Q: What is the ruling for a Muslim who does not take fasting seriously and may quit it out of laziness or negligence?
A: Alhamdulillah. There’s a consensus amongst the Muslim scholars that whoever denies fasting in respect to its obligatory status is committing an act of disbelief. This is after a due counseling is conducted, yet the person insists on contesting it, in such a case we rule it is an act of apostasy. Why so? Because he/she is disputing a direct command from Allah in Glorious Qur’an to fast, as well as the command of the Apostle of Allah for the believers to fast, whereas he/she is questioning the fasting’s validity. It is also known that whoever contests the consensus, knowingly and intentionally, is a disbeliever and is no longer within the realm of Islam.
If the contestant, however; denies fasting out of laziness or negligence, the scholars believe that such a person is committing a grave sin and is on the brink of disbelief. In fact, there are plenty of evidences expressing the seriousness of this offense and warn against it. Furthermore, it is apparent that such a person is still within the boundary of Islam, yet he/she is falling into a serious offense by not adhering to one of the pillars of faith.
Q: When was the command for fasting was made?
A: Alhamdulillah. Fasting was made obligatory on the second year of Hijra. It is the consensus of all scholars that the Apostle of Allah fasted nine months of Ramadan. Prior to the Hijra though, fasting was obligatory on the tenth (10th) day of Muharram, known as Day of ‘Ashuraa. When the Apostle of Allah [pbuh] migrated from Makkah to Madinah, he noticed that the Jews were fasting on the same day. Upon inquiry from them as to why are they fasting ‘Ashuraa, they replied, it was the day on which Allah has saved Moses from Pharaoh. He [pbuh] said: We have more rights for claiming Moses than you. He [pbuh] fasted and instructed the Muslims to fast it. Later on, fasting the 10th of ‘Ashuraa was abrogated and made a Sunnah, while fasting Ramadan was made obligatory.
Q: Some people believe fasting starts when they personally cite the crescent, is that so?
A: Alhamdulillah. This is not right. It is not possible for each and every person to cite the crescent. If all the people are required to cite the crescent, they will fall into a hardship, and our Shari’ah is based on easiness. Allah says in the Glorious Qur’an: “(He) has imposed no hardship on you in religion”, and He said: “Allah burdens not a soul beyond its scope”. The Apostle of Allah [pbuh] encouraged the companions to seek and make the effort to cite the crescent of Ramadan, and they were eager to do so. It was the tradition of the Apostle of Allah [pbuh] however, if a single person comes to him testifying his personal citation of the crescent, to accept his testimony and instruct Bilal to inform the Muslims to fast the following day. This is an evidence that it suffices to take the testimony of the single person to confirm the beginning of Ramadan, whereas it takes two witnesses to confirm the end of Ramadan.
Q: Is there an intent for fasting?
A: Alhamdulillah. Every act of worship must be preceded by an “intention”. Likewise fasting must be preceded by the intention, which is located in the heart. It is not a word to utter, rather a determination. Yet many people wrongfully pronounce “I intend to fast tomorrow” which, according to the scholars, is an act of innovation (Bid’ah) and not allowed. The right thing is to have the determination made in heart to fast the following day.
Q: Is a single intention suffices for the entire month?
A: Alhamdulillah. There’s a detail into it, in which a Muslim must have an overall prior intention to fast the entire month. Likewise, the Muslim is required to have a particular intention or determination made every evening for the following day. I say so because this issue is disputed amongst the scholars. The Malikis for example, view the fasting of Ramadan as a single act of worship, due to the fact that the days are fasted consecutively for the entire month. They argued that it suffices for the Muslim to make/have a single intention. The rest of the scholars argued for a particular repeated intention every night. The beauty of this dispute arises in the case of a person who overslept, surpassing Sahoor, and woke up after the dawn time is in. The Malikis, along with Ibn Taymiah and some other scholars, argued his fasting is valid because it was his intention initially to fast the entire month. Whereas the rest of the scholars argued that he needs to repeat the fasting of this day because he missed the “intention”.
It appears to me however, that if the person intended to fast the entire month, it suffices him. Therefore, if he overslept and did not wake up until the dawn’s time has already passed, I tell him, the initial “intention” suffices you.
There’s an interesting issue arises here, namely, if a person had the initial intention to fast the entire month, then had to break his fasting due to travel, sickness or as in the case of women, the monthly menstruation, he will need to renew the overall intention. That is, if the excuse is no longer there, he needs to have an overall intention made for the rest of the remaining days in the month.