One of the greatest acts of worship is fasting, which Allaah has made obligatory on His slaves, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):
“… Observing al-sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqoon (the pious).” [al-Baqarah 2:183]
Allaah encourages His slaves to fast:
“… And that you fast, it is better for you, if only you know.” [al-Baqarah 2:184 – interpretation of the meaning]
He guides them to give thanks to Him for having made fasting obligatory on them:
“… that you should magnify Allaah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him.” [al-Baqarah 2:185 – interpretation of the meaning]
He has made fasting dear to them, and has made it easy so that people do not find it too hard to give up their habits and what they are used to. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“… for a fixed number of days…” [al-Baqarah 2:184]
He has mercy on them and keeps them away from difficulties and harm, as He says (interpretation of the meaning:
“… but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days…” [al-Baqarah 2:184]
No wonder then, that in this month the hearts of the believers turn to their Most Merciful Lord, fearing their Lord above them, and hoping to attain His reward and the great victory (Paradise).
As the status of this act of worship is so high, it is essential to learn the ahkaam (rulings) that have to do with the month of fasting so that the Muslim will know what is obligatory, in order to do it, what is haraam, in order to avoid it, and what is permissible, so that he need not subject himself to hardship by depriving himself of it.
This book is a summary of the rulings, etiquette and Sunnah of fasting. May Allaah make it of benefit to myself and my Muslim brothers. Praise be to Allaah, Lord of the Worlds.
Definition of Siyaam (fasting)
(1) Siyaam in Arabic means abstaining; in Islam it means abstaining from things that break the fast, from dawn until sunset, having first made the intention (niyyah) to fast.
Ruling on fasting
(2) The ummah is agreed that fasting the month of Ramadaan is obligatory, the evidence for which is in the Qur’aan and Sunnah. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you who believe! Observing al-sawn (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqoon (the pious).” [al-Baqarah 2:183]
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Islam is built on five [pillars]…” among which he mentioned fasting in Ramadaan. (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 1/49). Whoever breaks the fast during Ramadaan without a legitimate excuse has committed a serious major sin, The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, describing a dream that he had seen: “… until I was at the mountain, where I heard loud voices. I asked, ‘What are these voices?’ They said, ‘This is the howling of the people of Hellfire.’ Then I was taken [to another place], and I saw people hanging from their hamstrings, with the corners of their mouths torn and dripping with blood. I said, ‘Who are these?’ They said, ‘The people who broke their fast before it was the proper time to do so,’ i.e., before the time of iftaar.” (Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/420).
Al-Haafiz al-Dhahabi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, “Among the believers it is well-established that whoever does not fast in Ramadaan without a valid excuse is worse than an adulterer or drunkard; they doubt whether he is even a Muslim at all, and they regard him as a heretic and profligate.” Shaykh al-Islam [Ibn Taymiyah] (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “If a person does not fast in Ramadaan knowing that it is haraam but making it halaal for himself to do so, kill him; and if he does it because he is immoral [but believes it is haraam], then punish him for not fasting.” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 25/265).
The virtues of fasting
(3) The virtues of fasting are great indeed, and one of the things reported in the saheeh ahaadeeth is that Allaah has chosen fasting for Himself, and He will reward it and multiply the reward without measure, as He says [in the hadeeth qudsi]: “Except for fasting which is only for My sake, and I will reward him for it.” (al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 1904; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/407). Fasting has no equal (al-Nisaa'i, 4/165; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/413), and the du’aa’ of the fasting person will not be refused (reported by al-Bayhaqi, 3/345; al-Silsilat al-Saheeh, 1797). The fasting person has two moments of joy: one when he breaks his fast and one when he meets his Lord and rejoices over his fasting (reported by Muslim, 2/807). Fasting will intercede for a person on the Day of Judgement, and will say, “O Lord, I prevented him from his food and physical desires during the day, so let me intercede for him.” (Reported by Ahmad, 2/174. Al-Haythami classed its isnaad as hasan in al-Majma’, 3/181. See also Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/411). The smell that comes from the mouth of a fasting person is better with Allaah than the scent of musk. (Muslim, 2/807). Fasting is a protection and a strong fortress that keeps a person safe from the Fire. (Reported by Ahmad, 2/402; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/411; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 3880). Whoever fasts one day for the sake of Allaah, Allaah will remove his face seventy years’ distance from the Fire. (Reported by Muslim, 2/808). Whoever fasts one day seeking the pleasure of Allaah, if that is the last day of his life, he will enter Paradise. (Reported by Ahmad, 5/391; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/412). In Paradise there is a gate called al-Rayyaan, through those who fast will enter, and no one will enter it except them; when they have entered it will be locked, and no-one else will enter through it.” (al-Bukhaari, Fath, no. 1797).
