Sawm of Ramadan
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During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims are obligated to fast (Arabic: صوم, sawm), every day from dawn to sunset. Fasting requires the abstinence from food, drink and sexual activity. Fasting the month of Ramadān was made obligatory (wājib) during the month of Sh’abān, in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Makkah to Madīnah. Fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, as shown by a quote from the Companion Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab: "I heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) say: 'The religion of Islam is based upon five (pillars): testifying that there is no deity except God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God; establishing the prayer; giving zakat; making pilgrimage; and fasting (the month) of Ramadan.'" [Bukhari; Muslim]
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is specifically mentioned in three consecutive verses of the Qur'an:
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.
- —Surah Bakarah 2:183
(Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.
- —Surah Bakarah 2:184
Prohibitions during Ramadan
Eating, drinking, vomiting purposely, and sexual relations are not allowed between dawn (fajr), and sunset (maghrib). Fasting is considered an act of deeply personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God.
During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, angry/sarcastic retorts, gossip, and are meant to try to get along with each other better than normal. All obscene and irreligious stimuli are to be avoided as purity of both thought and action is important.
Fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would be excessively problematic. According to the Qur'an, if fasting would be dangerous to an individual's health such as those with a medical condition or the aged, they are excused.
Pre-pubescent children are not required to fast, though some choose to do so, and some small children fast for half a day to train themselves. If puberty is delayed, fasting becomes obligatory for males and females after a certain age. Diabetics and nursing or pregnant women are usually not expected to fast. According to a hadith, observing the Ramadan fast is forbidden for menstruating women.
Other individuals for whom it is usually considered acceptable not to fast are those in battle, and travellers who intend to spend fewer than five days away from home. If the circumstance preventing fasting is temporary, a person is required to make up for the missed days after the month of Ramadan is over and before the next Ramadan arrives. Should the circumstance be permanent or present for an extended amount of time, one may recompense by feeding a needy person for every day missed.
If one does not fit into any category of exemption and breaks the fast out of forgetfulness, the fast is still valid. Intentionally breaking the fast voids it, and the person must make up for the entire day later. If one breaks the fast intentionally or through consensual sexual intercourse, the transgressor must make up for the day by fasting for sixty consecutive days, freeing a slave or feeding sixty people in need.
Breaking the fast
Many mosques will provide iftar (literally: break fast) meals after sundown for the community to come and end their day's fasting as a whole. It is also common for such meals to take place at Muslim soup kitchens. The fast is broken with a date (when possible) following the tradition of Muhammad, or with water.
Rulings for a fasting person
Linguistically, the word fasting in the Arabic language means unconditional 'restraint' (imsak) from any action or speech during any time. According to the Sacred Law, fasting is the act of:
- refraining from engaging in sexual activity, and;
- refraining from entering anything into the body cavity;
- whether deliberately or accidentally;
- from the time the sun begins to rise to the time the sun sets;
- accompanied with the intention of fasting;
- from individuals who are permitted to fast.
'Refraining from engaging in sexual activity' includes actual sexual intercourse and ejaculation caused by foreplay. 'Refraining from entering anything into the body cavity' refers to the acts of entering food, drink, or medicine into the body cavity, regardless of whether this is a typical item one would enter into the body cavity or not. Entering any of these substances inside the body cavity means that the substance enters into the throat, the intestines, the stomach, or the brain by way of the nose, the throat, the private parts, or open wounds. 'Whether deliberately or accidentally' excludes forgetful acts of eating, drinking, or sexual activity. 'From the time the sun begins to rise to the time the sun sets' refers to the true entering of the Fajr time to the entering of the Maghrib time. 'Accompanied with the intention of fasting' means that one must intend to fast in order to distinguish if one is really performing an act of worship or not when one refrains from eating, drinking, or having sexual intercourse. For example, if one were to merely stay away from food, drink, or sexual activity without an intention to fast, then this fast is not valid and does not count. 'From individuals who are permitted to fast' means that one must be free from a situation that would prevent the validity of one's fast, such as menstruation or lochia (post-natal bleeding).[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya; Shurunbulali Imdad al-Fattah]
- "The insider's guide to Ramadan". CNN International. 25 September 2006. Retrieved 15 August 2010.