Breaking the fast as soon as the sun sets [Sunnah of Fasting]

Sa’īd b. Al-Musayyib reports from his father, “I was once sitting with ʿUmar when a group of people arrived from Al-Shām. ʿUmar enquired about them and how they were; he asked, ‘Do the people of Al-Shām hasten to break the fast.’ He said, ‘Yes.’ [ʿUmar] said, ‘They will not cease to remain upon good as long as they do this, and do not wait for the stars [to come out] as the people of Irāq do.’”

ʿAbd Al-Razzāq Al-Ṣanʿānī, Al-Muṣannaf 4:225.

‘Amr b. Maymūn Al-Awdī reports, “The Companions of Muḥammad – Allāh’s peace and blessings be upon him – used to be the quickest to break the fast and the slowest in taking the pre-dawn meal.”

Ibid. p226.

Ibn Al-Musayyib also reports that ʿUmar wrote to the commanders of the various regions, ‘Do not be of the procrastinators when breaking the fast, and nor of those who wait for the stars before they start praying [al-maghrib].’

Ibid. p225.

Mūsā b. Anas reports that Anas [ibn Mālik] used to have his slave-girl go to the top of his house, instructing her, ‘When the horizon becomes even (evenly lit, marking sunset), tell me.’

Ibn Abī Shaybah, Al-Muṣannaf 2:430.

Abū Al-Tiyāḥ Al-Ḍabaʾī reports that “he used to break fast with Ibn ʿAbbās during Ramaḍān. When evening approached he would send a girl from his household to the roof [to look out], and when the sun set he would make the call to prayer (adhān). He would eat with us, and when he had finished, the call for the commencement of prayer (iqāmah) would be given, and he would pray, and we would pray with him.”

Ibid. p429.

Taking the pre-dawn meal as late as possible [Sunnah of Fasting]

Sālim b. ‘Ubayd reports, “I used to stay in the house of Abū Bakr. One night, he prayed for as long as Allāh willed him to. He then said [to me], ‘Go and see if al-fajr has started,’ so I went, returned and said, ‘Whiteness has risen in the sky.’ So he prayed for as long as Allāh willed, then said [again], ‘Go and see if al-fajr has started.’ I went out, returned and said, ‘[The light] is spreading out and becoming reddish,’ to which he said, ‘Now bring me my drink (i.e. my pre-dawn meal, al-suḥūr).’”

Al-Dāraquṭnī, Al-Sunan 2:166. Al-Dāraquṭnī grades its chain of transmission ṣaḥīh.

Eating to Fast [not Fasting to Eat]

It is reported that once, some good food was served to Anas [Ibn Mālik] – Allāh be pleased with him, and [the person who served the food] was well off enough to afford good food. As he was eating, he kept a morsel of the food in his mouth for a while, then looked at the people and began to cry. Then he said, “By Allāh, I have accompanied people who, if they could get hold of this kind of food, would have fasted even more often, and spent less time not fasting. One of them would find only milk mixed with water [as food], which he would drink and then fast on.”

Al-Mu’āfā b. ‘Imrān, Kitāb Al-Zuhd article 215.

When to Bath

A man once asked ‘Alī – Allāh be pleased with him – about taking a full bath (ghusl). He replied, “Wash every day if you want.” The man said, “No, what I mean is the ghusl.” ʿAli replied, “Al-Jumu’ah (Friday), the Day of ‘Arafah, the Day of Al-Naḥr (sacrificial slaughter, ‘Eid al-Adhā) and the Day of Al-Fiṭr (the ‘Eid following Ramaḍān).”

Al-Bayhaqī, Al-Sunan Al-Kubrā, ḥadīth #6343. In Irwā Al-Ghalīl, under ḥadīth #146, Shaykh Al-Albānī graded its chain of transmission ṣaḥīḥ and said this is the best evidence for the recommendation to bath on the two ‘Eid celebrations.

Umar and the night prayers of Ramadan

Imām Al-Bukhārī reports in his Ṣaḥīḥ, in the chapter entitled The virtue of one who prays [at night] in Ramaḍān, from ʿAbd Al-Raḥmān b. ʿAbdin Al-Qārī:

I went out to the mosque with ʿUmar b. Al-Khattāb one night in Ramaḍān, and we found people in separate groups: some men praying by themselves and others praying with a small group behind them. ʿUmar said, “I think if I gathered them behind one reciter it would be better.” Later, he made up his mind and gathered them behind Ubay b. Ka’b. On another night, I went out with him again and the people were praying behind their reciter [Ubay]. ʿUmar said, “What a good innovation (bid’ah) this is, but what they are missing by sleeping is better than what they are staying up to pray.” He meant the last part of the night, for the people used to pray in the early part.

This is further clarified by the more detailed report in Ibn Sa’d’s Al-Ṭabaqāt Al-Kubrā Vol.5 p42 from Nawfal b. Iyās Al-Hudhalī:

During the time of ʿUmar b. Al-Khattāb, we used to pray in Ramaḍān in groups – here and there – in the mosque. People would incline to pray behind those who had the best voices. ʿUmar said, “Do I not see that they are treating the Qurān like song? By Allāh, if I can, I will change this.” Only three nights later, he told Ubay b. Ka’b to lead them in prayer, then stood behind the rows and said, “If this is a bid’ah, then what a good bid’ah it is.”

Al-‘Allāmah Al-Mu’allimī Al-Yamānī graded this narration’s chain of transmission ṣaḥīḥ in his treatise Qiyāmu Ramaḍān p51.

Points to note

  • We are reminded through this narration to avoid falling into the same problems that ʿUmar sought to solve by appointing a single imām during his Caliphate:
    • The appearance of splitting and schism, which Islam disapproves of
    • Distracting each other by reciting audibly at the same time in the mosque, reciting over each other
    • Preferring imāms and reciters for having nice voices even though others may know more Qurān and be more qualified to lead
  • Scholars point out that the statement ‘what a good bid’ah this is’ does not affirm that there is any such thing as a good bid’ah in a religious sense, because innovation in religion is unconditionally and unequivocally blameworthy in the texts of ḥadīth and countless statements of the Salaf. This statement is therefore taken to mean that ʿUmar meant that what he saw was a good development – a bid’ah in the linguistic sense of something new – relative to the situation before he appointed a single imām. This meaning is also clear from the fact that night prayer in congregation in Ramaḍān already has a precedent from Allāh’s Messenger – Allāh’s peace and blessings be upon him.
  • Having said that, the report in Ibn Sa’d, ‘if this is a bid’ah, then what a good bid’ah it is’ evidences that ʿUmar never called it a bid’ah in the first place, but was being rhetorical, as suggested by Shaykh Al-Mu’allimī in Qiyām Ramaḍān, in the same way as intended in Sūrah Al-Zukhruf, verse 81, “Say, if Al-Raḥmān has a son, then I am the first of the worshippers.’”

And Allāh knows best.