When do you have to make the intention to fast?

When do you have to make the intention to fast?

Fasting is preceded by the intention (niyyah) to refrain from eating and drinking. It does not need to be verbalised, it is in the heart.

Ramadan – Can you make the intention for the whole month?

As per the Maliki school of thought, it is possible to make your intention to fast for the whole month of Ramadan at the beginning of the Ramadan. In the Hanafi school the intention should be made daily in the heart between Maghrib (i.e. the night before) and Duha (an hour before Dhur).

Fard fast outside of Ramadan – make intention before fajr

It you are planning to make up a missed fard (obligatory) fast, the intention should be made before Fajr.

Hafsah (may Allah be pleased with her), the mother of the believers narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) said: 

Whoever does not commit himself to fasting before dawn (Fajr), there is no fast for him.” (Abu Dawood)

“There is no fast for the one who did not make the intention to fast from the night.” (Daraqutni)

If you went to sleep without the intention of fasting, and you wake up after Fajr and want to fast, the fast is not correct because you have already passed a portion of the day without the intention to fast. You cannot apply the intention to do a fard fast in retrospect.

Voluntary fast – you can make the intention after Fajr

For nafl fasts, the intention can be made during the day, (even after Fajr as long as it is before Dhur), as long as you have not eaten or had intimate relations after Fajr.

This is as per the hadith of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) who said:

“Allah’s Messenger entered upon me one day and said, ‘Do you have something [for me to eat]?’ We said, ‘No.’ He then said, ‘In that case, I am fasting [today].’ (Muslim)

Breaking a voluntary fast is permissible

In the rest of this hadith, Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said:

Then he came to us another day and we said:  ‘We have been given a gift of hays (a mixture of dates and ghee).’ He said, ‘Show it to me for I had begun the day fasting.’ And then he ate.” [(Muslim)

It was narrated that Abu Juhayfah said:

“… Abu’l-Darda’ came and he made some food for him – i.e. for Salman. He said: ‘Eat, for I am fasting.’ Salman said: ‘I will not eat until you eat.’ So he ate… and Salman said to him: ‘Your Lord has rights over you, your soul has rights over you, and your family has rights over you, so give each of them their rights.’ Then he came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and told him about that, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘Salman is right.’” (Bukhari)

Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“I made some food for the Prophet (peace a be upon him), and when it was served a man said: ‘I am fasting.’ The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘Your brother has invited you (to eat) and has gone to some effort for your sake, so break your fast and fast another day in its stead if you wish.’” (Daraqutni)

These hadith show that it is permissible to break an optional (or nafl) fast. The fast should be completed on a later day.

However, it is not permissible to break an obligatory fast without a valid reason. To break a fard fast is a major sin.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.