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Hypoglycemia and Ramadan

Answered by Dr. Asim Yusuf
Question: As-salaamu Alaykum,
I am hypoglycemic. The past few years I have fasted Ramadan but I wasn’t work during Ramadan. This year I will be an intense work during Ramadan which has made me concerned. I have noticed that I can get dangerously dizzy and can “black out.” I am also taking medication.
I do not want to miss out on fasting but I am concerned about my condition.
Can you help me?
Answer: I pray this finds you well and that Allah bestow upon you and your family relief from illness and a great reward for patiently bearing through it. The answer to your question, as with many who have similar questions, is: it depends. For a general understanding of the fundamentally merciful nature of the Sharia and the inter-linkage of expert opinion and religious law, I would refer you to this article.
Nonetheless, it is a well-known fact that Allah does not impose undue burdens on His creation, and that even in the most ultimately important of all affairs – the establishment of a relationship between Creator and creation through worship – allowance is made in situations where strict performance of the act might lead to undue hardship. This is most manifest in the ordination of the fast: Allah says, ‘whomsoever among you witnesses [the month of Ramadan] must fast; but if one of you is sick or on a journey, let them complete it on other days. Allah does not desire that hardship come to you, but rather ease…’
Whether a particular illness fulfils the requirements for an excuse that would lift the obligation to fast during Ramadan is a highly individual question which depends on the person, the condition and the circumstance. It ultimately boils down to whether the likely consequences of fasting would be significantly detrimental. There are a number of answers to similar questions to be found on the Seeker’s Guidance Answers section, and there is a good discussion of what might be called the ‘fiqh of reasonable fear’ to be found here. As an appendix to that answer, a few points should be noted:
1.In terms of determining what the potential consequences of fasting might be, three options are given. Of these, it is clear that, in our time, the most reliable is expert opinion (usually medical or other allied health professional). Health professionals are plentiful, specialised, highly trained and closely regulated; there are protocols of diagnosis and management widely available to them and which are all but obligatory for them to follow. Thus the guidance on health that one receives from them is often not merely the subjective opinion of a competent professional, but the relaying of the collective wisdom of hundreds of experts (much like a madhab, in fact!).
2.It should equally be noted, as a counter-balance to that, that medical professionals are normally not sufficiently trained (if at all) in the issuing of Islamic verdicts. They would not be aware of the limits of the Sharia, the spiritual importance of the fast (not just as an act of worship but as a nurturing of the soul), and the manners of determining when a condition might exempt one from fasting.
a.As an example of this, my wife once asked a Specialist Muslim OBGYN whether a pregnant woman should fast, and received a straight answer: ‘no.’ She then asked, ‘under what circumstances might an otherwise healthy pregnant woman abstaining from food and drink for 14-16 hours – but nourishing herself well outside of these times – be detrimental to mother or foetus, and in what way?’ The specialist went away, researched the question, and then came back with a nuanced, referenced and well-supported medical answer with no reference to any sort of legal verdict. (The short answer, out of interest, was ‘there are very few circumstances.’)
3.This is the ideal way to balance between fiqh and science: let the experts in each field pronounce on the basis of their own expertise and not go beyond it. Islamic scholars are not medical experts, and medical experts are not scholars; each is in need of the other to arrive at a sound ruling. Ghazali said, ‘when a thing exceeds its limits, it becomes its own opposite.’
In terms of your question, it would be difficult (and dangerous) for me to comment any further without knowing more specifics than you have provided (or possibly even know yourself). Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) is a dangerous condition with potentially life-threatening consequences. However, it is remediable through careful diet, prolonged-release sugars and – where required – medication. Given your commendable desire to keep the fast, I would advise that you seek out a physician, determine a clear diagnosis, level of severity and prognosis, and undertake treatment. There are many people who are diabetic, for example, but are able to keep even long Ramadan fasts through careful management of their conditions, regular monitoring, and guided modification of their treatment plans. Additionally, many commence fasting each day but break their fast if they feel symptoms of hypoglycaemia or detect it on blood monitoring, making up those fasts on shorter or cooler days.
On the other hand, many people adopt a cavalier approach to fasting despite their serious medical conditions, and cause themselves either short or long-term harm through a misplaced ‘trust in God.’ As the beloved Prophet (peace and blessings on him and his family) explained, ‘tie your camel (ie: take necessary precautions first) and then place your trust in God!’ I remember my father and I pleading with my 80 year old grandmother not to fast because of her medical conditions, explaining that Allah would reward her for her intention to fast and for her acceptance of His dispensation!
The same applies to any other medications that you may be taking. Most (but not all) long-term medications need to be taken at regular intervals to maintain what is known as a ‘steady-state equilibrium’ in the bloodstream – effectively a balance between intake and output. Modifying the dosing regimen – under expert supervision – is not normally problematic. Medications that should be taken, for example, at 8am and 8pm can normally be adjusted to fit around the fast. Thrice-daily medications can often be altered to twice-daily regimens in the same way. However, this should be done after taking advice from a professional – for it does not apply to all medications.
In summary, speak to your physician, ask them questions about consequence and modifiers that are within their expertise, and then discuss their opinions with a reliable and wise local scholar. There are vast amounts of information and protocols for the management of diabetic patients during Ramadan freely available online, for example: Recommendations for Management of Diabetes During Ramadan. Feel free to take these along to your physician to help them in their decision-making process. Indeed, whether you intend to fast or not, the fact of your family history and that you black-out at times is sufficient reason to visit your doctor. It is our duty –and a fundamental part of our trust and faith in God – to seek the means to wellness (‘afiya) in this world and the next.
Ultimately, Allah decrees that your health comes first, but do not miss an opportunity to worship him if you can avoid it. I pray that these words are of some small benefit, and ask that you do not forget me, my family, my teachers and all believers in your duas during this and other blessed times.
Was salam
Asim
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani
Dr. Asim Yusuf is a teacher, author vocalist and medical doctor. He was born in London and grew up in Manchester, before emigrating to South Africa with his family for a ten year stay. He has been studying the sacred sciences for many years with many notable scholars including Al-Allama Rasool Bakhsh Saeedi, Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi amongst others. He is the academic director of the Path to Salvation (www.pathtosalvation.co.uk), an integrative modular syllabus of Islamic studies. He has been authorized to instruct students in a number of Islamic sciences, and currently teaches theology, jurisprudence, spirituality, tafsir and hadith. Dr. Asim is also a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and is currently pursuing his Masters in Medical Education.

Long-Term Illness that Prevents Fasting

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: I was wondering if you could clarify the following matter regarding fasts. I am currently on medication, I have been taking it since I can remember. I take it twice a day and since it is very strong,I have to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. Most probably I will always be eating it all my life, as I already have been doing so.

With regards to this problem, what do I do in compensating for my fasts, since I cannot fast? Please can you give me specific recommendations?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

Please consult a reliable local scholar and physician to determine if there is any way to still fast despite your condition, such as by adjusting the medication dosage or times you have to take it, switching to another effective medication, seeking alternative modes of therapy, etc.

Also, see if you are able to make up the fasts when the days are shorter, and then still take your medication and requisite water before and after the fast.

