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Saum (fasting) is the second pillar of the Islamic system of worship. Saum is from the root sama which means ‘to abstain’. In the terminology of fiqh, saum means abstaining from food, drinks, smoking, sexual pleasure, and some other things from dawn to dusk. However, mere hunger and thirst do not constitute a fast. During fasting, one should abstain from all evil deeds, evil speech, and evil thoughts. It is obligatory for every adult Muslim who is not sick, disabled, a traveller, or in the state of menstruation or child birth bleeding to observe fasting throughout the month of Ramazan from dawn to sunset. Ramazan is considered a month of baraka (divine grace).

The Prophet said: ‘It is a month of endurance, and the reward of endurance is Paradise. It is a month in which a believer’s provisions are increased.’ Saum is an act of worship like salah, and therefore, like salah, it is also a mean of attaining taqwa (godfearingness) and spiritual perfection. The Qur’an says: You who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may learn self-restraint (Qur’an 2: 183) Saum is also called sabr in the Qur’an. The Arabic word sabr is a comprehensive term. It means sticking to one’s duty and mission in the face of great hardships; in other words, steadfastness, firmness of purpose, patience, perseverance, the power to bear difficulties and sorrow with a strong will and unwavering faith. The Qur’an says: O you who believe, seek help from sabr and salah, for God is with those who patiently persevere (Qur’an 2: 153)

The obligatory Fasts

Fasts is obligatory for one month in every lunar year i.e. the month of Ramazan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

There are other kinds of obligatory fasts as well, such as the compensatory fasts for the missed fast of a deceased father (obligatory for the eldest son); the fast of a deceased for which one has received payment; a fast made obligatory by a vow (nazr); and the fast which are to be taken as atonement for deliberate failure to perform some religious obligations.

Every adult Muslim who is not a traveller, sick, disabled, too old, too weak, or nourishing a child has to observe the fast during Ramazan.

The fasts should be observed from the first of Ramazan until the first of the following month (Shawwal). The first of Ramazan, like the first of every month, is established: if the moon is sighted and it leads to certainty, if people generally say that the moon has been sighted, if two person of probity testify that they have sighted the moon, or when thirty days of the previous month have been completed (the lunar month is either of 29 or 30 days’ duration and not more). If a person reaches certainty, through whatever means, that the first of Ramazan has arrived, this is valid for him. if the moon is sighted in a country or city which is far way from another, it will be valid if any part of the night is common between the two.

If the first of Ramazan is not established but there is a doubt whether it is the last of the previous month or the first of Ramazan, it is recommended that a person should observe the fast, but without the intention of observing an obligatory Ramazan fast, otherwise his fast will be invalid. But if he observes the fast with the intention of a recommended fast or even a compensatory fast, it was be counted as the obligatory Ramazan fast, if it is established later that it was the first of the fasting of the month. If it is known during the day itself that it is the first of Ramazan, the Faster should change his intention to one of performing and obligatory act when there is doubt whether it is the first of Ramazan and someone deliberately breaks the fast but later learns that it is was the first of Ramazan and someone deliberately breaks the fast but later learns that it was the first, there is no penalty (Kaffara); he only has to make it up (qaza). Likewise, if some one is certain that it is the first of Ramazan and breaks the fast but later realizes that is was the last date of the previous month, there will be no penalty.

Rules for Observing the Fast

A fast involves refraining from the following things.

1. Eating,

2. Drinking,

3. Smoking or inhaling dense fumes,

4. Sexual intercourse or masturbation,

5. Ascribing lies to God, the Prophet, and the Ma’sumun,

6. Deliberately vomiting or taking an enema.

It is also necessary to be clean from the impurity of janabat, hayz and nifas by performing ghusl or tayammum before the beginning of the fast. One who wants to observe a fast must refrain from the above-mentioned things with the solemn intention of fasting for God’s sake

1. Niyyat: After the moon of the Ramazan month is sighted, the person should prepare for the fast the make the solemn intention to observe obligatory fasting for the sake of gaining God’s pleasure.

