Fiqh of Ramadan in Brief

Imam Nawawi

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)

Siyam – Fasting

Fiqh of Ramadan in Brief

Excerpted from Minhaj al-Talibin, al-Imam Muhyiddin Abu Zakariya an-Nawawi (d 676H/1277 AC), considered one of the foremost scholars of Shafi`i fiqh.

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 traveller 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 lost thus.

Intention is a condition of the fast; the intention should be formulated each night… The full formulation in Ramadan is “to fast tomorrow to observe my duty towards Allah of fasting Ramadan this year.”


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 someting 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 seminal emission (otherwise) breaks the fast…

A traveller 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… [is that] 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.