If none of this is possible, then you would be considered someone with a chronic illness not expected to recover. The ruling for such a person is that if unable to fast, then for each missed day he must give fidya, i.e., roughly 2.2kg of wheat or its monetary equivalent to the poor. However, if at some point you get better and are able to fast, then you would have to make up all those days (even the days for which you paid the fidya). [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

In terms of general advice on how to make the most of Ramadan despite not being able to fast, please see the following:

How Can I Benefit From Ramadan When I Can’t Fast Due to Being Ill?

And Allah knows best.
wassalam
Faraz

Related Answer:

The Complete Guide to Fasting

How Can I Benefit From Ramadan When I Can’t Fast Due to Being Ill?

Answered by Ustadha Jameela Jafri

Question: Asalamu alaikum.  I have been unable to fast this Ramadan due to illness, which has left me depressed and confused. I have two related questions.What is Ramadan for someone who cannot keep fasts due to illness? And I don’t mean missing one fast but missing the whole of Ramadan.

I have been told my illness is terminal (according to doctors I will never be able to fast again in my life and I am only 21 which kills me inside)

Also what about the hadith where Allah subhana watala tells Hazrat Musa alayhi salaam that there are 70 000 veils between him alayhi salaam and Allah subhana watala when they speak but when the nation of the Prophet Muhammad sallalahu alayhi wasalam does dua at the time of iftar there is no veil between the nation and Allah azawajal. What does this hadith mean for the one who cannot fast?

Jazak Allah KhairAnswer: Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh. Thank you for your questions. May Allah Most High give you well-being and health.

Having a chronic illness is certainly difficult and it can affect one’s happiness and contentment with life in many ways. As Muslims, we believe that all conditions and states are from Allah Most High – health and sickness, wealth and poverty, fame and obscurity, etc. The Beloved Prophet ‘alay salatu wassalam said, “Wondrous are the affairs of the believer. His affairs are all good, and this is only the case for the believer. When something pleasing happens to him, he is thankful, and it is good for him. When something harmful happens to him, he is patient, and it is good for him” (Sahih al-Muslim). Knowing this helps us see chronic illnesses as a way to acquire patience and to accept the will of Allah Most High. Allah Most High tells us that He is Ever-Gentle with His servants (Quran 2:207). The trials and afflictions that we experience in this world are expressions of this gentleness, even when it is hard to understand why they are happening. We must consider that in His gentleness, Allah Most High is forgiving our sins, raising our ranks, and drawing us closer to Him by humbling us.

In this great blessed month of Ramadan, our good deeds are multiplied and the opportunities to draw close to Allah Most High are magnified. The Prophet ‘alay salatu wassalam reminded us to be avid for that which will benefit us. In Ramadan, we are eager to pursue Allah’s pleasure through fasting, offering extra prayers, reciting Qur’an, and acting in the best possible way. However, the way in which we respond to Allah’s call to worship Him this month depends upon our personal situations and states. There are some people that cannot stand for long prayers in the evening, others who do not know how to recite the Qur’an in Arabic, others who cannot fast, and so on. All of these individuals receive the same reward as the one who is able to do them, based on their intention. The Prophet ‘alay salatu wassalam taught us that actions are by their intentions and every person will have what they intended (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih al-Muslim). An individual with a chronic illness who cannot fast achieves through their intention what they could not in action.

This is important because Allah Most High does not impose difficulty upon us. He tells us, “The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights (the new moon of) the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship” (2:185). It is from Allah’s mercy and generosity that the obligation of fasting has been lifted from those that are ill and experiencing sickness. Yet, the sick person is still rewarded for fasting because if he had been able to, he would have fasted. In this way, the Sharia takes into account situations that excuse one from fasting, and in fact obligate one not to fast. For example, women who are menstruating, elderly individuals, and – as the verse indicates – those that are ill or traveling, are all excused from fasting. A person who is chronically ill is obligated to look after his health; if fasting would harm him, then he is actually obligated to not fast. Such a person is actually rewarded for not fasting, because he is responding to the call of Allah in the most appropriate and correct manner for him.

When the door to one act of worship is not facilitated, we turn towards the other opportunities that are available for us. There are many other things which you *can* do this month to draw closer to Allah Most High, such as reciting Qur’an, praying, going to the mosque, doing good works and so on. In addition to having the intention to fast if it were possible, take the means to help and assist those that are fasting. In this way, you continue to be connected to fasting and can even receive the reward of their fasts. For example, pray for the fasting Muslims, support a local iftar gathering by providing food, and donate charity to assist Muslims without sufficient food or water. Remember that this month is special and unique for everyone, whether that person is fasting or not. Stay motivated and set goals for yourself this month; the virtue of this blessed month does not dissipate whether or not you are fasting. Rather, the way that you can personally find fulfillment in this month is by doing those things that Allah Most High has blessed you with the capability to complete. Focus on those things and you will find through them a sense of satisfaction, connection to Allah, and gratitude for His immense blessings.

As for the hadith you mention about Musa ‘alay salam, please see the related answer: Is the Hadith Mentioned in Some Works Where Allah Speaks to Musa Authentic?

While we cannot say with confidence that these words were spoken to Musa ‘alay salam, the Qur’an provides confirmation that Allah Most High responds to the supplication of the servant. In the verses on fasting, Allah Most High says, “And when my servants asks you concerning Me, indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they might be rightly guided ” (2: 186). Allah Most High did not qualify his closeness to His servants based on their state; in other words, whether the person is sick or healthy, poor or wealthy, and so on, Allah is near and responds to the one who calls upon Him.

May your Ramadan be full of benefit, barakah, and proximity to Allah Most High.

Jameela

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Brief Overview of Expiatory Payments (fidya)

Answered by Sidi Waseem Hussain

Question: Can you explain the rules of expiatory payments (fidya) and who it applies to?

Answer: Asslamu Alaykum Warahmatullah,

The expiatory payment is a special form of charity given to a poor person where one has to pay for each day of missed fasts during Ramadan.

For every day of missed fasting one has to pay the value of approximately 2 kg of wheat. Please consult a local scholar on what the amount exactly is in your area.

In the Hanafi-school, the expiatory payment for Ramadan is only paid by “a person who is not able to fast at all.” This entails that fthe expiatory payment only applies for people whom, due to health considerations:

1.       Cannot fast in Ramadan and

2.       Cannot make up for the missed fasts at any other time of the year and

3.       Are not expected to ever regain the ability to make up for the missed fasts

All three conditions must be fulfilled. Otherwise one does not pay expiatory payments but has to perform the missing fasts.

This entails that:

  • Someone who misses out on a few days of fasting due to a temporary illness does not pay any expiatory payment.
  • Someone who accidentally or deliberately broke the fast does not pay any expiatory payment.
  • Someone who is unable to fast this year due to surgery or the like, but is expected to be able to fast next year does not pay any expiatory payment.
  • Someone who is unable to fast during the summer-months (long days), but can perform the make-up fasts in the winter moths (shorter days) does not pay any expiatory payment

If expiatory payment is given then it is a condition that the inability to fast remains until death. If someone was to regain his ability to fast after having paid then the expiatory payment will be rendered charity and one will have to perform make-up fasts instead.

