The Mysteries of Fasting the Month of Ramadan, Part 1

Imam Ghazali


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)

Requirements and Conditions of the Duties Pertaining to Fasting Ramadan:

Ascertaining the Beginning of the Month of Fasting

The watch for the sighting of the crescent moon which defines the lunar month, whose cycles are the basis for determining the months in a perfectly natural yet synchronized fashion. Once the new moon has been sighted (i.e. the month’s beginning has been determined), its “arrival” should be proclaimed so that all may prepare to fast. Thus its proclamation as the beginning of the month of Fasting. If determination of the new moon is impossible, for whatever reason, the length of the preceding lunar month of Sha`ban is to be considered thirty days, the thirty-first day being the beginning of the month of fasting and wholehearted devotion to God: Ramadan. The determination of the lunar month should be by sighting the moon–it being witnessed by a Muslim known to be truthful and trustworthy–or as some scholars have acceded, by the establishment of its “newness” by accurate and trustworthy calculation, as is not possible through modern astronomy. Similarly, the sighting of the new moon or determination by calculation of Shawwal is to be witnessed by two truthful and trustworthy people as a precaution. Once a trustworthy witness announces that he has seen the new moon, or the new moon has accurately been determined by other means, the fast becomes obligatory upon those whose ears it reaches, even though an Islamic judge may not have announced the arrival of the new month. Whenever the new moon has been verified, be it in another city or country that share the same beginning of the day, the fast becomes incumbent upon the two.


It is imperative during Ramadan to make the intention to fast every night before the dawn of the following day, otherwise the fast is void. However, it is not the case with voluntary fasts. When it is unclear whether or not the following day is the first day of Ramadan one should make the intention to fast in case it is. The possibility of a trustworthy witness being mistaken should not affect the intention of the person who plans to fast the following day. If a woman anticipates the end of her menstruation during which fasting is prohibited before dawn, she should also make the intention to fast, the following day.

Conditions of the Daily Fast

bulletIt is obligatory upon every Muslim after reaching the age of puberty to fast each day of Ramadan and not miss any fasting day intentionally. It is obligatory to make up any days for which fasting was missed uninentionally during Ramadan by fasting at a later date whether or not they had a valid excuse among which are menstruation, pregnancy, nursing a baby, illness, travel and so on.

bulletFast days missed intentionally must be expiated by fasting for two consecutive months.

bulletEating or drinking invalidates the fast as does smoking, injections, enemas etc. Rinsing the mouth with water does not invalidate the fast, however, one must take care not to swallow or inhale as one’s fast will become void. Care must be exercised concerning eating just before the fast is due to begin. One must also be careful not to anticipate the arrival of evening and thereby break the fast early.

bulletMarried couples are forbidden to have intercourse whilst they are fasting. However, it is permissible after the fast has been broken in the evening. In the event that one experiences a “wet” dream whilst sleeping and then wake up the following morning in this condition of impurity his fast is not broken.

bulletDeliberate seminal emission either through sexual contact or through no sexual contact invalidates the fast.

bulletThe fast will not be broken by a kiss unless seminal fluid is discharged, however it is discouraged unless both are able to control their feelings.

bulletInduced vomiting invalidates the fast. However, if one cannot help it, the fast remains valid.

bulletPhlegm or mucus does not void the fast unless it is “collected” in the mouth and then swallowed.

bulletIn the event that one’s fasting becomes void, one should continue the practice of those fasting – i.e. abstinence of food and drink etc. However, if sexual intercourse occurs during the fast of Ramadan, its expiation will be to fast for two consecutive months. If those who indulged in intercourse are unable to fast the two consecutive months then each should feed sixty poor people as an expiation.

bulletIn the case of a women whose menstruation finishes during the day, there is no obligation upon her to practice the fast for the rest of that day.

Pregnancy & Nursing

If a woman is pregnant or breast feeding and cannot fast on that account, fearing harm to her own health or that of her child, it is obligatory for her to fast the days that are missed later on, and according to some scholar to atone for missing the fast by feeding the poor with the equivalent of a bushel of wheat for each lost day.

Ill and Elderly

In the case of elderly or ill people who are unable to fast, their expiation is also the feeding of the poor with the equivalent of a bushel of wheat for each day lost.


The traveler is not obliged to fast provided travel began before the time for the dawn prayer, the travel entailing the distance considered a condition for shortening the prayers. Missed fasts of the traveler must be made up after the end of Ramadan, but need not be expiated In the event that a person has already started fasting, he should not break the fast when he embarks upon a journey, nor yet when he returns from a journey. There is no obligation upon a non-fasting traveler to resume the fast upon reaching their destination before the end of the fasting day, however it is preferable for the traveler to fast the entire day unless it incurs more than the usual hardship of fasting.

Menstruation and Lochia

If a woman is menstruating or is bleeding due to childbirth (lochia), fasting is not valid until the menstruation ceases. Days missed by her can be made up anytime after the end of Ramadan during the year before the next Ramadan commences.

Al-Hamdulillah, praise and peace be upon His Prophet Muhammad and on his Family, Companions and his Followers, inwardly and outwardly.

The Inward Conditions of Fasting