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The Principles of Fasting in the Blessed Month of Ramadan

The Principles of Fasting in the Blessed Month of Ramadan: A reminder of what every Muslim must know



Fasting in Ramadan is obligatory according to the Qur’an and the sunnah:

In the Qur’an, Allah ﷻ states:

﴾O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint﴿ [2:183; Yusuf Ali translation].

In the sunnah, the Prophet ﷺ says:

“Islam is based on five pillars: Testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; performing the prayers; paying zakah; fasting in Ramadan; and making pilgrimage” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

There is therefore consensus among the scholars that fasting in Ramadan is obligatory and that it is one of the pillars of Islam.


The elements of fasting:

Fasting is comprised of two main elements through which it is fulfilled:


  • Abstaining from fast-invalidating deeds from dawn to sunset. (Deeds which invalidate the fast are: eating, drinking and sexual intercourse). Allah ﷻ states:

﴾so now associate with [your wives], and seek what Allah hath ordained for you and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears﴿ [2:187; Yusuf Ali translation].

  • The intention (niyya), which resides in the heart and does not have to be uttered; for Allah ﷻ states:

﴾And they have been commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion﴿ [5:98; Yusuf Ali translation],

and the Prophet ﷺ states:

“Actions are but by intentions and every man shall have but that which he intended”. [Al-Albani’s Ṣaḥīḥ Al-Jāmiʿ].

Many scholars are of the opinion that it suffices to make a single intention to fast the entire month of Ramadan from beginning to end.


Who must fast?

Fasting is an obligation on every grown, sane, able-bodied, non-travelling Muslim. In order for a woman to fast, she must be free from bleeding due to menstruation or puerperium.

  • The fasting of the non-believer and the insane:

Fasting is a form of Islamic worship; it is not an obligation for non-Muslims. An insane person is not obliged to fast as they are deprived of mental faculties which are a prerequisite for accountability. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“the pen [of recording deeds] is lifted from three people: the insane until he becomes sane; the sleeping until he wakes; and the child until he reaches puberty” [Ahmad, Al-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud].

  • The fasting of the child:

As outlined in the hadith above, fasting is not obligatory for a child until they reach puberty. Nevertheless, while a child is not under an obligation to fast, it is desirable that children are encouraged to fast on some days so that they may get accustomed to fasting from an early age, as long as they are able do so and are not overburdened by it.


Who has a license not to fast in Ramadan?

  • Those who have a license, and must pay fidyah:

Elderly people and those who are chronically ill have a license not to fast in Ramadan if fasting will exhaust and overburden them, regardless of the time of year. For every day that they cannot fast, they must feed a poor person an average serving of food. This has been estimated as one ṣāʿ, half a ṣāʿ, or one mudd according to different scholars’ opinions (mudd = 506.5g)[1]. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have been annexed to this ruling; they are required to pay fidyah and do not need to make up the fast according to Ibn Umar and Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them).

  • Those who have a license, and must make up the fast:

Those who are travelling and those who are ill but are likely to recover have a license not to fast, and must make up the days they did not fast before the following Ramadan. Allah ﷻ says:

﴾Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an as a guide to mankind also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So everyone of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spent it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful﴿ [2:185; Yusuf Ali translation].

  • Those who must not fast, and must make up the fast:

It is obligatory for women not to fast while bleeding from menstruation or puerperium; even if they fasted their fast would not be valid. They must make up the days they missed before the following Ramadan. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) is reported to have said:

“We used to menstruate when the messenger of Allah ﷺ was alive; when we became pure, he would instruct us to make up our fast but not to make up our prayer” [Al-Tirmidhi].


What invalidates the fast?

  • Eating or drinking deliberately:

However, if someone eats by mistake, force, or lapse of memory, they are not required to make up the fast or pay kaffarah. Abu Hurayra narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“Whoever forgets while he is fasting and eats or drinks, let him complete his fast, for it was Allah who fed him and gave him drink” [Muslim].

  • Vomiting deliberately:

However, if someone vomits unintentionally, they are not required to make up the fast or pay kaffarah. Abu Hurayra narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“Whoever vomits involuntarily does not have to make up the fast, but whoever vomits deliberately must make up the fast” [Al-Tirmidhi and others].

