Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is considered as the Muslim’s third practical duty to Allah. It was made obligatory in the second year of Hijrah (Migration of the Prophet to Madinah). It is a universal institution in as much as all the religions of the world, and all the great religious personalities adopted fasting as the principal method of controlling and killing passions.
This institution is a commandment and a clear order from Allah upon us. We have no other choice but to obey our Lord (Allah) and please Him out of Love and Fear at the same time.
It is a means by which the true extent of the servant’s love for his Lord is revealed and by which the servant can truly exalt him. Fasting is a compulsory act of worship for all Muslims. Though there are exceptional circumstances which exempt people from fasting. The evidence of observing fast as a part of Faith is indicated in Allah’s words:
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may be pious.” (Quran: Al-Baqarah, verse 183)
Allah also said further:
“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan, i.e., is present at his home), he must observe Sawm (fasting) that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days which one did not observe Sawm fasting) must be made up) from other days…” (Quran: Surat Al-Baqarah, Verse 185)
Fasting in Ramadan has also been ordained by the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the whole Ummah (Muslim nations). According to the Sunnah Allah s Messenger (ﷺ) Said:
“Islam is built upon five pillars: To witness that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet; to perform Prayers; to pay Zakat; to fast Ramadan and to perform Pilgrimage to Makkah”. (Bukhari and Muslim)
The whole Ummah has agreed that it is obligatory to fast in Ramadan, as it is one of the pillars of Islam and that whoever denies it is a kaafir (i.e. a disbeliever), having turned away from Islam.
Upon whom is Fasting Obligatory?
Fasting is obligatory upon every person who has fulfilled these prerequisites. He or she must be:
- A Muslim
The person who observes fast should be a Muslim who witnesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone and witnesses that Muhammad ﷺ is His Slave and Messenger.
- Puberty or Adulthood
According to Islam, puberty or adulthood is defined when a child reaches the stage of discretion, which can be designated by three signs:
1. Discharging semen as a result of wet dreams
2. The appearance of hair around the pubic area
- Reaching the age of fifteen
Girls reach puberty when they experience the above three signs. However, they have a fourth one, that is, menstruation. Whenever a girl experiences it, she reaches the age of bulugh and she becomes Mukalaf (i.e. must practice all religious duties) even if she is 12 years old.
- Sane and Discretion
A person who observes fast should be mentally fit, which means to be sane and have a sense of discretion.
- Physical fitness
A person who observes fast should be fairly certain that fasting is unlikely to cause him/her any harm, physical or mental, other than the normal reactions to hunger, thirst, etc.
- Resident: not in a state of traveling
A person who observes fast should be present at his/her permanent settlement, for instance, home town, one’s farm, and one’s business premises, etc. This means not to be on a journey. (A traveler may fast if he/she want’s to,)
Upon whom is Fasting inapplicable?
People of the following categories are exempted from the duty of fasting, and no compensation or any other substitute is enjoined on them.
- A non-Muslim (Kafir)
Fasting is not obligatory on a non-Muslim. Even if he/she decides to fast and follows all the regulations, it will not be accepted by Allah the Highest. Until he/she declares the Shahada (becomes a Muslim), only then will the fast be accepted. If he/she converts to Islam it becomes incumbent upon him/her to fast.
- A mad person (the insane)
Insane people are unaccountable for their deeds. They are also exempted from fasting because they are divested of sanity, which is a key element on which religious obligations depend.
- Children who are not adolescent yet
Children under the age of puberty and discretion are exempted from fasting until he/she dreams (i.e. reaches the age of puberty or discretion), but training children to observe fast is highly recommended. Children should be encouraged to fast part of the day for practice until they are old enough to fast the whole day like the grown-ups.
Important: How to train your children for fasting
- Women during the period of menstruation or of post-childbirth state
The appearance of menstruation (hayd), or post-childbirth blood (nifaas) invalidates the fast even if such bleeding begins just before sunset (i.e. Iftar) time. Fasting for women during these periods is forbidden and should be made up later, a day for a day. In this context, it has been reported that the Prophet ﷺ said:
“When a woman experiences her monthly period, she will not pray or fast, but she shall redeem the fast after Ramadan, but not Salaat.”
May Allah Almighty make it possible for us to be able to observe fast with utmost faith!