Islam (Submission to God) is one of the world’s three major religions, and is the final link in the Judeo-Christian Islamic tradition of monotheism (belief in One God). More than one billion Muslims (Submitters in English) follow this religion around the world. About 6 million Muslims live in the USA and close to a million Muslims call Australia home. They came originally from different countries from around the world and a large number are born in Australia.
Ramadan is one of two major religious celebrations for the Muslims during the year. The first occurs during and right after the month of Ramadan, the Islamic month during which Muslims (Submitters) fast. Right after the month of Ramadan, Muslims traditionally celebrate for three more days for completing the fasting month.
The second major Islamic celebration takes place during the time of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, (in modern-day Saudi Arabia). This week-long event occurs two months after Ramadan ends, during the 12th Islamic month. Muslims traditionally celebrate for four more days at the end of the pilgrimage season.
FASTING IS NOTHING NEW
Fasting is as old as the human race. All the major religions in the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, expect their followers to fast in some form or another.
The most common motives for fasting are religious ones. In a religious fast there are three primary purposes: self-control over the body and its appetites; focusing the mind on God or prayer; making sacrifice to God to purge offenses committed.
Although the number of occasions on which fasting is practiced has diminished over the centuries in some religions, most branches of Judaism still observe a Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) fast in the fall. Early Christianity developed a number of fasting periods: food was not consumed on Fridays in commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ.
Later a period of 40 fast days before Easter, called Lent, was established to allow Christians to meditate on the suffering of Jesus. In the 20th century the number of fast days has been dramatically reduced by the Roman Catholic church to two: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the beginning and end of Lent. In Islam abstention from food and drink is required of all able Muslims from dawn until dusk each day of the month of Ramadan.
THE LUNAR CALENDAR
Among the most important duties for a Muslim is fasting during the month of Ramadan, which is the ninth of the twelve months in the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims, like our cousins in faith the Jewish people, use a lunar calendar for their religious observances. A lunar year is about 11 days shorter than a typical Gregorian year. As a result, dates of events in the Islamic lunar year “move forward” about 11 days every year.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RAMADAN
Ramadan is important for Muslims because it is believed to be the month during which the Holy Quran (the Muslims Holy book) was revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad 570-632 C.E. (ﷺ and all the other Prophets of God). It is also important because it is the month during which the Muslims were ordered to fast, achieving one of their spiritual satisfaction and practice.
Muslims consider the Quran to be the true and final words of God given to humanity through Muhammad (sala Allahu alihi WasSalam), who is considered the last of the prophets. Muhammed (sala Allahu alihi wasSalam) was to call the people to monotheism and righteousness in affirmation of the chosen prophets and messengers of God before him. They include such figures as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day. This means not to eat, drink or smoke during the daylight hours. For married adults, it also includes refraining from marital relations during the hours of fasting (i.e. the daylight hours). The fasting person is expected to do his best to practice self-control and discipline, not to get angry easy, refrain from using harsh language or insults and to tolerate, forgive and respect others. Young children, old and sick people are not expected to fast. Older people can feed a poor person for every day they cannot fast of Ramadan. Sick people can compensate by fasting other days when they feel well. Children are permitted to fast only when they are strong enough physically to tolerate fasting without difficulty
Fasting has a number of benefits:
- It allows one to build a sense of self-control and will-power, which can be beneficial throughout life in dealing with temptations and peer-pressure. Through fasting, Muslims learn to control their natural urges such as hunger, thirst and the desire to smoke and thus are able to better resist temptations for things which are not necessary, such as excessive food intake, drugs or other unhealthy or harmful substances and behaviors.
- It helps one to feel compassion for those who are less fortunate and underprivileged, since each day one will feel greater appreciation for what he/she has as a result of feeling hunger and thirst.
- It offers a time for Muslims to “purify” their bodies as well as their souls, by developing a greater sense of humility, spirituality and community. Ramadan is a very spiritual time for Muslims, and often they share their experience with their friends and family members. A greater sense of generosity and forgiveness is also characteristic of this time. Giving to the poor and needy and sharing one’s fortune with them is expected during this month and encouraged for the rest of the year.
