Ad-ha, known as the days of Tashriq.
اللَّهُمَّ لَكَ صُمْتُ وَعَلَى رِزْقِكَ أَفْطَرْتُ
Allahumma laka sumtu wa^ala rizqika aftart.
Which means: O Allah, I fasted seeking your reward, and by your sustenance I break my fast.
Also, when he broke his fast the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, used to say:
ذَهَبَ الظَّمَأُ وَابْتَلَّتِ الْعُرُوقُ وَثَبَتَ الأَجْرُ إِنْ شَاءَ الله
Dhahabadh-dhama’u wabtallatil-^uruqu wathabatal-ajru insha’ Allah.
Which means: “The thirst is gone. My veins are dampened and the reward has been earned, by Allah's will.” (Related by Abu Dawud.)
Allah knows best.