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Furu' al-Din

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Fasting or Ṣawm (Arabic: صوم) ranks amongst the most significant obligatory rituals in Islam. Muslims must abstain from several activities, including eating and drinking from dawn to dusk, to obey God's command. Fasting is one of the ten Ancillaries of the Faith, and it has also been obligatory in other religions in a different manner.

Fasting is a means to seek proximity to God, increasing one's piety. It purifies the soul and body, atones for some sins, and strengthens self-control and sympathy [towards the poor]. Moreover, it inculcates a sense of companionship with the needy and hungry.

According to Islamic jurisprudence, fasting is categorized into four types: obligatory, recommended, disliked, and forbidden.

Invalidators of fasting include eating and drinking, sexual intercourse, attributing falsehood to God, the Prophet (s), and the Imams (a), letting thick dust reach the throat, remaining in the state of janaba (impurity caused by semen discharge) until the call for the morning prayer, menstruation (hayd) and postnatal bleeding (nifas), masturbation, immersing the entire head into the water, and intentional vomiting. If any of these invalidators is done on purpose, the person for whom fasting was obligatory must do a make-up (qada') fasting and pay the kaffara.

Fasting is considered one of the pillars of Islam. It is obligatory for every mature, sane, and healthy Muslim. The verse of fasting was revealed in Sha'ban 28, 2/February 24, 624: "O you who have faith! fasting is prescribed for you as it was for those before you, so that you may be God-wary."[1]. Later, some fasting conditions were changed, and some were abrogated.

The Notion

In jurisprudential terminology, “sawm” (fasting) is to abstain from things that invalidate the fasting with the intention of proximity to God.[2] 'Allama al-Hilli defines it as abstinence from particular acts from the rise of true dawn (al-fajr al-sadiq) until the sunset.[3] Some jurists define fasting as the soul's preparation for refraining from the relevant invalidators.[4]

The term “sawm” in its literal sense, means refraining from doing something.[5]

In Other Religions

The Qur'an clearly expressed this divine deed as a religious ritual practiced in different religions.[6]

According to the Torah, Prophet Moses (a), prior to receiving scrolls from God, was fasting forty days and nights on Mount Sinai; he avoided drinking and eating during that time.[7]

The Qur'an talks about the fasting of Zechariah (a)[8] and Mary (a),[9] as well as those hadiths[10] in which the practice of fasting in religions before Islam has been mentioned. Moreover, fasting is said to be practiced by other pre-Islamic peoples, such as ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Indians.[11]

In Islam

Shia Islam

Fasting became obligatory for Muslims on Sha'ban 28, 2/February 24, 624, thirteen days after the change of the qibla.[12]

During the early periods of Islam, Muslims were supposed to follow two more commands: After breaking meal (iftar) Muslims had to eat only before they went to bed, and marital intercourse was regarded unlawful during the whole month of Ramadan. Both commands were abrogated later.[13]

In Quran

Fasting is mentioned fourteen times in Qur'an. The commands on fasting are stated in Qur'an 2, verses 183 to 185[14] and 187[15]. Additionally, fasting is regarded as a replacement for hajj practices or compensation for committed sins. As stated in Qur'an 33:35, the men and the women who fast will be forgiven by God[16]. Also, in Qur'an 19:26, lady Mary (a) made a promise not to speak for a period, which is called fasting in the Qur'an.[17]

In Hadith

Fasting is mentioned in hadiths as:

  • One of the five pillars of Islam[18]
  • Creates balance between the deprived and the rich [19]
  • Rescues people from hunger and thirst in the Day of Judgment[24]
  • Brings health for the body[29]
  • Has a special gift from God (or God Himself is its reward)[33]
  • To abandon fasting would lead to disbelief[35]

According to Abd Allah Jawadi Amuli, a Quranic exegete and a philosopher, in his Quranic exegesis Tasnim, fasting reinforces the spirit of discipline, contentment, and patience towards sins and problems in individuals and the society.[36] According to one statistic published online, the rate of social crimes in Iran decreases during Ramadan.[37] On top of all, according to some medical studies, fasting helps the body's physical and psychological well-being through its positive effects on the immune system. It also decreases anxiety and depression, increases self-esteem, and prevents cardiovascular diseases.[38]

Types of Fasting in Islamic Jurisprudence

According to jurisprudential rulings, fasting is categorized into four types:[39]

