Illnesses are temporary or chronic. Temporary illnesses may cause a person to break their fast. In this case, they must make up the missed days after they recuperate. As for chronic illnesses, there will be no chance to make up the missed days. This raises the following questions:
What is the legal ruling regarding an old man or woman who cannot fast or make up the missed days?
What if the person suffers from a chronic disease such as diabetes or kidney failure?
But one among you who is sick or is on a journey shall then fast the same number of other days.
To answer these questions, let us first look at the interpretations of the following ʾaya (verse of the Qurʾan): Allah says:
“It is for a specified number of days. But one among you who is sick or is on a journey shall then fast the same number of other days. Yet for those who are (yuṭīqūnahu) (hardly) able to endure it, and do not fast, the redemption for each day, is feeding an indigent person “instead”.” (Quran 2:184)
Ibn ʿAbbas’s opinion
Ibn ʿAbbās (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) holds the opinion that the word yuṭiqunahu means that if a person finds it very difficult to fast or cannot fast, they should break their fast and feed an indigent person instead.
The majority of the Companions’ Opinion
However, the majority of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) say that the above mentioned ʾaya is abrogated.
In fact, the obligation of fasting was gradual. At first, it was optional for a person to fast or to feed an indigent person. Then, fasting became obligatory and the option of feeding was abrogated.
Thus, in the majority’s opinion, the word yuṭīqūnahu means if a person who can fast but chooses not to fast, they must feed an indigent person.
In short, Ibn ʿAbbās (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) disagrees with the other Companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) in the following two points:
1. Ibn ʿAbbās interprets the word (yuṭīqūnahu) ‘those who are able to endure it’ as ‘those who are hardly able to endure it.
2. He uses the verse as a proof while it is abrogated.
The Majority of scholars hold the opinion that the abrogating verse is the following:
“So whoever among you bears witness to the month shall then fast it. Yet if one among you is sick or is on a journey (such a person shall then fast,) the same number of other days.” (Qurʾan 2:185)
Another proof that supports Ibn ʿAbbās’s opinion:
Some scholars also hold the opinion that old age and sickness are legal excuses for breaking one’s fast but the person must feed in indigent person instead.
This is the proof for that:
In a Mu’allaq Hadith (Suspended Hadith) related in Saḥīḥ Al-Bukhārī, Al-Bukhārī said,
“After growing old, Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) (was not able to fast and he) used to feed an indigent person bread and meat every day”
In short, there are two opinions regarding the answer to the two questions mentioned above:
1. Feeding an indigent person is a substitute for fasting in case of long-lasting inability. This opinion is more popular as it is better to avoid disagreement.
2. There is no substitute for fasting in case of inability. Feeding is only recommended if a person wants to emulate Anas (may Allah be pleased with him).
Breast-feeding and pregnant women
If pregnant women and those who breast-feed fear that fasting may cause harm to them or to the fetus or baby, they should break their fast.
What should breast-feeding and pregnant women do if they break their fast?
There are here a number of opinions:
First, Some scholars treat pregnancy as illness. Allah says,
“One’s mother bore one in feebleness upon feebleness” (Qurʾan 31:14)
In this case, they are treated as sick people who break their fast and make up the missed days later.
Second, scholars who adopt the opinion of Ibn ʿAbbās mentioned above say that they should break their fast and feed an indigent person for every day.
Third, other scholars like Ibn Ḥazm al-Ẓahirī say that they should break their fast without making up the missed days later or feeding an indigent person for every day.
Ibn Ḥazm used the following Hadith as a legal proof to support his opinion:
Narrated Anas ibn Malik:
A man from Banū ʿAbdullahh ibn Kaʿb brethren of Banū Qushayr (not Anas ibn Malik, the well-known Companion), said:
A contingent from the cavalry of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) raided us. I reached (for he said went) to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) who was taking his meals.
He said: Sit down, and take some from this meal of ours. I said: I am fasting, he said: Sit down, I shall tell you about prayer and fasting.
Allah has remitted half the prayer to a traveller, and fasting to the traveller, the woman who is suckling an infant and the woman who is pregnant, I swear by Allah, he mentioned both (i.e. suckling and pregnant women) or one of them. I was grieved for not taking the food of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).
(Related by Al-Tirmidhī, Abū Dāwūd and Ibn Mājah)
Other scholars say that this hadith allows the pregnant and breast-feeding women to break their fast. However, it did not disallow them to make up the missed days. Thus, it is a weak opinion.