Thus, in the Hanafi-school there is no expiatory payment for a pregnant or nursing woman who does not fast during Ramadan. She only has to perform make-up fasts. Similarly there is no expiatory payment if one was to delay making-up missed fasts for the current Ramadan until the next Ramadan entered.

As for your specific questions

– If one pays fidyah are they still supposed to make up the fast that was missed?

No. The expiatory payment is only paid when one is not able to fast at all.

– Is the expiatory payment for the old and the young alike?

Yes. If a young person due to health considerations is neither able to fast nor expected to regain the ability to fast, then he can pay the expiatory payment. The amount is the same as for an old person.

– If someone misses a day of the fasting and intends to make it up for sure are they exempt from paying the expiatory payment since they will be making up the missed days of fasting?

The expiatory payment is only due when one is not able to fast at all. Since one has the ability to perform a make-up fast then there is no expiatory payment.

– What is the amount to be paid for fidyah and does this amount differ depending on the madhab?

There is some difference of opinion on some of the details relating to the expiatory payment within different schools of though.

And Allah knows best,

[ref: Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Shaykhi Zadah, Majma al-Anhur; Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah; Tahtawi, Hashiyat Maraqi; Zailai, Tabyeen al-Haqa’iq]

Waseem Hussain

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Breaking One’s Fast Due to Weakness & Migranes

Answered by Sidi Waseem Hussain

Question: I have two questions: (a) If one cannot fast because they are weak or think that he/she may end up breaking it, how are they supposed to make up for it? (b) If someone suffers from migrane headaches, is he/she considered sick and skip fasting as one never know when a migrane headache starts.

Answer: Assalamu Alaykum

1. One cannot leave fasting because one thinks one may end up breaking the fast.

If one has fears that one could end up breaking the fast due to weakness then the first resort is to eat properly at suhur and exercise caution in one’s dealings throughout the day as to not put oneself into a position where one would break the fast. Having taken reasonable precautions then if something happens during the day that would allow one to break the fast then it can be broken.

The above would apply unless the fear has a sound basis, which is through obvious signs, past experience or the advice of an upright reliable doctor. If the fear has a sound basis then one may leave fasting for that day.

As for making up for a broken or missed fast due to sickness or weakness then one only needs to make up the missed fast after Ramadan without any payment.

[Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Ibn Nujaym, Bahr al-Raiq]

2. If it is not known when the migrane headache will start, then one has to fast. If the migrane starts and results in ubearable pain and hardship then one can break the fast, and it must be made up after Ramadan. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

Wassalam
Waseem

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Sidi Waseem Hussain attained an M.Sc. in Engineering, concentrating on international technology management. He  studied the Islamic sciences in Amman for a number of years, with particular emphasis on fiqh, hadith and `aqida. He is founder of the Danish Islamic Q&A service www.haya.dk. He currently lives in Denmark with his wife.

The Complete Guide to Fasting

Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahimi

The Fiqh Of Fasting In the Hanafi Madhhab

by Ustadha Umm Ihsan

Fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. The Companion Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) say: ‘The religion of Islam is based upon five (pillars): testifying that there is no deity except God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God; establishing the prayer; giving zakat; making pilgrimage; and fasting (the month) of Ramadan.’” [Bukhari; Muslim]

In truth, fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the greatest acts of worship a believer can perform. It is an act that cleanses one’s mind, body, and soul from the spiritual and physical impurities of this world. It is an act that brings the hearts of Muslims together on a world-wide level as they endeavor to practice the virtue of self-discipline in unison. And it is an act that satiates the hungry soul for its eagerness to please the Lord of the Worlds.

The act of fasting was also practiced by previous religious communities. Likewise, it has been ordained for the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). Allah All-Mighty says in the Quran, “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed onto you as it was prescribed onto those before you, that perhaps ye may (learn) self-restraint.” [Surat Al-Baqara, v. 183]

What is Fasting?

Linguistically, the word fasting in the Arabic language means unconditional ‘restraint’ (imsak) from any action or speech during any time.

According to the Sacred Law, fasting is the act of:

a. refraining from engaging in sexual activity, and
b. refraining from entering anything into the body cavity,
c. whether deliberately or accidentally,
d. from true dawn to the time the sun sets
e. accompanied with the intention of fasting
f.  from individuals who are permitted to fast.

‘Refraining from engaging in sexual activity’ includes actual sexual intercourse and ejaculation cased by foreplay.

‘Refraining from entering anything into the body cavity’ refers to the acts of entering food, drink, or medicine into the body cavity, regardless of whether this is a typical item one would enter into the body cavity or not. Entering any of these substances inside the body cavity means that the substance enters into the throat, the intestines, the stomach, or the brain by way of the nose, the throat, the private parts, or open wounds.

‘Whether deliberately or accidentally’ excludes forgetful acts of eating, drinking, or sexual activity.

‘From the time the sun begins to rise to the time the sun sets’ refers to the true entering of the Fajr time to the entering of the Maghrib time.

‘Accompanied with the intention of fasting’ means that one must intend to fast in order to distinguish if one is really performing an act of worship or not when one refrains from eating, drinking, or having sexual intercourse. For example, if one were to merely stay away from food, drink, or sexual activity without an intention to fast, then this fast is not valid and does not count.

‘From individuals who are permitted to fast’ means that one must be free from a situation that would prevent the validity of one’s fast, such as menstruation or lochia (post-natal bleeding).

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya; Shurunbulali Imdad al-Fattah]

When Does Fasting Become Obligatory?

Fasting the month of Ramadan is obligatory upon every Muslim, male and female, who is sane and pubescent. This ruling also applies to making up any unperformed Ramadan fasts whether due to an excuse or one’s own remissness. Therefore, a person is obliged to makeup missed Ramadan fasts. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah]

A male child becomes pubescent when he experiences a wet dream or ejaculation. A female child becomes pubescent when she experiences a wet dream or her first menstruation. If by the age of 15 lunar years neither male nor female has undergone these experiences, then they are considered legally pubescent and are obliged to fast.

Fasting the current month of Ramadan is obligatory upon the aforementioned individuals if they are physically able to fast, free from menstruation and lochia (post-natal bleeding), and resident. [ibid]

Who Is Excused From Fasting the Month of Ramadan?

Fasting the month of Ramadan is not obligatory upon a menstruating woman or a woman in the state of lochia (post-natal bleeding) because fasting is not permitted while they are in this state. [Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah]

Sick people and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are obliged to fast. However, illness can excuse a person from fasting if one reasonably fears that the act of fasting would increase the sickness or slow the recovery process. The same ruling applies to a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding and reasonably fears that fasting will harm her or her baby. Reasonable fear is known by: 1) manifest signs, 2) a relevant past experience, or 3) the notification of an upright, Muslim doctor/expert. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah]

A traveler is also excused from fasting if he initiates his journey before the time of Fajr enters. However, it is better that he fasts providing that this does not cause undue hardship. If a person begins fasting a day of Ramadan and then travels, he is obliged to complete his fast. [ibid]

All of the aforementioned individuals are obliged to make up their missed fasts once Ramadan has ended in a time that they are able. There is no expiation for a person who delays making up their missed fasts, though it is superior to make them up immediately if they are able. [ibid]

What are the Different Types of Fasts?

