The Fast of Ramadan:
The fast of Ramadan, according to the Qur'an, sunnah and consensus, is obligatory. The evidence from the Qur'an consists of the following two verses: "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for the people before you in order for you to gain God consciousness, and, "...The month of Ramadan, during which the Qur'an was revealed, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance and the criterion; and whoever of you is resident, let him fast the month" [al-Baqarah 185].
From the sunnah we have the following statements of the Prophet: "Islam is built upon [the following] five pillars: testifying that there is no God except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, the establishment of the prayer, the giving of zakah, the fast of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Makkah." Talhah ibn 'Ubaidullah reported that a man came to the Prophet and said: "O Messenger of Allah, tell me what Allah requires of me as regards fasting." He answered, "The month of Ramadan." The man asked: "Is there any other [fast]?" The Prophet answered: "No, unless you do so voluntarily." The whole Muslim nation agrees that the fast of Ramadan is obligatory. It is one of the pillars of Islam, and if one disputes this, he cannot be called a Muslim.l
The Virtues of Ramadan and the Deeds Done During It:
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "The blessed month has come to you. Allah has made fasting during it obligatory upon you. During it, the gates to Paradise are opened and the gates to hellfire are locked, and the devils are chained. There is a night [during this month] which is better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of its good is really deprived [of something great]." This is related by Ahmad, an-Nasa'i, and al-Baihaqi.
'Arfajah testifies to this: "We were with 'Utbah ibn Farqad while he was discussing Ramadan. A companion of the Prophet entered upon the scene. When 'Utbah saw him, he became shy and stopped talking. The man [the companion] spoke about Ramadan, saying: 'I heard the Messenger of Allah say during Ramadan: "The gates of Hell are closed, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the devils are in chains. An angel calls out: 'O you who intend to do good deeds, have glad tidings. O you who intend to do evil, refrain, until Ramadan is completed.'"
Muslim relates that Abu Hurairah reported the Prophet saying: "The time between the five prayers, two consecutive Friday prayers, and two consecutive Ramadans are expiations for all that has happened during that period, provided that one has avoided the grave sins."
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan, obeying all of its limitations and guarding himself against what is forbidden, has in fact atoned for any sins he committed before it." Ahmad and alBaihaqi related this hadith with a good chain.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan with faith and seeks Allah's pleasure and reward will have his previous sins forgiven." This hadith is related by Ahmad and the compilers of the sunan.
The Consequence of Breaking the Fast of Ramadan:
Ibn 'Abbas reported that the Prophet said: "The bare essence of Islam and the basics of the religion are three [acts], upon which Islam has been established. Whoever leaves one of them becomes an unbeliever and his blood may legally be spilled. [The acts are:] Testifying that there is no God except Allah, the obligatory prayers, and the fast of Ramadan." This hadith is related by Abu Ya'la and ad-Dailimi. Adh-Dhahabi called it sahih.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said: "Whoever breaks his fast during Ramadan without having one of the excuses that Allah would excuse him for, then even a perpetual fast, if he were to fast it, would not make up for that day." This is related by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and atTirmidhi.
Al-Bukhari records from Abu Hurairah in marfu' form: "Whoever breaks the fast of Ramadan without having a legitimate excuse or being ill, he cannot make up for that day, even if he were to undertake a perpetual fast." Ibn Mas'ud has also reported this.
Adh-Dhahabi says: "According to the established believers, anyone who leaves the fast of Ramadan without being sick is worse than a fomicator or an alcoholic. In fact, they doubt his Islam and they suspect that he might be a zandiqah and one of those who destroy [Islam].
The Arrival of Ramadan:
This event is confirmed by sighting the new moon, even if it is seen by only one just person, or by the passage of thirty days in the immediately preceding month of Sha'ban.