Ramadaan is a pillar of Islam; the Qur’aan was revealed in this month, and in it there is a night that is better than a thousand months. “When Ramadaan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 3277). Fasting Ramadaan is equivalent to fasting ten months (See Musnad Ahmad, 5/280; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/421). “Whoever fasts Ramadaan out of faith and with the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, no. 37). At the breaking of every fast, Allaah will choose people to free from Hellfire. (Reported by Ahmad, 5/256; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/419).
The benefits of fasting
(4) There is much wisdom and many benefits in fasting, which have to do with the taqwa mentioned by Allaah in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):
“… that you may become al-muttaqoon (the pious).” [al-Baqarah 2:183]
The interpretation of this is that if a person refrains from halaal things hoping to earn the pleasure of Allaah and out of fear of His punishment, it will be easier for him to refrain from doing haraam things.
If a person’s stomach is hungry, this will keep many of his other faculties from feeling hunger or desires; but if his stomach is satisfied, his tongue, eye, hand and private parts will start to feel hungry. Fasting leads to the defeat of Shaytaan; it controls desires and protects one’s faculties.
When the fasting person feels the pangs of hunger, he experiences how the poor feel, so he has compassion towards them and gives them something to ward off their hunger. Hearing about them is not the same as sharing their suffering, just as a rider does not understand the hardship of walking unless he gets down and walks.
Fasting trains the will to avoid desires and keep away from sin; it helps a person to overcome his own nature and to wean himself away from his habits. It also trains a person to get used to being organized and punctual, which will solve the problem that many people have of being disorganized, if only they realized.
Fasting is also a demonstration of the unity of the Muslims, as the ummah fasts and breaks its fast at the same time.
Fasting also provides a great opportunity for those who are calling others to Allaah. In this month many people come to the mosque who are coming for the first time, or who have not been to the mosque for a long time, and their hearts are open, so we must make the most of this opportunity by preaching in a gentle manner, teaching appropriate lessons and speaking beneficial words, whilst co-operating in righteousness and good deeds. The dai’yah should not be so preoccupied with others that he forgets his own soul and becomes like a wick that lights the way for others while it is itself consumed.
Etiquette and Sunnah of fasting
Some aspects are obligatory (waajib) and others are recommended (mustahabb).
We should make sure that we eat and drink something at suhoor, and that we delay it until just before the adhaan of Fajr. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Have suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing (barakah).” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/139). “Suhoor is blessed food, and it involves being different from the people of the Book. What a good suhoor for the believer is dates.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 2345; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/448).
Not delaying iftaar, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The people will be fine so long as they do not delay iftaar.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/198).
Breaking one's fast in the manner described in the hadeeth narrated by Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him): “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to break his fast with fresh dates before praying; if fresh dates were not available, he would eat (dried) dates; if dried dates were not available, he would have a few sips of water.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 3/79 and others. He said it is a ghareeb hasan hadeeth. Classed as saheeh in al-Irwa’, no. 922).
