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Ramadan: The Month of Fasting Print E-mail


In 2021 Ramadan begins the night of April 11th with Tarawih prayers; the first day of fasting is on Monday, April 12th, insha'allah.

I. What is Ramadan?

A. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar . It is the most important month of the year. Ramdan is the month of the soul. The arrival of this blessed month is greeted with joy. For in it, the doors of heaven are opened further for the faithful and the Divine Compassion descends upon those who seek it. During Ramadan the believers turn to Allah seeking His mercy, forgiveness, and protection. This is the month for renewing our commitment and reestablishing our relationship with our Creator. For those on the Path, the knowers, it is a special time to be with Allah, to be with Him in everything - to be in the station of la ilaha illa-llah.

B. The Traditions of the Prophet:
1. On the last day of Sha‘ban [the Islamic month before Ramadan], Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, gave the following sermon: Oh, people , there comes upon you now a great month, a most blessed month in which lies a night greater in worth than one thousand months. It is a month in which God as made compulsory that the prescribed fasting should be observed by day: and He has made the Special Prayer (tarawih) by night a Tradition. Whosoever tries drawing nearer to God by performing any virtuous deed in this month, for him shall be such reward as if he has performed a prescribed act of worship in any other time of the year. And whoever performs a prescribed act of worship for God, for him shall be the reward of seventy prescribed act of worship in any other time of the year. This is indeed the month of patience, and the reward for true patience is paradise. It is the month of sympathy with one’s fellow human beings; it is the month wherein a true believer’s provisions is increased. Whosoever feeds a person performing the prescribed fast in order to end the fast at sunset for him there shall be forgiveness of his sins and emancipation from the hellfire and for him shall be the same reward as for him whom he fed, without that person’s reward being diminished in the least.’

Thereupon, we said, “Oh Messenger of God, not all of us possess the means whereby we can provide enough for a prescribed fasting person to break the prescribed fast.’ The Messenger replied,’God grants this same reward to one who gives a person who is performing the prescribed fast a single date or a drink of water or a sip of milk to end the prescribed fast. This is a month, the first part of which brings God’s Mercy, the middle of which brings God forgiveness and the last part of which brings emancipation from hellfire. Whosoever lessens the burden of God’s servants in this month, God will forgive that person and free him from hell-fire.’ He also said; And in this month, four things you should endeavor to perform in great number, two of which shall be to please your Lord, while the other two shall be those without which you cannot make do. Those which shall be to please your Lord, are that you should in great quantity recite the testimony bearing witness to the oneness of God, “la ilaha illa-llah,: and beg God’s forgiveness for your wrongdoings, And as for those two without which you cannot make do you should beg God for entry into paradise and seek refuge with God from hellfire.’ And whoever gave water to drink to a person who had performed the prescribed fast, God shall grant him a drink from my fountain such a drink where after he shall never again feel thirsty until he enters paradise.’      

 2. “When Ramadan comes, the gates of Heaven are opened, the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained.” And in a narration from Nasa’i, the following words are added: “and a caller calls out everynight: ‘Oh, seeker of Good, draw near! Oh seeker of Evil, desist!’”

C. Ramadan is the month during which the Holy Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, through the Angel Jibril: “Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur’an as a guide to humanity and as a clear sign for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So anyone of you who witnesses the month should spend it in fasting...” (2:185 1)

1. This verse was revealed on Monday, the 2nd of Sha‘ban, in the second year of Hijrah 2. Before this verse, Muslims were

commanded to fast three days in every month (2:183)

D. The following hadith established fasting during the month of Ramadan as one of the pillars on which this religion is built: “Islam is built on five pillars: testimony that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah, and testimony that Muhammad is His messenger; establishing Salah, giving Zakah, observing the fast of Ramadan, and pilgrimage to the House of Allah” (Bukhari/Muslim 3)

E. Ramadan is derived from the Arabic root word ramida or ar-ramad denoting intense scorching heat and dryness, especially the ground. This relationship of the sun on the sand is similar to the month Ramadan in that it is the burning up of sins with good deeds. Ramadan helps a serious believer remold, reshape, reform, and renew his physical and spiritual disposition and behavior.

II. Fasting in Ramadan

A. Who Must Fast Ramadan

1. “Oh you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may acquire self-restraint” (2:183)

2. Every Muslim who:

a. has reached puberty
b. is sane
c. is capable of bearing the fast
d. and if females, is not in the period of menstruation or postnatal bleeding.