The preferred opinion is the first one as it is in agreement with the explicit meaning of the verses related to fasting.
The true meaning of worship is achieved through the true submission and obedience to Allah’s commands. This is very obvious here, but how?؟
When it is obligatory to fast, Muslims hasten to obey Allah through observing it. Also, when it is forbidden to fast, they do not. This article highlights those days on which fasting is prohibited.
When it is obligatory to fast, Muslims hasten to obey Allah through observing it. Also, when it is forbidden to fast, they do not.
What are the days on which fasting is prohibited?
1. Eid al-Fitr (festival of fast-breaking)
This festival marks the end of Ramadan and based on proofs from the Sunnah, it lasts only for the first day of Shawwal, the 10th month in the lunar calendar. Traditionally, it can last for up to three days.
2. Eid al-Ad-ha (festival of sacrifice)
This is the Muslims’ second festival that marks the end of the most important pillar of the pilgrimage to Makka (mecca), namely, standing on Arafat. It lasts only for the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah, the 12th month in the lunar calendar. Usually, it can last for up to four days. The three days that follow the first day of the festival will be discussed below.
Scholars unanimously agree on the prohibition of fasting on those two days, that is, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Ad-ha. Moreover, celebrating on these two days is an act of worship as long as acts of disobedience are avoided. This is supported by the proof from the Sunnah:
Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (RAA) narrated. ‘The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) has prohibited fasting on two days; the Day of Fitr (breaking the fast of Ramadan) and on the Day of sacrifice (‘Eid al-Ad-ha).’ (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
3. The days of Tashriq
These are the 11th, 12th and 13th days of Dhul-Hijjah. It is also prohibited to fast on these days except for the pilgrim who cannot offer a sacrifice.
‘A’isha and lbn ‘Umar (RAA) narrated, ‘Nobody was allowed to fast on the days of Tashriq except for those, who could not afford the Hadi (sacrifice).’ (Al-Bukhari)
Nubaishah Al-Hudhali (RAA) narrated that The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“The days of Tashriq (the three days following ‘Idul Ad-ha, i.e. 11th , 12th and 13th of Dhul Hijjah) are days of eating, drinking and remembering (dhikr) of Allah, the Most Great and Glorious.” (Sahih Muslim)
4. The day of doubt
This is the 30th day of Sha’ban, the 8th month in the lunar calendar.
On the 29th night of Sha’ban, it is sometimes impossible or to see the new moon. This makes people doubt the beginning of Ramadan and whether the following day is the 30th of Sha’ban or the first day of Ramadan. That’s why it is called “the day of doubt”.
According to the opinion of the majority of scholars, Muslims are allowed to fast only if the sight of the new moon is proven.
Scholars differ on whether fasting on this day is reprehensible or prohibited. The preferred opinion is that it is prohibited to fast on the day of doubt. This is in agreement with the meaning of the following hadith:
‘Ammar ibn Yasir said: “Whoever fasts on the day concerning which there is doubt has disobeyed Abul-Qasim (Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).” Al-Bukhary related this Hadith as Mu’allaq1 (Suspended).
However, fasting on this day is only allowed if it happens to be on the usual days a person usually fasts. For example, the person observing fasting on Mondays and Thursdays is allowed to fast on the day of doubt if it happens to be on Monday or Thursday.
1: Mu’allaq Hadith is a hadith in which one or more narrators is removed from the beginning of the isnad i.e the chain of narration. Scholars consider Mu’allaq hadiths found in Sahih Al-Bukhary to be authentic.
The recommended acts of worship are those acts whose performance is rewarded by Allah. However, there is no punishment if they are not performed.
The recommended acts of fasting:
Although there are many recommended acts concerning fasting, we will discuss here those ones related to fiqh. These are as follows:
1. Hastening to break one’s fast at sunset
It is recommended to break the fast with fresh dates. If there are no fresh dates, then one should break the fast with dried dates
When one feels sure it is sunset and the Maghrib (Sunset Prayer) announces, it is recommended for one to hasten to break the fast in both obligatory and supererogatory fasting.
Sahl bin Sa’d (RAA) narrated That the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “People will always be fine (on the right path, or following the Sunnah) as long as they hasten to break their fast.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
2. Starting with fresh dates, dried dates or water
It is recommended to break the fast with fresh dates. If there are no fresh dates, then one should break the fast with dried dates. If there are not any, then one should break his or her fast with water.