There are essentially 9 types of fasts:

1. Specified* Obligatory (fard) fasts: the current month of Ramadan

2. Non-Specified Obligatory (fard) fasts: make up fasts from a past Ramadan

3. Specified Necessary (wajib) fasts: specified vowed fasts

4. Non-Specified Necessary (wajib) fasts:

  • non-specified vowed fasts
  • expiation fasts
  • make up fasts for any vowed, sunna, nafl, or expiation fast that one vitiated

5. Emphasized Sunna fast:

  • the 9th of Dhul al-Hijjah (the day of Arafat)
  • the 10th of Muharram (the day of ‘Ashura) along with either the ninth or the eleventh day

6. Recommended fasts:

  • 13th, 14th, 15th days of each lunar month (full moon days)
  • every Monday and Thursday of each month
  • 6 days of the month of Shawwal; it is best to perform them consecutively
  • any other fast established by a request or promise of reward from the sunna, like the fast of Dawud (fasting every other day), which is said to be the most beloved fast to Allah

7. Voluntary (nafl) fasts: any fast other than the aforementioned as long as it is not disliked

8. Slightly Disliked (makruh tanzihi) fasts:

  • only fasting 10th of Muharram without the ninth or eleventh day
  • singling out Friday if one specifically thinks that there is reward in it, otherwise there is no dislikedness
  • singling out Saturday, though there is no dislikedness if it coincides with another type of fast
  • continuously fasting without breaking one’s fast in the evening (wisal)

9. Prohibitively disliked (makruh tahrimi), sinful fasts:

  • the day of Eid al-Fitr
  • the day of Eid al-Adha and the three days that follow (al-Ayyam al-Tashriq)

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya; Shurunbulali Imdad al-Fattah; Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi]

*Specified fast means that there is a specific time designated for performing this fast. [Radd al-Muhtar] As such, one is obliged to fast this day, and one cannot intend to fast a different type of fast.

Non-Specified fast means that there is not a specific time designated for performing this fast. Therefore, it is possible to choose when to fast it. The distinction between specified and non-specified also returns to rulings related to the intention which is forthcoming.

What are the Stipulations For a Valid Fast?

The stipulations for a valid fast are: 1) the intention, 2) to be free from menstruation and lochia, and 3) to be free from anything else that would break the fast. [Shurunbulali, Nur al-Iydah]

It is not a condition for the validity of the fast that a person be free from the state of major ritual impurity (janaba). The mother of the believers, Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) said, “Fajr would enter during the month of Ramadan and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) would be in a state of major ritual purity from other than a sexual dream (i.e. because of sexual relations). He would perform the purificatory bath and fast (that day).” [Muslim]

Likewise, if one intended to fast during the night and woke up within Fajr time in a state of major ritual impurity, then one must perform the purificatory bath (ghusl) for the sake of the validity of one’s prayers, fast this day, and the fast is considered valid. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Shurunbulali,  Imdad al-Fattah]

What Is the Intention?

The intention is needed for each day one fasts, even in the month of Ramadan. [Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya]

The intention is the determination one feels in the heart to do something. [Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya] A way to envision this point is if a person was to ask one what they are doing, one would affirm that they are fasting. Practically-speaking, it is nearly impossible to not have the intention in the Hanafi madhhab. One does not have to verbally state the intention, though it is better. [ibid]

When Does One Make the Intention?

The time of the intention depends on the type of fast.

Category A: For the specified obligatory, specified necessary, emphasized sunna, recommended, and nafl fasts, the following rulings apply to the intention:

1. One must make the intention in the appropriate time in order for the fast to count.
2. The time of the intention is from Maghrib of the previous night to before the Islamic midday (see definition below) of the following day. This is providing that one did nothing that would invalidate the fast from the start of Fajr time.
3. Scholars confirm that it is superior for one to make the intention the night before one fasts (i.e. any time from Maghrib to the entering of Fajr) due to the difference of opinion from other schools on this point.
4. It is sufficient to intend to fast without specifying if the fast is obligatory, necessary, sunna, recommended, or nafl.

[Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya; al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya]

Category B: For non-specified obligatory and non-specified necessary fasts, the following rulings apply to the intention:

1. One must make the intention in the appropriate time in order for the fast to count.
2. The time for the intention is from Maghrib of the previous night to the entering of Fajr on the day one desires to fast.
3. One must also specify the type of fast when intending.
4. If one made the intention after the entering of Fajr to before the Islamic midday (see definition below), then this fast counts as a voluntary (nafl) fast instead.

[Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya]

When Is the Islamic Midday?

The Islamic midday (al-Dahwa al-Kubra) is the half-way point between the entering of Fajr time to the entering of Maghrib time. It does not mean noon, nor does it mean the zawal. [Mulla Khusru, Durar al-Hikam Sharh Ghurar al-Ahkam; ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

For example, if Fajr entered at 5 am and Maghrib entered at 5 pm, then the Islamic midday would be the half-way point between this 12 hour time span, which is 11 am. Thus, in this example, a person would have from the entering of Maghrib of the previous night to before 11 am of the next day to make the intention if he is performing a fast from category A.

The intention must be made ‘before’ the Islamic midday because one needs to fast with the intention for the majority of the day. According to the Sacred Law, this would be akin to fasting the entire day. [Mulla Khusru, Durar al-Hikam Sharh Ghurar al-Ahkam; ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

What Happens If One Decides Not to Fast?

It is a condition that the intention to fast remains with one.

If during the night one decides to not fast the next day after previously intending to fast it, then one is not considered to be fasting for that day. If one renewed the intention, however, then one is considered to be fasting.

[Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya]

What Are Some Recommended Acts While Fasting?

  • To eat the pre-dawn meal (suhur) before Fajr time enters
  • To delay the pre-dawn meal closer to the time before Fajr enters
  • To hasten to break one’s fast at the entering of Maghrib

[Shurunbulali, Nur al-Iydah]

What Are Some Duas to Read When Breaking the Fast?

Allahumma laka sumtu wa bika aamantu wa ‘alayka tawakkaltu wa ‘ala rizqika aftartu wa sawm al-ghad min shahr Ramadan nawaytu faghfir li ma qaddamtu wa ma akh-khartu

“Oh Allah, for You I fasted, and in You I believe, and on You I place my reliance, and on Your provision I break my fast. And I intend the fasting of tomorrow for the month of Ramadan. Forgive me for what I did before and what I do after.”

Allahumma laka sumtu wa ‘ala rizqika aftartu

“Oh Allah for You I fasted and upon Your provision I break my fast.”

Allahumma laka sumna wa ‘ala rizqika aftarna fataqabbal minna innaka Anta al-Sami’ al-‘Alim

“Oh Allah for You we fasted, and upon Your provision we break our fasts. Accept this from us. Verily, You are All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”

[Nawawi, al-Adhkar; Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi]

What Does a Woman Do If Her Period Starts In Ramadan?