After iftaar, reciting the words reported in the hadeeth narrated by Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both), according to which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), when he broke his fast, would say: “Dhahaba al-zama’, wa’btallat al-‘urooq, wa thabat al-ajru in sha Allaah (Thirst is gone, veins are flowing again, and the reward is certain, in sha Allaah).” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 2/765; its isnaad was classed as hasan by al-Daaraqutni, 2/185).
Keeping away from sin, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When any of you is fasting, let him not commit sin…” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 1904). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not stop speaking falsehood and acting in accordance with it, Allaah has no need of him giving up his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 1903). The person who is fasting should avoid all kinds of haraam actions, such as backbiting, obscenity and lies, otherwise his reward may all be lost. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It may be that a fasting person gets nothing from his fast except hunger.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, 1/539; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/453).
Among the things that can destroy one’s hasanaat (good deeds) and bring sayi’aat (bad deeds) is allowing oneself to be distracted by quiz-shows, soap operas, movies and sports matches, idle gatherings, hanging about in the streets with evil people and time-wasters, driving around for no purpose, and crowding the streets and sidewalks, so that the months of tahajjud, dhikr and worship, for many people, becomes the month of sleeping in the day so as to avoid feeling hungry, thus missing their prayers and the opportunity to pray them in congregation, then spending their nights in entertainment and indulging their desires. Some people even greet the month with feelings of annoyance, thinking only of the pleasures they will miss out on. In Ramadaan, some people travel to kaafir lands to enjoy a holiday! Even the mosques are not free from such evils as the appearance of women wearing makeup and perfume, and even the Sacred House of Allaah is not free of these ills. Some people make the month a season for begging, even though they are not in need. Some of them entertain themselves with dangerous fireworks and the like, and some of them waste their time in the markets, wandering around the shops, or sewing and following fashions. Some of them put new products and new styles in their stores during the last ten days of the month, to keep people away from earning rewards and hasanaat.
Not allowing oneself to be provoked, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If someone fights him or insults him, he should say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari and others. Al-Fath, no. 1894) One reason for this is to remind himself, and another reason is to remind his adversary. But anyone who looks at the conduct of many of those who fast will see something quite different. It is essential to exercise self-control and be calm, but we see the opposite among crazy drivers who speed up when they hear the adhaan for Maghrib.
(*) Not eating too much, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The son of Adam fills no worse vessel than his stomach.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2380; he said, this is a hasan saheeh hadeeth). The wise person wants to eat to live, not live to eat. The best type of food is that which is there to be used, not that which is there to be served. But people indulge in making all kinds of food (during Ramadaan) and treating food preparation as a virtual art form, so that housewives and servants spend all their time on making food, and this keeps them away from worship, and people spend far more on food during Ramadaan than they do ordinarily. Thus the month becomes the month of indigestion, fatness and gastric illness, where people eat like gluttons and drink like thirsty camels, and when they get up to pray Taraaweeh, they do so reluctantly, and some of them leave after the first two rak’ahs.
(*) Being generous by sharing knowledge, giving money, using one’s position of authority or physical strength to help others, and having a good attitude. Al-Bukhaari and Muslim reported that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was the most generous of people [in doing good], and he was most generous of all in Ramadaan when Jibreel met with him, and he used to meet him every night in Ramadaan and teach him the Qur’aan. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was more generous in doing good than a blowing wind.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 6). How can people exchange generosity for stinginess and action for laziness, to the extent that they do not do their work properly and do not treat one another properly, and they use fasting as an excuse for all this.
Combining fasting with feeding the poor is one of the means of reaching Paradise, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “In Paradise there are rooms whose outside can be seen from the inside and the inside can be seen from the outside. Allaah has prepared them for those who feed the poor, who are gentle in speech, who fast regularly and who pray at night when people are asleep.” (Reported by Ahmad 5/343; Ibn Khuzaymah, no. 2137. Al-Albaani said in his footnote, its isnaad is hasan because of other corroborating reports). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast, will have a reward equal to his, without it detracting in the slightest from the reward of the fasting person.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 3/171; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/451). Shaykh al-Islam [Ibn Taymiyah] (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “What is meant is that he should feed him until he is satisfied.” (Al-Ikhtiyaaraat al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 109).