After that, one can have the main meal of the day called iftar (the breaking of the fast).
Narrated Anas ibn Malik: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to break his fast before praying (the sunset prayer) with some fresh dates; but if there were no fresh dates, he had a few dry dates, and if there were no dry dates, he took some mouthfuls of water. (Abu Dawud and Al-Tirmidhi)
3. Supplicating Allah when one breaks the fast
Supplication (du’aa) to Allah is always recommended. However, there are certain times on which du’aa is far more recommended. One of these times for the fasting person is at sunset. In addition, du’aa at this time is never rejected as long as the etiquette and prerequisites for making du’aa are observed.
Ibn Umar said that the Prophet (ﷺ) said when he broke his fast: Thirst has gone, the arteries are moist, and the reward is sure, if Allah wills. (Abu Dawud)
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “There are three whose supplication is not rejected: The fasting person when he breaks his fast, the just leader, and the supplication of the oppressed person; Allah raises it up above the clouds and opens the gates of heaven to it. And the Lord says: ‘By My might, I shall surely aid you, even if it should be after a while.” (Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)
4. Having Suhur direclty before dawn
In addition to the blessing in it, suhur gives the person observing fasting the energy to better perform the other acts of worship. It is recommended to eat suhur and to finish eating it 10 or 15 minutes before the time of dawn.
Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Eat Suhur (predawn meal). Surely, there is a blessing in Suhur.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
The things that invalidate Fasting
Fasting becomes invalid if any of the following occurs. However, there are actions that break the fast unanimously and there are other cases on which there is a difference of opinions regarding them. Here is the discussion of that!
Fiqh of Fasting: There are actions that break the fast unanimously and others where there is a difference of opinions.
1. Anything that reaches the stomach intentionally
If a person swallows anything intentionally even if it is as little as a seed and whether it is taken through the mouth, the nose, etc., the fast is invalid. However, if a person eats or drinks while forgetting that he or she is fasting, their fast is valid.
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If somebody eats something forgetfully while he is fasting, then he should complete his fast, for Allah has made him eat and drink.” [Al-Bukhari]
2. Injection and enema
There are three opinions regarding having injections:
First, they invalidate the fast because they enter the body.
Second, they do not invalidate the fast because they are not put into the body through the mouth. Moreover, they are not used to satisfy hunger or thirst and they are not food or drink.
Third, some scholars differentiate between nutrient injections and other injections. They say that only nutrient injections invalidate the fast.
The preferred opinion is the third one. However, it is better to have injections at night if possible.
As for enemas, Islam Question & Answer website discusses this matter as follows:
Concerning enemas which are given to sick people to counteract constipation, there is a difference of opinion among the scholars. Some say that it does break the fast, based on the fact that everything that reaches inside the digestive tract breaks the fast. And some of them said that it does not break the fast. Among those who said that was Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, who said that this is not food or drink, and it is not like food or drink.
What I think is that we should look at the doctors’ opinions concerning that; if they say that this is like food or drink then it should be classified as such and thus it breaks the fast. If they say that this does not give the body what food and drink give it, then it does not break the fast.
3. Cupping, blood donation and biopsies
There are different opinions regarding cupping and whether it invalidates fasting. Let us look at the most famous proofs related to this issue:
1. ”The cupper and the one for whom cupping is done, both their fasting is broken.”(Abu Dawud, Musnad Ahmad, Al-Nasa’i’s Al-Sunan Al-Kubra) This is an authentic hadith related through several chains of narrations tracing back to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
2. Narrated Ibn `Abbas: The Prophet (ﷺ) was cupped while he was in the state of lhram, and also while he was observing a fast. [Al-Bukhari]
3. Narrated Thabit Al-Bunani: Anas bin Malik was asked whether they disliked the cupping for a fasting person. He replied in the negative and said, “Only if it causes weakness.” [Al-Bukhari]
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal is of the opinion that cupping invalidates fasting. He used hadith 1 above to support his opinion. In addition, he says that there is a defect in the narration of hadith 2 above and the sound version the following:
Narrated Ibn `Abbas: The Prophet (ﷺ) was cupped while he was fasting. [Al-Bukhari]
On the other hand, the majority of scholars are of the opinion that cupping does not invalidate fasting for hadith 2 and 3 mentioned above. As for hadith 1, the majority’s opinion is that it is abrogated.
