The Fiqh of Fasting Ramadan According to the School of Imam Shafi’i

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Jamir D. Meah 


In the Name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate. There is no power or strength but by God, the High, the Great. All praise belongs to God.  We praise Him for all He has inspired and taught and thank Him for all His grace and bounties. It is God we ask to whelm with His blessings and peace His most noble Prophet, most eminent Messenger, and greatest Beloved, who is our master and patron Muhammad, and his Family and Companions.

It is the custom in many Muslim countries to hold gatherings before and during Ramadan, in which the fiqh of Ramadan and related issues are reviewed and taught. This benefit is for the everyday people with little time to gain knowledge for the rest of the year. This present work has been dedicated in this spirit and with this intention.


Allah, Exalted is He, tells us, “Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was sent down as a guide to mankind, and clear signs for guidance and judgement. So every one of you who witnesses this month should spend it fast.” [2:185]

The Messenger of God (blessings and peace be upon him) informed us: ‘God the Exalted has said: “All good deeds of the son of Adam are multiplied ten to seven hundredfold, except fasting, for it is Mine, and I shall reward a man for it, for he has left his appetite, his food and drink for My sake.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Ramadan was legislated in the month of Sha’baan in the second year after the Hijra. The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) fasted nine months of Ramadan, one of which was 30 days, and the remaining eight as 29 days.

Imam al Haddad reminds us, “Increase your good works, specifically in Ramadan, for the reward of a supererogatory act performed during it equals that of an obligatory act committed at any other time. During Ramadan, good works are rendered accessible, and one has much more energy for them than any other month. This is because the soul, lazy when it comes to good works, is then imprisoned by hunger and thirst, the devils who hinder it are shackled, the gates of the Fire are shut, the gates of the Garden are open, and the herald calls every night at God’s command: ‘O you who wish for goodness, hasten! And O you who wish for evil, halt! You should work only for the hereafter in this noble month and embark on something worldly only when necessary. Arrange your life before Ramadan in a manner that will render you free to worship when it arrives.

The rulings below are according to the Shafi’i school.

Who is obligated to fast during Ramadan

The conditions of who must fast during Ramadan are four. They are:

  1. Muslim
  2. Reached puberty
  3. Sane
  4. Able to fast

A child is ordered to fast at seven and, at ten, is ‘hit’ if he does not, but on the condition that he can fast the whole day. ‘Hit’ here means a very light ‘hit’ with a soft stick or cloth, no more than three times, and on the condition that the parent feels it would make a difference. Otherwise, it is not permitted.

Note: The people of Tarim, including the scholars, usually introduced praying and fasting gradually in the early years (especially fasting) and without too much force on children, and this was the advice of Imam al-Haddad. As a general rule, they also teach that one should not ‘hit’ anyone under one’s care (child or adult), even for a valid reason, as described in the books of fiqh.

‘Able to fast’ here means physical ability or legal ability. For example, an enfeebled person or child (7-10 years old +) who can not bear the fast is exempt from fasting (physical inability), and a menstruating woman is prohibited from fasting (legal inability).

The Conditions which validate one’s fast

The conditions which make one fast valid are four:

  1. Islam
  2. Sanity
  3. Purity from menstruation or lochia
  4. That the time one is fasting permits fasting

These four conditions must be present throughout the whole fasting day.

