The Etiquettes of Fasting in the Light of Ramadhan


Suhoor (The pre-dawn meal)

It is recommended to eat a pre-dawn meal and there is no sin upon one who does not do so. Anas may Allah be pleased with him reported that the Messenger of Allah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) said: “Eat a pre-dawn meal, for there are blessings in it.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

The reason is that it strengthens the fasting person, makes him more energetic, and makes fasting easier for him.

i) The minimum amount to eat in the pre-dawn meal
Eating a small or large quantity of food, or even by drinking just a sip of water suffices the person and he is considered to have adhered to the Prophetic recommendation. Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) said: “The pre-dawn meal is blessed, so do not neglect it even if you only take a sip of water. Verily, Allah and the angels pray for those who have the pre-dawn meals.” [Ahmad]

ii) The time for the pre-dawn meal
The time for the pre-dawn meal is between the middle of the night and dawn. It is considered best to delay it (that is, as close to dawn as possible). Zayd Ibn Thabit, may Allah be pleased with him, reported: “We ate the pre-dawn meal with the Messenger of Allah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) and then we got up for the prayer. He may Allah be pleased with him was asked: ‘What was the amount of time between the two?’ He may Allah be pleased with him responded: ‘The time it would take to recite fifty verses.’” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

iii) Doubt concerning the time of Fajr (dawn)
If one is in doubt whether or not the time of Fajr has begun, he may continue to eat and drink until he is certain that it is Fajr. He should not base his action on doubt or suspicion. Allah has made the signs for beginning the fast very clear and unambiguous. Allah Says (what means): {…Eat and drink until the white thread of the dawn becomes distinct from the black thread [of the night]…} [Quran 2:187]

A man said to Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him,: “I eat until I suspect that its time (i.e. Suhoor) has ended so I stop.” Ibn ‘Abbas may Allah be pleased with him observed: “Continue to eat until you are certain about the time.” Abu Dawood, may Allah have mercy upon him, reported that Ahmad Ibn Hanbal may Allah have mercy upon him said: “If you are not sure whether or not it is time for Fajr, then eat until you are sure dawn has come.”

Hastening in breaking the fast

It is preferred for the fasting person to hasten in breaking the fast when the sun has set. Sahl Ibn Sa’d, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) said: “People will continue to be upon virtue so long as they hasten in breaking the fast.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

It is recommended to break the fast by eating an odd number of dates or, if that is not available, then by drinking some water. Anas may Allah be pleased with him reported: “The Messenger of Allah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) would break his fast with ripe dates before he would pray. If those were not available, he sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) would eat dried dates. If those were not available, he would drink some water.” [Abu Dawood, Al-Hakim and At-Tirmithi]

Sulayman Ibn ‘Amr, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) said: “If one of you is fasting, let him break his fast with dates. If dates are not available, then with water, for water is purifying.” [Ahmad and At-Tirmithi]

The preceding narration also shows that it is preferred to break the fast in the above manner before praying. After the prayer, the person may continue to eat, but if the evening meal is ready, one may begin with that. Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of Allah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) said: “If the food is already presented, eat before praying the sunset prayer and do not eat your meals in haste.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Supplications while breaking the fast and while fasting

It is confirmed that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) would say upon breaking his fast: “The thirst has gone, the glands are wet and, Allah willing, the reward is confirmed.” [Abu Dawood]

The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) also said: “Three people will not have their supplications rejected: a fasting person until he breaks his fast, a just ruler, and an oppressed person.” [At-Tirmithi]

Refraining from performing any actions that do not befit fasting

Fasting is an act of worship that draws one closer to Allah. Allah has prescribed it to purify the soul and to train it in good deeds. The fasting person must be on guard against any act that may cause him to lose the benefits of his fast. Thus, his fast will increase his Taqwa (God-consciousness), as Allah Says (what means): {O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may attain God-consciousness.} [Quran 2:183]

This entails that fasting is not just refraining from eating and drinking, but it is also refraining from everything else that Allah has forbidden. Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) said: “Fasting is not abstaining from eating and drinking only, but also from vain speech and foul language. If one of you is being cursed or annoyed, he should say: “I am fasting, I am fasting.” [Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Hibban and Al-Hakim]

To stress the importance of having one’s fast reflecting on his actions, the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) said: “Allah does not need the fast of one who does not abandon false speech or acting according to his false speech.” [Al-Bukhari]

Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) said: “Perhaps a fasting person will get nothing from his fast save hunger, and perhaps the one who stands to pray at night will get nothing from his standing except sleeplessness.” [An-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, and Al-Hakim]

Using Miswak (a tooth stick) or a brush

It is preferred for the fasting person to use a tooth stick or a brush. There is no difference if he uses it at the beginning or the ending of the day. It is confirmed that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) used tooth stick [Miswak] while fasting.