After the end of Ramadan, traditionally there will be a very festive and joyous holiday known as Eid, the Festival of Breaking the Fast. It is celebrated for three days. Children are often rewarded with gifts, money, and sweets. Lights and other decorations mark the happy occasion.
Excelling in Ramadan
It is never too late to prepare for Ramadan. You will never be too ready for the month. Plant some principles in your mind and heart so that you have something to achieve. Have the hunger of success. Have the ardent desire to succeed in Ramadan. Do you have that or do you think that you are not a strong achiever? Expect to succeed more Insha’Allah and have a hunger for success.
Alhamdulillah, Ramadan is an annual opportunity to review our goals in life. We adjust our schedules and know we will spend longer hours in the masjid and exhausted during the days. It is an exclusive opportunity for Muslims every year. As Muslims, we always feel that we are under achieving what we should be doing in Ramadan, and we all have the feeling that we could have done better and should have done more. At the end of the month, we regret so much of the time we spent wasted. There is always a chance for improvement every single Ramadan. Set your goals very high. Allah has set your goals higher than you can imagine and is helping you set your goals high. Go and try to achieve these goals. Build confidence that you can achieve these goals. Don’t beat yourself down. If you fail once, it does not mean you are a failure.
Do what you love in Ramadan. You may not be able to achieve anything, but start by achieving that which you like. If you like giving charity, then give more. If you like to read the Qur’an or spend more time in the masjid, do what you love the most.
Study the successful and learn from the best. Read the stories of the sahabah and the Prophet (ﷺ) and how much they achieved in Ramadan. Learn from them and learn their techniques.
Be in the company of the successful ones. Associate yourself with good company. Pick one or two people who are high achievers. Habits are contagious. If you associate yourself with low achievers, most likely that is what you will achieve.
Go all out and work so hard. It is once in perhaps your lifetime. It could be your last Ramadan. Only Allah knows. Make this opportunity like your first and last opportunity. You will definitely do your best and put every single effort to make it successful, particularly in the last ten nights.
Be adaptable and expect changes in plans. As you try to achieve your plans, some emergencies may come up, but it doesn’t mean you should quit. Adapt and move on based on the new change. Never cancel the schedule or program.
Remind yourself of the virtue of what you are doing. Keep handy the books on the virtues of fasting. Allah says in a hadith qudsi: “All the good deeds of the son of Adam are for himself except for fasting which is exclusively for Me, and I shall reward for it.” If you know that Allah is giving the reward, you know that it will be beyond your imagination.
Never ever give up, even if it is the last hour in the month of Ramadan. Make sure to use it wisely.
A Special Note to Teachers
As with other obligations in Islam (Submission to God to attain Peace within oneself and others), fasting becomes incumbent for those who can tolerate it without difficulty. Thus, Muslim students in your classes may be fasting during Ramadan.
Teachers are kindly requested to bear this in mind when planning activities, parties, etc. which may involve food or beverages.
The best course of action would be to ask your students about ways in which they can be accommodated. This is especially important in regards to Physical Education classes. P.E. teachers are requested to provide alternatives to rigorous physical exercise during this month for the fasting students.
Equally, teachers should expect the normal amount of academic productivity from their students. Fasting should not restrict a student from finishing their tasks and homework.
Some students may seek to spend free time reciting the Quran in a quiet place.
These are all ways we come together to share in the spirit of Ramadan – charity, joy, mateship and concern for our fellow man.
What is the meaning of “Siyam?”
The word “siyam” comes from the Arabic root word “sowm,” which means “to
Did Muslims fast before 2 A.H.?
Yes, in fact the Prophet ﷺand his companions (ra) used to fast on various days, including:
1. Day of Ashura (the exodus) when Allah delivered Musa ﷺand the Muslims of that time from the evil of Pharaoh. The Prophet ﷺ taught us to fast two days—either the day before or after plus the actual day of Ashura.
