Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men


Equality and Inequality of Women and Men


Sexual Activity when Fasting


From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia§):  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller



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Sexual activity when fasting (jurisprudence/fiqh/sharia). The scholars* agree that having sexual intercourse during Ramadan breaks the fast.[1] Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) explains that just as the fast is not violated by eating between sunset and dawn,[2] so a sexual act only violates the fast if it is not terminated promptly at dawn.[3]


According to Ibn Rushd, scholars agree that make-up fasting (qada) and expiation are required for intentionally having sexual intercourse when fasting.[4] If sexual intercourse during Ramadan was due to forgetfulness, no expiation is needed, but Malik says that make-up fasting (qada) is required while Abu Hanifa, al-Shafiʽi and the Shafiʽi school say that qada is not required.[5] If the woman was persuaded to have sexual intercourse during the time of fasting of Ramadan, Malik says that expiation for her is required while al-Shafiʽi and Abu Hanifa say it is not.[6] Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) says that a woman is not required to perform any expiation when a man makes love to her during a time of fasting.[7]


Malik says that when expiation is required for having sexual intercourse during a time of fasting, the person is to choose the method of expiation. Both al-Shafiʽi and Abu Hanifa say that the method of expiation is to free a slave; or, if this is not possible, to fast; or if this is not possible, to feed the needy.[8] Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) specifies that the slave freed as expiation for having sexual intercourse during a time of fasting must be a Muslim; if freeing such a slave is not possible, then the expiation is fasting for the days of two consecutive months; and if this is not possible, then the expiation is accomplished by feeding 60 needy people.[9] The scholars agree that only a single expiation needed for intercourse on one day of Ramadan, even if there was more than one act of intercourse on that day.[10]


Besides sexual intercourse, Reliance of the Traveller lists other actions that invalidate a fast including having an orgasm resulting from oneself or another person stroking one’s genitals or a nongenital area of the body.  Suppositories invalidate a fast as does inserting a finger or anything else into one’s vagina or anus beyond the point that is visible when one squats.[11] However, Reliance of the Traveller explains that having an orgasm while sleeping and dreaming (wet dream), or as a consequence of merely thinking about or looking at something, does not invalidate a fast.[12] Kissing while fasting is unlawful but does not, in itself, invalidate the fast.[13]



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*Islamic scholars disagree on certain points of law based on different methodologies used in deriving the law from the Qur’an and the traditions (sunna) concerning the life of Muhammad and his closest companions, particularly as expressed in the compiled hadiths. There are four major schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam: the Maliki, the Hanafi, the Shafi‛i and the Hanbali. These names are derived from the individual scholars considered to have been the founders of each school: Malik, Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi‛i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, respectively. The source texts we have used to prepare our summaries of Islamic jurisprudence contain the legal views of these different founders and schools, as described at Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.


§The specific derived laws of fiqh summarized here are often referred to by the more general term sharia law.


Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.


Updated October 12, 2016



Abbreviations used in footnotes:

DJP:  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.

RT:    Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.

SR:    al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

[1] DJP (Vol 1, pages 353-354)

[2] RT i1.22 (pages 287-288), RT i1.24-i1.25 (page 288)

[3] RT i1.18(15) page 285, RT i1.21(7) (page 287)

[4] DJP (Vol 1, pages 354-355), RT i1.20 (page 286), RT i1.33 (pages 290-291)

[5] DJP (Vol 1, pages 355-356), RT i1.18-i1.19 (pages 283-286)

[6] DJP (Vol 1, page 357)

[7] RT i1.20 (page 286)

[8] DJP (Vol 1, pages 357-358)

[9] RT i1.20 (page 286)

[10] DJP (Vol 1, pages 358-359)

[11] RT i1.18-i1.19 (pages 283-286)

[12] RT i1.21 (pages 286-287)

[13] RT i1.28 (page 290)