Fiqh - What You Should Know about Fasting
Fast of one who does not pray regularly?
Can a fasting person brush his teeth?
Who can and cannot fast?
Using lipsticks, balms and other make-up?
Who is responsible in the family to prepare Iftar?
Extra prayers, etc. during Ramadan?
Time that fasting begins and ends?
Du'a said when breaking the fast, and its origin?
Swallowing saliva during Ramadan?
Finishing Suhur meal even though fasting begun?
Need to make the intention to fast every day?
Advising a new convert on Ramadan?
Lunch functions, socialising with clients etc.?
Q. Will Allah accept the fast from a person who does not pray regularly?
A.Those Muslims who choose not to pray fall into the category of those who are committing a grave sin. Adding to this, it follows that non praying 'Muslims' who fast do so only for social reasons in that they only fast because the whole community fasts.
It is important that all of us should use this Blessed time to re-examine our attitude and commitment to our Islam and pray for the strength and spiritual guidance to fulfil our duties to Allah, those closest to us and all the Muslims.
Q. Can a fasting person brush his teeth?
A. The important issue here is that nothing should be swallowed - neither the water nor the toothpaste. If you are confident of this, then it is allowed. However if you doubt your capabilities in this regard it is best avoided and it is preferable that you brush before Fajr or dawn Prayer, and as many times as you wish after Maghrib or sunset Prayer.
The Miswak (Wood stick from the Arak tree with dental and hygienic properties) can be used at any time. However it is not in keeping with Islamic etiquette that a Miswak should be continuously protruding from the mouth as a permanent fixture and should be reserved for use at appropriate moments of personal hygiene.
Q. Who can and cannot fast? At what age is a person eligible for fasting? Are the disabled required to fast?
A. Fasting becomes obligatory on all Muslims as soon as they reach the age of maturity. This may differ slightly form one child to another hence the reluctance to set an age. Young children between the ages of 6 to 9 years generally show an eagerness to fast and should be encouraged to manage parts of days, full days or alternate days as a means of training. Most children would be fasting from the age of 10 and it would be quite inappropriate for a child to go beyond the age of 14 or 15 and not be fasting regularly unless they fell into the 'exempt' category.
Those who are sick, elderly, menstruating women, travellers as well as expectant and breast feeding mothers if they feel any danger to themselves or the nursing infants are exempt from fasting. With the exception of the chronically ill, all of the others mentioned have to make up later on for missed days of fasting during Ramadan.
A physical disability ie deafness, blindness, lameness or to be without a limb, rarely prevents a person from fasting. However if it is coupled with mental incapacity or a person is mentally incapacitated alone, fasting is not required of them.
Q. During fasting, can a person use lipsticks, balms and other make-up?
A. It is important to remember that the month of Ramadan is not a time for attracting or drawing attention to oneself. It is a month during which we should dedicate our time to spiritually uplifting ourselves through prayers, reading and useful study individually, with the family or with other good Muslims. However since the winter weather can be rather harsh and does tend to bring about coldsores to the lips, balms which soothe such complaints can be used as well as the usual moisturisers to protect the skin.
Q. Who is responsible in the family, Islamically speaking, to prepare the Iftar, the meal to break the fast, especially if there are equal demands on both in terms of workload.
A. Muslim wives and husbands are both responsible for looking after and running their home. In today's society when, in all probability, both spouses work or there is no support from an extended family for the one who stays at home to carry out the arduous task of caring for the children then both should divide and attend to chores together.
The Prophet PBUH said when dealing with a dispute between Fatima, his daughter and Ali, his son-in-law 'While Fatima is responsible for jobs inside the home and Ali the external business, common courtesy dictates that Ali lend a helping hand to Fatima.
Q. Are there any extra prayers, supplications or other additional tasks, which Muslims are recommended to do during Ramadan?
A. Ramadan is the month in which the Qur'an began to be revealed and it is the general practice that an entire reading is completed during the month of Ramadan during the Tarawih prayer. Tarawih prayers are extra optional Rak'ah offered in units of two immediately after Isha or night Prayer. They may be offered in the Mosque with the rest of the community, individually or with the family in your own home. The number of Rak'ah, or units of prayer read, vary from between 8 to 20 with short rests between every four completed.
