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Fasting (As-Siyam)

– from Fiqh us-Sunnah

As-Siyam generally means “to abstain from something.” For example, a verse in the Quran says: “I have vowed to the Merciful to abstain – that is, from speaking.” What is meant here is abstaining from the food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn until sunset with the explicit intention of doing so (for the sake of Allah).

The Virtues of Fasting:
Abu Hurairah reported the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, saying: “Allah said: ‘Every action of the son of Adam is for him except fasting, for this is solely for Me, I give the reward for it.’ The fast is a shield. If one is fasting, he should not use foul language, raise his voice, or behave foolishly. If someone reviles him or fights with him he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ twice. By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the [bad] breath of the one who is fasting is better in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection than the smell of musk. The one who is fasting is happy at two times: when he breaks his fast he is happy with it, and when he meets his Lord he will be happy that he has fasted.” This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and an-Nasa’i. A similar version was recorded by al-Bukhari and Abu Dawud, but with the following addition: “He leaves his food, drink, and desires for My sake. His fasting is for Me… I will give the reward for it, and for every good deed, he will receive ten similar to it.”

Abdullah ibn ‘Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “The fast and the Quran are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: ‘O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the days. Let me intercede for him.’ The Quran will say: ‘I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.’ And their intercession will be accepted.” Ahmad related this hadith with a sahih (meaning “authentic” or “sound”) chain.

Abu Umamah reported: “I came to the Messenger of Allah and said: ‘Order me to do a deed that will allow me to enter Paradise.’ He said: ‘Stick to fasting, as there is no equivalent to it.’ Then I came to him again and he said: ‘Stick to fasting.’” This hadith is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa’i, and al-Hakim who classified it as sahih.

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “No servant fasts on a day in the path of Allah except that Allah removes the hellfire seventy years further away from his face.” This is related by “the group”. except for Abu Dawud.

Sahl ibn Sa’d reported that the Prophet said: “There is a gate to Paradise that is called ar-Rayyan. On the Day of Resurrection it will say: ‘Where are those who fasted?’ When the last [one] has passed through the gate, it will be locked.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

Types of Fasting:
There are two types of fasting: obligatory and voluntary. Obligatory can be further subdivided into the fast of Ramadan, the fast of expiation and the fast of fulfilling a vow.

The Fast of Ramadan
(2:183-185) O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may self-restraint. [Fasting for] a prescribed number of days. … The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

From the sunnah we have the following statements of the Prophet: “Islam is built upon five pillars: testifying that there is no God except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, the establishment of the prayer, the giving of zakah, the fast of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Maakah.” Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah reported that a man came to the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of Allah, tell me what Allah requires of me as regards fasting.” He answered, “The month of Ramadan.” The man asked: “Is there any other [fast]?” The Prophet answered: “No, unless you do so voluntarily.”

The Virtues of Ramadan and the Deeds Done during it
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “The blessed month has come to you. Allah has made fasting during it obligatory upon you. During it, the gates to Paradise are opened and the gates to hellfire are locked, and the devils are chained. There is a night [during this month] which is better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of its good is really deprived [of something great].” This is related by Ahmad and an-Nasa’i.

Muslim relates that Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet saying: “The time between the five prayers, two consecutive Friday prayers, and two consecutive Ramadans are expiation for all that has happened during that period, provided that one has avoided the grave sins.”

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan, obeying all of its limitations and guarding himself against what is forbidden, has in fact atoned for any sins he committed before it.” Ahmad related this hadith with a good chain.

The Consequence of breaking the fast of Ramadan
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “Whoever breaks his fast during Ramadan without having one of the excuses that Allah would excuse him for, then even a perpetual fast, if he were to fast it, would not make up for that day.” This is related by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmidhi.

