The sacred month of Ramadan encompasses many customs and religious dues in order for Muslims to honour the fourth pillar of Islam, Sawm. This core Islamic practice requires Muslims to fast during the month of Ramadan, and there are a number of Ramadan fasting rules that must be adhered to so that Sawm may be observed correctly.
There are strict Ramadan fasting rules, largely around who can and must fast from food. Seeing as Sawm is one of the five pillars of Islam, it is expected that every Muslim should observe the fast, although it is not always possible. If a Muslim is:
They must observe the fast. This is because there is no feasible or valid reason that prevents them from fasting.
Not every Muslim will fit into the above categories and as such, they may be exempt. Those who are allowed to miss the food fast include:
In addition to the groups listed above, there are separate rules that dictate what breaks a women’s fast. If a woman is:
They do not need to fast. In the event of a woman beginning to menstruate during the Ramadan fast, she should stop fasting immediately.
Those who are exempt from the food fast must pay Fidyah. There are two ways this can be done: either via a monetary donation (given to those living in hunger) that is calculated per day or by making up the missed fasting days at a later stage in the year. Typically, Fidyah is priced below £5 a day. This means if a person cannot fast for the duration of Ramadan and Fidyah is £5 per day, they should pay 30 x £5.
It is preferred that those who are exempt from or who are unable to fast in Ramadan should try and make up the days instead of making the Fidyah donation.
Should a person intentionally break their food fast without a valid reason, they must pay Kaffarah. This, like Fidyah, can be paid in two ways: either by a monetary charity donation to those in need or by making up the fast. If a person is to pay Kaffarah by fasting, they must fast for 60 continuous days per one day that the fast is intentionally broken, or they must pay 60 days’ worth of Fidyah per day that the fast is intentionally broken. This means if a person purposefully breaks their fast for one day, they should fast for a further 60 continuous days or pay 60 x £5. If the continuous fast is broken, it must be started again from the beginning.
Generally speaking, as long as a person does not drink or eat anything between sunrise and sunset, they will not break their fast. A Muslim can:
Without breaking the rules of Ramadan fasting. Additionally, should a person innocently forget that it is Ramadan and have something to eat or drink, their fast is not broken – as long as it was a genuine mistake.
There are two meals that are consumed to break the fast after sunset and before sunrise. They are known as suhoor and iftar.
Suhoor time falls before sunrise and as such, it is comparable to breakfast. During the suhoor meal, Muslims typically eat high fibre, high energy foods and drinks, such as eggs, cereal, yoghurt, fruit and milk.
Once the sun has set it is iftar time. Iftar is comparable to a normal dinner because of the time of day it is consumed. Pasta, rice, meat, vegetables, soup and whole grains are typically eaten for iftar.
It is customary for Muslims to signify that it is fast breaking time by eating dates before they eat their suhoor and iftar meals. It is believed that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ate dates before he consumed his iftar and suhoor meals which is why many Muslims choose to do the same.
For those who are in good health, fasting from food poses no direct risk, although there is the risk of dehydration – especially in summer. It is imperative that Muslims drink adequate amounts of water when the time comes to eat at suhoor or iftar to prevent becoming ill through dehydration.
There is more to fasting in Ramadan than abstaining from eating food during sunlight hours. Other parts of the Ramadan rules for fasting include refraining from:
The notion behind the Ramadan fast comes from honouring the fourth pillar of Islam, and it is important to observe this in order to please Allah (SWT) and become a better Muslim. It is believed that by fasting from swearing, fighting, gossiping and lying, Muslims are able to cleanse their minds. By abstaining from food, they have more time to dedicate to reciting the Qur’an and strengthening their bond with Allah (SWT) whilst cleansing their bodies, too.
When the 10th new moon of the year is sighted above Mecca, the Ramadan fast draws to a close. To celebrate the end of the fast, Muslims partake in Eid ul-Fitr. It is a time for friends and family to come together and pray, exchange gifts and eat lots of food. It’s a time to be rewarded for having the strength, will power and dedication to get through the fast.
If fasts are to be made up as a result of Fidyah or Kaffarah, they cannot be done over Eid as it is forbidden to fast during Eid.
If you have any questions about fasting during Ramadan, it is advised that you seek the guidance of your local Imam; however, the Muslim Aid team are happy to help where possible. Please contact us if you have any questions and Ramadan or any of our appeals.