Without such intention, no fast can be considered valid. However, it is not necessary that one should utter his intention, just to make the resolve in his mind is enough. One can make the intention for each day’s fast. One can also make the intention to fast the whole month on the first night of Ramazan. The time for making a niyyat for the next days fast is from the beginning of the night until just before dawn.

A fasting person should persist in his intention for the whole day. If he wavers whether to break his fast or to continue it or intends to break it, his fast becomes invalidated, even though he does not eat or drink anything.

2. Sahar: It is not obligatory, but the best practice is to wake up about one hour before the time of the morning azan and take some nourishment in preparation for the next day’s fast. However, one must stop eating, drinking, and all those acts, which violate a fast a few minutes before the time of the morning azan.

If, while engaged in eating, one realizes that the time for the morning azan has arrived, he should throw the food out of his mouth; if he swallow as it deliberately, his fast will be void and he will be subject to a penalty (Kaffara).

If, he does enact which violates the fast before making an inquiry into the time, and later realizes that the morning has arrived, he will have to compensate (qaza) for the fasting without being liable for a penalty. The same is the case if one had relied on someone’s statement, but later learns that he was wrong. However, if after making proper inquiries one was certain that the morning had not arrived but later learns that he was wrong, his fast will be correct.

There are some supplications and formulae which are recommended for the final hour before the commencement of the fast, and should be recited as much as possible. However, recitation of these formulae is not obligatory.

As a precaution, one should clean the teeth. If one knows that there is something in his teeth which he may swallow, but fails to remove it his fast will become void when it is swallowed.

Rules Concerning Fasting

During the day, from the time of morning azan until the time of sunset (magrib), one has to observe the following. 1-Refraining from eating and drinking: If one eats or drinks deliberately, whether it is much or little, even if one deliberately swallows only the wetness after brushing teeth, the fast is void and necessitates a penalty (Kaffara).

However, if one is compelled to eat, or eats and drinks a little involuntarily or due to forgetfulness, his fast will remain valid. For instance, if he takes water in the mouth or nose during wuzu, and the water goes down involuntarily, his fast is correct. Similarly one is allowed to swallow the water, which accumulates in the mouth or phlegm from the chest, which comes up with coughing. It is also permitted to taste food that is cooked without swallowing, and to take medicine, which is put on the mouth but is not swallowed.

2-Refraining from smoking and inhaling dense dust : One must refrain from smoking and inhaling dust into the throat.

The drawing-in of any kind of dense dust into the throat invalidates the fast. If there is a dust or storm, one must take all possible precautions to prevent the dust from reaching the throat, otherwise the fast will be invalidates. Smoking or the taking-in of any kind of dense vapour also invalidates the fast. If dust or dense smoke involuntarily, or due to carelessness, reaches a little into the throat, the fast is not invalidated as long as the person tries to prevent any further occurrence. One should also avoid inhaling dust which is not dense.

3-Refraining from sexual intercourse, masturbation, and ejaculation : It is necessary to avoid Sexual intercourse and every kind of voluntary seminal discharge from dawn to sunset during fasting. However, the fast is not invalidated by involuntary seminal discharge, whether awake or asleep.

One is permitted to kiss one’s spouse and to partake of other mutual pleasure as long as the male does not indulge in those acts with the intention of ejaculating. However, it is undesirable to indulge in such acts during a fast. If during such indulgences the male ejaculates involuntarily, his fast will remain valid. Masturbation also invalidates a east and should be avoided.

4-To be clean from the states of janaba, haiz, and nifas : It is necessary that one should perform ghusl or tayammum before the azan of the morning prayer in order to fast.

If one fails to do so on purpose, the fast will be invalid. If one deliberately delays the ghusl to the extend that there is no time left for it and one has to practice tayammum, although he has committed a sin his fast will be considered valid.

If the ejaculation takes place while sleeping during a fasting day, the fast will not be invalidated by it. It is also not necessary to perform ghusl immediately after it. If one is certain that if he slept he would ejaculate, there is no harm in sleeping and the fast will not be invalidated, even his fears comes true.