A number of the Salaf (may Allaah have mercy on them) preferred the poor over themselves when feeding them at the time of iftaar. Among these were ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar, Maalik ibn Deenaar, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others. ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar would not break his fast unless there were orphans and poor people with him.
What should be done during this great month
(*) Preparing oneself and one’s environment for worship, hastening to repent and turn back to Allaah, rejoicing at the onset of the month, fasting properly, having the right frame of mind and fearing Allaah when praying Taraaweeh, not feeling tired during the middle ten days of the month, seeking Laylat al-Qadr, reading the entire Qur’aan time after time, trying to weep and trying to understand what you are reading. ‘Umrah during Ramadaan is equivalent to Hajj, and charity given during this virtuous time is multiplied, and I’tikaaf (retreat in the mosque for worship) is confirmed (as part of the Sunnah).
(*) There is nothing wrong with congratulating one another at the beginning of the month. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to tell his Companions the good news of the onset of Ramadaan, and urge them to make the most of it. Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘There has come to you Ramadaan, a blessed month. Allaah has made it obligatory on you to fast (this month). During it the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are locked, and the devils are chained up. In it there is a night that is better than a thousand months, and whoever is deprived of its goodness is deprived indeed.’” (Reported by al-Nisaa'i, 4/129; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/490)
Some of the ahkaam (rulings) on fasting
(6) There is the kind of fasting that must be done on consecutive days, like fasting in Ramadaan, or fasting to expiate for killing someone by mistake, divorcing one’s wife by zihaar [a jaahili form of divorce in which a man says to his wife, “You are to me as the back of my mother” – Translator], or having intercourse during the day in Ramadaan. Also, one who makes a vow to fast consecutive days must fulfil it.
There is also the other kind of fasting which does not have to be done on consecutive days, such as making up days missed in Ramadaan, fasting ten days if one does not have a sacrifice, fasting for kafaarat yameen (according to the majority), fasting to compensate for violating the conditions of ihraam (according to the most correct opinion), and fasting in fulfilment of a vow in cases where one did not have the intention of fasting consecutive days.
(7) Voluntary fasts make up for any shortfall in obligatory fasts. Examples of voluntary fasts include ‘Aashooraa, ‘Arafaah, Ayyaam al-Beed [the 13th, 14th and 15th of the hijri months – Translator], Mondays and Thursdays, six days of Shawwaal, and fasting more during Muharram and Sha’baan.
(8) It is not permitted to single out a Friday for fasting (al-Bukhaari, Fath al-Baari, no. 1985), or to fast on a Saturday, unless it is an obligatory fast (reported and classed as hasan by al-Tirmidhi, 3/111) – what is meant is singling it out without a reason. It is not permitted to fast for an entire lifetime, or to fast for two days or more without a break, i.e., to fast two or three days without a break in between.
It is haraam to fast on the two Eid days, or on the Ayyaam al-Tashreeq, which are the 11th, 12th and 13th of Dhoo’l-Hijjah, because these are the days of eating and drinking and remembering Allaah, but it is permissible for the one who does not have a sacrifice to fast them (Ayyaam al-Tashreeq) in Mina.
How the onset of Ramadaan is determined
(9) The onset of Ramadaan is confirmed by the sighting of the new moon, or by the completion of thirty days of Sha’baan. Whoever sees the crescent of the new moon or hears about it from a trustworthy source is obliged to fast.
Using calculations to determine the onset of Ramadaan is bid’ah, because the hadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) clearly states: “Fast when you see it (the new moon) and break your fast when you see it.” If an adult, sane, trustworthy, reliable Muslim who has good eyesight says that he has seen the crescent with his own eyes, then we should take his word for it and act accordingly (i.e., start fasting).
Who is obliged to fast?
