Ramadan: One of the Pillars of Islam

The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Islam is built upon five [pillars]: testifying that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the prayers, giving the Zakat, making the pilgrimage to the House and fasting the month of Ramadan.”

[Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]


Fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious). [Al-Baqara 2:183]

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… [Al-Baqara 2:185]

Fasting the month of Ramadan is obligatory if one fulfils the following five conditions:

  1. They are Muslim
  2. They are accountable (mukallaf)
  3. They are able to fast
  4. They are a resident (not travelling)
  5. There are no impediments to fasting

If these five conditions are met, then it is obligatory for a person to fast.

The first condition: The non-believers deeds will not be accepted until they become Muslim.

The second condition:  They 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. Puberty is reached when one of the three signs which both males and females have in common:

  1. Nocturnal emissions (wet dreams)
  2. Growth of coarse hairs around the private parts (pubic hair)
  3. Reaching the age of fifteen

In the case of females there is a fourth sign, which is Menstruation.

The one who is of sound mind is the opposite of one who 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 Allah 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” [Al-Baqarah 2:185]

But being unable to fast falls into two categories: temporary inability and permanent inability.

Temporary inability is that which is mentioned in the verse quoted above, such as one who is sick but hopes to recover, and the traveller. These people are allowed not to fast, and then they have to make up what they 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)” [Al-Baqarah 2: 184]

As Ibn ‘Abbaas (radi Allahu anhu) 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.

The fourth condition: He should be a resident (not travelling). If he is travelling then it is not obligatory for him to fast, because Allah 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” [Al-Baqarah 2: 185]

The scholars are agreed that it is permissible for a traveller not to fast.

It is better for the traveller to do that which is easier. If fasting is likely to be harmful then it becomes haraam to fast, because Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And do not kill yourselves (nor kill one another). Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you” [An-Nisa’ 4: 29]

This indicates that whatever is harmful to a person is forbidden for him.

If you ask, what is the degree of harm which makes fasting haraam?

The answer:

Harm may be physical, or someone advises him that fasting may harm him. With regard to physical harm, that means that the sick person feels that fasting is harming him and causing him pain, and will delay his recovery and so on.

With regard to being advised, this means that a knowledgeable and trustworthy doctor tells him that it will harm him.

The fifth condition: There should be no impediments. This applies specifically to women. Women who are menstruating or bleeding following childbirth should not fast, because the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Is it not the case that when she gets her period, she does not pray or fast?” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

So she should not fast and her fast is not valid in this case, and she has to make up the days missed.

And Allah Knows Best!

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