The ritual obligation of fasting is one of the pillars on which Islam is built and one of the great obligations imposed by Almighty Allah on His servants, the obligations through which He is worshipped so the worshippers may thus cultivate their souls, purge their hearts, purify their bodies, distance themselves from their carnal desires, and strengthening self-discipline and patience.
The Fast is protection from the Fire,and through it a servant of Allah enters Paradise. One tradition says that Allah, the most Exalted and the most Great, says, "All good deeds of a son of Adam are rewarded manifold up to seven hundred times except perseverance: It is Mine, and I shall be the One to reward it.” Hence, the rewards of patience are treasured with Allah; and patience is the Fast.[i]
Reports have cited the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and Imams (peace be upon them) saying that the sleep of a fasting person is worship, his breath and silence is the glorification of the Almighty, his good deeds are accepted, his supplication is answered, and for Allah the smell of his mouth is sweeter than that of musk. A fasting person feasts himself in the gardens of bliss (in Paradise); the angels pray for him until he breaks his fast. He has two joyful occasions: One is at the time when he breaks his fast, and one when he meets Allah Almighty [at the time of death]. It has also been reported that fast keeps Satan at bay, blackening his face.
Allah, the most Praised and Exalted One, has chosen for this sacred obligation His blessed month of Ramadan, the very best of all months, the one which is held as the most revered by the Almighty, so He chose it for Himself, attributed it to Himself, honoring and magnifying it, rendering it as sacred by the token He chose it to reveal His Book (Qur'an) during it, selecting it in particular for Lailatul-Qadr (the night of destiny, of power) which is better than a thousand months. During it, the demons are chained, the sins are forgiven, the rewards for good deeds are multiplied, the gates of the fire are shut and the gates of the Gardens of Bliss are opened. During it, the faithful are invited to be guests of Allah Almighty, thus becoming amongst the people who receive His blessings.
There are many rules of etiquette relevant to the fast. In a tradition narrated by Muhammed ibn Ajlan, the latter says that he heard Imam Abu Abdullah [al-Sadiq] (peace be upon him) as saying, "Fast is not just abstention from food and drinks, that is, one does not eat or drink; rather, when you fast, let your hearing, vision, tongue, stomach, private parts perform the fast with you. Safeguard your hand and your private parts [against committing wrongdoings], be silent most of the time save when it is an occasion to say something good, and be kind to whoever serves you."[ii]
In a report by Jarrah al-Madaini, the Imam (peace be upon him) is quoted as having said, "If you fast, safeguard your tongues against telling lies, lower your gaze, do not dispute, do not envy, do not backbite, do notquarrel, do not lie, do not cohabit, do not clash, do not be grudging, do not taunt each other, do not exchange bad names, do not argue, do not initiate fights, do not oppress, do not indulge in nonsense, do not be rude, do not neglect to remember Allah or to perform the prayers. Take to silence, remain mute, clement, patient, truthful, and avoid getting in contact with evil people. Cast a look at the Hereafter, watch how your days expire one after another, be hopeful about what Allah has promised you, and supply yourselves [in preparation] to meet Allah. Take to calmness, be dignified, submissive to the Almighty, surrendering to Him, feeling humble like slaves that are afraid of their masters, rest your hope on Him, fear His wrath, desire what He has in store for you, be fearful of the outcomes of your wrongdoings. If you diminish any of the above, the rewards for your fast will be reduced accordingly…"[iii]
We plead to Allah, Glory and Exaltation belong to Him, through His benignity and generosity, to help us and all the believers perform this great obligation perfectly with a good intention, to accept our endeavor and honor our supplication; He is the most Merciful of all those who show mercy, the Master of the faithful.
Q1: Can we depend on European observatories to determine the timing for Fajr (dawn), sunrise and noon during the days of the year, including those of the blessed month of Ramadan, knowing that they are scientific and very precise up to the fraction of a second?