(10) Fasting is an obligation on every adult, sane, settled [i.e., not travelling] Muslim who is able to fast and has nothing such as hayd [menstruation] or nifaas [post-natal bleeding] to prevent him or her from doing so.
A person is deemed to have reached adulthood when any one of the following three things occur: emission of semen, whether in a wet dream or otherwise; growth of coarse pubic hair around the private parts; attainment of fifteen years of age. In the case of females, there is a fourth, namely menstruation; when a girl reaches menarche (starts her periods), she is obliged to fast even if she has not yet reached the age of ten.
(11) Children should be instructed to fast at the age of seven, if they are able to, and some scholars said that a child may be smacked at the age of ten if he does not fast, just as in the case of salaah. (See al-Mughni, 3/90). The child will be rewarded for fasting, and the parents will be rewarded for bringing him up properly and guiding him to do good. Al-Rubay’ bint Mu’awwidh (may Allaah be pleased with her) said, speaking about Ramadaan when it was made obligatory: “We used to make our children fast, and we would make them a toy made out of wool. If any one of them started to cry for food, we would give them that toy to play with until it was time to break the fast.” (al-Bukhaari, Fath, no. 1960). Some people do not think it is important to tell their children to fast; indeed, a child may be enthusiastic about fasting and may be capable of doing it, but his father or mother may tell him not to fast, out of so-called “pity” for him. They do not realize that true pity and compassion consist of making him get used to fasting. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allaah, but do that which they are commanded.” [al-Tahreem 66:6]. Extra attention must be paid to the matter of a girl’s fasting when she has just reached maturity, because she may fast when she has her period, out of shyness, and then not make up the fast later.
(12) If a kaafir becomes Muslim, or a child reaches puberty, or an insane person comes to his senses during the day, they should refrain from eating for the rest of the day, because they are now among those who are obliged to fast, but they do not have to make up for the days of Ramadaan that they have missed, because at that time they were not among those who are obliged to fast.
(13) The insane are not responsible for their deeds (their deeds are not being recorded), but if a person is insane at times and sane at other times, he must fast during his periods of sanity, and is excused during his periods of insanity. If he becomes insane during the day, this does not invalidate his fast, just as is the case if someone becomes unconscious because of illness or some other reason, because he had the intention of fasting when he was sane. (Majaalis Shahr Ramadaan by Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, p.28). A similar case is the ruling governing epileptics.
(14) If someone dies during Ramadaan, there is no “debt” on him or his heirs with regard to the remaining days of the month.
(15) If someone does not know that it is fard (obligatory) to fast Ramadaan, or that it is haraam to eat or have sexual intercourse during the day in this month, then according to the majority of scholars, this excuse is acceptable, as is also the case for a new convert to Islam, a Muslim living in Daar al-Harb (non-Muslim lands) and a Muslim who grew up among the kuffaar. But a person who grew up among the Muslims and was able to ask questions and find out, has no excuse.
(16) For a traveller to be allowed to break his fast, certain conditions must be met. His journey should be lengthy, or else be known as travelling (although there is a well-known difference of opinion among the scholars on this matter), and should go beyond the city and its suburbs. (The majority of scholars say that he should not break his fast before he passes the city limits. They say that a journey has not really begun until a person passes the city limits, and a person who is still in the city is “settled” and “present”. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “… So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadaan, i.e., is present at his home), he must observes sawm (fasts) that month…” [al-Baqarah 2:185]. He is not counted as a traveller until he has left the city; if he is still within the city, he is regarded as one who is settled, so he is not permitted to shorten his prayers). His journey should also not be a journey for sinful purposes (according to the majority of scholars), or for the purpose of trying to get out of having to fast.
(17) The traveller is allowed to break his fast, according to the consensus of the ummah, whether he is able to continue fasting or not, and whether is it difficult for him to fast or not. Even if his journey is easy and he has someone to serve him, he is still permitted to break his fast and shorten his prayers. (Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa, 25/210).
