Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher
In the Name of Allah, Most
Merciful and Compassionate
The Basics of Fasting according to the Shafi’i School
(An abridged and edited version of a
pamphlet written in Arabic by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed.)
1. The Ruling of Fasting Ramadan
3. Recommended Measures
4. Excuses that permit one not
5. Making up Missed Fasts
Allah be praised, Lord of the Worlds. Blessings and peace on our master Muhammad and on his folk and
companions, one and all.
The following rulings about the fast should be
known, applied, and taught to one's family and whoever does not know them.
1. The Ruling of Fasting
Fasting Ramadan is personally obligatory for
every Muslim who has reached puberty, is sane, and is able to fast. It is
not obligatory for a non-Muslim, a child, an insane person, or someone unable
to fast (such as someone of advanced years or someone who is continuously [muzmin] sick).
2. Integrals of the fast
Fasting has only two integrals: (1) the intention
and (2) abstention from the nullifiers of the fast.
2.1 Integral #1: Intention
is to intend to fast. Its location is in the heart, but it is sunna to say it with the tongue. One optimally says,
"I intend to fast tomorrow as a current performance of the obligation of
this year’s Ramadan for Allah Most High."
For the obligatory fast, it is obligatory to make the intention during
any part of the night (from sunset until just before dawn). A practical
way to avoid forgetting the intention is to intend to fast the following day
immediately after breaking one’s fast at sunset. Whoever forgets to make
the intention, or sleeps before sunset and does not wake up until after dawn
must abstain from the nullifiers during that day and then make it up after
For the supererogatory fast, it is permissible to delay the intention until
just before the noon prayer [zuhr], provided that
that one has not already done something that nullifies the fast.
It is obligatory to repeat the intention to fast
for every day of Ramadan. It is good practice to intend during its first
night to fast the whole month, so that one’s fast will still be valid in the
school of Imam Malik (Allah have mercy on him) if one forgets the intention on
a particular day.
2.2 Integral #2: Abstention from the Nullifiers
The following seven things nullify one’s fast.
Nullifier #1: A
substance reaching the body cavity through an open orifice (substance: this excludes mere traces such
as mere taste or smell without any actual substance; body cavity: like the stomach, throat, head, and inside of
the ear; open orifice: like the
mouth, nose, ear, and anus)
If one deliberately and willingly allows food,
drink, or anything else (even if inedible) into the body cavity through one of
the aforementioned orifices, and one knew that this was unlawful, one’s fast is
nullified. If one does this forgetfully, under coercion, or in ignorance
of its unlawfulness, one’s fast is not thereby nullified.
is unlawful to present food to someone if one knows that he will eat it during
the day of Ramadan (and he is not excused from fasting), to buy it for him, or
to sell it to him, even if the one eating is a non-Muslim or one of one’s
parents, since it constitutes helping someone to commit an act of disobedience,
which is unlawful.
Nullifier #2: Vomiting
deliberately. Deliberately inducing vomit from one’s stomach
nullifies the fast. If, however, vomit overcomes one and exits without
one’s choosing, the fast is not nullified.
Nullifier #3: Sexual
intercourse even if there is no ejaculation. Both the man and the
woman thereby nullify their fast, provided they remembered that they were
fasting. One’s fast is not nullified by kissing and touching without
intercourse unless one ejaculates (even if little).
Related Issue: If one is having intercourse with one’s wife and dawn enters and one
immediately disengages, one’s fast is valid even if one ejaculates afterwards
(since its cause was permissible). If one continues having intercourse,
one’s fast is nullified even if one is unaware of the entrance of dawn.
Nullifier #4: Ejaculation
caused by masturbation using the hand nullifies the fast even if done from
behind a barrier (note that masturbation is unlawful even when one is not
fasting). As for kissing and fondling, if one fears
that it will result in ejaculation, it is unlawful to do so and if one
subsequently ejaculates, it nullifies the fast. If one knows that one
will not ejaculate, it is better not to engage in kissing and fondling,
although they are not unlawful.
Nullifier #5: Menstruation
or post-natal bleeding during the day of Ramadan. The fast of a woman
who begins the morning in a state of purity and then begins menstruation or
post-natal bleeding is nullified. It then becomes unlawful for her to
abstain from the nullifiers with the intention of fasting. It is not,
however, unlawful if she abstains from them without intending to fast. A
woman who begins the morning in menstruation or post-natal bleeding and then
becomes pure during the day is not obliged to abstain from the nullifiers for
the rest of the day, although it is sunna for her to
Nullifier #6: Insanity.
If the fasting person becomes insane during the day of Ramadan (even if only
for a slight moment), his fast is nullified.
Nullifier #7: Unconsciousness.
Whoever is unconscious before dawn and remains unconscious until sunset, his fast
for that day is invalid and it is obligatory for him to make it up. But
if one is conscious at the beginning of the day and later becomes unconscious,
or if one is unconscious at the beginning of the day and later regains
consciousness during it (even if only for a slight moment), one’s fast is valid.
If someone sleeps all day from dawn until sunset, his fast is valid even
if he does not wake up during the day, as opposed to the one who is
unconscious, as mentioned above.
Notes regarding the nullifiers:
3. Recommended Measures
Warning: Let the fasting Muslim who is avid for
his religion and the pleasure of his Master beware lest he conclude his day of
fasting by breaking it with smoking, having finished off his good work with an
unlawful act that Allah is not pleased with. Whoever prefers Allah, Allah
will prefer him.
4. Excuses that Permit one
not to Fast
5. Making up Missed Fasts
All missed fasts must obligatorily be made up
later on, regardless of whether they were missed with a valid excuse (such as
sickness or travel) or without an excuse, except a child when he reaches
puberty, an insane person when he regains sanity, an original non-Muslim when
he accepts Islam, an old person who is unable to fast, and someone who is
continuously sick. These people are not obliged to make up their missed
Related Issue: If, while fasting, a child reaches puberty, a traveler ceases his
travel, or a sick person recovers, it is obligatory for them to complete their
fast. If they were not fasting, it is recommended for them to abstain
from the nullifiers for the remainder of the day.
6. Payment [fidya]
Payment [fidya] is due
According to the Shafi‘is,
payment is a handful (about 275
grams) of food from the main staple of the area, such as wheat, barley, or
rice. It can be paid to any deserving recipient of zakat.
7. Expiation [kaffara]
Expiation is only due on someone who deliberately
and willingly has intercourse during the day of Ramadan in full knowledge of
its unlawfulness when he has not already nullified that day’s fast by eating or
As for the one who merely touches his wife
without actual intercourse, or has intercourse not remembering that he was
fasting, or under coercion, or out of ignorance of its unlawfulness, or has
already nullified his fast before intercourse by eating or drinking, he does
not need to perform an expiation.
Expiation is only obligatory for the husband; it
is not obligatory for the wife. An expiation is
due for every day of Ramadan that one nullifies through intercourse.
One performs the expiation by freeing a believing
slave. If unable, then one must fast for two consecutive months and if
unable to do even that, then one must feed 60 people who are short of money (see Reliance, h8.11) a handful (about 275
grams) of food from the main staple of the area (such as wheat, barley, or
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