Fasting – A pillar of Faith

“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).” [Sura Baqara (Chapter 2) : verse 183]

“(Fasting) for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (i.e. an old man, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a poor person (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast, it is better for you if only you know.” [Sura Baqara (Chapter 2) : verse 184]

Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are menstruating, pregnant or nursing, are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year if they are healthy and able. Children begin to fast upon reaching puberty, although many start earlier.

Fasting is beneficial to health and Allah probably intended it for us as a method of self-purification and self-restraint. By cutting oneself from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person focuses on his or her purpose in life by constantly being aware of the presence of God.


Allah has blessed His slaves with certain seasons of goodness, in which hasanaat (rewards for good deeds) are multiplied, sayi’aat (bad deeds) are forgiven, people’s status is raised. Those who purify themselves attain success and those who corrupt themselves fail. One of the greatest acts of worship is fasting, which Allah has made obligatory on His slaves. Allah has created His slaves to worship Him, as He says: “And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except that they should worship Me (Alone).” [al-Dhaariyaat 51:56].
Allah encourages His slaves to fast: “… And that you fast, it is better for you, if only you know.” [al-Baqarah 2:184]

He guides them to give thanks to Him for having made fasting obligatory on them: “… that you should magnify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him.” [al-Baqarah 2:185]

He has made fasting dear to them, and has made it easy so that people do not find it too hard to give up their habits and what they are used to. Allah: “… for a fixed number of days…” [al-Baqarah 2:184]

He has mercy on them and keeps them away from difficulties and harm, as He says: “… but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days…” [al-Baqarah 2:184]

In this month the hearts of the believers turn to their Most Merciful Lord, fearing Him, and hoping to attain His reward and the great victory (Paradise).

As the status of this act of worship is so high, it is essential to learn the ahkaam (rulings) that have to do with the month of fasting in order that the Muslim will know what is obligatory, in order to do it, what is haraam, in order to avoid it, and what is permissible, so that he need not subject himself to hardship by depriving himself of it.
The virtues of fasting
The virtues of fasting are great indeed, and one of the things reported in the saheeh ahaadeeth is that Allah has chosen fasting for Himself, and He will reward it and multiply the reward without measure.

  • Allah says: “Except for fasting which is only for My sake, and I will reward him for it.” (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath 1904; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/407).
  • Fasting has no equal (Al-Nisaa’i, 4/165; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/413), and the du’aa’ of the fasting person will not be refused (Al-Bayhaqi, 3/345; al-Silsilat al-Saheeh, 1797).
  • The fasting person has two moments of joy: one when he breaks his fast and one when he meets his Lord and rejoices over his fasting (Muslim, 2/807).
  • Fasting will intercede for a person on the Day of Judgment, and will say, “O Lord, I prevented him from his food and physical desires during the day, so let me intercede for him.” (Ahmad, 2/174; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/411).
  • The smell that comes from the mouth of a fasting person is better with Allah than the scent of musk. (Muslim, 2/807).
  • Fasting is a protection and a strong fortress that keeps a person safe from the Fire. (Ahmad, 2/402; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/411; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 3880).
  • Whoever fasts one day for the sake of Allah, Allah will remove his face seventy years’ distance from the Fire. (Muslim, 2/808)
  • Whoever fasts one day seeking the pleasure of Allah, if that is the last day of his life, he will enter Paradise. (Ahmad, 5/391; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/412).
  • In Paradise there is a gate called al-Rayyaan, through those who fast will enter, and no one will enter it except them; when they have entered it will be locked, and no-one else will enter through it.” (Al-Bukhaari, Fath 1797).
  • Fasting is a pillar of Islam and the Quran was revealed during the month of Ramadan. In this month, there is a night that is better than a thousand months. “When Ramadan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains.” (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath 3277).
  • Fasting in Ramadan is equivalent to fasting ten months (Musnad Ahmad, 5/280; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/421). “Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and with the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Al-Bukhaari, Fath 37).
  • At the breaking of every fast, Allah will choose people to free from Hellfire. (Ahmad, 5/256; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/419).


The benefits of fasting

There is much wisdom and many benefits in fasting, which have to do with the taqwa mentioned by Allah in the aayah: “… that you may become al-muttaqoon (the pious).” [al-Baqarah 2:183]

  • If a person refrains from halaal (permissible) things with an intent to earn the pleasure of Allah and out of fear of His punishment, it will be easier for him to refrain from doing haraam (forbidden) things.
  • Fasting leads to the defeat of Shaytaan (Satan); it controls desires and protects one’s faculties.
  • When the fasting person feels the pangs of hunger, he experiences how the poor feel, so he has compassion towards them and gives them something to ward off their hunger. Hearing about them is not the same as feeling how they suffer, just as a rider does not understand the hardship of walking unless he gets down and walks.
  • Fasting trains the will to avoid desires and keep away from sin; it helps a person to overcome his own nature and to wean himself away from his habits.
  • Fasting trains a person to be organized and punctual.
  • Fasting is demonstrates the unity of the Muslims, as the Ummah fasts and breaks its fast at the same time.
  • Fasting is a great opportunity to call fellow Muslims to the way of Allah. Many people come to the Masjid and Muslims must remind each other the importance of praying in the Masjid. Preach in a gentle manner. Speak beneficial words. The mind however, should not be so preoccupied with others that one forgets his own soul and becomes like a wick that lights the way for others while it is itself consumed.