Obligatory fasting
  • All days of the month of Ramadan
  • Compensation of the missed fasting days
  • Compensation for the missed fasting days of one's parents
  • On the third day of i'tikaf
  • Fasting instead of animal sacrifice as one of the practices of hajj
  • Expiation for those who intentionally have broken obligatory fasting
  • Those who have broken their promise or oath
Recommended fasting

All the days of the year are regarded as recommended days for fasting except for the forbidden days, disliked days, and obligatory days of fasting. Besides, fasting is highly recommended on these several days:

  • The first and the last Thursday of lunar months, as well as the first Wednesday after the tenth day of each lunar month
  • Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth of each lunar month
  • All days of the months of Rajab and Sha'ban
  • From the fourth to the ninth of Shawwal
  • The twenty-ninth and twenty-fifth of Dhu l-Qa'da, known as dahw al-ard
  • The first nine days of Dhu l-Hijja. It is noteworthy to know that the ninth of Dhu l-Hijja - known as Arafa - if one is incapable of reciting the Arafa supplication, fasting would be Makruh (reprehensible)
  • The eighteenth of Dhu l-Hijja, known as Eid al-Ghadir
  • Twenty fourth of Dhu l-Hijja, known as Day of mubahala
  • The first, third, and seventh of Muharram
  • Seventeenth of Rabi' I in which Prophet Muhammad (s) was born
  • Fifteenth of Jumada I
  • Twenty-fifth of Rajab, the day of Bi'tha

It is common among Muslims to prepare teenagers who are not obligated to fast yet, to start preparing them by fasting in a partial fashion in which they should abstain from snacks between meals.

Disliked fasting
Forbidden fasting
  • Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha
  • The day in which there are doubts about whether it is the first day of Ramadan or the last day of Sha'ban; if one is fasting for the first day of Ramadan, it is regarded as forbidden (due to the uncertainty), but if one is fasting for the last day of Sha'ban it is acceptable. However, if it turns out it was the first day of Ramadan, it will be counted as the obligatory fasting of Ramadan.
  • If one is sure that fasting is harmful or risky for him, then fasting would be forbidden.
  • Fasting of speech; abstaining from speaking in addition to avoiding food and drinks.
  • If one Intentionally fasts for two consecutive days without breaking the first one, it is regarded forbidden.
  • Fasting of the days of tashriq for those who are in Mina (during Hajj).
  • Fasting of a traveler whose trip is not going to take ten days or more.


Fasting has many rulings; some of the most important are as follows:


  • In compensating fasting, whoever has not broken the rules of fasting up to noon prayer's Adhan, can intend the rest of the day as compensatory fasting.[41]
  • In recommended fasting, whoever does not break the fasting until the sunset, can intend the day as a recommended fasting.[42]

What Invalidate Fasting?

Any of the following nine things can invalidate fasting:

  • Eating and drinking (issues like injection is a matter of dispute)
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Attributing lies to God, Prophet Muhammad (a) or the Imams (a)
  • Immersing the entire head into the water (according to some jurists)
  • Deliberate inhalation of smoke, dust, etc. (according to most jurists)
  • Remaining in the state of janaba, hayd (menstruation) or nifas (postnatal bleeding) up to the adhan of fajr
  • Masturbating
  • Intentional vomiting
  • Enema with liquid

The mentioned acts will invalidate Fasting if done intentionally; however, if one does them unintentionally or is forced to do them, the fasting is not void.[43]

Disliked Activities during Fasting

According to jurists, the following actions are disliked (makruh) when fasting: touching, kissing, and doing acts of foreplay with one’s spouse, using kohl for eye makeup, anything that leads to weakness of the body, smelling flowers, making one’s clothes wet, anything that might cause bleeding in the mouth such as tooth extraction, and gargling with water without a rational purpose.[44]

Those Who Are Not Obligated to Fasting

  • Old and ill people who are not expected to recover and who may suffer severe difficulty are not obligated to fasting, and they do not need to compensate for it either. However, they have to give away a specific amount of food called "mudd" (approximately 750 grams of flour or rice or dates, etc.) for each obligatory fasting day they have missed.[45]
  • If fasting is potentially dangerous for pregnant or nursing women and their child, they are not permitted to fast. However, they have to compensate for those obligatory fasting days in the future and give a mudd of food to a poor person.[46]
  • Those ill people who may recover in the future and those who cannot tolerate hunger and thirst are allowed to break their fasting, only they have to compensate for each fasting day they miss. If one is potentially in danger of death or losing a part of body, one has to break fasting.[47]
  • A traveler who stays in the destination for shorter than ten days.[48] Exceptions to this ruling include those who frequently travel and those, like drivers, whose job is to travel.[49]

