By Alveena Salim & Sajid Iqbal
You mean you can’t eat ANYTHING? Not even drink water? Isn’t that like bad for you?”
Yep, when Muslims fast for the 30 days in the month of Ramadan from dawn till dusk they can’t eat or drink anything throughout Ramadan.
Fasting is not bad for your health, even Celebs occasionally fast (they call it “detox”), abstaining from food and drink cleans out your insides, gives your digestive system a rest and causes harmful chemicals to be flushed out of your system.(1)
30 whole days?! You’d die!
Ermm… No you wouldn’t. Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk. The fast begins just before dawn when Muslims eat a light meal (suhoor) and confirm their intention to fast for the day; the fast ends at sunset.
It’s important for Muslims not to miss their Suhoor as this is a blessed meal. The Holy Prophet said
“Eat Sehri as there are blessings in Sehri” (Bukhari).
The importance of waking up for Sehri can not be emphasised enough, even if it’s just to drink a glass of milk.
What else can’t you do in Ramadan?
Sawm (fasting) literally means to “abstain”, Muslims are required to abstain from all sins in the month of Ramadan which brings them away from Allah (swt).
Fasting is not just giving up food and drink; it’s a LOT more than that. The entire body, including ones hands, ears, eyes, mouth etc. must fast.
How can the whole body fast- what’s that all about?
The eyes fast when they refrain from viewing rude, dirty scenes on TV or checking out the ‘birds’. Fasting of the mouth is refraining from swearing, arguing, lying, back biting, slandering and indulging in idle gossip.
The ears fast when they do not listen to idle talk or rude music. The Holy Prophet said:
‘If a person does not avoid false talk and false conduct during fast, Allah does not care if he abstains from his/her food and drink.’ (Bukhari).
But isn’t that hard…?
Fasting can be challenging to some people, particularly the smokers. However, the whole point of fasting is to discipline the body and the mind.
Muslims use this month to give up their bad habits and start afresh, it’s easier to do so in the month of Ramadan as the devils are locked up and are not tempting us to commit sins.
This is the month in which it’s easier to break bad habits. Muslims should lock off from their bad friends this month, if they listen to rude music, watch dodgy programmes on TV or can’t speak without swearing then they should try to give up their bad habits now.
If they haven’t as of yet became regular with their prayers or don’t dress Islamically, Ramadan is the best time to implement these changes.
But why would you do that to yourself?
The main purpose of fasting is described in the Qur’an as “so that you may attain Taqwa.” Fasting is one way to achieve Taqwa which is the fear and consciousness of Allah (swt).
Taqwa is a feeling that comes from within which helps Muslims to lead a life as morally conscious individuals; it stops them from committing sins and makes them think twice about their actions.
Fasting is also a means of self-purification as it’s easier to give up bad habits in Ramadan than any other time in the year.
The month of Ramadan is an opportunity to develop qualities of patience, self-control, and trust in Allah (swt); it awakens feelings of compassion for the poverty and sufferings endured by people all over the world and makes us appreciate what we do have.
But HOW exactly does Fasting help Muslims to achieve Taqwa?
When we refuse tasty halal food and drink from dawn to dusk for the sake of Allah (swt) it becomes so much easier to avoid doing those things that are forbidden for us.
Think about it, it’s SO easy to sneak in a fag or a packet of crisps when we know that no one is looking.
However, because we KNOW that God is watching us, we don’t do that. Lack of Taqwa is the main reason why Muslims sin, so fasting helps Muslims to increase their fear and consciousness of Allah (swt).
How come you can’t do that all year round?
Ramadan is a holy month. It is the month in which Satan and his cronies are said to be locked away in Hell to prevent them from inciting the believers to commits sin. Also, there is more reward in doing good deeds in Ramadan than all year round.
The reward for fasting in the month of Ramadan is unlimited!
What’s more, the month of Ramadan is the month of Mercy and Forgiveness. Muslim’s sins are more likely to be forgiven and prayers are more likely to be accepted in the month of Ramadan.
So if you have a dodgy shameful past and want to erase history and start again with a clean slate and if you want Allah to forgive all your sins and make it easy for you to live your life as a good Muslim- now is the time to beg for Allah’s forgiveness!
The Prophet said “Every night Allah descends to the lowest heaven, when only one third of the night remains. He says “Is there any servant of mine who invokes me for anything so that I may answer his request? Is there anyone who begs Me for pardon and forgiveness, so that I may to forgive him?” (Bukhari and Muslim)
This is the month in which many people decide to take that plunge and change their life around. So take advantage of every special moment, especially the blessed night called Laila tul Qadr which falls in the last 10 days of Ramadan which is considered better then a thousand months- ask for whatever you want!
What else must you do in Ramadan?
The Holy Qur’an was revealed in the month of Ramadan, this is why Muslims should attach themselves to the Qur’an this month.
The likes of Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik and Imam Shafi would stop teaching Islamic jurisprudence and Hadith during the month of Ramadan and would devote themselves exclusively to the Qur’an. Muslims should try to read as much as they can EVERY day in Ramadan.
Also, Muslims should try to read the Tarawih prayer every night in their local Mosque. The Holy Prophet said:
“Whosoever stands for prayer during the nights of Ramadan will have his/her prior sins forgiven.” (Al Bukhari).
My Muslim mate dumps his gal in Ramadan and acts as if he don’t know her, does he have to do that?
Out of respect for Ramadan many Muslims, give up their bad habits and do good deeds, which they normally wouldn’t do all year round.
This is because it is easier for them to give up their bad habit and also because they wish to derive the most out of Ramadan. Perhaps now though your mate should try and maintain his “goodness” after Ramadan now that he’s proven he can do it for one month!
Does EVERYONE have to fast?
Fasting is obligatory for Muslims. However, the sick, elderly, young children, and menstruating women are exempt from fasting. Those who miss their fast due to illness must make them up after the month of Ramadan, if they are unable to do so they should feed 60 poor people.
Those who miss their fasts deliberately are making a big mistake – The Prophet said
“Whoever misses a single fast of Ramadan without any valid excuse or illness will never be able to make up for it even if he fasted for eternity.” (Tirmidhi).
The fine for missing a deliberate fast is known as ‘fidya’. The payment of fidya was originally freeing a slave but now it’s a matter of feeding or paying for two meals for 60 poor people and if you work that out at Nando’s prices that’s … £2.50 x 2 = £5.00 x 60…..£300!!! So take your pick!
So, what do you have to eat when you open your fast?
Anything you want. There is no restriction on what is eaten by Muslims provided it is halal. They can eat whatever they want, be it chicken or chips, chicken tikka, chappati or your favourite pizza.
Muslims are recommended to break their fast with dates, milk, water, honey, olives and figs. However, it is important not to stuff yourself silly as this defeats the whole point of fasting.
Eid is the festival following Ramadan. Eid literally means ‘returning at regular intervals’, as it gives a repeated opportunity for renewal, to forgive enemies and put right quarrels.
A final word...
Is it gonna be another Ramadan where you starve yourself but don’t improve as a Muslim? Or this time are you gonna improve yourself and change for good? It’s your decision.
1.See The Health Benefits of Fasting byWill Carrol and The Benefits of Fasting By Alan Goldhamer, D.C. On The Revival Website
*This article was originally published in Issue 6 and now has been updated.