The Arrival of Ramadan
This event is confirmed by sighting the new moon, even if it is seen by just only one person, or by the passage of thirty days in the immediately preceding month of Sha’ban.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet instructed: “Fast after you have seen it [the new crescent] and end the fast when you see it. If it is hidden from you, then wait until the thirty days of Sha’ban have passed.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

The Essential Elements of the Fast
The fast has two essential elements (literally, “pillars”) that must be fulfilled for it to be valid and acceptable. They are:

(1) Abstaining from those acts that break the fast:
(2:187) It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the sunset. And do not approach them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques [I’htikaf]. These are the limits [set by] Allah, so do not approach them. Thus does Allah make clear His ordinances to the people that they may guard themselves against evil.

This is also based on the following hadith: “When the verse ‘Eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you…’ was revealed, I took a black thread and a white thread and placed them underneath my pillow. During the night I looked at them to see if I could distinguish between them. In the morning, I went to the Messenger of Allah and mentioned that to him and he said: ‘It is the black of the night and the white of the day.’”

It is also the time that Fajr starts.

(2) The Intention
Allah instructs in the Quran: “And they are ordained nothing else than to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him.” The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Actions are judged according to the intention behind them, and for everyone is what he intended.”

The intention must be made before Fajr and during every night of Ramadan. The intention is valid during any part of the night. It need not be spoken, as it is in reality an act of the heart which does not involve the tongue. It will be fulfilled by one’s intention to fast out of obedience to Allah and for seeking His pleasure.

Who must Fast
Every sane, adult, healthy male Muslim who is not traveling at that time. As for a woman, she must not be menstruating or having post-childbirth bleeding. People who are insane, minors, and those who are traveling, menstruating, or going through post-childbirth bleeding, the elderly, breast-feeding or pregnant women do not need to observe the fast.

(2:183)…So whoever among you are ill or on a journey [during them] – then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew…

Making up the Missed Days of Ramadan
Any days except few exceptions, after Ramadan and before the next Ramadan, can fast. Women who missed the fasting in Ramadan due to menstruation and childbirth, do not need to make up the missed prayers, only need to make up the missed fast.

The Forbidden Days to Fast
(1) The days of Eid.
(2) The days of Tashreeq (that is the three days following the Eid al-Adha)
(3) It is prohibited to single out Friday as a day of fasting. If one also fasts Thursday or Saturday, then it’s permissible to fast on Friday.
(4) It is forbidden to fast on the “day of doubt”. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “Do not precede Ramadan by fasting the day or two before it unless it is a day on which the person usually fasts.”
(5) It is forbidden to fast every day of the year.
(6) It is prohibited to fast consecutive days without eating at all [al-wisal].

The Manners of Fasting
(1) Eating a pre-dawn meal. Al-Miqdam ibn Madyakrib reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “You should eat this pre-dawn meal for it is a blessed nourishment.” This is related by an-Nasa’i with a good chain.
(2) Hastening in breaking the fast. Sahl ibn Sa’d reported that the Prophet said: “People will always be with the good as long as they hasten in breaking the fast.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim. Anas reported: “The Messenger of Allah would break his fast with ripe dates before he would pray. If those were not available, he would eat dried dates. If those were not available, he would drink some water.” This hadith is related by Abu Dawud.
(3) Supplications while breaking the fast and while fasting.
(4) Refraining from performing any actions that do not befit the fasting. Fasting is a type of worship that draws one closer to Allah. Allah has prescribed it to purify the soul and to train it in good deeds. The fasting person must be on guard against any act that may cause him to lose the benefits of his fast. Thus, his fast will increase his God-consciousness. Fasting is not just refraining from eating and drinking, but it is also refraining from everything else that Allah has forbidden. Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said: “Allah does not need the fast of one who does not abandon false speech or acting according to his false speech.” This is related by the group, except for Muslim.
(5) Using the tooth stick [brush]. It is preferred for the fasting person to use a tooth stick or a brush for teeth.
(6) Being generous and studying the Quran.
(7) Striving to perform as many acts of worship as possible during the last ten days of Ramadan.