Ramadan is a blessed month that increases a Muslim’s spiritual awareness, fortifies the worshiper’s connection with Allah, reminds us of our duties towards the needy in the community, but also reminds us of our own need for an increase in faith, asking God for mercy and forgiveness.
The most obvious cornerstones of fasting that the Muslim follows during Ramadan are abstaining from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from sunrise to sunset.
However, there is far more than that to attain true fasting; the fasting that will indeed fulfill the goals of elevating us to higher levels of spirituality, compassion to others, patience, and piety.
The dos of fasting are the recommended acts, the practices that our role model, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was keen on doing during Ramadan.
Rushing to breaking the fast as soon as one is certain that sunset has commenced is recommended. When the call for Maghreb prayer is heard, break your fast on water, a few dates, or fruit juice, before praying Maghreb. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “People will always be in a good state [or be at ease], as long as they haste to do Iftar [breaking fast when it is time for Maghreb].
At the time when you break your fast on that first sweet date, remember to make a supplication, to ask Allah for what you desire: Paradise, forgiveness, pardon, health, and wealth. In the authentic Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “There are three whose dua [supplication] is never rejected: the fasting person when he breaks his fast, the just ruler, and the one who is oppressed.” (Ahmad and Al-Tirmidhi)
Muslims are encouraged to eat the Sahoor or pre-dawn meal. The later in the night the better. Sahoor can be a light snack, such as a glass of milk and a few dates, a banana, or a cheese sandwich. Do eat Sahoor every night because this small meal gives the body important nourishment which will help one endure the long fast without experiencing physical weakness. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Have Sahoor for verily there is blessing in it.”
In Ramadan, choose the best deeds, the recommended acts that you may have neglected throughout the year, and spread goodness. You can gain rewards by spending more time with your parents, visiting relatives, helping anyone in need whether it is through charity or by helping take care of problems he/she may be facing. The fasting person is like a fragrant rose; his pleasantness is sensed by and extended to those around him.
Feeding others when it is time to break the fast, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “He who gives food for a fasting person to break his fast, will receive the same reward for fasting, except that nothing will be reduced from the fasting person’s reward.” (Ahmad and Al-Tirmidhi)
Since the Holy Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Ramadan, now is the perfect time to read it, understand its meanings, and memorize its verses. The Holy Qur’an is a mercy, guide, blessing, and gift from the Creator to mankind.
The companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Ibn Abbas, said, “The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was the most generous of people, and he was at his most generous during the month of Ramadan because Angel Jibril used to meet him every night in the month of Ramadan until it ended. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to review the Qur’an with Jibril; and he was more generous with good than the blowing wind.”
In addition to not eating, drinking, smoking, and having sexual relations, there are other practices, which we should not be doing during this blessed month.
Avoid blood cupping, blood withdrawal, and using ear drops or inhalers while fasting.
Some scholars are of the opinion that, ideally, you should use siwak or a toothbrush and water for cleaning teeth, rather than toothpaste.
Do not listen to music because your heart should be occupied with supplication, remembrance of Allah, and the Holy Qur’an, not with songs.
Do not waste your time. The days and nights of Ramadan are too precious to be wasted away watching TV, going on shopping sprees, oversleeping, and cooking extravagant feasts.
Do not engage in idle talk, gossip, lying, quarreling, cursing, or any form of speech that is unnecessary and has no benefit, especially if it is hurtful to someone else. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allah has no need of him giving up his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhari)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also said, “The true fast is not to merely abstain from food and drink, rather true fast is to abstain from futile activities and obscene talk.”
Stressing the importance of a refined and gracious code of conduct, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “When one of you is fasting, make sure not to use obscene language and not to be foolish and irresponsible in your speech. And if someone provokes you, have control over yourself and say, ‘I am fasting’.”
This Ramadan, make it a true fast, a fast from all that will interfere with your spiritual growth.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on July 4, 2014.