  1. Islam: If a person apostates (may Allah protect us), their fasting is nullified (just as their prayer would be nullified). They are still legally responsible for fasting, though if they did fast while in a state of apostasy, their fast is invalid. If they were to return to the religion, they would have to make up the missed fast days and pay the fidia expiation (discussed later).
  2.  Sanity: If one loses their sanity during the fasting day, even for a moment – their fast is broken, regardless of whether the reason for losing one’s sanity was intentional or unintentional, and even if the substance that caused the insanity was taken at night. However, someone who intentionally took something to lose his sanity must make up the fast. In contrast, someone who did not do something intentionally to become insane does not have to make up the fast (this includes someone who has to take medicine, which may result in temporary loss of one’s sanity). As for someone who is unconscious or suffers from seizures which result in unconsciousness (someone intoxicated takes the same ruling as well): If the unconsciousness was not intentional (they didn’t bring it about on purpose, or they had to take medicine out of necessity which caused this state) and it lasts the whole of the fasting day – then the fast is not valid. He must make that day up, but he has not sinned. If the unconsciousness does not last all the hours of fasting but only some of it – even if he is conscious for only a second of the fasting day – his fast is valid (as long as he made the intention at night before becoming unconscious). As for someone who purposefully made themselves senseless – it incurs a sin, and their fast is nullified, even if their unconsciousness only lasts a second.
  3. Purity from menstruation or lochia: If a woman menstruates or begins a term of lochia, even for a second – her fast is nullified, and she must make up those days. It is not a condition that a woman bleeds after birth for the fast to be nullified; instead, the birth itself breaks the fast. It is prohibited for a menstruating woman or a woman in lochia to refrain from those things that break the fast with the intention she is fasting. However, she doesn’t need to do anything (i.e. eat or drink).
  4. That the time one is fasting permits fasting: This means the day one is fasting is a day legally permitted for one to fast. Examples of days which it is prohibited to fast are:
  •  The two Eids: It is not permitted to fast any type of fast on the two days of Eid, not even make-up fasts. If one fasts on these days, it is not valid. What is meant by Eid here is the first day of each celebration, not the second or third days.
  • Fasting is prohibited on the three days following Eid al Adha (Tashreeq).
  •  The last 15 days of Sha’baan (the month before Ramadan – the prohibition starting on the 16th of Sha’baan as the 15th is considered as being from the first half of the month): It is prohibited to fast after the 15th of Sha’baan to the beginning of Ramadan, unless:
  •  One has a previous habit (wird) of fasting (such as every Monday, every other day, etc, even if they only performed the habit once. For example, someone intends to fast every Monday at the beginning of the year. They fast on Monday but then do not fast again after that. Months later, on the 17th of Sha’baan for example, he decides to restart his ‘wird’ of fasting, and therefore is permitted to fast on a Monday even though it is after the 15th Sha’baan).
  •  One made a vow to fast, and the fast incidentally fell on these days (as opposed to purposefully choosing those days – in which the fast is invalid and incurs a sin).
  •  One has make-up fasts to perform.
  •  One has expiation (kaffarah) to offer.
  •  One began fasting before the 16th (even if they only started on the 15th of Sha’baan) – then it is permitted to continue after the 16th.
  •  The day of uncertainty: The day of uncertainty refers to the day on which it is uncertain, whether it is the 30th of Sha’baan or the 1st of Ramadan. Uncertainty occurs when someone who does not fulfil the criteria of a witness mentions having seen the new moon (causing doubt). One can not fast on this day as a day of Ramadan, but one may do so as a make-up or a vow. Voluntary fasts can only be done if the above reasons exist (see fasting ‘the last 15 days of Sha’baan’ above).

The integrals of Fasting

The integrals of fasting are two:

  1. The intention
  2. Refraining from those things that nullify the fast
  3. The intention for an obligatory fast

The intention is obligatory to say in the heart and recommended to speak with the tongue.

The intention for a fast in Ramadan must:

  • Be made at night
  • Consist of the type of fast intended (Ramadan)

E.g. “I intend to fast tomorrow for Ramadan.”

The most complete formula for the intention is:

“I intend to fast tomorrow as a current performance of the obligation of Ramadan of this year for Allah most High”.

This optimal formula is valid by consensus and in all schools.

  • Be made at night: This means the intention for an obligatory fast must be made at night, anytime between Maghrib and Fajr. It is valid to make the intention just after Maghrib has come in and before one has broken the current day fast (for example, at the adhan of Maghrib and before eating your first date).

This must be done each night for each obligatory fasting day, as each day is considered a separate act of worship.

Note: The above condition of intending the fast does not apply to the intention for supererogatory fasts, which can be made anytime after Maghrib and before Dhur (on the condition the person has not already done anything that would normally break the fast, such as eating, or having sexual intercourse).

It is not obligatory to say in the intention that it is an ‘obligatory/fard’ fast (as there are no voluntary fasts in Ramadan).

Note: As for making up a missed day of Ramadan, it is not obligatory to say ‘of Ramadan’ in the intention, as it automatically defaults to the make-up fast (unless one intends something else).

It is recommended on the night of the first day of Ramadan to make the intention for the next day (as a Shafi’i), but also to make the intention to follow the Maliki school and intend to fast the ‘whole of Ramadan,’ just in case one forgets to make the intention in any of the coming days of Ramadan. Whilst this does not change the necessity of making up the missed day in our school (because of having forgotten the intention), inwardly, the fast is validated through Imam Malik’s opinion.

It is recommended for someone who forgets to make the intention at night (which means his fasting is not counted in our school) to nevertheless make the intention before Dhur with the intention of following the Hanafi school, for the same reasons explained above (and as long as he hasn’t done anything that breaks the fast).

Fajr times for those living in the northern hemispheres

The answers to this issue are detailed, and there are different opinions regarding when Fajr started in such countries. These differences of opinion centre on the degree to which dawn is measured scientifically. Others reject scientific use. While some of these opinions may or may not be valid, this does not help the lay Muslim who just wants to know when he can or can’t start his fast.

Among these opinions, the one which stands out as the soundest and perhaps the most practical, supported by many qualified scholars, is that 18 degrees is the best way to know the accurate Fajr time. Shaykh Nuh Keller (may Allah preserve him), who has considerable experience in this field of research, has written a specific article on this, and the Muslim World Fiqh Council and the Committee of Astronomers have agreed that 18 degrees concur with the Muslim Fajr times. However, during the summer months (in northern countries, including the UK), there is a period in which there is no point at which the sun is 18 degrees from the horizon (making Fajr time difficult to determine). So a solution to this is needed.