Etiquette and Sunnah of fasting

Some aspects are waajib (obligatory) and some others are mustahabb (recommended).
Make sure that we eat and drink something at sahour, and that we delay it until just before the adhaan of Fajr. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Have sahour, for in sahour there is blessing (barakah).” (Al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/139).

Do not delay iftaar, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The people will be fine so long as they do not delay iftaar.” (Al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/198).

Breaking one’s fast in the manner described in the hadeeth narrated by Anas (may Allah be pleased with him): “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to break his fast with fresh dates before praying; if fresh dates were not available, he would eat (dried) dates; if dried dates were not available, he would have a few sips of water.” (Al-Tirmidhi, 3/79).

After iftaar, recite words like our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did. He used to say: “Dhahaba al-zama’, wa’btallat al-‘urooq, wa thabat al-ajru in sha Allah (Thirst is gone, veins are flowing again, and the reward is certain, in sha Allah).” (Abu Dawood, 2/765).

Keep away from sin, as our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “When any of you is fasting, let him not commit sin…” (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath 1904).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not stop speaking falsehood and acting in accordance with it, Allah has no need of him giving up his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath 1903).

The person who is fasting should avoid all kinds of haraam actions, such as backbiting, obscenity and lies; otherwise his reward may all be lost. Otherwise as our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “It may be that a fasting person gets nothing from his fast except hunger.” (Ibn Maajah, 1/539; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/453).

Among the things that can destroy one’s hasanaat (good deeds) and bring sayi’aat (bad deeds) is allowing oneself to be distracted by soap operas, movies, idle gatherings, hanging about in the streets, driving around for no purpose, wandering around the shops, following fashions, and crowding the streets and sidewalks.

Let not the months of tahajjud, dhikr and worship, become the month of sleeping in the day so as to avoid feeling hungry. This will lead to missing prayers and the opportunity to pray them in congregation.

Not allowing oneself to be provoked, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “If someone fights him or insults him, he should say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’” (Al-Bukhaari – Al-Fath 1894). This will serve as a reminder to both parties. It is essential to exercise self-control and be calm.

Do not drive fast and violate any rules when the time for Maghrib approaches.

Do not overeat, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The son of Adam fills no worse vessel than his stomach.” (Al-Tirmidhi 2380; he said, this is a hasan saheeh hadeeth). The wise person wants to eat to live, not live to eat.

It is better not to indulge in making all kinds of food and treating food preparation as a ritual and pride, so that housewives spend all their time on making food, and this keeps them away from worship, and thus ending up spending far more on food during Ramadan than they do ordinarily.

Don’t let this month become one of indigestion, fatness and gastric illness. It is better not to eat like a glutton. Getting up to pray Taraaweeh, becomes difficult and some people tend to leave after the first two rak’ahs. Let us not fall into this pitfall.

Be generous – by sharing knowledge, giving money, using one’s position of authority or strength to help others. Have a good attitude. “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was the most generous of people (in doing good), and he was most generous of all in Ramadan when Jibreel met with him, (every night in Ramadan) and teach him the Quran. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was more generous in doing good than a blowing wind.” (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath 6).

Fasting cannot be used as an excuse for laziness or miserliness and rather one should be more generous and active.

Combining fasting with feeding the poor is one of the means of reaching Paradise, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “In Paradise there are rooms whose outside can be seen from the inside and the inside can be seen from the outside. Allah has prepared them for those who feed the poor, who are gentle in speech, who fast regularly and who pray at night when people are asleep.” (Ahmad 5/343).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast (until he is satisfied), will have a reward equal to his, without it detracting in the slightest from the reward of the fasting person.” (Al-Tirmidhi, 3/171).

A number of the Salaf (may Allah have mercy on them) preferred the poor over themselves when feeding them at the time of iftaar. Among these were ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar, Maalik ibn Deenaar, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others. ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar would not break his fast unless there were orphans and poor people with him.

Prepare yourself and your family with an environment for worship, hastening to repent and turn back to Allah, rejoicing at the onset of the month, fasting properly, having the right frame of mind and fearing Allah when praying Taraaweeh, not tiring in the middle of the month, seeking Laylat al-Qadr, reading the entire Quran time after time, trying to weep and trying to understand what you are reading.

Umrah during Ramadan is equivalent to Hajj, and charity given during Ramadan is multiplied, and I’tikaaf (retreat to the Masjid for worship) is recommended. Congratulate fellow Muslims at the beginning of the month.

Some of the ahkaam (rulings) on fasting

Besides fasting in Ramadan, there are other fasts that must be done on consecutive days like fasting to expiate for divorcing one’s wife by zihaar (jaahili form of divorce), having intercourse during the day in Ramadan or killing someone by mistake. Also, one who makes a vow to fast consecutive days must fulfill it.

