Fasting is a great act of worship, and it takes on different rulings depending on the type of category it falls into.

There are 2 types of Islamic fasting: mandatory fasting and voluntary fasting.

1. Mandatory Fasting

Mandatory or Wajib/Fard fasting is the type of fasting that is prescribed by Allah ﷻ in the Quran and is obligatory for all able-bodied and mentally sound Muslims who have reached puberty. It is known as Sawm and is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to fast during the month of Ramadan, which is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. In Surat Al-Baqarah, Allah ﷻ instructs us that:

“…whoever is present during the month, let him fast it…”

Quran 2:185

This is the type of fasting that cannot be voluntarily broken, and if it is then a Kaffarah must follow. To make up for the intentionally broken fast, 60 days must be fasted continuously or  60 poor people are to be fed if one cannot fast.

2. Voluntary Fasting

Voluntary or Nafl fasting, on the other hand, is not obligatory but is highly encouraged in Islam. Muslims can choose to fast on any day of the year except for the two Eid holidays: Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. The most common voluntary fast involves fasting on Mondays and Thursdays.

Abu Hurayrah (رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنهُ) narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: 

“Deeds are shown (to Allah ﷻ) on Mondays and Thursdays, and I like my deeds to be shown when I am fasting”. 

Al-Tirmidhi, 747

Additionally, fasting 3 days every Islamic month was a practice of the Messenger ﷺ. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

“If you fast any part of the month, then fast the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth.”  

Al-Nasai, 2424

Another example of a voluntary fast is the fast of the Day of Arafah, which is observed on the 9th day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah as well as the Day of ‘Ashura (Sahih Muslim, 1162b). As well as this, any voluntary fast done for the Sake of Allah ﷻ is rewarded greatly as the Prophet ﷺ said: 

“Whoever fasts a day in the way of Allah, Allah will move his face away from the Hellfire by a distance of seventy years.”

Sahih Muslim

Both mandatory and voluntary fasting have spiritual and physical benefits, and they are considered to be acts of worship that bring Muslims closer to Allah ﷻ. 

Written by Menna Kamal