Fasting is a pillar of Islam, Allah ( سبحانهٰ وتعالى ) says, "Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness" (Qur'aan 2:183)
Allah ( سبحانهٰ وتعالى ) says,"the month of Ramadan[is that] in which was revealed the Qur'aan, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the newmoon 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."(Qur'aan, 2:185)
Narrated by Abu Hurayra ( رضي الله عنهه) that , The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "There has come to you Ramadan, a blessed month, which Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, has enjoined (made it obligatory for) you to fast in. In it the gates of Heavens are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and every devil is chained up. In it Allah has a night which is better than a thousand months; whoever is deprived of its goodness is indeed deprived."
2106) (Musnad Ahmad, 7418)
• Physical illness
Individuals who are suffering from any form of physical sickness (temporary or permanent) and they feel that fasting would worsen their health, are exempt from fasting. Moreover, if an ill individual feels that fasting may hamper the recovery process or cause greater damage to the body is also exempt from fasting. However, common fatigue or difficulty during a fast does not fall under the category of acute sickness and does not excuse that individual from breaking his/her fast.
• Mental illness
Individuals who are mentally challenged or they are victims of any sort of mental illness which affects their cognition as a whole, are not required to fast in Ramadan, or on any other occasion. They are automatically exempt.
People who are travelling are excused from fasting in the eyes of Allah ( سبحانهٰ وتعالى ) if they meet the following conditions:
1. Their duration and distance of the journey should be such that it falls under the category where prayers are shortened.
2. The intention of travel should not be to settle at the destination.
3. The purpose of travel should not be sinful – in any way.
• Women during menstruation
Women who are going through their monthly period cycles are exempt from fasting. They may continue fasting once their cycle has ended completely and they perform the proper ghusl.
• Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
Women who are expecting or they are in the phase of breastfeeding, they are allowed to break their fast if they think that their child’s health is at risk.
• Old age
Individuals facing senility and old age are essentially exempt from fasting. With old age comes weakness, terminal illnesses, loss of mental faculties and extreme fragility, hence, it is believed that people in their old-age are not required to fast at the cost of their health.
• Children who have not reached puberty
Fasting is not obligatory on children that have not yet undergone puberty. Once they do, then it becomes mandatory.
Even if life’s circumstances do not allow one to fast, Allah ( سبحانهٰ وتعالى ) is kind enough to provide alternate ways of compensation where one can make up for the missed fasts and reap equal benefits and blessings in the blessed month of Ramadan.
Throughout Ramadan, the practice of healthy habits allows one to grow both spiritually and behaviorally. There are numerous benefits to fasting, even documented and highly encouraged by professionals. First of all, fasting raises one’s self esteem, because it reminds Muslims of their purpose in life – to worship God. This boost in one’s confidence purifies the individual from any self-centered behavior, and leads to an overall contentment in life.
However, fasting has not been prescribed by Allah ( سبحانهٰ وتعالى ) simply for dietary reasons. Rather, fasting is an act of worship to Allah ( سبحانهٰ وتعالى ) in order to teach mankind self-restraint. In addition to restraining from food and drink, the individual must work on being more patient and forgiving. Muslims are required to refrain from useless talk, be kinder and more generous to others, and utilize and construct time wisely. Since each minute, in essence, is a form of worship to Allah ( سبحانهٰ وتعالى ), the fasting person becomes more aware of their words and actions.
Fasting really places the world in perspective and allows one to understand and value his or her existence.
What is the correct Sunnah time to break the fast?
Allah ( سبحانهٰ وتعالى ) says, “And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black
thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the sunset”(Qur’aan, Surah Baqarah, ayah, 187)
Umar(ر ض الله عنه ) reported Allah’s Messenger ( صلى الله عليه وسلم) as saying, “When the night approaches and the day
retreates and the sun sinks down, then the observer of the fast should break it.”(Sahih Muslim, 1100)
What to break the fast with?
Anas bin Malik(ر ض الله عنه ) narrated that, “The Messenger of Allah( صلى الله عليه وسلم) would break the fast with fresh
dates before performing Salat. If there were no fresh dates then (he would break the fast) with dried dates, and if there were no dried dates then he would take a few sips of water.”(Jami Tirmidhi, 696, chain, Hasan according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair; Sunan Abu Dawud, 2356, chain, Hasan according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair)
Hafsah bint Sirin narrated from Ar-Rabab, from her uncle Salman bin Amir(ر ض الله عنه ) that he related that, the Prophet( صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “When one of you breaks his fast, then let him do so with dates, for they are blessed. Whoever does not find dates, then water, for it is purifying.”(Jami Tirmidhi, 658, chain, Sahih according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair; Musnad Ahmad, 16332, 16326 & 16328 chain, Sahih according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair; Sunan Abu Dawud, 2355, chain, Sahih according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair; Sunan Ibn Majah, 1699, chain, Sahih according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair; Sunan Darimi, 1708, chain, Sahih according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair)
Dua which should be recited after breaking the fast.