One should also try to increase in the remembrance of Allah throughout the days of Ramadan, read to increase knowledge and strengthen resolve to improve lifestyle and bring it more in line with what brings pleasure to Allah.
The last 10 nights of Ramadan is a time when even more emphasis is placed upon spiritual meditation and development. Men and women are encouraged towards 'Ihtikaf' or seclusion from as much of the mundane things of life as possible for this process. During these last 10 nights is 'Lailatul Qadr', the 'Night of Power' which is expected to fall on the 27th night of Ramadan but may fall on any of the odd numbered nights within the last 10 nights of Ramadan.
For a more in-depth insight into the significance of this night please do read and study Surah Al-Qadr (97:1-5). On this night you should pray earnestly for forgiveness and guidance from Allah by repeating the Dua 'O Allah, You are all-pardoning and You love to pardon, so pardon me'.
Q. At what time does fasting begin and at what time does it end? A. It is best to try to secure a prayer timetable from your local Mosque, or at least the Mosque nearest to you, for the month of Ramadan (and for every month for that matter) so that you may pray regularly and on time and that you are in no doubt as to the beginning and ending of each day's fast according to the Prayer times of Fajr (dawn) and Maghrib (sunset).
Though the Qur'an refers to the beginning and end of the fast (Surah 2:187) the arduous task of calculating the right time is a matter which the Mosques and other Islamic institutions have taken upon themselves thus serving the community with regular monthly prayer timetables.
Q. What is the Du'a one reads when breaking the fast, and where does it come from?
A. According to a Hadith of the Prophet PBUH the following Du'a should be read on breaking the fast: 'O Allah, for You we have fasted, and with Your provision we have broken our fasts. So do accept it from us, for truly You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
Q. Can saliva be swallowed during the month of Ramadan?
A. Saliva is a part of the natural bodily function which does not affect fasting.
Q. Is the person allowed to finish their Suhur meal having started it even though the time comes to begin fasting?
A. Having a prayer timetable is important so that the Suhur meal can be timed and organised to safely end a few minutes before the time for Fajr Prayer.One of the most important lessons of Ramadan is that of acquiring a sense of discipline and self control. Part of that essential training is responding to the commands of Allah without delay and this is just one of those times when sincerity of intention and acting accordingly must be clear and unambiguous. If you happen to wake up late you will simply have missed Suhur but should fast as required.
Q. Does one have to make the intention to fast every day before Fajr or is possible to make the intention to fast for 30 days at the beginning of Ramadan?
A. Intention is a very personal thing which does not even have to be spoken and it may be towards doing good or bad. It is a thought from the heart to do something and in the case of fasting the month of Ramadan for the sake and pleasure of Allah it is a good intention. Making it for the month or on a daily basis are both acceptable.
Q. How should a new convert be advised regarding Ramadan if they have only recently accepted Islam?
A. When someone accepts Islam they are generally at the very base of the learning curve and therefore should be treated with the gentle sensitivity such situations require. It also depends an age, maturity, physical strength and wellbeing. Converts to Islam come from a host of backgrounds and situations whereby many issues have to be considered.
It is best to encourage them to fast as one might encourage a child in the training period mentioned above. On the other hand, with your support, they may wish to exert themselves and fast the entire month or the greater part of it. At this time of the year fasting is clearly not as taxing for some as it is in mid - Summer.
Q. What is expected of Muslims whose work during the month of Ramadan could include lunch functions, socialising with clients etc.?
A. Such trivialities do not fall into the category of exemptions from fasting. In a world where every material and social norm is immediately at hand or indulged in it is indeed an individual quality if one can refrain from what is expected or demanded by colleagues just because it is socially acceptable.
It is best to try to readjust your schedule to avoid such occasions or if you are in a position to delegate such responsibilities then do so. On the other hand you could just come right out and state your situation and hopefully a considerate boss and work colleagues will happily relieve you from unnecessary demands at this time.