Fasting which does not have to be done on consecutive days includes making up days missed in Ramadan, fasting ten days if one does not have a sacrifice, fasting for kafaarat yameen (according to the majority), fasting to compensate for violating the conditions of ihraam (according to the most correct opinion), and fasting in fulfillment of a vow in cases where one did not have the intention of fasting consecutive days.

It is haraam to fast on the two Eid days, or on the Ayyaam al-Tashreeq, which are the 11th, 12th and 13th of Dhoo’l-Hijjah, because these are festive days, but it is permissible for the one who does not have a sacrifice to fast them (Ayyaam al-Tashreeq) in Mina.

Determining the onset of Ramadan

The onset of Ramadan is confirmed by the sighting of the new moon, or by the completion of thirty days of Sha’baan. Whoever sees the crescent of the new moon or hears about it from a trustworthy source is obliged to fast.

Who is obliged to fast

Fasting is an obligation on every adult, sane, settled (not traveling) Muslim who is able to fast and has nothing such as hayd [menstruation] or nifaas (post-natal bleeding) to prevent him or her from doing so.

A person is deemed to have reached adulthood when any one of the following three things occurs: emission of semen, growth of pubic hair around the private parts or attainment of fifteen years of age. In the case of females, there is a fourth, namely menstruation; when a girl reaches menarche (starts her periods), she is obliged to fast even if she has not yet reached the age of ten.

Children should be instructed to fast at the age of seven, if they are able to. The child will be rewarded for fasting, and the parents will be rewarded for bringing him up properly and guiding him to do good.

Some people do not think it is important to tell their children to fast. Some parents may prevent an enthusiastic child from fasting out of “pity”. But true pity and compassion consists of making him get used to fasting. Allah says: “O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.” [al-Tahreem 66:6].

The insane are not responsible for their deeds (their deeds are not being recorded), but if a person is insane at times and sane at other times, he must fast during his periods of sanity, and is excused during his periods of insanity.

If someone dies during Ramadan, there is no “debt” on him or his heirs with regard to the remaining days of the month.

If someone does not know that it is fard (obligatory) to fast Ramadan, or that it is haraam to eat or have sexual intercourse during the day in Ramadan, then, this excuse is acceptable. The same applies to a new convert to Islam, a Muslim living in Daar al-Harb (non-Muslim lands) and a Muslim who grew up among the kuffaar (non-believers).

But a person who grew up among the Muslims and was able to ask questions and find out has no excuse and this would amount to having committed a major sin.


Allah says : “… So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan, i.e., is present at his home), he must observes sawm (fasts) that month…” [al-Baqarah 2:185]. He is not counted as a traveler until he has left the city; if he is still within the city, he is regarded as one who is settled, so he is not permitted to shorten his prayers).

A traveler should not break his fast until he has passed beyond the inhabited houses of his town. Similarly, if he is flying, once the plane has taken off and has gone beyond the city limits, he may break his fast. If the airport is outside his city, he can break his fast there, but if the airport is within his city or attached to it, he should not break his fast.

If the sun sets and he breaks his fast on the ground, then the plane takes off and he sees the sun, he does not have to stop eating, because he has already completed his day’s fasting.

If the plane takes off before sunset and he wants to complete that day’s fasting during the journey, he should not break his fast until the sun has set from wherever he is in the air.

Whoever begins fasting while he is “settled” then embarks on a journey during the day is allowed to break his fast, because Allah has made setting out in general a legitimate reason not to fast. Allah says : “… and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days on which one did not observe sawm must be made up) from other days…” [al-Baqarah 2:185]

A person who habitually travels is permitted not to fast if he has a home to which he returns, such as a courier who travels to serve the interests of the Muslims (taxi drivers, pilots, airline employees, even if their travel is daily – but they have to make up the fasts later). The same applies to sailors who have a home on land; but if a sailor has his wife and all he needs with him on the ship, and is constantly traveling, then he is not allowed to break his fast or shorten his prayers.

If a traveler arrives during the day, there is a varied opinion as to whether he should stop eating and drinking. But to be on the safe side, he should stop eating and drinking, out of respect for the month, but he has to make the day up later, whether or not he stops eating and drinking after his arrival.

If he starts Ramadan in one city, then travels to another city where the people started fasting before him or after him, then he should follow the ruling in the destination city, and should thus end Ramadan only when they end Ramadan, even if it means that he is fasting for more than thirty days, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Fast when everyone is fasting, and break your fast when everyone is breaking their fast.” If however his fast is less than 29 days, he must make it up after Eid, because the hijri month cannot be less than 29 days.

The sick

In the event of any sickness that makes people feel unwell, a person is allowed not to fast. “… and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days on which one did not fast must be made up) from other days…” [al-Baqarah 2:185]. But if the ailment is minor, such as a cough or headache, then it is not a reason to break one’s fast.

If there is medical proof, or a person knows is certain, that fasting will make his illness worse or delay his recovery, he is permitted to break his fast; indeed, it is disliked (makrooh) for him to fast in such cases.

If a person is seriously ill, he does not have to have the intention during the night to fast the following day, even if there is a possibility that he may be well in the morning, because what counts is the present moment.