If the menstrual or childbirth bleeding of a woman terminates, but she does not perform ghusl before the morning azan, her fast will be void. If the time is short she can practice tayammum. If she becomes clean after the morning azan, or sees the bleeding during the day (even a little), she cannot fast.

Similarly, if she has become clean before the morning azan, but fails to perform ghusl, her fast is void.

During istihada a woman can fast if she performs ghusl as required (refer to Tauzihul Masael)

5-Refraining from deliberate vomiting : A fasting person who deliberately vomits invalidates the fast.

6-The avoidance of enemas, and precepts for the administration of medicines : A fasting person must not take liquid enemas, and use suppositories is disapproved. It is better to avoid injection which are given as substitutes to food, but they are allowed if taken as medicine. Instilling medicine in the eyes and applying mascara is disapproved of but not forbidden. Extracting teeth, or anything which results in bleeding, is also disapproved.

7- The avoidance of ascribing lies to God and the ma‘sumin : A fasting person must adhere to this rule, otherwise his fast will become void.

If someone narrates something from god or the Ma ‘suman assuming that it was true, but later discovers that it was not true, his fast will remain valid. If there is something about which one is not sure whether it is true or not, he should not narrate it, but if he does so, he should quote the source. If he narrates something from the Prophet assuming it false, but later discovers that it was correct, he should then finish the fast, then compensate. 8- Refraining from immersing the head : A fast becomes void if one immerses the head into water.

If a fast is Missed

If one misses a fast, deliberately refrains from it, or invalidates it, there are five possible outcomes:

1. One has to compensate by fasting at a later

2. One has to pay a mudd of food in expiation,

3. One has both to compensate and to pay a mudd,

4. One has to observe either two months’ fast for each deliberately missed fast, or to feed sixty people as penalty,

5. One is subject to all the above mentioned penalties.

1. Cases for which one has to compensate (qaza) by fasting later: In the following cases a compensatory fast for (after Ramazan) is enough and no explanation and penalty is involved.

i. If one misses a fast due to some justified reason.

ii. If one commits an act which invalidates the fast without intention.

iii. If one has to miss some fast due to illness and then recovers health. If one has to miss fasting for several Ramazans due to illness, he should compensate only for the last one and give expiation for the other Ramazans.

iv. If one misses the fast due to a journey.

v. If one purposefully vomits in a day of Ramazan, he has to make up the fast and expiation is necessary.

vi. If one has ejaculated in the night of Ramazan, wakes up but sleeps without ghusl and fails to wake up from the second sleep until the morning, he has to compensate for the fast.

vii. If one decides not to fast, he has to make it up.

viii. If one forgets to perform ghusl of janaba and fasts for one or more days in a state of impurity.

ix. If an insane person becomes sane, he does not have to compensate for the fasts missed during insanity.

When a person has to compensate for fasts, he should try to make them up before the next Ramazan. However, if he has to compensate for more than one Ramazan, he should start compensating, it would be considered for the first year.

A compensatory fast may be broken before midday, but should not be broken afterwards, as an obligatory caution.

Cases for which one has to pay expiation : The expiation is one mudd (750 gms) of wheat, rice, or barley for each fast, which is donated to a needy person. In those cases where one has to observe a compensatory fast and due to any reason is unable to do so, he may donate 750 gms wheat, rice, or barley to needy person for every fast. For instance, if a person had not fasted due to illness but his illness but his illness continues till the next Ramzans, he should pay the expiation for each fast.

If a person becomes well after being sick for some years, he should observe the compensatory fast, for the last Ramzan, while giving the expiation of 750 gms for the missed fast of previous Ramazans.

Very old people who cannot fasts should give 750 gms expiation for every fast.

Those who become unusually thirsty and cannot bear thirst or hunger are exempt from fasting but should pay the expiation for each fast. It is an obligatory caution that they should drink only as much water as is absolutely necessary.

