Fasting in Ramadan
Fasting (Sawm) is the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is an act of obedience and submission to Allah’s (SWT) commands through the highest degree of commitment, sincerity and faithfulness to seek the mercy of Allah (SWT), to atone for sins, errors, and mistakes, and to avoid condemnation. Every adult Muslim of sane mind must complete the fast during Ramadan.
What is Fasting?
Fasting involves abstaining from food, drink and sinful acts between the hours of dawn and sunset. Fasting must be completed every day of the Holy month of Ramadan.
Who is Exempt from Fasting?
- Children and those who have not yet reached puberty
- Those not of sound mind
- The elderly (although they should offer one Muslim in need either a full meal or its value each day)
- The sick, frail and infirm, including those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or travelling
What is Niyyah or Intention of Fasting?
The Ramadan fast and other acts of worship are not valid unless they are accompanied by the proper intention, because the Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Actions are but by intentions, and everyone shall have but that which he intended…”
(Bukhaari & Muslim)
The intention (Niyyah) is an action of the heart. A Muslim must resolve in his or her heart that s/he is going to fast on the following day. To observe the fast, the intention of fasting is essential (Wajib). During the Holy month of Ramadan, the correct intention is when a person resolves in his or her heart that s/he is going to fast tomorrow. However, there is a difference of opinion on whether this should be announced.
What is Suhoor?
Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal – the last meal to be consumed before beginning the fast. It is a blessing and as such, it is recommended but not essential. For fasting, any consumption of food or drink must cease before Fajr prayers. Thus, Suhoor ends at Fajr and you cannot eat about Fajr Azan (call to prayer).
When fasting, if you accidentally eat something by mistake, the best course of action is to keep your fast – you will not then need to make up for that day’s fast. However, if you intentionally eat, you will need to do the Kaffarah for that day.
What is Iftar?
Iftar is an Arabic term which translates to breaking the fast which is immediately after sunset. Iftar traditionally consists of a snack of dates and water, chosen because of their hydrating and nutritious qualities, although it is not obligatory to break the fast with these options.
The following actions will break a day’s fast:
- Intentionally consuming food, drink, or medicine
- Having an injection which has nutritional value
- The beginning of menstruation or postnatal birth bleeding
It’s worth noting that having a blood test carried out will not break your fast.
What is Fidya?
For those who cannot fast for any valid reason (such as the elderly or ill), compensation must be given by feeding a poor person for every day of fasting not observed. Young and healthy individuals who are travelling or suffering from illness must make up for any missed fasts. Fidya is also payable for individuals who have become extremely weak due to old age or disease and cannot fast.
The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Quran, 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.
Translation of Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:185
How to Calculate Fidya
The price of Fidya for each day of missed fasts is either to feed a poor person two meals in one day or to give whole wheat, which is enough to feed a poor person twice in one day. This is 1/2 Saa per Hanafi school of thought, or 1 Saa per Shaafi, and other schools of thought. 1 Saa equals approximately 3 Kilograms.
The Fidya price for an individual should be based and calculated on the local price of whole wheat where the person resides. In the UK, the current Fidya price is £4 per person per day.
What is Kaffarah?
If an individual deliberately breaks his or her fast during Ramadan, s/he must fast for sixty continuous days in compensation.
If there is a valid reason why the fast cannot be completed, then the individual must instead feed or provide a charitable donation to sixty people in need. Valid reasons for not completing the fast include sickness, travel, and the taking of medicine.
If no valid excuse is available for missing the fast, then the individual will need to refer to Kaffarah for breaking their fast.
Can a Sick Person Fast?
A sick or unwell individual should only fast if s/he is able to do so. Otherwise, s/he is excused from fasting on the condition that the fast will later be made up by Kaffarah. In this case, sickness does not refer to small pains or headaches – there should be a medical condition that stops the individual from fasting.
Can a Pregnant Woman Fast?
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are permitted not to fast during Ramadan. However, any missed fasts must be made up after she gives birth, becomes pure from nifaas and feels able to fast. She must either fast the same number of days that were missed or pay Fidya as charity to those in need. The amount of Fidya must be the cost of feeding or paying what equals the cost of her food for a day, for each missed fast.
How Long Does a Person Have to Make up Missed Ramadan Fasts?