If fasting will cause unconsciousness, he should break his fast and make the fast up later on.

If a person falls unconscious during the day and recovers before Maghrib or after, his fast is still valid, so long as he was fasting in the morning; if he is unconscious from Fajr until Maghrib, then his fast is not valid. According to the majority of scholars however, it is obligatory for a person who falls unconscious to make up his fasts later on, no matter how long he was unconscious.

If a person feels extreme hunger or thirst, and fears that he may die or that some of his faculties may be irreparably damaged, and has rational grounds for believing this to be so, he may break his fast and make up for it later on, because saving one’s life is obligatory.

It is not permissible to break one’s fast because of bearable hardship or because one feels tired or is afraid of some imagined illness. A physically demanding job is not an excuse to break one’s fast and one should rather change their hours of work to night, or take their holidays during Ramadan or should look for alternative jobs, where they can combine their religious and worldly duties. “And whoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he could never imagine.” [al-Talaaq 65:2-3].

A sick person who hopes to recover should wait until he gets better, then make up for the fasts he has missed; he is not allowed just to feed the poor.

The person who is suffering from a chronic illness and has no hope of recovery and elderly people who are unable to fast should feed a poor person with half a saa’ (approximately 3.3 lbs) of the native staple food for every day that he has missed. This can be done all at once, on one day at the end of the month, or one poor person can be fed every day. Actual food must be given, because of the wording of the aayah – he cannot do it by giving money to the poor. But he can give money to a trustworthy person or charity to buy food and distribute it to the poor on his behalf.

If a person is waiting to recover from his illness and hopes to get better, but then dies, there is no “debt” owed by him or his heirs.

If a person is sick, then recovers, and is able to make up the missed fasts but does not do so before he dies, then money should be taken from his estate to feed a poor person for every day that he missed. If any of his relatives want to fast on his behalf, then this is permissible, because it was reported in al-Saheehayn that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever dies owing some fasts, let his heir fast on his behalf.”

The elderly

The very elderly who have lost their strength and are getting weaker every day as death approaches, do not have to fast, and they are allowed not to fast so long as fasting would be too difficult for them. Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) used to say, concerning the aayah , “And as for those who can fast with difficulty (e.g., an old man, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a poor person (for every day)” [al-Baqarah 2:184]
For those who are fighting an enemy or are being besieged by an enemy, if fasting would make them too weak to fight, they are allowed to break the fast, even if they are not traveling. They can even break their fast before fighting if need be. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to his Companions once, before fighting: “In the morning you are going to meet your enemy and not fasting will make you stronger, so do not fast.” (Muslim, 1120)

If the reason for not fasting is obvious, such as illness, there is nothing wrong with eating or drinking openly; but if the reason is hidden, such as menstruation, it is better to eat and drink in secret, so as not to attract accusations and the like.

Niyyah (intention) in fasting

Niyyah (intention) must be made in fard (obligatory) fasts. The intention may be made at any point during the night, even if it is just a moment before Fajr. Niyyah means the resolution in the heart to do something; speaking it aloud is bid’ah (a reprehensible innovation).

A person fasting during Ramadan does not need to repeat the intention every night during Ramadan; it is sufficient to have the intention at the beginning of the month. If the intention is interrupted, by breaking the fast due to travel or sickness, the intention must be renewed when the person resumes fasting.

If a person does not know that Ramadan has started until after dawn, he has to stop eating and drinking for the rest of the day, and he has to make that day up later on, according to the majority of scholars, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “There is no fasting for the one who does not have the intention to fast from the night before.” (Abu Dawood, 2454).

If a prisoner or captive is unable to sight the moon himself or is not informed of the same by a trustworthy person, he must try to work it out for himself (ijtihaad) and act according what he thinks is most likely.

If he later finds out that his fasting coincided with Ramadan, this is fine according to the majority of scholars, and if his fasting came after Ramadan, this is fine according to the majority of fuqahaa’, but if his fasting came before Ramadan, this is not acceptable, and he has to make up the fast. If part of his fasting coincided with Ramadan and part of it did not, what coincided with it or came after it is fine, but what came before is not acceptable. If the matter never becomes clear to him, then his fasting is fine because he did the best he could, and Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope.

When to start and stop fasting

Once the entire disk of the sun has disappeared, the fasting person should break his fast, and the red glow that remains on the horizon does not matter, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Once night comes from there and the day disappears from there, and the sun has set, the fasting person should break his fast.” (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath 1954)

The Sunnah is to hasten in breaking the fast. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would not pray Maghrib until he had broken his fast, if only with a sip of water. (Al-Haakim, 1/432; al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 2110). If a fasting person cannot find anything with which to break his fast, he should have the intention in his heart to break his fast, and he should not suck his finger, as some of people tend to do.

When the dawn comes – which is the white light coming across the horizon in the East – the fasting person must stop eating and drinking straightaway, whether he hears the adhaan or not.

The Muslims living in cities where there is a distinct alternation of night and day in every twenty-four hour period are obliged to fast, no matter how long the day is, so long as that distinction between night and day is there. In some places there is no such distinction between night and day; Muslims in these places should fast according to the times in the nearest city in which there is a distinct alternation of night and day.

