FASTING THE MONTH OF RAMADAN


  FASTING THE MONTH OF RAMADAN

 

CONTENTS:

1 – What is Ramadan?

2 – The importance of Ramadan and fasting

3 – How to fast the month of Ramadan

4 – Breaking the fast

5 – The pre-dawn meal (Suhoor)

6 – Things one should do while fasting

7 – Things one should not do while fasting

8 – Excuses that permit one not to fast & how to make up missed days

9 – The end of Ramadan celebration (Eid al-Fitr)

 

1 – WHAT IS RAMADAN?

 

Allah the Exalted said in the Qur'an: {“It is He who made the sun a shining light and the moon a derived light and determined for it phases - that you may know the number of years and account [of time]. Allah has not created this except in truth. He details the signs for a people who know.”} (10:5)

Allah created the moon which shows us when a month starts and when it ends based on the new crescent and the old crescent. One month can consist of 29 or 30 days. These are called lunar or Hijri months. There are twelve months in a year arranged in this order:

 

1 – Muharram

2 - Safar

3 – Rabi’ al-Awwal

4 – Rabi’ al-Thani

5 – Jumada al-Ula

6 – Jumada al-Thani

7 – Rajab

8 – Sha'ban

9 – Ramadan

10- Shawwal

11 – Dhul Qi'da

12 – Dhul Hijja

 

The ninth month of the Hijri calendar is Ramadan.

 

 

2 – THE IMPORTANCE OF RAMADAN AND FASTING

 

The first verses of the Qur’an were revealed in the month of Ramadan. Allah the Exalted said: {“The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it...”} (2:185)

In the verse, Allah asks the believers to fast this month so that they can truly thank Allah for the gift of the Qur’an which contains guidance for mankind and the formula for everlasting happiness.

 

When a Muslim reaches puberty, fasting becomes obligatory. Puberty, as defined in Islam, is when one of the following signs appear: the growth of pubic hair, ejaculation, or when one reaches the age of 15. In the case of females, a fourth sign is added: menstruation.

 

The Prophet (S) placed great emphasis on the fasting of Ramadan, for he declared it one of the five pillars of Islam. Every able-bodied adult Muslim must fast the whole month of Ramadan. In doing so, he or she will benefit from the reward of fasting, and will avoid the punishment of neglecting the fast without a proper excuse.

 

As for children who are under the age of puberty, they are not obliged to fast, but it is good for Muslim families to encourage their children to fast – as much as they are able – so that they will find it easy to fast when they grow up. 

 

 

3 – HOW TO FAST DURING THE MONTH OF RAMADAN

 

In order to properly observe Ramadan, one should intend to fast the whole month. Fasting is simple; it requires one to avoid the following three things during the daytime:

 

1 – Eating.

One who is fasting should avoid food or anything that otherwise nourishes, even if it is not ingested in the traditional manner, e.g., injections, etc.

Items that are not ingested and do not nourish are permitted, such as brushing one's teeth, or using kohl (eye powder), perfume, etc.

 

2 – Drinking.

It is permissible to bathe while fasting, as well as use ear drops, eye drops, swallow one’s saliva, brush one's teeth, etc.

 

3 – Any sexual activity.

One who is fasting should avoid any and all sexual activity, including actions that excite the desires. Actions such as kissing one's spouse or embracing him/her do not nullify one's fast but it is better to avoid actions that may excite one's desires or lead to something that puts one's fast at risk; especially for younger couples.

Nocturnal emissions (colloquially known as “wet dreams”) do not break the fast because they are not intentional.

 

 

4 – BREAKING THE FAST

 

The meal that is eaten at sunset is called Iftar, i.e., breakfast. It is preferable for one to break his fast as soon as the sun sets, even if he only eats or drinks a small amount.

It is permissible to break one's fast with any kind of food, but it is better to do so with a type of date called rutab, i.e., fresh dates. If they are not available, then any dates will do. If no dates are available, one can break the fast with water.

 

It is preferable to observe Islamic etiquette when breaking the fast, such as:

1 - Saying 'bismillah' (“in the name of Allah”) before eating,

2 -  Eating with the right hand,

3 -  If sharing a plate with others, one should eat from what is nearest to him and avoid reaching over others.

 

It is preferable to supplicate to Allah prior to breaking one's fast. An example of such du'a is: “Dhahaba al-zamau’a, wa abtallat al-‘urooq wa thabata al-ajr insha Allah.” (Thirst has gone, the veins have been nourished, and the reward is assured, if Allah wills.)

 

 

5 – THE PRE-DAWN MEAL (SUHUR)

 

The meal that is eaten before Fajr prayer is called Suhur. It is best to delay this meal until shortly before dawn. This meal is important because it provides strength and energy for the fasting person during his or her fast.

 

Just like with iftar or any other meal, a Muslim should observe Islamic etiquette while eating suhur.