Being generous and studying the Quran

Being generous and studying the Quran is recommended during any time, but it is especially stressed during the month of Ramadhan. Al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy upon him, recorded that Ibn ‘Abbas may Allah be pleased with him said: “The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) was the most generous of people, but he would be most generous during Ramadhan when he would meet with Jibreel [the angel Gabriel]. He would meet with him every night and recite the Quran. When Jibreel met him, he sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) would be faster in spending charity than a fast wind.”

Striving to perform as many acts of worship as possible during the last ten days of Ramadhan

Al-Bukhari and Muslim, may Allah have mercy upon them, recorded from A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, that during the last ten days of Ramadhan, the Messenger of Allah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allah exalt his mention) would awaken his wives during the night and then remain apart from them (refrain from sexual relations with his wives and concentrate on worship). A version in Muslim reads: “He sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam ( may Allah exalt his mention ) would strive [to do acts of worship] during the last ten days of Ramadhan more than he would at any other time.”


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Let Us Enliven The Month of Dhul Hijjah

The month of Dhul Hijjah (Zulhijjah) is among the greatest and special months in the Sight of Allah. It is from among the four sacred (haraam) months in Islam, as mentioned by Allah in verse 36 of surah at-Tawbah (which means):

“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred…” [Al-Quran, surah at-Tawbah, verse 36]

The four sacred months referred to in the verse are as explained by the Prophet in the hadith of Abu Bakrah (which means):

“The division of time has turned to its original form which was current when Allah created the Heavens and the Earths. The year is of twelve months, out of which four months are sacred: Three are in succession Dhul Qa’idah, Dhul Hijjah and Muharram, and (the fourth is) Rajab of (the tribe of) Mudar which comes between Jumada ath-Thaaniyah and Sha’baan.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)

The glory and honor of the month of Dhul Hijjah can be seen with the legislation of the ibadah of Hajj and ibadah of qurbaani; with the increasing of dhikr, takbeer, and tahmeed, as well as other righteous deeds. Ibn ‘Abbaas narrated (which means): “The Prophet said: ‘There are no days during which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these days [meaning the first ten days of Dhul- Hijjah].'” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)

Ibn ‘Umar also narrated that the Prophet said (which means):

“There are no days that are greater before Allah in which good deeds are more beloved to Him than these ten days, so recite a great deal of tahleel, takbeer, and tahmeed during them.” (Ahmad)

Hence, among the righteous deeds recommended to be practiced in this month is to increase our fasting especially on the Day of ‘ArafahVerily, the virtue of fasting specifically on the Day of ‘Arafah is based on the narration of Abu Qatadah, where Rasulullah said(which means):

“Fast the Day of ‘Arafah, I hope from Allah, expiates for the sins of the year before and the year after.” (Narrated by Muslim)

Dhul Hijjah invites us to continue in taqarrub (attaining nearness) to Allah by increasing our sadaqah (charity), dhikr, tahleel, istighfar, and tawbah to Allah, in addition to leaving out all disobedience and sinful acts. Aside from that supererogatory ‘ibadah, the Muslim ummah is highly recommended to engage in takbeer beginning after the Subh prayer on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah until the sun sets on the 13th of Dhul Hijjah. In the hadith of ‘Ali and ‘Amar: They said (which means):

“The Messenger of Allah used to make the takbeer from the Fajr prayer of the Day of ‘Arafah and would stop them after the ‘Asr prayer of the final day of the Days of Tashreeq [13th of Dhul Hijjah].” (Narrated by al-Haakim)

