As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh
Fasting: The Great Act of Worship
By Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih Al- ‘ Uthaymeen
Translated by ‘ Abdullaah Al- Faarisi
(May Allah Preserve and reward them both)
This revised edition, produced with the permission of the author and the translator, includes some corrections to the original translation, changes to the English, the addition of the Qur’aanic text, changes to the translations of the meanings of the Qur’aan and hadeeths, changes in the system of transliteration of Arabic terms, and the addition of references and some explanatory notes.
In response to our request to publish this revised edition, Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen wrote : “ Wa- alaykum us – salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. As Dr. Saleh As – Saleh As- Saleh has authenticated the translation of the booklet, I have no objection for you to print it on the condition that it will not have any copyright if we want to print it again. Written by Muhammad ibn Saalih Al – Uthaymeen, dated 1/9/1418 hijri. The booklet mentioned is the booklet on fasting.” /s/ Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih Al- ‘Uthaymeen.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
All praise is due to Allaah, and may Peace and blessings be on His Messenger Muhammad.
THE VIRTUES OF RAMADHAAN
Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه narrated that Allah’s Apostle صلي الله عليه وسلم said, “ When the month of Ramadhaan starts, the gates of Jannah (Paradise) are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and satans are chained.”(1) The gates of Jannah are opened in this month because a great deat of righteous deeds are performed, and as an encouragement for those who seek Allaah’s reward. The gates of Hell are closed because few sins are committed by believers. The Satans will be chained so that they may noy have the chance they have in other months to whisper into the hearts of the believers and misguide them.
Allaah has prescribed fasting and it obligatory upon all nations. He said :
) يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ) (البقرة:183)
O you who believe ! fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al – Muttaqoon (the pious). [Al- Baqarah (2) : 183]
If fasting were not a great act of worship, and the reward thereof were not so great, Allah would not have Presceibed it on all nations.
Among the virtues of fasting is that it is a means for atonement of sins. It is narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه that the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said : “ He who observes the fast of the month of Ramadhaan out of sincerity and hope for the reward from Allaah will have his past sins forgiven.”(2) That is, when fasting is observed out of belief and without resentment to it as an act of worship or doubt in its reward, Allaah will forgive the past sins of the one who observes it.
Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه reported the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم as saying : “ Allaah said: All the deeds of Adam’s children belong to them, except fasting, which belongs to me and I will reward it. Fasting is a shield (against the Hell and against the commission of sins). If one of you happens to be fasting he should avoid sexual relations with his wife, and should avoid quarrelling. Should someone fight or quarrel with him let him say, ‘ I am fasting.’ By Him in Whose hand my soul is, the smell of the month of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allaah than that of the musk.”(3) It is a shield because it safeguards the believer from vain talk and wrongdoing, and hence protects him from Hell.
Of all the good deeds, Allaah has favored fasting to be greatly rewarded by Him and distinguished it with prestige when it is observed with the pure intention to please Him alone.
Fasting is so meritorious for a believer that he will have two occasions of joy. The first is at the time of breaking his fast, when he enjoys the bounties of Allaah because he has been favored with Allaah’s mercy to observe the fast while many others have been deprived of this great blessing. He will rejoice in the second occasion when he meets his Lord and enjoys the abundant reward for having observed fasting (4). In addition to this, fasting intercedes with Allaah on behalf of the believer on the Day of Judgment.(5)
WHEN DOES FASTING BEGIN AND END ?
Fasting begins upon sighing the new moon. Allaah said:
) فَمَنْ شَهِدَ مِنْكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ)(البقرة: من الآية185)
So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadhaan), he must fast that month. [Al- Baqarah (2) : 185]
However, it is not incumbent on everyone to sight the new moon. Rather, if a trustworthy Muslim testifies that he has sighted it, then everyone must observe fasting. Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه narrated : “ A Bedouin came to the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم and reported, ‘ O Prophet, I have seen the new moon of Ramadhaan.’ Thereupon the prophe صلي الله عليه وسلم asked the man, ‘Do you bear witness that “ Laa ilaaha illaaah”. ( i.e. there is no god worthy of being worshipped beside Allah) ?’ ‘ I do,’ said the bedouin. The Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم further asked him whether he testifies that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. The Bedouin affirmed that, too. Thereupon, the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم asked Bilaal رضي الله عنه to announce to the people to begin their fast the next day.”(6)
Ibn ‘ Umar رضي الله عنه also confirmed the practice of sighting the new moon in his report : “ The People were seeking the new moon. Having sighted it myself, reported it to the prophet. صلي الله عليه وسلم He began his fast and ordered the people to begin theirs, too.”(7)
He who sights the new moon of Ramadhaan must inform those in authority in the Muslim government or community. Once the Muslim government announces the beginning of Ramadhaan upon the sighting the new moon it becomes binding on the rest of Muslims to begin their fast.(8)
It should be borne in mind, however, that astronomical calculations must be ruled out from the sharee’ah and must not be relied on for sighting the moon, as the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم has ruled that Muslims must begin their fast upon seeing the new moon, not upon calculating the month astronomically. It is only when it becomes hard to see the new moon due to weather conditions when Muslims may complete the month of Sha’baan, which precedes Ramadhaan, as Thirty days.(9) The lunar month is either 29 or 30 days. It has neither fewer nor more days.(10)
WHO SHOULD FAST AND WHO SHOULD NOT ?
