A Beginners Guide to Ramadan

New to Ramadan or want to brush up on the basics? You can DOWNLOAD this little SNMP booklet; insha Allah it will be a useful guide: A Beginners Guide to Ramadan

A Beginner’s Guide to


“Adapted from A Beginners Guide to Ramadan” by LNM 2010


“Oh you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:186)

 1. Introduction

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord and Creator of the worlds. To Him we turn in repentance and ask for guidance. Upon Him we rely and to Him we will return. Oh Allah, bless Muhammad, Your Messenger and Prophet, his family, his Companions and all who follow Your guidance.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Fasting (Sawm in Arabic) during this month is one of the five fundamental Pillars of Islam, as mentioned in a Hadith narrated by Ibn `Umar:

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Islam is based on five (principles):

  1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah; and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
  2. To establish the (obligatory) prayers (dutifully and perfectly).
  3. To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity).
  4. To observe the fast during the month of Ramadan.
  5. To perform Hajj. (i.e. pilgrimage to Makkah)

(Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 7)

Ramadan is a blessed month, which is of great benefit to us in both this life and the next. It is the month of fasting, prayer, reflection and remembrance of Allah, the Exalted. It is a chance for us to draw close to Him and re-discover the purpose for our existence. Anyone who fasts the whole of the month of Ramadan sincerely and correctly will have their previous wrongs forgiven.

2. Beginning of the month and its duration

As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the months are determined by the cycles of the moon and every new moon represents a new month. The fasting of Ramadan becomes obligatory by either the completion of the thirty days of Sha’ban (the previous month) or by the sighting of the crescent by a trustworthy man. And, if the crescent is sighted in one district but not another and the two districts are in the same region, the ruling holds for both.

With the advancement of science in the modern era, methods for sighting and calculating the birth of the new moon have become more sophisticated, leading Muslim scholars to have different opinions on the correct way to decide when the new month has arrived. As a result, the community sometimes differs about which days to start and end the fast and this may also may cause `Eid (the festival at the end of Ramadan) to be celebrated on different days in different mosques. This can cause confusion for new Muslims (and even for not-so-new Muslims). It is however allowed for a Muslim to follow their local mosque in these matters and in that way to consider their fasts as valid and complete.

3. The obligation to fast during Ramadan

Every person who has reached the age of puberty, is of sound mind, is Muslim, is capable of fasting and who knows that the month of Ramadan has started is obliged to fast.

Children should be encouraged to fast from the age of seven and admonished if they don’t do it from the age of ten, if they are physically able to fast.

4. Those exempt from fasting

There are two types of exceptions from fasting; those who are not allowed to fast and those who have permission to not fast.

The following people are not allowed to fast: anyone who is menstruating; bleeding following childbirth; too weak or ill to fast, to the extent that it is feared that they will die if they do not break the fast; and pregnant or nursing women, who fear that they or their babies will be harmed if they fast.

Those who have permission not to fast are: people who are travelling a lengthy distance (unless the journey starts after dawn); those who are sick, pregnant, or breast-feeding and have reason to believe it may harm themselves or the child; those who are overwhelmed by hunger or thirst and those who have to take medicine between Fajr (the morning prayer) and Maghrib (the sunset prayer) and cannot avoid doing so.

Anyone who breaks their fast – whether or not for a valid reason – has to make up the fast when they are able to, except for children, the insane and someone who was not a Muslim at the time of the fast. It is recommended to perform the make-up fasts in succession and as soon as possible.

If a fast is broken without a legitimate reason, it is obligatory to make the days up after the end of Ramadan. Depending on the reason, the person may have to free a slave, fast for two months in a row or feed 60 poor people.

5. Description of fasting

‘Fasting’ for a Muslim means no eating, drinking or having sexual relations from the beginning of the time for the Fajr (morning) prayer until the beginning of the time for the Maghrib (sunset) prayer. In other words from the first light of dawn until sunset.

As with all acts of worship, fasting should be done with the correct intention. You should make the intention to fast the obligatory fast of Ramadan every day in your heart before you start to fast.

If you do any of the following during the time for fasting, you will have broken your fast: eating or drinking intentionally, sexual intercourse, smoking, taking medicine or chewing flavoured gum. No substance should enter the body through any orifice (mouth, nose, ear, anus, vagina or penis) other than saliva and air.

Wilful ejaculation and vomiting also break the fast.