Drinking in Hardship

Some jurists believe that if people face difficulties during fasting in tolerating thirst, they are allowed to drink the only amount of water that fulfills the need.[50]

There is disagreement whether the fasting is void or not. Some believe that they should continue fasting without compensating for it in the future.[51] However some other jurists believe that the fasting is invalid and it should be compensated, but there is no need for kaffara.[52]

In Polar Regions

Muslims in Polar Regions such as Sweden face long days in summer. Islamic organizations and also jurists have expressed different attitudes toward this issue, and they have not reached an agreement yet.[citation needed]

Some Rules

  • While people are still liable to obligatory fasting, they cannot make recommended fasting, rather they have to compensate (qada) for their missed fasting.
  • If a person is observing a recommended fasting, then is invited for a meal by friends or relatives, it is recommended to accept the invitation and break the recommended fasting.

Breaking Fast

Iftar in the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a).

The evening meal when Muslims end or break fasting at sunset is called iftar. According to the majority of Shi'a jurists, they must wait for the time of adhan of Maghrib prayers.[citation needed] Breaking fasting with water, milk, or date fruits is recommended.[53] Because giving iftar to people is considered highly praiseworthy among Muslims,[54] it would generally lead to gatherings of relatives, neighbors and friends.

Also, it has become a custom among Muslims to give iftar to people in mosques and holy shrines.

Expiation (Kaffara)

Those who have broken fasting during obligatory fasting days such as the month of Ramadan due to traveling, sickness, etc. are required to compensate these days with another fasting. Compensation of the fasting of Ramadan is not required to be immediate but it is until the beginning of next month of Ramadan.[55] However if they fail to do so, they have to offer kaffara to a needy person and also compensate for the missed day.[56] If they intentionally break obligatory fasting without an excuse, they are required to feed sixty poor people or fast for sixty days (thirty-one days must be consecutive according to most of marja's), they also have to compensate the missed fasting day.[57]

If they break fasting by a forbidden action, they are required to do al-kaffara al-jam' and feed sixty poor people and fast for sixty days as mentioned above.[58]


In books of Irfan (mysticism), three levels of fasting are mentioned:

  • Common fasting is only abstaining from eating and drinking and also the things which could make fasting unacceptable.[59]
  • Special fasting (khass) also includes the rules mentioned above as well as abstaining every part of the body from sins. It also includes praying at nights, avoiding bothering people, not being jealous of people, avoiding personal adversities and also trying to have a better day comparing to the other days.[60]
  • The most especial fasting (khas al-khas) not only includes the rules mentioned for special fasting but also it includes emptying one's heart from everything other than God, avoiding obeying desires and lust, and even avoiding thinking about committing sins.[61]

According to hadiths, true fasting is regarded as abstaining every part of body from things prohibited by God,[62] including eye, ear, tongue, etc.[63] In addition, being careful about mouth is far more important than abstaining from food, and also being careful about heart is far more important than mouth.[64]


The Qur'an, hadiths, and scholars, have mentioned various reasons for fasting. When the Qur'an states the ruling of fasting, it mentions piety as one of its reasons: "O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be Godwary." (Qur'an 2:183)

One of the most important philosophies of fasting is improving ikhlas (sincerity) and willpower; it also helps the person to better worship God.

Fasting would make people recognize the hunger and thirst so that they would remember the Day of Judgment and the eternal life in the hereafter and prepare for themselves. Such hardship would make people avoid arrogance. It also prepares them for practicing the obligatory religious deeds as well as khums and zakat.

In a hadith narrated from God by Prophet Muhammad (s), the result of fasting is expressed as: wisdom and true knowledge of God which makes people spiritually calm and peaceful in difficulties of life.

Fasting makes people united, cooperative and devoted, which leads to helping the poor.

Moreover, fasting improves discipline, contentment, and patience in the face of sins and difficulties of life among individuals and society. Social misconducts significantly reduce in the month of Ramadan.

