Fiqh of Ramadan: the How-Tos of Fasting
Reprinted from Soundivsion.com
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is an act of obedience and submission to Allah's commands through the highest degree of commitment, sincerity and faithfulness to seek Allah's mercy, to atone for sins, errors, and mistakes and to avoid condemnation to Hell.
It is done out of deep love for God, with a genuine virtue of devotion, honest dedication and closeness to Allah, for Fasting is for Allah and Him alone.
The fasting during Ramadan is obligatory on every adult, sane, and able Muslim.
Denial of the obligatory nature of fasting in the month of Ramadan amounts to disbelief.
One who avoids fasting without genuine reasons is a sinner and transgressor according to Islamic Shariah (Law).
Time: When to fast
Fasting in Islam involves abstinence from three primal physical needs of human beings- food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn (approximately one and a half hours before sunrise) to sunset during the entire month of Ramadan.
Who is exempted from fasting
The How To's of Fasting
Niyyah or Intention of Fast
To observe the fast, the intention of fasting is essential (waajib). The intention should be made daily, preferably before dawn of each day of fasting (in Ramadan).
Provision is made if someone has forgotten to express his intention before dawn. In such a case one is allowed to express intention of fasting before noon to avoid the invalidation of the fast.
The wording of Niyyah may be as follows:
"I intend to observe fast for today."
Suhoor is a light, predawn meal, recommended before actually fasting. It is a blessing and hence recommended but not essential.
Any consumption of food or drink should cease at least five to ten minutes before the onset of dawn.
Iftar is an Arabic term meaning breaking the fast immediately after the sunset. Iftar is a light snack consisting of dates or desserts, along with liquids, such as water, juice or milk.
This is eaten after making the following Duaa (supplication) for breaking the fast:
"Oh Allah! I fasted for your sake and I am breaking my fast from the sustenance You blessed me with, accept it from me."
What breaks the fast
The conditions mentioned above invalidate fasting and require "Qada" (making up only the missed day or days). However, intentional intercourse during the hours of fasting invalidates fasting and not only requires "Qada" but also additional penalty (Kaffara-see the explanation of this below).
What does not break the fast
During the fasting period, if one deliberately breaks his or her fast, s/he must free one slave, or fast for sixty continuous days, or feed sixty needy persons, or spend in charity an amount equal to feeding sixty persons.
If one chooses to fast sixty days and the continuity is interrupted for any reason, except menstruation, one has to start the sixty day cycle all over again.
Breaking of the fast under exceptional conditions
Muslims are permitted to break their fast of Ramadan when there is a danger to their health.
In this situation a Muslim should make up his/her fast later. The missed fast(s) can be made up at any other time of the year, either continuously or intermittently, except on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr and the day of Eid-ul-Adha
These are special Sunnah prayers in the month of Ramadan. They follow the Isha prayers. A minimum of eight and a maximum of twenty Rakat are offered in pairs of two.
Amongst the nights of Ramadan, there is one special night of Power (Qadr) which is highlighted in Surah al-Qadr (Surah 97 in the Quran).
It has the significance of being better than a thousand months. (Quran 97:3).
This was the night when Quran was revealed to mankind. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) recommended Muslims search for this night of Power (Qadr) in the odd nights of the last ten nights in Ramadan.
Muslims spend the night in Ibadah (worship), asking forgiveness of their sins and reciting the Quran.