If her menstruation starts in Ramadan during the night (i.e. any time from the entering of Maghrib to before the entering of Fajr), then she refrains from fasting the following day and for the duration that she is menstruating. [Hedaya Hartford, Birgivi’s Manual Interpreted]

If her menstruation starts in Ramadan during the day (i.e. any time from the entering of Fajr to the entering of Maghrib), then her fast is vitiated and it does not count. She must make up this day after Ramadan has ended in a time when she is able. She must refrain from fasting for the duration that she is menstruating. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah; Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi]

A menstruating woman can eat and drink during the day in Ramadan. If she believes that it is unlawful for her to eat or drink, then it is necessary for her to do so as refraining from food or drink with the intention of fasting is unlawful for her. [Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi; Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah]

A menstruating woman should record the number of days she missed while fasting and make them up after Ramadan ends in a time when she is able.

The same rulings apply to a woman in a state of lochia (post-natal bleeding).

What Does a Woman Do If her Period Ends In Ramadan?

If her menstruation stops in Ramadan during the night (i.e. any time from the entering of Maghrib to before the entering of Fajr), then she performs a purificatory bath (ghusl), begins her obligatory worship, and she is obliged to fast the following day and the remainder of Ramadan. [Hedaya Hartford, Birgivi’s Manual Interpreted]

Note: There are details to this point if her menstruation ends before the menstrual maximum of 10 complete days and the ghusl time finishes within the Fajr time. Please refer to Hedaya Hartford’s ‘Birgivi’s Manual Interpreted.’

If her menstruation stops in Ramadan during the day (i.e. any time after the entering of Fajr up to the entering of Maghrib), then she performs a purificatory bath (ghusl), begins her obligatory worship and she acts like a fasting person until the Maghrib time enters due to the sacredness of the month of Ramadan. [Hedaya Hartford, Birgivi’s Manual Interpreted] It is necessary for her to abstain from eating and drinking for the remainder of the day. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Shurunbulali,  Imdad al-Fattah] She is sinful if she does not do so. However, this day of acting like a fasting person does not count as a fast. She must make up this day after Ramadan has ended in a time when she is able. [ibid] She is obliged to fast the following day and the remainder of Ramadan.

A menstruating woman should record the number of days she missed while fasting and make them up after Ramadan ends in a time when she is able.

The same rulings apply to a woman in a state of lochia (post-natal bleeding).

Are There Actions That Can Vitiate the Fast?

Yes, there are actions that can vitiate the fast. These actions fall under two categories: 1) that which vitiates the fast and requires a makeup along with expiation and 2) that which vitiates the fast and requires makeup only. [ibn Abdin, Radd al-Muhtar]

For the first category, the principle returns to deliberately performing an act that vitiates the fast by one’s own free will and without a valid reason. Deliberately means that one remembers that one is fasting and purposely performs an action that breaks the fast. [ibid] These actions are outlined below in the section ‘category 1.’

For the second category, the principle returns to accidentally performing an act that vitiates the fast. It also includes acts performed by force of a third party. Accidentally means that one remembers that one is fasting but broke the fast by one’s own doing without the intention to purposely break the fast. [Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi; Related in Radd al-Muhtar] These actions are outlined below in the section ‘category 2.’

If any of the actions from category 1 are performed forgetfully, then they do not vitiate the fast. Forgetfully means that one does not have the presence of mind that one is fasting when performing the action. [Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah]  The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever forgets that he is fasting and eats or drinks, then he still completes his fast. It is only Allah who fed him and gave him drink.” [Bukhari] In another narration, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “If a fasting person eats forgetfully, it is only provision Allah put forth to him and there is no makeup upon him.” [Bukhari]

Category 1: Acts That Vitiate the Fast & Require Makeup & Expiation

Acts that invalidate the fast and require a makeup along with expiation only relate to the current Ramadan fasts. Otherwise, if one performs any of the following actions while performing a fast outside of the current month of Ramadan, such as a make-up fast, then the fast is vitiated and only a makeup is required. One does not owe the expiation.

If done deliberately, by one’s own free will, and without a valid reason while fasting a current Ramadan fast, the following acts invalidate the fast and require a makeup along with expiation:

1. eating or drinking something that humans would normally consume and this consummation nourishes, medicates, r pleases the body in some way
2. actual sexual intercourse, in the front or rear private part*, regardless if one ejaculated or not
3. swallowing the saliva of one’s spouse

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya]

*It is impermissible and a grave crime to engage in sexual intercourse from the rear private part. The Sacred Law unconditionally prohibits this type of sexual activity whether during or not during the month of Ramadan.

What is the Expiation?

The expiation is to fast sixty consecutive days in the year without any interruption. One must choose a time where one can fast these sixty days without the days of Eid or the three days after Eid al-Adha (al-Ayyam al-Tashriq) interrupting the fasts because of the prohibition of fasting on these days. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah] If one does not fast them consecutively, then one must restart the 60 day period each time the continuity of the fasts is broken. [Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi]

The only exceptions to this rule are if one is menstruating or in a state of lochia (post-natal bleeding). A menstruating woman must continue to fast after she becomes pure, and she cannot delay the completion of the expiation. If she does delay fasting after becoming pure, then she must restart the 60 days of fasting. [Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi] The same ruling applies to a woman in the state of lochia.

If one is genuinely unable to perform the sixty consecutive fasts based on reasonable surety, then one must either:

a. feed the same sixty, poor people to their fill for two meals, or
b. feed one poor person to his fill for two meals a day for sixty days, or
c. give sixty poor people half a sa’* of wheat (or similar food grains) or its monetary value, or
d. give sixty poor people a sa’* of dates (or similar food grains) or its monetary value, or
e. give one poor person either c or d for sixty days.

It is important to note that one does not have a choice between fasting sixty days and feeding sixty poor people. Rather, one is obliged to fast sixty days, unless one is genuinely unable to perform all of these fasts based on reasonable surety.

Reasonable surety is known by: 1) manifest signs, 2) a relevant past experience, or 3) the notification of an upright, Muslim doctor/expert.

One expiation suffices for all previous violations performed, even if they occurred in separate Ramadans. However, if one performed a future violation after the performance of the expiation, then a new expiation is owed.

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya; Shurunbulali Imdad al-Fattah]

*Half a sa’ is approximately 2 kilos (4.5 pounds). A full sa’ is approximately 4 kilos (9 pounds).

Category 2: Acts That Vitiate the Fast & Require Make Up But Do Not Require Expiation

This category includes any act that vitiates the fast if done accidentally (see aforementioned definition) or by force of another.

It also includes any makeup fast one vitiated while trying to make it up.