2. On the day of Arafat, if not making Hajj
3. The first 9 Days of dhul-Hijjah.
4. Mondays & Thursdays throughout the year
5. The middle three days of each lunar month (13th, 14th & 15th) when he moon is at its brightest
6. There are some proofs by way of Khadija (ra) who reports that the Prophet ﷺ use to fast before the prophet-hood—but we do not know the exact days.
Why was Siyam ordered?
The answer to this question lies only with Allah. However, we can find that there are many benefits and bits of wisdom behind this pious and sincere act.
1. Increases one’s Taqwa (remembrance of Allah in daily affairs), as is stated in the Quran: Sura Baqara verse 183.
2. Trains the body, mind and spirit to bear hardships while remaining patient.
3. Trains the body, mind and spirit to hold back from the natural
desires of the human: food, drink, anger, lust, etc.
4. To help one understand what the impoverished go through.
What is the importance of the month of Ramadan?
This is the month in which the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed. This is the month where every dua’ reaches Allah. This is the month where the Muslims are protected from the evil whisperings of the shayateen. This is the month where one plants the seeds of worship, the seeds of taqwa in the earth and harvests the
good deeds for sustenance throughout the year. And most importantly, this is the month in which the Quran was revealed—more specifically, on the night of Lailat-ul-Qadr.
Who must fast?
1. One who is Muslim
2. One who has Aql (mental faculties are sound and understands the responsibility of fasting)
3. One who has reached the age of puberty
4. One who is Kaadir (able to maintain the fast)
What is the requirement for the fast?
Very simply, the fast begins with the niya (intention)—this is a prerequisite / Shart—and then refraining from food, drink and things that break the fast, until the time for Maghrib (sunset) has arrived.
It must be noted by the reader that one cannot just wake up in the morning and proclaim his fast for that day. This was only allowed for the Prophet ﷺ. Rather, for the followers, there needs to be mental recognition of the fast BEFORE FAJR in other than the month of Ramadan.
The first pillar of fasting is the intention, and the place of the intention is the heart. It is mandatory to have the intention at night, that is, before the break of dawn (Fajr). This is based on the saying of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ): “Whoever does not intend fasting prior to Fajr, then there is no fasting for him.” (Sahih – Imam Ahmed)
It is permissible to make an intention for the whole month at the first evening of Ramadan. However, some scholars have suggested that is obligatory to make an intention every night of Ramadan.
The second pillar of fasting is abstinence; abstaining from the things that break a person’s fast from the break of dawn till sunset, along with a continued intention between these two periods.
What breaks the fast?
1. Eating deliberately (forgetfulness or mistaking the time is forgiven by Allah)
2. Drinking deliberately (forgetfulness or mistaking the time is forgiven by Allah)
3. Sexual relations of any type that leads to male or female sexual discharge OR Sexual intercourse even if no discharge results from it.
4. Haid (menstrual bleeding)
5. Nifas (post natal bleeding)
6. Induced vomiting that is involuntary.
7. Injections / supplements that provide nourishment
Recommended things to do along with the Fasting:
1. The sahoor and iftaar should be done with the family. If the family is not available then one should make an effort to never break the fast alone.
2. To hurry up with breaking the iftaar—not to delay it. But the sahoor can be delayed right up until the time for Fajr enters.
3. To break the fast with dates, or at least 3 sips of water.
4. To make dua’ of breaking the fast.
5. To increase in acts of ibada (recitation of the Quran) and this should continue after the month of Ramadan has passed.
6. To give more sadaqa (charity).
7. To offer the tahajud prayers and the tarrawih prayers (in congregation).
8. To feed other Muslims, even if they are not needy—meaning to invite people to your house for the iftaar. In fact, when you invite people the host receives the reward that his guest earned on that day (while the guest retains his own reward). This is true even for the one who finances an iftaar, or one who prepares the food.
