What is Ramadhan?
Ramadhan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. During this month which is either 29 or 30 days, Muslims all over the world fast by abstaining from food and water from dawn until the sun sets.
Ramadhan is a blessed month in which the Holy Quran was first sent down as a guide to mankind with clear signs for guidance and judgement between right and wrong. It is also a time when the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hell-Fire are closed and the devils are chained up.
Why do Muslims fast in Ramadhan?
Fasting in the month of Ramadhan has been prescribed by Allah Almighty and is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims fast to show their submission, commitment and worship to their Lord.
Who needs to fast?
Fasting has been prescribed for every sane, healthy and mature male and female. Although fasting is not obligatory for young children, it is encouraged. The child will be rewarded for fasting and the parents for guiding them towards doing good actions. The purpose of fasting is to achieve Taqwa (God-consciousness).
So what is 'Taqwa' all about?
Taqwa refers to God-consciousness and piety. Ramadhan does bring about an extraordinary sense of emotional enthusiasm and religious eagerness amongst everyone. Many leave behind their bad traits and habits and cut down on their everyday enjoyment and focus their day around bringing themselves closer to their Lord and attaining His pleasure and reward. Many pray for direction and assistance in abstaining from everyday troubles and they endeavour to cleanse themselves through self-control and great, rewarding acts of faith.
Are there any exceptions?
As Allah does not like to burden His worshipers and is the Most Merciful, there are a few exceptions. A women in post natal bleeding (Nifaas) or one who is menstruating (Haidh) cannot fast and should make up for her missed fasts as soon as possible.
Fasting is optional for those who are travelling (for more than 48 miles according to the Hanafi Madhab). However, if the fast does not pose any excessive hardship and the journey is not demanding then it would be better to fast.
For those who are ill, they should continue to fast. If the illness is severe and through fasting one may cause more harm to oneself, he/she should make up for them too.
A very old person who does not have the strength to fast, a very sickly person or a diseased person who has no hope of recovering after Ramadhan must make an expiatory payment (Fidya) for each fast that was missed.
What is Fidya?
When someone cannot fast in Ramadan and there is absolutely no way that a person can make them up afterwards due to the above mentioned reasons, they should pay for someone else to be fed. For each fast that is missed, a person should give 3lbs (1.6kg) of wheat or 7lbs (3.2kg) of barley or they can give the equivalent of that in cash. It should provide one person with two meals, or two people with one meal each.
What happens if I miss or break my fast?
If you deliberately miss or break your fast in the month of Ramadhan without a valid reason then there is a compensation to be made. It is known as Kaffara. The compensation involves fasting continuously for 60 days or feeding 60 poor people.
Is fasting just about staying hungry?
There is SO much more to Ramadhan than being hungry and hearing your stomach growl. We should use this as an opportunity to cleanse our souls, focus our attention on our Lord and amend our sins, faults and mistakes by requesting forgiveness and by repenting. We should work on our humility, spirituality and patience and this is what fasting or ‘staying hungry’ can achieve.
How should Muslims spend their time in Ramadan?
Anything which pleases Allah should be done and anything which displeases Allah should be refrained from. True fasting is when the limbs fast from sin too. There is SO much that we can all do and SO much that we can avoid doing, but I’ll mention just a few.
Recite the Quran in abundance
Perform optional prayers
Do Dhikr, the remembrance of Allah
Supplicate to Allah through making Dua
Send Salaat and Salaam on the Prophet Muhammad (S)
Make Istikhaara for important matters
Sincerely ask for forgiveness
So what’s banned in Ramadhan?
There are the obvious restrictions like eating and drinking and just like every other day in the year we should not backbite and slander anyone, neither should we argue unnecessarily. We should avoid wasting precious time that we can’t get back and avoid watching useless TV programmes and listening to music.
How about sex? No sex in Ramadhan? That’s a bit extreme innit?
Sexual intercourse with one’s partner (obviously you need to be married to them) is allowed during Ramadhan but not whilst the couple are fasting. If done so, this will break their fast.
Why do some Muslims act religious in Ramadhan but then go back to their dodgy ways straight after?
Although it is important to stay consistent, it is very tempting to go back and do the things that we once did before Ramadhan began. Temptations and distractions make us lose focus and perhaps that’s the reason why some of us do go back to our dodgy ways.
Also, many people go to extremes in worship during Ramadhan and find it extremely difficult to maintain such actions and keep up with it. For example, a person could aim to recite the entire Quran thrice, whereas in a normal month they would hardly recite the Quran at all. Of course we’ll be rewarded for whatever worship we do, but it will only benefit us in the long run if we make little changes at a time and are more reasonable in our approach.
Going to extremes was not liked by the Prophet (S) and it is also a way of Shaytan trying to burn us out quickly as we pressurise ourselves and it does not have a positive effect after Ramadhan has finished.
Why are mosques jam packed in Ramadhan- do they give free money out?
Mosques are usually jam packed during Ramadhan because of prayers, Taraweeh and special lectures tailored for the audience. There is a lot of blessing and rewards are multiplied immensely. Muslim males should be praying five times in congregation every day but because Ramadhan is a month that highlights Muslim brotherhood and brings about a special feeling of closeness, more and more people will attend the mosque.
What if you play sports, you would need to drink water yeah?
No, you wouldn’t be able to quench your thirst by drinking water because that would break your fast. It would be advisable to not indulge yourself in rigorous and demanding sports and perhaps take part in light exercises and those which don’t tire you out.
Doesn’t fasting give you bad breath, headaches and bad temper?
Fasting may cause bad breath but you are allowed to use a Miswaak/Siwaak whilst you are fasting to maintain oral hygiene. Abu Hurairah (R) narrates from the blessed prophet Muhammad (S) as part of a longer Hadith that ‘The smell coming from the mouth of the one fasting is more pleasant to Allah than the scent of musk’ (Tirmidhi).
Headaches can be caused by a lack of water and several other reasons so to avoid the likelihood of having a headache, ensure that you have sufficient sleep, eat healthily and drink plenty during the hours in which you can.
Fasting doesn’t cause bad temper and in fact that comes as a result of not being able to control one’s self. We should try our best to remain patient and calm and avoid diving into such situations.
Do Muslims have to give a lot to charity in Ramadan?
Muslims aren’t supposed to be stingy and if they have the means to give charity anytime during the year then they should. As Ramadhan is a month in which a believer’s sustenance is increased, many take this as an opportunity to empty their pockets out and help those who are less fortunate.
What is Eid ul-Fitr?
Eid ul-Fitr is a festival and celebration which marks the end of Ramadhan and the beginning of Shawaal (the 10th month). It was practised during the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad (S) and allows Muslims to recognise and appreciate the favours that Allah has blessed His creation with. There is an Eid prayer and a sermon which usually takes place in the morning. During the day, Muslims visit people that they know, partake in feasts and just enjoy themselves.