Assalamu‘alaikum SS Datuk Mufti. Is it true that it is sunnah of the Prophet PBUH to not fast during Ramadhan when he was traveling?
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.
We will start the answer regarding this issue explaining that travels in the context of this discussion is traveling for approximately 85 kilometers or more during Ramadhan. Thus, it is permissible for anyone traveling to break his fast and it is obligated for him to replace (qadha’) his fasting. It is in accordance with the statement of Allah SWT:
وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ
“And whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days.”
Surah al-Baqarah (185)
The travel must be for something that is permissible in Islam, not a sin, or anything that contributes to sin. Another condition for the travel is, he must depart before sunrise. Hence, if he fast while he is residing somewhere, then start his travel during the day, it is prohibited for him to break his fast. It is prohibited for him to invalidate his worship of fasting. This is in accordance with:
وَلَا تُبْطِلُوا أَعْمَالَكُمْ
“And do not invalidate your deeds.”
Surah Muhammad (33)
The exception for this is if someone in an exigent situation or when it is a necessity for him to break his fast, it is permissible for him to break his fast due to his exigent situation, not because he is traveling.
It is permissible for people who are traveling in the month of Ramadhan to fast. He is given a choice of whether he wants to fast or break his fast. This is in accordance with a hadith where 'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Hamza b. 'Amr al-Aslami asked the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) about fasting on a journey, and he (the Holy Prophet) said:
أَأَصُومُ فِي السَّفَرِ؟ -وَكَانَ كَثِيرَ الصِّيَامِ -، فَقَالَ: إِنْ شِئْتَ فَصُمْ، وَإِنْ شِئْتَ فَأَفْطِرْ
“Am I (obligated) to continue my fast? The Prophet PBUH answered: Fast if you like and break it if you like.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1943)
However, if fasting does not hinder his travels, then it is prioritized for him to continue with his fasting. This is based on the hadith from Anas RA, where he said:
إِنْ أَفْطَرْتَ فَرُخْصَةُ اللهِ ِ, وَإِنْ صُمْتَ فَهُوَ أَفْضَلُ
“If you break your fast, then it is facilitation from Allah, and if you fast, then it is prioritized for you.”
Sunan al-Baihaqi (8170)
This is supported by the statement of Allah SWT:
وَأَن تَصُومُوا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ
“But to fast is best for you,”
Surah al-Baqarah (184)
It is prioritized to continue with the fast to prevent it from being forgotten or if something unexpected will prevent him from replacing his fast in the future.
However, if fasting will trouble or hinder him in his travels, then it is prioritized for him to break his fast. From Jabir RA Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was on a journey and saw a crowd of people, and a man was being shaded (by them). He asked,
فَقَالَ: مَا هَذَا؟، فَقَالُوا: صَائِمٌ، فَقَالَ: لَيْسَ مِنَ البِرِّ الصَّوْمُ فِي السَّفَرِ
"What is the matter?" They said, "He (the man) is fasting." The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "It is not righteousness that you fast on a journey."
Sahih al-Bukhari (1946)
If someone who is fasting is traveling, then he wants to break his fast, it is permissible for him to break his fast if he is still sick or is incapable to continue his fast. The same goes for people who are sick and who are fasting, if he wants to break his fast, then it is permissible, with or without the intention of taking the facilitation. Refer al-Mu’tamad fi al-Fiqh al-Syafie (2/195-196).
