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Fasting In Ramadan : Rules and Regulations

Fasting in Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam, which Allah made obligatory on Muslims in the second year of the Prophet’s migration (Hijrah) to Madinah: “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may gain Taqwa (piety)” (2: 183) The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “He who fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven.” (Bukhari) Fasting Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam, which Allah made obligatory on Muslims in the second year of the Prophet’s migration (Hijrah) to Madinah: “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may gain Taqwa (piety)” (2: 183) The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “He who fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven.” (Bukhari) Ramadan is a unique opportunity for Muslims to seek forgiveness and repentance from Allah. It is also a month of opportunity for enormous reward. As the noble month of Ramadan draws near, it is relevant for us to look into some of the rulings associated with fasting. It is incumbent on Muslims to be aware of Allah’s mandates, prohibitions, and permissible actions, in order that we worship Allah with sure sightedness.

Definition and Pillars of fasting
Linguistically, fasting means to abstain from doing something. However, when the notion of fasting is used in Islamic shari ‘a it refers to abstaining from all the things that nullify fasting from the break of dawn (Fajr) till sunset (Maghreb), coupled with the intention of doing so as an act of worship. Fasting the month of Ramadan is obligatory (Fard) according to the Qur’an, Sunnah, and consensus of the scholars on every Muslim who has reached the age of puberty, is sane and is able to fast without it acting as a threat to one’s health due to illness.

The first pillar of fasting is the intention, and the place of the intention is the heart, hence articulating the intention is something not legislated. It is mandatory to have the intention at night, that is, before the break of dawn (Fajr). This is based on the saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Whoever does not intend fasting prior to Fajr, then there is no fasting for him.” It is permissible to make an intention for the whole month at the first evening of Ramadan. However, some scholars have suggested that is obligatory to make an intention every night of Ramadan.

The second pillar of fasting is abstinence; abstaining from the things that break a person’s fast from the break of dawn till sunset, along with a continued intention between these two periods. The third pillar of fasting is the time. That is, one must fast during the days of Ramadan and not the nights. Whoever fasts the nights instead of the days, then their fasting is deemed defective because Allah (s.w.t) says: “…and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your fast till the nightfall…”

Things Which Break the Fast
Eating and drinking deliberately: Any Muslim who eats or drinks intentionally has broken their fast. Whoever does this must repent to Allah, asking Him for forgiveness. Many of the Muslims scholars are of the opinion that he should also make up this day before the next Ramadan. Imam Abu Hanifah holds the opinion that in addition to repenting and the making up the day, he must also feed a poor or needy person. This view is also attributed to Imam Malik.

Induced vomiting : The soundest view amongst the scholars of Islam is that as long as vomiting is unintentional then the fasting remains valid. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “If someone had a sudden attack of vomiting, no atonement is required of him, but if he vomits intentionally he must make atonement.” If any vomit is accidentally swallowed, the fast is not affected.

Menstruation and post-natal bleeding: A woman who bleeds due to any one of these two reasons has broken her fast, even if a woman gets her period seconds before sunset. This is the opinion of the majority of the scholars. The number of fasting days missed must be made up prior to the next Ramadan.

Ejaculation : Regardless of whether this resulted due to the husband kissing his wife, caressing her etc. This is the opinion of the majority of the Muslim scholars and Allah knows best.

Sexual Intercourse: If a fasting person has sexual intercourse during the day of Ramadan, irrespective of whether ejaculation takes place or not the fasting has been broken. In this case a person must repent, seek forgiveness from Allah, and make up this day. Furthermore, he must free a slave if he owns one, if not, then two consecutive months of fasting must be done prior to the next Ramadan. If fasting two consecutive months is detrimental to one’s health then sixty poor or needy people must be fed.

Supplements, nutritional injections and drips: These dietary intakes also break the fast as they defeat one of the main objectives of fasting, namely, to undergo thirst and hunger.

