The following are notes taken from a class taught by Shaykh Muhammad Rami Nsour, on the Fiqh of Ramadan according to the School of Imam Malik, at Zaytuna Institute (as it then was) a few years ago.
The course consisted of 3 parts, with the remainder of my notes to follow shortly, in sha Allah.
The Book of Fasting from the Risala of ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani
Sighting the moon
You start fasting when the new moon is sighted (to mark the beginning of Ramadan) and you stop fasting when the new moon is sighted (to mark the end of Ramadan), whether this is after 30 or 29 days.
If the new moon cannot be seen because of clouds, you count 30 days from the beginning of the preceding month (being Sha’ban) and then begin fasting.
The same applies to ending the fast.
On the 29th day of Sha’ban you should go out and look for the moon in the Western portion of the sky right before or after Maghrib. You’ll be looking for a very thin crescent.
If you see it, the next day will be the first day of Ramadan and you must fast (despite whether the community has sighted it or not). If it is cloudy and you cannot see the moon, you make Sha’ban 30 days.
Naked eye sighting means just that. You cannot use binoculars or a telescope.
We also disregard calculation of the new moon, or upon sighting in a far off land.
Mecca is not our Vatican.
If the news of the moon sighting is delivered to the community by 2 upstanding male members (or a group large enough that it would be impossible for them to have got together and lied about it) it then becomes an obligation upon the community to follow them.
If you witness it yourself, it becomes an obligation upon you personally to fast the next day.
If the moon sighted in a distant land (i.e upto a maximum of 3,000 english miles) then you can fast based on that (e.g. Bristol, UK to Rabat, Morocco is approximately 1,500 miles).
On the 29tb day of Ramadan you should again go out to sight the moon. If you sight it, then Eid is the next day. If you don’t sight it on 29th day of Ramadan then you fast for 30 days.
1 intention said in the heart at the beginning of Ramadan will suffice.
But, this is only so long as your fasting is not interrupted (e.g. by sickness (even if you kept your fast), travel (even if you kept your fast) or menstruation etc. If so, your intention must be renewed before you start fasting again.
Opening and breaking the fast
Fasting starts from the Fajr (when you see the first string of light on the eastern horizon) until Maghrib.
If you can’t see the disk of the sun go below the horizon, look to the east. A dull grey will indicate the entrance of Maghrib.
Break your fast as soon as the time comes in. It’s not a Sunnah to delay it in the hope of increasing the virtues of your fast.
Eat an odd number of dates when breaking your fast; either 3, 5 or 7. Rather than just having 1, it’s better to have 2.
Delay the Suhoor until the last 1/3 of the night. My the last 1/3 we do not mean conventional timing as per your alarm clock. What we mean is this:
Say Maghrib started at 20:00 and Fajr started at 04:00. The number of hours between Maghrib and Fajr would be 8.
If we divide 8 by 3 we get 2.6 hours.
The last 1/3 of the night would commence from about 01:10 in the morning.
It is sunnah to have your suhoor after about 01:10 in the morning in this scenario.
If you’re unsure whether Fajr has entered or not, don’t eat. If you do, you have to make up that fast after Ramadan but you must continue your invalid fast.
If you have doubt about if Maghrib has come in, don’t eat. If you do, you have to make up the fast after Ramadan.
It is disliked to fast on the day of doubt (i.e. when there is doubt whether it is the 30th of Sha’ban or the 1St of Ramadan) as you don’t know if Ramadan is in or not.
If you do fast and then it transpires that it is indeed the first day of Ramadan, your fast is still invalid as your intention was not 100% accurate.
If you wake up realising that Ramadan is in then you must stop eating if you had eaten already (imsak). As you didn’t have the intention of fasting before Fajr, the fast must be made up after Ramadan. This is such even if you had not eaten.
A valid reason to eat would be if someone, who had broken their fast due to travel, came back home from a journey in the middle of the day.
Another example of a valid reason for someone to eat would be that of a woman who had not stopped menstruating until after Fajr. If you only stopped menstruating at, say, midday, you can continue to eat for the rest of the day.
An obligatory fast must be made up, despite whether one had a valid excuse to break it or not. However, if you accidentally ate (i.e. it reached your throat) then you must continue fast invalid fast but it must be made up after Ramadan.
It’s not an obligation to fast whilst travelling if the distance of travel is such that it would be permissible for you to shorten the prayer. Nonetheless, if you choose to fast, you must see the fast through. It is not permissible to say “I’ll fast, but if it gets too tough then i’ll break it“.
Toothpaste has a powerful taste. It is disliked to use toothpaste. If you use it nonetheless and the flavour reaches your throat then your fast is broken. You continue your invalid fast but this must be made up after Ramadan, together with an expiation due to the careless act.
A dry, unmoistened, miswak can be used but not a wet one.
It is disliked to wear scented perfumes or oils during the daylight hours of Ramadan (for both gents and ladies).
It is forbidden for diabetics to fast, if, by doing so, a medical professional is of the professional opinion that it will cause serious harm to the individual.
Insulin Injections don’t break the fast.
To benefit from the dispensation of not fasting whilst travelling, you must have left the city limits by Fajr. If not, you have to fast whilst on the journey.
The rule of thumb of benefiting from the dispensation of fasting whilst on a journey is if the journey is the distance where it would be permissible for you to shorten your prayer.
If you make the intention of staying at your place of destination for 4 days or more, you must fast for the duration of your stay.