Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ramzaan- The Month of Fasting

The month of Ramzaan is soon coming to an end. We are already in the midst of the last important days/nights of this 'blessed' month. In a matter of 3/ 4 days, we will be celebrating Eid-Ul-Fitr.

As I fast through the month, I am often asked strange, inquisitive and sometimes, odd, questions by my colleagues, who do not know much about the month. The questions vary from 'do you have to break fast with home food only' to 'when can you fast and when you cannot', 'what happens when you don't fast', 'Do Muslims keep eating whole night' etc. For some its hard to digest that most Muslims refrain from even watching movies, hearing music and watching 'entertainment programs on TV'. I've given up FM radio right from the beginning of the month and avoid TV as much as possible except for informative programs and a little time for some decent serial. I've lost track of new movie releases/ reviews and songs during the month.

I am sure the non-Muslims are many times confused as well as wonder what Ramzaan is all about.
Presenting compilation of various data I gathered from the net (with my own additions and editing), which cover all information in detail and will serve as good information to those who do not much about Ramzaan- The month of Fasting.

Ramadan is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset. The fast is performed to learn discipline, self-restraint and generosity, while obeying God's commandments.Fasting (along with the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, and pilgrimage to Mecca) is one of the "five pillars" of Islam. Because Ramadan is a lunar month, it begins about eleven days earlier each year. ( )

How To's of Fasting
(Taken from )

The Obligation

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is an act of obedience and submission to Allah's commands through the highest degree of commitment, sincerity and faithfulness to seek Allah's mercy, to atone for sins, errors, and mistakes and to avoid condemnation to Hell.

It is done out of deep love for God, with a genuine virtue of devotion, honest dedication and closeness to Allah, for Fasting is for Allah and Him alone.

The fasting during Ramadan is obligatory on every adult, sane, and able Muslim.

Time: When to fast

Fasting in Islam involves abstinence from three primal physical needs of human beings- food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn (approximately one and a half hours before sunrise) to sunset during the entire month of Ramadan.

Who is exempted from fasting
1. Children under the age of puberty and discretion;
2. The insane people who are unaccountable for their deeds. People of these two categories are exempted from the duty of fasting and no compensation or any other substitute is enjoined on them;
3. Men and women who are too old and feeble to undertake the obligation of fasting and bear its hardships. Such people are exempted from this duty, but they must offer at least one needy poor Muslim an average full meal or its value per person day.
4. Sick people whose health is likely to be severely affected by fasting. They may postpone the fast, as long as they are sick, to a later date and makeup for it, a day for a day;
5. People expecting hardship. Such people may break the fast temporarily during their travel only and make up for it in later days, a day for a day. But it is better for them, the Quran says, to keep the fast if they can without causing extraordinary hardships;
6. Expectant women and women nursing their children may also break the fast, if its observance is likely to endanger their own health or that of their infants. But they must make up for the fast at a delayed time, a day for a day;
7. Women in periods of menstruation (of a maximum of ten days). They must postpone the fast till recovery and then make up for it, a day for day.

Niyyah or Intention of Fast

To observe the fast, the intention of fasting is essential (Wajib). The intention should be made daily, preferably before dawn of each day of fasting (in Ramadan).

Provision is made if someone has forgotten to express his intention before dawn. In such a case one is allowed to express intention of fasting before noon to avoid the invalidation of the fast.

The wording of Niyyah may be as follows:
"I intend to observe fast for today."

Suhoor/ Sehri

Suhoor is a predawn meal (breakfast) to be consumed before dawn. One needs to get up much before dawn so that he/ she had have breakfast, before he/ she proceeds to fast the following day.

Any consumption of food or drink should cease at least five to ten minutes before the onset of dawn.


Iftar is an Arabic term meaning breaking the fast immediately after the sunset. It is considered to break the fast with dates, as that was the way our beloved Prophet used to break it. This is followed by having other snacks or meal.

This is eaten after making the following Dua (supplication) for breaking the fast:
"Oh Allah! I fasted for your sake and I am breaking my fast from the sustenance You blessed me with, accept it from me."

What breaks the fast

1. Intentional consumption of food, drink, medicine, or smoking during the fasting.
2. Any injection which has some nutritional value.
3. Beginning of menstruation or post natal birth bleeding (even in the last moment of sunset).
The conditions mentioned above invalidate fasting and require "Qada" (making up only the missed day or days). However, intentional intercourse during the hours of fasting invalidates fasting and not only requires "Qada" but also additional penalty (Kaffara-see the explanation of this below).

What does not break the fast

1. Eating or drinking by mistake, unmindful of the fast.
2. Unintentional vomiting.
3. Swallowing things which are not possible to avoid, such as one's own saliva, street dust, smoke, etc.
4. Brushing the teeth.
5. Bathing: if water is swallowed unintentionally, it does not invalidate the fast. However, while fasting gargling should be avoided.
6. Injection or I/V (Intravenous) which is solely medicinal and not nutritional.
7. In some special circumstances if the food or drink is just tasted and immediately removed out of the mouth without allowing it to enter into the throat.