Below is a quote from Shaykh Nuh Keller’s article, which presents perhaps the best option available now for Muslims in the UK (Muslims in other countries would have to research their similar centres for reliable dawn times, following the exact practical steps outlined below):

“Commence fasting at the time of the last accurate 18-degree time for one’s location, and then continue beginning to fast at that time until there is an exact 18-degree time again. For example, Birmingham’s last true 18-degree time was on 17 May, when dawn entered at 1:27 a.m. In this case, people should start fasting at 1:27 a.m. until 25 July, when true dawn begins again. From 25 July onwards, one simply follows the 18-degree time for one’s location.

A second question might arise concerning “whose 18 degrees?” Different timetables list different times for 18 degrees. In the United Kingdom, one should follow the times calculated by Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office, which has been observing and calculating times for approximately two hundred years and, until recently, was part of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. These times can be found here.

… Regarding the time of nightfall prayer (Isha), people should determine its beginning when the red leaves the sky, relying on timing their observation of this on clear evenings and estimating from these timed observations for other days. Praying Isha after the red leaves the sky is a followable position in both the Hanafi and Shafi‘i schools.”

(One may find the link to the full article at the end of this work)

In practice:

  1. Go to your most reliable information site for the dawn times calculated upon 18 degrees.
  2. In those summer months when there is no 18-degree point for dawn, go by the last time there was one.
  3. When there is an 18-degree point, go by that.
  4. One considers Isha coming in when ‘the red leaves the sky’ for sure, delaying if uncertain.

Refraining from those things that nullify the fast

Note: There is a difference between forgetting that something is haram and forgetting one is fasting. Someone who knows/remembers he is fasting but does something that breaks the fast because he forgot its prohibition – his fast is nullified. Someone who forgets he is fasting and mistakenly does something that breaks the fast – his fast is still valid.

Someone ignorant of what breaks the fast and does it – fast is nullified unless he is new to the religion and still actively learning or he lives far away from Muslims and scholars.

The following things break one’s fast:

Sexual intercourse

For sexual intercourse to break one’s fast, it has to be made intentionally and voluntarily. The fast breaks regardless of whether penetration occurs in the front passage or the back, inside a human or animal, and irrespective of whether one ejaculates or not. If someone forgets he is fasting and has intercourse – his fast is valid. Likewise, if someone is coerced into intercourse, then according to many scholars – the fast is valid. At the same time, others state it becomes invalid (but obviously with no sin or blame on the person coerced, but necessitating making up that day).

It is a condition (for the fast to be nullified) for the person penetrating that the entire head of the male organ enters (disappears) inside the orifice. If only part of the head enters, it does not break his fast. However, in regards to the person being penetrated, it is not a condition that the entire head of the male organ enters the orifice, but rather, even if a part of the head enters the passage, their fast is nullified. This is because they have entered something into an open orifice (as opposed to the nullifying reason being sexual intercourse).

Emission of semen

Emission of semen that is physically brought about breaks one’s fast if the emission occurs intentionally, regardless of whether it involves direct skin contact or not, and regardless if by one’s hand or by the hand of another, or if one intentionally touches or kisses the skin of a mehram or non-mahram with desire (and he has an emission of semen).

Emission of semen that occurs unintentionally after directly touching or kissing a non-mahram (no barrier between the skin), including one’s wife, also breaks the fast, even without desire. As for the emission of semen that occurs unintentionally after touching a mehram directly on the skin, such as out of average familial closeness, e.g. hugging or touching the skin of a sister or aunt (as opposed to with desire) – then this does not break the fast.

Emission that occurs unintentionally, with a barrier between the skins, does not break the fast.

Wet dreams, erections (with no emission), or emissions of fluids other than semen do not break one’s fast.

Kissing and touching one’s spouse is generally best to avoid during fasting hours, as one is meant to leave all desires during the day.

Vomiting intentionally

Vomiting breaks one’s fast only if:

  • Done intentionally (such as sticking one’s fingers down one’s throat)
  • One knows he is fasting

If it is done for no valid reason, then he has sinned. If done for a valid reason, such as when someone feels he must force himself to throw up due to sickness, for example, then his fast is still nullified (and must be made up later), but there is no sin.

Vomiting unintentionally does not break one’s fast unless, when or after vomiting, some part of it returned back into a cavity (see below for definition), and one was able to prevent it from happening (though if one was not, it does not invalidate the fast).

The entrance of a substance into a body cavity through an open passage

The entrance of a substance into a body cavity through an open passage breaks the fast, regardless of whether the substance is small or large, edible or inedible, nourishing or not, a sharp or blunt instrument, medicinal or not, or stabbed by oneself or by another with one’s permission (otherwise it does not break the fast). It only breaks the fast when entered knowingly, intentionally, and voluntarily. A weaker opinion holds that for the fast to break, the substance must nourish or heal the body.

It also breaks the fast if it enters by itself (involuntary), but one was able to stop it from entering a cavity but didn’t. For example, if someone’s tooth spontaneously falls out in one’s mouth, one can spit it out but doesn’t; it gets swallowed.

