What Is the Benefit of Fasting for 40 Days?

Niyyah and Fasting

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh  Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti

Question : Taghyir al-Niyya from Fasting

I was fasting and I passed through a restaurant and as a result of looking at the succulent and luscious (yum-yum) food on offer, it resulted in me having an unstoppable craving for the food itself and I felt then that I couldn’t keep my fast any longer. I ended up making the intention to break my fast there and ordered the food but I stopped short of eating it because I felt guilty. Is my fast broken because I intended to break the fast just as it definitely would in the case of the Salah according to the Shafii school? Must I now make qada of this fast day? Have I sinned?

Al-hamdulillah alladhi farada al-sawm li-jihad al-nafs wa-s-shaytan wa-s-salat wa-s-salam ‘ala sayyidina Muhammad azka l-anam sharafan.

Allahumma hidayatan li-s-sawab!

Answer : To intend leaving the fast [siyam] or intending to break the fast wilfully and consciously, will not invalidate [mubtil] the fast. The fast is only invalidated when the person fasting [sa’im] does one of the ten acts that breaks the fast [muftirat; such as performing sexual intercourse or in your case, eating that irresistible food]. This is different from the case of prayer [Salat], for the person who is in prayer [musalli] could vitiate the prayer by merely intending to leave his or her prayer (although it is Haram to do so if there is no valid excuse [‘udhr]). This is because the act of praying is more exact and limited in its scope and form, than any other acts of ‘ibada and worship. To merely intend leaving the act of fasting or I’tikaf [spiritual retreat] or Hajj or ‘Umra, without it being followed by some other extrinsic factor that invalidates that particular act, does not invalidate it.

This is made clear by Imam al-Bajuri (may Allah be pleased with him!) in his Hashiya of the Fath al-Qarib:

“Qadi Abu Shuja’: [Among the 11 things that invalidate the prayer is] to change one’s intention (Ibn Qasim: such as to intend to leave the prayer). ((al-Bajuri: Ibn Qasim’s [exact] words, “the prayer” [indicates that this] is contrary to the case when someone intends to leave either the fast or the I’tikaf or the Hajj or the ‘Umra, for neither of them can be invalidated [by changing one’s intention]. This is because the prayer is a more restricted type [of ‘ibada] than any of them.))” [al-Bajuri, Hashiya, 1:179].

+Fa’ida for students of fiqh+ The legal distinction between the prayer and other types of ‘ibada is that the latter acts could not be invalidated by changing one’s intention [taghyir al-niyya] (for example, of performing the fast to something else), because, unlike the prayer, to not change one’s intention of the ‘ibada is not stipulated as one of the conditions [shart] of the ‘ibada itself.

My dear brother, we humans are indeed weak creatures! Although fasting has been prescribed for us and for those before us so that we may discipline our egos and fight the devil, we are certainly not infallible like the prophets. For this very reason, we must take all the precautions available to us, whether necessary or suggestive ones, in order that we may achieve Ihsan and excellence in whatever ‘ibada we are performing. Alhamdulillah, in this particular case, your changing the intention did not lead to breaking the fast itself, but this was certainly a “near miss” incident, and again we thank divine protection for this mercy. Although you have managed to keep to the minimum fiqhi limits and although your fast was not invalidated by looking ‘lustfully’ or with shahwa [the “pleasure of the senses” or our “carnal appetites” (which incidentally is not limited only to the pleasures of our sexual organs but also to our digestive ones as you yourself garishly described it: “as a result of looking at the succulent and luscious (yum-yum) food on offer”)], it nevertheless goes against the spirit and wisdom of the fast. The adab of this ‘ibada requires that we do not slobber over food and drool over the objects, sabab and causes of shahwa. The fiqhi ruling for looking at what gives rise to shahwa while fasting is Makruh [offensive], and it is more godfearing [Wara’] to avoid shahwa, even though they are Mubah [permissible] when not fasting. (That is why we learn from the science of Tasawwuf, the fast in fact makes things which are normally Halal, Haram–so how do we measure indulgence in Haram things during a fast?) Indeed, for our case, avoiding looking at the world with shahwa becomes a preventative measure for us, and by not breaking this rule (even when it is not Haram and by breaking it we are not sinning) it becomes a means for us to prevent the lower-half of our nafs getting the better of us.

For this reason, we should listen to the advice of our Prophet (may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him!), as narrated by Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him!):

“khamsu khiSAlin yufaTTirna S-SA’ima wa-yunqiDna l-wuDU’a al-kadhibu wa l-ghIbatu wa n-namImatu wa n-naZaru bi-shahwatin wa l-yamInu l-kAdhiba” [There are five qualities which may break the fast of someone fasting [meaning, its rewards will be lost or reduced] and nullify [the reward of] wudu’: (1) lying; (2) slander; (3) defamation; (4) looking lustfully; and (5) a lying oath.] (Related by al-Daylami; note, according to some scholars of Hadith, this Hadith has defects).

As for your question: “Must I now make qada of this fast day?”

