Fasting: According to Five Islamic Schools of Law
(Part II) By: ‘Allamah Muhammad Jawad Maghniyyah
The Various Kinds of Fasts:
The legists of various schools classify fasts into four categories: Wajib, mustahabb (supererogatory), muharram (forbidden), and makruh (reprehensible).
All the schools concur that the wajib fasts are those of the month of Ramadan, their qada’, the expiatory fasts performed as kaffarah, and those performed for fulfilling a vow. The Imamis add further two, related to the Hajj and i’tikaf. We have already dealt in some detail with the fast of Ramadan, its conditions and the things that invalidate it. Here we intend to discuss its qada’ and the kaffarah to which one who breaks it becomes liable. Other types of obligatory fasts have been discussed under the related chapters.
Qada’ of the Ramadan Fasts:
- The schools concur that a person liable to the qada’ of Ramadan fasts is bound to perform it during the same year in which the fasts were missed by him, i.e. the period between the past and the forth- coming Ramadan. He is free to choose the days he intends to fast, excepting those days on which fasting is prohibited (their discussion will soon follow). However it is wajib upon him to immediately begin their qada’ if the days remaining for the next Ramadan are equal to the number of fasts missed in the earlier Ramadan.
- If one capable of performing the qada’ during the year neglects it until the next Ramadan, he should fast during the current Ramadan and then perform the qada’ of the past year and also give a kaffarah of one mudd (1) for each day in the opinion of all the schools except the hanafi which requires him to perform only the qada’ without any
kaffarah. And if he is unable to perform the qada’ such as when his illness continues throughout the period between the first and the second Ramadan -he is neither required to perform its qada’ nor required to give kaffarah in the opinion of the four schools, while the Imamis say: He will not be liable to qada’ but is bound to give a mudd as kaffarah for each fast day missed.
- If one is capable of performing the qada’ during the year but delays it with the intention of performing it just before the second Ramadan, so that the qada’ fasts are immediately followed by the next Ramadan, and then a legitimate excuse prevents him from performing the qada’ before the arrival of Ramadan, in such a situation he will be liable only to qada’ not to kaffarah.
- One who breaks a Ramadan fast due to an excuse, and is capable of later performing its qada’ but fails to perform the qada’ during his lifetime, the Imamis observe: It is wajib upon his eldest child to perform the qada’ on his behalf. The Hanafis, Shafi’is, and Hanbalis state: A sadaqah of a mudd for each fast missed will be given on his behalf. According to the Malikis, his legal guardian (wali) will give sadaqah on his behalf if he has so provided in the will: in the absence of a will it is not wajib.
- In the opinion of the four schools, a person performing the qada’ of Ramadan can change his intention and break the fast both before and after midday without being liable to any kaffarah provided there is time for him to perform the qada’ later.
The Imamis observe: It is permissible for him to break this fast before midday and not later, because continuation of the fast become compulsory after the passing of the major part of its duration and the time of altering the niyyah also expires. Hence if he acts contrarily and breaks the fast after midday, he is liable to kaffarah by giving food to
ten poor persons; if he is incapable of doing that, he will fast for three days
Fasts of Atonement (kaffarah):
The fasts of atonement are of various kinds. Among them are atonement fasts for involuntary homicide, fasts for atonement of a broken oath or vow, and atonement fasts for zihar. These atonement fasts have their own rules which are discussed in the related chapters. Here we shall discuss the rules applicable to a person fasting by way of kaffarah for not having observed the fast of Ramadan. The Shafi’is, Malikis and Hanafis say: It is not permissible for a person upon whom fasting for two consecutive months has become wajib consequent to deliberately breaking a
Ramadan fast to miss even a single fast during these two months, because that would break their continuity. Hence, on his missing a fast, with or without an excuse, he should fast anew for two months.
The Hanbalis observe: If he misses a fast due to a legitimate excuse, the continuity is not broken.
The Imamis state: It is sufficient for the materialization of continuity that he fast for a full month and then a day of the next month. After that he can skip days and then continue from where he had left. But if he misses a fast during the first month without any excuse, he is bound to start anew; but if it is due to a lawful excuse, such as illness or
menstruation, the continuity is not broken and he/she will wait till the excuse is removed and then resume the fasts. The Imamis further observe: One who is unable to fast for two months, or release a slave or feed sixty
poor persons, has the option either to fast for 18 days or give whatever he can as sadaqah. If even this is not possible, he may give alms or fast to any extent possible. If none of these are possible, he should seek
forgiveness from God Almighty .