Things that break the fast

Apart from hayd (menstruation) and nifaas (post-natal bleeding), other things that can break the fast are only considered to do so if the following three conditions apply:
1. if a person knows that the action performed breaks the fast and is not ignorant
2. if a person is aware of what he is doing and has not forgotten that he is fasting
3. if he does it of his own free will and is not forced to do it.

  • Actions that break the fast include ingesting matter by eating and drinking and other actions that involve the expulsion of bodily fluids, such as intercourse, vomiting and menstruation.
  • Taking medicines and pills by mouth, or injections of nourishing substances, or blood transfusions will also break the fast.
  • Injections that are not given to replace food and drink but are used to administer medications such as penicillin and insulin, or tonics, or vaccinations, do not break the fast, regardless of whether they are intra-muscular or intravenous. But to be on the safe side, all these injections should be given during the night.
  • Kidney dialysis, whereby the blood is taken out, cleaned, and put back with some chemicals or nourishing substances such as sugars and salts added, is considered to break the fast.
  • Suppositories, eye-drops, eardrops, having a tooth extracted and treating wounds do not break the fast.
  • Puffers used for asthma do not break the fast, because this is just compressed gas that goes to the lungs – it is not food.
  • Having a blood sample taken does not break the fast.
  • Medicines used by gargling do not break the fast so long as they are not swallowed. If a person has a tooth filled and feels the taste of it in his throat, this does not break his fast.
  • A listing of medications and other actions or things that do NOT break the fast can be found under the “Questions and Answers” section at the end of this article.


Ruling on breaking the fast

Whoever breaks the fast during Ramadan without a legitimate excuse has committed a major sin. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, describing a dream that he had seen: “… until I was at the mountain, where I heard loud voices. I asked, ‘What are these voices?’ They said, ‘This is the howling of the people of Hellfire.’

Al-Haafiz al-Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) said, “Among the believers it is well-established that whoever does not fast in Ramadan without a valid excuse is worse than an adulterer or drunkard; they doubt whether he is even a Muslim at all, and they regard him as a heretic and profligate.”

He has to repent sincerely and do more naafil deeds, fasting and other acts of worship, so as to avoid having any shortfall in his record of obligatory deeds, and so that Allah might accept his repentance.

“If he forgets, and eats and drinks, then let him complete his fast, for Allah has fed him and given him to drink.” (Al-Bukhaari, Fath 1933). According to another report, “He does not have to make the fast up later or offer expiation (kafaarah).”

If a person sees someone else who is eating because he has forgotten that he is fasting, he should remind him, because of the general meaning of the aayah : “… Help one another in righteousness and piety…” [al-Maa’idah 5:2]

Those who need to break their fast in order to save someone whose life is in danger, may break their fast and should make it up later on. This applies in cases where someone is drowning, or when fires need to be put out.

If a person is obliged to fast, but he deliberately has intercourse during the day in Ramadan, of his own free will, his fast is broken, whether or not he ejaculates, and he has to repent. He should still fast for the rest of the day, and in addition, he has to make up the fast later on, and offer expiation (kafaarah).

Kissing, hugging, embracing, touching and repeatedly looking at one’s wife or concubine is permissible as long as the man does not get aroused quickly and can keep himself in control. Allah says in a hadeeth qudsi: “and he leaves his desire for My sake.”

If morning comes and a person is in a state of janaabah (impurity following sexual intercourse), this does not affect his fasting. He or she is permitted to delay doing ghusl, whether it is for janaabah or following menstruation or post-natal bleeding, until after the sun has come up, but it is better to hasten to do ghusl so that one can pray.

If a person who is fasting sleeps and experiences a wet dream, this does not break his fast, according to scholarly consensus (ijmaa’), so he should complete his fast.

If a person ejaculates during the day in Ramadan because of something that he could have refrained from, such as touching or repeatedly looking at his wife, he must repent to Allah and fast for the rest of the day, and in addition he must also make up that fast later on.

Emission of prostatic fluid (madhiy), does not break one’s fast.

The emission of wadiy, a thick sticky substance that comes out after urination, with no sense of physical pleasure, does not break the fast, and a person does not have to do ghusl, but he does have to do istinjaa’ (clean his private parts) and do wudoo’.

“Whoever vomits unintentionally does not have to make up the fast later on, but whoever vomits on purpose does have to make up the fast.” (Al-Tirmidhi, 3/89).

If he feels that he is about to vomit, but then it subsides by itself or if the vomit reaches the throat and then subsides, this does not break his fast.

But if the vomit comes into his mouth and he swallows it back down, this does break the fast. If a person feels sick in his stomach, he does not have to suppress the urge to vomit, because this could cause him harm.

If a person unintentionally swallows something that is stuck between his teeth, or if it is so small that he could not tell it was there or spit it out, this is counted as being part of his saliva and it does not break his fast.

But if it is big enough to spit out, he should spit it out. If it can be diluted in the mouth, in whole or in part, and it has an added taste or sweetness, it is haraam for him to chew it. If any of this substance reaches the throat, this breaks the fast.

