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A Guide to Ramadhan and Fasting

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The Rulings on Fastings

THE fast of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam and is an obligation upon every responsible Muslim who is capable of doing it. Fasting in Ramadan is an effective form of worship and leads to the moral, spiritual and social development of the individual. It is therefore important to know how to carry this out correctly in order to derive maximum bene?t from it.

2. 1 People Exempted from Fasting During Ramadan

Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory on every sane adult Muslim, male or female. However, the following groups are exempted:

The Insane or Mentally Deranged.

It is not obligatory for the insane to fast neither is it valid if they do so because they are devoid of sanity which is the basis for performing religious duties.


Fasting is not obligatory for children before they attain the age of puberty (balagh). However, if they choose to fast this is valid and it is good. training for children if parents encourage them to fast. Immediately upon reaching puberty, fasting becomes obligatory.

Seriously Ill.

Those who are genuinely ill and fear that fasting will worsen their condition or result in real harm, should not fast. If someone has begun the day fasting but falls seriously ill during the day and fears that continuing the fast will worsen their condition, then they should break the fast. Any fasts that are missed or broken by an ill person should be made up upon recovery at a later date (qada).

Chronicaliy Ill.

The chronically ill who have little hope of returning to health or who are dependant on medication during daylight hours can substitute their fasts by feeding a needy person. This is called fidyah (ransom).

Elderly People.

Elderly people who are weak and unable to fast at any time of the year and who have no prospect of being able to fast are exempt from fasting. However, according to the Hanafi and Shaf'i madhhabs they must pay the fidyah. In the best known position of the Maliki madhhab, it is recommended. If they cannot afford to pay it, they should seek forgiveness from Allah for their shortcomings. The Hanbalis maintain that while the fidyah is recommended, it is not obligatory.

Pregnant and Nursing Mothers.

If a pregnant or a nursing mother fears that fasting may be detrimental to her health or that of her baby, she is permitted to refrain from fasting. Any fasts missed must be made up at a later date when she is capable of it (qada). However, there are different views as to whether she should give fidyah in addition to making up the missed fasts. In this regard the Hanbalis observe that it is not obligatory. The Malikis are of the opinion that it is obligatory for a nursing Woman though not for a pregnant one. The Hanbalis and the Shafi's say that giving the fidyahis obligatory upon a pregnant or a nursing woman only if she fears harm for her child, but if she fears harm for her own health as well as that of the child, she is only bound to perform. the fasts missed and not required to give the fidyah.

Menstruating Women/Post Natal Bleeding.

The fast of a woman in the state of menstruation (hayd) or post-natal bleeding (nifaas) is not valid. The missed fasts must be made up at a later date (qada).


The following conditions should be met for a person to be classified as a traveller:

If the above conditions are fulfiled then it is permissible to forgo the fast and make it up at a later date (qada).

Although the concession is granted to forgo the fast for any such journey, even one of 48 miles or more, it is better to consider the effect that the journey will have on the traveller. If fasting during travel will cause genuine hardship then it can be postponed and must be made up at a later date (qada). If there is no such constraint then the traveller may fast. However, one must not deliberately make travel plans during Ramadan to avoid fasting.

2.2 The Essentials of Fasting

There are two essentials parts of fasting:

  1. Niyyah (intention)
  2. Refraining from those acts which invalidate the fast.
  1. It is essential to make the niyyah (intention) to fast. This must be in the heart but it can also be expressed in words according to the Hanafi madhhab. An example of an intention is:

Wabi saumi ghadin nawaym min shahri Ramadan
I intend to fast tomorrow in the month of Ramadan.

The intention to fast the following day must be made during any part of the night (from sunset until just before dawn). The intention to fast must be present in the heart each night for the following day's fast to be valid. In the Maliki madhhab it is only obligatory to intend the fast at the beginning of the month intending to fast the whole month. However, in that case, someone who travels during the month must on becoming resident again, form the intention to fast the rest of the month. The niyyah can be made in a state of ritual impurity.

b) It is essential to refrain from those acts that invalidate the fast beginning from the first light of dawn [fajr) and ending When the sun sets (maghrib).