Apostasy : If a fasting person becomes a disbeliever, then their fasting becomes void, as Allah Most High says: “If you commit shirk (associate others in worship with Allah), then surely (all) your deeds will be in vain…”

Who is Exempted from Fasting?
The Sick: Those who are sick but are able to fast must do so. However, if fasting is detrimental to a person’s health, due to illness, then this person is not required to fast. Those who have no hope of recovery are to compensate by paying Fidyah – The feeding of a needy person for every day missed. Those who are temporarily ill are to make up the missed days after their recovery before the next Ramadan.

Travellers : A traveller who will face no difficulty in fasting may choose not to fast, but fasting in his case is preferable. If, however, fasting will cause a traveller hardships then it is advised to take up the favour and concession of Allah granted to him, and break the fast. The missed days must be made up before the next Ramadan.

Children : Fasting is not required of children until they reach the age of puberty. The signs of puberty are: the growth of pubic hair, the occurrence of wet dreams, and in the case of a female, the menstrual period. If a person turns the age of fifteen and none of these signs have appeared, then they are considered to have reached the age of puberty. Although children are not obligated to fast prior to puberty, they should be encouraged to fast if there is no fear of harm as this will train them to fast.

Controversial Issues
Unintentionally Eating or Drinking after the Break of Dawn or before Sunset : The correct opinion concerning a person who eats or drinks believing that the break of dawn has not commenced, or that the sun has set when it actually hasn’t taken place does not need to make up that day. During the leadership of ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) some people broke their fast, some moments later, the sun appeared. They asked whether they should make up this day, at which ‘Umar responded by saying: “No, by Allah, we did not have any inclination towards a wrongful action.” In addition, we have the incident whereby Asmaa’ (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “We broke our fast on a cloudy day during Ramadan at the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), then the sun appeared.” (Bukhari) Ibn Taymiyyah said: “This suggests it is not obligatory to make up the day, for if the Prophet (peace be upon him) had ordered them to make up that day, this would have been widely known, just as the news of the breaking of their fast was widely circulated.

Use of Nose Drops, Eye Drops, Intravenous Injections and Perfume :
The scholars of Islam differed about the use of these things during fasting. The correct opinion - and Allah knows best - is that these things do not nullify fasting, and that no compensation is required if used, even if the nose or eye drops pass the throat. This is the opinion of ibn ‘Umar, Anas ibn Malik, Abu Hanifah, ash-Shaafi, and ibn Taymiyyah. There is nothing authentically mentioned by the Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibiting their use.

Water Entering the Stomach Accidentally :
Water that enters into the stomach as a result of sniffing or rinsing out of the mouth has also caused controversy amongst scholars. The correct opinion is that the fasting is not broken, as this has occurred unintentionally. Although sniffing water up the nostrils during wudu is desirable, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) advised that it should be avoided during fasting.

Use of Puffers : Puffers used for asthma do not break the fast according to a number of scholars. This is because it is considered as compressed gas that goes to the lungs, and does in no way nourish or quench the thirst.

Pregnant and Breast Feeding Women : Women who are pregnant or breast feeding are allowed to break their fast if they fear for their health or the health of their infant or fetus. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah Most High has given concession to the traveller to pray half the Salat, and for the traveller, the pregnant, and the breast feeding and fasting.” (ibn Majah) The respected scholars of Islam differed concerning how a woman who is pregnant or breast-feeding must compensate for her missed days. The first opinion is that of the companions Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn ‘Umar, (may Allah be pleased with them) who said that she should only needs to feed a needy person for each missed day.

The second opinion is that of Abu Hanifah who said she needs to make up the day only. Imam Ash-Shafi and Imam Ahmad hold the opinion that she must both feed and make up the days. According to Imam Malik, a pregnant woman must make up the day only, and that one who was breastfeeding must feed and make up the days. The correct opinion – and Allah knows best – is that she only needs to feed a poor or needy person for each missed day. This is because we do not have any reports from any of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) opposing Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn ‘Umar’s verdict – Two of Islam’s most learned men concerning the Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah.

We ask Allah Most High through His beautiful and greatest names and attributes to bless us with the strength that will enable us to remember Him, glorify Him, and exalt Him throughout this sacred month and throughout our lives .

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