  • Menstruation and puerperium:

Bleeding due to menstruation or puerperium, even if it begins minutes before sunset, invalidates the fast and fasting must be made up for that day.

Miscellaneous rulings:

  1. Using kuhl, eye drops and other substances which enter the eyes, is permitted whether or not the person can taste the substance in their throat. This is because the eyes are not a passageway to the stomach.
  2. A fasting person may receive medical injections (nutritional or otherwise), whether they are in the veins or under the skin. This is because, even if the medicine reaches the stomach, it does not reach it via the conventional route.
  3. If a person wakes up in the morning from a wet dream or having not washed from sexual intercourse, their fast is still valid; they must perform ghusl to pray. The same applies for a woman during menstruation or puerperium: if blood ceases during the night – even if it is only shortly before dawn – she may delay ghusl until the morning and her fast would be valid; she must then perform ghusl to pray.

Some manners of fasting:

  • Suḥūr:

Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“eat suḥūr for in it there is a blessing” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

He is also narrated to have said:

“You should have suḥūr, verily it is the blessed meal” [Al-Nisa’i and Abu Dawud].

‘Blessed’ here means that it strengthens the Muslim and gives them energy, making fasting more endurable. It is desirable to delay suḥūr to the second half of the night.

  • Breaking fast promptly:

It is desirable to break fast promptly following sunset. Sahl bin Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“People are still well as long as they expedite iftar” [Bukhari and Muslim].

  • Refraining from deeds which contradict the spirit of fasting:

Fasting is one of the best forms of worship which bring the worshiper closer to their Creator. It disciplines the self and accustoms it to performing good deeds. A person must therefore refrain from actions which belittle their fast so that they may benefit from fasting and achieve taqwa as stated by Allah ﷻ:

﴾O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint﴿ [2:183; Yusuf Ali translation].

Fasting is not the mere act of abstaining from food, drink and other prohibitions; it is refraining from all acts which contradict the very spirit of this form of worship; that is, taqwa for Allah ﷻ. Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“Fasting is not only leaving food and drink, but also frivolous talk and obscenity; if someone curses you or treats you foolishly, say: I am fasting” [Ibn Habban and Ṣaḥīḥ Al-Jāmiʿ].

The Prophet ﷺ also said:

“There are people who fast and get nothing from their fast but hunger, and there are those who pray and get nothing from their prayer but a sleepless night”. [Al-Nisa’i, Ibn Majah and Al-Hakim: he said ṣaḥīḥ according to Al-Bukhari].

  • Using siwāk:

It is desirable for a fasting person to use siwāk, whether in the day or at night, as the Prophet ﷺ used siwāk while he was fasting. Brushing teeth using a toothbrush and toothpaste may be compared to using siwāk, but care must be taken not to swallow any water. There is no harm if the taste of toothpaste lingers in the mouth as it compares to the taste which siwāk leaves in the mouth following use.

  • Generosity, charitability and reading Qur’an:

Giving generously and making charity for the sake of Allah and reading the Qur’an seeking contemplation and understanding are all desirable deeds at any given time. However, they are particularly desirable in Ramadan. Al-Bukhari narrates an account by Ibn Abbas:

“Allah's Messenger ﷺ was the most generous of people in charity, but he was generous to the utmost in the month of Ramadan. Gabriel (peace be upon him) would meet him every year during the month of Ramadin until it ended, and Allah's Messenger ﷺ recited to him the Qur'an; and when Gabriel met him Allah's Messenger ﷺ was most generous in giving charity like the blowing wind” [Muslim].

  • Intensifying worship during the last ten days of Ramadan:

Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrate an account by Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) that:

“when the final ten days began, [the Prophet ﷺ] would remain awake at night, keep his household awake and tie his lower garments (preparing himself for devotion)”.

And in Muslim’s account:

“he would strive hard in devotion in the last ten days more than any other time”.


Allah knows best.


[1] One ṣāʿ is said to be equal 4 mudds. Hence, according to the opinion that one mudd = 506.5g, one ṣāʿ would be 4 × 506.5g = 2.026kg.