The Etiquette and Sunnah of Fasting
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
Some aspects are obligatory (wajib) and others are recommended (mustahabb).
1. Niyyah (Intention)
Every action must be preceedeed by intention for the sake of Allah.
Niyyah (intention) is a requisite condition in fardhu (obligatory) fasts, and in other obligatory fasts such as making up missed fasts or fasts done as an act of expiation (kafarah).
The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“There is no fast for the person who did not intend to fast from the night before.”
[Reported by Abu Dawud, no. 2454. A number of the scholars, such as Al-Bukhari, Al-Nasā’ie, Al-Tirmidzi and others thought it was likely to be mawquf. See Talkhis Al-Hubair, 2/188]
The intention may be made at any point during the night, even if it is just a moment before Fajar. Niyyah means the resolution in the heart to do something; speaking it aloud is bid’ah (a reprehensible innovation), and anyone who knows that tomorrow is one of the days of Ramadhan and wants to fast has made the intention. [Majmu’ Fatawa Shaikh Al-Islam, 25/215].
If a person intends to break his fast during the day but does not do so, then according to the most correct opinion, his fast is not adversely affected by this; he is like a person who wants to speak during the prayer but does not speak. Some of the scholars think that he is not fasting as soon as he stops intending to fast, so to be on the safe side, he should make up that fast later on.
Apostasy, however, invalidates the intention; there is no dispute on this matter.
The person who is fasting Ramadhan does not need to repeat the intention every night during Ramadhan; it is sufficient to have the intention at the beginning of the month. If the intention is interrupted by breaking the fast due to travel or sickness – for example – he has to renew the intention to fast when the reason for breaking the fast is no longer present.
Making the intention the night before is not a condition of general nāfil (supererogatory) fasts, because of the hadith narrated by ‘Aishah (radiyallahu’anha), who said: “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) entered upon me one day and said, ‘Do you have anything [food]?’ We said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘In that case I am fasting.’” [Reported by Muslim, 2/809, ‘Abd Al-Baqi]. But in the case of specific nafil fasts such as ‘Arafah and ‘Ashura’, it is better to be on the safe side and make the intention the night before.
If a person embarks on an obligatory fast, such as making up for a day missed in Ramadhān, or fulfilling a vow, or fasting as an act of expiation (kafarah), he must complete the fast, and he is not permitted to break it unless he has a valid excuse for doing so. In the case of a naafil fast, “the person who is observing a voluntary fast has the choice either to complete the fast or to break it” (reported by Ahmad, 6/342) – even if there is no reason to break it. The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) got up fasting one morning, then he ate. [As reported in Sahih Muslim, in the story of the al-hais (a type of food) that was given to him as a gift when he was in ‘Aishah’s house; no. 1154, ‘Abd Al-Baqi]. But will the person who breaks his fast for no reason be rewarded for the fasting that he has already done? Some of the scholars say that he will not be rewarded [Al-Mawsu’ah Al-Fiqhiyyah, 28/13], so it is better for the person who is observing a voluntary fast to complete it, unless there is a valid, pressing reason for him to stop fasting.
If a person does not know that Ramadhan has started until after dawn, he has to stop eating and drinking for the rest of the day, and he has to make that day up later on, according to the majority of scholars, because the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “There is no fasting for the one who does not have the intention to fast from the night before.” [Reported by Abu Dawud, 2454].
If a prisoner or captive knows that Ramadhan has begun by sighting the moon himself or by being told by a trustworthy person, he has to fast. If he does not know when the month is beginning, he must try to work it out for himself (Ijtihad) and act according what he thinks is most likely. If he later finds out that his fasting coincided with Ramadhān, this is fine according to the majority of scholars, and if his fasting came after Ramadhān, this is fine according to the majority of fuqaha’, but if his fasting came before Ramadhan, this is not acceptable, and he has to make up the fast. If part of his fasting coincided with Ramadhān and part of it did not, what coincided with it or came after it is fine, but what came before is not permissible. If the matter never becomes clear to him, then his fasting is fine because he did the best he could, and Allaah burdens not a person beyond his scope. [Al-Mawsu’ah Al-Fiqhiyyah, 28/84].
2.Ensure to eat and drink something at sahur, and delay it until just before the adzan of Fajar.
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Have sahur, for in sahur there is blessing (barakah).” [Al-Bukhari] The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said, “Sahur is blessed meal, and it involves being different from the people of the Book. What a good sahur for the believer is dates.” [Abu Dawud, no. 2345; Sahih al-Targhib, 1/448]
3. Taking care that nullify fasting
4. Not delaying the Iftar.
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The people will be fine so long as they do not delay Iftar.”[Al-Bukhari]
5. Breaking ones fast according to the Sunnah.
It is described in the hadith narrated by Anas bin Mālik (radiyallāhu’anhu): “The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to break his fast with fresh dates before praying; if fresh dates were not available, he would eat (dried) dates; if dried dates were not available, he would have a few sips of water.” [Al-Tirmidzi, 3/79 and others; He said it is a gharib hasan hadith. Classified as sahih in al-Irwa’, no. 922)]
6. After Iftar, reciting the words reported in the hadith narrated by Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu`anhu), according to which the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), when he broke his fast.
