An Introduction to Ramadan & Fasting

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“Fast when it (the moon) is seen and cease fasting when it is seen, so if it is concealed by clouds, then complete thirty days of Sha’ban.”

(al-Bukhari)

The end of Ramadan is also determined by sighting of the new moon. When the moon cannot be seen, Muslims must fast for thirty days.

‘He who fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeks his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven; he who prays during the night in Ramadan with faith and seeks his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven; and he who passes Lailat al- Qadr in prayer with faith and seeks his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven.’

(Bukhari and Muslim)

The intention may be made at any point during the night, even if it is just a moment before Fajr. Niyyah means the resolution in the heart to do something.

The person who is fasting Ramadaan does not need to repeat the intention every night during Ramadaan; it is sufficient to have the intention at the beginning of the month


Fasting Ramadan

Fasting is one of the 5 pillars of the Muslim faith and is a task that generally requires Muslims primarily to not eat any food or drink from dawn until sunset. Fasting in the month of Ramadan is compulsory on every able Muslim adult. The Arabic word “Sawm” is used for fasting. The word sawm means ‘to refrain’, however in an Islamic term, it generally means to refraining from food, drinks and sex.

Who Must Fast?

Fasting is mandatory for every sane minded and able adult Muslim who can fast without harming themselves and is not travelling long distances. If a Muslim cannot meet any of these pre conditions, he or she is exempt from fasting without any consequence.

Children are not required to fast until they reach a certain age. However, they should be encouraged as much as possible while they are still young to practice fasting by gradually expanding the time that they can observe it.

Who Should Not Fast?

It is “not” true to say every Muslim must fast. Indeed there are many Muslims that do not due to certain circumstances. However there are some clear examples of when a person is allowed or not allowed to fast or when one is exempt for fasting.

The insane, invalids, retarded, or mentally challenged do not have to fast. Muslims that are handicapped in this way are not penalized in for not being able to fast.

The very elderly who feel they are not able to fast are also exempt from fasting without penalty.

Persons suffering from illnesses that need them to take medications for example, Diabetes are not required to fast.

Pregnant Muslim women do not have to fast if they believe that it would cause them suffering or feel that it could bring harm the unborn child.

Muslim women who are having their menstrual period or experiencing bleeding due to recent child birth are not required to fast. (They must make up the days that they have missed when their period or bleeding has finished.)

Muslims that fall ill unexpectedly and feel that their condition would worsen if they observed the fast are excused. However when they recover, they must make up the fast by fasting the number of days that they missed.

People who need to break the fast in order to save the life of someone else (i.e. being caught in a fire or drowning) are allowed to break their fast and to make it up at a later date.

Those who are travelling are given the option of fasting or not. Those who choose not to fast during their journey must make it up after reaching their destination. This applies to all types of travel; for business, for personal reasons, or due to one’s job (i.e. long distance drivers).

What Does Not Break a Fast?

Eating or drinking something by mistake, without one’s knowledge (i.e. A person that falls into a deep sleep or unconscious), or being forced to do so.

If a Muslim person forgets briefly that they are fasting then eats or drinks, their fast will not break, provided they did not eat or drink on purpose.

The Following acts are permissible:

  • Pouring water over one’s self
  • Submerging one’s self in water
  • A fasting person can cool themselves with water, an air conditioner, or similar methods.
  • Rinsing one’s mouth or nose
  • Involuntary vomiting
  • Applying creams, lotions, perfumes, and similar products.
  • Bleeding due to a normal event for example a nose bleed or having a tooth extracted a Muslims fast is considered as unaffected, for the blood that is emitted is done so naturally.
  • Receiving Medical Treatment that does not Break a Fast
  • When a person is receive medical treatment it is normally deemed as necessary amd if the individual does not have that medical treatment they could be doing harm to themselves. Doing harm to yourself is not permissible below is listed what will not break a fast the list is by no means complete or exhausted if you require ant further information please ask the scholar or contact your local mosque Scholar.
  • Injections that have no food value or intravenous for medical reasons
  • Applying ear and eye drops as long as they do not reach your throat?
  • Ointments or medicines applied after tooth extractions
  • Using sprays to relive the breathing difficulties such as asthma or similar conditions
  • Having your ears syringed
  • Giving Blood for medical reasons
  • Rinsing, gargling or applying topical mouth sprays – so long as one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.
  • Dental fillings, tooth extractions, cleaning of the teeth
  • Having Blood samples taken
  • Tablets placed under the tongue (anything that reaches the throat) treating angina and other conditions – so long as they are not swallowed
  • Anything inserted into the vagina, such as pessaries, douches, scopes or fingers for the purpose of a medical examination.
  • Insertion of a scope or intra-uterine device or coil into the uterus.
  • Insertion into the urethra – for males or females – of a catheter, opaque dye for diagnostic imaging, medication or solutions for cleansing the bladder.
  • Taking oxygen.
  • Anaesthetic gases – so long as the patient is not given nourishing solutions.
  • Medications absorbed through the skin, such as creams and patches used to administer medicine and chemicals.
  • Insertion of a catheter into veins for diagnostic imaging or treatment of blood vessels in the heart or other organs.
  • Use of a laparoscope (instrument inserted through a small incision in the abdomen) to examine the abdominal cavity or to perform operations.
  • To be on the safe side, it is better for the fasting person not to be treated with cupping (hijaamah). There is a strong difference of opinion on this matter. Ibn Taymiyah suggested that the one who has cupping done breaks his fast, but the one who does it does not break his fast.