The inside of a body cavity is defined as that which is not visible when the part is moved. Bodily cavities include the inside of the ear, the sinus cavities, the mouth down to the stomach, the milk holes in the nipple, the cranial cavity, the vagina, the urethra (male and female), and the anus, though substances must pass through the initial opening of the urethra, and slightly more past the initial opening of the anus, to break the fast.

The eye socket is not considered a cavity.

Things that enter the middle of the flesh without going into the cavity, such as a knife stabbed into the thigh (not a cavity) or into the stomach (the peritoneum cavity) but not passing through the peritoneum lining, do not break the fast.

Non-substances do not break the fast. These include smells, tastes, and smoke, even if one intentionally opens his mouth to take it in. However, scholars state that smoke from cigarettes or cigars breaks fast because it results in substances forming (e.g. tar).

Substances that enter the skin’s pores do not break the fast, such as water, oil, or kohl, even if they ultimately enter a cavity or one finds that mucus has been tinted with the colour it.

Regarding mucus/phlegm: Swallowing does not break the fast, regardless of whether it comes from the sinus cavities or the respiratory tract. However, this is on the condition that it remains within the ‘inner parameter’ (hadd al baatin) and it does not pass into the ‘outer parameter’ (hadd al dhaahir). What is meant by ‘inner parameter’ here is what is below the exit point for the sound of the letters Haa (light) and Hamza. ‘Outer parameter’ means here what is from the exit point for the sound of the letters Haa (strong) and Khaa, and out towards the mouth, while the ‘outer parameter’ of the nose is from the beginning of the sinus cavity down to the nostrils. If the mucus/phlegm passes into these outer limits, then one must spit or blow it out if able. If one sucks it back into the inner limits – then his fast is broken. It does not break the fast if it goes back on its own or due to coughing, sneezing, or any other reason one can not control.

Phlegm/mucus that passes through one part of the inner limit to another without going into the outer limits – does not break one’s fast. For example, mucus that slides directly from the nasal cavity down the back of the throat and into the chest.

As for saliva, it does not break the fast regardless of whether it passes the outer limits or not. However, this is on the condition that the saliva is pure and not mixed with gastric juices from the stomach or anything else from the teeth or mouth, including blood from one’s gum. Otherwise, it breaks one’s fast. If the saliva has been mixed, then it becomes obligatory to spit it out if able to at the point that it may go into the cavity. If he cannot, it does not break the fast.

Note: One should be careful that one’s saliva is not mixed with toothpaste at the beginning of one’s fast. Likewise, one’s saliva does not become mixed with another’s saliva, such as if one kissed one’s spouse during the fast and saliva mixed, then swallowed.

Wudu and ghusl: When one washes one’s mouth and nose during an obligatory wudu or sunnah wudu (such as wudu before making dhikr), or ears in an obligatory bath (such as from major ritual impurity), or a sunnah ghusl (such as on Friday), or when doing a part of the wudu or ghusl which is obligatory or sunnah (such as the first wash of a limb in wudu (obligatory) and the second and third wash of the limb (sunnah) – one must make sure that no water gets swallowed, enters the sinus cavity, or goes too far into the ear cavity (see below).

If water enters one of these cavities, it breaks the fast if the person ‘exaggerated’ in their mouth/nose/ear rinsing. ‘Exaggerating’ means washing with an abundance of water (which is unnecessary). If no ‘exaggeration’ exists and water still enters the cavity, the fast is not broken. If one forgets that he is fasting and exaggerating, or one does not know that rinsing the mouth and nose is a sunnah (and not obligatory), it also does not break the fast.

In terms of washing the ear in ghusl (such as in major ritual impurity), in which it is obligatory to wash the visible inside part of the ear even if one is fasting, the limit that water can go into (before breaking one’s fast) is the same limit that one’s index finger can go should one insert it into the ear. Beyond that, the fast is broken. For this reason, making one’s purificatory bath before Fajr is recommended.

As for non-obligatory or non-sunnah wudu and baths (such as for hygiene or to cool down), or whilst performing an obligatory or sunnah wudu or ghusl but the wash itself is not obligatory or sunnah (such as rinsing the mouth a fourth or fifth time in wudu, or pouring water over oneself a fourth or fifth time in ghusl), and the water enters the cavities, even without exaggeration – the fast is nullified.

If one has filth in one’s mouth, nose or ear and when washing it, water goes into a cavity, then this does not break the fast even if one exaggerates (because when cleaning away filth, a lot of water is recommended).

  • Asthma pumps, inhalers, etc, nullify one’s fast, but if taken out of necessity, it is permissible to take (no sin), but one must make up the missed day later.
  • Nasal solutions, like water, break one’s fast if they pass into the sinus cavity.
  • Eye solutions do not break one’s fast as the eye is not considered an open cavity.

Note: Imam al Ghazali, sharing the medical stance, held the opinion that the ear canal is not an open cavity and, therefore, any substance entering it does not break one’s fast.

Food and drink

If Fajr comes in and one has food in his mouth and then spits it out, his fast is valid, even if some of the food accidentally gets swallowed. The same applies to someone who holds the food in his mouth (though disliked) as long as no food gets swallowed.

If one is unsure if Fajr has set in, it is not haram to continue eating, though if he finds out later that Fajr has set in, his fast is not valid.

If one is unsure if Maghrib has come in, it is haram to break one’s fast. If he makes ijtihad (with its conditions), he may break it, though it is better to be specific. If it turns out later that he ate before Maghrib, his fast is invalid. If it turns out he broke his fast after Maghrib – his fast remains valid. If one jumps in and eats without making any ijtihad – his fasting is considered invalid unless he can be sure he broke it after Maghrib.

Who may abstain from fasting or break their fast?

The following people may choose not to fast or break their fast but must make up missed fasts:

A sick person:  If one is very ill, and fasting causes considerable harm, increases sickness, or delays recovery, they are entitled not to fast. This is so even if the person intentionally caused the illness (though this entails a sin). Likewise, someone who must take their medicine during the fasting hours and can not wait until night may also break their fast by taking the drug. This may be due to a chronic or severe acute illness, such as a highly unbearable earache (not minor or bearable disease). They must make these missed fast days up another time.

A traveller: A traveller may choose not to fast if his travel is a) long enough to combine prayers, and b) the intention of travel is permissible, even if he had made the intention to fast before travelling. This dispensation for the traveller is on the condition that he becomes considered a ‘traveller’ before Fajr sets in.

If he intends to fast and then travels but becomes unsure of whether he became a traveller before or after Fajr – his fast is valid, and it is not permissible for him to break it.

It is recommended to observe the fast even during travel if doing so will not cause him harm, whether this harm is immediate or in the future. If it will cause damage, then not fasting (or breaking one’s fast) while travelling is not only recommended but also obligatory.

Someone who travels solely to avoid the fast is not entitled to the traveller’s dispensation and must fast. The same applies to someone who vows (nadhr) to fast their whole life (As taking the ‘traveller’ dispensation is on the presumption one will make up the missed days after he stops travelling, while a person who takes such a vow will never be able to make them up).

The intention of one who breaks his fast for a valid reason during Ramadan

If someone wants to break his fast for one of the valid reasons above, he must make an intention (at the point of breaking it) that he is breaking it as a dispensation. This is to differentiate his valid reason for breaking his fast from an invalid reason (where there is no valid excuse).

If one was fasting – but then the original dispensation for not fasting finishes – and one has not already done something that breaks the fast – then one continues fasting, and it is prohibited to break the fast. Examples: If a pre-pubescent child is fasting (he made the intention at night) and then attains puberty during the fasting day, and he has not already done anything that would break the fast (such as eating), then upon the onset of puberty (during the fasting hours), he must continue fasting and is no longer entitled to break it. Similarly, when a traveller ceases to be a traveller, or a sick person recovers (and they were fasting and did not already do something which would break the fast), then upon their arrival or recovery, they must continue fasting and are no longer entitled to the dispensation. Their fast is counted as a fasted day of Ramadan. If one of these people were to have intercourse (after the reason for dispensation has ceased), they would have to pay the Kaffarah (expiation).

If, however, they were not fasting or had already broken it (e.g., ate before arriving/recovering), it is not obligatory to remain fasting. It is recommended, though, to refrain from those things that break the fast (Imsaak) out of respect for the sanctity of the fasting hours. This last recommendation of imsaak also applies to women who come off their menses during the fasting day, though not to newly-pubescents, or people who have converted to Islam (on a day of Ramadan).

A general rule of refraining (Imsaak)

  1. Whoever had a valid reason for not fasting (those mentioned above) and then the reason ceases to exist, it is recommended to refrain from anything that breaks the fast but is not obligatory (excluding newly-pubescents and new converts).
  2.  Whoever does not have a valid reason for not fasting, such as someone who forgot to make the intention at night or broke their fast on purpose, then imsaak is obligatory.

Breaking one’s fast due to fear of another’s welfare

Someone who does not fast, or breaks their fast, for the sole reason that they fear someone else’s welfare – it is permitted not to fast but must make up the missed day and pay the expiation (Fidia- discussed later). If fasting entails a severe and real problem for the third party, then not fasting or breaking one’s fast becomes obligatory. Examples include:

  • A pregnant woman who does not fast or breaks her fast solely out of concern for the welfare of her child, such as she fears a premature birth if she were to fast.
  • A nursing mother who does not fast or breaks her fast solely out of concern for the welfare of her nursing child, such as she fears her milk will decrease if she fasts.

Note: A very strong opinion in our school states that even if a pregnant or nursing woman doesn’t fast solely out of concern for the child – she does not need to pay the Fidia (expiation).

  • Someone who breaks their fast to save a life or someone’s limb (human or animal, excluding swine and dogs in our school), and there is no other way of doing so differently than to break one’s fast, such as diving into the sea.

As for someone who doesn’t fast (or breaks their fast) out of concern for their welfare (only), or out of fear of another’s welfare, but this is joined with the fear of one’s welfare as well – then the missed fast has to make up, but there is no expiation. An example of the latter is a pregnant woman who fears for the sake of her child and her health.