B. Those Not Obligated to Fast Ramadan

1. Those who are not obligated to fast nor to make up missed fast days.

a. non-Muslim
b. a child
c. someone insane or retarded
d. an elderly person who can not bear fasting
e. or having a terminal illness

f. “On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear...” (2:286)

g. Note: Before fasting of Ramadan was prescribed to the believers, everyone was given a choice between fasting or feeding. This is what is meant in Surah Al-Baqarah : “...for those who can do it (with hardship) is a ransom, the feeding of indigent...”(2: 184) This verse was abrogated by the verse of Ramadan, “...So anyone of you who witnesses the month should spend it in fasting...” (2:185). When a believer in incapable of fasting, feeding the poor becomes a substitute.

2. Those who are not required to fast though they are obliged to make up for fast days missed.

a. “Fasting is for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (missed) should be made up...” (2:184)

b. those who are seriously ill ( Illness: where fasting would worsen, delay recovery , or cause one considerable harm; dispensation given to someone who needs to take medicine during the day that breaks the fast and that he can not delay taking until night)

1. “Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves, for Allah has been to you Most Merciful” (4:29)

2. “And make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction...” (2:195)

c. excessive hunger or thirst, meaning likely to cause death or illness, are legitimate excuses not to fast, even when they occur on a day one has already begun to fast, as soon as the fast becomes a hardship.

d. those traveling. The traveler has a choice between fasting and breaking the fast.

1. It is preferable for travelers not to fast if fasting would harm them, though if not, then fasting is better. “But if any one is ill or on a journey, (he ought to fast) anumber of other days. Allah desires ease and does not desire hardship for you...” (2:185)

2. This was the preference of the Prophet (saas 4) as related by Abi Darda (raa 5), who said: "We journeyed with the Prophet (saas) during Ramadan when it was an extremely hot (season). Some of us shaded ourselves with our hands, because of the extreme heat. No one was fasting among us except the Prophet and Abdullah bin Abi Rawahah. The Prophet broke his fast in consideration for his companions when he knew that the fast was getting the best of the companions and bringing on them an unnecessary hardship." (Muslim)

3. In another hadith reported by Jabir Bin Abdullah (raa): "When the Prophet (saas) journeyed to Makkah, in the year of victory, he fasted until he reached a place known as Kara'ah Al-Ghamin. He was informed that the companions who were fasting were having difficulty with the fast. So, they were waiting to see what he would do. The Prophet (saas) then requested a goblet full with water after ‘Asr prayer and drank it while everyone was looking." (Muslim)

e. a woman who is menstruating or has postnatal bleeding.

f. woman who is breast-feding a baby or is pregnant

g. Making up fast days: someone is not able to fast (for example, the the case of the old, or ill, or pregnant)

1. You should make up missed days
2. and feed one person per day

C. Sighting the New Moon

1. “Whoever is present during the month should spend it in fasting...” (2:185)

2. Fasting Ramadan is only obligatory when the new crescent moon (hilal) of Ramadan is sighted. If it is too overcast to be seen, then the preceding month of Sha‘ban is presumed to last for thirty days, after which people begin fasting Ramadan.

a. Abu Hurairah (raa) related the Messenger of Allah (saas) said: “Fast by sighting the hilal (the new crescent moon), and break your fast by sighting. If there is a cloud, complete the counting of Sha’aban 30 days. (Bukhari/Muslim)

3. The testimony of a single witness is sufficient to establish that the month of Ramadan has come, provided the witness is upright, male, and responsible for the duties of Islam.

a. Ibn Umar (raa) reported, “During the time of the Prophet (saas), the companions went looking for the new crescent. So I told the Prophet (saas) that I saw it. So he fasted and told the companions to fast.” (Abu Dawud/Hakim 6)

4. Because in the lunar calendar the month could be 29 or 30 days, the sighting time of the new crescent moon begins on the 29th of the month shortly before or after sunset while there is still some light in the sky. It does not remain in the horizon very long.

5. The month of Ramadan ends when 2 people witness the new crescent moon of the Shawwal.

D. Basic Elements of Fasting

1. The Intention

a. One must make the intention to fast for each day one fasts:
be specific, and make the intention in the night prior to dawn. Example: O Allah, for Your sake and for Your sake alone, I intend to fast from now until the time of Maghrib.

b. “And they have been commanded no more than to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion.” (98:5) (Fasting is an act of worship when we intend to do it for Allah alone)

c. Hadith related by ‘Umar bin Al-Kattab (raa): “I heard the Messenger of Allah (saas) :’Deeds are but by intention, and every man shall have all but that which he intended, Thus, he whose migration was for Allah and His Messenger, his migration was for Allah and His Messenger, and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his migration was for that for which he migrated.’” (Bukhari/Muslim)

2. Refraining from things which break the fast from Fajr until Magrib:

a. Each of these things invalidates the day’s fast when one knows they are unlawful and remembers one is fasting:

1. eating,
2. drinking,
3. snuff, (up the nose)
4. sexual intercourse
5. deliberate vomiting.

b. The criterion as to whether something invalidates the fast is: a substance that reaches the body cavity through an open passageway.

3. It is recommended to break the fast without any delay as soon as the sun goes down.

a. “...And now associate with them and seek what Allah has ordained for you and eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread.” (2:187)

4. Things that do not break a fast

a. The fast remains valid if any of the things which break it are done absentmindedly or out of ignorance.
1. having a wet dream
2. involuntary vomiting
3. some water reaching the body cavity as a result of rinsing out the mouth or nose, provided not much water was used.

5. Involuntary acts which invalidate the fast 

a. insanity, even for a moment
b. being unconscious the entire day
c. the appearance of menstrual or post-natal flow

6. Recommended Measures while fasting

a. Predawn meal is recommended even if it is slight or consists of water alone.
1. "Take your early morning meal for in that is a blessing." (Bukhari/Muslim)

b. It is best to hasten breaking the fast when one is certain that the sun has set. One should break it with an odd number of dates, though if one has none, water is best. It is recommended to say after doing so, “O Allah, for You I fasted, and upon Your bounty I have broken the fast.”

1. The Prophet (saas) used to break fast with fresh, ripe dates (rutub), before he offered his Maghrib prayer. If they were not available, he would break with regular dates, or drink water if there were no dates." (Abu Dawud; Tirmidhi 7).

c. The first meal at the time of iftaar, the fast breaking meal, precedes evening prayer, Maghrib. The procedure at Iftaar goes like this: break with a light meal, preferably dates, make Iqamah for Maghrib prayer, then take your regular meal.

d. Not to overeat

7. Making up Missed Fast day

a. It is recommended to do so consecutively and immediately.

b. It is not permissible for a person with some unperformed fast-days of Ramadan to delay making them up until the next Ramadan unless there is an excuse for delaying.

c. If one delays, then there is a payment of food to the poor.

d. "The prescribed number (should be made up) from days later." (2:185) 

e. It is prohibited to fast on the feast days, ‘Eid al-Fitr and ‘Eid al-Adha 8

8. If one intentionally breaks his fast, he must make it up by:
a. fasting two consecutive months
b. feeding 60 poor people an average meal. ($10 per meal)

III. Recommendations during Ramadan

A. To be generous The acts of charity and benevolence toward the less forturnate, for the sake of Allah, are highly desired on all occasions, but more so during the blessed month of  Ramadan.                

3. "Have mercy upon those on earth, and those in heaven will have mercy upon you." (Abu Dawud/Tirmidhi)

B. To improve one’s relations with family and relatives

C. To recite the Qur’an much

1. It is the month of the Qur’an, with regards to revelation and study. “The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Qur’an.”(2:185)

2. On the authority of Ibn “Abbas: Angel Gabriel used to meet the Prophet every night in Ramadan and used to study Qur’an with him.

D. Remember the Name throughout the day

E. To spend periods of spiritual retreat in the mosque, especially during the last ten days of Ramadan

1. Hadith: the Messenger's wife, 'Aishah, (raa), related that: "When the month of Ramadan enters its last ten days, the Messenger of Allah (saas) spends his night praying and wakes up his family to join him, and he would tighten his belt." (Bukhari /Muslim)

F. To break the fast with others after sunset, even if only with water

1. Fasting enhances and energizes friendship, as Ramadan is known as the month of invitations and visitations. Friends, family members and neighbors extend invitations to each other to come to their homes to have Iftar together. The Messenger said, "When a believer invites you, you should respond."

