The word Ad-Dahr linguistically means “time.” The technical definition of Sawm Ad-Dahr is “to fast continuously all year around.”
There are two main opinions that scholars hold about the issue of Sawm Ad-Dahr:
1. The first of those is that it is permissible so long as it doesn’t lead one to neglect his/her responsibilities, and doesn’t cause a physical harm to his/her body. This is the opinion of the Maliki, Shafi, and the Hanbali schools. It should also be noted that this is referring to fasting the entire year with the exception of 5 days which Allah has made unlawful for one to fast on.
2. The second opinion, which is the opinion of the minority, states that it is disliked for one to fast the entire year. This is the opinion of Abu Yusuf and others from amongst the Hanafi scholars. This is also the adapted position of Ibn Taymiyyah, and Ibn Qudamah.
The following are some of the evidences for the first opinion:
1 – Umm Kulthoom said that Aaisha (RA) was asked, “Do you fast the entire year, while the Prophet (PBUH) had forbidden us from Sawm Ad-Dahr?” Aaisha (RA) replied, “Yes, and I have heard him (PBUH) forbidding us from Sawm Ad-Dahr, but if one was to break his sequence of fast on ‘Eid Al-Adha and ‘Eid Al-Fitr, he hasn’t really fasted the entire year.”
2 – Abdullah ibn Umar was asked about people that fast the entire year. He replied, “Those are the ones that hasten to good from amongst us.” [Al-Bayhaqi]
3 – ‘Urwah mentioned that Aaisha (RA) adapted the habit of Sawm Ad-Dahr. This tradition is found in Al-Bayhaqi. Imam An-Nawawi commented on the hadith by saying, “Al-Bayhaqi related this with an authentic chain of narrators.” [Al-Majmoo’/6/286]
4 – Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari mentioned that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever fasts the entire year, hellfire tightens itself [so he doesn’t enter it] in such and such manner.” He then formed his hand into a shape that illustrates the number ninety. Ibn Al-Mulaqqin authenticated this tradition in his book Al-Badr Al-Muneer, and Al-Haithami mentioned in Majma’ Az-Zawaid that the narrators of this tradition are the same narrators found in Saheeh [texts].
Note: The Arabs in the past practised a method of counting that was conducted by forming the fingers into various shapes (similar to sign language). Some of the scholars mentioned that this practice was commonly adapted during financial transaction to keep onlookers unaware of the price that the merchandise is being sold for. The form that was used for the number ninety illustrates extreme tightness.
The following are some of the evidences for the second opinion:
1 – Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-Aas mentioned that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “May the one who fasts year around no longer fast!” [Bukhari/Muslim].
2 – Abu Qatadah mentioned that Umar ibn Al-Khattab asked the Prophet (PBUH), “O Prophet of Allah, what do you say about a man who fasts the entire year?” The Prophet (PBUH) replied, “He neither fasted nor did he break his fast!” [Muslim]
The following are some of the answers that the majority presented for the proofs used by the minority:
1 – As for the tradition of Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, there are three possible ways of understanding this tradition in the Arabic text:
1) The first understanding is the understanding of Aaisha mentioned above, which is that the tradition is referring to one who fasts the entire year including ‘Eid Al-Adha, the three days of At-Tashreeq (the three days preceding ‘Eid Al-Adha), and ‘Eid Al-Fitr. Such an action is not acceptable by the consensus of the Islamic scholars.
2) The second understanding is that the Arabic text of the tradition doesn’t represent supplication against the one adapting this type of fast; rather it is a mention of the persons feelings towards his fast. Based on this understanding, the text would translate to the following, “The one who fasts year around no longer finds it to be difficult.”
3) The third understanding is that the tradition is for a particular situation where continuous fasting leads one to neglect his/her responsibilities, or causes him/her physical harm.
2 – The explicit nature of the second tradition can be countered by the following tradition in which the Prophet (PBUH) explicitly gives permission to Hamzah ibn Amr Al-Aslami to adapt continuous fasting. Hamzah asked the Prophet (PBUH), “I am a person who continuously fasts, shall I do this even while I’m travelling?” The Prophet (PBUH) replied, “Fast if you wish, or break your fast.” The scholars reconciled between the apparently conflicting nature of these two texts and others, by saying that it depends from person to person. Some people should be discouraged from adapting Sawm Ad-Dahr because of the fear that they may neglect some of their other responsibilities, while others can be encouraged. Imam An-Nawawi says in the explanation of Saheeh Muslim, “Ibn Amr was prohibited [from Sawm Ad-Dahr] because Allah’s Prophet (PBUH) knew that he will grow incapable of it, and his approval to Hamzah was because he (PBUH) knew that Hamzah was capable [of adapting Sawm Ad-Dahr] without any harm afflicting him.
Here is a list names of some of the Salaf who adapted the habit of Sawm Ad-Dahr:
1 – Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA)
2 – Abdullah ibn Umar (RA)
3 – Abu Talha Al-Ansari (RA)
4 – Abu Umamah (RA)
5 – Aaisha bint Abi Bakr (RA)
6 – Saeed ibn Al-Musayyib
7 – Abu Amr ibn Himaas
8 – Saeed ibn Ibraheem ibn Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Awf (he fasted 40 consecutive years)
9 – Al-Aswad ibn Yazeed
and many others!
Allah is The Bestower of Tawfeeq.
Abdul Wahab Saleem
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Monday, November 22nd, 2010