Fasting ends at Sunset
(...then complete your fast till the nightfall.)
This Ayah orders breaking the fast at sunset. It is recorded in the Two Sahihs that `Umar bin Al-Khattab said that Allah's Messenger said:
(If the night comes from this direction (the east), and the day departs from that direction (the west), then the fasting person breaks his fast.)
It is reported that Sahl bin Sa`d As-Sa`idi narrated that Allah's Messenger said:
(The people will retain goodness as long as they hasten in breaking the fast.)
Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet said:
(Allah the Exalted said, The dearest among My servants to Me are those who hasten in breaking the fast the most.')
At-Tirmidhi recorded this Hadith and said that this Hadith is Hasan Gharib.
Prohibition of Uninterrupted Fasting (Wisal)
There are several authentic Hadiths that prohibit Al-Wisal, which means continuing the fast through the night to the next night, without eating. Imam Ahmad recorded Abu Hurayrah saying that Allah's Messenger said:
(Do not practice Al-Wisal in fasting.) So, they said to him, "But you practice Al-Wisal, O Allah's Messenger!'' The Prophet replied, "(I am not like you, I am given food and drink during my sleep by my Lord.) ,So, when the people refused to stop Al-Wisal, the Prophet fasted two days and two nights (along with those who practiced Wisal) and then they saw the crescent moon (of the month of Shawwal). The Prophet said to them (angrily):
(If the crescent had not appeared, I would have made you fast for a longer period.)
That was as a punishment for them (when they refused to stop practicing Al-Wisal). This Hadith is also recorded in the Sahihayn.
The prohibition of Al-Wisal was also mentioned in a number of other narrations. It is a fact that practicing Al-Wisal was one of the special qualities of the Prophet, for he was capable and assisted in his practice of it. It is obvious that the food and drink that the Prophet used to get while practicing Al-Wisal was spiritual and not material, otherwise he would not be practicing Al-Wisal. We should mention that it is allowed to refrain from breaking the fast from sunset until before dawn (Suhur). A Hadith narrated by Abu Sa`id Khudri states that Allah's Messenger said: (Do not practice Al-Wisal, but whoever wishes is allowed to practice it until the Suhur.)
They said, "You practice Al-Wisal, O Messenger of Allah!'' He said:
(I am not similar to you, for I have One Who makes me eat and drink during the night.) This Hadith is also collected in the Two Sahihs.
The Rulings of I`tikaf
(And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in I`tikaf in the Masjids.).
`Ali bin Abu Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "This Ayah is about the man who stays in I`tikaf at the mosque during Ramadan or other months, Allah prohibited him from touching (having sexual intercourse with) women, during the night or day, until he finishes his I`tikaf.''
Ad-Dahhak said, "Formerly, the man who practiced I`tikaf would go out of the mosque and, if he wished, would have sexual intercourse (with his wife). Allah then said:
(And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in I`tikaf in the Masjids.) meaning, `Do not touch your wives as long as you are in I`tikaf, whether you were in the mosque or outside of it'.'' It is also the opinion of Mujahid, Qatadah and several other scholars, that the Muslims used to have sexual intercourse with the wife while in I`tikaf if they departed the mosque until the Ayah was revealed. Ibn Abu Hatim commented, "It was reported that Ibn Mas`ud, Muhammad bin Ka`b, Mujahid, `Ata' Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, As-Suddi, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and Muqatil said that the Ayah means, `Do not touch the wife while in I`tikaf.'''
What Ibn Abu Hatim reported from these people is the agreed upon practice among the scholars. Those who are in I`tikaf are not allowed to have sexual intercourse as long as they are still in I`tikaf in the mosque. If one has to leave the mosque to attend to a need, such as to relieve the call of nature or to eat, he is not allowed to kiss or embrace his wife or to busy himself with other than his I`tikaf. He is not even allowed to visit ailing persons, but he can merely ask about their condition while passing by. I`tikaf has several other rulings that are explained in the books (of Fiqh), and we have mentioned several of these rulings at the end of our book on Siyam (Fasting), all praise is due to Allah. Furthermore, the scholars of Fiqh used to follow their explanation of the rules for fasting with the explanation of the rules for I`tikaf, as this is the way these acts of worship were mentioned in the Qur'an.
By mentioning I`tikaf after fasting, Allah draws attention to practicing I`tikaf during the month of the fast, especially the last part of the month. The Sunnah of Allah's Messenger is that he used to perform I`tikaf during the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan until he died.
Afterwards, the Prophet's wives used to perform I`tikaf as the Two Sahihs recorded from `A'ishah the Mother of the believers. It is reported in the Two Sahihs that Safiyyah, the daughter of Huyai, went to Allah's Messenger to visit him in the mosque while he was in I`tikaf.
She had a talk with him for a while, then she got up in order to return home. The Prophet accompanied her back home, as it was night. Her house was at Usamah bin Zayd's house on the edge of Al-Madinah. While they were walking, two Ansari men met them and passed by them in a hurry, for they were shy to bother the Prophet while he was walking with his wife. He told them:
(Do not run away! She is (my wife) Safiyyah bint Huyai.) Both of them said, "All praise is due to Allah, (How dare we think of any evil) O Allah's Messenger!'' The Prophet said (to them):
(Shaytan reaches everywhere in the human body, that the blood reaches. I was afraid lest Shaytan might suggest an evil thought in your minds.)
Imam Ash-Shafi`i commented, "Allah's Messenger sought to teach his Ummah to instantly eliminate any evil thought, so that they do not fall into the prohibited. They (the two Ansari men) had more fear of Allah than to think evil of the Prophet. Allah knows best.''
The Ayah (2:187) prohibits sexual intercourse and anything like kissing or embracing that might lead to it during I`tikaf. As for having the wife helping the husband, it is allowed. It is reported in the Two Sahihs that `A'ishah said, "Allah's Messenger would bring his head near me (in her room) and I would comb his hair, while I was on my menses. He would enter the room only to attend to what a man needs.''
(These are the limits (set) by Allah) means, `This is what We have explained, ordained, specified, allowed and prohibited for fasting. We also mentioned the fast's objectives, what is permitted during it, and what is required of it. These are the set limits that Allah has legislated and explained, so do not come near them or transgress them.' `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said, "(Allah's set limits mentioned in the Ayah) mean these four limits (and he then recited):
(It is made lawful for you to have sexual relations with your wives on the night of As-Siyam (fasting).) and he recited up to:
(then complete your Sawm (fast) till the nightfall.) My father and other's used to say similarly and recite the same Ayah to us.''
(Thus does Allah make clear His Ayat to mankind) meaning, `Just as He explains the fast and its rulings, He also explains the other rulings by the words of His servant and Messenger, Muhammad. Allah continues:
(to mankind that they may attain Taqwa.) meaning, `So that they know how to acquire the true guidance and how to worship (Allah).' Similarly, Allah said:
(It is He Who sends down manifest Ayat to His servant (Muhammad) that He may bring you out from (types of) darkness into the light. And verily, Allah is to you full of kindness, Most Merciful.) (57:9)