A: Relying on the said observatories is permissible if they result in knowledge of the arrival of the times [of prayer]; otherwise, one has to wait until he learns of the arrival of these times. Yes, they are useful for determining the Fajr time if it is known that its Sharia-determined meaning is sought, which is the whiteness that appears in the eastern horizon. But if it is known that they do not make such a determining, knowledge of the occurrence of such whiteness [as per the Sharia] must be sought [before proceeding with dawn prayer].
Q2: If the crescent [of the month of Ramadan] has been determined by the Hakim Shar'i [Islamic appointed judge], should one break his fast if he is convinced that such a jurist is sure about determining it, or should he ascertain it by himself?
A: If he knows of the cautious verification of the Hakim Shar'i, in such a way that the crescent is not determined by him except when it actually is present, or if the legislated evidence testifies before him the presence of the crescent, then it is permissible to rely on the determination.
Q3: Someone lives in a non-Muslim country and fasts during the blessed month of Ramadan. Is he permitted to feed non-Muslims during daytime?
A: Yes, he may do so unless doing it weakens his faith and his call to it, that it is known that he is a Muslim and his abstention from serving food is a symbol that expresses his commitment to his religion and pride in it, whereas his serving food violates the said symbol and is a manifestation of belittling his religion and taking it lightly.
Q4: If the crescent is confirmed in the East, is it also confirmed for us in the West? And if sighting it is confirmed in America, is it likewise confirmed in Europe?
A: If the sighting of the crescent is confirmed in some Asian or European or African countries, it suffices to rule on its existence in the rest of those countries as well on the same day, be they Eastern or Western countries, except in Malaysia and other countries that are closer to the Americas where the crescent is not confirmed unless it is known to be present there on the same day in such a way that it could be sighted with the naked eye. But if such knowledge is not available, the crescent is confirmed on the following day. Also, if crescent sighting is confirmed in Asia, Europe or Africa, the crescent is confirmed in America on the same day.
Yes, if the crescent sighting is proven only in America, it is not confirmed in Asia, Europe or Africa on the same day but on the next day.
Q5: It is commonly held amongst the jurists that if the sighting of the crescent is confirmed in the Eastern countries, then it confirmed in the Western countries as well; but in some seasons of the year, the crescent is sighted in the Eastern countries whereas it cannot be sighted in some Western countries because of the absence of darkness during the night there. So, can the crescent be confirmed in these countries based on its having been sighted in the Eastern ones?
A: Based on what we have mentioned, i.e. the unity of horizons in Asian and European countries, the sighting of the crescent is confirmed in these countries based on the countries that preceded them in sighting it because of the darkness that occurs in the latter during the night.
Q6: Several requests have reached us seeking edicts. It appears from these requests that residents of Australia and New Zealand are not allowed to relyon Western countries, with regard to confirmation of crescent sighting, such as the Middle East, just as those living in these regions, for example, cannot rely on Australia and New Zealand. But the answer stated above shows contrariwise. Has there been a change of that edict so we may alter the previous edicts, or what?
A: What exists in our previous publication is an exception for New Zealand only. We confirm that the ruling relevant to Australia and to Middle Eastern countries is one and the same.
Q7: I reside in Australia. If the sighting of the crescent is confirmed in one of the Arab countries, that is, the Middle East area, can I follow it if its sighting is not confirmed here?
A: Yes, it is confirmed according to you if it is proven through legislated evidence that it has been sighted in countries of the Middle East area.
Q8: If one misses the fast of the month of Ramadan for several years, is he obligated to make it up and also pay the Kaffara required of one who deliberately breaks his fast, knowing that he is ignorant of the rulings of lapsed fasts (Qadha) and Kaffara?
A: If he knows that he is required to fast, yet he takes it lightly and does not fast, he must make it up and pay the Kaffara. He likewise has to pay the Fidyahto the needy people if he delays making up for the first year.