The Characteristics of the Fasting of the Prophet PBUH When He Was Travelling
The fast of the Prophet PBUH is recorded in the hadiths of the Prophet PBUH. Some of them are the following:
- From Abu Darda’ RA, he said:
خَرَجْنَا مَعَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي بَعْضِ أَسْفَارِهِ فِي يَوْمٍ حَارٍّ حَتَّى يَضَعَ الرَّجُلُ يَدَهُ عَلَى رَأْسِهِ مِنْ شِدَّةِ الحَرِّ، وَمَا فِينَا صَائِمٌ إِلَّا مَا كَانَ مِنَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَابْنِ رَوَاحَةَ
“We set out with Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) on one of his journeys on a very hot day, and it was so hot that one had to put his hand over his head because of the severity of heat. None of us was fasting except the Prophet and Ibn Rawaha.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1945) and Sahih Muslim (1122)
- Anas bin Malik RA was once asked regarding fasting while traveling. He answered:
سَافَرْنَا مَعَ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي رَمَضَانَ، فَلَمْ يَعِبِ الصَّائِمُ عَلَى الْمُفْطِرِ، وَلَا الْمُفْطِرُ عَلَى الصَّائِمِ
“We traveled with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) during the month of Ramadan, but neither the observer of the fast, found fault with the breaker of the fast, nor the breaker of the fast, found fault with the observer of the fast.”
Sahih Muslim (1188)
- From Abu Said al-Khudri RA said:
كُنَّا نَغْزُو مَعَ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي رَمَضَانَ، فَمِنَّا الصَّائِمُ وَمِنَّا الْمُفْطِرُ، فَلَا يَجِدُ الصَّائِمُ عَلَى الْمُفْطِرِ، وَلَا الْمُفْطِرُ عَلَى الصَّائِمِ، يَرَوْنَ أَنَّ مَنْ وَجَدَ قُوَّةً فَصَامَ، فَإِنَّ ذَلِكَ حَسَنٌ وَيَرَوْنَ أَنَّ مَنْ وَجَدَ ضَعْفًا، فَأَفْطَرَ فَإِنَّ ذَلِكَ حَسَنٌ
“We went out on an expedition with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) during Ramadan. Some of us observed the fast and some of us broke it. Neither the observer of the fast had any grudge against one who broke it, nor the breaker of the fast had any grudge against one who had fasted They knew that he who had strength enough (to bear its rigor) fasted and that was good, and they also found that he who felt weakness (and could not bear the burden) broke it, and that was also good.”
Sahih Muslim (1116)
- From Ibn Abbas R.Anhuma, he said:
خَرَجَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، مِنَ المَدِينَةِ إِلَى مَكَّةَ، فَصَامَ حَتَّى بَلَغَ عُسْفَانَ، ثُمَّ دَعَا بِمَاءٍ فَرَفَعَهُ إِلَى يَدَيْهِ لِيُرِيَهُ النَّاسَ، فَأَفْطَرَ حَتَّى قَدِمَ مَكَّةَ، وَذَلِكَ فِي رَمَضَانَ ، فَكَانَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ يَقُولُ: «قَدْ صَامَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَأَفْطَرَ، فَمَنْ شَاءَ صَامَ وَمَنْ شَاءَ أَفْطَرَ
“Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) set out from Medina to Mecca and he fasted till he reached 'Usfan, where he asked for water and raised his hand to let the people see him, and then broke the fast, and did not fast after that till he reached Mecca, and that happened in Ramadan." Ibn `Abbas used to say, "Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) (sometimes) fasted and (sometimes) did not fast during the journeys so whoever wished to fast could fast, and whoever wished not to fast, could do so.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1948)
Hence, in our opinion, the sunnah of the Prophet PBUH in this issue is not of a single form, but the ruling of fasting for travelers actually depends on the situation. Sometimes, it is prioritized to continue with one’s fasting. This is in accordance with the Islamic legal maxim stated by Imam al-Qarafi:
كان ترك الترخص في كثير من العبادات أولى
“Forsaking the facilitations in most types of worships is prioritized.” Refer al-Furuq (1/120)
On another hand, sometimes it is prioritized to break one’s fast, especially for cases that involve hardships and harm. If the purpose is for the benefit of the ummah, such as wars and humanitarian missions, where fasting will hinder him from completing his noble purpose, then it is prioritized for him to break his fast and vice versa. This is what has been stated by scholars, where they are thorough in their understanding of hadiths and in explaining this issue, which makes it easier for us to apply it in our lives.