The Mouth & Throat:

  • eating or drinking accidentally
  • eating or drinking because one thought Maghrib entered but Maghrib did not enter
  • eating or drinking because one doubted that Fajr entered but Fajr really did enter
  • eating or drinking forgetfully and thereafter thinking that the fast is broken, to deliberately eat and drink again
  • swallowing what is between the teeth, on the condition that it is the size of a chickpea or bigger
  • swallowing a pebble or other items that people wouldn’t typically eat
  • swallowing water by accident when gargling for wudu or ghusl (with the exception of water that remains in the mouth—see next category)
  • swallowing blood that exits from the gums and preponderates over the saliva
  • swallowing toothpaste or mouthwash
  • deliberately swallowing vomit that reaches a mouthful
  • deliberately vomiting a mouthful, regardless if one swallows it or not
  • vomiting and thereafter thinking that the fast is broken, to deliberately vomit again
  • smoke that enters the throat by one’s doing, on the condition one’s body doesn’t benefit from it
  • kissing that causes one to ejaculate, on the condition one did not swallow the other’s saliva

The Private Parts:

  • engaging in sexual intercourse because one still thinks Fajr has not entered but it really has
  • engaging in sexual intercourse forgetfully and thereafter thinking that the fast is broken, to deliberately have sexual intercourse again
  • entering a suppository into the anus
  • entering something dry into the anus and it completely disappears inside the body
  • entering something wet or oiled into the anus, even if it does not completely disappear inside of the body
  • entering a wet tissue or a wet piece of cotton into the vagina, even if it does not completely disappear inside of the body
  • entering a dry tissue or a dry piece of cotton into the vagina and it is completely inserted inside of the body without any part remaining outside
  • pouring water or oil into the anus and it reaches the distance of the mihqana*
  • pouring water or oil into the vagina and it reaches the distance of the mihqana

The Nose:

  • water used to clean the nose for wudu or ghusl reaches the throat or the brain
  • inhaling medicine into the nostrils
  • inhaling smoke by one’s doing, on the condition one’s body doesn’t benefit from it

The Body, in General:

  • touching that causes one to ejaculate (this includes masturbation)
  • applying medicine to an open abdominal or head wound and it reaches the stomach or the brain

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya; Shurunbulali Imdad al-Fattah]

*The mihqana, or huqna in other relations, is a device used to insert medicine into the body by way of the anus (medical term: enema). In our day, a mihqana is similar to a rectal syringe or a clyster-pipe. The distance that breaks the fast is determined by when the top of mihqana reaches the place where medicine is released from it to the intestines. [Radd al-Muhtar]

What are the Acts That Do Not Break the Fast?

The Mouth & Throat:

  • eating or drinking something forgetfully (see aforementioned definition)
  • eating what is between the teeth if it is less than the size of a chickpea
  • tasting the leftover traces of medicine in the mouth or throat
  • chewing on a sesame seed without swallowing it, if its taste doesn’t reach the throat
  • dust or smoke (including smoke from ‘ud or incense) entering one’s throat without one’s doing
  • a mosquito, fly, or any other object entering one’s throat without one’s doing
  • swallowing the wetness that remains after washing one’s mouth for wudu or ghusl
  • swallowing one or two drops of sweat or tears that enter the mouth and mixes with one’s saliva, on the condition that one cannot taste its saltiness
  • swallowing one’s own saliva
  • swallowing one’s own phlegm after clearing the throat
  • swallowing vomit that emerges in the mouth without one’s doing, even if it is a mouthful
  • deliberately vomiting less than a mouthful, regardless if one swallows it or not
  • using a miswak or toothbrush
  • wetting one’s lips with one’s saliva while speaking and swallowing it
  • swallowing blood that exits from the gums and does not preponderate over the saliva on the condition one cannot taste it
  • pulling back saliva into one’s mouth that flows to the chin like a string on the condition that it stays connected and does not break off
  • backbiting

The Private Parts:

  • performing sexual intercourse forgetfully
  • the state of major ritual impurity (janaba) suddenly befalls one, such as from a wet dream
  • ejaculation caused by looking or thinking
  • entering a dry finger into the anus
  • pouring water or oil into the male urethra
  • entering tissue or a piece of cotton into the male urethra, even if it completely disappears inside the body
  • entering a dry finger into the vagina
  • entering a dry tissue or a dry piece of cotton into the vagina upon the condition that part of it remains outside of the body
  • performing istinja with water, providing that the wetness doesn’t reach the distance of the mihqana (see aforementioned definition)

The Nose:

  • mucus descending from the nose
  • sniffing up mucus that is in the nose and it descends to one’s throat
  • inhaling smoke, perfume, or incense without one’s doing
  • smelling an odor

The Eyes:

  • applying kuhl in the eyes, even if one finds its taste in the throat or its color in the saliva or phlegm
  • dripping eye drops or contact solution into the eyes
  • wearing contact lenses

The Ears:

  • water entering the ears from a bath
  • scratching the inside of one’s ear with a q-tip, even if dirt exits and one reinserts it into the ear

The Body, in General:

  • rubbing oil or cream on the body or hair
  • applying deodorant
  • performing a bath and finding its coolness penetrating into one’s body
  • withdrawing blood, such as in a blood test
  • blood cupping

The Mind:

  • intending to break one’s fast but not actually doing it

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya; Shurunbulali Imdad al-Fattah]

What are the Acts That Are Disliked While Fasting?

  • tasting or chewing something without an excuse, provided that its flavor is not swallowed
  • chewing flavorless gum
  • kissing with desire in which one fears falling into sexual intercourse or ejaculation, on the condition one did not swallow the other’s saliva
  • gathering saliva in the mouth and then swallowing it
  • to gargle excessively when making wudu or ghusl for fear of breaking the fast
  • to sniff water excessively when cleaning the nose in wudu or ghusl for fear of breaking the fast
  • doing things that would weaken one while fasting, like cupping or withdrawing blood
  • brushing the teeth with toothpaste or using mouthwash, on the condition one does not swallow it

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya; Shurunbulali Imdad al-Fattah]

Can I Be Affectionate With My Spouse While Fasting?

There are different rulings related to this question due to the various ways one can be affectionate.

Physical Contact that Does Not Vitiate the Fast:

  • Non-passionate kissing in which one is free from swallowing the saliva of one’s spouse and free from the fear of falling into sexual intercourse or ejaculation
  • Non-passionate touching in which one is free from the fear of falling into sexual intercourse or ejaculation, such as hugging or holding hands
  • Looking at one’s spouse, even if one ejaculates

Physical Contact that Does Not Vitiate the Fast But Is Prohibitively Disliked and Sinful:

  • Kissing with desire in which one fears falling into sexual intercourse or ejaculation
  • Touching with desire in which one fears falling into sexual intercourse or ejaculation
  • Anything sexual that one fears will lead to sexual intercourse or ejaculation

Physical Contact that Vitiates the Fast And Requires Makeup Only:

  • Ejaculation from masturbation*
  • Kissing and touching (i.e. no actual penetration took place) that causes ejaculation*

Physical Contact that Vitiates the Fast and Requires Makeup and Expiation**:

  • Deliberate passionate kissing that causes one to swallow the saliva of one’s spouse*
  • Deliberate sexual intercourse in one of the private parts with ejaculation*
  • Deliberate sexual intercourse in one of the private parts without ejaculation*

*The person who involved himself in the above-mentioned situations should refrain from eating, drinking, and sexual activity for the remainder of that day, as well as repenting for the severity of the sin.

**Outside the month of Ramadan, if one breaks a fast deliberately through these acts, then the expiation is not required.

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya]

What is the I’tikaf (Spiritual Retreat)?

The mother of the believers, Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) said, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would always perform I’tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan until Allah Most High took his soul (Allah bless him and give him peace).” [Bukhari]

The scholar al-Zahidi said, “It is strange how the people have left performing the I’tikaf. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) performed some actions and left them, but he never left the I’tikaf–from the time he entered Medina to the moment he died (Allah bless him and give him peace).”