Through patience and tolerance, fasting prepare people to be committed to achieving their goals.

See Also


  1. Qur'an 2:183
  2. Ḥillī, Sharāʾiʿ al-Islām vol. 1, p. 168; Ṭabāṭabāʾī Yazdī, al-ʿUrwat al-wuthqā, vol. 3, p. 521; Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasīla, vol. 1, p. 278.
  3. Ḥillī, Tadhkirat al-fuqahāʾ, vol. 6, p. 5.
  4. See: Shahīd al-Awwal, al-Durūs al-sharʿīyya, vol. 1, p. 266.
  5. Farāhīdī, al-ʿayn, vol. 3, p. 171; Ibn Fāris, Muʿjam maqāyīs al-lugha, vol. 3, p. 323; Rāghib al-Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt, p. 500.
  6. See Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, 1390 AH, vol. 2, p. 7-8
  7. Exodus 34:28
  8. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 2, p. 7.
  9. Qur'an 19: 26
  10. See: Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 13, p. 427 and vol. 17, p. 292.
  11. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 2, p. 7.
  12. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, 1403 AH, vol. 18, p. 194; Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, Dār Ṣādir, vol. 2, p. 42
  13. Ṭabrisī, Jawāmiʿ al-jāmiʿ, Jāmiʿa-yi Mudarrisīn, vol. 1, p. 106; Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, vol. 7, p. 81
  14. O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be God-wary. (183) That for known days. But should any of you be sick or on a journey, let it be a [similar] number of other days. Those who find it straining shall be liable to atonement by feeding a needy person. Should anyone do good of his own accord, that is better for him, and to fast is better for you, should you know. (184) The month of Ramadan is one in which the Qur'an was sent down as guidance to mankind, with manifest proofs of guidance and the Criterion. So let those of you who witness it fast [in] it, and as for someone who is sick or on a journey, let it be a [similar] number of other days. Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you, and so that you may complete the number, and magnify Allah for guiding you, and that you may give thanks. (185)
  15. You are permitted, on the night of the fast, to go into your wives: they are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them. Allah knew that you used to betray yourselves, so He pardoned you and excused you. So now consort with them, and seek what Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the white streak becomes manifest to you from the dark streak at the crack of dawn. Then complete the fast until nightfall, and do not consort with them while you dwell in confinement in the mosques. These are Allah's bounds, so do not approach them. Thus does Allah clarify His signs for mankind so that they may be Godwary (187)
  16. Indeed the Muslim men and the Muslim women, the faithful men and the faithful women, the obedient men and the obedient women, the truthful men and the truthful women, the patient men and the patient women, the humble men and the humble women, the charitable men and the charitable women, the men who fast and the women who fast, the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard, the men who remember Allah greatly and the women who remember [Allah greatly] —Allah holds in store for them forgiveness and a great reward
  17. Eat, drink, and be comforted. Then if you see any human, say, "Indeed I have vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today."
  18. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 2, p. 18-24 and vol. 4, p. 62
  19. Ṣadūq, Man lā-yaḍuruh al-faqīh, 1413 AH, vol. 2, p. 73
  20. Nahj al-balāgha, ed. Ṣubḥī Ṣāliḥ, Saying 252, p. 512
  21. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, 1403 AH, vol. 93, p. 257
  22. Ṣadūq, Man lā-yaḍuruh al-faqīh, 1413 AH, vol. 2, p. 75
  23. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, 1409 AH, vol. 10, p. 9
