What is the form, decree and time of intention for fasting? Is the time of intention the same for fard (obligatory) and nafilah (supererogatory) fasting?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is not necessary to utter the word “today” or “tomorrow” while intending to fast. A person who intends to fast after midnight can utter the word today and before midnight the word tomorrow.

What is the decree about intention in fasting?

Worship is based on intention; therefore, intention is necessary in fasting since it is a kind of worship. Intention is in the heart of the person. It means to know, to decide that one is going to fast that day or the next day. It is not necessary to utter it with the tongue but it is sunnah. To get up during the night for sahur is regarded as intention.

When can one intend for fasting?

One can intend for the fasting in Ramadan, fasting of vow and supererogatory fasting beginning from the evening to mid-morning the next day. It is necessary to intend for the skipped fasting of Ramadan, the fasting of vow whose time was not determined, substitute fasting for the supererogatory fasting that was started but then broken and the fasting of atonement (kaffarah) beginning from the evening to the time of imsak (pre-dawn). Intention after imsak is not valid for these kinds of fasting. According to Shafiis, it is permissible to intend for supererogatory fasting until the sun sets unless that person does something that invalidates fasting.

* If a person intends to perform any kind of fasting at night but gives up before the time of imsak, it is permissible.

* Intention is necessary for each day of the month of Ramadan separately because nights intervene and the fasting of each day is regarded as separate worship.

* If a person intends to fast as a substitute for a skipped fasting after the sun rises, this fasting is not regarded as a substitute for the skipped fasting but as supererogatory fasting. It is obligatory to intend for the substitute for the skipped fasting before the time of imsak.

* If a woman intends to fast at night while she is still in menstruation but her menstruation ends before the time of imsak, her intention becomes valid and she has to fast that day.

According to Shafii madhhab, the time of intention for fard fasting is at night. It cannot be delayed to the next morning. If one does not intend at night in the month of Ramadan, he has to perform substitute fasting for each day like that. However, Ibn Hajar says, “If a Shafii person forgets to intend at night in Ramadan, he can intend the next morning by imitating Hanafi madhhab.”

According to Maliki madhhab, one intention at the beginning of the month of Ramadan is enough. It is not necessary to intend every night. Therefore, if a Shafii or Hanafi person  says, “I intend to fast in this month of Ramadan” when Ramadan starts, it will be a nice thing; if he forgets to intend one day, his fasting will be valid according to Maliki madhhab.

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