During the fasting period, if one deliberately breaks his or her fast, s/he must free one slave, or fast for sixty continuous days, or feed sixty needy persons, or spend in charity an amount equal to feeding sixty persons.

If one chooses to fast sixty days and the continuity is interrupted for any reason, except menstruation, one has to start the sixty day cycle all over again.

Breaking of the fast under exceptional conditions

Muslims are permitted to break their fast of Ramadan when there is a danger to their health.
In this situation a Muslim should make up his/her fast later. The missed fast(s) can be made up at any other time of the year, either continuously or intermittently, except on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr and the day of Eid-ul-Adha


These are special Sunnah prayers in the month of Ramadan. They follow the Isha prayers. A minimum of eight and a maximum of twenty Rakat are offered in pairs of two.

Lailat al-Qadr

Amongst the nights of Ramadan, there is one special night of Power (Qadr) which is highlighted in Surah al-Qadr (Surah 97 in the Quran).

It has the significance of being better than a thousand months (Quran 97:3).

This was the night when Quran was revealed to mankind. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) recommended Muslims search for this night of Power (Qadr) in the odd nights of the last ten nights in Ramadan.

Muslims spend the night in Ibadah (worship), asking forgiveness of their sins and reciting the Quran.

(by )

* Breaking the daily fast with a drink of water and dates
* Reading the entire Quran during Ramadan (For this purpose, theQuran is divided into 30 units.)
* Social visits are encouraged.

EID UL-FITR ("Festival of End of Fasting") PRAYERS AT THE END OF RAMADAN

* Eid begins with special morning prayers on the first day of Shawwal the month following Ramadan on the Islamic lunar calendar, and lasts for three days.
* It is forbidden to perform an optional fast during Eid because itis a time for relaxation.
* During Eid Muslims greet each other with the phrase "Eid Mubarak"(eed-moo-bar-ak), meaning "blessed Eid" and "taqabballah ta'atakum,"or "may God accept your deeds."

Fitra (Fitr) is for fasting Muslims to give food or money on behalf of fasting people. The head of the family pays rice / grain / barley / common food of the region or equivalent money (which is reviewed yearly) @ 2.25 kgs per person on behalf of each person in the family. If he is responsible for his mother and father, then he has to pay Zakat ul Fitr for them too.If a person cannot fast permanently in the month of Ramadan (for instance, because of illness) they have to pay Fitra for each fasting day.

This is paid to a poor / deserving / needy person at the end of the fasting month (or after sighting the moon), but before EID, so that they can also celebrate the festival happily

Q: How did the fast during Ramadan become obligatory for Muslims?
A: The revelations from God to the Prophet Muhammad that wouldeventually be compiled as the Quran began during Ramadan in the year610, but the fast of Ramadan did not become a religious obligationfor Muslims until the year 624. The obligation to fast is explainedin the second chapter of the Quran: "O ye who believe! Fasting isprescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that yemay (learn) self-restraint...Ramadan is the (month) in which wassent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) forguidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of youwho is present (at his home) during that month should spend it infasting..." (Chapter 2, verses 183 and 185)

Q: What do Muslims believe they gain from fasting?
A: The main benefits of Ramadan are an increased compassion forthose in need of the necessities of life, a sense of self-purification and reflection and a renewed focus on spirituality.Muslims also appreciate the feeling of togetherness shared by familyand friends throughout the month. Perhaps the greatest practicalbenefit is the yearly lesson in self-restraint and discipline thatcan carry forward to other aspects of a Muslim's life such as workand education.

Q: Do people normally lose weight during Ramadan?
A: Some people do lose weight, but others may not. It is recommendedthat meals eaten during Ramadan be light, but most people can'tresist sampling special sweets and foods associated with Ramadan.

Q: Why does Ramadan begin on a different day each year?
A: Because Ramadan is a lunar month, it begins about eleven daysearlier each year. Throughout a Muslim's lifetime, Ramadan will fallboth during winter months, when the days are short, and summermonths, when the days are long and the fast is more difficult. Inthis way, the difficulty of the fast is evenly distributed betweenMuslims living in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Q: What is Lailat ul-Qadr?
A: Lailat ul-Qadr ("Night of Power") marks the anniversary of thenight on which the Prophet Muhammad first began receivingrevelations from God, through the angel Gabriel. An entire chapterin the Quran deals with this night: "We have indeed revealed this(Message) in the Night of Power: and what will explain to thee whatthe Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousandmonths. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by God'spermission, on every errand. Peace!...This until the rise of morn."(Chapter 97) Muslims believe Lailat ul-Qadr is one of the last odd-numbered nights of Ramadan.


sk said...

Quite an informative article for everybody. The month of Ramadan has come to an end and we have just finished celebrating Eid. Hope we all continue to move in the straight path all throughout the year. May Allah give us all the taufeeq to maintain throughout the year, all the good habits acquired during the month of Ramadan.

Shagufta said...

Ameen ! May we all follow the Right Path, no matter which month ! Thanks for all the appreciative comments