Pregnant woman are also exempt from fasting if it is injurious to them. They should also pay the expiation for each fast.

A woman who is nursing a child is also exempt from fasting, if it is harmful to her the or the baby. Instead she should pay the expiation for each day. She should also observe compensatory fast later on.

3 - Cases in which both expiation and compensation are necessary: If a person deliberately takes an enema and dips into the water, he has to observe a compensatory fast as well as pay the expiation. If he deliberately commits some other act which invalidates the fast, he should also do the same.

If the person has missed the fasts of Ramazan due to an excuse other than illness (e.g. a journey) and his excuse continues until the next Ramazan, he should pay the expiation as recommended precaution and also observe compensatory fasting until the next Ramazan, without any excuse, he must observe compensatory fasts, as well as pay the 750 gm expiation for each missed fast.

4 - The penalties (Kaffara) for violating fasting : The penalty for abstaining from or violating the fasting regulations is to fast for two months or to feed sixty needy persons. If fasting is atonement, one has to observe thirty-one fasts consecutively. The remainder may be observed in a nonconsecutive manner. One should be careful that the thirty-one days should not include days in which fasting is forbidden (as at Id al-Qurban).

If the sequence is broken deliberately or due to the occurrence of such a day, one has to fast a new. However, if the sequence is broken sue to a justified excuse (such a menses or necessary travel) it is not necessary to start fasting a new. If one opts for feeding sixty poor persons, he should give one mudd (750gms) of wheat, rise, or barley. One person should be given each one 750gms except when it is certain he will give it to his relatives. If is not possible, he should give as much food as possible, and if unable to make any of the above-mentioned atonements, he should pray to God for one should not be careless in this matter.

If the fast is violated by an act which is not itself forbidden, one penalty is to be observed.

For example, if one indulges in lawful intercourse during a day of Ramazan, he has to pay of only one of the three above-mentioned penalties (Kaffara), even if he commits the act several times it is better to pay a penalty for each time. The same is true for masturbation. If the fast is broken by eating something which is lawful, one penalty is enough, even if the act is repeated several times.

When one deliberately breaks his fast, he is subject to the penalty. However, if one breaks it, but during the day some excuse is provided (for instance menses begins), the penalty is not to be paid.

If a person deliberately abstain from fasting during Ramazan, he has to observe a compensatory fast for each missed fast, and also to pay the penalty by fasting two months or by feeding sixty people for each fast.

If a person forces his wife into intercourse during a fast, he has to pay two penalties, for himself and his wife, while the women is exempt from the penalty. But if she consents during the act she will have to pay one penalty, and the husband two penalties.

5- Cases in which a person is subject to multiple penalties : If a fast is violated by an act which is in itself unlawful, multiple penalties should be paid. For example, if a person violated his fast by including in adultery or drinking wine, he is subjected to all the above-mentioned penalties. Likewise, if the fast is broken by eating or drinking something unlawful, multiple penalties should be paid. If a person ascribes a false thing to God, the Prophet, or the other ma’sumin, he should observe all three penalties.

Rules for Travellers

Those travellers who have to offer shortened prayers cannot fast and should observe compensatory fasts later on. But those travellers whose prayer is not shortened (such as those who stay more then ten days at a place or those whose profession involves travelling) have to fast during their journey.

If a person who is fasting starts his journey before the time for the midday prayer, he cannot complete his fast but should break it only after leaving his home town (otherwise an expiation will be necessary), But if he embarks on his journey after the time for the midday prayer, he should complete his fast.

Likewise, if a traveller arrives at his home town or the place where he intends to live for at least more than ten days, before the time for time for midday prayer, he can complete his fast, if he is not already committed an act which breaks the fast. Even if he has consumed either food or drink during the journey, it is desirable to refrain from it after reaching his home town, though it will not be considered a fast.

When a traveller reaches his home town or the place where he intends to stay for ten days or more, after the time for the midday prayer, he cannot complete the fast, but it is recommended to refrain from eating or drinking as a matter of respect for the month of Ramazan.

