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The ABCs of Fasting in Ramadan

The ABCs of Fasting in Ramadan

The month of Ramadan is approaching and it is time to get ready for a season full of worship and devotion. Fasting is the most remarkable feature of the blessed month. For about 30 days, Muslims all over the world stop eating, drinking and engaging in intimate relations in daytime. Below is the must-know information about this great pillar of Islam.

What is fasting (sawm)?

In Arabic, “sawm/siyam” means to abstain from something.

Fasting in Islam means to refrain from food, drink, sexual intercourse, and all that which breaks the fast from dawn to sunset, intending to do so in obedience to Allah.

What is the significance of fasting in Islam?

It is one of the 5 pillars of Islam.

`Uthman ibn Abi Al-`Aas reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Fasting serves as a shield from Hellfire.” (An-Nasa’i and authenticated by Al-Albani)

Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

Anyone who fasts for one day for Allah’s sake, Allah will keep his face away from the Hellfire for (a distance covered by a journey of) seventy years.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Read hadiths about the reward of fasting here.

Who should fast?

Ramadan Fasting is obligatory upon every Muslim, male or female, who fulfills these specifications:

a) Sanity and ability to fast.

b) Age of puberty.

c) Residency; not being in travel.

d) For women, being free from menses (hayd) and post-birth bleeding (nifas).

Who is exempted from fasting?

The following categories are not required to fast. Some categories, however, have to make up for missed days or offer expiation:

a) The insane

b) Children under puberty age

c) The elderly and the chronically ill who find fasting unbearable. (One poor person to be fed for every day missed.)

d) Pregnant women and nursing mothers if fasting may pose risks to them or their babies.

(Some scholars hold that they should feed one poor person for every day missed while other scholar maintain that missed days to be made up for by fasting later)

e) People in the course of traveling (missed days to be made up for by fasting later)

f) Women during the period of menstruation or post-partum period (missed days to be made up for by fasting later).

What is a fasting Muslim recommended to do?

a) Have pre-dawn meal (Suhuur) shortly before the time of Dawn Prayer.

b) Break your fast once the sun sets.

c) Say the Dhikr that the Prophet used to say at Iftar:

Dhahab Adh-Dhama’, wabtallat al-`uruq, wa thabat ala-ajr insha Allah

Thirst has gone, the arteries are moist, and the reward is sure, God willing.

d) Avoid any act that may blemish your fasting.

e) Do as many good deeds as possible.

What does invalidate fasting?

There are two types of fasting invalidators:

First: What breaks the fast and requires only qada’ (making up for the missed days)

a) Eating or drinking

b) Deliberately causing oneself to vomit (according to some scholars.)

c) The onset of menstruation or post-delivery bleeding

d) Ejaculation due to foreplay, masturbation, or any sexual activity other than intercourse or wet dreams. Scholars are not in agreement regarding ejaculation due to looking or lustful thoughts.

Second: what breaks the fast and requires qada’ and kaffarah (expiation):

Sexual intercourse breaks the fast, and requires qada’ and kaffarah, which is to set a slave free; if a slave is not available, to fast for two continuous months. If the two-month fasting is too difficult, 60 poor persons to be fed an average-sized meal each.

There are acts that do not   break the fast including:

a) Bathing.

b) Wearing Kuhl.

c) Kissing one’s wife or husband if he/she is able to control himself/herself.

d) Rinsing: rinsing the mouth or nostrils with water provided that it is not overdone.

e) Swallowing unavoidable things such as one’s saliva.

f) Tasting food without swallowing it.

g) Taking injections.

h) Smelling flowers or wearing perfumes, etc.

i) Experiencing a wet dream.

j) Eating or drinking due to forgetfulness.

k) Involuntarily vomiting.


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