G. If in a state of major ritual impurity to perform the purificatory bath (ghusl) before dawn or when one gets up.

IV. The Deeper Meanings of the Fast

A. Fasting - the Shari‘a

1. The fasting of the average Muslim involves refraining from satisfying the appetite of the stomach and the desire for sex.

a. Increases our Taqwa or holy fear. “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” (2:183) Taqwa is translated as self-restraint. The goal is to learn to shun wrongdoing, to have discipline and self restraint.

b. Purification
c. Patience

d. Understanding of the suffering of the poor and hungry. When
you feel hungry, you feel what the poor feel and you are
moved togive help to those who are needy.

B. Fasting - The Tariqa

1. At-Tariqa denotes your striving towards Allah

2. Fasting is a spiritual discipline: a discipline of inner purification as well as outer asceticism.

a. The fasting of the Sufi is to keep the ears, the eyes, the tongue and the hands free from sin or harmful actions.

1. Tongue: lying, backbiting, obscenity
2. Ears: listening to (being a partner) in backbiting, obscenity, idle talk...
3. Eyes: coveting and looking with lust
4. Hands, feet from unlawful and forbidden acts of Divine Law
5. Tongue should be in remembrance of God

b. In a hadith reported by Abu Hurairah, the Messenger of Allah (saas) said: It is not fasting, just to restrain from food and drink, instead the fast is to cease from idle talk (laghw), obscenity, and should anyone insult or provoke you, or act ignorantly towards you, respond to it by saying, 'I am fasting, I am indeed fasting.'" (Ibn Khuzaimah 9)

c. In another citation reported by Abu Hurairah (raa) the Messenger of Allah, (saas), said: "He who does not stop from false talk or stop from acting upon false talk, Allah will have no need that he abstain from his food and drink." (Bukhari)

d. Jabir on the authority of Anas related that the Messenger of Allah (saa) said: “ There are five things that break the fast: telling lies, backbiting, telling tales, perjury, covetousness and lustful eyes.”

e. In a tradition, “the Messenger of Allah (saa) said: ’Indeed, fasting is a trust; let each, therefore, take good care of his trust.’ When he recited the verse ‘ Allah orders you all to hand back the trusts to their owners...’ he raised his hands so that they touched his ears and eyes and said: ‘The gift of hearing and sight are each a trust from Allah.’ Similarly the gift of speech is a trust...”

f. In a Hadith al-Qudsi reported by Abu Hurairah, the Messenger of Allah (saas) said: "All services of the son of Adam are for him except fasting. It is for Me, and I will reward him for it. Fasting is a shield. On the day you fast, do not use obscenity, nor yell at others, nor act ignorantly towards them. However, if anyone abuses you verbally or attempts to draw you to fight with him, say ‘I am fasting’ two times. The Prophet (saas) then states: I swore by the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, the breath of the faster is sweeter to Allah on the Day of Judgment than the scent of musk. The faster experiences enjoyment twice; he is pleased when he breaks his fast, and he is pleased when he meets his Maker.” (Muslim)

C. Fasting - the Haqiqa

1. Haqiqa denotes your witnessing Allah.

2. The fasting of the saint is the fast of the heart, that is to fast from all worldly concerns and to think only of Allah.

a. Sawm, to fast means: the complete withholding from everything except the Beloved, which is Allah.

b. Restrain your inner being from the passions of the ego and the attractions of the world
c. To abstain from mean thoughts and worries, and meanings (feelings)
d. To seek only God, and to turn away from all that is not He.

V. Tarawih Prayer (A special night prayer in Ramadan)

 A. Customarily prayed in congregation

B. Offered after the obligatory Isha prayer

C. 8 to 20 rakahs in cycles of 2 (like the morning prayer); after every 4th rakat, the tarawih supplication is recited.

VI. Lailat Al-Qadr (The Night of Power or the Night of Destiny)

A. The holiest night in the Islamic calendar

B. Marks the beginning of the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad

C. This night Allah sends down the angels with greetings of peace and mercy from Him.

D. It is recommended to seek the night and spend it diligently in devotion, including night Sunnah prayers (Tahajjud), recitation of Al-Qur'an and supplications.