There are other interpretations to hadith 1 which help support the majority’s opinion. One interpretation is that it is a specific issue where the persons involved were backbiting people. Thus, they will not be rewarded for their fasting due to backbiting. Cupping has nothing to do with this.
The preferred opinion is that of the majority of scholars. However, it is better to do cupping at night.
Blood donation and biopsies take the same ruling mentioned above.
4. Intentional vomiting
Scholars differentiate between intentional and unintentional vomiting. The opinion of the majority of scholars is that only intentional vomiting invalidates the fast.
The issue is discussed in detail in a previous article (click here).
5. Sexual intercourse
Scholars unanimously agreed that sexual intercourse invalidates the fast. The proofs from the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the Consensus of scholars are mentioned in the previous article (click here).
There are some issues related to sexual intercourse:
– Kissing, fondling or embracing one’s spouse
It is allowed for the person observing fasting to kiss, embrace and fondle his or her spouse as long as the spouses are able to control their desires. If the spouses fear that this may lead to having sexual intercourse, then, it is not allowed to continue. In this case, blocking the means to unallowable matter is better because it prevents one from committing an act of disobedience.
There are a number of hadith that support this legal ruling. Here is one of them.
‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) used to kiss (his wives) while fasting and embraced (them) while fasting; but he had the greatest mastery over his desire among you. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) differentiate between the old and the young.
Abdullah ibn Abbas was asked about people kissing while fasting and he said that he allowed it for old men but disapproved of it for young men. (Muwatta’ Malik)
6. Intentional ejaculation or ejaculation while the person is awake
The majority of scholars are of the opinion that intentional ejaculation due to masturbation, fondling, etc. invalidates the fast. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah says: ‘(The person observing fasting) has abstained from food and drink, and sexual pleasures for My sake; fasting is for Me, and I will bestow its reward. Every good deed has ten times its reward’. [Al-Bukhari]
However, if the person observing fasting has a wet dream during the day, the fast is valid. There is a consensus of opinion regarding this issue.
On the other hand, if a person has sexual intercourse anytime during the night and they do not have a ritual bath till the time of dawn, the fast is valid. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) (at times) got up in the morning in a state of major ritual impurity, not because of sexual dreams (but on account of intercourse at night), and then observed fast. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
7. Menses, childbirth and postnatal bleeding
There is a consensus of opinion among the scholars that menses or postnatal bleeding invalidates the fast. If any of them occurs during the time of fasting, the fast is invalid.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Isn’t it true that a woman does not pray and does not fast on menstruating?” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Mu’adha said: I asked ‘A’isha: What is the reason that a menstruating woman makes up the fasts (that she abandons during her monthly course). but she does not make up the prayers? She (‘A’isha) said: Are you a Haruriya? I said: I am not a Haruriya, but I simply want to inquire. She said: We passed through this (period of menstruation), and we were ordered to make up the fasts, but were not ordered to make up the prayers. (Muslim)
Scholars unanimously agree that apostasy, abandonment of Islam, invalidates the fast. Allah says,
“Yet truly it has been revealed to you, O Prophet, and to those of the prophets before you: If ever you were to associate any gods with God, then utterly futile would be all your good works. And, most surely, you yourself would have become among the losers, of an everlasting Paradise.” (Quran 39:65)
The Essential Elements of Fasting
These are the mandatory acts that must be observed so that fasting can be valid.
1. The niyyah (intention)
Fasting in which the intention is not observed is invalid. Allah says,
“though they were not commanded, but to worship (One) God – making the practice of their religion pure and, sincere to Him alone, being ever upright of heart. (Qur’an 98:5)
It has been narrated on the authority of Umar b. al-Khattab that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
The Essential Elements of Fasting are the mandatory acts that must be observed so that fasting can be valid. Read more about them here..
(The value of) an action depends on the intention behind it. A man will be rewarded only for what he intended. The emigration of one who emigrates for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ) is for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ) ; and the emigration of one who emigrates for gaining a worldly advantage or for marrying a woman is for what he has emigrated. [Al-Bukhārī and Muslim]
When must a person state or confirm the intention of Fasting?
Scholars differentiate between compulsory and voluntary fasting.
The compulsory fasting
The majority of scholars are of the opinion that the person must state the intention of fasting any time during the night until the time of dawn. Thus, if a person states their intention or makes up their mind to fast after the time of dawn, fasting is invalid.
To support their opinion, they used the above mentioned hadith along with the following one:
“Whoever does not form his intention to fast before to fajr (dawn), his fasting will not be accepted.” Related by the five Imams, but At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i consider it to be related by Hafsah and not connected to the Prophet (ﷺ).
