ABU HURAIRA (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of Jannah (Paradise) are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and satans are chained.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The gates of Jannah are opened in this month because lots of righteous deeds are performed and as an encouragement for those who seek Allah’s reward. The gates of Hell are closed because fewer sins are committed by believers. The Satans will be chained so they do not have the chance as in other months to whisper into the hearts of believers and misguide them.

Allah has prescribed fasting upon all nations. He said:

“O you who believe! fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious).” (Qur’an, 2:183)

If fasting were not a great act of worship, and the reward was not so great, Allah would not have prescribed it on all nations.

Atonement of sins.
Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “He who observes the fast of the month of Ramadan out of sincerity and hope for the reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven.” – (Bukhari)

That is, when fasting is observed out of belief and without resentment to it as an act of worship or doubt in its reward, Allah will forgive the past sins of the one who observes it.

Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying: “Allah said: All the deeds of Adam’s children belong to them, except fasting, which belongs to me and I will reward it. Fasting is a shield (against Hell and against sins). If one of you happens to be fasting he should avoid sexual relations with his wife and should avoid quarreling. Should someone fight or quarrel with him let him say, ‘I am fasting.’ By Him in Whose hand my soul is, the smell from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than that of the musk.” (Bukhari and Muslim). It is a shield because it safeguards the believer from vain talk and wrongdoing, and hence it protects him from Hell.

Of all the good deeds, Allah has favored fasting to be greatly rewarded by Him and distinguished it with prestige when it is observed with the pure intention to please Him alone.

Fasting is so meritorious for a believer that he will have two occasions of joy. The first is at the time of breaking his fast when he enjoys the bounties of Allah because he has been favored with Allah’s mercy to observe the fast while many others have been deprived of this great blessing. He will rejoice in the second occasion when he meets his Lord and enjoys the abundant reward for having observed fasting. In addition to this, fasting intercedes with Allah on behalf of the believer on the Day of Judgment.

Who should fast and who should not?
Fasting is obligatory on the mature sane and healthy Muslim. Those who are immature (i.e. young children) are encouraged to fast. People suffering from a terminal illness or are too old to fast are exempted. Allah does not overburden His slaves.

Travelers are permitted to abstain from fasting. However, it is praiseworthy to fast while traveling if no hardship is imposed. In any case, travelers should make up the days they missed fasting in Ramadan once Ramadan is over and they are back home.

The sick fall into three categories:

• If it is neither hard nor harmful for them, they must observe fasting.

• If it is hard, but not harmful for them, they are permitted to break their fast.

• If it is harmful to them, then they must abstain from fasting.

The days that are missed in Ramadan must be made up once Ramadan is over.

During the monthly period or period of post-natal bleeding, women should abstain from fasting but must make up the days they missed after the fasting month is over. The Pregnant or breastfeeding woman whose health or the health of the suckling baby might be affected by fasting should break her fast and make up the missed fasts after Ramadan.

The wisdom behind fasting
A Muslim fasts by leaving his desires in order to please his Lord, hoping for His reward. Common sense dictates that one would not give up desired things except for the sake of more desirable ones, in this case, the pleasure of Allah, which is the most sought after desire.

It is a means of achieving piety and righteousness. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “He who does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah does not need his refraining from eating or drinking.” (Saheeh Muslim). In other words, Allah does not accept his fast.

The heart, through fasting, is inclined to maintain its tenderness since desires are not sought, but rather shunned. Thus the heart tends to be more receptive to the words of Allah.

A rich person will be more appreciative of Allah’s graces and bounties. He will go through what the poor and needy normally experience and will be motivated to help them. Fasting reduces pride or egoism and increases humbleness. Moreover, fasting has health advantages by means of decreasing the intake of food and relaxing the digestive system. Allah’s wisdom and His Graces are great.

Obligatory while fasting
Performing the other acts of worship and duties is most important, and Salah is in particular, as without it no other act of worship is accepted by Allah.

Praying in the congregation is a great aspect of our religion. Everyone should attend.

Its reward is twenty-seven times greater than that which is performed individually. (Bukhari)

Once the Prophet (peace be upon him) was about to burn the houses on those who did not attend the congregational prayers. (Bukhari)

Refraining from bad behavior such as lying, cheating, music, smoking, backbiting and slandering others to create animosity among them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No slanderer shall enter Paradise.” (Bukhari)

Recommended in fasting
• Taking the meal of suhoor. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Take (the meal of) suhoor because there is blessing in it.” (Bukhari). He (peace be upon him) also said: “The difference between our fasting and that of the people of the book is taking the meal of suhoor.” (Saheeh Muslim). Even taking a cup of water as suhoor has blessing in it.

• Breaking the fast as soon as the sunsets. (Bukhari)

• Making du’a upon breaking fast. (Abu Dawood)

• Reciting as much Qur’an as possible during the month of Ramadan.

What breaks the fast
Sexual intercourse in the daytime. The willful violation of the fast by this practice requires the fast of sixty consecutive days in order to make up for the day in which the intercourse took place. (Bukhari)

– Willful ejaculation by means of kissing or caressing, etc. Wet dreams and unintentional ejaculation do not break the fast.

– Eating, drinking, smoking or taking any food substitutes, such as receiving blood, glucose, or I. V. substances while observing the fast.

– Willful, not unintentional, vomiting.

– Menstrual bleeding. – (Bukhari). For practices other than the sexual intercourse, fasts are to be made up a day for a day after Ramadan.

Applying kuhl (surmah), eye drops, ear or nose drops do not break the fast. They are neither food nor its substitute. Perfumes, Siwaak or toothbrush without toothpaste do not break fast since it has been reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to do so. (Saheeh Al-Jaami As-Sagheer)