Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
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Fasting (siyaam) in Arabic linguistically means to restrain or abstain from. According to the Sharee‘ah it means “abstaining from food, drink, sexual intercourse, and other acts mentioned in the divine law during the day in the prescribed way. It is followed by abstinence from foolish talk, obscenity, and other forms of prohibited and disliked speech, due to the narration of hadeeths forbidding them during fasting more so than at other times. [The abstinence should be] during a specified time, and under special conditions which are explained in the following hadeeths. The beginning of its obligation was in the second year after the Hijrah.
 – Aboo Hurayrah narrated that Allaah’s messenger (PBUH) said, “Do not fast one or two days just before Ramadaan, except in the case of a person who has been in the habit of fasting this way. He may fast on those days.” Collected by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim.
Aboo Hurayrah’s quotation of Allaah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying, “Do not fast one or two days just before Ramadaan…” contains evidence supporting the use of the term Ramadaan as a general term for the month of Ramadaan. The hadeeth of Aboo Hurayrah collected by Ahmad and others attributed to the Prophet (PBUH),
“Don’t say: ‘Ramadaan has come,’ because Ramadaan is one of Allaah’s names. Instead, say, ‘The month of Ramadaan has come.’ ” is weak and cannot validly oppose what is found in the authentic [collections of al-Bukhaaree and Muslim].
“except in the case of a person5 who has been in the habit of fasting this way. He may fast on those days.”
The hadeeth is proof for the prohibition of fasting a day or two before Ramadaan. After narrating this hadeeth, at-Tirmithee said: “Doing this according to the people of knowledge was considered disliked (makrooh). They disliked that a person fast before the arrival of Ramadaan based on the very meaning of the term Ramadaan.” At-Tirmithee’s statement “based on the meaning of Ramadaan,” restricts the prohibition to precautionary fasts, and not fasting in general, like voluntary fasts, fasts due to vows, and other similar fasts. That restriction obviously implies that preceding Ramadaan by any other kind of fast is permissible. But that position is in conflict with the obvious meaning of the hadeeth which is general. Nothing is excluded from it except the fast of someone who regularly fasts fixed days and they coincide with the last days of Sha‘baan. If the Prophet (PBUH) had intended that the fast be limited by what at-Tirmithee mentioned, he would have said, “except one doing voluntary fasts,” or something similar. Prohibition of preceding Ramadaan with fasts was because the Lawgiver had linked the beginning of fasting the Ramadaan fast to the sighting of the crescent moon. One who precedes its sighting is in conflict with both the commands and prohibitions of the religious texts. The hadeeth also contains invalidation of the esoteric (Baatinites) practice of preceding the fast by one or two days prior to sighting the crescent moon of Ramadaan, and their claim that the particle preposition (laam) in the Prophet’s statement: صُومُوا لِرُؤْیَتِھِ Fast for its sighting means “greeting it”, because the hadeeth indicates that the laam cannot be correctly interpreted according to this meaning even though it carries that meaning in other contexts. Continue reading