Want to learn the rules of fasting in Ramadan?
In this month, our hearts as Muslims turn to the Most Merciful Lord, fearing Him and hoping to benefit His mercy and the greatest victory – that is Paradise.
The status of fasting in Ramadan is so high that it is worth investing some time learning the rules. This way, you will know what you must do and how to do it and what is haram so to avoid it.
This article is a list of some ettiquettes and rules of fasting in Ramadan.
Before we begin…
Just before we begin, it’s important for us to know how these rules impact our Ibadah in the month of Ramadan.
Every action we take in life goes with two components. One is the purpose and spirit, and the other is the particular form chosen to achieve that purpose.
The main purpose of eating, for instance, is to stay alive and maintain strength. To achieve this purpose, you need to take a piece of food, put it in your mouth, chew it and then swallow it.
Anyone who tries to eat mud would be considered insane because he obviously does not understand the real purpose of eating. He thinks that the mere act of passing anything through the mouth to the stomach constitutes eating.
The same way, you will also call someone insane who thrust his fingers down his throat to vomit up the food he had just eaten and then complained that he can’t see the benefits that come from eating.
Such a person will only get thinner and thinner each day, blaming food for his situation instead of his own stupidity.
The outward actions are necessary though. Because without them the food cannot reach the stomach. However, merely fulfilling these outward actions cannot fulfill the purpose of eating.
What is my point here?
Without obeying the rules, your fasting is empty
If you feel empty after Ramadan, you may now understand why.
One of the greatest mistakes of Muslims today is taking the outward shape of fasting as the real Ibadah. We think that merely not eating and drinking the whole day is fasting. We are just like the person who thinks that eating is the mere act of taking food into the mouth and then chewing and swallowing it, expecting to receive the benefits regardless of whether he eat mud or vomit out the food soon after eating it.
Take for instance, as soon as Ramadan is over, we throw to the wind all that we gain from the fasting, just as a man who vomits out the food soon after eating it.
We all know that we cannot attain physical strength from the food we eat until it is digested, transformed into some blood that then spread through our veins. Likewise, we cannot attain spiritual strength from fasting until we are conscious of the main purpose of fasting and allows it to penetrate our hearts and minds and dominate our thoughts, motives and deeds.
This is why Allah, after ordaining the fasting, has said that fasting is made mandatory on you, ‘so that you may attain to God-Consciousness’ – Quran 2:183.
The rules of fasting in Ramadan
The prophet, blessings, and peace be on him, has in various ways pointed out the rules pertaining to fasting in the month of Ramadan, and has explained that to go hungry and thirsty while disobeying these rules carries no value in the sight of Allah.
NOTE: Whilst some of these rules are compulsory (waajib) to follow, others are only recommended (mustahabb) for you by the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be on him).
Below are therefore the rules of fasting in the month of Ramadan:
Niyyah (Intention) is required
Making Niyyah (intention) is a requirement in every obligatory fast including Fasting in Ramadan, making up missed fasts or fasts done as an act of expiation (Kafaarah).
The evidence is found in a hadith where the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “There is no fast for the person who did not intend to fast from the night before.” (This was reported by Abu Dawood, no 2454)
You can make your intention to fast the next day at any time during the night, even if it is just a moment before Fajr.
Niyyah is simply a resolution in the heart to do something and does not need to be voiced aloud.
If you already know that the next day is one of the days of Ramadan and wants to fast, then automatically the intention is fulfilled. Thus, if you are fasting in the month of Ramadan, you don’t need to repeat the intention every night, because of the fact that you know the next day to be a fasting day and you want to fast.
Abstain from Food
This is an obvious rule of fasting in Ramadan: to remain hungry and thirsty every day for the whole month.
Siyaam in Arabic means abstaining; and in Islam it means abstaining from all things that break the fast, between down and sunset, after the making the intention (Niyyah) to fast.
Abstain from Falsehood
Once the Holy Prophet(saw) said,
If one does not give up speaking falsehood and acting by it, God does not require him to give up eating and drinking (Bukhari)
The lesson of this rule is very clear: merely being hungry and thirsty is never by itself worship, but a means for performing worship. The real worship is refraining from that which is haram out of fear and love of God and pursuing activities that please Him.
You must fast Consecutively
Fasting in Ramadan is one of the types of fasting the must be observed on consecutive days, like fasting to expiate for killing someone by mistake or having intercourse during the day in Ramadan.
However, making up missed days after Ramadan does not require you to fast on consecutive days.
Eat something at suhoor
Always try as much as possible to eat something at suhoor and also delay it until just before the call of Fajr.
The prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“Have suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing (barakah)” (Al-Bukhari)
Do not Delay Iftaar
The Prophet (Blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“The people will be fine so long as they do not delay iftaar.”(Bukhari).