If a person spits out water after rinsing his mouth, his fast is not affected by any moisture or wetness that is left behind, because he cannot help it.

If a person suffers from a nosebleed, his fast is still valid.

If one has gum ulcers or his gums bleed after using the siwaak (tooth stick), it is not permissible for him to swallow the blood; he has to spit it out. However, if some blood enters his throat by accident, and he did not mean for that to happen, there is no need to worry.

With regard to mucus coming from the head (nose and sinuses) and phlegm coming from the chest by coughing and clearing the throat, if it is swallowed before it reaches the mouth, this does not break a person’s fast; but if it is swallowed after it reaches the mouth, this does break the fast. However, if it is swallowed unintentionally, it does not break the fast.

Inhaling water vapors, as may happen to people working in desalination plants, does not break the fast.

It is disliked (makrooh) to taste food unnecessarily, because this carries the risk that the fast may be broken. Examples of cases where it is necessary to taste food include a mother chewing food for an infant when she has no other way to feed him, tasting food to make sure that it is OK, and tasting something when making a purchase. It was reported that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “There is nothing wrong with tasting vinegar or anything that one wishes to buy.” (Classed as hasan in Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 4/86).

Using siwaak is Sunnah for the one who is fasting at all times of the day, even if it is wet.

Green siwaak or flavored siwaaks that have extra flavor added to it, like lemon or mint should be avoided. Any small pieces that come off the siwaak in the mouth must be spit out and not swallowed deliberately; but if he swallows them accidentally, there is no harm done.

If a fasting person is injured or suffers a nosebleed, or gets any dust, smoke, flies or any other fluids in the mouth by accident, this does not break the fast. Things that one cannot avoid swallowing, like one’s own saliva, or dust from grinding flour, do not break the fast. If a person gathers a lot of saliva in his mouth then swallows it on purpose without an intent of quenching thirst, this does not break the fast, according to the most correct opinion.

If tears reach one’s throat, or if a person applies creams, moisturizers, oil to his hair or moustache, or uses henna, or kohl this does not break his fast even if its taste is somehow felt in the throat.

One can smell pleasant fragrances, use perfume or apply scented creams and the like. A fasting person can use bukhoor (incense), so long as he does not use it as snuff.

It is better not to use toothpaste during the day, and to leave it till nighttime, because it is too strong.

Smoking breaks the fast, and it cannot be used as an excuse not to fast.

Immersing oneself in water, pouring water over one’s head or wrapping oneself in wet clothes to obtain relief from heat does not break the fast. Swimming is disliked, as there is a possibility of swallowing water. If a person’s work involves diving he can as long as that he can be sure that water will not get in his mouth.

If a person eats, drinks or has intercourse, thinking that it is still night, then he realizes that dawn has already broken, there is no harm done.

If a person breaks his fast, thinking that the sun has already set when it has not, he must make up the fast later on (according to the majority of scholars), because the principle is that it is still day, and a fact that is certain cannot be rejected in favor of something doubtful. (Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah thought that it was not necessary for a person in this situation to make up the fast).

If dawn breaks and a person has food or drink in his mouth, he should spit it out, and his fast is valid. Similarly if one eats or drinks because he forgets, and then realizes that he is fasting –he must hastily spit it out and his fast is still valid.

Rulings on fasting for women

A girl who has attained puberty, but is too shy to tell anyone, so she does not fast, has to repent and make up the days she has missed, as well as feeding a poor person for each day, as an act of expiation for delaying her fast. Her case is like that of a woman who fasts the days of her period out of shyness, and does not make them up later.

If a woman does not know exactly how many days she has missed, she should fast until she is fairly certain that she has made up the days she had missed and not made up from previous Ramadans, and offer the expiation for delaying for each day.

When a menstruating woman becomes aware that her periods have ended and has now become taahir (pure), she should have the intention to fast from the night before.
Should a fasting woman start to bleed again, she should stop fasting, whether the blood is a flow or just spotting, because it breaks the fast as long as it comes at the time of the period.

If the cessation of bleeding continues until Maghrib, and she has fasted with the intention from the night before, then her fast is valid.

If a woman feels the movement of menstrual blood inside her, but is does not come out until after the sun has set, her fast is valid and she does not have to make up the day later.

If a woman’s period or post-natal bleeding ceases during the night, and she makes the intention to fast, but dawn comes before she is able to do ghusl, then her fast is valid.

A woman who knows that her period will come the following day must continue her intention and keep fasting; she should not break her fast until she actually sees the blood.

Istihaadah (non-menstrual vaginal bleeding) does not have any effect on the validity of the fast.

A woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding is regarded as being like one who is ill and is permitted not to fast. She only has to make up the days that she missed, whether she fears for herself or for her child. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Allah has lifted the obligation of fasting and part of the prayer from the traveler, and He has lifted the obligation of fasting from the pregnant and breastfeeding woman.” (Al-Tirmidhi, 3/85).

Questions and Answers

How and when should a person make his niyyah (intention) to fast Ramadan?
If a person has the intention of fasting on the first day of Ramadan that he will fast this whole month, that is enough to cover whole of Ramadan. If the continuity of fasting is broken for an unavoidable reason, intention of fasting must be renewed. Even if the intention is not formed literally, it is there by implication.