2.3 The Etiquettes of Fasting

It is highly recommended to take the pre-dawn meal (suhar). The Prophet would Wake up early for the night prayer (tahajjnd) , as he ordinarily did, and later eat snhur. I urged people to have this meal as it is a mercy and blessing from Allah and makes the fast easier:

None of yon should miss it even if it is a sip of water since Allah and His angels bless those who have the dawn meal. (Ahmad)

The day should be spent engaging in good deeds as the Prophet did. His day would be spent in devotion, prayer, dhuhr, service to others, and teaching and admonishing people. He would pray in the mosque

One should refrain from all Wrong actions such as lying and backbiting. The Prophet said

When any of you is fasting, let him not commit sin... (Bukhari)

Whoever does not stop speaking failsehood and acting in accordance with it, Allah has no need of him giving up his food and drinle. (Bukhari)

Dhahaba az-zama', wa'btalIat al-'urooq, wa thabat a'l-ajm insha'Allah
Thirst is gone, veins are flowing again, and the reward is certain, insha'Al1ah. (Abu Dawud)

Allahumma Inni Asaluka bi rahmatika allati wa si’at kulla shay
O Allah, I ask you by Your mercy which envelopes all things, that You forgive me. (Ibn Abi Mulaykah)

It is highly recommended to hasten the breaking of the fast when the time comes, as the Prophet recommended:

My nation will continue to be well as long as they hasten to break their jast and delay the morning meal. (Ahmad)

The Prophet used to eat dates and drink water to break his fast.

The Prophet used to breale his fast with fresh dates before praying,� if fresh dates were not available, he would eat (dried) dates; dried dates were not available, he would have a few sips of water. (At-Tirmidhi)

It is disliked to eat too much, as the Prophet said:

No human ever ?lled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sn?icientjor any son of Aa'arn are some morsels to keep his bacle straight. But it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drinle and one third for his breath. (Ahmad, At-Tirrnidhi, An-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah)

While this holds true throughout the year, it becomes even more important during the month of Ramadan.

2.4 Actions that Invalidate the Fast

There are two types of actions that will invalidate the fast: the more serious actions will necessitate atonement (kaffarah) AND restitution (qada), while the less serious actions will require restitution only, i.e. that fast must be made up at a later date (qada).

Ibn Juzayy says about restitution (qada): �Whoever deliberately breaks an obligatory fast must make up for it, as must those Who break the fast with some permissible excuse such as illness and travel. And someone who breaks a fast out of forgetfulness must make up for it [according to the Maliki school] but contrary to [Imam ash-Shafi�i and Imam Abu Hanifah].�

Ibn juzayy says about atonement (kaffarah): �The reason for [performing kaffarah] is because of having deliberately ruined a fast of Ramadan in particular, intending to rend the sanctity of the fast without any reason which would render breaking the fast permissible.�

Actions that necessitate atonement (kajfarah) AND restitution (qada) Deliberate eatingl drinking/ smoking, chewing gum.

If someone engages in these acts deliberately and voluntarily while knowing they are fasting, and Without a valid reason, the fast becomes invalid and necessitates both leq?farah and qada.

Deliberate ingestion of other materials or alternative forins of nourishment.

This includes: a) deliberately passing anything down the gullet that is not usually used as food, in which case there are differences of opinion as to whether kajfarali is obligatory; or b) deliberately taking nourishment through other means such as glucose inj ections. In this case, only Hanafi fiqh stipulates that kaffarah is necessary in addition to qada. The Hanbali, Maliki and Shaf'�i position is that such an act necessitates qada only.

Deliberate sexual intercourse.

Deliberately engaging in sexual intercourse 'during daylight hours invalidates the fast and necessitates both qada and kaffarah.

Deliberate Ejaculation of Sperm.

This will invalidate the fast whether it is caused by kissing, caressing one�s wife or is self�induced Whether by looking at or thinking about What will cause sexual arousal [or by masturbation] and continuing to do that until ejaculation. This necessitates both kaffarah and qada according to the Maliki and Hanbali schools, but qada only according to the Shaf'i and Hanafi schools.

Actions that necessitate restitution (qada) only Accidentally eating/ drinking/ smoking or chewing gum.

Accidentally engaging in these activities while fasting necessitates qada only according to the Hanbali and Malilci madhhabs. This includes nourishment accidentally provided by means other than oral, for example glucose injections.

Accidental sexual intercourse.

If one engages in sexual intercourse by accident or forgetting that one is fasting, then according to the Maliki and Hanbali schools only, it necessitates qada but not kaffarah.

Pre�ejaculatory fluid.

In the Maliki and Hanbali schools, but not the Hanafi or Shafi�i schools, if a man kisses, or caresses or embraces his Wife until he is aroused and emits pre�-jaculatory fluid, then he must make qada for that fast. If he experiences arousal Without the emission of pre�-jaculatory fluid, then qada is not necessary.