The Shafi’is, Malikis and Hanafis state: If a person is unable to offer any form of kaffarah, he will remain liable for it until he comes to possess the capacity to offer it, and this is what the rules of the Shari’ah require .
The Hanbalis are of the opinion that if he is unable to give kaffarah, his liability for the same disappears, and even in the event of his becoming capable of it later, he will not be liable to anything. The schools concur that the number of kaffarahs will be equal to the number of causes entailing it. Hence a person who breaks two fasts will have to give
two kaffarahs. But if he eats, drinks or has sexual intercourse several times in a single day, the Hanafis, Malikis and Shafi’is observe: The number of kaffarahs will not increase if iftar occurs several times, irrespective of its manner. The Hanbalis state: If in a single day there occur several violations entailing kaffarah, if the person gives kaffarah
for the first violation of the fast before the perpetration of the second, he should offer kaffarah for the latter violation as well, but if he has not given kaffarah for the first violation before committing the second, a single kaffarah suffices. According to the Imamis, if sexual intercourse is repeated a number of times in a single day, the number of kaffarahs
will also increase proportionately, but if a person eats or drinks a number of times in a single day, one kaffara will suffice.
All the schools except the Hanafi concur that fasting on the days of ‘Id al-Fitr and ‘Id al-‘Adha is prohibited (haram). The Hanafis observe: Fasting on these two ‘Ids is makruh to the extent of being haram
The Imamis say: Fasting on the days of Tashriq is prohibited only for those who are at Mina. The days of Tashriq are the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth of Dhu al-Hijjah.
The Shafi’is are of the opinion that fasting is not valid on the days of Tashriq both for those performing Hajj as well as others. According to the Hanbalis, it is haram to fast on these days for those who do not perform Hajj, not for those performing it. The Hanafis observe: Fasting on these days is makruh to the extent of being haram.
The Malikis state: It is haram to fast on the eleventh and the twelfth of Dhu al-Hujah for those who do not perform Hajj, not for those performing it.
All the schools excepting the Hanafi concur that it is not valid for a woman to observe a supererogatory fast without her husband’s consent if her fast interferes with the fulfillment of any of his rights. The Hanafis observe: A woman’s fasting without the permission of her husband is makruh, not haram.
The Doubtful Days:
There is consensus among the schools that imsak is obligatory upon one who does not fast on a “doubtful day” ( yawm al-shakk) that later turns out to be a day of Ramadan, and he is liable to qada’ later.
Where one fasts on a doubtful day that is later known to have been a day of Ramadan, they differ as to whether it suffices without requiring qada’.
The Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali schools observe: This fast will not suffice and its qada’ is wajib upon him. In the opinion of the Hanafis, it suffices and does not require qada ‘.
Most Imamis state: Its qada’ is not wajib upon him, except when he had fasted with the niyyah of Ramadan.
Fasting is considered mustahabb on all the days of the year except those on which it has been prohibited. But there are days whose fast has been specifically stressed and they include three days of each month, preferably the ‘moonlit’ days (al-‘ayyam al-bid), which are the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth of each lunar month. Among them is
the day of ‘Arafah (9th of Dhu al-Hijjah) Also emphasized are the fasts of the months of Rajab and Sha’ban. Fasting on Mondays and Thursdays has also been emphasized. There are other days as well which have been mentioned in
elaborate works. There is consensus among all the schools that fasting on these days is mustahab.
Reprehensible (Makruh) Fasts:
It is mentioned in al-Fiqh ‘ala al-madhahib al-‘arba’ah that it is makruh to single out Fridays and Saturdays for fasting. So is fasting on the day of Now Ruz (21st March) in the opinion of all the schools except the Shafi’i, and fasting on the day or the two days just before the month of Ramadan.
It has been stated in Imami books on fiqh that it is makruh for a guest to fast without the permission of his host, for a child to fast without the permission of its father, and when there is doubt regarding the new moon of Dhu al-Hijjah and the consequent possibility of the day being that of ‘Id.
Evidence of the New Moon:
There is a general consensus among Muslims that a person who has seen the new moon is himself bound to act in accordance with his knowledge, whether it is the new moon of Ramadan or Shawwal. Hence it is wajib upon one who has seen the former to fast even if all other people don’t (2), and to refrain from fasting on seeing the latter even if
everyone else on the earth is fasting, irrespective of whether the observer is ‘adil or not, man or woman. The schools differ regarding the following issues:
- The Hanbalis, Malikis and Hanafis state: If the sighting (ru’yah) of the new moon has been confirmed in a particular region, the people of all other regions are bound by it regardless of the distance between them; the difference of the horizon of the new moon is of no consequence.
