Islamic Laws

Sawm (fasting)

By: Allamah Sayyid Sa’eed Akhtar Rizvi
Sawm means to abstain from those things which break the fast, from subh al-sadiq (true dawn) till Maghrib, in obedience to Allah.
Obligatory fasts
8 fasts are obligatory (wajib): (1) Month of Ramadan; (2) Qadha of the month of Ramadan; (3) 3rd day of I’tikaf; (4) 10 days of ‘badal al-hadi’ in Hajj; (5) Fast of kaffarah becoming obligatory for various reasons, (6) Fast which becomes obligatory on account of nadhr, ‘ahd or qasam; (7) Saum of kaffarah of breaking or leaving fast; (8) Fast which has become qadha from father, becomes obligatory on his eldest son after his death (It is better to include ‘mother’ also in this rule).
Conditions of the Fast
These are the conditions for the validity of the fast:- 1. Sanity; 2.Islam 3. Iman (faith); 4. Remaining free from haidh and nifas for whole day; 5. Not remaining a traveler (musafir) at the time of zawal; 6. Not being in danger of illness by keeping fast. If a traveller returns to his home-town or reaches a place where he intends to stay 10 days, before zawal, and has not done anything which breaks the fast, he must do the ‘niyyah’ of fasting, and his fast will be valid. Likewise, if he begins his journey after zawal, his fast of that day will remain valid.
If a person is afraid that by keeping fast his illness will increase or he will become sick by fasting, or that the treatment of his disease will become more difficult, he must break his fast. If he does keep fast, it would be null and void, and he, in addition, would be committing a sin. Being baligh is not a condition of validity of fast; if a child keeps fast, it would be all right. But fast is not obligatory on a ‘minor’ (ghayr-baligh).
Persons Exempted From fasting
The following persons are exempted from fasting:
1. & 2. Old men and women, when owing to their old age and weakness (a) it is not possible for them to keep fast, or (b) it is very difficult to fast.
3. A person who has got a disease in which he remains ever thirsty and (a) it is not possible, or (b) is very difficult, for him to keep fast.
4. The expectant mother who is afraid (a) about her own health or (b) the health of the unborn child.
5. The woman who breast-feeds a child (her own or another woman’s) and is afraid that the fast (a) would endanger her health or (b) the health of the child.
All these 5 types of persons are exempted from fasting on the following conditions:-
1. In cases of (b) they will have to pay kaffarah (one ‘mudd’ (3/4 kilogram) wheat, rice or any such staple food, per day to a poor Ithna-‘ash’ari. It is ‘ahwat’ to pay l ½ kilogram per day.
2. In cases of (a) they are not required to pay any Kaffarah; but it is highly recommended.
3. Pregnant woman, or the nursing mother will have to fast in qadha after delivery or after weaning the child, as the case may be.
4. The thirsty person will have to fast in qadha, if he is able to do so afterwards.
5. Old people are not required (though recommended) to fast in qadha they regains their strength.
The things or actions which make a fast void (batil) are 10 in number:- 1. and 2. Eating or drinking anything. 3. Sexual relation; 4 Speaking, writing or conveying by sign any lie about Allah, the Prophets, the Imams, or Bibi Fatima (S.A.); 5. Submerging the head in water; 6. Conveying thick dust, smoke or steam up to throat; 7. Vomiting; 8. Doing any such thing by which semen comes out; 9. Enema with liquid; 10. Remaining in the condition of janabat, haiz or nifas up to subh al-sadiq (true dawn).
Note 1. All these things break the fast if they are committed intentionally. If a person forgets that he is fasting, and eats or drinks, his fast is correct. Likewise, if he vomits involuntarily; or speaks something about God or Imams which he thinks is correct (though in fact it is wrong). or somebody else pushes him into water and his head goes into water; or he sees a dust coming towards him and tries his best to protect himself from it, but still inhales some of it involuntarily, his fast is correct.
Note 2. Remaining in the condition of janabat makes a fast void in the month of Ramadan and in its qadha only. Other fasts are not affected by it.
Note 3. Not doing ghusl (or tayammum. if allowed) of haiz, or nifas before subh al-sadiq (true dawn) makes the fast void in the month of Ramadan only. Other fasts (including the qadha of Ramadan) are not affected by it.
Note 4. When a fast is broken by any of the above-mentioned muftirat, or when a person does not keep fast (without any excuse. i.e. illness or travel), he has to pay kaffarah. in addition to its qadha.
The kaffarah of breaking the fast of one day of Ramadan is:
1. Emancipating a slave; 2.If that is not possible, then two-months-fast consecutively; 3.And if that is also not possible, then feeding 60 poor Mu’mins.