Q9: Should the Fidyah be paid on behalf of a woman who fell sick during the month of Ramadan so she could not fast, then her sickness continued until she died before the next month of Ramadan? She has left a legacy and willed to take out the third [of her inheritance] and pay off from it whatever she is obligated to pay.
A: Paying the Fidyah on her behalf is not mandatory.
Q10: There are some women who do not adhere to the legislated obligations, such as the Hijab and prayers during the days of the year, but when the month of Ramadan approaches, they fast and pray. Are their prayers and fast valid even though they do not commit themselves to observing the Hijab?
A: Their prayers and fast are valid, and it is hoped that they will be included in the blessing of the sacred month, so Allah Almighty may guide them in repenting and reverting to the path of faith and to righteous deeds.
Q11: One is required to make up for the lapsed fast, but he did not take making it up seriously and was too lenient about it until he could not fast anymore due to continuous illness. In this case, is the fasting obligation dropped from him, or should he state in his will that it should be made up on his behalf?
A: He should include it in his will and efforts should be exerted so this is done after his demise, so that his obligations are met and cleared.
Q12: If a married couple are unable to perform Ghusl during a night of the month of Ramadan, is the wife still permitted to let her husband have intercourse with her? What is the ruling if we suppose that traveling is possible that night? Should the wife still let her husband have intercourse with her while she knows that the husband would not permit her [to travel] or travelling causes difficulty for her? What is the ruling in this question if the ritual bath is harmful to the wife only? Should she still allow him?
A: If they cannot perform the Ghusl due to lack of time, she is not permitted to allow him. If it is due to any other justifiable excuse – such as lack of water or illness – she is permitted to allow her husband. Also, it is an obligatory precaution for them to perform Tayammum instead of Ghusl before dawn in such a situation.
Q13: If a fasting person breaks his fast depending on something – like a clock or the recitation of the Athan or a timetable for the opening and breaking of the fasts – then he finds out that there was a mistake, such as malfunction of the clock, or the reciter of the Athan was mistaken, or a printing mistake took place in the timetable, what is the status of his fast?
A: His fast is valid if he believed, when he broke it, that night had already entered, as is most likely. Yes, if he did not believe that it was night time, but he rushed to break it only on the notion that it was night time, with the possibility of using the wrong method [of determining the time to break the fast] and of it not actually being night time – even if such a possibility was distant – his fast is invalid if he happened to break his fast during the day time, and he has to make it up and pay the Kaffara.
Q14: What is the ruling if the said error had taken place during the Imsak time (i.e. the time one should begin the necessary abstentions for the fast)?
A: If one can easily come to know the exact time of Fajr, but he did not look into determining it and committed an act which breaks the fast, then he should make it up.
Q15: Someone is performing a recommended fast. His father, brother or someone else invites him to eat or drink though knowing that he is fasting. Can this fasting person accept their invitation knowing that the purpose behind such an invitation by the relative is to break his fast [as it is recommended to invite someone to break their fast] so they may get rewards and blessings?
A: It is recommended for him to break his fast with them if they asked him to do so because they like that he eats or drinks in their company and he thus earn rewards for fasting and rewards for having honored a believer's invitation, but if they do so because they are disrespecting his fast, then it is doubtful that it is recommended to honor their invitation. From their side, their conduct is not considered as the recommended act of inviting a fasting person to break his fast. Rather it is presenting the food and drink for him after sunset and the completion of the fast.
Q16: If a percentage of the pressurized gas taken orally by an asthma patient reaches his stomach, will it invalidate his fast?
A: It does not invalidate his fast, unless it contains a liquid medicine which he knows that some particles of it will reach his stomach.
Q17: Does brushing the teeth with the toothpaste invalidate the fast?
A: No, it does not invalidate the fast at all, unless it leads to swallowing some toothpaste or water.
[i]Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 7, p. 295.
[ii]Ibid., Vol. 7, p. 118.
[iii]Ibid., Vol. 7, p. 119.