The Imamis and the Shafi’is observe: If the people of a particular place see the new moon while those at another place don’t, in the event of these two places being closeby with respect to the horizon, the latter’s duty will be the same; but not if their horizons differ.
- If the new moon is seen during day, either before or after mid-day, on 30th Sha’ban, will it be reckoned the last day of Sha’ban (in which case, fasting on it will not be wajib) or the first of Ramadan (in which case fasting is wajib)? Similarly, if the new moon is seen during the day on the 30th of Ramadan, will it be reckoned a day of Ramadan or
that of Shawwal? In other words, will the day on which the new moon is observed be reckoned as belonging to the past or to the forth- coming month?
The Imamis, Shafi’is, Malikis and Hanafis observe: It belongs to the past month and not to the forthcoming one. Accordingly, it is wajib to fast on the next day if the new moon is seen at the end of Sha’ban, and to refrain from fasting the next day if it is seen at the end of Ramadan.
- The schools concur that the new moon is confirmed if sighted, as observed in this tradition of the Prophet (S) (‘Fast on seeing the new moon and stop fasting on seeing it’). They differ regarding the other methods of confirming it. The Imamis observe: It is confirmed for both Ramadan and Shawwal by tawatur (i.e. the testimony of a sufficiently large number of people whose conspiring over a false claim is impossible), and by the testimony of two just men, irrespective of whether the sky is clear or cloudy and regardless of whether they belong to the same or two different nearby towns, provided their descriptions of the new moon are not contradictory. The evidence of children, fasiq men and those of unknown character is not acceptable.
The Hanafis differentiate between the new moons of Ramadan and Shawwal; they state: The new moon of Ramadan is confirmed by the testimony of a single man and a single woman, provided they are Muslim, sane and
‘adil (just). The Shawwal new moon is not confirmed except by the testimony of two men or a man and two women. This is when the sky is not clear. But if the sky is clear -and there is no difference in this respect between the
new moon of Ramadan and Shawwal -it is not confirmed except by the testimony of a considerable number of persons whose reports result in certainty. In the opinion of the Shafi’is, the new moon of Ramadan and Shawwal is confirmed by the testimony of a single witness provided he is Muslim, sane, and ‘adil. The sky’s being clear or cloudy makes no difference in this regard.
According to the Malikis, the new moon of Ramadan and Shawwal is not confirmed except by the testimony of two ‘adil men, irrespective of the sky’s being cloudy or cloudless. The Hanbalis say: The new moon of Ramadan is confirmed by the testimony of an ‘adil man or woman, while that of Shawwal is only confirmed by the testimony of two ‘adil men.
- There is consensus among the schools, excepting the Hanafi, that if no one claims to have seen the new moon of Ramadan, fasting will be wajib after the thirtieth day allowing thirty days for Sha’ban.
According to the Hanafis, fasting becomes wajib after the twenty-ninth day of Sha’ban.
This was with respect to the new moon of Ramadan. As to the new moon of Shawwal, the Hanafis and the Malikis observe: If the sky is cloudy, thirty days of Ramadan will be completed and iftar will be wajib on the following day. But if the sky is clear, it is wajib to fast on the day following the thirtieth day by rejecting the earlier testimony of witnesses confirming the first of Ramadan regardless of their number.
The Shafi’is consider iftar as wajib after thirty days even if the setting in of Ramadan was confirmed by the evidence of a single witness, irrespective of the sky’s having been cloudy or clear.
According to the Hanbalis, if the setting in of Ramadan was confirmed by the testimony of two ‘adil men, iftar following the thirtieth day is wajib, and if it was confirmed by the evidence of a single ‘adl, it is wajib to fast on the thirty-first day as well. In the opinion of the Imamis, both Ramadan and Shawwal are confirmed after the completion of thirty days regardless of the sky’s being cloudy or clear, provided their beginning was confirmed in a manner approved by the Shari’ah.
(1) Approximately 800 grams of wheat or something similar to it.
(2) But the Hanafis observe: If he testifies before a qadi who rejects his testimony, it is wajib upon him to perform its qada’ without liability to kaffarah (al-Fiqh ‘ala al-madhahib al-‘arba’ah).