FEATURE ARTICLE

SIYAM - FASTING al-Imam Muhyiddin al-Imam Abu Zakariya an-Nawawi

From Minhaj al-Talibin, by al-Imam Muhyiddin Yahya ibn Sharaf ad-Din an-Nawawi (d 676H/1277 AC), considered one of the foremost scholars of Shafi‘i fiqh. Imam an-Nawawi was born in 1233 AD in the village of Nawa, south of Damascus. He is considered the reviver (mujaddid) of his century, having acheived an outstanding reputation as a jurist, muhaddith (scholar of hadith) and zahid Sufi. Among his works are Sharh Sahih Muslim - a commentary on the Book of authentic hadith of Imam Muslim, and Riyad as-Saliheen, a compilation of authentic hadith.

Obligation to Fast

The fast of Ramadan becomes obligatory when thirty days of the preceding month, Sha‘ban, are past or with the seeing of the new moon of Ramadan. This seeing is established with the testimony of one trustworthy witnesses or as some [‘ulama] say, two. If one witness is accepted, it is a condition that he must have the quality of veracity... If we should fast because of such testimony and did not see the moon [of Shawwal] after thirty days, we might still end the fast even if the sky was cloudy...

Thus if the fast is not yet obligatory in one area and a traveler comes to a locality where the moon has been seen [i.e. they have begun fasting], the most proper thing is for him to conform with the inhabitants in fasting. One who travels to an area where the new moon of the Eid has been seen should feast with its people, and afterwards make up the day of fast he has thus lost.

Intention is a condition of the fast; the intention should be formulated each night... The full formulation in Ramadan is "[I intend] to fast tomorrow to observe my duty towards Allah of fasting Ramadan this year."

Conditions of the Fast

To fast, one must rigorously avoid sexual intercourse, vomiting... or introducing any substance to the "interior of the body." ... all can break the fast with the introduction of a substance by snuffing or eating or injection, or through incision in the belly or the head or the like. According to the soundest opinion, putting drops in the nose or the urethra breaks the fast...there is no harm in oil’s entering the pores by absorption, or when kohl (antimony) is used, and its taste is afterwards perceived in the throat. The introduction must be intended so that if [something] entered by accident, the fast would not be broken...

But the fast is broken if saliva leaves the mouth and one then brings it back into the mouth...If one swallows the saliva in his mouth he does not break the fast, but if he swallows the water from the mouth or nose remaining after the ablution, if it is in any quantity, he does. If food remaining between the teeth is dislodged by saliva, it does not break the fast...

If one eats something truly forgetting (that he is fasting) he has not broken the fast, unless he repeat this, according to the best opinions. I too say that he has not broken the fast, and Allah is Most-Knowing.

Sexual intercourse is like eating, according to our school (if committed during the time of fast and one has truly forgotten that he is fasting, it does not break the fast). But any [intentional] seminal emission (otherwise) breaks the fast...

A traveler or sick person who has legally broken the fast, must fast the number of days he has missed when he is able. This is true also for menstruating women, for those who broke the fast without a valid excuse, for those who did not formulate the intention before fasting, for one who was unconscious the entire day...

A pregnant or nursing woman must fast for lost days when she is able, but if she did not fast for reasons of her own health, she need not pay expiation; while if she broke the fast fearing for the child, she does pay expiation (fidya) as well. The expiation is a day’s food given to the poor and needy, of the same sort given in alms at the Eid of Fast-Breaking...

One owes an atonement (kaffara) for breaking the fast of Ramadan due to sexual intercourse... The atonement... he must fast sixty days, or if he cannot do that, give sixty days’ provisions to the poor. If he is unable to do all this, the obligation remains, and he must still do it if ever he is able... It is not possible for a poor person to pay his atonement to his own family.

Peace and Blessings on the Best of Creation Sayiddina Muhammad (s)

Imam Nawawi (d. 676)

One of the great Sufi scholars, strictest latter-time hadith masters, and most meticulous of jurists, Shaykh al-Islam Imam Muhyiddin Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi is with al-Rafi`i the principal reference of the late Shafi`i school. His books remain authoritative in the methodology of the law, in Qur'an commentary, and in hadith. His commentary of Sahih Muslim is second only to Ibn Hajar's commentary of Sahih Bukhari. Allah gave his famous compilation of Forty Hadiths more circulation and fame than possibly any other book of hadith, large or small, and has allowed Nawawi to be of immense benefit to the Community of Islam.

Nawawi was considered a Sufi and a saint, as is evident from the titles of some of his works and that of Sakhawi's biography entitled Tarjamat shaykh al-islam, qutb al-awliya' al-kiram, faqih al-anam, muhyi al-sunna wa mumit al-bid`a Abi Zakariyya Muhyi al-Din al-Nawawi (The biography of the Shaykh of Islam, the Pole of Noble Saints, the Jurist of Mankind, the Reviver of the Sunna and the Slayer of Innovation... al-Nawawi).


The believer has two pleasures, once when he breaks his fast and second when he meets his Lord.


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