Fasting / Ramadan
Why Ramadan and not ‘Safar?
Who needs to fast and who is exempted?
Acts that Invalidate the Fast
Recommended Acts During Ramadan
A fasting person eats or drinks out of forgetfulness
"I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me." (Quran 51:56)
Allah (SWT) is the most merciful, to help us achieve this purpose, He instilled the worship of Him in our very nature and made it essential for our happiness and fulfillment, the only way for any human being to achieve full happiness is through a complete surrender to the divine will and living a life that fulfills the purpose behind our creation.
Worship is essentially a state of the heart, but the relationship between our bodies and our minds is so strong that the state of the one is bound to have an effect on the state of the other.
Divine messages give us guidance not only about how to worship Allah but also about when and where to do so. The Quran states, "And your Lord creates whatsoever He wills and chooses" (26:68). The chosen or preferred creation includes not only the living and the inanimate, but times and places as well. Since we have been created to serve Allah, then every legitimate act of ours, even sexual intercourse with our wives, can be an act of worship; but there are certain acts which have been especially prescribed by Allah as acts of worship. These acts are the life force and nourishment of our faith; without them faith fades and finally dies away. It is for these special acts that Allah specified the forms, times and places He knows to be most appropriate for them. Out of His generosity, Allah has some times better than others, during these special times, the rewards (hasanaat) are multiplied and the bad deeds (saye-at) are forgiven.
"O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint" (Quran 2:183)
Fasting is one of these special acts just referred to; it is, in fact, one of the five important acts of worship called the pillars of Islam. The other four are the profession of faith - there is no god (worthy of worship) except Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger, - the five daily prayers, the payment of the poor due (zakat) and the pilgrimage (hajj). These different acts of worship are to the soul as food is to the body. All the acts of worship help to keep our souls sound and healthy by instilling taqwa [in general, it means 'God consciousness,' 'God awareness,' 'fear of God,' and so on] in them, but each has a special role to play in this process, and people who perform these experience in their hearts the special character of the feelings they engender.
When we fast - the Islamic way - we abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset. We do this for the sake of Allah and in obedience to Him. We thus make a clear statement that our real submission is to Allah and not to the temptations of our bodies however strong they may be. And for this Allah gives us a special reward. The Prophet (peace be on him) stated, "In paradise there are eight gates among which is a gate called al-Rayyan which only those who fast will enter." (Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim). And every good deed will be rewarded ten-fold save for fasting which Allah stated, "Is done only for my sake and I shall reward it." (Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim.)
Fasting is good not only for our souls but also for our bodies. It helps to make us healthier. Furthermore, abstention from food and drink for a number of days increases will power and weakens the sexual desire. Therefore, it is especially recommended for young men who are not able to marry, as this was advice given by the Messenger to the non-married young people.
The fasting is required during the lunar month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar. Why this month in particular? Because it is the command of Allah, Allah knows the full wisdom behind choosing the month of Ramadan, however, Allah mentioned special events that make this month special. It is, in fact, the month during which Allah revealed the Quran, it contains the night in which the Quran was revealed, the night of Qadr, the best of all nights of the year. Thus when Allah urged the faithful to fast during the month of Ramadan, He endeared it to them by reminding them that it was the month in which the Quran was sent down, as guidance to people, a Book that contains clear evidence of the truth of that guidance, and a criterion of discrimination between truth and falsehood.
(Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.) S 2:V185
The fasting of Ramadan is obligatory on all adult and sane Muslims, except those for whom it is too difficult or harmful to do so. They include the following categories of people:
- Persons traveling and the ill whose illness can be made worse by fasting. It is not recommended for such people to fast but if they do so, it will be accepted from them. If they choose to heed the recommendation and not fast, they must fast an equal number of days after Ramadan to make up for the days they missed.
- Menstruating women and women with post-partum bleeding are not allowed to fast and it will not be considered valid if they do. But they also must make up for the days in which they did not fast.
- Pregnant and nursing women, if they fear that fasting can be harmful to their children or to themselves, need not fast. If they don’t fast, they must make up for the days on which they break the fast. In addition, they must feed a poor person for every day that they broke their fast if they broke it because they feared only for the health of their children.
- People who are not capable of fasting, either due to old age or incurable diseases, are not to fast. It is enough for them to feed one poor person for each of the days in which they fail to fast. The more people they feed the better.
Children should be encouraged and trained to fast at the age of seven; as in the case of salah (prayers), parents begin training children to fast, children will be rewarded and the parents will also be rewarded for bringing them up properly and guiding them to do good. According to a report by Al-Bukhari, when fasting was prescribed, the companions immediately began training their children.