Fasting is obligatory on the mature sane and healthy Muslim. Those who are immature (i.e. young children) are encouraged to fast. Exempted are those who suffer terminal illness, or are too old to fast. Allah does not overburden His slaves.
Permission to abstain from fasting is granted to the travelers who do not travel for the purpose of breaking their fast. Even though it is permissible to break fast durning travel, it is praiseworthy to fast while traveling if no hardship imposed. In any case, travelers should make up the days they missed fasting in Ramadhaan once Ramadhaan is over and they are back home.
As for those whose sickness does not allow them to fast, they fall into three categories:
1. If it is neither hard nor harmful for them, they must observe fasting.
2. If it is hard, but not harmful for them, they are permitted to break their fast.
3. If it is harmful for them, then they must abstain from fasting.
It is stated in the Qur’aan:
) يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُمْ بَيْنَكُمْ بِالْبَاطِلِ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً عَنْ تَرَاضٍ مِنْكُمْ وَلا تَقْتُلُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيماً) (النساء:29)
) وَلا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ)(البقرة: من الآية195)
Do not kill yourselves. [An- Nisaa’ (4) : 29] – Baqarah (2) : 195]
The prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم was reported to have said, “ There is (to be) no harm or reciprocating harm.”(13)
The days that are missed in Ramadhaan must be made up once Ramadhaan is over.
During the monthly period or period of post-natal bleeding, women are to abstain from fasting,(14) but must make up the days they missed after the fasting month is over. The Pregnant or breastfeeding woman whose health or the health of the suckling baby might be affected by fasting should break her fast and make up the missed days after Ramadhaan.
It is also recommended for those who engage in combat in the way of Allah to break their fast. The Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم told his companions in one of the battles, “ You are going to meet your enemy in the morning, abstaining from fasting is better for your strength, so break your fast.” (15)
THE WISDOM BEHIND FASTING
Fasting is a great act of worship the Muslim performs by turning away from his own desires in order to please his Lord, hoping for His reward. Common sense dictates that one would not give up desired things except for the sake of more desirable ones, in this case the pleasure of Allah, which is the most sought after desire.
It is also a means if achieving piety and righteousness. The Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said, “ He who does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah needs not his refraining from eating or drinking.”(16) In other words, Allah does not accept his fast.
The heart, through fasting, is inclined to maintain its tenderness since the desires are not sought, but rather shunned, and thus the heart tends to be more receptive to the words of Allah.
The rich person will, through fasting, be more appreciative of Allaah’s graces and bounties. He also will suffer the deprivation the poor and needy experience under normal circumstances. Thus he will be motivated to help them. Fasting helps depress pride or egoism and maintains humbleness. Moreover, fasting has health advantages by means of decreasing the intake of food and relaxing the digestive system. Great is the wisdom of Allah, and great are His Graces !
OBLIGATORY CONDITIONS OF FASTING
Performing the other acts of worship and duties is most important, and salaah is of particular importance, as without it no other act of worship is accepted by Allah.(17) Praying in congregation is a great aspect in our religion. Everyone should attend.(18) Its reward is twenty seven times greater than that which is performed individually.(19) At one time the prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم was about to burn the houses on those who did not attend the congregational prayers.(20)
Refraining from bad behavior such as lying, cheating, music, smoking, backbiting and slandering others to create animosity among them. The Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said, “ No slanderer shall enter paradise.”(21) The prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said, “ There will exist in ummah those who will deem unlawful things lawful (such as) fornication, silk for men, intoxicating beverages and musical instruments.”(22) my
PRAISEWORTHY ETIQUETTE OF FASTING
* Taking the meal of suhoor. The prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said: “ Take (the meal of) suhoor because there is blessing in it.”(23) He also said: “ The difference between our fasting and that of the people of the book is taking the meal of suhoor.”(24) Even taking a cup of water in lieu of a meal for suhoor has blessing in it, too.
• Breaking the fast as soon as the sun sets.(25)
• Making du’aa upon breaking fast.(26)
• Reciting as much Qur’aan as possible during the monthe of Ramadhaan.
PRACTICES WHICH BREAK THE FAST
1. Sexual intercourse in the daytime. The willful violation of the fast by this practice requires the fast of sixty consecutive days in order to make up for the day in which the intercourse took place.(27)
2. Whllful ejaculation by means of kissing or caressing, etc. Wet dreams and unintentional ejaculation do not break the fast.
3. Eating, drinking, smoking or taking any food substitutes, such as receiving blood, glucose, or I. V. substances while observing the fast.
4. Willful, not unintentional, vomiting.
5. Menstrual bleeding.(28)
Days in which the above practices 2 through 5 took place are to be made up a day for a day once Ramadhaan is over.