The upshot of this scenario is:

  • All must make up their missed days of fast, regardless of reason.
  • If one abstains from fasting solely out of concern for another – they must also pay the expiation.
  • If they fear for their and another’s welfare – there is no expiation.

Making up missed fasts after Ramadan

Whoever misses a day of Ramadan must make up the missed day. This is the case whether someone missed a day for a valid reason, regardless of whether the day fasted was a long or short day (i.e., a short winter day can make up for a long summer day missed previously and vice versa).  This also applies to fasts missed due to menstruation and lochia.

The following are exempt from this rule, so do not have to make up missed days of Ramadan:

  • A pre-pubescent child who attains to puberty
  • An insane person who becomes sane (on the condition his insanity was not caused intentionally)
  • And a non-Muslim who becomes a Muslim

However, it is Sunna for a pubescent child to make up missed days of fasting from when he was a pre-pubescent child at the age of full age of discrimination (around 7-8 years old and upwards, depending on the individual child), and for a new Muslim to make up the day he converted to Islam (if it falls on a day of Ramadan), though this is not obligatory on either.

When to make up the missed days of Ramadan

Someone who missed a day of Ramadan because of a valid excuse (including someone who forgot to make the nightly intention) – must make the day up after the excuse for not fasting ceases to exist. For example, a sick person who misses the whole Ramadan due to illness makes up all the fasts once he recovers, even if that is a long time after Ramadan.

It is recommended that such a person make up the fasts as early as possible and consecutively, but it is not obligatory to make them up immediately. However, if one delays making up the prayers until only the same amount of days are left before the next Ramadan arrives, then it becomes obligatory to make them up. For example, suppose someone had missed five days of Ramadan. In that case, it is permissible (though disliked) to leave making them up until only 5 days before the next Ramadan, which becomes obligatory.

As for someone who missed a fasting day without a valid reason – they must make up their fasts immediately, without delay.

Recommended etiquette of Ramadan

The following are sunna, or the recommended etiquette during Ramadan:

  • To break the fast (by eating or drinking) as soon as possible once Maghrib has set in, and one gets rewarded for hastening to it (separate from the reward of actually breaking it).

It is recommended (to achieve the optimal sunna) to break one’s fast on three fresh dates, and if not unavailable, then three dry dates, and if not three, then one. Suppose one has no dates, then water. However, getting the basic reward of breaking the fast, this is attained by eating or drinking anything (permissible).

  • To say the recommended supplications when breaking the fast. The duas for breaking the fast are many, but the most common ones are:

اللهم إنّي لك صمت وبك آمنت وعلى رزقك أفطرت

Allah, I have fasted for You, and I have believed in You, and from the sustenance given by You, I break the fast.

One may add:

ذَهَبَ الظَّمَأُ وَابْتَلَّتْ الْعُرُوقُ وَثَبَتَ الْأَجْرُ إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ

The thirst has gone, and the veins are moist, and reward is assured if Allah wills.

One may further add:

اللّهُم إنّي أَسألك برحمتك الّتِي وسِعَت كُلّ شيء أن تغفر لي

Allah, I ask You by Your mercy, which envelops all things, that You forgive me.

  • It is recommended to intend to fast (the next day) when breaking one’s current fast to ensure one does not forget later. Remaking the intention after having the pre-dawn meal (suhoor) is also recommended.
  • It is a sunnah to provide others with means to break the fast, even with one date or some water, though a meal is optimal. It is recommended to invocate the person who has provided one with food to break the fast by saying:

أَفْطَرَ عِنْدَكُمُ الصَّائِمُونَ ، وَأَكَلَ طَعَامَكُمُ الأَبْرَارُ ، وَصَلَّتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَلائِكَةُ

With you, those who are fasting have broken their fast, you have fed those who are righteous, and the angels recite their prayers upon you.

It is Sunnah to eat with those to whom you provide food, though if one knows they would be embarrassed to eat in front of the host, the host may leave them to eat.

  • The pre-dawn meal (suhoor): It is sunnah to take the pre-dawn meal, and reward and blessings are in it. The time for the pre-dawn meal enters in the middle of the night (not necessarily midnight; the night must be calculated to find the middle).

The pre-dawn meal should be left as late as possible (opposite to breaking the fast) unless one becomes uncertain if Fajr has come in or not.

  • One should ensure they have brushed their teeth / rinsed their mouth before Fajr enters.
  • If one is obligated to take a bath (such as after intercourse or after menstruation), then it is optimal to take it before Fajr, not only to make sure no water reaches a cavity but also to start the fasting day in a state of purity.
  • It is encouraged to be generous and increase in excellence in one’s dealings with family and neighbours, even if they are not in need, and to increase voluntary charity to those in need.
  • One should increase their recitation of the Quran and reciting it with one another.  One should also improve one’s remembrance (dhikr) and asking for forgiveness (istighfaar), one of the best dhikr in Ramadan being:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عُفُوٌّ كَرِيمٌ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي

O Allah! You are The One Who forgives greatly and loves to forgive, so forgive me.