Most important among the acts which break the fast are the following:
- Intentionally eating or drinking also breaks the fast. If this act is done unintentionally, though, it does not harm the fast.
- Sexual intercourse during the daytime breaks the fast and is a grave sin. Anyone who performs this act must atone for it by freeing a slave, if he can afford to do so; otherwise, he should fast two consecutive months, if he can. If not, then he must feed sixty poor persons if he is able to.
- The appearance of menstrual or post-partum bleeding immediately breaks the fast. Once this happens, even if it is just a few minutes before sunset, the fast is nullified and the day must be made up at a later date.
- Intentional ejaculation breaks the fast; wet dreams do not break the fast.
- Deliberate vomiting also breaks the fast, involuntary vomiting does not break the fast.
- The injection of blood or any other nourishing liquid into the body breaks the fast.
The fasting Muslim is recommended to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (his customs and manners) in doing the following acts:
- Eating a pre-dawn meal (Suhoor): Eating before the break of dawn is recommended act. This makes fasting easier and is, therefore, recommended to be as late as possible, such a just before the call for the dawn prayer.
- Hastening to break fast: The Prophet (salla Allahu alayhe wa sallum) would not pray Maghrib until he had broken his fast. He was reported to have said:” Once night comes from there and the day disappears from there, and the sun has set, the fasting person should break his fast” Bukhari.
- It is also recommended to offer specific supplications at the time of breaking the fast. It has been reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "O Lord, it is for you that I have offered my fasting and it is with provision from you that I am breaking the fast. Accept (this fast) from me therefore, you are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing." OR the person may say, as the Prophet also said, "Thirst has gone, the arteries are moist and the reward is sure, if Allah will." (Recorded by al-Daraqutni.)
- To break the fast with some fresh dates if available, if not, dry dates, if not available then water, otherwise with any available sweet fruits.
- Also one should be more active in doing all kinds of good deeds, foremost of which is the performing of the five daily prayers at their proper times in congregation with other Muslims and the giving of the poor-due (zakat). Besides the obligatory prayers and zakat, one should try as much as one can to do more of the non-obligatory but recommended prayers, specially the tarawih prayers during the evening, on the night of Qadr in particular, and being more generous in helping the poor and in all ways of promoting the cause of Islam. One should also spend more time reciting the Quran and pondering over the meanings of its verses, and turn as often as possible to Allah, asking Him to bestow His peace and blessings on the Prophet as well as asking for one's forgiveness and the forgiveness of his brother Muslims.
- One also should not answer back anyone who insults him but should only respond, "I am fasting."
- One should try to invite others, especially the poor, for the meal that one breaks the fast.
- ‘Itekaaf: Finally, it is encouraged to spend the last ten days of Ramadan in seclusion in a mosque. This practice is called ‘itekaaf, a state of complete devotion to worship. Persons in this state are not allowed to leave the mosque except for personal necessities. ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said:” The sunnah for the m’utakif (one who enters ‘Itekaaf) is not to visit any sick person, or attend any funeral, or touch or be intimate with any woman, or go out for any reason except those which cannot be avoided”. Narrated by Abu Dawood
The Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhe wa sallum) said:” If he forget and eats and drinks, then let him complete his fast, for Allah has fed him and given him drink” Bukhari. According to another narration “ He does not have to make the fast up later or offer expiation (kafaarah)”.
There are a number of acts that do not harm or affect the fast whatsoever. These are called permissible acts. Below are some examples.
- It is permissible to wear perfume while fasting. But women are not allowed to do so if they intend to go out in public. In fact, that act is neither permissible during Ramadan nor at other times.
- There is no harm in brushing one's teeth with a siwak or a brush. So long as one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.
- Asthma inhalers and oxygen
- Having the ear syringed; nose drops and nasal sprays, so long as one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.
- Tablets that are placed under the tongue to treat angina and other conditions, so long as one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.
- Insertion into the veins or urethra (for males or females) of a catheter, opaque dye for diagnostic imaging, medication or solutions for cleansing the bladder.
- Dental fillings, tooth extractions, cleaning of the teeth, use of siwak or toothbrush, so long as one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.
- Rinsing, gargling or applying topical mouth sprays, so long as one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.
- Subcutaneous, intramuscular or intravenous injections, except for those used to provide nourishment.
- Anesthetics, so long as they do not include nourishment.
- Medications absorbed through the skin, such as creams and patches used to administer medicine.
May Allah bless us all with an accepted Ramadan