The I’tikaf is entering the masjid with the intention to remain there for worship. The masjid must be one where the group prayer is offered for the five obligatory prayers.

The I’tikaf  is permissible if one is free from a state of major ritual impurity, menstruation, and lochia (post-natal bleeding).

The conditions for a valid vowed I’tikaf (see definition below) are 1) the intention, 2) to be Muslim, 3) sanity, and 4) to be free from menstruation and lochia (post-natal bleeding).

[Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya]

What Are the Types of I’tikaf?

1. Necessary (wajib): the vowed I’tikaf

The vowed I’tikaf  is an oath to make i`tikaf for a specified time. It must be at least an entire day and night. One is obliged to fast during it in order for the vowed I’tikaf to count.

2. Emphasized sunna: the last ten days and nights of Ramadan

Performing I’tikaf in the last ten days and nights of Ramadan is a strongly emphasized communal sunna. It is blameworthy upon the community as a whole to not perform the I’tikaf. If some people perform the I’tikaf and others do not, then they raise the blameworthiness from the entire community.

The scholars do not stipulate that one must fast during the emphasized sunna I’tikaf because it is performed during Ramadan and the assumption is that the person will be fasting anyway.

3. Recommended: any times other than the aforementioned

For the recommended I’tikaf, its minimum duration is a moment, even if it’s when one passes through the mosque. Fasting is not a condition for the recommended I’tikaf.

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya]

Can a Woman Perform I’tikaf?

Yes, a woman can perform I’tikaf.

A woman’s I’tikaf is best performed in the prayer area of her house. The prayer area is the place where she has designated to pray her obligatory and nafl prayers.

It is disliked for a woman to perform I’tikaf in the masjid.

It is not valid for men to perform I’tikaf  in other than the masjid.

[Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya]

Can One Leave the Masjid During I’tikaf?

Leaving the masjid without an excuse ends the I’tikaf. This ruling also applies to a woman performing I’tikaf in the prayer area of her house. If one does leave because of an excuse, the excuse must be due to a shariah-compliant need, or to use the restroom if unable to use the masjid facilities, or out of necessity. [Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah]

What Does a Person Do During I’tikaf?

One is encouraged to busy oneself with worship and anything beneficial, such as praying, reciting the Qur’an, making much dhikr, speaking of the good, and gaining beneficial knowledge.

A person performing I’tikaf can eat, drink, sleep, talk, and do everything that is normally permissible, except for sexual intercourse, kissing, and touching with desire. [Shurunbulali, Nur al-Iydah]

Allah Most High says, “And do not approach your women while you are performing the spiritual retreat in the masjids.” [al-Baqara, v. 187] Engaging in these acts end the I’tikaf whether inside or outside of the masjid. For example, if one left the masjid for a shariah-compliant need and fell into sexual intercourse with one’s spouse, then this act ends the I’tikaf.  Engaging in these actions end the I’tikaf, regardless of whether one did them during the day or the night.

[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi; Shurunbulali Imdad al-Fattah]

During the I’tikaf, it is disliked to believe that remaining silent is a form of worship. It is also disliked to engage in work or trade. [Shurunbulali, Nur al-Iydah]

May Allah accept our fasts and any act of worship that we perform for His sake.

Ustadha Umm Ihsan is a female student of Islamic knowledge from the US. She studies with leading Hanafi scholars from Syria and elsewhere.

Using Asthma Medication: Is My Fast Invalidated?

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: I take asthma medication twice a day (morning & evening). Will taking this invalidate my fast?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well. May Allah grant us all health and well-being.

The entrance of anything with a perceptible body into the body cavity through a recognized entrance, such as the mouth, would invalidate the fast. [Shurunbulal, Maraqi al-Falah]

As such, the usage of an asthma spray, for example, while one is fasting would invalidate the fast. If it is done due to a valid medical reason one would only be required to make-up that fast later on when one possesses the ability to do so.

If one suffers from chronic asthma, which requires usage of the spray or other medicine mutliple times a day, then one would be excused from fasting and would be required to pay expiatory payments (fidya) instead. You should consult a reliable Muslim doctor on the specifics of your condition to ensure that you will not be exposing yourself to harm when fasting, and whether you will be able to use the medication at times that permit you to keep a valid fast.

Wassalam
Salman

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Pregnancy & Making Up Fasts: Does She Really Have To?

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: There was a recent post stating that women who are pregnant must make up their fast. This differs greatly from something that I’d read in another book. I am confused and would greatly appreciate your feedback.

Answer: assalamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

The position of the four schools, based on clear primary texts, is that a pregnant woman must make up the obligatory fasts that she has missed. However, one does not have to do so immediately but gradually when one is able to do so without burdening oneself excessively.

The Qur’an & Making-Up Missed Fasts

Allah Most High states, “Oh believers, prescribed for you is the Fast, even as it was prescribed for those that were before you — haply you will be godfearing — for days numbered, and if any of you be sick, or if he be on a journey, then [fast] a number of other days.” [2: 184]  He Most High says elsewhere, “So let those of you, who are present at the month, fast it; and if any of you be sick, or if he be on a journey, then a number of other days.” [2: 185]

These Qur’anic verses indicate that the basis for a morally responsible individual who witnesses the month of Ramadan is the obligation to fast.

However, due to the weak nature of human beings, Allah, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has allowed certain individuals to fast on alternative days due to certain excuses that would render fasting difficult. These excuses include (a) undertaking a legal journey and (b) sickness.

Thus, fasting these “alternative days” is obligatory. In addition to the Qur’anic verses, there is scholarly consensus that anyone who misses any obligatory fast is required to make it up, if they are capable of doing so. [Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah; Zayla`i, Tabiyin al-Haqa’iq; al-Haytami, Tuhfat al-Minhaj; ibn Qudama, al-Mughni]

Pregnancy, Sickness, & Missed Fasts

The obligation to make-up one’s missed fasts on alternative days also applies to the pregnant woman, a point upon which there is also scholarly consensus of the four schools based on the principle that any obligatory fast missed that one is capable of making up must be made up on an alternative day.

More specifically, the pregnant woman must make up her fast because the Qur’anic verse that commands fasting “a number of other days” for the “sick” person also applies to the “pregnant woman”. This is because the term “sickness” refers to any genuine hardship or harm that is feared from the act of fasting, which includes hardship from pregnancy.