  • It is recommended that the intention of Itikaaf (Spiritual retreat) be made as much as possible. One can do this by intending each time they go to the mosque, and before entering, ‘I intend Itikaaf for the duration I remain in this mosque’.

The last ten days of Ramadan are an emphasised sunnah for doing i’tikaf, for the reason that Lailat al Qadr is widely believed to be in the last ten days.

  • Tarawih prayers: The Tarawih prayers consist of twenty rakats and may be prayed in congregation or individually.

Makeup prayers behind Tarawih prayers.

The question often arises about whether one can or should make up prayers while praying Tarawih in the congregation. According to the foremost opinion, the answer is that one can make them up, intending each one as a Fajr make-up (if one has many Fajr make-ups, for example), though not best practice, since it is an obligatory prayer behind a sunna prayer. Otherwise, one should make their prayers up at home instead, preferably in the order missed.

Lailat al-Qadr

The Night of Power is named as such because of its tremendous station and weightiness, and Allah Most High decrees in it whatever He wishes.

It is stated that Lailat al Qadr occurs during the last ten days of Ramadan. Some say the odd nights, some the last three odd nights, and many hold (and the most famous) the 27th as being the Night of Power. Others hold that it is on the middle night of the month, all of Ramadan, and the whole year. Imam Shafi’i is inclined towards it being on the 21st or the 23rd of Ramadan. Others among the Shafi’ite scholars have said that each year, it changes from one night to the last ten nights, and this opinion unites the opinion of Imam Shafi’i and others. Imam Bajuri indicates that it falls on an odd-numbered night of Jumuah in the last half of Ramadan. The opinions as to when Lailat al Qadr occurs reach about 40 opinions!

The wisdom behind the ambiguous date of Lailat al Qadr is to encourage the Muslims to ‘bring alive’ and adorn their nights with worship during the last ten nights of Ramadan, as it is a specific attribute of our ummah and will remain as such until the Final Day (as opposed to the sects who claim that the Night of Power will or has been lifted and is no more).

The works done in Lailat al Qadr are better than 1000 nights in which there is no Lailat al Qadr.

The minimal of what is meant by ‘bringing alive’ one’s night is to pray Isha in the congregation, and this fulfils the meaning, and there is a tremendous reward just in this.  One should also ‘bring alive’ the day of Lailat al Qadr with worship (the day following the night of Lailat al Qadr) just as one did on the night of it.

While it is recommended to stay up the whole night in worship during the last ten days of Ramadan, it is disliked. Some actually consider it a reprehensible innovation, to stay up the whole of the night of every night of Ramadan, unless it is the habit of one to stay up in worship at nights (in which case there is no dislike in it). And Allah knows best.

Things one should leave during Ramadan:

  • One should leave lying, backbiting, and tale-bearing (in that it is more emphasised during Ramadan otherwise it is sinful and obligatory to go all the time). If one lies or backbites during a fasting day – he incurs a sin and loses all reward for the fast (even if he repents afterwards), but his fast is valid. Others held that it breaks the fast, which concurs with the Hanbali school.
  • One should try to leave all forms of permissible desire, pleasure, and entertainment during the fasting hours (impermissible desires go without saying), such as perfume, expensive or fancy clothes, smelling or looking at flowers, and entertainment. This is because the wisdom in fasting is to break one’s desire.
  • One should stay clear of insulting and cursing. If one is insulted, one should a) remember in one’s heart that one is fasting as a way of both rebuking and suppressing his ego, and 2) say as such with his tongue (‘I am fasting’), as a way of suppressing the one insulting him and answering back with that which is better, so long as he does not sense a sense of ostentation in him doing so.
  • One should leave off having cupping (blood/wet cupping) done or doing it on someone else, as some scholars state it breaks the fast.
  • Chewing gum (lubaan) is disliked as it makes one thirsty and, if mixed with saliva and swallowed, nullifies the fast.
  • It is disliked to taste food for no reason. However, if there is a valid reason, and no other non-fasting person can do it, then it is not disliked – such as softening bread for a child to eat, or doing tahneek. However, one should be careful and spit out any saliva that may become mixed.
  • Touching or kissing one’s spouse on the mouth or anywhere else is best not to do (Khilaaf al-Ula), even if one feels certain there is no chance of ejaculation. If one feels desire when kissing or touching, it is disliked (makruh). As for one who fears they might ejaculate from touching or kissing, even if an old person – then it is haram. This applies to obligatory fasts, and not voluntary, where there is no prohibition, though disliked.

It is disliked to use the toothstick (siwak) after Dhur and up until sunset (i.e., it should not be used for the Dhur prayer or Asr prayer). Imam al Nawawi held that it is always permissible (not disliked).



Fidia consists of one Mudd of the leading staple food (a dry measure consisting of a medium handful, amounting to approximately 0.51 litres) of the place the person is in at the point making up the fast becomes possible for him. One mudd must be paid for each day missed.

