This term I have been engaging in an independent (i.e. not part of curriculum) study session on Kitab al-Sawm (Book of Fasting) where we try to analyze the reasoning and arguments of the various rulings and verdicts the jurists give. I am almost done with the section on niyyah (intention) for fasting - thus the previous post. This post will be regarding one of the rulings that appears in most practical law books today and a few simple observations. This is by no means an attempt to show which ruling makes more sense or not - please follow the rulings of your own Marj'a (in case I end up presenting a stronger case for a view that is against what one's own marj'a says). The ruling is as follow:
Ayatullah Sistani: 1579. If somebody is undecided in his niyyat whether to break or not an obligatory fixed fast, like that of Ramadhan, or decides to do so, immediately his fast becomes invalid even if he does not actually break it or is repentant of his intention.
Ayatullah Khamenei: Q 754: During the month of Ramadan, A mukallaf decides to break his fast but he changes his mind before doing so. Is his fast valid? What about the fast other than that of Ramadan?
A: During the month of Ramadan if he ceases intending to fast, i.e. he does not have intention to continue his fast, it invalidates his fast and intending again to proceed with the fast is to no avail. However, if he just decides to perform or take anything that would invalidate the fast, the validity of his fast is problematic and there is an obligatory caution to complete the fast and later perform its qaḍā’ as well. The same rule is applied to any fast which is obligatory for a specific day like that of nadhr.
This topic is generally referred to as Niyyah of Qat' (قطع), and Niyyah of Qati' (قاطع). The former is an instance of a person merely deciding during the course of the day while fasting, that they will break their fast (either now or later), whereas the latter is someone who physically begins the process of breaking their fast (intentionally), but discontinues before the actual act (for example lifting a glass of water up to drink, but then puts it back down). The former is inclusive within the latter by nature.
This is one of those rulings where jurists (both Sunni and Shi'a) have had a lot of dispute over. To begin with, there are three different opinions on the matter:
Niyyah of Qat' or Qati' does not invalidate the fast (this seems to be the view of many of the older jurists)
- To name a few: Shaykh Tusi in his al-Mabsut and al-Khilaf, Muhaqqiq Hilli in al-Sharai' and al-Mu'tabar, and 'Allamah Hilli in his al-Muntaha
- Shaykh Ansari and his student Ayatullah Ridha Hamadani (d. 1322 Hijri) held the same view
- Some contemporary scholars like Ayatullah Mazaheri hold the same view and the now deceased Ayatullah Fazel Lankarani (d. 2007)
Niyyah of Qat' or Qati' invalidate the fast
- This is the opinion of some of the earlier jurists like Sayyid Murtadha and Abu al-Salah al-Halabi
- Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Yazdi (d. 1919) in his al-'Urwah al-Wuthqa holds this view and many jurists of the 20th and 21st century hold this view, including Ayatullah Khoei, Ayatullah Sistani (as can be seen from the ruling above), Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi, Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani, Ayatullah Shubeyri Zanjani, Ayatullah Wahid Khorasani and Ayatullah Sayyid Kamal al-Haydari
Niyyah of Qat' breaks the fast, but not the Niyyah of a Qati'
- This is the opinion of Shaykh Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi (d. 1850) in his al-Jawahir, as well as Imam Khomeini
- There are not too many adherents of this view
There are different ways to argue for each position, and I do not plan on doing justice to any one of them, rather provide a very simple summary of how jurists discuss this. In fact, different jurists may approach the subject in completely different manners to begin with. One such jurists addresses the issue as follow:
They ask, what is the reality of a fast? Is a fast one single constructed reality which begins at the time of Fajr and ends at the time of Maghrib, in which a person refrains from engaging in things like eating, drinking etc. with an intention? Meaning, not only does the intention give the fast its meaning, but rather it is a part and parcel of it. Thus, it has to be present there in every single instance of a person's fast - in order for them to be considered a person who is fasting. If this is the case, then by nature, breaking this intention even for a moment, whether one actually eats something or not, should technically break their fast. This is because the intention was part of what constituted the fast. In other words, once one does an intention - for example - such as: "I have decided to break my fast", or "I am lifting this glass of water to drink and subsequently break my fast with it", they are already in a state in which they are not considered a person who is fasting. In Usuli and Fiqhi jargon, this would be referred to as "Niyyah having Mawdhu'iyyah".
The other possibility is when "Niyyah has Tareeqiyyah". Meaning intention isn't part of the reality of a fast, rather a fast is essentially the act of refraining from those limited things that have been mentioned in the sources that break the fast. Intention is only a means by which a fast is validated, but it isn't its reality.