Deliberate vomiting.

Deliberately inducing vomiting will invalidate the fast regardless of whether the vomited amount is large or small. The person must make qada. There is a difierence of opinion in the Maliki school as to Whether such an act necessitates kafarah as Well.

Menstrual bleeding or post natal bleeding.

If either of these two types of bleeding start at any time between salat al-fajr and salat al-maghrib, then the whole fast is invalid and must be made up later (qada).

Making the intention to stop fasting.

According to the Hanbali madhhab, this will invalidate the fast necessitating qada, even if the person has not acted on the intention, since one of the pre-requisites of fasting is the niiyyah.

Nose Drops.

Inserting drops of medicine or water through the nose will invalidate the fast since the nose is a passage to the stomach, and will necessitate qada.

2.5 Acts that do not Invalidate the Fast

Accidentally eating/ drinkingl smokingl chewing gum. If someone accidentally engages in one of these acts in a moment of forgetfulness of the fasting state, then this will not invalidate the fast provided that the act is stopped once the faster realises his error, according to the Hanafi and Shaf'i schools, on the basis of the following hadith narrated by Abu Huraira that the Prophet said:

Whoever forgets - while fasring - and eats or drinks, shouid stop immediately and resume or complete his fast, for he has just been fed and quenched by Allah. (Agreed Upon)

However, according to the Maliki and Hanbali madhabs the person must make qada for it.

Accidental sexual intercourse.

If this act has been committed in a moment of forgetfulness, then the fast will remain valid only according to the Hanafi and Shaf'i madhhabs (but not the Maliki and Hanafi madhahih which impose a qada).

Involuntary vomiting.

This does not invalidate the fast regardless of the quantity expelled.

Nose Bleed.

Involuntary daytime ejaculation.

There is neither qada nor Kaffarah required for involuntary ejaculation during the daytime such as a Wet�dream while asleep.

Involuntary Swallowing.

Involuntary swallowing of saliva or dust or minute particles does not invalidate the fast. If one swallows saliva containing food particles (less than the size of a grain of gram) stuck between the teeth this does not nullify the fast if this was not deliberate. However, it is best to rinse the mouth and brush the teeth thoroughly after suhur.

Rinsing the mouth and nose.

This is perrnissible as it is part of Wudu. Care should be taken that the water does not reach the back of the mouth or go too far up the nose. Laqit ibn Sabra reported that the Prophet said:

Exaggerare when rinsing your nose unless you are fasting.
(An�Nasa�i, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)


These do not invalidate the fast regardless of whether they are intravenous, muscular or subcutaneous as long as they do not provide nourishment. Therefore, vaccinations do not invalidate the fast.

Giving blood.

This is allowed as long as it does not weaken the donor. Thabit al- Bunani asked Anas

�Did you dislilee cupping for a fasting person during the time Qf the Prophet?� He answered: �No (we did not), unless it made someone weole.� (Bukhari)

And it was customary in cupping to let some blood. For this reason having a blood test would also not invalidate the fast.

Swallowing mucus or phlegm.

Brushing teeth without toothpaste or using a miswak.

Amir bin Rabeelah narrated: I saw the Messenger of Allah on numerous occasions chewing siwaale while fasting. (At-Tirmidhi)

Some caution should be exercised in the use of toothpaste. If any portion of it is swallowed then the fast is invalidated. Furthermore, the use of toothpaste necessitates thorough and exaggerated rinsing out of the mouth to expel it completely, so it is recommended that if one does brush the teeth with toothpaste it is done before Fajr time after Suhur.

Kissing your spouse.

This is allowed as long as one remains in complete control of his actions and can be sure that this will not lead to seminal ejection. In the Maliki school it is disapproved for someone in control of his sexual appetite to embrace or kiss, but for someone who has little control of it, it is haram. It is confirmed that A�ishah said:
The Prophet would kiss and embrace while he was fasting, for he had the most control of all of you over his desires. (Bukhari and Muslim)

To pour water on the head and face.

Abu Bakr ibn Abd ar�Rahman reported from a number of companions that they had seen Allah�s Messenger pour Water over his head While he was fasting due to thirst or extreme heat. (Ahmad, Malik, and Abu Dawud)

Eye drops.