There is nothing wrong with making up missed Ramadan fasts during any other days of the year, with the exception of the following prohibited days:
- Eid al-Fitr
- Eid al-Adha and the following three days
Women are also not able to fast during menstruation.
What is I'tikaf?
Aitekaf, or Itikaaf, is seclusion in a Mosque (or home, for women) for worship during the last ten days of Ramadan.
What is Laylatul Qadr?
‘Indeed, We sent the Qur'an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.’
Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power) was reported to occur within the last 10 days of Ramadan.
“Seek it in the Ramadan in the last ten nights. For verily, it is during the odd nights, the twenty-first, or the twenty-third, or the twenty-fifth, or the twenty-seventh, or the twenty-ninth, or during the last night.”
Here are a few suggestions to help you during the Holy month of Ramadan and prepare you for Laylatul Qadr:
- Plan ahead if you intend to spend the night in prayer
- Take regular breaks during the night to avoid exhaustion
- Try switching between different forms of worship
- Perform Itikaaf, and if possible, take a holiday for the last ten days of Ramadan
- Increase your performance of Salah (prayer) and with full attention
- Find out if there are any events organised and take your family along
What is Tarawih?
These are special Sunnah prayers completed in the Holy month of Ramadan which are prayed following the Isha prayers. A minimum of eight and a maximum of twenty Rakat (units) are offered in pairs.
“Ibn ‘Abbas narrates that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was the most generous person, and he would be at his most generous in Ramadan because Jibril would come to him every night and he would rehear the Quran with him.”
What is Sadaqa?
Sadaqa is an optional, extra charity that may be given at any time of the year, in any amount or number where it is obligatory to pay Zakat. Although it is voluntary, Muslims are encouraged to donate Sadaqa to help those in need for social and welfare purposes throughout the year.
If you disclose your charitable expenditures, they are good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and He will remove from you some of your misdeeds [thereby]. And Allah with what you do, is [fully] Acquainted.
Translation of Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:271
What is Zakat?
“Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish prayer and give zakat will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.”
Zakat is the third Pillar of Islam, translating to ‘that which purifies’. Giving Zakat is a means of purifying an individual’s wealth and soul. Paying Zakat is an obligatory act upon all Muslims of sound mind whose total annual wealth meets or exceeds the current Nisab value.
The amount of Zakat an individual must pay will depend on the amount of wealth and the type of assets the individual possesses, so a 2.5% Zakat is paid for capital assets such as cash, gold and silver. However, if the individual’s total wealth amounts to less than the nisab value, no Zakat is payable.
“Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakat] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveller - an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.”
The following conditions must be followed for payment of Zakat:
- 2.5% of a Muslim’s total annual wealth above the nisab threshold is payable as Zakat
- This wealth must have remained above the nisab value for a full Islamic year
- Zakat must be paid to those who are deserving and in need, as laid down in the Holy Quran and explained by the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)
What is Eligible for Zakat?
Zakat, at the rate of 2.5%, must be paid on any assets that exceed the nisab value. This minimum value is calculated based on the market price of 85 grams of gold or 595 grams of pure silver. These assets must have been owned for a full lunar year.
Zakat is payable on the following items:
- Rental income
- Personal income
- Gold and silver
- Livestock and cattle
- Crops and agricultural produce
- Produce of mines
Who is Eligible to Receive Zakat?
The Quran outlines eight categories of people who are eligible to receive Zakat donations. These are:
- The poor – those without any means of livelihood and material possessions
- The needy – those without sufficient means of livelihood to meet their basic needs
- The administrators of Zakat – those appointed to manage and administer Zakat
- The sympathisers – those who are inclined to enter or who have already converted to Islam
- To free slaves – Zakat can be used to free slaves or captives
- Those who are in debt – Zakat can be used to pay off the debts of a person who has borrowed to pay for basic necessities. Zakat can also be distributed to those in financial difficulties, such as bankruptcy due to loss of employment and heavy debt
- For the sake of God – Zakat can be used to finance any form of struggle or work for the love of Allah (SWT). This includes building and developing society infrastructure, helping the oppressed, assisting poor travellers, and sponsoring a student’s educational expenses
- Those who are stranded during a journey – Zakat can also be used to help a traveller facing difficulties in continuing his journey due to reasons such as loss of money or the breakdown of vehicles