Fasting on a Day of Arafah: History Background, Rules, Values

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Fasting as one of the pillars in Islam is generally divided into two kinds, obligatory fasting and voluntary fasting. Obligatory fasting is fasting that we always do in the month of Ramadan, while voluntary fasting has various kinds.

There are totally, more or less, 20 types of fasting in Islam, some of them are fasting on Monday and Thursday, Dawood fasting, fasting six days of Shawwal, ayyamul bidh fasting, and fasting on a day of Arafah. Each of these voluntary fasting has its own excellence and virtue, including the one which is mentioned in the last.

Arafah day is the ninth day of Dhulhijjah, a day before Muslim celebrates Eid al-Adha. Dhulhijjah itself is one of the best months in Islam, and there is certainly importance of Dhulhijjah month. On the day of Arafah, pilgrims gather on the Mount Arafah to spend their time praying to Allah.

It is the peak and essential part of Hajj, so Hajj will be incomplete when missing this ritual. And for us who are not doing Hajj, on this day we are highly recommended to fast (sunnah muakkad). The first ten days on Dhulhijjah are the best days in Islam, but it can be said that Arafah day is the most special day. It is because if we do fasting on this day, it can vanish the sins of previous and coming year. These sins are related only to the minor ones or become a way to elevate one’s status.

حَدَّثَنَا أَحْمَدُ بْنُ عَبْدَةَ، أَنْبَأَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا غَيْلاَنُ بْنُ جَرِيرٍ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ مَعْبَدٍ الزِّمَّانِيِّ، عَنْ أَبِي قَتَادَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ‏ “‏ صِيَامُ يَوْمِ عَرَفَةَ إِنِّي أَحْتَسِبُ عَلَى اللَّهِ أَنْ يُكَفِّرَ السَّنَةَ الَّتِي قَبْلَهُ وَالَّتِي بَعْدَهُ ‏”‏ ‏.

 “It was narrated from Abu Qatadah that the Messenger of Allah said, ‘Fasting on the Day of ‘Arafah, I hope from Allah, expiates for the sins of the year before and the year after.’” (Ibn Majah)

What a wonderful opportunity then, that we will be forgiven for the sins we haven’t even committed yet. That’s why we should not lose this chance, because there is no guarantee we can fast on Arafah day in the next year. Besides, generally, we can get surprising benefits of voluntary fasting in Islam.

Fasting on Arafah day is a kind of celebration because on this day, Allah perfected His religion, completed His favor upon His beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and approved Islam as a way of life.

It is the day the Prophet Muhammad gave his farewell sermon upon Mount Arafah to many Muslims with whom he completed Hajj and Surah Al-Maa’idah verse 3 was revealed to him.

 اَ لۡيَوۡمَ اَكۡمَلۡتُ لَـكُمۡ دِيۡنَكُمۡ وَاَ تۡمَمۡتُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ نِعۡمَتِىۡ وَرَضِيۡتُ لَـكُمُ الۡاِسۡلَامَ دِيۡنًا​ ؕ

“…This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion…

The Rules of Doing Fasting on a Day of Arafah

The rules are almost the same as Ramadan fasting. See the list below to see the rules of doing fasting on an arafah day:

Niyyat can be said explicitly or implicitly. We can have niyyat of fasting on Arafah day the night before till imsak time comes. But, if we are not awakened at sahur time, we are allowed to have niyyat whenever we wake up even though imsak time has passed, as long as we do not drink or eat anything, or do something which can break fasting.

  • Take Sahur (Pre-Dawn Meal)

It is basically not a must to take sahur, both in obligatory and voluntary fasting. However, there is excellence on it, so we can get reward and blessing if we do it. The best time for sahur is the last half hour before the time of Fajr prayer.

أَخْبَرَنَا عَمْرُو بْنُ عَلِيٍّ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ أَبِي لَيْلَى، عَنْ عَطَاءٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ تَسَحَّرُوا فَإِنَّ فِي السَّحُورِ بَرَكَةً ‏”‏ ‏.‏

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet said, ‘Take sahur, for in sahur there is blessing.’” (An-Nasa’i)

  • Avoid Things That Can Break Our Fasting

It means that we must not eat, drink, or do sexual intercourse started from Fajr (dawn) till Maghrib (dusk). Besides, things breaking our fasting are not as simple as that. In a broader context, we must also avoid false talks and deeds. Do not quarrel, have disputes, use bad words, or show bad temper. Try to discipline ourselves morally and ethically.

Again, it is not a must or the exact rule, but there is reward if we take iftar immediately after sunset. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) teaches us to take iftar by drinking water or eating sweet foods, such as dates. It will be much better if we can share iftar with others or needy people, since we can gain great virtues of feeding the fasting person in Islam.

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ مَنْ وَجَدَ تَمْرًا فَلْيُفْطِرْ عَلَيْهِ وَمَنْ لاَ فَلْيُفْطِرْ عَلَى مَاءٍ فَإِنَّ الْمَاءَ طَهُورٌ ‏”‏ ‏.

Anas bin Malik narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, ‘Whoever has dried dates, then let him break the fast with that, and whoever does not, then let him break the fast with water, for indeed water is purifying.’” (Tirmidhi)

While things that can break our voluntary fasting are exactly the same as those in obligatory fasting.

  • Eating, drinking, smoking, and taking any non-nourishing items by mouth or nose.
  • Causing ourselves to vomit deliberately.
  • The beginning of menstrual or post-childbirth bleeding even in the last moment before sunset.
  • Sexual intercourse or other sexual contact (or masturbation) that causes ejaculation (in men) or vaginal secretions (orgasm) in women.

Or to understand things that can break our fasting more comprehensively, we can read 12 things that nullify fasting in Islam.

With such excellent virtue of fasting on a day of Arafah, it is our chance to gain good deeds and get forgiveness from Allah. Do it as long as we have time to do it. It can be a starting point of another goodness that comes into our lives.

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