An example: Aisha is pregnant and currently lives in Jordan. Ramadan falls on the second month of Aisha’s pregnancy. She decides not to fast for the whole month solely out of concern for the child. In the months after Ramadan, Aisha has not been able to make up the missed days of fasting due to her poor health, during which she travels to the UK for the birth, which is then followed by 40 days of lochia. After the lochia term, she feels rested and healthy. She remains in the UK for two weeks before returning to Jordan. In this example, making up the fasts only became possible in the UK, and therefore she must pay one Mudd of the staple grain of the people in the UK for each day of Ramadan missed (and not Jordan, even though that is where the original fasts were missed). If, however, Aisha was still poorly after her lochia term and unable to make up the fast, and then travelled back to Jordan, after which she started to recover and finally regained health (feeling that she could now make up the fasts should she wish) – she must pay one Mudd of the staple grain of the people in the Jordan for each day of Ramadan missed.

A second opinion states that one can pay the fidia anywhere abroad (including online payments with the intention it is fidia for one’s missed fasts)

The mudd(s) must be distributed to the poor and the needy. Giving many mudds to one person is permissible, but not one mudd between two or more people. Nor can one give one and a bit to one person and the same to others.

The following people must pay the Fidia for the days they missed, as well as making up the fast:

  • Someone who did not fast or broke his fast without a valid legal excuse
  • A pregnant woman who does not fast or breaks her fast solely out of concern for the welfare of her child (according to the foremost opinion)
  • A nursing mother who does not fast or breaks her fast solely out of concern for the welfare of her nursing child (according to the foremost opinion)
  • Someone who breaks their fast to save a life or someone’s limb (human or animal), and there is no other way of doing other than to break one’s fast (according to the foremost opinion)
  • Someone who did not fast or broke his fast for a valid reason but did not make them up before the next Ramadan while he could (but not if he was unable to).

The following people must pay the Fidia for the days they missed but do not have to make up the fast:

  • Someone who is not able to fast due to sickness or enfeeblement, and there is no hope of recovery

The obligation to pay the mudd repeats each year. This means that for each year that is delayed, each day mounts up by one mudd. There is a strong opinion in the school that it should not be repeated.


Kaffarah is due on anyone who nullified a day of Ramadan through sexual intercourse (whether vaginal or anal, human or animal, with one’s spouse or illicit). However, the kaffarah is not due on the woman made love to (because her fast first broke due to a substance entering an orifice and not because of sexual intercourse). Nor is it on the man who has been entered (though his fast breaks). Someone who has sexual intercourse, forgetting he is fasting (or coerced), does not have to pay expiation as his fast is still valid.

Kaffarah is due for each day nullified and not for each act of intercourse. So if one was to break their fast through intercourse and then later have intercourse again on the same day – only one kaffarah is due for that day.

Kaffarah is not due on someone who breaks his fast by:

  • Sexual intercourse on fasting days outside of Ramadan, even if it is a make up of Ramadan.
  • Emission of semen (even if he has intercourse afterwards)
  • A traveller or a sick person who has sexual intercourse (even if illicit)
  • Someone who thought it was nighttime, so had intercourse, then later found it was daytime
  • Someone who has intercourse and does another thing that breaks the fast at precisely the same moment, such as eating
  • The woman made love to, or the man entered into (though they would have to pay the fidia expiation if done intentionally and voluntarily).

The kaffarah due, in order (of availability or ability, not choice), are:

  1. Freeing a believing slave, free from defects (not applicable in modern times)
  2. Fasting for two consecutive months: if one takes a break during any day within these two months – one must start the two months again. This is regardless of whether the break is taken for a valid reason or not, though someone in a state of long-term unconsciousness (such as a coma) does not have to start from the beginning.
  3. Feeding 60 people a mudd of the leading staple food: Each person must get one mudd. It is not permissible to give one person 60 mudd. One can give 60 mudd all in one go to 60 people. ‘Feeding’ here means giving the recipients the staple as a possession they own (not cooked). It can not be given to one’s own family, even if they are deserving recipients.

Regarding this order, there is some leeway in the school, as the scholars state that fasting for two months continuously, with the possibility of having to restart if one has to take a break, is extremely hard on most people. Therefore, the reliable opinion is that one can forego fasting and feed 60 people instead.

Fasting the six days of Shawall

The six days of Shawwal (The month after Ramadan) are the days that immediately follow the first day of Eid al Fitr (2nd – 7th Shawwal). It is recommended to fast the first six days of Shawwal, as the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) gave the glad tidings that “Whoever fasts Ramadan, then follows it with six days from Shawwal, it is like they fasted the entire year.” [Muslim]

The reward of fasting for six days of Shawwal brings about the above reward. The Sunna of fasting them consecutively is a separate reward. One may separate the six days anytime during Shawwal. Still, it is better to fast them consecutively (if one can) as hastening to worship is always recommended, and by not doing so, one forgoes the (separate) reward of fasting them consecutively.

The reward of these six days is as if one had fasted obligatory fasts. Therefore, if one were to fast the six days of Shawwal with Ramadan every year, it would be as if they observed obligatory fasts their whole life.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds