Ramadan is an exciting time for new Muslims, but can also be a bit overwhelming. We are taught by the Quran that with hardship comes ease, and God ultimately rewards us for the difficulty we experience in acts of worship. Ramadan is closely approaching and Ramadan is the most beautiful time of year for the Muslims because it is an opportunity for them to get closer to their Creator and to renew their covenant with God Almighty.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam and is considered to be one of the greatest acts of worship. This article is meant to answer some common questions a new Muslim may have about fasting. I will be answering some common questions regarding the fast in order to give some clarity on the subject and try to make it as simple as possible.
What is fasting?
Fasting means abstaining from food, drink, and the desires of the private parts (marital relationships) from sunrise to sunset. One must have the intention to fast as an act of worship in order to distinguish it from a normal fast.
Why do we fast?
When many Muslims are asked why they fast, their immediate answer is to feel like the poor and be reminded of those who are less fortunate. This is a beautiful benefit of fasting, indeed fasting makes you go long hours without food and drink making you taste a bit of what the less fortunate go through, however that is not why we fast. We fast because we are Muslim and a Muslim is someone who submits to God and God’s commandments. In the Quran God directly commands us to fast, hence the reason we fast is out of obedience of God’s commandment.
What is the Islamic ruling on fasting?
Fasting is an obligation in Islam, firmly established by the Quran, Sunnah, and scholarly consensus. Not fasting without a valid reason is considered to be a great sin.
Who is exempt from fasting?
There are two types of people who are exempt from fasting. The first are those who have a chronic illness or extreme old age where they are not physically able to fast and will never have the ability to do so in the future due to age or a chronic illness. These people will instead pay a fidya. The fidya is a type of donation paid by individuals who cannot fulfill the obligation of fasting due to illness or old age.
The second category is the one who is not able to fast in the time being but will eventually become able to fast in the future. This category must make up the fast after Ramadan commences and when they are able to. Some examples of this category are the traveler, the sick, a woman who is menstruating, a woman in lochia, a nursing or a pregnant woman that has an imminent fear for herself or her child. These aforementioned people of the second category must make up their fasts when able to. The reason for this is that the dispensation given for breaking the fast is accompanied by the command to make it up. The first category will never gain the ability to be physically capable to make up the fast hence don’t have to, but the second category will eventually be in a state where he/she can make up the fast, hence they have to.
You mentioned a stipend that has to be paid also known as a fidya, what is this?
A fidya is an amount of money that needs to be paid in place of the fast. It is for the one who will not be able to make up the fast as we mentioned earlier such as someone suffering from a chronic illness or extreme old age. The amount is equivalent to about 10 dollars a day, one may pay this amount for the entire month ahead of time or before the last day of Ramadan.
What nullifies the fast?
In the simplest terms possible, eating, drinking, and sexual stimulation that results in a seminal discharge will deem the fast void. Anything that is taken in from the nose or throat will also break the fast whether purposely inserted or by accident. For example, if one is swimming during Ramadan and accidentally swallows some water, he must continue to abstain from food and drink that day due to the sanctity of the day, however, he must make up that day after Ramadan has conceded.
What happens if I eat out of forgetfulness?
If you eat due to forgetfulness you simply move on with your fast and your fast counts with no problems at all. As our blessed Prophet, peace be upon him, told us: “Whoever forgets he is fasting and eats or drinks, let him complete his fast for it is Allaah Who has fed him and given him to drink” (Muslim). Therefore, eating due to forgetfulness is different than eating by accident or mistake, the latter would constitute a make-up day as the former would be forgiven and the fast would count. An example of easting by mistake would be making a mistake with the time of sunset and eating before then or accidentally swallowing water while swimming.
Can I use eye drops while I fast?
The use of eye drops does not invalidate the fast, even if you were to taste the taste of something in your mouth and throat after using the eye drops. This is because the eye is not a valid point of entry into the stomach.
Can I use ear drops while fasting?
Although the classical scholars mention that inserting liquids into one’s ear would invalidate the fast due to a passageway from the ear to the body cavity. Modern medicine has proven to be contrary, as there is no direct passageway from the ear to the body cavity unless someone would have a hole in his eardrum. Hence it is valid to use eardrops and they would not break the fast.