Beginning the Fast of Ramadan
Muslims begin fasting the day after the appearance of the new moon for the month of Ramadan. If the new moon has been sighted in any part of the world, a Muslim should begin his fast the next day.
The Niyyah (Intention)
It is essential that a Muslim makes his intention to fast. A Muslim can make their intention to fast once for the whole month of Ramadan or he can make the intention each day before they begin that day's fast. The intention can be something like this:
I intend to fast for the month of Ramadan, as a Fard act of worship to You. I pray that you accept the fast from me.
The Suhoor: Pre-Dawn Meal
Muslims are encouraged to eat a pre-dawn meal before starting their fast. The suhoor is highly recommended because it is the Sunnah of Rasulallah (s.a.w.s.). As the image above demonstrates, the holy prophet encouraged Muslims to eat something for suhoor because there are blessings in this meal. The purpose of this early morning meal is to reduce the hardship of fasting during the day.
Breaking the Fast: Iftar
When the sun has set a Muslim should break his fast. It is recommended to break the fast with this dua:
Allahuma laka sumtu wa ala rizqika aftartu. This means: O Allah! I fasted seeking your reward and by your sustenance I break my fast. The holy prophet (s.a.w.s) is reported to have said: "There are two occasions of joy for one who fasts, one when he breaks the fast and the other when he will meet his Lord". It is also highly recommended for Muslims to make dua right before breaking their fast.
Those Who Must Fast
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is obligatory upon each healthy and physically mature Muslim. For girls, physical maturity is marked by the start of menstruation. For boys, this is marked by the first emission of semen.
Those Who Are Not Allowed to Fast
Women that are going through menstruation and women that are going through the blood of childbirth should not fast until they stop bleeding. However, these women are still required to make up all of the days that they missed after Ramadan but before next year's Ramadan.
Valid Excuses to Postpone Fasting
The following groups of people are allowed to postpone their fasting:
The Sick: If fasting is likely to make their illness worse.
The Mentally Ill: If an individual has a mental illness they can postpone fasting for as long as their illness lasts.
The Traveler: According to Islamic Law a person is considered a traveler if they travel more than 77 kilometers from their area of residence. It is not permissible for a traveler to postpone the day's fast if he begins his journey after dawn. If the traveler leaves after dawn with the intention of fasting but becomes exhausted due to fasting he may break his fast and postpone it for another day.
The Pregnant Woman: If fasting is likely to harm her health or the health of her unborn child.
The Nursing Mother: If fasting is likely to harm the health of the mother and/or prevent her from having enough milk to feed her baby.
The Qada: Making Up the Fasting
The word qada can mean making up, in this case making up for a missed day of fasting. After the end of Ramadan all of the groups mentioned above should fast an equal number of days to those that they missed. It is important to mention that there are a number of other things that nullify a fast and require qada but those listed above are considered some of the most important. A Muslim can do qada anytime after Ramadan except for the days of Eid. It is discouraged to delay it without a cause because there is no guarantee that one will live long enough to make it up, If a Muslim, on purpose, delays his qada until the Ramadan of the following year, he then not only has to do qada but he also has to donate the equivalent of one handful (both hands cupped together) of staple foodstuff for each day of Qada. In conclusion, the conditions which necessitate qada are circumstances in which the fasting Muslim breaks his fast with a valid excuse.
However, if an adult Muslim either refuses to fast in Ramadan without a valid excuse or breaks hisfast without a valid excuse than this case is much more serious. This is because fasting during the monthof Ramadan is an obligatory act of worship and any Muslim who refuses to follow this obligation shows direct disobedience to Allah (s.w.t) and therefore commits a sin. If a Muslim wants to repent and clean himself of this sin he needs to do both qada and kaffarah for each day he broke his fast. The kaffarah is only required for the breaking of a Ramadan fast. Kaffarah is not necessary if an individual breaks any other fast. Also, in order for kaffarah to be necessary the breaking of the fast must be intentional not due to forgetfulness or compulsion. There are three ways of doing kaffarah a Muslim must choose one of these three ways.
- The first way is to donate staple foodstuff to 60 needy Muslims at the rate of one handful per person. One must do this for everyday of fasting that they have missed. For example, if someone has missed all 30 days of Ramadan they should give out food in the same manner and quantity for 30 days.
- Free a slave (if such a situation is applicable) for each nullified fast.
- Fast continuously for two lunar months (about 60 days) for each nullified fast.
Those Who Are Excused From Fasting
The following groups of people are completely exempt from fasting and are not required to make up the days missed.
The Chronically Ill: Those that have a serious permanent illness that would be made worse by fasting.
The Permanently Mentally Ill
The Very Old: Those that are too old and weak to fast.
However, it is recommended that the permanently ill or old person should still distribute staple foodstuff at the rate of one handful for each day of the Ramadan fast.
Islamic 'Aqidah and Fiqh by Aisha Lemu