Fasting during Ramadan

This is a sub-article to Fasting in Islam and Ramadan

During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims are obligated to fast (Arabic: صوم‎, sawm; Persian: روزہ, rozeh), every day from dawn to sunset (or from dawn to night according to some scholars). Fasting requires the abstinence from food and drink. Fasting the month of Ramadān was made obligatory (wājib) during the month of Sha‘bān, 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.[1] Ramadan fasting is associated with harmful effects on social, economic and health related aspects of regular human life.[2]

The Qur'anEdit

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 Baqarah 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 Baqarah 2:184

Prohibitions during RamadanEdit

Fast break at Taipei Grand Mosque in Taiwan

Eating, drinking, and sexual activities 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 the purity of both thought and action is important.


Although fasting at Ramadan is fard (obligatory), exceptions are made for persons in particular circumstances.[3][better source needed] Fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would be excessively problematic, among them people with a medical condition[4] and the elderly.

Pre-pubescent children are not required to fast,[4] 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 either intend to spend fewer than five days away from home or travel more than 50 miles.[5] 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. [4]

During a 2013 poliomyelitis outbreak in Somalia, some groups of aid workers were granted an exemption for the oral polio vaccine.[6]

Other exemptions include:

  • An old person who is not physically able to fast. They should donate the amount of a normal person's diet for each day missed if they are financially capable.
  • Serious illness; the days lost to illness will have to be made up after recovery.
  • Those with a mental disability.[3][better source needed]

Breaking the fastEdit

Muslims traditionally break their fasts in Ramadan with dates (like those offered by this date seller in Kuwait City), as was the recorded practice (Sunnah) of Muhammad.

Many mosques will provide iftar (literally: breakfast) 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.

Ramadan Iftar DuaEdit

Ramadan fast is broken by reciting iftar dua: Allahumma inni laka sumtu wa bika aamantu [wa ‘alayka tawakkaltu]wa ‘ala rizq-ika aftarth.[7] meaning of iftar dua is: “Oh Allah, I fasted for You and I believe in You and I break my fast with Your sustenance.”

Harmful effectsEdit

The education departments of Berlin and the United Kingdom have tried to discourage students from fasting during Ramadan, as they claim that not eating or drinking can lead to concentration problems and bad grades.[8][9] Ramadan fasting has also been associated with loss of workplace productivity by 35 to 50%.[10][11]

Many of the purported health benefits associated Ramadan fasting only take into account the abstinence from food while ignoring the lack of water intake which can have harmful impact even in healthy individuals.[12] In many cultures, it is associated with heavy food and water intake during Suhur and iftar times, which may do more harm than good. Ramadan fasting is safe for healthy people provided that overall food and water intake is adequate but those with medical conditions should seek medical advice if they encounter health problems before or during fasting.[13] The fasting period is usually associated with modest weight loss, but weight can return afterwards.[14]

A review of the literature by an Iranian group suggested fasting during Ramadan might produce renal injury in patients with moderate (GFR <60 ml/min) or severe kidney disease but was not injurious to renal transplant patients with good function or most stone-forming patients.[15] Also, it was suggested that Ramadan fasting may increase the risk for salivary gland inflammation.[16] Ramadan fasting can be potentially hazardous for pregnant women as it is associated with risks of inducing labour and causing gestational diabetes, although it does not appear to affect the child's weight. It is permissible to not fast if it threatens the woman's or the child's lives, however, in some instances pregnant women may be normal before development of complications.[17][18][19][20][21]

Rulings for a fasting personEdit

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:

  1. refraining from entering anything into the body cavity;
  2. refraining from engaging in sexual activity;
  3. refraining from immoral acts such as backbiting;
  4. from the time the sun begins to rise to the time the sun sets;
  5. accompanied with the intention of fasting;
  6. 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].[22] Apart from sexual intercourse either with spouse or anyone, masturbation is also strictly prohibited while fasting. This act will invariably break the fast, and the person who committed this act will have to repent to Allah and should cover up this fast on a later date.[23]

Sectarian DifferencesEdit

For the most part, Sunnis and Shias observe Ramadan the same way, but there are some differences. For one, Sunnis break their fast at sunset, once the sun is no longer visible, but there is still light in the sky. However, for Shias they wait to break after it gets completely dark. Shia Muslims also celebrate an additional holiday that Sunnis do not. They celebrate for three days (on the 19th, 20th, and 21st) to commemorate Ali, the son in law of Muhammad that was assented by rebels.[24]

Sufi Muslims have some variations on how they observe Ramadan and what it means to them. They follow the same rules when fasting, but they recite extra prayers at midnight. The practice they do is called Dhikr, where they chant God’s name 99 times. This is done because they want to show their love for God and seek a personal relationship with God, as opposed to fearing God's wrath. [25]

Eid al-FitrEdit

The Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr (Arabic: عيد الفطر‎) marks the end of the Islamic fasting of the month of Ramadan.


  1. ^ Bukhari, "8", Sahih al-Bukhari, From 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.'"
  2. ^ Sadeghirad, Behnam; Motaghipisheh, Shahrzad; Kolahdooz, Fariba; Zahedi, Mohammad J; Haghdoost, Ali A (27 November 2012). "Islamic fasting and weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Public Health Nutrition. 17 (2): 396–406. doi:10.1017/S1368980012005046. PMID 23182306.
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  9. ^ Islam und Schule: Handreichung für Lehrerinnen und Lehrer an Berliner Schulen (in German). Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin ZLB. Senatsbibliothek. 2010. OCLC 824393822.
  10. ^ Hasan, Rumy (3 July 2015). "The costs of Ramadan need to be counted". The Guardian.
  11. ^ Cook, Erin (19 June 2017). "The Ramadan Productivity Drop And How To Overcome It". Indonesia Expat.
  12. ^ Popkin, Barry M.; D’Anci, Kristen E.; Rosenberg, Irwin H. (2010). "Water, Hydration and Health". Nutrition Reviews. 68 (8): 439–458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x. PMC 2908954. PMID 20646222.
  13. ^ Azizi, Fereidoun (2010). "Islamic Fasting and Health". Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 56 (4): 273–282. doi:10.1159/000295848. PMID 20424438.
  14. ^ Sadeghirad, Behnam; Motaghipisheh, Shahrzad; Kolahdooz, Fariba; Zahedi, Mohammad J; Haghdoost, Ali A (27 November 2012). "Islamic fasting and weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Public Health Nutrition. 17 (2): 396–406. doi:10.1017/S1368980012005046. PMID 23182306.
  15. ^ Emami-Naini, Afsoon; Roomizadeh, Peyman; Baradaran, Azar; Abedini, Amin; Abtahi, Mohammad (2013). "Ramadan fasting and patients with renal diseases: A mini review of the literature". Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. 18 (8): 711–716. PMC 3872613. PMID 24379850.
  16. ^ Joachim, Michael V.; Ghantous, Yasmine; Zaaroura, Suleiman; Alkeesh, Kutaiba; Zoabi, Tameem; Abu el-Na’aj, Imad (2020-05-29). "Does fasting during Ramadan increase the risk of the development of sialadenitis?". BMC Oral Health. 20 (1): 156. doi:10.1186/s12903-020-01139-x. ISSN 1472-6831. PMC 7260764. PMID 32471399.
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  23. ^[unreliable source?]
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