Myths & Misconceptions about Fasting
Clearing up Confusion
In this chapter we are going to address a few myths or misconceptions about Ramadan that have not already been covered in previous chapters. The ones we will focus on are the following:
- The importance of sighting the new moon
- Conflict when sighting the new moon
- What you can/cannot do while fasting
- How does one fast if the days or nights are very long (eg. near the South or North poles)
Importance of Sighting the New Moon
Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrates that the Prophet (pbuh), used to count the days in Sha’ban more carefully than at any other time, then he would fast when he sighted (the new moon) of Ramadan, and if it was cloudy he would count thirty days and then fast.
This is one of many proofs which goes to show that the sighting of the new moon is critical for determining the start of a new month, or in the context of this guide, the start and end of Ramadan.
Conflict When Sighting the New Moon
Unfortunately, the joys of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr are often tainted by global contradictions in moon sighting. The conflict is caused by differing methods in viewing the hilal (crescent moon indicating a new month); either by naked eye or astronomical calculation.
Each side has evidence to prove their point, but it is important to avoid debate. Being wrong will bring about a small inconvenience: the day(s) missed will need to be made up, however, dividing over this issue will harm the entire ummah by creating disunity. Thus, we must choose the lesser of the two evils.
Both sides have the same goal: to declare the new moon accurately. Keeping that in mind, we should listen to the advice of our Prophet (pbuh) who said:
“I guarantee a house on the outskirts of Paradise, a house in the middle of Paradise, and a house in the highest part of Paradise for one who gives up arguing even if he is right, who gives up lying even while joking, and who makes his character excellent.Prophet Muhammad
We shouldn’t focus on being right, rather, we should focus on doing what is right.
Ramadan is a time for unity and worship. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,
“Verily, Allah Almighty is pleased with you by three things and displeased by three things. He is pleased for you to worship him without associating anything with him, to hold fast to the rope of Allah altogether, and to not become divided. He is displeased for you to gossip among yourselves, to ask many unnecessary questions, and to waste your wealth.” Saheeh Muslim
So, the next time you find yourself caught up in the crossfire of a “moon war,” follow your religious authority, council, community or ruler on this matter and avoid the conflict altogether.
What You Can/Cannot Do While Fasting
There is a lot of misunderstanding regarding what an individual can do while fasting; from taking medication to brushing one’s teeth to swimming during the summer, many Muslims still get confused every Ramadan.
First and foremost, any medication or treatment that does not supplement the body with nutrients, does not affect the body in a similar fashion as to food and drink, and does not mimic the effect of cupping on the body can be taken/done while fasting. That means your dentist appointment, annual flu shot and upcoming surgery don’t have to be rescheduled. Additionally, you don’t have to put away your asthma inhaler or eye drops while fasting either!
Secondly, Ramadan doesn’t excuse you from brushing your teeth. So long as you don’t swallow your toothpaste or your mouthwash you can brush your teeth to your heart’s desire. Take solace, however, that Allah (SWT) said: “Verily, the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better to Allah than the smell of musk." [Saheeh Bukhari]
Thirdly, Ramadan won’t prevent you from enjoying activities with your friends and family. There are no restrictions to the amount of (halal) fun you are able to have! But, be mindful that you’re fasting. Don’t overwork yourself to exhaustion, or worse, to injury. You can have fun in moderation. Also, make sure not to swallow water while taking a dip in the pool!
Contrary to popular misconception, Muslims have much leeway in all aspects of their lives while fasting. The only restriction is to stay away from the nullifiers that break one’s fast until sunset. If you’re ever in doubt on whether something is permissible during Ramadan, you can always ask your local Imam or research online.
How Does One Fast If The Days Or Nights Are Very Long
Some Muslims around the world live in countries near the South or North poles. This causes them to experience extremely long or short days, or a continuous day or night for a long period of time (the sun doesn’t set or rise).
These unusual circumstances make fasting difficult on these communities depending on the season. According to the Council of Senior Scholars of Saudi Arabia, “whoever resides in a country where the night can be distinguished from the day by the onset of dawn and the setting of the sun, but the day is extremely long in the summer and extremely short in the winter, is obliged to perform the five daily prayers.”
But for those who live in countries with continuous day or night, they must base their prayer times on the nearest country whose day and night are distinguished from one another and whose prayer times are known.