(18) Whoever is determined to travel in Ramadaan should not have the intention of breaking his fast until he is actually travelling, because something may happen to prevent him from setting out on his journey. (Tafseer al-Qurtubi, 2/278).
The traveller should not break his fast until he has passed beyond the inhabited houses of his town; once he has passed the city limits, he may break his fast. Similarly, if he is flying, once the plane has taken off and has gone beyond the city limits, he may break his fast. If the airport is outside his city, he can break his fast there, but if the airport is within his city or attached to it, he should not break his fast in the airport because he is still inside his own city.
(19) If the sun sets and he breaks his fast on the ground, then the plane takes off and he sees the sun, he does not have to stop eating, because he has already completed his day’s fasting, and there is no way to repeat an act of worship that is finished. If the plane takes off before sunset and he wants to complete that day’s fasting during the journey, he should not break his fast until the sun has set from wherever he is in the air. The pilot is not permitted to bring the plane down to an altitude from which the sun cannot be seen just for the purposes of breaking the fast, because this would just be a kind of trickery, but if he brings the plane down lower for a genuine reason, and the disk of the sun disappears as a result, then he may break his fast. (From the fataawa of Shaykh Ibn Baaz, issued verbally).
(20) Whoever travels to a place and intends to stay there for more than four days must fast, according to the majority of scholars. So if a person travels to study abroad for a period of months or years, then according to the majority of scholars – including the four imaams – he is regarded as one who is “settled” there and so he has to fast and pray his prayers in full.
If a traveller passes through a city other than his own, he does not have to fast, unless his stay there is longer than four days, in which case he must fast, because the rulings that apply to those who are settled apply also to him. (See Fataawa al-Da’wah by Ibn Baaz, 977).
(21) Whoever begins fasting while he is “settled” then embarks on a journey during the day is allowed to break his fast, because Allaah has made setting out in general a legitimate excuse not to fast. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “… and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days on which one did not observe sawm must be made up] from other days…” [al-Baqarah 2:185]
(22) A person who habitually travels is permitted not to fast if he has a home to which he returns, such as a courier who travels to serve the interests of the Muslims (and also taxi drivers, pilots and airline employees, even if their travel is daily – but they have to make up the fasts later). The same applies to sailors who have a home on land; but if a sailor has his wife and all he needs with him on the ship, and is constantly travelling, then he is not allowed to break his fast or shorten his prayers. If nomadic Bedouins are travelling from their winter home to their summer home, or vice versa, they are allowed to break their fast and shorten their prayers, but once they have settled in either their summer home or their winter home, they should not break their fast or shorten their prayers, even if they are following their flocks.(See Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Taymiyah, 25/213).
(23) If a traveller arrives during the day, there is a well-known dispute among the scholars as to whether he should stop eating and drinking. (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 25/212). But to be on the safe side, he should stop eating and drinking, out of respect for the month, but he has to make the day up later, whether or not he stops eating and drinking after his arrival.
(24) If he starts Ramadaan in one city, then travels to another city where the people started fasting before him or after him, then he should follow the ruling governing the people to whom he has travelled, so he should only end Ramadaan when they end Ramadaan, even if it means that he is fasting for more than thirty days, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fast when everyone is fasting, and break your fast when everyone is breaking their fast.” If it means that his fast is less than twenty-nine days, he must make it up after Eid, because the hijri month cannot be less than twenty-nine days. (From Fataawa al-Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz: Fataawa al-Siyaam, Daar al-Watan, pp. 15-16)
(25) In the event of any sickness that makes people feel unwell, a person is allowed not to fast. The basis for this is the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): “… and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days on which one did not observe sawm must be made up] from other days…” [al-Baqarah 2:185]. But if the ailment is minor, such as a cough or headache, then it is not a reason to break one's fast.
If there is medical proof, or a person knows from his usual experience, or he is certain, that fasting will make his illness worse or delay his recovery, he is permitted to break his fast; indeed, it is disliked (makrooh) for him to fast in such cases. If a person is seriously ill, he does not have to have the intention during the night to fast the following day, even if there is a possibility that he may be well in the morning, because what counts is the present moment.