If Ramadan coincides with the exams for high school graduation, is it permissible for a student to break his fast?
It is not permissible for one who is accountable to break his fast in Ramadan because of exams, because that is not one of the excuses that are allowed in sharee’ah.

Is there any truth that one should not cut their nails or shave the pubic hairs while fasting?
These actions are not things that are neither obligatory for the fasting person nor do they go against fasting.

When is the “Gate of Al-Rayyaan” opened (during Ramadan) and what is its significance?
Allah has promised a great reward to those who fast.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “In Paradise there is a gate called al-Rayyaan, through which those who used to fast will enter on the Day of Resurrection, and no one but they will enter it. It will be said, ‘Where are those who fasted?’ They will get up, and none will enter it but them. When they have entered, it will be locked, and no one else will enter.” (Al-Bukhaari, 1763; Muslim, 1947).

It is known that Paradise has many gates, because Allah says : “‘Adn (Eden) Paradise (everlasting Gardens), which they shall enter and (Also) those who acted righteously from among their fathers, and their wives, and their offspring. And angels shall enter unto them from every gate” [al-Ra’d 13:23]

“And those who kept their duty to their Lord (Al-Muttaqoon – the pious) will be led to Paradise in groups till when they reach it, and its gates will be opened (before their arrival for their reception) and its keepers will say: Salaamu ‘Alaykum (peace be upon you)! You have done well, so enter here to abide therein” [al-Zumar 39:73]

During Ramadan, can one watch movies and soap operas on videos and TVs, and play cards?
Muslims, whether they are fasting or not, should fear Allah with regard to what they are doing and not doing at all times and must avoid that watching obscene movies and the operas which show things that Allah has forbidden. Every Muslim, whether he is fasting or not, must avoid playing with cards and other kinds of games, that can inculcate wrongdoing.

What is the ruling on one who eats or drinks out of forgetfulness during Ramadan?
That does not matter and his fast is valid, because Allah says: “Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error” [al-Baqarah 2:286]

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever breaks his fast in Ramadan out of forgetfulness, he does not have to make that day up and he does not have to offer any expiation (kafaarah).”

Does the use of moisturizers, kohl and some cosmetics break the fast?
Soaps, kohl, facial creams, moisturizers, henna do not break the fast of either women or men; but using it at night is preferable for one who is fasting.

Is the fast invalidated by the act of gargling?
The fast is not invalidated so long as one does not swallow it, but this should not be done unless it is necessary.

If a fasting woman who in her ninth month of pregnancy leaked water (i.e., amniotic fluid), but not blood; does she have to make up the fast?
Her fast is valid and she does not have to make it up.

Is it permissible to use a bad-breath killer aerosol during the day in Ramadan to remove bad breath?
If the aerosol does not reach the throat, then that is permissible, but using a siwaak may be better. Also the following hadeeth should be noted: “the smell from the fasting person’s mouth is better in the sight of Allah than the fragrance of musk.”

Does a wet dream invalidate a fast and does the person have to make it up?
No, it does not invalidate the fast. But ghusl is required.

Is it permissible to go to the dentist while fasting?
Most dental actions do not effect the validity of the fast and furthermore this is allowed as long as no blood or medicine is swallowed. Similarly, if an injection which is not intended for nourishment does not affect the validity of the fast.

Is breaking the fast (iftaar) fard (obligatory)? When a person approaching to the Masjid for Salatul Maghrib, during the time of iftaar, should he/she break the fast and join in the prayer or pray first and then break the fast?
The Sunnah is to hasten to break one’s fast. One should hasten to break the fast by eating small morsels that will calm one’s hunger and then pray.

Does incomplete Hijaab invalidate the fast? When I go out to work I leave my head, neck and hands uncovered but everything else covered?
One should adhere to complete hijaab in front of non-mahram men so that the fast will be accepted. If a Muslim woman fasts but does not wear hijaab, her fast is still valid, but she is sinning by neglecting hijaab. Being uncovered does not affect the validity of one’s fast, but the one who displays her beauty and adornments (tabarruj) is threatened with punishment from Allah for going against His commandment. It is better to obey the commands of Allah:
“…to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies…” [al-Ahzaab 33:59]
“…and not to show off their adornment…” [al-Noor 24:31]
“…and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)…” [al-Noor 24:31]

Is it permissible to delay ghusl for janaabah until after dawn has broken? Is it permissible for women to delay ghusl following the end of menstruation or post-natal bleeding until after dawn has broken?
If a woman sees that she has become taahir (pure) before Fajr, then she has to fast, and it does not matter if she delays ghusl until after dawn has broken. But she should not delay it until the sun is risen.
The same applies in the case of junub (impurity after sexual activity), one should not delay ghusl until after the sun has risen and in the case of men, they should hasten to do ghusl so that they can pray Fajr in congregation.

