Assalamu‘alaikum SS Datuk Mufti. How should I set my intention for fating? Is it necessary for me to set my intention every night or can I just set the intention once for the whole thirty days of Ramadhan?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Setting intention for fasting is one of the valid conditions for fasting and an obligation. Without it the fast of someone is invalid. The reason is, fasting is absolute worship (ibadah mahdhoh) and every worship is invalid without an intention just like prayer. Allah SWT state:
وَمَآ أُمِرُوٓاْ إِلَّا لِيَعۡبُدُواْ ٱللَّهَ مُخۡلِصِينَ لَهُ ٱلدِّينَ
“And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him.”
Surah al-Bayyinah (5)
The same is stated by the prophet PBUH:
إِنَّمَا الأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ
“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1)
Conditions of Intention
There are several conditions that must be fulfilled for setting the intention for fasting. Most fiqh books set guidelines in setting intention for easy understanding. Among the conditions stated are as the following:
- Al-Jazm (الجزم): This means with absolute certainty without any doubt.
- Al-Ta’yiin (التعيين): The determination of the type of fasting. Someone who has the intention of fasting must specify the type of fasting he intended to perform, whether it is the obligatory fasting (fasting in Ramadhan, qadha’, kaffarah, nazar) or the sunnah fasting (Monday and Thursday, the day of Arafah, the day of Asyura and others). It is not enough to just set the intention of fasting without any specification.
- Al-Tabyiit (التبييت): Setting intention at night. The time begin when the sun sets until sunrise (the time of suhoor is also considered as the time for setting the intention). This is the condition set by al-Malikiyyah, al-Syafi’iyyah and al-Hanabilah scholars. This is in accordance with the hadith of the Prophet PBUH narrated by Hafsah R.Anha:
مَنْ لَمْ يُجْمِعِ الصِّيَامَ قَبْلَ الْفَجْرِ فَلاَ صِيَامَ لَهُ
“There is no fast for the one who does not intend to fast before dawn.”
Sunan Abu Daud (2454)
Is It Necessary to Renew the Intention Every Night or Is It Enough to Set the Intention to Fast For 30 Days?
This is a recurring issue in our society and through our research, the scholars’ opinions are divided into two:
- First: It is permissible to set the intention for a whole month and this is the opinion of al-Imam Zufar and al-Imam Malik. They said it is enough for someone to set the intention once in the beginning of Ramadhan for the whole month.  It is the same as when someone set the intention for prayer in the first rakaat and it is not necessary to repeat the intention for the subsequent rakaat. Their opinion is the same for continuous fasting such as kafarah fasting for zihar.
- Second: It is impermissible to set the intention once, but the intention needs to be renewed every night.  This is the opinion of the majority of scholars according to the general saying of the hadith from Hafsah R.Anha stated before. The reason is, fasting is a singular (mustaqil) worship. Each day of fasting is not an association with the other. Even if there is an imperfection for a day of fasting, it will not affect the fasting of the next day. Unlike the prayer, where if the first rakaat is invalid, then the whole prayer is invalid.
According to the evidences and discussion above, we are inclined towards the majority of the scholars’ opinion, which is also the opinion from our mazhab al-Syafi’e that intention for fasting should be renewed every night. As for the opinion that ruled it permissible to set the intention once for the whole Ramadhan on the first night of Ramadhan, in our opinion, is not an issue if it is done as a precaution, where at the same time someone also renews his intention every night.
 See al-Qawaniin al-Fiqhiyyah (pg. 80) & al-Syarh al-Kabir(1/521).
 See Radd al-Muhtar (2/87), al-Majmu’ (6/302) & Kasyaf al-Qana’ (2/315).