E. In a hadith related by Abu Hurairah (raa), the Messenger of Allah (saas) said: "He who spends the night in prayer on the Night of Power, as a sign of His faith, and seeking rewards from Allah, his previous sins will be forgiven." (Bukhari/Muslim) This verse indicates that regardless of whether a person knows the night or not, Allah will grant him forgiveness for previous shortcomings.


innââ añzalnâhu fî laylati-l-qadår

wa mââ adårâka mââ laylatu-l-qadår

laylatu-l-qadåri khayrum-min alfi shahr

tanazzalu-l-malââ'ikatu wa-r-rûhu bi-idhni rabbihim miñ kulli amr

salâmun hiya hattâ matåla‘i-l-fajår

We have sent it down on the Night of Power.

If only you knew what is the Night of Power.

The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.

The angels and the Spirit descend thereon by the Leave of their Lord with every command.

It is peace, till the break of dawn"

(97th Surah)

VII. Duties after Ramadan

A. As the blessed month of Ramadan nears its end, there are thre important obligations to help the faster bid the month derserving farewell:

1. Zakah al-Fitr

a. The giving of fast breaking alms, the Zakah of ‘Eid Al-Fitr, is mandatory on every Muslim. In a hadith related by Abdullah bin ‘Umar (raa) he said: “The Messenger of Allah, has commanded the faster to observe Ramadan fast breaking alms, one Sa’a (a beaker, a unit of meaurement) of dates on a bondsman, a freeman, on every man and woman, young and old....”

1. Who should give: the householder should give for every member of his immediate family.

2. What should be given: staples; foodstuffs that can be stored naturally

3. How much should be given: a Sa’a is equivalent to 5 pounds - so 5 pounds per person.

4. When should it be given:

a. the best time: on the eve of ‘Eid al fitr or before the morning prayer of ‘Eid al Fitr.
b. the optional time to give alms is one or two days before ‘Eid, that is the 28th or 29th day of Ramandan.
c. must be given before ‘Eid prayer.
d. The recipients of the Alms
i. the poor and needy Muslims
ii. those in debt. 

b. The spiritual reason of fast breaking alms is a cleanser of the faster from mistakes or shortcomings during the month of Ramadan and to provide for the poor. "Of their goods take alms so that thou mightiest purify and sanctify them..." (9: 103)

 2. Eid al-fitr

a. The festival which marks the end of fasting and Ramadan
b. A time of good will, celebrating, rejoicing and praising God
c. Festival where people celebrate by visiting each other and eating together

VIII. Annual Zakah

A. One of the five pillars, Zakaah (alms) is what a believer returns out of their wealth to the neediest of Muslims for the sake of the Almighty Allah. It is called Zakaah because the word Zakaah is from Zakaa which means, to increase, purify and bless.

B. The obligation of Zakaah is mandatory on every Muslim who possesses the minimum Nisaab (the minimum amount that necessitates zakah).

C. It is a way that we give back to our God a portion of that which He has generously given to us. Ramadan is the month of giving and benevolence, the Messenger was more benevolent than a falling rain.

D. It purifies the soul of the fasting person

E. Sidi asks for 2.5% (one fortieth) of our net worth for the poor.


1 2:185 Notation for Surah (section, literally “enclosure”) and ayah (verse, literally “sign, token, evidence”) in the Qur’an; in this case the 185th ayah of the 2nd Surah, Surah al-Baqarah.
2 Hijrah the migration of the Muslims from persecution in Mecca to acceptance and flourishing in Medina; the Islamic calendar takes the Hijrah for its first year.
3 Bukhari/Muslim the two most important collections of hadith among Sunni Muslims, named for the scholars who collected and edited them. “Hadith” denote the reports of the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be prayer and peace.
4saas abbreviation for “salla-llahu ‘alayhi wa sallim”, peace and prayers of Allah be upon him, the recommended blessing to be spoken at each mention of the Prophet, peace and prayers of Allah be upon him! Not necessary to include in written texts but a good reminder for those new to this adab.
5 raa “radiya-llahu ‘anhu”, may Allah be well-pleased with him; blessing upon the Companions of the Prophet and sometimes used for later saints.
6 Abu Dawud/Hakim Major collections of Hadith.
7 Tirmidhi A major collection of Hadith.
8 Eid al-Adha the feast of Ibrahim and his son, upon them be peace, observed at the end of the annual Hajj, two months after Ramadan.
9 Ibn Khuzaimah collector of Hadith.