This takbeer must be done as jahr (audible) in extolling the shi’aar (symbols) of the Muslims. The time for Takbeer Muqayyad (specific) on the day of ‘Eid al-Adha begins from the time of Subh on the Day of ‘Arafah until the sun sets on the third day of the Days of Tashreeq. Meaning, when the time of Subh of 9th Dhul Hijjah enters, the sunnah is for those not performing hajj to make takbeer after completing every fard and sunnah prayer, up until the time of ‘Asr on the 13th of Dhul Hijjah, totaling the period for takbeer to five days and four nights

To end this, let us give undivided attention to the following matters:

  1. The Muslim Ummah must have certainty that glorifying the great days of Islam including the month of Dhul Hijjah is from among the signs of imaan and taqwa of Allah.
  2. The Muslim ummah is highly encouraged to embrace the arrival of Dhul Hijjah with various righteous deeds such as praying in jama’ah at the masjid, increasing the recitation of al-Qur’an, strengthen the silaaturrahm, avoiding fitnah and tattletale.
  3. The Muslim Ummah must always remain dedicated to performing righteous deeds with full sincerity towards Allah.

And Allah knows best.

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Earning The Rewards of Al-Qur’an in The Noble Month of Ramadan.

It is generally known that Ramadan is a month in which we are highly recommended to increase our ‘ibadah (worship). Allah will reward every good deed, and even multiplies the reward of ‘ibadah performed in this month far greater than those performed in other months. In addition to obligatory acts, we are highly encouraged to increase our deeds by performing the Sunnah (supererogatory) acts. For example, performing the sunnah prayers specifically Taraweeh, giving sadaqah (charity), performing i’tikaf, attending circles of knowledge, and reciting al-Qur’an. Its virtues have been explained by Rasulullah in the hadith of ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa, where the Prophet said (which means):

“The sleep of the fasting person is worship, his silence is tasbeeh (glorification), his du’a (supplication) is answered and his good deeds will be multiplied.” [Narrated by al-Bayhaqi]

Al-Qur’an was revealed as rahmah (mercy) to the worlds. This holy book is filled with advice and guidance for mankind in wading through the life of this world and also the Hereafter. Al-Qur’an is the Word of Allah, and it is a mu’jizah (miracle) that was revealed to Rasulullah through angel Jibreel. It is a noble book that was sent down on a night that is full of barakah (blessings). Allah mentions in verse 3 of surah ad-Dukhan (which means):

“Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. Indeed, We were to warn.” [Al-Quran, surah ad-Dukhan, verse 3].

Reciting al-Qur’an is an ‘ibadah in Islam and its reciters will be rewarded for doing so. Regarding this, in the hadith of ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud, Rasulullah said (which means):

“[Whoever recites a letter] from Allah’s Book, then he receives the reward from it, and the reward of ten the like of it. I do not say that Alif Lam Mim is a letter, but Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter and Mim is a letter.” [Narrated by at-Tirmidhi].

Reciting al-Qur’an has tremendous virtues. In addition to attaining rewards from Allah, its reciter will also be granted shafa’ah (intercession) on the Day of Judgment. In the hadith of Abu Umamah al-Bahiliy, Rasulullah said (which means):

“Recite the Qur’an, for on the Day of Resurrection it will come as an intercessor for those who recite it.” [Narrated by Muslim].

In the hadith of ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr, Rasulullah said (which means):

“Fasting and the Qu’ran will intercede for the servant on the Day of Resurrection.” [Narrated by Ahmad].

Therefore, with all the chances and opportunities bestowed upon us in this glorious month, let us altogether strive to increase our provision of good deeds with the following deeds. Among them is increasing the recitation of al-Qur’an. Imam an-Nawawi mentioned that it is from the sunnah to fully concentrate upon the recitation of al-Qur’an in the month of Ramadan. This is especially in the last ten days, and specifically on the odd nights.

Let us strive to increase our recitation of al-Qur’an far above other months. If we are used to only complete reciting the entire al-Qur’an in six months or even a year, then in this noble month let us instill the determination to complete it once within one month. It is truly a blessing for those that can complete the recitation twice or thrice in this noble month of Ramadan. Let us substitute our leisure times with the recitation of al-Qur’an, instead of browsing the Internet, Facebook, and others. With the increased recitation of al-Qur’an, may we attain multiple rewards offered by Allah.

