Whom Ramadan Fasting is Obligatory upon?
Fasting is obligatory for a person if he fulfils five conditions:
1- He/she is a Muslim
2- He/she is accountable (mukallaf)
3- He/she can fast
4- He/she is settled (not travelling)
5- There are no impediments to fasting
If these five conditions are met, then it is obligatory for a person to fast.
Kaafirs are excluded from the first condition. The kafir= non-Muslim is not obliged to fast and his fast is not valid.
If he becomes Muslim, he is not obliged to make up fasts from before.
The second condition:
He should be accountable (mukallaf). The one who is mukallaf is one who is has reached the age of puberty and is of sound mind, because a minor or one who is insane is not accountable.
The one who is of sound mind is the opposite of one is insane, which is one who has lost his mind, whether he is insane or feeble-minded. Everyone who has lost his mind, in whatever sense, is not accountable and he is not obliged to do any of the obligatory duties of Islam, be it prayer, fasting or feeding the poor; he does not have to do anything at all.
The third condition:
Being able to fast. The one who is unable to fast does not have to fast, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Sawm (fasts) must be made up] from other days.”
But being unable to fast falls into two categories:
▪️temporary inability and
▪️ permanent inability.
Temporary inability: which is above-mentioned verse, such as one who is sick but hopes to recover, and the traveler. These people are allowed not to fast, then they must fast when the can in another day to catch up what they have missed.
Those who are permanently unable to fast, such as one who is sick and has no hope of recovery, or those who are elderly and are unable to fast, are mentioned in the verse (interpretation of the meaning):
“And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g., an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskeen (poor person) (for every day)”
As Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) interpreted it, it refers to the old man and old woman who are not able to fast, so they should feed one poor person for each day.
Every Muslim knows fasting in the month of Ramadan is wajib (obligatory) upon us. But have you ever wondered how this ordainment came? In the same way, do you ever wonder how the other pillars of Islam i.e., Salah=prayer, Zakat=Almsgiving, Hajj=pilgrimage were ordained?
Learning the stories behind the commandments in our deen=our religion, is actually an interesting thing. It gives you a whole new level of understanding and appreciation Alhamdulilah=Thank Allah.
So, since Ramadan is just around the corner, here is a little background on the Fourth Pillar of Islam for general knowledge.
- Fasting the month of Ramadan was made obligatory (wajib) during the month of Sha’ban, in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Makkah to Madīnah.
- The ordainment for fasting was in three stages:
The First Stage: The Muslims were ordered to fast on the day of Ashura (10th Muharram).
Narrated ‘Aisha bint Abi Bakr رضي الله عنهما:
Allah’s Apostle ordered the Muslims to fast on the day of ‘Ashura’, and when fasting in the month of Ramadan was prescribed, it became optional for one to fast on that day (‘Ashura’)
[Sahih Bukhari – Book #31: Hadith #219] *There are many more Ahadith in Book 31 regarding this.
[For more details on the Day of Ashura, please see this post : Do You Know?: The Day of ‘Aashoora]
The Second Stage: The Muslims were given the option of either fasting during the month of Ramadan or feeding a poor person for each day they did not fast, with preference for fasting over feeding.
أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَاتٍ ۚ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۚ
وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ ۖ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُ ۚ
ۚ وَأَن تَصُومُوا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
Observe Saum (fasts) for a fixed number of days, but if any of you are ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g., an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskin (poor person) (for every day).
But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast is better for you if only you know.
[Surah al-Baqarah – 2:184]
The Third Stage: Fasting the month of Ramadan became obligatory without choice.
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ
وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ
فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا
الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong).
So, whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Saum (fasts) that month,
and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Saum (fasts) must be made up] from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you.
(He wants that you) must complete the same number (of days), and that you must magnify Allah [i.e., to say Takbir (Allahu Akbar; Allah is the Most Great] for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him.
[Surah al-Baqarah (2): 185].
*Verse 2:184 was abrogated by verse 2:185 and also fasting on the day of Ashura became voluntary.
- Fasting during the month of Ramadan then became one of the pillars of Islam, and its obligation is of great magnitude. The Quran, Prophetic tradition, and scholarly agreement all testify to the fact that fasting during the month of Ramadan is obligatory.
How to Prepare for Ramadan
- Fasting – Ordinances, Wisdoms & Merits, p.07 by Dr. Saleh As-Saleh
The Nature of Fasting, p. 06-07 by Taqi ud-din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah