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Learning Self-Discipline during Ramadan

In the month of Ramadan, the Quran was revealed, a book of guidance distinguishing right from wrong.

One of the major obligations of every Muslim is that he or she must fast during the holy month of Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the lunar calendar followed by the Muslims. One who has fasted during this month shall be rewarded accordingly in the life hereafter, in Heaven, if he or she lives a good life according to the laws of Islam.

Muslims learn self-discipline during Ramadan. The word learning is used in this context, because life is a journey in which we learn and prepare ourselves for the life to come in the hereafter. They are becoming aware of their own true nature as spiritual beings, by being able to allow their minds to control them, and not their baser lusts and material desires.

After all, man, though he may biologically be like an animal, is much more elevated. He is set above the animals by his ability to think, reason, make decisions, and consciously express himself. By fasting, he is able to realise that he is something more than just an animal, but that he is a conscious being with the will to choose between doing what is right and doing what is wrong.

Rewards of Fasting

During Ramadan the believers get busy seeking Allah's mercy, forgiveness and protection from Hellfire.

* Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) said: “He who fasts solely for the sake of Allah, has all his previous sins forgiven.

* The odour of the mouth of a fasting person is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk.

It is narrated in the Hadith that on the Day of Judgement even before Reckoning has taken place, the fasting people will be sumptuously fed under the shade of Allah's Arsh (Throne) while others will be still embroiled in the hardships of Reckoning.

*The Prophet (Pbuh) said, the sleep of a fasting person is Ibadat and his silence is Tasbeeh (recitation of Subhan Allah).

* Fasting is a shield as long as the fasting person does not rupture it with lies and back-biting.

* Saum (fasting) and the Quran will intercede on behalf of the servant of Allah. Saum will say 'My Rabb! I forbade him from sleep at night and desires during the day, therefore, accept my intercession on his behalf.' The Quran will say: 'I forbade him from sleep at night, therefore accept my intercession on his behalf.' Thus, their intercession will be accepted.

Who should Fast?

* Fasting during Ramadan is compulsory for every Muslim, male or female, who meets the following requirements:

Is mentally and physically fit i.e., sane and able.

* Has attained the age of puberty and discretion, which is normally about 14 years.

* Is present at their permanent settlement, hometown, farm or business premises etc.

* Is fairly certain that the fasting is unlikely to cause any harm, physical or mental other than the normal reactions to hunger, thirst etc.

What is Sahri or Suhoor?

* Sahri is the act of arising from sleep during the course of the night to partake of some food or drink in anticipation of the next day's fasting.

* Sahri is Sunnat regardless of whether one feels like eating anything or not. One should rise and eat even a date or two or merely take a gulp of water.

* It is of greater merit to delay Sahri. But it should not be delayed so much that Subah Sadiq has almost set in, causing doubt in the validity of the fast.

It is not permissible to forgo a fast because of failure to wake up during the night for Sahri.

If Sahri was missed if one has overslept, one should not forgo fasting. It is not permissible to refrain from Saum because of having missed Sahri.

What is Iftar?

* It is important to hasten with Iftar (breaking the fast) as soon as the sun has set.

* Iftar should be made before the Maghrib (Sunset Prayer) Salat.

* The Muezzin should make Iftar before proclaiming the Azaan.

* At the time of Iftar, it is Sunnat to recite the following dua:

“O Allah! I have fasted for you. I believe in you.

* I have trust in you and I make Iftar with the rizaq (food) provided by you.”

* Iftar should preferably be made with dates. In the absence of dates, water is best.

* It is Makrooh to make Iftar when in doubt regarding sunset.

* If it is overcast, Iftar should be delayed until there is absolute certainty that the sun has set.

* If Iftar is made even a minute before sunset, Qadha of the fast is incumbent. It is Makrooh to unnecessarily delay Iftar.

* The time of Iftar is very auspicious. Dua is readily accepted at the time when the fast is about to end.

What makes the Fast Valid?

* Niyyat : It is preferable to make the Niyyat (Intention) of Saum during night, i.e. prior to the entry of Subah Sadiq. When the fast starts, if the Niyyat was not made during the night, the Saum will be valid if the Niyyat is made approximately one hour before zawaal. One hour before zawaal is an approximate time taken as a precautionary measure. The exact time limit for the validity of the Niyyat for Saum is before the time of Nisfun-Nahar, i.e. mid-day in terms of the Shariah.

Nisfun-Nahar is determined by dividing by two the time duration from Subah Sadiq to sunset, and adding the result to Subah Sadiq time.

Example: Subah Sadiq : 5.30 a.m Sunset : 5.35 p.m

Time duration from Subah Sadiq to Sunset.

12 hrs. 5 mins divided by 2 = 6 hrs. 2 mins.

Add this result to Subah Sadiq : 5.30+6.02 = 11.32 a.m.= Nisfun-Nahar.

If Niyyat is made for the saum before 11.32 a.m. (in this example), the wajib Saum will be valid.

* It is not essential that any particular Niyyat formula be recited. Niyyat merely means to intend that one will be fasting, or is fasting. The Niyyat could also be made verbally in any language, e.g. One may say: O Allah! Tomorrow I shall be fasting for You. Or one may recite it in Arabic e.g. “I make Niyyat of tomorrow's fast”.