In revitalizing this noble month, many mosques are determined in organizing various spiritual programs. Among the ones that are given emphasis and due attention are tadarrus (recitation) and tadabbur (reflection) of al-Qur’an, qiyam al-layl (night prayer), dawrah kitab (intensive study of a book), i’tikaf, and others.

To sum it up, let us altogether derive lessons upon the following matters:

  1. The Muslim Ummah must have certainty that reciting al-Qur’an will increase one’s iman in Allah.
  2. The Muslim Ummah must be passionate about increasing righteous deeds so as to earn all of the virtues and rewards in the month of Ramadan.
  3. The Muslim Ummah must tadabbur (ponder) and thoroughly practice upon the teachings of al-Qur’an, for they are guidance in our worldly lives in attaining blissfulness in this world and the Hereafter.

Ramadhan: The Month of Fasting

God says in the Quran, the holy book of Islam (which means):

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous”

Al-Quran, surah Al-Baqarah, verse 183

Islam teaches that Allah sent many prophets since the beginning of the human race, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon all of them). Hence, Islam shares core values such as belief in God as well as a commitment to justice and virtue with Christianity and Judaism; similarly, fasting in one form or another is common to all three Abrahamic faiths and, indeed, to the vast majority of religions across the world.

In Islam, fasting is one of the major acts of worship and a means of attaining God-consciousness. Along with the physical aspects of fasting, its spiritual dimensions purify the soul, instill self-reflection and inspire virtuous living.

Fasting is a common form of worship among the various religions across the world. Its spiritual benefits are widely recognised even though its frequency, practice and duration may differ from faith to faith. Islam places great importance on the act of fasting, calling it one of the pillars of worship, along with prayer, charity and pilgrimage.

Ramadhan: An Annual Retreat

Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which begins with the sighting of the new moon. During this month, Muslims worldwide are obligated to abstain completely from food, drink and sexual relations from dawn to dusk, culminating in a release of restrictions at sunset. The fast, as per the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, is broken with dates followed by a meal which varies from culture to culture.

However, fasting is not mandatory on those for whom it would constitute a difficulty. For instance, people who are sick or travelling can postpone their fast until their illness or journey is over. The elderly, the weak, the mentally ill and those who have a chronic illness that prevents them from fasting, are all exempted during Ramadhan. They may feed a needy person for every missed day if they can afford to do so.

Fasting is observed as an act of obedience to God, one for which He has reserved special blessings. The fasting person is rewarded manifold for all good deeds. In addition, according to a saying of Prophet Muhammad, whoever fasts and prays during Ramadhan with pure intentions will have their past sins forgiven.

At the same time, Prophet Muhammad taught his followers to remain conscious of the deeper significance behind their fast, saying, “Whoever does not abandon falsehood in word and action, then God has no need that they should leave their food and drink.” Therefore, fasting is multidimensional – along with the physical aspects of fasting, one must nurture the social and spiritual elements as well in order to fully benefit from fasting.

In essence, fasting in the month of Ramadhan is a yearly opportunity for Muslims to physically and spiritually revive themselves. Fasting redirects the heart away from worldly affairs and towards the remembrance of God. During Ramadhan, Muslims focus on strengthening their relationship with their Creator. The self-restraint practised in Ramadhan makes the heart and mind accustomed to the remembrance of God and to the obedience of His commandments.

Fasting during Ramadhan is, therefore, a spiritual regimen and a reorientation for the body and mind. It is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer and good deeds. The spiritual cleansing during the month of Ramadhan results in renewed determination to worship God throughout the year.

Benefits of Fasting

Fasting is intended to instil self-discipline, empathy and compassion in the individual. Muslims are motivated to increase their generosity during this month. They are encouraged to share the blessings that God has provided them by giving generously in charity because wealth is regarded as a trust from God.

Indeed, fasting makes people more aware of the many bounties of God. Experiencing hunger and thirst allows us to feel the desperation of hunger and leads us to empathise with those who don’t know when they will eat their next meal.

“Fasting allows us to experience once a year what many throughout the world experience almost daily. Hunger, for them, is not a choice; it is simply a fact of life”

Says Hamza Yusuf, a renowned Muslim leader based in California.

Fasting also reminds us of the importance of appreciating what we have and minimising waste. From His generosity, God continuously graces us with His favours, and fasting reinforces the concept that wasting the Creator’s bounties is a sign of ingratitude to Him.