The Makrooh (hated things) of Fasting:
1. To be excessive in rinsing with water, during wudu or other times.
Having too much water in the mouth might cause a person to swallow
2. To unnecessarily taste food. There cannot be any swallowing and the tongue should be cleaned of any residual taste.
3. Kissing your spouse.
4. To sexually excite/touch your spouse.
5. To lie, to make ghiba (back biting), to do nameema (telling lies to cause two parties to fight). In fact, those who practice nameema do not enter paradise with the first set of Muslims.
6. To not pray the tarrawih or tahajjud in the last 10 days.
What are some of the Voluntary Fasts that one may do?
1. The fast of the Prophet Dawood (as) was mentioned by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as the best. It includes one day of fasting and one day of resting, continuously.
2. The best months for fasting include: Shahban, Muharram, Ramadan, Dhul Hijja.
3. The 13th, 14th & 15th of every Islamic month. The reward of fasting these three days is like having fasted an entire year.
4. Mondays and Thursdays—for these are the two days that the angels rise and descend with your deeds; i.e. the gates of heaven are open. (This refers to Maghrib time)
5. The 9th day of Dhul Hijja (for the ones not performing the hajj). This is the day of Arafat and fasting on this day ensures that the minor sins for the previous year and the coming year are forgiven.
Unintentionally Eating or Drinking after the Break of Dawn or before Sunset:
The correct opinion concerning a person who eats or drinks believing that the break of dawn has not commenced, or that the sun has set when it actually hasn’t taken place does not need to make up that day. During the leadership of ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) some people broke their fast, some moments later, the sun appeared. They asked whether they should make up this day, at which ‘Umar responded by saying: “No, by Allah, we did not have any inclination towards a wrongful action.” In addition, we have the incident whereby Asmaa’ (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “We broke our fast on a cloudy day during Ramadan at the time of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), then the sun appeared.” (Bukhari)
Use of Nose Drops, Eye Drops, Intravenous Injections and Perfume:
The scholars of Islam differed about the use of these things during fasting. The correct opinion – and Allah knows best – is that these things do not nullify fasting, and that no compensation is required if used, even if the nose or eye drops pass the throat.
This is the opinion of some of the greatest Sahabah like – Ibn ‘Umar, Anas ibn Malik and great Imams like Imam Abu Hanifah & ash-Shaafi, and ibn Taymiyyah. There is nothing authentically mentioned by the Prophet (ﷺ) prohibiting their use.
Water Entering the Stomach Accidentally:
Water that enters into the stomach as a result of sniffing or rinsing out of the mouth during wudu has also caused controversy amongst scholars. The correct opinion is that the fasting is not broken, IF this has occurred unintentionally.
Although sniffing water up the nostrils during wudu is desirable, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) advised that it should be avoided during fasting.
Use of Puffers:
Puffers used for asthma do not break the fast according to a number of scholars. This is because it is considered as compressed gas that goes to the lungs, and does in no way nourish or quench the thirst.
Pregnant and Breast Feeding Women:
Women who are pregnant or breast feeding are allowed to break their fast if they fear for their health or the health of their infant or fetus. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Allah Most High has given concession to the traveller to pray half the Salat, and for the traveller, the pregnant, and the breast feeding and fasting.” (Sahih Ibn Majah)
The respected scholars of Islam differed concerning how a woman who is pregnant or breast-feeding must compensate for her missed days. The first opinion is that of the companions Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn ‘Umar, (may Allah be pleased with them) who said that she should only needs to feed a needy person for each missed day.
The Imams however held various opinions:
Imam Abu Hanifah said she needs to make up the day only.
Imam Ash-Shafi and Imam Ahmad hold the opinion that she must both feed and make up the days.
According to Imam Malik, a pregnant woman must make up the day only, and that one who was breastfeeding must feed and make up the days.
The correct opinion – and Allah knows best – is that she only needs to feed a poor or needy person for each missed day. This is because we do not have any reports from any of the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) opposing Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn ‘Umar’s verdict – Two of Islam’s most learned men concerning the Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah.