Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahim
by Naielah Ackbarali
Fasting is pretty straightforward. From a simplistic perspective, it consists of four key elements:
- Making the intention to fast.
- Refraining from doing anything that would nullify the fast.
- Observing the fasting time.
- Breaking the fast.
Additionally, a woman must be free from menstruation and lochia (post-natal bleeding) during the entire fasting time.
In this article, each element will be discussed. For details about who is required to fast along with possible exceptions, read this article.
MAKING THE INTENTION
The intention is what distinguishes everyday habits from actual worship. For example, a woman may be in the habit of eating very late at night. Outwardly, she does not eat or drink from the morning to the evening. However, if she does not intend to fast for the sake of Allah Most High, then she is not considered fasting from an Islamic standpoint and her fast would not count.
With fasting, there are three components to a valid intention:
- having the resolve to fast in one’s heart,
- making the intention within the allotted time frame,
- and specifying the type of fast that one is performing.
Without all of these components, the fast will not count.
For Ramadan fasts, a new intention must be made for each day that one fasts in Ramadan.
Resolve To Fast: An intention is the resolve to perform an action. It is made in the heart, although it can be said aloud too. For example, a woman thinks to herself, “I am fasting Ramadan tomorrow for the sake of Allah Most High.” She decides in her heart to perform the act of fasting; this is all that’s needed.
Practically speaking, almost every Muslim who is fasting Ramadan naturally makes the intention to fast each day. If anyone were to ask a Muslim in this situation why he/she is not eating or drinking, the Muslim would immediately think, “I’m fasting Ramadan today.” This is sufficient.
Allotted Time Frame: The allotted time frame in which it is permitted to make the intention will differ depending on the type of fast.
The default is that a person must make the intention before Fajr enters for the day that she is deciding to fast. The actual time frame begins from the entering of Maghrib the night before until the time Fajr enters the day of the fast. At any point within this time period, a person can intend and the intention only needs to be made once.
Current Ramadan fasts, as well as voluntary fasts, have an exception. They have a longer time frame in which it is permitted to make the intention. This is due to narrations of the Prophet ﷺ doing it himself. For these two types of fasts, the allotted time frame begins from the entering of Maghrib the night before the fast up to before the Islamic midday of the fasting day.
However, this exception is conditioned by her not engaging in any of the fasting nullifiers after Fajr entered. If she ate or drank after Fajr, she cannot make the intention to fast for that day. Refer to this article to understand how to calculate the Islamic midday.
It must be noted that even though it is permitted to make the intention to fast after Fajr enters for that day in Ramadan, it is best to make the intention before Fajr enters.
Specifying The Type Of Fast: The last part of the formula is that the type of fast must be specified in one’s heart. This mainly applies to obligatory (farḍ) or mandatory (wājib) fasts that are performed outside of Ramadan. For example, “I am fasting a makeup fast tomorrow for the last Ramadan fast that I missed.”
For current Ramadan fasts and voluntary fasts, having a general intention to fast counts, such as, “I am fasting today.” Although, it is optimal to specifically intend Ramadan.
Refer to this article for the different types of fast that a Muslim can perform. One doesn’t have to specify the ruling for the fast one is intending – that it is obligatory, necessary, sunna, or recommended.
REFRAINING FROM NULLIFIERS
According to the Sacred Law, a fast consists of refraining from food, drink, sexual intercourse, ejaculation, and anything that takes the ruling of these actions during the fasting time.
If within the fasting time, a person engages in sexual intercourse (regardless of whether ejaculation takes place or not) or ejaculates by way of sexual touch (i.e. from foreplay, kissing, masturbation), the fast is invalidated. This is the ruling if either of these actions happens deliberately, accidently, mistakenly, or by coercion.
Likewise, if a person eats, drinks, takes oral medication, or enters any substance into the body cavity through a valid entry point – whether deliberately, accidently, mistakenly, or by coercion – the fast is invalidated.
The only exception is if eating, drinking, or sexual intercourse was done forgetfully. This would not invalidate the fast and a person who falls into this situation should continue with their fast.
For a complete list of fasting nullifiers, read this article.
OBSERVING THE FASTING TIME
Regardless of the type of fast, the fast always begins from the time Fajr enters and it ends at the time Maghrib enters. There are no exceptions to the fasting time. During the fasting time, a fasting person must refrain from doing anything that would nullify the fast.
Additionally, a woman must be free from menstruation and lochia (post-natal bleeding) during the entire fasting time. For the rulings related to menstruation during Ramadan, read this article.
It is vital to note that it is absolutely impermissible to continue to eat once Fajr time has entered. There is a lot of misinformation about this topic. A person who continues to eat after Fajr time enters renders the fast invalid. Even whilst the adhān is being called, one cannot continue to eat what is in one’s mouth and must spit out what is in their mouth instead.
If a person swallows anything after Fajr enters during Ramadan, the person must act like a fasting person for the remainder of the day (do imsāk), but this fast does not count and it must be made up after Ramadan finishes. Depending on the situation, the person may also owe an atonement (kaffara) for their mistake.
There are different calculation methods used in today’s time for determining the prayer times. Our teachers recommend using the 18 degree calculation, as it is the most precautionary. Please refer to a local scholar for further questions.
BREAKING THE FAST
The fast ends with the entrance of Maghrib time. There is no reward in refraining for longer. In fact, the sunna of the Prophet ﷺ is to hasten to break the fast.
Yet, one must be certain that Maghrib time has entered. If one is unsure, then waiting a couple of minutes longer is safer.
For more information about the sunna acts when fasting, click here.
The following is a basic summary of the rulings:
Check out our FREE Fasting For Women course for more details related to the rulings of fasting.
For more answers related to fasting, click here.
- Imam ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar
- Imam Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah
- Imam Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya
- Imam Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah
- Imam Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi
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