Which is better during the day in Ramadan – reading Quran or praying voluntary prayers?
This depends on people’s circumstances and its evaluation is up to Allah. The Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was to do a lot of different kinds of worship during Ramadan. Jibreel used to review the Quran with him at night, and when Jibreel met with him, he was more generous in charity than the blowing wind and more so in Ramadan. He used to give more in charity and treat people even more kindly; he would read more Quran, pray more, recite more dhikr, and spend time in I’tikaaf (retreat).

Which medications/actions are permitted whilst fasting?
The following is a summary of shar’i research presented to the Islamic Fiqh Council during its regular meetings:
The following things do not have any effect on the fast:

  • Eye drops, eardrops, ear syringing, nose drops and nasal sprays – so long as one avoids swallowing any material that may reach the throat.
  • Tablets or lozenges that are placed beneath the tongue for the treatment of angina pectoris etc., so long as one avoids swallowing any material that reaches the throat.
  • Vaginal pessaries, douching, use of a speculum, or internal digital examination.
  • Introduction of a scope or coil (IUD), etc., into the uterus.
  • Introduction of a scope or catheter into the urethra (male of female), or injection of dyes for diagnostic imaging, or of medication, or cleaning of the bladder.
  • Drilling of teeth (prior to filling), extraction or polishing of teeth, using a miswaak or toothbrush, so long as one avoids swallowing any material that reaches the throat.
  • Rinsing, gargling or applying topical treatment in the mouth, so long as one avoids swallowing any material that reaches the throat.
  • Injections, whether subcutaneous, intra-muscular or intra-venous – with the exception of those used for purposes of nutrition.
  • Oxygen.
  • Anesthetics, so long as they do not supply nutrition to the patient.
  • Medicines absorbed through the skin, such as creams, lotions and patches used to administer medication through the skin.
  • Introduction of a catheter into the veins in order to examine or treat the vessels of the heart or other organs.
  • Laparoscopy for the purpose of diagnosis or surgical treatment of the abdominal organs.
  • Biopsies of the liver and other organs, so long as this is not accompanied by the administration of nutrients.
  • Gastroscopy, so long as this is not accompanied by the administration of nutrients.
  • Introduction of medicine or instruments into the brain or spinal cord.
  • Involuntary vomiting (as opposed to self-induced vomiting).

It is however preferable to postpone the above-described treatments and procedures until after he has broken his fast, if it is safe to do so.

The young is told to start praying when they are seven year old. Does the same rule apply for fasting?
The young boy is ordered to fast when he reaches the age of 7 is if he is physically capable of bearing it.

Will brushing teeth break your fast?
If tooth paste does not get into the throat, then the fast is not broken. However, it would be better to use tooth paste at night and to Sewaak at day time.

Where there are discrepancies in Fajr time stated on the different timetables of various Masjids of the same town or city, is it ‘safer’ to follow the earliest of those times for the purpose of Imsaak (abstaining from eating, drinking, etc.)?
It is permissible to eat, drink, etc. until one is certain of the time of Fajr : “…eat and drink until the time where the ‘white’ and ‘black’ thresholds of Al-Fajr is evident to you…” [Soorat-ul Baqarah].
If one cannot determine Al-Fajr himself and if there was no one else who could tell him about it through means such as raising the Adaan (The call to prayers), then one should follow the timetable.
You are strongly advised to abide by the timings determined by the Masjid or congregation you attend.

If I were to travel on the 30th day of Ramadan just after Maghrib time, after having broken my fast and I were to arrive at my destination in another country and find that they are still in the day time of their 30th day of Ramadan, what should I do?
Your state should be similar to that of the [Muslim] inhabitants of where you are. So, if they were still observing fasting then you should observe fasting with them even if that means you would be fasting for more than 30 days.

When it comes to the number of rakat to be prayed in Taraweeh’, which is right eight rakat or 20 rakat?
It was the practice of Prophet Muhammad to pray eight rakat and in fact, he never exceeded this amount during his lifetime. Aishah (R) said, ”Whether it was Ramadan or any other month, Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not pray more than eleven rakat.” (Bukhari and Muslim) (i.e. 8 rakat of Taraweeh’ and then 3 rakat of Witr.)

Quality is very important and we should not think because we do not pray 20 rakat of Taraweeh’ that we are not getting as much reward. In fact, we get more reward by following the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and staying behind the imam for the whole prayer until he finishes prayer Witr.

During the Taraweeh’ prayer, can one hold the mus’haf (copy of the Quran) while standing behind the imam?
This is permissible if the imam requests for someone (preferably right behind him) to correct him in the event of his reciting incorrectly. It is not preferable for too many people to correct him as it only causes the imam a great deal of confusion.

This act also causes people to miss out several aspects of the prayer such as looking at the place of sajood (prostration) during salah, having the right hand over the left hand, and in addition it also bothers people who are to the left and right of you.



The above article and question answers have been mainly derived from the following sources:

  • Al-Siyaam – 70 Matters Related to Fasting, Book by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
  • www.islamqa.info

Let us ask Allah to help us to remember Him, thank Him and worship Him properly, and to observe Ramadan with forgiveness, and to save us from the Fire.

May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and his family and companions, and grant them peace.

Source: The Islamic Society of Greater Lansing