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would say: “Dhahaba al-zama’, wa’abtallat al-‘uruq, wa thabat al-ajru insha Allāh (Thirst is gone, veins are flowing again, and the reward is certain, insya Allāh).” [Reported by Abu Dawud, 2/765; its isnad was classified as hasan by al-Daraqutni, 2/185)]
7. Keeping away from sin.
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “When any of you is fasting, let him not commit sin…” [Al-Bukhari]
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever does not stop speaking falsehood and acting in accordance with it, Allāh has no need of him giving up his food and drink.”[Al-Bukhari]
7.1. The person who is fasting should avoid all kinds of harām actions, such as backbiting, obscenity and lies; otherwise his reward may all be lost.
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “It may be that a fasting person gets nothing from his fast except hunger.” [Reported by Ibn Mājah, 1/539; Sahih al-Targhib, 1/453].
Among the things that can destroy one’s Hasanat (good deeds) and bring sayi’at (bad deeds) is allowing oneself to be distracted by quiz-shows, soap operas, movies and sports matches, idle gatherings, hanging about in the streets with evil people and time-wasters, driving around for no purpose, and crowding the streets and sidewalks. While it is the months of tahajjud, dzikir and worship, for many people, becomes the month of sleeping in the day so as to avoid feeling hungry, thus missing their prayers and the opportunity to pray them in congregation, then spending their nights in entertainment and indulging their desires. Some people even greet the month with feelings of annoyance, thinking only of the pleasures they will miss out on. In Ramadhan, some people would go for holiday! Even the mosques are not free from such evils as the appearance of women wearing makeup and perfume, and even the Sacred House of Allāh is not free of these ills. Some people make the month a season for begging, even though they are not in need. Some of them entertain themselves with dangerous fireworks and the like, and some of them waste their time in the markets, wandering around the shops, or sewing and following fashions. Some of them put new products and new styles in their stores during the last ten days of the month, to keep people away from earning rewards and Hasanat.
8.2. Not allowing oneself to be provoked.
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “If someone fights him or insults him, he should say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’”[Al-Bukhari and others].
One reason for this is to remind him, and another reason is to remind his adversary. But anyone who looks at the conduct of many of those who fast will see something quite different. It is essential to exercise self-control and be calm, but we see the opposite among crazy drivers who speed up when they hear the adzān for Maghrib.
9. Not eating too much.
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “The son of Adam fills no worse vessel than his stomach.” [Reported by al-Tirmidzi, no. 2380; he said, this is a hasan sahih hadith].
The wise person wants to eat to live, not live to eat. The best type of food is that which is there to be used, not that which is there to be served. But people indulge in making all kinds of food (during Ramadhan) and treating food preparation as a virtual art form, so that housewives and servants spend all their time on making food, and this keeps them away from worship, and people spend far more on food during Ramadhan than they do ordinarily. Thus the month becomes the month of indigestion, fatness and gastric illness, where people eat like gluttons and drink like thirsty camels, and when they get up to offer Solātul Tarawīh, they do so reluctantly, and some of them leave after the first two raka’at.
10. Being generous by sharing knowledge, giving charity, using one’s position of authority or physical strength to help others, and having a good attitude.
Ibn ‘Abbās (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported said: “The Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was the most generous of people [in doing good], and he was most generous of all in Ramadhan when Jibreel met with him, and he used to meet him every night in Ramadhān and teach him the Qur’an. The Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was more generous in doing good than a blowing wind.” [Al-Bukhari]
10.1.Combining fasting with feeding the poor is one of the means of reaching Paradise.
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “In Paradise there are rooms whose outside can be seen from the inside and the inside can be seen from the outside. Allāh has prepared them for those who feed the poor, who are gentle in speech, who fast regularly and who pray at night when people are asleep.” [Reported by Ahmad 5/343; Ibn Khuzaymah, no. 2137. its isnad is hasan because of other corroborating reports].
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast, will have a reward equal to his, without it detracting in the slightest from the reward of the fasting person.” [Reported by al-Tirmidzi, 3/171; Sahih al-Targhib, 1/451].
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (rahimahullāh) said: “What is meant is that he should feed him until he is satisfied.” [Al-Ikhtiyarat al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 109)]
A number of the Salaf preferred the poor over themselves when feeding them at the time of Iftar. Among these were ‘Abdallāh ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu’anhu), Malik ibn Deenaar(radiyallāhu’anhu), Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others (rahinahullah). ‘Abdallāh ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu’anhu) would not break his fast unless there were orphans and poor people with him.
[Excerpted from IslamQ&A]