During the month of Ramadan, only Niyyat of the existing Ramadan's Saum will be valid. Even if a Niyyat for any other Saum is made during Ramadan, then too only the Saum of the existing Ramadan will be discharged and not the Saum for which the Niyyat was made.

Things which do not break the Fast

* The using of Miswak

* To take bath during the day or to pour water, over the head due to the summer heat.

* To smell perfume.

* To apply Surma (Kohl) in the eyes, or oil to the hair.

* To eat or drink in forgetfulness.

* To inhale a fly or smoke or dust without one's will or intention.

* To pour water into the ear unintentionally.

* To swallow saliva or phlegm.

* To gargle or take water in the nose, while performing ablution (Wudu), but care should be taken that no part of water enters the throat.

* Blood tests during illness.

Things which break the Fast

* Sexual intercourse even if there is no emergence of semen.

* Smoking.

* Inhaling smoke by one's own action, e.g. inhaling the smoke of incense, etc.

* Swallowing any substance or object which is not normally consumed as food or medicine, e.g. pebbles, paper, a coin, etc.

* Saliva mingled with blood will break the fast if the taste of blood is discernible when swallowing it.

* Eating deliberately. (Eating by mistake does not break the fast).

* Deliberately inducing oneself to vomit will break the fast if the vomit is mouthful. If the emergence of the vomit cannot be restrained, the vomit will be said to be a mouthful.

* A food particle, the size of a chana (about the size of half a pea) stuck in the teeth slips down the throat.

* Masturbation. In addition to it nullifying the Saum, it is an immoral and a sinful act.

* Ejacul-ation as a result of care-ssing and fondling the wife even if there was no sexual intercourse.

Kaffarah, Qadha Saum and Fidyah

* A fast of Ramadan broken deliberately without valid reason, after having made the Niyyat for fasting during the night, brings about the penalty of Kaffarah.

* A traveller is permitted to refrain from Saum, although it is meritorious for him/her to fast, if the journey is not a difficult one. The traveller shall make Qadha of all Saum omitted during the journey.

* If a woman starts menstruating during the course of the fasting day, the fast is not valid. It is not incumbent to abstain from eating during the remaining part of the day. Preferably, it is better to avoid eating in the presence of those who are fasting. She can compensate for her missed fasts later after Ramadan.

* When a pregnant woman has a genuine fear for either her own life or the life of the child she is bearing, it will be permissible for her to refrain from Saum. She will have to make Qadha of the Saum she misses as a result.

* A very old person who is truly unable to fast, is permitted to refrain from Saum. He has to offer compensation by means of paying the Fidyah.

Qadha Saum

* Qadha means to fulfill or to compensate for fasts which are not executed when they were due.

* It is necessary to make Qadha of Saum as soon as possible since one does not know when death will overtake one. While it is not Wajib to make the Qadha immediately after Ramadan or on any other specific day, Qadha should not be unnecessarily delayed.

* For the validity of Qadha Saum, it is essential to make Niyyat during the night, i.e. before Subah Sadiq.

* Saum omitted on account of menses has to be made Qadha.

* It is not obligatory to keep the Qadha Saum all at once (consecutively). The Qadha Saum may be spread over a period or they may be kept consecutively.

* If by the time death approaches, the Qadha has not yet been discharged, it will then be obligatory to make a bequest for payment of Fidyah.

* Similarly, if due to old age or sickness one is unable to fast and the Qadha has not yet been executed, wasiyyat to pay Fidyah will be wajib (obligatory).

Kaffarah of Ramadan

* Kaffarah (compensation) is the penalty which is imposed by Shariah for the deliberate and flagrant nullification of the Saum of Ramadan.

* Kaffarah applies to only the Saum of Ramadan.

* Kaffarah comes into force only if the Niyyat for fasting was made at night, i.e. before Subah Sadiq. Thus, if Niyyat was made during the night to fast the following day, and then the fast is broken without valid reason, the Kaffarah penalty comes into effect.

* Kaffarah for flagrantly breaking a fast of Ramadan is to fast 60 consecutive days- sixty days, one after the other, without missing any day in between.

* The Kaffarah will be rendered invalid if for any reason- be it a valid reason, even a single day is omitted during the 60 day-Kaffarah course. Thus if a person fasted for 59 days and failed to fast on the 60th day due to illness, he will have to start the Kaffarah all over again. The only interruption which will not invalidate the Kaffarah is the monthly menses of women.

* A person who is unable to discharge the Kaffarah because of ill-health or very old age, will have to feed 60 poor persons. Each miskeen (poor) should be given two full meals for the day or the amount in cash which is given as Sadaqah Fitr. This amount is the price of approximately 2 kilograms bread flour. Instead of the cash, the flour may also be given.

* A single Ramadan, makes Wajib only one Kaffarah irrespective of the number of fasts flagrantly broken during that Ramadan

* If fasts were flagrantly nullified in more than one Ramadan, the number of Kaffarah will be equal to the number of Ramadan. So if fasts were flagrantly broken in three different Ramadans, three different Kaffarah will be obligatory.

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