Marwan ibn Salim al-Muqaffa’ said, “I saw Ibn Umar holding his beard with his hand and cutting what exceeded the handful of it. He (Ibn Umar) said that the Prophet( صلى الله عليه وسلم) said when he broke his fast, “ ذَهَبَ الظَّمَأُ ، وَابْتَلَّتِ الْعُرُوقُ ، وَثَبَتَ الأَجْرُ إِنْ شَاءَ اللهُ ” (Thirst has gone, the arteries are moist, and the reward is sure, if Allah wills.)(Sunan Abu Dawud, 2357, chain, Hasan according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair)
The importance of Suhoor
Narrated from Anas bin Malik (عنه هللا رضي) that, "The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, "Take Suhur as there is a blessing in it."(Sahih Bukhari, 1923 & Sahih Muslim, 1095, Mutaffaqun Alaih) Imam Bukhari has mentioned this hadith with the heading, "Sahur is a blessing but not fard" & Imam Muslim have mentioned this hadith with the heading, "The virtue of sahur, which is recommended."
'Amr b. al-'As(عنه هللا رضي) reported that, Allah's Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) as saying, "The difference between our fasting and that of the people of the Book is eating(Suhur) shortly before dawn."(Sahih Muslim, 1096) Imam Muslim (هللا رحمه) has mentioned this hadith with the heading, "The The virtue of sahur, which is recommended."
3-Narrated from Al-Irbad ibn Sariyyah (عنه هللا رضي) that, "The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) invited me to a meal shortly before dawn in Ramadan saying: Come to the blessed morning meal."(Sunan Abu Dawud, 2344, classed as Sahih by Shaykh Albani & hasan by Shaykh Zubair)
What should one eat in Suhoor?
Narrated from Abu Hurayrah (عنه هللا رضي) that, "The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, "The best Suhur for a Mo'min is dates"(Sunan Abu Dawud, 2345, chain, Sahih according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair)
What is the best time to eat Suhur?
The best time to eat Suhur is 15-18 minutes before Fajr starts as this was the practice of Prophet(صلى الله عليه وسلم), It is also sunnah to finish eating your suhoor 5-6 or 6-7 minutes before fajr starts.
Evidence: Narrated from Anas(عنه هللا رضي) that Zayd ibn Thaabit (عنه هللا رضي)said: “We ate suhoor with the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) then he stood up to pray.” I [Anas] said: “How long was there between the adhan and suhoor?” He said: “As long as it takes to recite fifty verses.”(Sahih Bukhari, 1921).
The intention for fasting, when should one make this intention?
Narrated on the authority of Umar b. al-Khattab(عنه هللا رضي) that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, "(The value of) an action depends on the intention behind it. A man will be rewarded only for what he intended."(Sahih Muslim, 1908) - Narrated from
Hafsah(عنه هللا رضي) that she said,"There is no fast for the one who does not intend to fast before dawn."(Sunan Nasai, 2338, chain, Sahih according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair)
Narrated from Ibn Umar(عنه هللا رضي) that he said, "None should fast except the one who intended to fast before dawn."(Sunan Nasai, 2343, chain, Sahih according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair)
Narrated from Ibn Umar(عنه هللا رضي) that he said, "If a man does not intend to fast from the night before, he should not fast."(Sunan Nasai, 2342, chain, Sahih according to Shaykh Albani & Shaykh Zubair)
The time for Suhur, what is the correct time for ending Suhur/start of Fajr?
Allah ( سبحانهٰ وتعالى ) says, "And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread (of night). Then complete the fast until the sunset."(Qur'aan, Surah Baqarah, ayah, 187)
Narrated from Adi bin Hatim (عنه هللا رضي) that, I said, "O Allah's Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) !What is the meaning of the white thread distinct from the black thread? Are these two threads?" He said, "You are not intelligent if you watch the two threads." He then added, "No, it is the darkness of the night and the whiteness of the day.''(Sahih Bukhari, 4510)
The ayah of Qur'aan and ahadith tell us that the time for Suhur is till dawn and one can eat and drink/have sexual intercourse with their wives till dawn. However, in Today's world, we have proper authentic timings for the start of fajr/dawn and Iftar, so we cannot rely on our eyesight to distinguish the darkness of night from the light of dawn(we will be mistaken), this is also because we have street lights or other electrical lights in our cities now which donot let us distinguish completely as in the time of Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم),there weren't any street lights, there were only lamps or candles in houses and not in streets and for that reason, they were able to distinguish it and when they were sure of the dawn, they would give the adhan.