Nothing beats that first sip of water or that first date when you’re breaking your fast.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and an obligation to all Muslims not excused by things like pregnancy, breastfeeding, illness, or other chronic health conditions.
For those fasting for the first time, or after a long absence, here are a few tried and tested tips for Muslims to make sure you have a blessed and successful Ramadan fast.
1 – Overcome Your Fears About Dry Fasting
One thing that many converts to Islam mention as a big fear is to go without water for long stretches at a time – especially in the hot summer months.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s extremely unhealthy to go without food and water. However, for most adults, not eating and drinking is more about mindset than any real danger to our bodies.
Unless we have any chronic health issues or conditions that might prevent us from successfully fasting, dry fasting for the month of Ramadan is perfectly safe.
Going without food and drink for extended periods of time is actually called “dry fasting.” Reading more about the practice of fasting without water from multiple sources can help you get over any mental blocks.
2 – Keep Your Intention to Please Allah (SWT)
Keeping your intention for pleasing Allah is essential to a successful Ramadan. Make the intention that your fast is for Allah alone. Make dua that Allah makes it easy for you and also that He accepts your fast for His sake.
Imagine being one of those to be called to enter the Rayyan gate (gate of Fasting) in Jannah, insha’Allah.
Sahl bin Sa’d (RA) reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying: “In Paradise there is a gate which is called Rayyan through which only the people who fast would enter on the Day on Resurrection. None else would enter along with them. It would be proclaimed: Where are the people who fast that they should be admitted into it? And when the last of them would enter, it would be closed and no one would enter it.” [Muslim]
Observing Ramadan is one of the most rewarding acts of worship (ibadah). Read about the virtues of fasting especially from the hadith Qudsi that will refresh your faith and give you the boost to restrict hunger, thirst, bad habits, and other desires.
3 – Find Other Muslims to Fast (and Break Your Fast) With
Ramadan is an experience of joywhen you have a community of friends and family to support you in the month-long journey. Try to find friends, new friends, or at least other Muslims to break your fast with often during the blessed month.
4 – Do Practice Fasts
Start with a few fasts beforehand. Aim to fast before the blessed month to understand your body clock, thirst level, and the quantities and types of foods that keep you active and alert.
If possible, fast a few days in the month and weeks before Ramadan starts.
This is especially important if you haven’t fasted before or it has been a very long time since you last fasted. It applies also for kids who are trying to fast for the first time.
Fasting a few days beforehand can help get your body used to the idea so it’s not as much of a shock to your system when Ramadan starts.
Practicing fasting before Ramadan does wonders. However, it’s not advised to do practice fasts in the few days just before Ramadan, since the Prophet has directed us not to:
Abu Hurayrah (AS) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “Do not anticipate Ramadan by fasting one or two days before it begins, but if a man habitually fasts, then let him fast” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
5 – Take Your Healthy Eating to the Next Level
Ramadan is about detoxing the mind, spirit and body. So it’s a good time to stay away from unhealthy foods while you try to eat as clean as possible.
The first week of Ramadan is usually the hardest as your body adjusts to the drastic change. By week two you will generally feel better. By weeks three and four it will become more a matter of thirst, not hunger, during the day.
6 – Eat a Moderate-sized Healthy Meal for Both Suhoor and Iftar
Have a proper meal, even at suhoor. A meal with fruits, veggies, slow release carbs, and protein will keep your energy level up as much as possible. These 10 mason-jar prepare-ahead meals are a great place to start.
Bean-based meals can make you gassy (which can get embarrassing in Taraweeh prayers). So beans, while filling, may be best avoided in Ramadan.
Smoothies and shakes are another great way to get all your nutrients in quickly – especially if you struggle to wake up or you wake up late. Keep some smoothie ingredients prepped ahead of time on days when you are in a rush to east something for suhoor.
What about Periods?
For the ladies especially, when you get your period in the middle of Ramadan, eat and drink in moderation during those days so that starting the fast again will be easier. If you over-indulge during that week, it can be harder to get back into fasting mode. However, during your period it’s still important to hydrate as much as possible because your body needs the water more than anything else.
Multivitamins and supplements are another good idea to include in your diet in Ramadan – especially if you are fasting during summer.
Dates are also a sunnah to break your fast with because they contain beneficial micronutrients and quick energy. You can also include them in other dishes and smoothies as well.
7 – Focus on Hydration
Being hydrated is the most important. But it can be hard and uncomfortable to drink a lot of water (especially if in countries where the night is very short).
Get in as much water, fresh veggies, and fruit (watermelon is a treat) as you can for suhoor or iftaar. Fruit can help you get in that extra water intake. Watery fruits, plus lots of regular water, will replenish you. Coconut water is also really hydrating and perfect for suhoor.
8 – Remember You’re Not Just Fasting From Food
Mindset is super important when it comes to dry fasting for an entire month. Remember that you’re not just fasting from food and drink, you’re fasting and refraining from bad habits as well.
The key is mindfulness of Allah. This includes fasting from wrongdoing, haram actions, bad habits, and other nafs (ego/soul) desires.
In Ramadan, more than just eating and drinking breaks our fasts. Read and learn what all those things are. Seeking the right knowledge will dispel confusions regarding what breaks the fast, what doesn’t, and what you have to do to make up for it.
9 – Take Power Naps
You may find that a power nap of one or two sleep cycles in the heat of the day can help both pass the time and boost your energy and productivity. A power nap can also help you feel more refreshed for the evening Taraweeh prayers.
Other people may find that naps leave them feeling more hungry or lethargic. Do what works for you and your body and leave the rest.
10 – Listen to Your Body and Know Your Limits
Finding Ramadan and fasting difficult is part of the test. You can share that you are finding it difficult and should never be made to feel inadequate. There is nothing wrong with your faith if you find the fast difficult. But, remember to ask Allah to make it easy for you
If you need to break your fast for a valid reason – like illness, travelling, pregnancy or breastfeeding – do it. Don’t guilt trip yourself. Focus on trying your best and know your limits.
Fasting takes time and practice and many other Muslims have been doing it for most of their lives.
Remember, everyone finds the first few fasts hard. It takes time for our body to adjust and for us to generally get into a new routine. May Allah make it easy for everyone and accept all of our fasts for His sake.