The use of eye drops for medicinal purposes is permitted on the strength of the following hadith:

Al~A �mash said, �I never saw any rfoarcampanioas dislilaing the application of Kohl for the one fasting.� Ibrahim (an-Nahha�i) woalrl allow the one fasting to apply aloes to his eyes. (Abu Dawud)

Eye drops do not invalidate the fast even if the taste reaches the back of the throat. This is because the eyes are not a regular passage for food or nourishment. In the Maliki school there are differences of opinion, one of which is that the case of kohl depends on Whether it dissolves or not. If it dissolves and thus reaches the throat, it breaks the fast.

Ear drops, ear syringing, oiling the ears.

According to the Hanbali and Hanafi madhhabs, these acts do not invalidate fasting even if the taste is felt at the back of the throat. However, the ears are considered an open passage according to the Shafi�i maalhhab, therefore these acts would necessitate qada from the Shaf'�i position. According to the Malikis if anything reaches the back of the throat through the three passages of the mouth, the nose and the ears, the fast has been broken, thus necessitating qada.

Asthma inhaler.

The use of such medication does not invalidate the fast since it will neither provide nourishment nor reach the stomach but is intended to reach the lungs.

Vaginal bleeding.

Vaginal bleeding that is neither menstruation (hayd) nor post�natal bleeding (nifaas), eg, bleeding during pregnancy or beyond the normal time ot hayd or mfaas will not invalidate the fast.

Tasting food.

This is permitted only if absolutely necessary and only with the tip of the tongue so that the food does not reach the back of the mouth. A situation in which this might be acceptable is if a Woman needs to check that the food she has prepared is not spoiled.

2. 6 Qada (Restitution)

The prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. (2:185)

Qada becomes necessary either when someone has forgone a fast completely or has broken it with an action that necessitates qada as described previously. These fasts should ideally be kept as soon as possible after Ramadan, without delay unless there is a good reason. There is one qada fast for every one missed fast of Ramadan. If there are many qada fasts to be kept, one has a choice of fasting on consecutive days or on random days throughout the year. The fasts can be made up on any day except those days on which it is prohibited to fast (the two Eid days and the days of Tashreeq i.e. the three days following Eid al-Adha).

It is necessary to make the niyyah for the qada fast before the time of Fajr (as with a Ramadan fast) although it is not necessary to specify which day it is restitution for. If the niyyah has not been made by salat al-Fajr, then the fast becomes a nafl fast and the qada fast Will need to be repeated.

If a person has not kept the qada fasts of Ramadan and the following Ramadan commences without his having made the qada, he should keep the fasts of the present Ramadan and make up the qada fasts of the previous Ramadan after Eid. However, this is a highly undesirable practice without good reason. According to the Malikis, Shaf1�is and Hanbalis, he or she is also due to pay the fidyah ransom of a mudd of food per day at the time he makes up the fast.

2.7 Fidyah (Ransom)

Fidyah is the compensation which has to be paid for those fasts which have been missed by the following groups:

These people are obliged to feed one poor person (miskin) a day for every day of fasting that they do not perform. Fidyah can only be given to those Who can accept zaleat. There is some difference amongst scholars as to how much food is to be supplied to the needy since this has not been stipulated in hadith. There are several options as to how this can be given.

If someone dies without having paid outstanding fidya, then this must be done by his relatives from the wealth of the deceased.

2.8 Kaffarah (Atonement)

The atonement for intentionally breaking the fast in Ramadan is:

  • The freeing of a slave
  • Fasting for two consecutive months
  • Feeding sixty poor persons

The Malikis allow an option between any one of these. That is, a sane adult may choose between freeing a slave, fasting or feeding the poor, except that in the majority opinion the best is to feed the poor. The Shaf'�is, Hanbalis and Hanafis impose atonement in the aforementioned order. That is, releasing a slave is specifically obligatory, and only if this is not possible does fasting become obligatory and so on.

If a person is unable to offer any form of atonement, he will remain liable for it until he comes to possess the capacity to offer it according to the Shafi�i, Maliki and Hanafi positions. However, the Hanbalis are of the opinion that if one is unable to offer kaffarah, the obligation is lifted, even if that person is later able to atone.

It is not permissible for someone on whom fasting for two consecutive months has become obligatory, to miss even a single fast during these two months, because that would break their continuity. Hence, on the missing of a fast the person should fast anew for two months.

The number ofatonements should be equal to the number of forbidden acts that caused it, so that a person who breaks two fasts will have to give two atonenlents. But someone who breaks one fast several times in the same day is liable for only one atonement.