Fasting builds endurance. As the lunar year continually shifts, Muslims encounter Ramadhan in varying seasons – from the sluggishly long summer days to the short, crisp wintry weeks. Muslims of all walks of life manage their work duties irrespective of the weather and the fast, although often on a shortened schedule; this includes professionals as well as manual workers such as paddlers and day labourers. In countries where Muslims are a minority, they maintain a full workload on empty stomachs, balancing their added worship in the early mornings, evenings and weekends along with their normal work routines.

When the month of Ramadhan arrives, it brings a heightened sense of community with it. Muslim families often wake up together before sunrise for an early breakfast. They also invite one another to break their fast together, which creates friendship and stronger ties among neighbours, families and friends. Many people also bring meals to mosques to share with the community, especially the poor, the needy, the travellers and those who do not have families. Together, they also make it a point to go to the mosque for the nightly Ramadhan prayers.

The Month of Quran

God began revealing the Quran to Prophet Muhammad during Ramadhan in the year 610 C.E. The Quran, the final revelation from God, is often read and memorised in its original Arabic language, preserving the divine order and structure of this book. In Ramadhan, Muslims are encouraged to focus as much time as possible on reading, listening and understanding the Quran as a means of coming closer to God.

One of the ways Muslims become nearer to the Quran during Ramadhan is through extended congregational prayers offered in the late evening after the breaking of the fast. Over the course of the month, the entire Quran is commonly recited in these night prayers. This is an opportunity for Muslims to become spiritually connected to God and reflect on His words of guidance.

As Abdul Wahid Hamid explains in his book, Islam, the Natural Way:

Ramadhan is a month of heightened devotion. In it, prayer is performed with greater intensity. There are extra prayers on Ramadhan nights… In the last ten days of Ramadhan, some retreat to the mosque to perform Itikaf (seclusion) at the local mosque, a period of intense reflection and devotion, seeking guidance and forgiveness, and reading the Quran. Ramadhan is a great opportunity to get closer to the blessed guidance of the Quran which was revealed in this month. Ramadhan is also called the month of the Quran.

Muslims believe that the last ten nights of Ramadhan are the holiest of all, and strive to increase their worship during that time even more. The most sacred night of all, the Night of Power, falls on one of the odd-numbered nights in the last third of Ramadhan. God mentions in the Quran that the Night of Power is better than one thousand months (97:3). In other words, the worship of this one night is worth more than the worship of a thousand months. As a result, Muslims seek this special night by staying awake in worship during the odd-numbered nights from the last ten days of Ramadhan.

Although fasting may seem severe and difficult, it is truly a gratifying time for Muslims. Every year, Muslims experience a unique excitement and jubilation as Ramadhan approaches. Homes are cleaned, groceries are stocked, children are prepped – and, above all, many resolutions are made.

Even as the day’s routine of work and home continue, Muslims make extra time for spiritual nourishment and self-introspection. Commitments ranging from the recitation and study of the Quran to increased charity to nightly attendance of additional prayers are commonly made to reap the rewards of the fasting month.

And, as the month draws to a close, a sense of sadness overcomes the worshippers, wistful at the departure of the blessed month which seemed to have flown by.

Eid-ul-Fitr Celebration

The end of Ramadhan is marked by the sighting of the new moon, which is followed by a day of celebration known as Eid-ul-Fitr. Families wake up early in the morning, put on their best clothes and go to the mosque for a brief Eid sermon and congregational prayer. They thank God for giving them the opportunity to experience the holy month of Ramadhan. The day is filled with celebration, socializing, festive meals and modest gift-giving, especially to children.

Before attending the Eid prayer, the head of the household or guardian gives a special charity on behalf of each dependent family member called Zakat-ul-Fitr. This is the giving of a meal to a needy person to make sure that none are excluded from this happy occasion and to encourage people to continue the spirit of generosity after Ramadhan as well.

The Eid celebration is not merely about feasting and socializing. There is a deep significance for those who truly observed the holy month with their fasting, abstaining from all bad habits and striving hard to earn the pleasure of God. Muslims feel a sense of happiness and a renewed energy to face the rest of the year with faith and determination – until next Ramadhan!

“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.”

Al-Quran, surah Al-Baqarah, verse 185