  24. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Hidāyat al-umma, 1412 AH, vol. 4, p. 268
  25. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 4, p. 62; Ibn Shuʿba, Tuḥaf al-ʿuqūl, 1363 Sh, p. 258
  26. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 4, p. 65
  27. Qummī, Tafsīr al-Qummi, 1404 AH, vol. 1, p. 46; ʿAyyāshī, Tafsīr al-ʿAyyāshī, 1380 AH, vol. 1, p. 43
  28. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, 1403 AH, vol. 93, p. 255
  29. Pāyanda, Nahj al-faṣāḥa, 1387 Sh, p. 547
  30. Ṭabrisī, Makārim al-Akhlāq, 1412 AH, p. 51
  31. Ṭūsī, al-Amālī, 1414 AH, p. 296
  32. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 4, p. 62
  33. Ṣadūq, Man lā-yaḍuruh al-faqīh, 1413 AH, vol. 2, p. 75
  34. Nūrī, Mustadrak al-wasāʾil, 1408 AH, vol. 7, p. 400
  35. Ṣadūq, Man lā-yaḍuruh al-faqīh, 1413 AH, vol. 2, p. 118
  36. Jawādī Āmulī, Tafsīr-i tasnīm, vol. 9, p. 288.
  37. 5 to 33 percent reduction in crimes during the month of Ramadan (Persian).
  38. Riḍāʾī, Rūzih dārī wa salāmat az nigāh-i pizishkī, p. ?
  39. See ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī, Tadhkirat al-fuqahāʾ, 1414 AH, vol. 6, p. 5-6; Najafī, Jawāhir al-kalām, 1404 AH, vol. 16, p. 352 and vol. 17, p. 89-132; Ṭabāṭabāʾī Yazdī, al-ʿUrawa al-wuthqā, 1419 AH, vol. 3, p. 521 and 657-663
  40. Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 881.
  41. Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 881.
  42. Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 881.
  43. Ṭabāṭabāʾī Yazdī, al-ʿUrawa al-wuthqā, 1419 AH, vol. 3, p. 541-577; Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 891
  44. Shāhrūdī, Farhang-i fiqh, vol. 4, p. 171-172.
  45. Imām Khomeinī Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, vol. 1, p. 955.
  46. Imām Khomeinī Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, vol. 1, p. 957-958.
  47. Imām Khomeini, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, 1424 AH, vol. 1, p. 955-958.
  48. Imām Khomeinī Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, vol. 1, p. 951.
  49. Imām Khomeinī, Tawḍīḥ al-masāʾil, vol. 1, p. 701.
  50. Ḥakīm, Mustamsak al-ʿurwa al-wuthqā, 1374 Sh, vol. 8, p. 324; Āmulī, Miṣbāḥ al-hudā, 1380 AH, vol. 8, p. 140; Imām Khomeini, Istiftāʾāt, Daftar-i Nashr-i Islāmī, vol. 1, p. 321.
  51. See: ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī, Muntahā al-maṭlab, 1412 AH, vol. 9, p. 139; Shahīd al-Awwal, al-Durūs al-sharʿīyya, 1417 AH, vol. 1, p. 273-276; Ardabīlī, Majmaʿ al-fāʾida, 1403 AH, vol. 5, p. 325-326; Ḥakīm, Miṣbāḥ al-minhāj, “Kitāb al-Ṣawm”, 1425 AH, p. 161.
  52. See: Āmulī, Miṣbāḥ al-hudā, 1380 AH, vol. 8, p. 140; Ḥakīm, Mustamsak al-ʿurwa al-wuthqā, 1374 Sh, vol. 8, p. 324; Sabziwārī, Muhadhdhab al-aḥkām, 1413 AH, vol. 10, p. 132.
  53. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, 1409 AH, vol. 10, p. 156-161
  54. See: Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 4, p. 68-69; Ṣadūq, Man lā-yaḍuruh al-faqīh, 1413 AH, vol. 2, p. 134-135.
  55. Ṭabāṭabāʾī Yazdī, al-ʿUrawa al-wuthqā, 1419 AH, vol. 3, p. 635-537; Imām Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasīla, Dār al-ʿilm, vol. 1, p. 298
  56. Imām Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasīla, Dār al-ʿilm, vol. 1, p. 298
  57. Imām Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasīla, Dār al-ʿilm, vol. 1, p. 926
  58. Bahjat, Jāmiʿ al-masāʾil, 1426 AH, vol. 2, p. 29
  59. Ansārīyān, ʿIrfān-i Islāmī, 1386 Sh, vol. 6, p. 272.
  60. Ansārīyān, ʿIrfān-i Islāmī, 1386 Sh, vol. 6, p. 272.
  61. Ansārīyān, ʿIrfān-i Islāmī, 1386 Sh, vol. 6, p. 272.
  62. Ibn Abī l-Ḥadīd, Sharḥ nahj al-balāgha, 1404 AH, vol. 20, p. 299
  63. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, 1407 AH, vol. 4, p. 87.
  64. Tamīmī al-Āmidī, Ghurar al-ḥikam wa durar al-kalim, 1410 AH, p. 423.


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