In Imām Abū Ḥanīfah’s opinion, it is allowed for a person to intend to fast after dawn and during the day in both voluntary and compulsory fasting as long as they have not had any food or drink.
The voluntary fasting
In voluntary fasting, the majority of scholars say that it is allowed to intend to fast during the day. For example, if a person wakes up in the morning of a certain day, they may intend to fast that day. However, this is only allowed if the person has not eaten, drunk or had sexual intercourse from the time of dawn.
There are a number of hadiths that support this opinion. Here is one of them:
‘A’isha, the Mother of the Believers (Allah be pleased with her), reported:
The Apostle of Allah (ﷺ) came to me one day and said: Is there anything with you (to eat)? I said: No. Thereupon he said: I shall then be fasting. Then he came to us another day and we said: Messenger of Allah, hais (a compound of dates and clarified butter) has been offered to us as a gift. Thereupon he said: Show that to me; I had been fasting since morning. He then ate it. (Saḥīḥ Muslim)
It should also be noted that intending to break one’s fast invalidates it.
2. Abstaining from food and drink
It is agreed upon that eating or drinking intentionally breaks one’s fast. There are proofs from the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the Consensus that indicate that the person observing fasting is not allowed to eat or drink from dawn to sunset. Allah says,
“Moreover, you may “now” eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes clear to you, as distinguished, from the black thread “of night”. Then complete the fast until the night” (Qur’an 2:187)
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If one does not eschew lies and false conduct, Allah has no need that he should abstain from his food and his drink.” [Al-Bukhari]
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah says: ‘(The person observing fasting) has abstained from food and drink, and sexual pleasures for My sake; fasting is for Me, and I will bestow its reward. Every good deed has ten times its reward’.” [Al-Bukhari]
The consensus among the Muslim scholars is that intentional eating and drinking during the time of fasting invalidates it.
3. Abstaining from sexual intercourse
The person observing fasting must also abstain from having sexual intercourse during their fast. There are proofs supporting this ruling from the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the Consensus. Allah says,
“Permitted for you (believers), on the night of the fast is intimate approach to your wives. They are a garment for you. And you are a garment for them. God knows that (before granting this permission), you used to betray yourselves. Thus He has granted you repentance (for what is past), and pardoned you. So now you may lie with them and seek whatever (offspring) God has decreed for you…” (Qur’an 2:187)
Narrated Abu Huraira: A person had sexual relation with his wife in the month of Ramadan (while he was fasting), and he came to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) seeking his verdict concerning that action. The Prophet (ﷺ) said (to him), “Can you afford to manumit a slave?” The man said, “No.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Can you fast for two successive months?” He said, “No.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Then feed sixty poor persons.” [Al-Bukhārī and Muslim]
As for the Consensus, Imam al-Nawawi (may Allah shower him with His mercy) said, “The Muslim nation have reached a consensus that having a sexual intercourse is prohibited for the person observing fasting and on the invalidity of their fast.
4. Abstaining from intentional vomiting
Islam Question & Answer website discusses this issue as follows:
Vomiting refers to when food etc. is expelled from the stomach outside the body. With regard to whether this breaks the fast or not, the ruling depends on whether it was done deliberately or not. If a person vomits deliberately, this breaks the fast and he has to make up that day. If he cannot help vomiting and vomits involuntarily, then his fast is still valid and he does not have to do anything else.
If a person needs to vomit because he is sick and vomiting will help him to recover, then it is permissible for him to do that, but he has to make up that day after Ramadan, because Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Sawm (fasts) must be made up] from other days” [Qur’an 2:185]
According to the correct scholarly view, it makes no difference whether the amount of vomit is great or small. If a person vomits deliberately and only a small amount comes out, the fast is broken. It says in al-Furoo’: If a person makes himself vomit and vomits anything, then his fast is broken, because of the report of Abu Hurayrah: “Whoever cannot help vomiting does not have to do anything but whoever makes himself vomit deliberately has to make up that day.” Al-Furoo’, 3/49. This hadeeth was narrated by Abu Dawood, 2380; al-Tirmidhi, 720 – he said the scholars follow this. It was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani.
But there is a difference between spitting and vomiting. Spitting and hawking etc do not come from the stomach, so there is nothing wrong with expelling that matter. But vomiting comes from the stomach as explained above.
And Allah knows best.