Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is compulsory for every healthy Muslim adult.
The Arabic word for fasting – sawm or siyam (plural) – literally means “to refrain” from food, drinks and sexual activity from dawn (Al Fajr) to sunset (Al Maghrib).
Fasting is prescribed in the Qur’an, as stated in Surah Al-Baqarah (2-183):
“O you who believe, siyam is prescribed on you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you may become self-restrained.”
Meanwhile, the importance of fasting during Ramadan is also clearly expressed in several sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
For example, it is reported by Abu Hurairah that the Prophet said:
“He who fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeks his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven; he who prays during the night in Ramadan with faith and seeks his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven; and he who passes Lailat al- Qadr in prayer with faith and seeks his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven.”
During fasting, one must also refrain from immoral behaviour and attitude.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“If one does not abandon falsehood in words and deeds, Allah has no need for his abandoning of his food and drink.”
Who is exempt from fasting?
The following Muslims are exempt from fasting during Ramadan:
1. The clinically insane
2. Children who have not reached puberty
3. The elderly and chronically ill for whom fasting is unreasonably strenuous. Instead, they are required to feed at least one poor person every day in for which he/she missed fasting.
4. Pregnant and nursing women may postpone fasting to a later date. However, it is best to check with your doctor for advise.
5. Those who are ill or those who are travelling incredibly long distances. However, these days need to be made up later. In the Qur’an (Surah Al-Baqara), there’s the verse:
“But if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties.”
6. Females during menstruation. However, again, days missed should be made up.
Validity of fasting:
Your fast is considered valid, if you have done the following:
1. Abstained from food, drink and sexual activity from dawn to sunset.
2. The intention to fast (niyyah) is made every day before dawn. Niyyah may be made during night before going to sleep or it can also be made at the time of suhour before dawn.
3. It is desirable to break the fast as soon as possible after sunset.
Factors that invalidate a fast:
There are numerous factors that can invalidate a fast. These are:
1. Eating or drinking intentionally.
2. Deliberately causing oneself to throw up.
3. The beginning of menstruation.
4. Ejaculation for reasons other than sexual intercourse.
5. Sexual intercourse between married couples.
6. Intending to break the fast before sunset even if one changes his mind, since intention is one of the pre-requisites of the validity of fasting.
Factors that do not invalidate a fast
According to numerous Islamic scholars, there are several factors that do not invalidate a fast. They are:
1. If anyone forgets that he is fasting and eats or drinks, he should complete his fast, for it is only Allah who has fed him and given him drink.
2. Unintentional vomiting.
3. Swallowing things that are not possible to avoid, such as one’s saliva, street dust, smoke…etc.
4. Brushing the teeth.
5. Injections or intra-venous which are for medical and not nutritional use.