The Obligation of Fasting
Dr. Abdul Karim Awad
Fasting in Ramadan 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 'Peace and Blessing of Allah
be upon him' 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.
Fasting is a commandment and a clear order from Allah upon us and 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 prescribedfor
those before you, that you may become Al Muttaqoon (the pious)''. (Surat Al-Baqarah:
He also said:
''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 Saum
(fasts)''. (Surat Al-Baqarah: 185)
Fasting in Ramadan has also been ordained by the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace
and Blessing of Allah be upon him) and the whole Ummah (Muslim nations).
According to the Sunnah Allah's Messenger (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon
"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 Zakah; to fast Ramadan
and to perform Pilgrimage to Makkah''. (Reported by 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 kafir (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:
1. 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 is His
Slave and Messenger.
2. Baligh (Puberty or Adulthood)
According to Islam puberty or adulthood is defined when a child reaches the
stage of al-bulugh (adulthood), or Tamyeez (discretion), which can be
designated by three signs:
The Obligation of Fasting
Discharging semen as a result of wet dreams, Appearance of hair around the
pubic area. Reaching the age of fifteen:
It has been narrated by Abdullah Bin Umar (may Allah pleased with him) that:
"My parents brought me to Allah's Messenger (Peace and Blessing of Allah be
upon him) in the campaign of Uhud and I was fourteen years old, so the Prophet
(Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him) did not enlist me in fighting." But
a year later in the campaign of Al-Khandaq, I was fifteen, so this time the
Prophet (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him) enlisted me in the battle"
(Reported by Muslim).
This indicates that the age of 15 is the legal age for a Muslim boy or a girl
to be accountable for his or her religious duties as well as worldly affairs.
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 practise all
religious duties) even if she is 12 years old.
3. A'qil and At Tamyeez (Sane and Discretion) A person who observes fast
should be mentally fit, which means to be sane and having a sense of
4. Qadir (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.
5. Muqim (Resident: not in a state of travelling) 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 traveller may fast if he/ she wants 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.
1. 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 Most High
until he/she declares the Shahada (becomes a muslim), and only then will the
fast be accepted. If he/she converts to Islam it becomes incumbent upon
him/her to fast.
2. A mad person (the insane)
Insane people who are unaccountable for their deeds are exempted from fasting
because they are divested of Aqil (sanity), which is a key element on which
religious obligations depend. This is indicated in the Hadeeth narrated by Ali
(may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (Peace and Blessing of Allah be
upon him) said:
"The pen is raised from three: from the madman until he regains consciousness,
on the sleeper until he wakes up, and on the child until he has a wet dream.''
(Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi).
3. Children who are not adolescent yet
Children under the age of puberty and discretion are exempted from fasting
until he/she dream (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. Narrated Rubayyiah Bint Mau'awwidh (may
Allah pleased with her), the Prophet (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him)
sent a messenger to the village of Ansar on the morning of Ashura to inform
''Whoever wakes in fasting should continue his fasting, whoever wakes up
without fasting should complete his day in fasting.'' So we used to fast, let
our young children fast, and go to the Masjid with them. When one of the
children cried for food, we would make toys from wool and give them to the
children until it was time to break the fast. (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)
4. Women during the period of menstruation or of post childbirth state
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 (Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him) said: "when a woman
experiences her monthly period, she will not pray or fast, but she shall
redeem the fast after Ramadan, but not Salat."
Source: Fasting In Ramadan