Kaffarah of breaking the qadha of one day of Ramadan, if broken after zawal, is: 1. Feeding 10 poor Mu’mins: 2. and if that is – not possible, then fasting three days.
Kaffarah of breaking the fast of specified nadhr is: 1. Emancipating a slave; 2. If that is not possible, then feeding 10 poor Mu’min; 3. Or clothing 10 poor Mu’min; 4. And if he cannot do any of these then, fasting for three days.
Note 1. In feeding, it is enough to give each man 1 ½ pound of wheat or rice.
Note 2. Whenever in a kaffarah a certain thing is prescribed, its price is not acceptable. For instance, it is not allowed to give money of 1 ½ pound of wheat, or the price of a shirt and trousers to a poor man. It is obligatory to give him the grain or clothes.
Note 3. When a fast is broken by any haram thing, like wine etc. all 3 kaffarahs are to be paid (emancipation of slave, 60 days fast, feeding 60 poor Mu’mins), as a punishment.
Note 4. In two-months-fast, at least 31 days should be fasted consecutively. The remaining 29 days may be fasted with gaps.
Nadhr is a vow, a voluntary undertaking, of an act of virtue, as binding one’s self in gratitude for some special favor prayed for. It is a solemn promise to God.
Types of Nadhr
(a) Nadhr al–bir (Shukr, Thanks) – if a particular wish is fulfilled then to undertake to do an act of virtue.
(b) Nadhr istidfa’ al-baliyah – for removal of a hardship or difficulty.
(c) Nadhr al-zajr wa al-tanbih – Nadhr for reprimanding oneself on committing a sin, e.g., If I backbite someone then I shall be bound to pray two rak’at of prayer.
(d) Nadhr al-tabarru’, – It is a Nadhr without any of the above conditions; e.g., to bind oneself to pray Salat al-tahajjud during the month of Ramadan for the sake of Allah.
Conditions of Nadhr
Nadhr should be performed In the following manner:-
(1) A Nadhr should be kept for the sake of Allah. It is essential to say “lil-Laahi ‘alayya” (It is, for Allah, upon me to do so) whilst doing Nadhr.
(2) A person doing Nadhr must be adult and sane; and should do Nadhr with his own free will.
(3) If an extravagant person, or one who is prevented by Shari’ah to deal in his property or wealth does any Nadhr involving money or wealth it is not valid.
(4) If a husband asks his wife not to keep Nadhr and whilst performing Nadhr the rights of the husband are likely to be encroached upon, then the wife cannot possibly keep such a Nadhr. However, if the husband has granted his permission then he cannot stop his wife from performing the Nadhr.
(5) Whilst doing niyyah of a Nadhr, one should be capable of performing the said Nadhr. Otherwise the Nadhr is void. For example, if one does a Nadhr that he will go to Karbala on foot, and it is out of his bounds, then such a Nadhr is void.
(6) A Nadhr cannot be kept to give up any obligatory or recommended act or to carry out any makruh or haraam act because such a Nadhr is void.
(7) A Nadhr should always be performed according to the original Intention. For instance, if one keeps a Nadhr to give charity or recite prayers on a particular day, then it should be performed on that very particular day and should not be postponed to any other day.
(8) If a person keeps a Nadhr to fast on a particular day and he intentionally does not fast on that day, then he shall have to keep qadha and at the same time pay kaffarah. However, if he is prevented from fasting on that particular day because of a genuine reason, e.g. if he falls sick, or travels for Hajj, then he shall have to keep qadha only; there is no kaffarah on him.
(9) If one keeps a Nadhr to give some money for the shrine of an Imam or a martyr or any other pious person, then it is ihtiyat wajib to use it in its construction, light, etc.
(10) If the Nadhr is kept for an Imam or martyr or any Imam zada, (e.g., if my patient becomes well, then I will give as Nadhr, for the sake of Allah, shs. 100/-, to Imam Husain A.S.), then if he had a niyyah to use that money in a particular purpose (e.g. construction of an Imambargah}, then it must be used for that purpose.
And if at the time of doing niyyah of that Nadhr he did not specify a particular use, then it is called “Nadhr al–mutlaq” (unspecified Nadhr); and in this case the money should be used in a purpose which has some connection with that Imam or martyr. For example, for the needy pilgrims to his shrine, or the construction of his tomb, etc.
(11) The money of Nadhr al–mutlaq may also be used for the purpose of spreading and/or strengthening the religion, and for the help of poor Shi’ah.
(12) When one wants to spend the money of Nadhr (mentioned in Nos. 10 and 11), it is better to do niyyah that one is using it on behalf of the Imam or martyr concerned and that its reward is for that Imam or martyr.

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