• 17 April

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Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims around the world. Ramadan is a busy period of the year for believers, with a lot of charitable acts to perform – the most significant of which is fasting. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the core practices as it is done to observe the fourth pillar of Islam, Sawm, which translates from Arabic as “fasting”.

In a hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.” (al-Bukhari, 2014; Muslim, 760)

Fasting for Ramadan does not only mean refraining from eating. There are certain rules around fasting that must be adhered to for the fast to be valid. There are certain traditions that are customary for those observing the fast. If you are new to the Muslim community or want to find out more about fasting during Ramadan, continue reading to access useful information detailed below.


Ramadan Fasting Rules

 The first step towards understanding Ramadan fasting is to be aware of the rules surrounding it. It is common knowledge that Ramadan does not permit Muslims to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset, but what is often misunderstood is exactly who has to observe fasting. Many people assume every Muslim fasts. However, certain people have been granted exemption from fasting.


Who is Exempt from Fasting During Ramadan?

Whilst every Muslim should abide by the Five Pillars of Islam, including Sawm, there are some exceptions. Certain groups of people are exempt from fasting. Children below the age of puberty come under this category. Their bodies are small and need nourishment, and they find it difficult to stick to the fasting rules at a very young age, which is why those who have not yet gone through puberty are not required to fast. Once they reach an age when they are able to try fasting, they should be gradually prepared and encouraged to fast. Some scholars describe this to be the age of 10.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are older people, who are frail and more likely to be in poor health. As a result of this, they are also exempt from fasting during Ramadan.

It’s not just the elderly who may be in ill health; anyone undergoing medical treatment or on vital medication is permitted to miss the fast as they nurse their bodies to full health.

Anyone who has travelled a distance will know how tiring it can be and how taxing it is on the mind and body, and it is for this reason those travelling are not required to fast.

In addition to the above, the Ramadan fasting rules list three instances in which a woman does not need to fast: if she is menstruating, pregnant, or breastfeeding.

If a person does not fit into any of the above groups, they must fast.

These are the basic rules of Ramadan, but there are other rulings that need to be taken into account as well.


Making up Missed Fasts

In the case of those exempt from Ramadan fasting, one of the two rules applies. They either need to make up the missed days of fasting at another point in the year or pay Fidya if they are unable to fast even at a later date. Fidya is a compulsory donation that Muslims who are exempt from fasting must pay if they have no hope of regaining the strength to make up for the missed fasts.


Fasting Times for Ramadan

 Between sunrise and sunset, Muslims are not permitted to eat or drink, but outside daylight hours, there are two meals that the believers eat at dawn and after sunset – known as Iftar and Suhoor.


What Time is Iftar?

 Iftar is the meal that is eaten after the sun has set at the time of breaking the fast. Due to the Iftar timing, it is often reminiscent of a dinner-time meal.


Common Iftar Foods

 It is common among Muslims to break their fast with dates, in line with the tradition dating back to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Keeping fluids up is essential during Ramadan. In some cultures, soup is consumed as an Iftar meal. Chunky vegetable soup rich with beans, lentils, grains, and pasta is a great way to top up a person’s fluids, besides providing good nutritional value. In addition to soup, fish and meat are good options when served alongside a variety of vegetables, fruits, rice/pasta, grains, and yoghurt.


What Time is Suhoor?

 Suhoor is a pre-dawn meal and is often based on popular breakfast foods. Suhoor has a lot of blessing according to the hadith of the Prophet (PBUH). It is highly advisable to eat Suhoor to make one’s fasting day blessed, with sufficient energy to perform routine activities as well as acts of worship.


What to Eat at Suhoor

 Yoghurt, fruit, cereal, eggs, oats, and wholemeal bread are good choices at this time of day as they provide slow energy release and contain lots of vitamins and vital nourishment for the fasting person.

At the time of Suhoor and Iftar, it is essential to ensure the necessary intake of water. It is common for some people to experience mild dehydration during Ramadan – especially in hot weather when body fluid may be lost through sweating. That is why making a conscious effort to drink water outside fasting hours is so important.


What Breaks the Fast?

Naturally, consuming any water or food during daylight hours breaks your Ramadan fast. However, these actions aren’t the only factors that can invalidate the fats. In fact, engaging in any impure behaviours during sunlight hours, such as swearing, arguing, or sexual activity, will also result in the breaking of your fast.


Unintentional Breaking of the Fast

 There are some factors which may cause a Muslim to break their fast unintentionally, specifically women.


Due to Menstruation, Breastfeeding and Pregnancy

 As per the Ramadan rules, if a woman begins to menstruate, she must end her fast. The start of menstruation is unintentional and, therefore, doesn’t invalidate the days during which a woman has completed her fast. Instead, she should make up the days she cannot fast at another point in the year.

Similarly, pregnant women and breastfeeding women are allowed to stop fasting if the fast becomes too hard for them, and they fear it might result in some kind of harm to the health of the baby. In such an event, they can make up the days they missed fast at a later date. However, if a mother is expected to continue to breastfeed until next Ramadan and beyond, she can pay Fidya.


Breaking the Fast Out of Forgetfulness

 If a Muslim forgets they are fasting and eats something or takes a drink by mistake, their fast is not invalid. They are permitted to continue fasting for Ramadan when they realise their error.


Are You Allowed to Brush Your Teeth While Fasting?

 Brushing your teeth will not break your fast so long as you make a conscious effort not to swallow the toothpaste or the water.



 Unintentional vomiting does not break a believer’s fast.


Intentional Fast Breaking – Kaffarah:

 If someone intentionally breaks their fast and eats or drinks something on purpose, in the full knowledge that they should be fasting, they must fast for an additional 60 continuous days or pay Kaffarah.


The End of the Ramadan Fast

When the ninth month of the Islamic year draws to a close, the fast is broken by Eid-al-Fitr celebrations. Eid is a day of joy and gratefulness; fasting is prohibited on the day of Eid.


Find Out More

If you have any additional questions about Ramadan fasting, please consult either your local Imam or get in touch with Orphans in Need.