(26) If fasting will cause unconsciousness, he should break his fast and make the fast up later on. (al-Fataawa, 25/217). If a person falls unconscious during the day and recovers before Maghrib or after, his fast is still valid, so long as he was fasting in the morning; if he is unconscious from Fajr until Maghrib, then according to the majority of scholars his fast is not valid. According to the majority of scholars, it is obligatory for a person who falls unconscious to make up his fasts later on, no matter how long he was unconscious. (Al-Mughni ma’a al-Sharh al-Kabeer, 1/412, 3/32; al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaytiyyah, 5/268). Some scholars issued fatwaas to the effect that a person who falls unconscious or takes sleeping pills or receives a general anaesthetic for a genuine reason, and becomes unconscious for three days or less, must make up the fasts later on, because he is regarded as being like one who sleeps; if he is unconscious for more than three days, he does not have to make up the fasts, because he is regarded as being like one who is insane. (From the fataawa of Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz, issued verbally).
(27) If a person feels extreme hunger or thirst, and fears that he may die or that some of his faculties may be irreparably damaged, and has rational grounds for believing this to be so, he may break his fast and make up for it later on, because saving one’s life is obligatory. But it is not permissible to break one's fast because of bearable hardship or because one feels tired or is afraid of some imagined illness. People who work in physically demanding jobs are not permitted to break their fast, and they must have the intention at night of fasting the following day. If they cannot stop working and they are afraid that some harm may befall them during the day, or they face some extreme hardship that causes them to break their fast, then they should eat only what is enough to help them bear the hardship, then they should refrain from eating until sunset, and they have to make the fast up later. Workers in physically demanding jobs, such as working with furnaces and smelting metals, should try to change their hours so that they work at night, or take their holidays during Ramadaan, or even take unpaid leave, but if this is not possible, then they should look for another job, where they can combine their religious and worldly duties. “And whoever fears Allaah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he could never imagine.” [al-Talaaq 65:2-3 – interpretation of the meaning]. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/233, 235)
Students’ exams are no excuse for breaking one’s fast during Ramadaan, and it is not permissible to obey one’s parents in breaking the fast because of having exams, because there is no obedience to any created being if it involves disobedience to the Creator. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/241).
(28) The sick person who hopes to recover should wait until he gets better, then make up for the fasts he has missed; he is not allowed just to feed the poor. The person who is suffering from a chronic illness and has no hope of recovery and elderly people who are unable to fast should feed a poor person with half a saa’ of the staple food of his country for every day that he has missed. (Half a saa’ is roughly equivalent to one and a half kilograms of rice). It is permissible for him to do this all at once, on one day at the end of the month, or to feed one poor person every day. He has to do this by giving actual food, because of the wording of the aayah – he cannot do it by giving money to the poor (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/198). But he can give money to a trustworthy person or charitable organization to buy food and distribute it to the poor on his behalf.
If a sick person does not fast in Ramadaan, waiting to recover so that he can make the days up later, then he finds out that his sickness is chronic, he has to feed a poor person for every day that he did not fast. (From the fataawa of Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen). If a person is waiting to recover from his illness and hopes to get better, but then dies, there is no “debt” owed by him or his heirs. If a person’s sickness is considered to be chronic, so he does not fast and feeds the poor instead, then advances in medical science mean that there is now a cure, which he uses and gets better, he does not have to make up the fasts he has missed, because he did what he had to do at the time. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/195)
(29) If a person is sick, then recovers, and is able to make up the missed fasts but does not do so before he dies, then money should be taken from his estate to feed a poor person for every day that he missed. If any of his relatives want to fast on his behalf, then this is OK, because it was reported in al-Saheehayn that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever dies owing some fasts, let his heir fast on his behalf.” (From Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, volume on Da’wah, 806).