 

 

6 – THINGS ONE SHOULD DO WHILE FASTING

 

It is beneficial for one who is fasting to fill his or her spare time with good deeds and acts of worship such as reading and studying the Qur’an, praying, remembering Allah, giving charity, behaving well, and supplicating to Allah throughout the day.

Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Prophet (S) was the most generous of all the people, and he used to become more generous in Ramadan when Jibreel would meet him. Jibreel used to meet him every night during Ramadan to revise the Qur'an with him. In that time, Allah's Messenger (S) would be more generous than the blowing wind.” [Bukhari]

After breaking the fast, one may pray the Ramadan night prayers which are called Tarawih. In this way, a Muslim can gain a lot of reward in his day and night.

 

 

7 – THINGS ONE SHOULD NOT DO WHILE FASTING

 

When one is fasting, he should avoid doing anything that is prohibited or sinful. He shouldn’t use bad words or shout while speaking with people. If somebody does wrong to him, he should simply respond: “I am fasting (i.e., I won’t do the same).”

The Prophet (S) said: "Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e., telling lies), evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, Allah is not in need of him leaving his food and drink." [Bukhari]

He (S) also said: "Fasting is a protection. So, a person observing fasting should avoid sexual activity, and should not behave foolishly or impudently. If somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, 'I am fasting.'” [Bukhari]

 

 

8 – EXCUSES THAT PERMIT ONE NOT TO FAST & HOW TO MAKE UP MISSED DAYS

 

- If one forgets that he is fasting and eats or drinks accidentally, he should stop as soon as he remembers, and continue fasting the rest of the day. The day's fast is still valid and he does not have to make it up later.

 

- If one is physically forced to eat or drink against his will, his fast is still valid and he should resume it for the remainder of the day. He doesn’t have to make up this day.

 

- If one is asleep during the day, and has a nocturnal emission while asleep, his fast is still valid.

 

- If one is traveling, he may break his fast. After Ramadan, he must make up the day by simply fasting the same number of missed days with the proper intention. However, if one is traveling but feels it is easy for him to fast without any hardship, then he may do so.

 

- If one is ill or physically unable to fast some days of Ramadan, he may break the fast and make up the missed days after Ramadan is over.

 

- It is impermissible for a woman to fast Ramadan during menstruation. She can eat and drink as she wishes, and then make up the missed days after Ramadan. When a woman has recently given birth and is in the period of post-natal bleeding, the same ruling applies.

 

- A woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding can choose not to fast if it is difficult for her or if she fears fasting will cause harm to herself or her child.

 

- As for the person who is completely unable to fast throughout the year – due to medical reasons, etc. – he should feed one poor person for each day of Ramadan.

 

 

9 – THE END OF RAMADAN CELEBRATION (EID AL-FITR)

 

The month of Ramadan ends with a celebration called Eid al-Fitr. The Muslims feel happy because they have concluded the worship of fasting. They express their happiness in many ways:

 

1 – Thanking Allah for everything He has provided, and for granting them the strength and ability to conclude this blessed month.

 

2 – Praising and glorifying Allah. On Eid day, it is prescribed to praise Allah in the following manner: “Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, la ilaha illallah. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, wa lillahil-hamd.” (“Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest. There is none worthy of worship but Allah. Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest, and to Him belongs all praise.”)

 

3 – Giving charity to those in need. A specific charity is obligatory on the night before, or the morning of, Eid al-Fitr. It must be given before the prayer. It is called Sadaqat al-Fitr. The head of the household should give charity on behalf of each person in his household, including himself. The prescribed amount per person is equivalent to approximately 3 kilograms of rice.

 

4 – Praying to Allah in a communal prayer after sunrise on Eid day. This prayer is called Salat al-Eid.  Muslims are encouraged to put on their best clothes and gather – preferably in a park or similar outdoor area –  to pray a short prayer and listen to a celebratory sermon.

 

These methods of celebration are spiritual in nature, but they also bring Muslims together. It is a good thing to celebrate and enjoy the holiday with family and friends, but it is important to be aware that Islamic celebrations should not include sinful actions such as bad behavior and the consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants.

The proper way to celebrate in an Islamic manner that will please Allah is to be grateful and gracious, treat others with happiness and kindness, spread cheer, help those in need, visit relatives, forgive others for their mistakes and shortcomings, and take the opportunity of the holiday to reconcile between people who have a rift between them.

Eid al-Fitr is but a reminder of the great joy that awaits believers in the afterlife, for the feasts of Paradise will be even grander and more wonderful.

Those who are admitted into Paradise  – we ask Allah to grant us and you that privilege –  will enjoy the delights that Allah has prepared for them. They will remain youthful and vibrant, for there will be no death, no illness, no old age, and no sadness. That is true success. Knowing this in one's heart is the secret that allows a Muslim to live happily and observe patience in the face of worldly difficulties.

A Muslim remains hopeful, remembering the words of Allah: {“And whatever thing you [people] have been given - it is [only for] the enjoyment of worldly life and its adornment. And what is with Allah is better and more lasting; so will you not use reason?”} (28:60)





The article is available in the following languages