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Definition, Pillars and Nullifiers of Fasting

Definition pillars Ramadan

Rabbi Zidnee Ilman
“My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”

Definition and Pillars of fasting
Linguistically speaking, fasting means to abstain from doing something. However, when the notion of fasting is used in Islamic Shari’a, it refers to abstaining from all the things that nullify fasting from the break of dawn (Fajr) till sunset (Maghreb), coupled with the intention of doing so as an act of worship.Fasting the month of Ramadan is obligatory (Fard) according to the Qur’an, Sunnah, and consensus of the scholars on every Muslim who has reached the age of puberty, is sane, and is able to fast without it acting as a threat to his/her health due to illness.

Allah (s.w.t) made it obligatory in the second year after the Prophet’s blessed migration from Makkah. He Most High said: “O you who believe! Observing fast is prescribed for you…” that is, it has been made obligatory upon you. It is also one of the five pillars of Islam. The Messenger of Allah said: “Islam has been built on five pillars…” and one of them is fasting the month of Ramadan.Therefore, whosoever denies this obligation is a disbelieving apostate according to the consensus of the scholars.

As for the first pillar of fasting, this is the intention, and the place of the intention is the heart, hence articulating the intention is something not legislated. It is mandatory to have the intention at night, that is, before the break of dawn (Fajr).This is based on the saying of Prophet Muhammad :

“Whoever does not intend fasting prior to Fajr, then there is no fasting for him.”
[Ahmad, ibnHibbaan, and verified as authentic by ibnKhuzaimah]

It is permissible to make an intention for the whole month at the first evening of Ramadan. However, some scholars have suggested it is obligatory to make an intention every night of Ramadan. On the other hand, if a person wanted to fast outside of Ramadan, that is, supererogatory fasting, it is permissible to make the intention at any point during the day. This is based on the saheeh (sound) hadith collected by Muslim whereby Aisha (r.a) narrated: “The Prophet came to visit me one day and asked, ‘Do you have anything (to eat)?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Then I am fasting.’” Even if a person intended to commence their fast moments before sunset (Maghrib), the fasting is correct. So providing none of the things that render fasting invalid are done, then the person will receive full reward, as there is nothing mentioned from the Prophet the reward commences from the time of the intention, and Allah Most High knows best.

The second pillar of fasting is abstinence; abstaining from the things that break a person’s fast from the break of dawn till sunset, along with a continued intention between these two periods. If a person made an intention to break their fast, however does not come across anything to break their fast with from food or drink until sunset, then they must make up that day after Ramadan. This is because maintaining the intention between Fajr and Maghreb is from amongst the pillars of fasting.

The third and final pillar of fasting is the time. That is, one must fast during the days of Ramadan and not the nights. For whoever fasts the nights instead of the days, then their fasting is deemed defective because Allah (s.w.t) says:

“…and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your fast till the nightfall…”
{Surah Al-Baqarah: Verse 187}

Nullifiers of Fasting:
To begin with, there are those things that invalidate the fasting and require the making up of that day of fasting only which are the following:

1. Eating and drinking deliberately. This is the opinion the majority of the scholars, except that Imaam Abu Hanifa (may Allah have mercy on him) and what is also the famous opinion of Imaam Maalik (may Allah have mercy on him) say in addition to the make up day, one must also pay a kaffaarah (atonement). The correct opinion and Allah Most High knows best is that of the majority, since there is nothing mentioned by the Prophet stating otherwise.

2. Induced vomiting. There is difference of opinions among the scholars as to whether or not vomiting invalidates fasting. The soundest view is as long as the vomiting is not done on a person’s own accord then the fasting remains valid. The Messenger of Allah said:

“If someone had a sudden attack of vomiting, no atonement is required of him, but if he vomits intentionally he must make atonement.” 
[Reported by the five books of hadith]

3. Menstruation and post-natal bleeding. A woman who bleeds due to any one of these two reasons has broken her fast, even if it occurs seconds before sunset. This is the opinion of the majority of the scholars.

4. Ejaculation. Regardless of whether this resulted due to the husband kissing his wife, caressing her, with his hand, or his wife’s hand. This is the opinion of the majority, except that ibn Hazm, Ash-shawkaani, and from amongst the later scholars Sheikh al-Albaani (may Allah shower them with His mercy) said no make up day is required. The correct opinion, and Allah knows best, is that of the majority. Sheikh Saabiq, author of the book Fiqh-us Sunnah said that if the sperm seeped out as a result of looking or thinking, then this does not nullify the fasting.

5. Supplements and nutritional injections or drips. These dietary intakes defeat one of the main objectives of fasting, namely, to undergo thirst and hunger.

6. The one who makes the intention that they have broken their fast even if they don’t eat or drink as previously mentioned.

7. Apostasy. If a Muslim who is fasting becomes a disbeliever, then their fasting becomes void, as Allah Most High says:

“If you commit shirk (associate others in worship with Allah), then surely (all) your deeds will be in vain…”
{Surah Az-Zumar: Verse 65}

The only thing requires a person to make up the fasting day in addition to the kaffaarah is if a person has sexual intercourse, irrespective of whether ejaculation takes place or not. This is the opinion of the majority of the scholars based on hadith Abu Hurairah (r.a) collected by both Bukhari and Muslim. The kaffaarah in respect to the one who has copulated with one’s spouse is to emancipate (set free) a slave, if she or he has one. If not, then two consecutive months of fasting must be done. If fasting two consecutive months is detrimental to one’s health then he or she is required to feed sixty needy people.

Authored by By  Bilal Abu Aisha
Edited by  Noorain Fathima

Prophet Muhammad - "Convey (knowledge) from me even if it is just one ayah" [Bukhari 3461]

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