Does Break your Fast:

  • If a person is engages in sexual intercourse during the fasting hour’s their fast will be broken. A fast is broken if he or she becomes excited to the point of causing a discharge of semen, such as self-gratification, caressing, hugging, kissing, and so on.
  • They should compensate by fasting in addition to freeing a slave. If he cannot do this, he must fast for sixty consecutive days. If this also not possible, he must feed sixty poor people who are hungry.
  • Intentionally eating or drinking substances that have any food value.
  • Smoking tobacco products
  • If the product can be diluted in the mouth in whole or part and it has added taste or sweetness for example chewing gum or tobacco.
  • Taking injections or dietary drugs used as food or drink substitutes.
  • Muslim women fasting during the period of menstruation or are of post child birth confinement. Fasting during these periods for Muslim women is forbidden and should be made by fasting a day for a day each fast that was invalidated.
  • The forced emission of blood through cupping or similar means.
  • Intentional Vomiting Poor Intentions
  • Vomit that comes into his mouth and he swallows it back down.
  • Blood transfusions.

Rules of the fast

A person must state his intention to fast before day break when that fast starts. This can still be done while he or she is ritually impure as the necessary washing (ghusl) can be performed before that fast starts and then they may begin their fast for the day.

A Muslim who is fasting should also carry out obligations and go without that which is prohibited. He should offer his daily prayers on time and in congregation (if it is obligatory upon him) and avoid lying, backbiting, deceiving someone, dealing in interest(usury), or indulging, either mentally or physically, in that which is prohibited.

A woman coming out of her periods or child-birth bleeding before dawn must fast, even if she washes herself after dawn.

While he is fasting, he should make a greater effort to draw closer to Allah by increasing his level of adherence to what Allah has asked of him.

Invalidated fasts or broken fasts of which there are usually two kinds can be made up or compensated for. The first one requires Qada (only making up missed days), the other one not only requires Qada but also Kaffarah(a penalty).

Those who convert to Islam are not required to make up the fasts that they missed when they were not Muslim.

Breaking of fast under exceptional conditions:

Muslims are permitted to break the ordained fast of Ramadan when there is danger to their health or life. Those who need to break their fast in order to save someone whose life is in danger this applies in cases where someone is drowning, or when fires need to be put out. Under these circumstances a Muslim should make up his fast later at any other time of the year.

Travellers

For a traveller to be allowed to break his fast, certain conditions must be met. His journey should be lengthy, or else be known as travelling and should go beyond the city and its outer edge. His journey should not be a journey for the purpose of trying to get out of having to fast. Once a person has passed the city outer limits, they may break their fast. If a person is flying, once the plane has taken off and has gone beyond the city limits, they may break their fast.

A person who habitually travels is permitted not to fast if he has a home to which he returns, such as a courier who travels to serve the interests of the Muslims (and also taxi drivers, pilots and airline employees, even if their travel is daily – but they have to make up the fasts later). The same applies to sailors who have a home on land; but if a sailor has his wife and all he needs with him on the ship, and is constantly travelling, then he is not allowed to break his fast or shorten his prayers. If nomadic Bedouins are traveling from their winter home to their summer home, or vice versa, they are allowed to break their fast and shorten their prayers, but once they have settled in either their summer home or their winter home, they should not break their fast or shorten their prayers, even if they are following their flocks. (See Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Taymiyah, 25/213).

The sick

If a person feels extreme hunger or thirst, and fears that he may die or that some of his faculties may be irreparably damaged, and has rational grounds for believing this to be so, he may break his fast and make up for it later on, because saving one’s life is obligatory. But it is not permissible to break one’s fast because of bearable hardship or because one feels tired or is afraid of some imagined illness.

The elderly

The very elderly who have lost their strength and are getting weaker every day as death approaches, do not have to fast, and they are allowed not to fast so long as fasting would be too difficult for them. Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) used to say, concerning the aayah (interpretation of the meaning), “And as for those who can fast with difficulty (e.g., an old man, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a poor person (for every day)” [al-Baqarah 2:184]: “This has not been abrogated. It refers to the old man and the old woman who cannot fast, so they should feed a poor person for every day.” (Al-Bukhaari, Kitaab al-Tafseer, Baab Ayaaman Ma’doodaat…)

Rulings on fasting for women

According to the most correct opinion, a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding is regarded as being like one who is ill, so she is permitted not to fast, and she only has to make up the days that she missed.

If a pregnant woman miscarries and the foetus is formed or has a discernible outline of any part of the body, such as a head or hand, then her blood is nifaas; if, however, she passes something that looks like a blood clot (‘alaq) her bleeding is istihaadah and she has to fast, if she is able, otherwise she can break her fast and make it up later on. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/224). Once she becomes clean after having an operation to clean the womb she should fast. The scholars stated that the embryo is considered to start taking shape after 80 days of pregnancy.

If a woman becomes clean from nifaas before forty days, she should fast and do ghusl so that she can pray. (al-Mughni ma’a al-Sharh al-Kabeer, 1/360). If the bleeding resumes within forty days after the birth, she should stop fasting, because this is still nifaas. If the bleeding continues after the fortieth day, she should make the intention to fast and do ghusl (according to the majority of scholars), and any bleeding beyond the fortieth day is considered to be istihaadah (non-menstrual bleeding) – unless it coincides with the usual time of her period, in which case it is hayd (menstrual blood).

If a breastfeeding woman fasts during the day and sees a spot of blood during the night, although she was clean during the day, her fast is still valid. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/150)

Women have to make up the fasts that they miss during Ramadaan, even without their husbands’ knowledge. It is not a condition for an obligatory fast for a woman to have the permission of her husband. If a woman starts to observe an obligatory fast, she is not allowed to break it except for a legitimate reason. Her husband is not permitted to order her to break her fast when she is making up a day that she has missed; he is not allowed to have intercourse with her when she is making up a missed fast, and she is not allowed to obey him in that regard. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/353).

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