As much as fasting is one of the most important pillars of Islam, there are certain days during which the Lawgiver prohibited the believer to fast.
1. The two Eids
There are two annual celebrations in Islam: Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha. These Eids symbolize the period of happiness when Muslims all over the world commemorate the festivities with the praise of Allah and public prayers after which they go home to feast with family and friends. Fasting and the `Eid do not mix. If it is `Eidul-Fitr, the fast-breaking feast, how could one celebrate the ending of the annual fast period with a fast? And if it is `Eidul Adha, Festivity of Sacrifice, how could one sacrifice an animal and not eat it?
This is why the majority of Muslims agreed that fasting on the days of `Eid is prohibited. If you have to make up a fast, it should not be on these days. In a hadith related by Umar bin Al-Khattab (raa), he said: "The Messenger of Allah (saas) prohibited fasting on these two days: on the day of fast-breaking, because you have just broken your fast of Ramadan; and on the day of sacrifice you are supposed to eat from your sacrifice." (Ahmed and others)
2. Three Days Following
`Eidul Adha, The Days of
The days of Tashreeq are the three days following `Eidul Adha. These three days are the most important as far as the festivity of `Eid and public display of happiness are concerned. Muslims usually take off work and visit other Muslims to share this happiness with them. These are the days of giving gifts to the family, relatives, and the needy.
Abu Hurairah (raa) reported the Prophet (saas) sent Abdullah bin Huzaifah (raa) to go around Mina to announce to the pilgrims, "Do not fast these days (three days after 'Arafah). These are days of eating and drinking and remembrance of Allah (SWT)." (Ahmed).
Although the hadith addressed the congregation of pilgrims, its meaning and implication are general to every Muslim who is being advised not to observe fast on these days. This is the understanding of the majority of scholars. The minority said if one vowed to expiate or make up his fast, he may fast during these days. The majority responded that the minority opinion is good but it has no proof that it would be okay to fast during these days.
3. Singling Out Friday for Fasting
Friday, Jum'ah, is a weekly festival for Muslims. They celebrate with congregational prayer and meeting each other. The Lawgiver, (Shaare'e) prohibited singling it out with the observance of fast. This is why the scholars said: This is an exception or undesired prohibition, Makruuh, not of the same strength as the absolute prohibition of Haram; that is, one can observe it, provided that the Friday fast is cushioned by fasting the day before and the day after, or that Friday occurs on the day of 'Arafah, or the tenth of Muharram, as these are days whose fast is highly encouraged.
The prohibition here rests on the hadith related by Abdullah Ibn 'Umar (raa), who said: "The Prophet (saas) visited his wife Juwayrah bint Harith and found her fasting on Friday. He asked her, "Did you fast yesterday?" "No," she replied. He asked again: "Do you plan to fast tomorrow?" she replied, "No." He said: "Then, break your fast." (Ahmed)
In another hadith reported by 'Amir Al-Ashairee (raa): ``I heard the Prophet say `Friday is your day of the feast, so do not observe it in fasting unless you fast a day before and a day after.'" Jabir bin Abdullah (raa) related: The Prophet (saas) said: "Do not single out Jum'ah night among the nights for nightly prayer (Tahajjud), nor single out Friday for fasting unless it happens to coincide with fasting that you are accustomed to." (Muslim)
These hadiths are proof that the prohibition is with the condition that a believer has set his mind to fast only Friday. The desire to single out this otherwise important day with undue emphasis is what the Lawgiver wants to prevent. A Muslim does not live only for Jum'ah. One can see that in other religions, only certain days are accorded any religious significance while the rest of the days are relegated to secular pursuits.
