A Beginners Guide to Ramadan

The Prophet (peace be upon him) continued to clean his teeth while fasting. So you may also do so, as long as you do it without excessive rinsing of the mouth, because if you swallow some of the water it would break your fast.

If you eat or drink a little or a lot out of forgetfulness or ignorance, your fast is not broken.

The times of the fast and prayers can be found here.

6. Adab (Etiquettes) of fasting

Fasting is also more than just abstaining from eating, drinking and sexual relations. It is a process that should help you to discipline yourself and enable your mind to be in control of your body. This will help you to become a better Muslim and ultimately closer to Allah. A person who is fasting should try to avoid all sins – both minor and major. Of course, sins should always be avoided, but it is especially important during Ramadan, if more than just hunger and thirst are to be the result of this blessed month.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,

“Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, a person observing fasting should avoid sexual relations and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) added, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. (Allah says about the fasting person), ‘He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times.”

(Sahih Muslim Volume 3, Book 31, Number 118)

7. Suhoor and Iftar

Suhoor is the meal taken before the beginning of the fast in the morning before the Fajr prayer. It is recommended to delay Suhoor to the latest time possible, close to dawn, as long as eating does not continue past the beginning of the time for the Fajr prayer. Scholars advocate to abstain from eating several minutes before Fajr time to allow the mouth to clear of any food remnants. This meal was emphasised as important by the Prophet (peace be upon him), due to its blessings. It does not invalidate your fast if you miss Suhoor.

Iftar is food that is taken to break the fast, and it is done at the beginning of the time for the Maghrib (sunset) prayer. It is strongly recommended to eat something as soon as the time for the prayer starts (at sunset). It is Sunnah (the practice of the Prophet, peace be upon him) to eat an odd number of dates and/or to drink water at this time, before praying the Maghrib prayer. But any food or drink that is Halal is acceptable. Missing or delaying this meal does not invalidate the fast, but it is strongly disliked to do so. It is also recommended to provide Iftar for other fasting people and to eat with them if you are able to.

8. Good deeds in Ramadan

Good deeds in Ramadan are multiplied in reward many times over. As mentioned in the above Hadith (a report about the Prophet, peace be upon him), the fast is for Allah alone. Most people have time during their day when no-one can see them, when no-one would know if they ate or not; however whatever they do is witnessed in full by Allah.

Our Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: “It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Paradise.”

He (peace be upon him) used to give more in charity in Ramadan than any other month and gave the most during the last ten days. It is recommended to be extra generous to your family in Ramadan and to be good to relatives and neighbours.

It is a good time to read more Qur’an and to increase your Dhikr (remembrance of Allah. This can be done in a number of ways, such as reciting the Qur’an, reflecting upon the meaning of the Qur’an and Allah’s Names, Attributes and creation, reading supplications and performing optional prayers).

It is important to not overburden yourself with extra deeds. Thirty days is a long time and it is useful to plan ahead and think about your limits. The best advice is to try and slowly increase your extra deeds as the month goes on, so by the end you achieve the target you set yourself. It is too easy to get carried away at the beginning and ‘burn out’ before the end.

You should refrain from lying and backbiting whilst fasting, and this is emphasized.

Kissing is also disliked, and it becomes unlawful if it is possible that it may lead to ejaculation or sexual intercourse.

9. Tarawih

Tarawih is a voluntary prayer that is performed every night after the Isha prayer in mosques during Ramadan. It is not an obligation to attend a mosque to perform it, as it can also be performed at home. Most mosques try to complete one Juz’ (one 30th) of the Qur’an every night, so by the end of Ramadan they aim to have completed a recitation of the whole Book. It is prayed in slightly different ways from mosque to mosque, some pray 23 Rak`ahs (units of prayer, i.e. 20 Rak`ahs of prayer + 3 Rak`ahs of Witr) and others 11 Rak`ahs (8 Rak`ahs + 3 Rak`ahs of Witr), but is always done in sets of two Rak’ahs, ends in a odd number and usually lasts about an hour.

Many Muslims place a lot of emphasis on attending this prayer to the point it may be perceived as an obligation, but that is not the case, it is completely optional; although highly recommended.