Although the answer here would obviously be no, you should have made it clear, the type of fast you were fasting (since in the event that the fast was broken (which it did not), the answer will depend on the type of fast one was fasting: if it is an obligatory one (such as the fast for Ramadan or a makeup [Qada’] or a vowed [Nadhr] or an expiation [Kaffara] fast), then one will have sinned (for it is Haram to interrupt the obligatory fast without a valid excuse) and one will have to makeup the fast (and in the case of an expiation fast, one will have to start fasting from day one again), while if it is a voluntary fast [tatawwu’] or fasts other than the obligatory ones, then if you were to go ahead and carried out what you intended (although it never happened), it is Makruh and offensive to do so because there was no excuse there, otherwise, it would be permissible (in a Makruh fast, for example)).

As for you question: “Have I sinned?”

On the contrary, and more than that, you will have been rewarded! From the science of Tawhid or theology, we know that when someone intended to disobey Allah but at the moment of executing it out, the person shies away from doing so and remembers Allah at that split second (by realizing that he or she will incur the displeasure of Allah, for instance) and reverts back to the original intention before intending disobedience and hurriedly seeks God’s forgiveness [istighfar] for having resolved to do such a thing and for carrying it out till this point, then, because he or she did not persist in this bad resolve [‘azm]* before reaching the ‘point of no return’ (in this case, the ma’siya itself or that which is Haram, namely the conclusive act that breaks the fast which will be caused by the arrival of a substance [‘ayn; in this case, the irresistible food] through an open passageway [manfadh; in this case, the mouth] to the body cavity [jawf; in this case, the stomach]), then he or she is rewarded and will not incur a sin.

* Extra notes for students of Tawhid on the difference between ‘Azm and Niyya: It became an ‘azm when the person first made the order with the waiter for that irresistible food (whether the person has or has not paid for the food); before reaching this ‘azm stage, it was only a simple niyya [intention]. There is a catch though: if the person were to die suddenly because of a heart attack, for instance, after ordering the food but before the food could reach his or her table or indeed, the stomach (in other words the death is at the ‘azm stage (and not at the mere niyya stage), thereby reaching the mukallaf’s point of ikhtiyar for this case), then, he or she would have sinned (if the fast is of the obligatory type). End of notes.

In fact, the feeling of guilt that stopped you from breaking the fast is an example of what the Prophet called, “Sarih al-Iman” or pure and unadulterated faith. Both, Imam al-Fashni, a Shafi’i jurist and Muhaddith, as well as his famous student, Imam Ibn Hajar summarised this well known belief in their commentary to the Arba’in of Imam al-Nawawi (may Allah be pleased with all of them!) in the following few lines:

“An example of that [i.e., Sarih al-Iman] is someone who planned to commit adultery, for example, and devised [to do it] in his heart, but then turned away from it owing to some sort of Taqwa [for example, having felt guilty or fear of the divine displeasure in the person’s heart]. He will then be rewarded for that because he, then, falls under the words of the Most High in a Hadith Qudsi [as narrated by Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him!)]:

“uktubUhA la-hu Hasanatan innamA tarakahA min ajlI” [[O’ angels,] record it [i.e., the bad intention] as a reward for him! Indeed, he abandoned it on account of Me.] (Related by Abu ‘Awana, Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim and Ibn Hibban, with variants).

[al-Fashni, al-Majalis al-Saniya, 83 and Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Mubin, 215].

Subhanallah, Allah is indeed merciful and behold how easy it is for us to do good in this world!

There is a final twist to this whole saga. My hope is that you did not, at the zenith of your case by abandoning the ma’siya at its point of maturity, yielded to the sunna of Shaytan by abandoning also your irresistible food and thereby laying it to waste. To secure the reward, you will have to save the food (by taking it home or giving it away in charity to the poor). If not, it would regrettably be the nadir of your saga. And so within five minutes of your triumph against the devil you were in ignominious retreat by the same sabab, with the henchmen of Iblis laughing all the way over the altered musabbab.

O’ Lord, we seek to be close to You so we may always be divinely guided, under Your protection from sins and errors! Ya Rabb, free us from the brethren of the devil!

Allahumma rabbana taqabbal minna salatana wa-siyamana wa-qiyamana wa-takhashshu’ana wa-tadarra’ana wa-ta’abbudana wa-tammim taqsirana Ya Allah Ya Arham al-Rahimin

[O’ Allah, our Lord! Accept from us our prayer, our fast, our vigil, our awe and humility towards You, our pleading humbly to You, our worship of You, and perfect our imperfections, O’ Allah, the Most Merciful of those who are merciful! Amin!]

The one seeking divine protection,

Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti ©
On the evening of Friday Mubaraka, 24 Shawwal 1424 or Thursday, 18 XII 2003.


al-Bajuri. Hashiya ‘ala Fath al-Qarib. 2 vols. Bulaq, 1288 H.

al-Fashni. al-Majalis al-Saniya fi Kalam ‘ala al-Arba’in al-Nawawiya. Bulaq, 1318 H.

Ibn Hajar al-Haytami. Fath al-Mubin li-Sharh al-Arba’in. Bulaq, 1351 H.