Fiqh of Ramadan in Detail

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

“O who believe, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you; perchance you will guard yourselves. (2:183)

Prescribed Fasting: Details of the Fiqh

from al-Fiqh `alal-madhahib al-Arba`ah

by the Azhari scholar Shaykh `Abd al-Rahman al-Jaziri (1882-1941)

1. Introduction

Prescribed fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the pillars of the Islamic faith. No proof is required to establish its being obligatory and one denying it goes out of the fold of Islam, because it is obvious like the prescribed prayer, and in respect of anything so evidently established both the learned and the unlettered, the elderly and the young, all stand on an equal footing. It was declared an obligatory duty (fard) in the second year of the Hijrah upon each and every one capable of carrying out religious duties, i.e. a sane adult (mukallaf) and breaking it is not permissible except for any of the following reasons:

1.1. Menstruation and bleeding following childbirth

The schools concur that fasting is not valid for women during menstruation and bleeding following childbirth.

1.2. Illness

The Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi`i and Maliki schools state that if one who is fasting (saim) falls ill, or fears the aggravation of his illness, or delay in recovery, he or she has the option to fast or refrain. Fasting is not incumbent upon that person. It is a relaxation and not an obligation in this situation. But where there is likelihood of death or loss of any of the senses, it is obligatory for the person not to fast and his fasting is not valid.

1. A Woman in the Final Stage of Pregnancy and Nursing Mothers

The Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi`i and Maliki schools say that if a pregnant or nursing woman fears harm for her own health or that of her child, her fasting is valid though it is permissible for her to refrain from fasting. If she opts for not fasting, the schools concur that she is bound to perform its missed days later. They differ regarding its substitute (fidyah) and atonement (kaffarah). In this regard the Hanafis observe that it is not at all obligatory. The Malikis are of the opinion that it is obligatory for a nursing woman, not for a pregnant one. The Hanbalis and the Shafi`is say that giving the substitute is obligatory upon a pregnant and a nursing woman only if they fear danger for the child, but if they fear harm for their own health as well as that of the child, they are bound to perform the fasts missed only without being required to give a substitute. The substitute for each day is the feeding of one needy person (one mudd), which amounts to feeding one destitute person (miskin).1

1.4. Travel

All four: the Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi`i and Maliki schools add a further condition to these, which is that the journey should commence before dawn and the traveler should have reached the point from where the prescribed prayer becomes overdue before dawn. Hence if he or she commences the journey after the setting in of dawn, it is unlawful for him or her to break the fast, and if he or she breaks it, its making up for will be obligatory upon him or her without an atonement (kaffarah). The Shafi`is add another condition, which is that the traveler should not be one who generally travels continuously, such as a driver. Thus if he travels habitually, he is not entitled to break the fast. In the opinion of all four of the schools, breaking the fast is optional and not compulsory. Therefore, a traveler who fulfills all the conditions has the option of fasting or not fasting. This is despite the observation of the Hanafis that performing the prescribed prayer as the shortened form during journey is compulsory and not optional.

1.5. Acute Thirst

There is consensus among all the schools that one suffering from a malady of acute thirst can break his fast, and if that person can carry out the missed fasts later, it will be obligatory upon him or her without any atonement, in the opinion of the Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi`i and Maliki schools. The schools differ in regard to acute hunger, as to whether it is one of the causes permitting breaking the fast, like thirst. The Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi`i and Maliki schools say that hunger and thirst are similar and both make breaking the fast permissible.

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