Taghyir al-Niyya from Fasting

Q: “I was fasting and I passed through a restaurant and as a result of looking at the succulent and luscious (yum-yum) food on offer, it resulted in me having an unstoppable craving for the food itself and I felt then that I couldn’t keep my fast any longer. I ended up making the intention to break my fast there and ordered the food but I stopped short of eating it because I felt guilty. Is my fast broken because I intended to break the fast just as it definitely would in the case of the Salah according to the Shafii school? Must I now make qada of this fast day? Have I sinned?” 

A: ”

Al-hamdulillah alladhi farada al-sawm li-jihad al-nafs wa-s-shaytan wa-s-salat wa-s-salam ‘ala sayyidina Muhammad azka l-anam sharafan.

Allahumma hidayatan li-s-sawab!

To intend leaving the fast [siyam] or intending to break the fast wilfully and consciously, will not invalidate [mubtil] the fast. The fast is only invalidated when the person fasting [sa’im] does one of the ten acts that breaks the fast [muftirat; such as performing sexual intercourse or in your case, eating that irresistible food]. This is different from the case of prayer [Salat], for the person who is in prayer [musalli] could vitiate the prayer by merely intending to leave his or her prayer (although it is Haram to do so if there is no valid excuse [‘udhr]). This is because the act of praying is more exact and limited in its scope and form, than any other acts of ‘ibada and worship. To merely intend leaving the act of fasting or I’tikaf [spiritual retreat] or Hajj or ‘Umra, without it being followed by some other extrinsic factor that invalidates that particular act, does not invalidate it.

This is made clear by Imam al-Bajuri (may Allah be pleased with him!) in his Hashiya of the Fath al-Qarib:

“Qadi Abu Shuja’: [Among the 11 things that invalidate the prayer is] to change one’s intention (Ibn Qasim: such as to intend to leave the prayer). ((al-Bajuri: Ibn Qasim’s [exact] words, “the prayer” [indicates that this] is contrary to the case when someone intends to leave either the fast or the I’tikaf or the Hajj or the ‘Umra, for neither of them can be invalidated [by changing one’s intention]. This is because the prayer is a more restricted type [of ‘ibada] than any of them.))” [al-Bajuri, Hashiya, 1:179].

+Fa’ida for students of fiqh+ The legal distinction between the prayer and other types of ‘ibada is that the latter acts could not be invalidated by changing one’s intention [taghyir al-niyya] (for example, of performing the fast to something else), because, unlike the prayer, to not change one’s intention of the ‘ibada is not stipulated as one of the conditions [shart] of the ‘ibada itself.

My dear brother, we humans are indeed weak creatures! Although fasting has been prescribed for us and for those before us so that we may discipline our egos and fight the devil, we are certainly not infallible like the prophets. For this very reason, we must take all the precautions available to us, whether necessary or suggestive ones, in order that we may achieve Ihsan and excellence in whatever ‘ibada we are performing. Alhamdulillah, in this particular case, your changing the intention did not lead to breaking the fast itself, but this was certainly a “near miss” incident, and again we thank divine protection for this mercy. Although you have managed to keep to the minimum fiqhi limits and although your fast was not invalidated by looking ‘lustfully’ or with shahwa [the “pleasure of the senses” or our “carnal appetites” (which incidentally is not limited only to the pleasures of our sexual organs but also to our digestive ones as you yourself garishly described it: “as a result of looking at the succulent and luscious (yum-yum) food on offer”)], it nevertheless goes against the spirit and wisdom of the fast. The adab of this ‘ibada requires that we do not slobber over food and drool over the objects, sabab and causes of shahwa. The fiqhi ruling for looking at what gives rise to shahwa while fasting is Makruh [offensive], and it is more godfearing [Wara’] to avoid shahwa, even though they are Mubah [permissible] when not fasting. (That is why we learn from the science of Tasawwuf, the fast in fact makes things which are normally Halal, Haram–so how do we measure indulgence in Haram things during a fast?) Indeed, for our case, avoiding looking at the world with shahwa becomes a preventative measure for us, and by not breaking this rule (even when it is not Haram and by breaking it we are not sinning) it becomes a means for us to prevent the lower-half of our nafs getting the better of us……..”

>> Read the complete answer by Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al Akiti

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