Ramadan is that time of the year when Muslims all over the world observe fast as part of spiritual reflection and worship. Fasting is the most crucial part of Ramadan and is considered as an act of total submission to God. Muslims are expected to show highest levels of sincerity and commitment into following the Islamic teachings and refrain from obscene and unlawful sights and deeds. Muslims observe fast as the mark of highest respect, devotion and dedication to Allah to seek his forgiveness for any sins and past mistakes. Through fasting Muslims aim to achieve atonement and avoid condemnation.
Fasting during Ramadan is highly recommended to all Muslims and is mandatory to all adults and able Muslims as per Islamic laws. Those Muslims who avoid fasting without a proper reason are considered a sinner.
Although it is mandatory for everyone to observe fast during Ramadan, there are some exemptions. People who are exempted from fasting:
- Children: Fasting is not mandatory for children who have not achieved puberty.
- Mentally challenged persons: People who are insane and cannot be held accountable for their deeds are not required to fast during Ramadan.
- Sick people: People who are sick and whose health is likely to worsen if they observe fast are exempt from fasting. People who are sick due to a less severe illness are also exempt from fasting although they need to compensate for the lost days.
- Women: Women who are in their menstruation cycle need not fast during those days but they need to compensate for the lost days.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women: Expectant mothers and nursing women are exempt from fasting. However there is a difference of opinion on whether this should be allowed. Usually a doctor needs to authenticate that a woman’s condition and her baby’s health may deteriorate from observing the fast and only then is she exempt from it. However these women need to compensate for it.
- Old people: Men and women who are old and weak are exempt from fasting
It is essential to provide the intention of fasting daily before dawn. The fast is invalid for the day if one forgets to express his intention.
Broken or Invalid Fasting
A fast considered invalid or broken during the following instances:
- Intentional consumption of food, drink and medication or smoking is undertaken.
- An injection with nutritional value is infused.
- The beginning of menstruation or post natal bleeding occurs in women.
However a fast is not considered broken in the following events:
- Unintentional eating of drinking
- Unintentional vomiting
- Unintentional intake of saliva, smoke, dust etc.
- Brushing the teeth and bathing (Care should be taken to avoid gargling and swallowing of water)
- Injections for solely medical purposes
- Circumstance when food is taken in the mouth but thrown out immediately.
Muslims are allowed to break their fast during Ramadan only under exceptional cases such as danger to health. In these situations the missed days need to be compensated.
Kaffara means to cover or to compensate. There are several ways in which a Muslim can compensate if he breaks the fast during Ramadan. If one deliberately breaks the fast then he or she must fast for sixty continuous days or feed sixty needy people or spend an amount equal to feeding sixty needy people in charity.