If we are to go with the first opinion, we will generally conclude that Niyyah of Qat' or Qati' will indeed break one's fast, however if we go with the second opinion we will say that the fast isn't broken. Those who say the fast is broken, at times will also bring this narration from Tadheeb ul-Ahkam of Shaykh Tusi:
سَمَاعَةَ قَالَ: سَأَلْتُهُ عَنْ رَجُلٍ أَتَى أَهْلَهُ فِي شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ مُتَعَمِّداً فَقَالَ عَلَيْهِ عِتْقُ رَقَبَةٍ وَ إِطْعَامُ سِتِّينَ مِسْكِيناً وَ صِيَامُ شَهْرَيْنِ مُتَتَابِعَيْنِ وَ قَضَاءُ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ وَ أَنَّى لَهُ مِثْلُ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ
Sama'ah said: I asked about a man who engages in intercourse with his spouse (lit. approaches his ahl) in the month of Ramadhan intentionally. He (s) said: Upon him is the freeing of a slave, and the feeding of 60 poor, and the fast of 2 consecutive months, and the Qadha of that specific day, and anna lahu dhalika al-yawm (not sure how to precisely translate this into English. It is a phrase referring to the person having lost the opportunity to fasting on that day and is deprive of its rewards despite all the penalties and Qadha he has to do).
This narration is generally used in the discussion of when on the day of doubt (if it is the 30th of Sha'ban or 1st of Ramadhan) a person wakes up without the intention to fast, and does an act that breaks a fast, but later in the day figures out it is the 1st of Ramadhan. His fast is definitely invalid, but does this person now also have to refrain from committing an act that breaks a fast generally, until Maghrib out of respect for the month of Ramadhan? How this narration is used for that discussion is outside the scope of this post, but nevertheless this narration is brought as an example of showing that what became necessary on this person was not just all 3 penalties, but also the Qadha. Some jurists say, the Qadha had become necessary simply by means of him having the intention to have intercourse since he had broken his fast, whereas the 3 penalties came upon him after he went ahead and actually performed the act. There is a lot of discussion on this narration itself, but will suffice with just this simple explanation.
Those who say the fast is not broken (which seem to be fewer in number today), bring two main arguments:
1) Some apply the principle of continuity (Istishab). Meaning, we were certain that our fast is valid, and now after doing a Niyyah of Qat' or Qati', we are unsure whether our fast is broken or not. We apply the principle and assume that our fast is correct. There are numerous problems with applying this principle in this specific case, but it will over-complicate this post.
2) The more common argument is that we actually have numerous narrations that explicitly tell us and list for us the things that invalidate one's fast. Things like, eating, drinking, sexual intercourse, etc. Not in one narration or verse, do we find anything about such an intention being one of those cases that invalidate one's fast. Furthermore, in accordance to the second perspective that one can take on what is the reality of a fast, they can argue that we have an example of a Mustahabb fast. In a Mustahabb fast, we know that one can not have an intention the whole day, and as long as they have not done an act that breaks a fast generally, they can do an intention even a few minutes before Maghrib and that day will count as a Mustahabb fast for them. This - these jurists argue - shows that the Niyyah does not have "Mawdhu'iyyah", rather "Tareeqiyyah".
Some other jurists argue that if the intention of Qat' or Qati' invalidates the fast, then we cannot say there are 7, or 8, or 9, or 12 etc. things (depending on the jurist) that invalidate a fast. Rather we should say only one thing breaks the fast, and that is the mere intention. Saying that eating, drinking etc. breaks the fast does not make sense since with the mere intention, there is no longer a fast existent which can be broken (i.e. it is already broken). They further argue that if the intention of Qat’ or Qati’ was such an important matter, we would have had some narrations on it listing it out as one of the things that invalidate a fast, or some questions and answers pertaining to it by the companions, but we see that our narrations are completely silent on the matter.
So how do those who hold on to the opinion that it does not break the fast, deal with the notion of not having an intention in the middle of the day, albeit for a moment, yet the fast still being valid? They say, if the person changes their intention in the middle of the day and decide not to fast and persistently remain on this intention to such an extent that in the minds of the people - if they were to become aware of this person's intention - this person would be deemed someone who is not fasting, only then would their fast be considered invalid. Otherwise, it is the actual act (of eating, drinking etc.) that invalidates the fast. Having an intention of breaking one's fast, or physically lifting a glass up to drink water and then deciding otherwise, does not make one's original intent of fasting go away completely.
It seems that in order to reach the conclusion that the fast is not invalidated, these jurists have taken a more 'Urfi (customary) approach to the matter, rather than a purely theoretical and abstract approach. This is also why they claim this issue is non-existent in our hadith works, because people do not generally consider someone who has one of the two aforementioned intentions and then goes back to his original intention to have broken their fast.
PS - I didn't reference this post too much as the point of it was to present the arguments - who makes the argument is not too necessary. But in general, I can say the 3 main sources looked into were the Behas al-Kharij of Ayatullah Shubeyri Zanjani, Ayatullah Mazaheri, and Ayatullah Nuri Hamadani.