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FIQH OF RAMADAN: What is Siyaam?

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A comprehensive and concise guide about Ramadan from Minhaj AlMuslim.

Part 1: As-Siyam (Fasting) and confirming the month of Ramadan

As-Siyam (Fasting)

Defining Fasting (As-Sawm):

As-Sawm linguistically means 'to abstain'. According to Islamic law it means to abstain from eating, drinking, sexual intercourse and other things that break the fast, with the intention of worshiping Allah from the first crack of dawn (Fajr) until the setting of the sun (Maghrib).

The History of the Obligation of Fasting:

Allah made fasting obligatory upon the Ummah (nation, followers) of Muhammad ﷺ, just as He made it obligatory upon the nations that preceded it. This is based on Allah the Almighty’s statement,

“O you who believe! Fasting has been made obligatory upon you just as it was made obligatory upon those who were before you, so that you may have Taqwa
(piety).” (Qur'an, 2:183)

The revelation of this verse took place on a Monday, during the month of Sha'ban, in the second year after the migration - hijrah (2 AH).

Confirming the Month of Ramadhan

The beginning of the month of Ramadan is confirmed by one of the two matters:

  1. The First of them is the completion of the previous month, which is Sha’ban. Therefore, if Sha’ban completes thirty days, then the thirty-first day is the first day of Ramadhan, without a doubt.
  2. The Second matter is sighting the crescent of the new moon for it (Ramadhan). 
So if the crescent moon of Ramadan is seen on the thirtieth night of Sha’ban the month
of Ramadhan has begun and it is obligatory to fast it. This is due to Allah the Almighty’s statement,
”So whoever witnesses the month then he must fast it.” (Qur'an, 2:185)
And the Messenger’s ﷺ statement, “When you see the crescent moon (of Ramadhan), then fast, and when you see it (for Shawwal) then stop fasting. And if it is hidden from you by clouds, then complete the period as thirty days.” (Muslim)

The witnesses of one or two just people is sufficient in confirming its sighting, as the Messenger of Allah ﷺ permitted the witness of one man in sighting the crescent moon of Ramadhan. (Abu Dawud and others, and it is Sahih).

However concerning the sighting of moon of Shawwal to stop fasting, it is not confirmed except by the witness of two men, as the Messenger ﷺ did not allow the witness of one just man for ending the fast. (At-Tabarani and Ad-Daraqutni)

Note: Whoever sees the crescent moon of Ramadhan, it is obligatory upon him to fast, even if his witness is not accepted (by others). And whoever sees the crescent moon for ending the fast and his witness is not accepted, then he does not break his feast. This is due to the Prophet’s ﷺ statement: “The fast is the day that all of you fast, the end of the fast is when all of you stop fasting, and the sacrifice is the day that all of you perform the sacrifice (of
animals).” (At-Tirmidhi, who said it is Hasan)

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