Ibn 'Umar said: "The people were looking for the new moon and when I reported to the Messenger of Allah that I had seen it, he fasted and ordered the people to fast." This is related by Abu Dawud, al-Hakim, and Ibn Hibban, who declared it to be sahih.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet instructed: "Fast after you have seen it [the new crescent] and end the fast [at the end of the month] when you see it. If it is hidden from you, then wait until the thirty days of Sha'ban have passed." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Commenting on these reports, at-Tirmidhi states: "Most knowledgeable people act in accordance with these reports. They say that it is correct to accept the evidence of one person to determine the beginning of the fast. This is the opinion of Ibn alMubarak, ash-Shaf'i, and Ahmad. An-Nawawi says that it is the soundest opinion. Conceming the new moon of Shawwal [which signifies the end of the fast], it is confimmed by completing thirty days of Ramadan, and most jurists state that the new moon must have been reported by at least two just witnesses. However, Abu Thaur does not distinguish between the new moon of Shawwal and the new moon of Ramadan. In both cases, he accepts the evidence of only one just witness."
Ibn-Rushd comments that: "The opionion of Abu Bakr ibn alMundhir, which is also that of Abu Thaur and, I suspect, that of the Dhahiri school of thought, is supported by the following argument given by Abu Bakr al-Mundhiri: there is complete agreement that breaking the fast is obligatory, that abstaining from eating is based on one person's report, and that the situation must be like that for the beginning of the month and for the ending of the month, as both of them are simply the signs that differentiate the time of fasting from the time of not fasting."
Ash-Shaukani observes: "If there is nothing authentic recorded that states that one may only accept two witnesses for the end of the month, then it is apparent, by analogy, that one witness is sufficient, as it is sufficient for the beginning of the month. Furthemmore, worship based on the acceptance of one report points to the fact that such singular reports are accepted in every matter unless there is some evidence that specifies the peculiarity of specific cases, such as the number of witnesses conceming matters of wealth, and so on. Apparently this is the opinion of Abu Thaur."
According to the majority of scholars, it does not matter if the new moon has been sighted in a different location. In other words, after the new moon is seen anywhere in the world, it becomes obligatory for all Muslims to begin fasting, as the Prophet said: "Fast due to its sighting and break the fast due to its sighting." This hadith is a general address directed to the whole Muslim world - that is, "if any one of you sees the moon in any place, then that will be a sighting for all of the people."
According to 'Ikrimah, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, Salim, Ishaq, the correct opinion among the Hanafiyyah, and the chosen opinion among the Shaf'iyyah, every "country" (or territory) is to take into consideration its own sighting and not necessarily to follow the sighting of others. This is based on what Kuraib said: "While I was in ash-Sham, the new moon of Ramadan appeared on Thursday night. I retumed to Madinah at the end of the month. There, Ibn 'Abbas asked me: 'When did you people see the new moon?' I said: 'We saw it on Thursday night.' He said: 'Did you see it yourself?' I said: 'Yes, the people saw it, and they and Mu'awiyyyah fasted.' He said: 'But we saw it on Friday night. We will not stop fasting until we complete thirty days or until we see the new moon.' I said: 'Isn't Mu'awiyyah's sighting and fasting sufficient for you?' He said: 'No . . . This is the order of the Messenger of Allah.' " This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and at-Tirmidhi.
About the hadith, at-Timmidhi says: "It is hassan sahih ghareeb. Scholars act in accordance with this hadith. Every land has its sighting." In Fath al-'Alam Sharh Bulugh al-Maram, it is stated: The [opinion] closest [to the truth] is that each land follows its sighting, as well as the areas that are connected to it."
Sighting of the Crescent by one Person:
The scholars of fiqh agree that if only one person sees the new moon, he is to fast. 'Ata differs and says that he is not to fast until someone else also sights the new moon with him. The correct position is that he is to break the fast, as ash-Shaf'i and Abu Thaur have ruled. The Prophet has based the fast and its breaking on the sighting of the moon. One's own sight is enough for him and there is no need for another person's sighting.
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