How a Muslim Can Fast, Step by Step
In this chapter we will cover all of the following. You can click on any of them to jump ahead to that section:
The Start of Fasting
Fasting begins at the start of the Fajr (dawn) prayer and ends at the start of Maghrib (dusk) prayer. Before starting the fast, it’s important that you make the intention to fast.
For the month of Ramadan, the intention has to be before the Fajr prayer every night or before the first night of Ramadan for the entire month, as we covered in Chapter 3.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever does not form his intention to fast before dawn, his fasting will not be accepted.”Tirmidhi 730
However, when fasting at any other time during the year, the intention can be made at any time during the day, provided you have not eaten, drank or done anything that would invalidate a fast.
It was narrated by Aisha, the Mother of Believers: "The Prophet visited me one day and said: 'Do you have anything (to eat)?' She said: I said: 'No.' He said: 'Then I am fasting.'" [Saheeh Muslim and Tirmidhi]
It is important to keep in mind that the intention is in the heart and not something that has to be said out loud.
Suhoor - The Early Morning Meal
It is highly recommended to start off the fast with the pre-dawn meal, suhoor. You should eat or drink, even if it’s a little, up until the start of the Fajr prayer, at which point the fast begins and you can no longer eat or drink.
The suhoor was something that the Prophet (pbuh) used to do and encouraged others to do as well. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Eat suhoor, for in suhoor there is a blessing.” [Saheeh Bukhari and Muslim]
This sentence means “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.”
Eating Iftar When the Fasting Day Ends
The fasting concludes at Maghrib and it is recommended to quickly break the fast at that time. It is also recommended to break the fast by eating 3 dates. If you don’t have any dates, then you can drink water.
It is also recommended to say the following dua when you break your fast:
ذَهَـبَ الظَّمَـأُ، وَابْتَلَّـتِ العُـروق، وَثَبَـتَ الأجْـرُ إِنْ شـاءَ الله
Dhahaba at-thama', wabtallatil urooq, wa thabatal ajroo insha Allah.
Which means: the thirst is gone, the veins are moistened, and the reward is confirmed, if Allah wills.
Doing More Acts of Worship While Fasting in Ramadan
During the month of Ramadan, it is highly recommended that we go above & beyond the bare minimum of fasting and praying the obligatory prayers.
We should strive to pray extra voluntary prayers during the day and night, recite Qur’an frequently, pray in the mosque, make a lot of supplications (dua), give a lot of charity, and try to do as many good deeds in every way as possible.
It was narrated by the companion Ibn Abbas: “The Prophet (pbuh) was the most generous of all the people, and he used to become (even) more generous in Ramadan when Gabriel met him. Gabriel used to meet him every night during Ramadan to revise the Qur'an with him.” [Saheeh Bukhari]
What is the Taraweeh Prayer?
One of the best voluntary deeds you can do in Ramadan is Taraweeh. Taraweeh is a set of voluntary prayers held during the nights of Ramadan after the Isha prayer.
During these prayers, a portion of the Qur’an is recited and divided up into many units. Typically, the entire Qur’an will be recited by the end of the month. Taraweeh is one of the greatest opportunities for worship and good deeds during this month.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
"Whoever establishes prayers during the nights of Ramadan faithfully out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, all his past sins will be forgiven.” Saheeh Bukhari
What is I’tikaaf?
Another great voluntary deed you can do in Ramadan is I'tikaaf.
I’tikaaf is a spiritual retreat, where you go and spend the last 10 days and nights of the month in the mosque. During this time, you would busy yourself with worshipping Allah, doing good deeds, and staying away from worldly matters. The Prophet (pbuh) would observe I’tikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadan.
Taking Advantage of Laylatul Qadr
The greatest night of Ramadan is Laylat al-Qadr, which can be found during the last ten nights of the month.
During these last ten nights, we should try our hardest to do many good deeds, and worship Allah (SWT) as much as we can. We should do more prayers, make more dua, and give more in charity.
Throughout the ten nights, it is also recommended to say the following dua asking for forgiveness:
للَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ كَرِيمٌ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي
Allāhumma innaka `Afuwwun [Karīmun], tuḥibbul-`afwa fa`fu `annī
Which means: O Allah, indeed You are Pardoning, [Generous,] You love to pardon, so pardon me.
It was narrated by Aisha: “The Prophet used to strive hard (in worship) in the last ten nights of Ramadan as he never did at any other time.”
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Whoever establishes prayers on Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and seeking a reward from Allah, all his(her) past sins will be forgiven." Saheeh Bukhari
Avoiding Actions that Can Decrease Your Reward While Fasting in Ramadan
While in a state of fasting, you should be careful to avoid certain things, particularly in the month of Ramadan.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his/her leaving his(her) food and drink.” [Saheeh Bukhari]
Telling lies, backbiting, gossip, as well as other haram (unlawful) actions are extremely disliked and may possibly reduce your reward.
The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Many a one who fasts gets nothing from his fasting but thirst, and many a one who prays during the night gets nothing from his night prayers but wakefulness.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
It is also important not to waste time during Ramadan. The month of Ramadan is a special opportunity that only comes once a year, and it is disliked to waste that opportunity.
We should try to spend as much of our time in worship of Allah (SWT) and try to decrease the time spent doing other unimportant things such as watching TV/movies, video games, etc. This applies even if you are unable to fast.
What Days Are Forbidden to Fast?
There are certain days during the year which fasting is prohibited. You can’t fast on the days of the two celebrations of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. You also can’t fast on the three days after Eid al-Adha.
It was narrated by Aisha: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade to observe fast on two days: the day of Fitr and the days of Adha.”
It is also prohibited to fast singly on Friday and Saturday, unless you fast a day before or after, or if there is a reason to fast on that specific day.
For example, if any of the optional fasts outside of Ramadan happen to fall on a Friday or Saturday, then you can fast that day without having to fast a day before or after. However, if you want to fast either on a Friday or Saturday without having a reason, you have to make sure to also fast either a day before or a day after.
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