The Meaning And Rules Of Fasting
Muslims all over the world wait eagerly for Ramadan, as it is a time of increased inner peace and well-being.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is obligatory upon every Muslim, male or female, who is adult (i.e., has reached puberty) and sane and who is not sick or on a journey.
Sickness could be a temporary sickness from which a person expects to be cured soon. Such a person is allowed not to fast during the days of his/her sickness, but he/she must fast later after Ramadan to complete the missed days.
Those who are sick with incurable illness and expect no better health are also allowed not to fast but they must pay the fidyah, which is giving a day’s meals for each fast missed to a needy person. One can also give instead the money for meals to a needy person.
Women in their menses and post-natal bleeding are not allowed to fast, but they must make up later after Ramadan. If pregnant women and mothers who are nursing babies find it difficult to fast, they can also postpone their fasting to a later time when they are in a better condition.
A journey according to the Shariah is any journey that takes you away from your city of residence, a minimum of 92 kilometers. The journey must be for a good cause. It is a sin to travel in Ramadan in order to avoid fasting. A Muslim should try to change his/her plans during Ramadan to be able to fast and should not travel unless it is necessary. The traveler who misses the fasts of Ramadan must make up those missed days later as soon as possible after Ramadan.
Fasting according to the Sunnah
1) Take suhoor (pre-dawn meal). It is Sunnah and there is a great reward and blessing in taking suhoor. The best time for suhoor is the last half hour before dawn or the time for Fajr prayer.
2) Take iftar (breakfast) immediately after sunset. Shariah considers sunset when the disk of the sun goes below the horizon and disappears completely.
3) During the fast, abstain from all false talks and deeds. Do not quarrel, have disputes, indulge in arguments, use bad words, or do anything that is forbidden. You should try to discipline yourself morally and ethically, besides gaining physical training and discipline. You should also not make a show of your fasting by talking too much about it, or by showing dry lips and a hungry stomach, or by showing a bad temper. The fasting person must be a pleasant person with good spirits and good cheer.
4) During the fast, do acts of charity and goodness to others and increase your worship and reading of the Qur’an. Every Muslim should try to read the whole Qur’an at least once during the month of Ramadan.
Things that invalidate the fast
One must avoid doing anything that may render your fast invalid. Things that invalidate the fast and require qadaa’ (making up for these days) are the following:
1) Eating, drinking or smoking deliberately, including taking any non-nourishing items by mouth, nose or anus.
2) Deliberately causing oneself to vomit.
3) The beginning of menstrual or post-childbirth bleeding even in the last moment before sunset.
4) Sexual intercourse or other sexual contact (or masturbation) that results in ejaculation (in men) or vaginal secretions (orgasm) in women.
5) Eating, drinking, smoking or having sexual intercourse after Fajr (dawn) on the mistaken assumption that it is not Fajr time yet. Similarly, engaging in these acts before Maghrib (sunset) on the mistaken assumption that it is already Maghrib time.
Sexual intercourse during fasting is forbidden and is a great sin. Those who engage in it must make both qadaa’ (make up the fasts) and kaffarah (expiation by fasting for 60 days after Ramadan or by feeding 60 poor people for each day of fast broken in this way). According to Imam Abu Hanifah, eating and/or drinking deliberately during fast also entail the same qadaa’ and kaffarah.
Things that do not invalidate fasting
Using a miswak to clean your teeth does not invalidate fasting.
During fast, the following things are permissible:
1) Taking a bath or shower. If water is swallowed involuntarily it will not invalidate the fast. According to most of the jurists, swimming is also allowed in fasting, but one should avoid diving, because that will cause the water to go from the mouth or nose into the stomach.
2) Using perfumes, wearing contact lenses or using eye drops.
3) Taking injections or having a blood test.
4) Using miswak (tooth-stick) or toothbrush (even with toothpaste) and rinsing the mouth or nostrils with water, provided it is not overdone (so as to avoid swallowing water).
5) Eating, drinking or smoking unintentionally, i.e., forgetting that one was fasting. But one must stop as soon as one remembers and should continue one’s fast.
6) Sleeping during the daytime and having a wet-dream does not break one’s fast. Also, if one has intercourse during the night and was not able to make ghusl (bath) before dawn, he/she can begin fast and make ghusl later. Women whose menstruation stops during the night may begin fasting even if they have not made ghusl yet. In all these cases, bathing (ghusl) is necessary but fast is valid even without bathing.
7) Kissing between husband and wife is allowed in fasting, but one should try to avoid it so that one may not do anything further that is forbidden during the fast.
Requirements for fasting to be valid
There are basically two main components of fasting:
1) The intention (niyyah) for fasting. One should make a sincere intention to fast for the sake of Allah every day before dawn. The intention need not be in words, but must be with the sincerity of the heart and mind. Some jurists are of the opinion that the intention can be made once only for the whole month and does not have to be repeated every day. It is, however, better to make intention every day to take full benefit of fasting.
2) Abstaining from dawn to dusk from everything that invalidates fasting.