4. Singling Out Saturday for Fast
For the very reason why we are forbidden to single our Friday for fasting, we are also prohibited to fast only on Saturdays or, in that case, only on Sundays. But there is also another reason. Saturday is the weekly festival for the Jews as Sunday is for the Christians. Islam has encouraged and instructed the believers to stay away and not lend any religious significance to these two days. We do not fast on the day of the feast. We can fast on the day of their feast but without singling it out. This is why the statement prohibiting the customs of Saturday fasting is very strong. The Prophet (saas) said: "Do not fast on Saturday unless it is part of what Allah has prescribed for you. If you could not find anything to eat but a grape skin or a piece of wood, you should chew it." (Ahmed) The Prophet's wife Umm Salmah (raa) stated: "The Prophet used to observe Saturday and Sunday with fasting (along with other days), and would say, `These are the `Eids of polytheists and I like to differ with them.'" This hadith implies that a believer should not lend spiritual significance to the religious festivities of non-Muslims.
5. No Fasting on the Day of Doubt (
I mentioned earlier that intention (niyyah), is one of the two important elements of fasting. It implies certainty or an effort to ascertain the day of fasting. There is no such thing as saying that `I will fast if it happens to be Ramadan.' That shaky assumption is not accepted in starting the Fast, and it is known as sawm yawmush-shakk. In an athar report from `Amaar bin Yaasir (raa) he said: "Whoever fasts the day he is doubtful (whether it is the first day or not or the last day of Ramadan or not), he has disobeyed the Messenger of Allah (Aba Qasim)." (Tirmidhi)
Fasting in this manner, even if the day is correct, is not valid. Abu-Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah (saas) said: "Do not fast a day or two before Ramadan unless that fast coincides with a fast the person usually observes. In that case, he may fast that day." (Muslim/ Bukhari)
On the authority of this hadith, many scholars forbid a man or woman to decide in doubt. No matter what is the outcome, that day would have to be redeemed.
6. No Fasting for Life (
The essence of Islam and its noble teachings always take into account the general interests and welfare, al-maslahah, of Muslims. Thus, the prohibition of fasting for a whole year or life, for the simple reason that it may lead to one's physical ruin or religious asceticism. Both are vehemently rejected by Islam; and to relegate Islam to such ascetic, rigid abstinence would undoubtedly infringe on the believer's other religious and social obligations. The Messenger of Allah (saas) has been reported as saying: "No fast for whoever fasts forever." (Muslim and Bukhari)
Inferring from this hadith, the scholars say that if the fast is interrupted during the days of the `Eids and three days following them there is no prohibition. They cited another Hadith in which the Prophet (saas) advised Hamzah Al Aslami (raa) to continue his fasting when he said to him: "Fast, if you so desire, and break." The preference for anyone who would like to fast that much is to fast the fast of Prophet David, who has been reported as fasting one day and breaking the next.
7. No Married Woman Should Fast without the Consent of her Husband
If a wife decides to fast a voluntary fast, it is incumbent upon her to inform her husband and seek his permission, because he may be desiring her during his fast and cannot fulfill his desire, because she is fasting. In addition, he may be tempted to sin. This prohibition rests on the hadith reported by Abu Hurairah (raa) that the Prophet (saas) said: "Women should not fast one day while her husband is present, without his permission, except in Ramadan." (Muslim, Bukhari, and others)
Deducing from this hadith, if the husband travels or he is absent, she may fast, or if he is sick or he is unable to consummate there is no need to seek his permission.
8. Continuous Fast of Days and Nights without Break is Prohibited (
Wisaal is to fast days and nights non-stop, without break, and continuing yet with another day and night and so on. This kind of fasting is prohibited. In a hadith reported by the Messenger of Allah (saas), he said: "Beware of wisaal, fasting nights and days uninterrupted." He repeated the warning three times. When the companions inquired, "O Messenger of Allah, don't you practice Wisaal sometimes?" The Prophet (saas) explained, "That is true but you are not like me. My Lord nourishes me with food and drink. So, observe the deeds that you are capable of." (Bukhari/Muslim)
However, the Islamic jurists, while analyzing the whole case of wisaal, concluded that the restriction may be lifted if the fast is broken by the time of the last meal, sahuur. In a Hadith related by Abi Sa'eed Al-Khudari, the Messenger of Allah (saas) said: "Do not practice wisaal, however, whoever wants to continue, may do so up to the time of the last meal, sahuur, and then eat" (Bukhari)