Keep away from sin
This is not only a rule of fasting, but also a rule of life for all Muslims. It’s just that sinning in the month of Ramadan is uglier than sinning in the other months.
The Prophet (Blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“When anyone of you is fasting, let him not commit sin…” (Al-Bukhari).
When fasting you should, therefore, avoid all kinds of sins such as Zina, backbiting, lies, etc otherwise your hanger and thirst may all be for nothing.
Keep away from worldly destructions
Ramadan is a month of worship and Ibadah. Why would you allow yourself to be distracted with some worldly entertainment?
When fasting in Ramadan, you should not allow yourself to be distracted by movies, games or sports matches or idle gatherings.
Don’t get provoked
When fasting, you should never allow someone or something to provoke you in a manner that may cause you to do or say something unpleasant. Self-control is very important in the month of Ramadan.
The Prophet (Blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“If someone fights him or insults him, he should say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting’” (Al-Bukhari).
The reason for this is to remind yourself and the other person.
Do not eat too much
When fasting one should try not to overeat. The Prophet (Blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“The son of Adam fills no vessel worse than his stomach.” (Al-Tirmidhi).
The wise person does not live to eat. But rather, he eats to live.
In Ramadan, you’ll see Muslims preparing all kinds of food, making housewives and servants spend all their time on preparing food. This keeps them away from worship. And Muslims spend far more on food than they do outside Ramadan. This makes Ramadan a month of food and indigestion for Most Muslims, where people eat like gluttons and drink like thirsty camels, leaving them lazy to perform the night prayer.
The sick is allowed not to fast in Ramadan
As fasting during Ramadan is mandatory for all adult Muslims, there are exceptions. These exceptions include the sick.
Allah said in the Quran:
“… and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days on which one did not observe sawm must be made up] from other days …” (Surah Al-Bakhara 2:185).
If you have medical proof, or you know your health condition from experience, or you are certain that fasting will make your illness worse or delay recovery, you are allowed to break your fast. It is disliked even for you to fast in such a condition.
If you are sick and only hope to recover, you should wait until you get better, then make up for the fasts you missed.
Feed the poor if you are unable to fast
There are many valid reasons not to fast including being critically ill and also being too old to fast. If you fall into this category of people, you should feed a poor person for every day that you have missed.
You can calculate the days you’ve missed and do all at once on one day at the end of the month, or you can feed one poor person every day.
Also, you should give actual food to feed the poor instead of money. However, you can give the money to a trustworthy person or a good charitable organization that buys and distribute food to the poor so that they may do it on your behalf.
Give as much as you can
Ramadan is a month of giving.
Thus, try as much as possible be generous by sharing knowledge, giving money, using one’s position of authority or physical strength to help others, and having good attitude.
Al-Bukhari and Muslim reported that Ibn Abass (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“The Messenger of Allah was the most generous of people [in doing good], and he was most generous of all in Ramadan …”
You should therefore not exchange generosity for stinginess in the month of Ramadan. This also means that you should never use fasting as an excuse not to do your work properly or treat people poorly.
Prepare yourself and environment for worship
The Month of Ramadan is the best time to make yourself available for worship by hastening to repent and turn back to Allah, fasting properly, reading Quran, fearing Allah in all your actions and seeking Laylatul Qadr.
Fasting is Compulsory
This rule states that every Muslim who is fit to fast must take part in the fasting of Ramadan. Fasting the month of Ramadan is Obligatory as clearly stated in the Quran and Sunnah.
Allah says in the Quran:
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (Quran 2:183)
The Prophet also narrated in a hadith saying that “Islam is built on five pillars …” among which he mentioned fasting in the month of Ramadan. (Bukhari)
Thus, whoever breaks the fast during Ramadan without a legitimate excuse has committed a major sin.
Eat secretly when you are not fasting
If your reason for not fasting is obvious, such as sickness, there is nothing wrong if you decide to eat or drink openly. However, if your reason is hidden, such as menstruation, it is better to eat and drink in secret, so as not to attract accusations and the like.
Break the fast as soon as the sun disappears
You should break your fast once you notice that the entire shape of the sun has disappeared. Do not pay attention to the red glow that remain on the horizon, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Once night comes from there and the day disappears from there, and the sun has set, the fasting person should break his fast.” (Al-Bukhari)
It is sunnah to hasten in breaking the fast. It is reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would not pray Maghrib until he had broken his fast, if only with a sip of water.
However, if you cannot find anything to break your fast, you should have the intention in your heart to break it.
Insha’Allah, I will try as much as possible to update this article with more fasting rules and etiquettes you need to know in the Holy month of Ramadan.