If a person does not know the rule that a fast is invalid during travel and he fast, it will be considered valid, but if he comes to know the rule during the day, his fast will be void.

Compensatory Fasts for a Father

It is obligatory for the eldest son to compensate for the misses fasts of his late father, either by observing them himself or by hiring someone else to do this. It is not obligatory to make up the missed fasts of one’s late mother, but it is very commendable if one does so.

If the eldest son is doubtful whether his father had missed any fasts, it is not obligatory for him to compensate for them. The missed fast for a deceased person can be broken either noon or afternoon.

Recommended Fasts

In addition to the obligatory fasts of Ramazan, fasting is recommended especially on the following days :

1. the first and last Thursday of every lunar month,

2. the 13th, 14th, and 15th of each lunar month,

3. the month of Rajab and Shaban,

4. Nawruz

5. the 25th and 29th of Dhu l-Qa’da,

6. the 1st to the 9th of dhu l-Hijja,

7. the day of Ghadir Khumm, the 18th of dhu l-Hijja,

8. the first, third and seventh of Muharrum,

9. the 17th of Rabi’ul-Awwal.

10. The 15th Jamadi’ul-Awwal.

Undesirable Fasts

To observe a recommended fast is undesirable if one’s parents disapprove.

Forbidden Fasts

It is forbidden and a sin to fast on the day of Id al-Fitr and Id al-Qurban. It is also forbidden for a wife to observe a recommended fast it her husband disapproves. Fitra (Almsgiving at the End of Ramazan)

Fitra (Almsgiving at the Eid of Ramazan)

Fitra is the obligatory alms which a Muslim has to pay for himself, all his dependants, and his guests at the end of the month of fasting.

Every Muslim who has reached the age of ritual puberty and is sane, and technically not needy or poor- poor means someone who does not have enough for one year’s expense according to his status-has to pay one sa (about 3 kilo) of wheat or rice, or its price, for himself and all his dependents as well as those guests who have arrived at his house by the time of evening prayer on the last day of Ramazan. He has to give about three kilos of all those who happen to be his dependant on that night, irrespective of whether they are infants, children, or adults, male, or female. Muslims or non Muslims or non Muslims whether they are staying with him or are abroad. However, he does not have to give the fitra of a child who is born after the time of evening prayer of the pre-id night, or for an insane person or who is in coma. For a person who has fainted, fitra should be given.

If a person who was dependent on one person because dependent on another before the time of evening prayer of that day (just as a girl may do by going to the house of her husband), his or her fitra will be obligatory on the second person. The fitra should be given for those servants who receive food from the person, but not for those receive money for food and provide their food themselves.

A person is responsible for the fitra of his dependents and guests, even if they themselves pay it. Similarly one who is dependent on someone else or a guest is not responsible for his fitra, even if the host or provide does not pay it.

The alms of fitra should be given with the solemn intention of seeking god’s pleasure, from any time from the time of evening prayer on the last day of Ramazan until the morning of Id day. One who goes for the Id prayer should set aside the amount of fitra first. It is not valid to give the alms of fitra before the month of Ramazan or even during this month, but one can lend money to a needy person beforehand, then count it as fitra when the time comes. The fitra should be in any case given by the noon of the day of the Id. However, if one fails to set it aside or pay it, he should give it without the intention of either ada (on time) or qaza (compensatory)

The alms of fitra should be paid out of the money which is earned through legitimate Islamic means, even if a person’s general expenses are met by suspect earnings.

To whom zakat al-fitra should be given

The uses of fitra are the same as the uses of zakah. However, it is emphasized that it should be paid to the needy and poor among the Shii Muslims. One should try to verify before paying fitra that the person is poor. It is not necessary that the poor person to whom fitra is given should be a person of probity who always acts according to the precepts of Islam, (adil). However, he should not be reputed sinner, who openly commits sins and does not pray. A sayyid (descendant of the Prophet) cannot receive the alms of a non-sayyid.

It is recommended that in giving fitra, one should prefer one’s own relatives and neighbours, and the people of one’s locality.