On the other hand, the application of kuhl ( surmah), eye, ear or nose drops do not break the fast; they are neither food nor a substitute thereof. Wearing perfumes, using the siwaak or toothbrush without toothpaste do not break fast since it has been reported that the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم used to do so.(29)
QIYAAM OR TARAAWEEH PRAYER
Allah has made five daily prayers obligatory on the Muslims, which He, due to His Grace, made the reward thereof fifty-fold.(30) He also encourages the believers to perform supererogatory of naft prayers. Among these is the night prayer which falls between midnight and dawn. Allah praised those who engage themselves in prayer at night:
) تَتَجَافَى جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفاً وَطَمَعاً)(السجدة: من الآية16)
Their sides forsake their beds to invoke their Lord in fear and hope …. [As- Sajdah (32):16]
The prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said : “ The best prayer next to obligatory is the night prayer.”(31) In another tradition he said : “O people ! Spread the (Islamic) greeting (i.e. by saying ‘ assalaamu alaykum”), give the food (to those who need it), connect your relatives (by visitation) and pray at night while the others are asleep, and you shall enter Jannah peacefully.”(32) Of the night prayer is Witr, the minimum of which is one rak’ah and maximum of which is eleven rak’ahs.(33)
Performing night prayer in Ramadhaan is far more superior to the performing in any other month by virtue of its recommendation by the prophet, صلي الله عليه وسلم who said, “Whoever prayed at night in it ( i. e. Ramadhaan) out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”(34)
Taraaweeh prayer is considered the night prayer in Ramadhaan, and, therefore, one should take good care the observe it, To pray taraaweeh in jamaa’ah (congregation) is a sunnah initiated by our beloved prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم and revived by the second Rightly-Guided Khaleefah, Umar رضي الله عنه (35) Though there has been a difference if opinion among the scholars in the past as to how many rak’ahs taraaweeh should be, all of them unanimously agreed that the best is to apply the sunnah of performing it with eleven rakahs only. The prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم did not pray more than eleven rak’ahs in Ramadhaan or any other month. ‘ Aa’ishah, the wife of the prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said, “ The prophet never prayed more than eleven rak’ahs at night in Ramadhaan or in any other month.(36)
The full reward of taraaweeh is obtained only when it is performed in jamaa’ah. The person who performs it in jamaa’ah will be considered, according to authentic tradition, as if he spent the rest of that night praying.”(37)
THE VIRTUES OF RECITING THE QUR’AAN.
There are two types of Qur’aan recitation :
1. Practical recitation, which means reading with belief in and application of the orders of Allah and refraining from the unlawful things.
2. Word recitation.
There are many hadeeths in which emphasis is laid on the great reward for those who recite the Qur’aan. The prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said, “ The best of you is he who learns the Qur’aan and teaches it.”(38) He also said : “ The one who excels in reciting the Qur’aan will be in the company of the honored angels.”(39) And, “ The example of the believer who reads the Qur’aan is like that of the utrujah (a citrus fruit) which has a beautiful fragrance and a beautiful taste. While the example of the believer who does not read the Qur’aan is like that of the date fruit : It has sweet taste, but has no fragrance.”(40) He also said : “ He who recites One letter of the Book of Allaah, will be rewarded for it, and the reward will be multiplied in folds.”(41)
There are certain soorahs of the Qur’aan that have more reward for their recitation. The prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم verified that Satan does not enter the house wherein Soorat Al- Baqarah(42) is recited. When one recites Ayaatul-Kursi(43) at the night, as the prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم informed us, he shall be protected by Allah, and Satan shall not come near him till he wakes up in the morning.(44) The same results may be achieded by the recitation of the last two verses of Soorat Al- Baqarah,(45) as well as the last three soorahs of the Qur’aan.(46)
Our pious predecessors used to busy themselves extensively in reciting the Qur’aan during the month of Ramadhaan. It was customary for them not to go beyond ten verses before they learned the rulings and the knowledge those ten verses contained.
ETIQUETTES OF READING THE QUR’AAN
The Qur’aan which we recete contains the actual words of Allah revealed to Muhammad صلي الله عليه وسلم . Therfore, we should observe the following when recition it :
1. Seek refuge in Allah before reading it (viz. أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم
“ A’oothu billaahi minash – shaytaanir-rajeem)”
2, Have the intention that the recitation thereof is purely to seek the pleasure of Allah alone.
3. Recite with an alert heart that you may comprehend its contents, imagining while reciting it that Allah is speaking to you though the Qur’aan.
4. Make sure you are clean before touching the Qur’aan. Do not read it when you are in the state of impurity.(47)
5. Do not read the Qur’aan in lavatories or similar places.
6. Read it slowly with pleasant sound and rhythm.
7. Prostrate wherever a verse requires prostration.
THE VIRTUES OF THE LAST TEN DAYS OF RAMADHAAN AND LAYLAY AL-QADR
It has been reported that the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم used to put extra effort in his devotion in the last ten days of Ramadhaan.(48) He used to awaken his family in the night that they may not lose the benefit of those bledded nights.(49) It is also reported that he used to make ‘ ittikaaf by spending the last ten days in the masjid.(50)