Therefore, not fasting due to a genuine hardship while pregnant is akin to a “sickness”, and the ruling related to fasting during such a state is subsumed under the category of the ruling related to the fasting of the sick person. This includes being (a) allowed to break the fast when genuinely required and (b) making up such missed fasts at a later date. Thus, pregnancy is one of many subcategories of the general category of “sickness”. [Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an; Ibn `Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur’an; Illyish, Minah al-Khalil; Mubarakpuri, Tuhfa al-Ahwadhi]

Thus, Ibn Qudama, citing agreement on this point, states, “The upshot of this is that if the nursing and pregnant woman fear for themselves, they break the fast and make it up in accordance [with the amount they missed]. We do not know any difference of opinion relating to this between the people of knowledge, because they [s: the pregnant and nursing woman] are akin to the sick person who fears for himself.” [al-Mughni]

The Prophetic Narrative on the Issue

In addition to the explicit Qur’anic verse and scholarly consensus, there is also a Prophet narrative indicative of the pregnant woman’s obligation to make up missed fasts.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Indeed, Allah has unburdened the traveler from half of the prayer and fasting, and unburdened the pregnant and nursing woman from fasting.” [Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi]

Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas states, “Dont you see that removing the burden of fasting that He stipulated as a rule for the traveling person, He made it [s: this ruling] precisely the ruling for the pregnant and nursing woman as well… So, it is established from this that the ruling of removing the burden of fasting from the pregnant and nursing woman is akin to the ruling of removing it for the traveler, without any difference. What is known is that removing the burden of fasting from the traveler is from the perspective of being obligated to make it up due to [validly] breaking the fast, without paying compensation (fidya), and so it is necessary that this also be the ruling for the pregnant and nursing woman.” [Jassas; Ahkam al-Qur’an]

Therefore, in addition to the Qur’anic verses, this narration indicates that the pregnant woman must make-up such missed fasts as well.

The Position of the Four Schools

It has already been mentioned that there is consensus of the Sunni schools on the obligation to make-up missed obligatory fasts generally, for anyone who has missed them and is able to make them up, and that this consensus also includes the pregnant woman. This is what one will find when going through the relied-upon texts of the four schools, all of whom clearly stipulate that the pregnant woman who has missed obligatory fasts must make them up.

Among the Hanafis, this was clearly stated by Abu Bakr al-Jassas in his Ahkam al-Qur’an, Sarakhsi in his Mabsut, Quduri in his Mukhtasar, Ibn Nujaym in his Bahr al-Ra’iq, Shurunbulali in his Imdad al-Fattah, Haskafi in his Durr al-Mukhtar, Ibn `Abidin in his Hashiyah, and others. Some of these texts explicitly quote consensus on this point.

Among the Shafi`is, this was stated by Nawawi in his Minhaj, al-Khatib in his Iqna`, Ibn Hajar al-Hayatami in Tuhfat al-Minhaj, Ramli in Nihyat al-Muhtaj, and others.

Among the Hanbalis this was stated by Ibn Qudama in his al-Mughni, Ibn Muflih in al-Furu`, Mardawi in al-Insaf, and others.

Among the Malikis this was stated by Imam al-Abdari in Taj al-Iklil, Nafrawi in Fawakih al-Dawani, Shadhili’s Kifayat al-Talib, `Adawi’s Hashiya, and others.

Being Gradual & Appreciating the Blessings of Allah

If an individual has a number of missed fasts, then he or she should take gradual steps to make them up. In the Hanafi school, an individual who has not made up his fasts until next Ramadan enters is not required to pay an expiation or compensation. [ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

At the same time, one must appreciate the blessing of Allah in allowing one to make up these missed fasts, performing thereby an action of immense reward and merit.

In a narration, Allah Most High said, “Every good action is rewarded by ten times its kind, up to seven hundred times, except fasting, which is for Me, and I reward it.” [Tirmidhi, Muwatta]

One of the explanations given for this narration is that that the amount of reward earned by the one fasting is known only to Allah, and likewise only Allah is aware of the fasting person and his righteous act. Fasting is an act of sincerity, lacking the aspect of showing off, since it is hidden without any discernibly clear outward form. It allows one to imitate an angelic trait of freeing oneself from the needs of food, water, sexual intercourse, and the like. All of this is why Allah singled it out and gave it a noble status in the religion. [ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

So one should realize this, even with make up fasts. An intention can take a meager “form” or ritual and transform it into something eternal. This, coupled with genuine thankfulness towards Allah for allowing us to recognize our obligations and fulfill them opens the doors of mercy and blessings for one. We should never look at these actions as “burdens” but as opportunities that Allah thrusts at the feet of his servants indicating to them His desire to grant them good in this life and the next.

Always keep in mind what Allah has given us, among them these blessed opportunities to worship Him and make things right, and then observe what we “give” Him in return. When one contemplates on this, there is nothing one can do but say “Alhamdulilah”.

What He brings you,
What you bring Him
What a difference there is between them! [Ibn `Ata’illah, Hikam]

Wasalam
Salman

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Pregnant Women & Fasting

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari & Ustadha Sulma Badrudduja

Question: I know for many women who breast feed, they need to keep hydrated so that they are able to produce milk to feed their child. What do you suggestion one should do when wanting to fast but yet still breast feeding? What suggestions can you give for a woman in this situation in order to benefit the most from Ramadan?

Answer: The normal case is that Muslim women who are pregnant and nursing must fast. They should also take the means to ensure this.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani has outlined from Ibn `Abidin’s Radd al-Muhtar the case of when a pregnant or nursing woman is exempt from fasting. She may leave fasting if she has a good reason to fear harm for herself or her child. This is through

1. advice from reliable Muslim medical opinion (or a non-Muslim medical opinion if it confirm’s one’s own good reason for fear)
2. previous experience
3. or clear and unmistakable signs

It’s very important that women observe how their bodies react to fasting and not ignore obvious warning signs. Sometimes one can see two extremes when it comes to pregnancy/lactation and fasting. Either women automatically assume they cannot fast when pregnant or lactating, and they make no effort to see how their bodies will handle the fast. Or they fast and ignore all warning signs until their health is actually compromised. This is not the way it should be. Women need to strike a balance and understand that every woman’s experience will be different.

Some sisters have shown that they have been able to fast while pregnant and lactating. Other sisters, however, simply cannot fast and maintain good health during pregnancy or sufficient milk supply during lactation. In this case, women should keep track of the days they miss and plan to make them up later.

Again, being in tune with one’s body is really important. Looking out for obvious warning signs does not mean women should wait until they’ve landed in the hospital. What it does mean is that they have to check things like the frequency and color of their urine, frequency and consistency of stools, and the presence of any type of contractions when pregnant. When nursing, they should also look at the frequency and color of their urine, and be aware of the color of their milk, its quantity, the strength of their let-down reflex, and their baby’s state: contented vs. agitated.

Clear warning signs include:

1. dark urine (when pregnant or nursing)
2. constipation (when pregnant or nursing)
3. cramps and contractions (for pregnant women)
4. nausea
5. dizziness
6. a baby who seems agitated, that is, it’s clear that no matter how often you nurse the baby, she or he is not calming down

At the first sign of trouble, it’s permitted to break your fast and make up the days later.

Please note that this advice comes from an observant Muslim OBGYN who has advised many pregnant and nursing women during Ramadan.

In the end, pregnant and nursing women who are not able fasting can still do many things to make the most of their Ramadan. Ramadan is a time when one draws closer to Allah — and this can be done in many forms. She may perform the tarawih prayer, extra prayers and recite Qur’an. She can also do acts of charity and service for others. In addition to the outward forms of worship, many scholars have stressed the importance of inner acts of worship, such as reflecting on one’s bad habits and working steadily towards eliminating them.

And Allah knows best,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq & Sulma Badrudduja

(This is an answer combined from two replies to the specific question. Originally answered on the SeekersGuidance Ramadan Course Forum.)