The Etiquettes Of Fasting.

1. Taking Sahur (The Pre-Dawn Meal).

It is recommended to have a pre-dawn meal and there is no sin upon one who does not do so. Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah SAW said: “Having a pre-dawn meal, for there are blessings in it.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] 

The reason is that it strengthens the fasting person, makes him more energetic, and makes fasting easier for him. 

The Prophet also said: “The difference between our fasting and the fasting of the People of the Book is the (meal of) Sahur.” [Muslim]  

There are some people tend to make mistakes in regard to Sahur such as:

a.Some people do not have Sahur and this is contrary to the Sunnah. It is from the guidance of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to have Sahur if the person intends to observe obligatory or voluntary fasting. Urging Muslims to have Sahur. he, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:

         “Have Sahur, as indeed there is a blessing in it.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

         “The difference between our fasting and the fasting of the People of the Book is the (meal of) Sahur.” [Muslim] 

Moreover, Sahur helps the Muslim to fast, and it is a blessed act of the Sunnah, so it should not be overlooked. 

b. Having Sahur early in the middle of the night or one or two hours before dawn is also contrary to the Sunnah. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Hasten to (eating) Iftar (in Ramadhan immediately when the time is due), and delay (eating) Sahur.” [At-Tabarani] It is an act of the Sunnah to have Sahur just before dawn (approximately half an hour before it). Anas, May Allah be pleased with him, he said: “The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and Zaid Ibn Thabit had Sahur. When they finished, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, left for the prayer. Anas was asked how much time was there between their finishing Sahur and entering the prayer; he said: ‘Enough time for the recitation of fifty verses (of the Quran).’” [Al-Bukhari]

c. To  continue eating (Sahur) even after hearing the Azan of Fajar prayer. Out of prudence for one’s fasting, one should stop having his Sahur two or three minutes before or at most when he hears the Azan for Fajar.

2. The Minimum Amount To Consume In The Pre-Dawn Meal.  

Eating a small or large quantity of food or even by drinking just a sip of water suffices the person and he is considered to have adhered to the Prophetic recommendation. Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri RA reported that the Prophet SAW said:  

“The pre-dawn meal is blessed, so do not neglect it even if you only take a sip of water. Verily, Allah and the angels pray for those who have the pre-dawn meals.” [Ahmad]  

3. Time Frame For Pre-Dawn Meal.  

The time for the pre-dawn meal is between the middle of the night and dawn. It is considered best to delay it (that is, as close to dawn as possible). Zaid Ibn Thabit RA reported: “We have the pre-dawn meal with the Messenger of Allah and then we got up for the prayer. The Prophet SAW was asked: 

‘What was the amount of time between the two?’ He responded: ‘The time it would take to recite fifty verses.'” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]  

4. Doubt About The Time Of Fajar (Dawn).  

If one is in doubt whether or not the time of Fajar has begun, he may continue to eat and drink until he is certain that it is Fajar. He should not base his action on doubt or suspicion. Allah has made the signs for beginning the fast very clear and unambiguous. Allah Says:  

“…Eat and drink until the white thread of the dawn becomes distinct from the black thread [of the night]…” [Al-Baqarah, 2:187]

A man said to Ibn ‘Abbas: “I eat until I suspect that its time (i.e. Sahur) has ended so I stop.”  

Ibn ‘Abbas observed: “Continue to eat until you are certain about the time.” Abu Dawud reported that Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said: “If you are not sure whether or not it is time for Fajar, then eat until you are sure dawn has come.”  

5. Hastening In Breaking The Fast. 

It is preferred for the fasting person to hasten in breaking the fast when the sun has set. Sahl Ibn Sa’ad reported that the Prophet SAW said: “People will continue to be upon virtue so long as they hasten in breaking the fast.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

It is recommended to break the fast by eating an odd number of dates or, if that is not available, then by drinking some water. Anas RA reported: 

“The Messenger of Allah SAW would break his fast with ripe dates before he would pray. If those were not available, he would eat dried dates. If those were not available, he would drink some water.” [Abu Dawud, Al-Hakim and At-Tirmidzi] 

Sulaiman Ibn ‘Amr RA reported that the Prophet SAW said: “If one of you is fasting, let him break his fast with dates. If dates are not available, then with water, for water is purifying.” [Ahmad and At-Tirmidzi]  

The preceding narration also shows that it is preferred to break the fast in the above manner before praying. After the prayer, the person may continue to eat, but if the evening meal is ready, one may begin with that. Anas RA reported that the Messenger of Allah SAW said:  

“If the food is already presented, eat before praying the sunset prayer and do not eat your meals in haste.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]  

6. Supplications While Breaking The Fast And While Fasting. 

It is confirmed that the Prophet SAW would say upon breaking his fast: “The thirst has gone, the glands are wet and, Allah willing, the reward is confirmed.”  [Abu Dawud] 

The Prophet SAW also said: “Three people will not have their supplications rejected: a fasting person until he breaks his fast, a just ruler, and an oppressed person.” [At-Tirmidzi]

7. Tarawih (Night Prayer)  

Tarawih is a special prayer performed in congregation. Lasting about an hour to an hour and a half. It is performed every night of Ramadhan, and in it most of the Imams, or prayer leaders, seek to complete the recitation of the entire Quran. Indeed it is an experience one awaits an entire year to experience. The Tarawih prayer is a means of forgiveness, as the Prophet SAW said:  

“He who observes the fast of the month of Ramadhan with sincere faith and hope for the reward of Allah will have his past sins forgiven.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].  

Abu Hurairah RA reported that Allah’s Messenger SAW said: He who observed prayer at night during Ramadhan, because of faith and seeking his reward from Allah, his previous sins would be forgiven. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]  

The Prophet SAW said “Whoever prays with the imam until he concludes, Allah will record for him as if he spent the whole night in prayer” were narrated by Al-Tirmidzi (806) and classified as sahih by Al-Albani in Sahih al-Tirmidzi. What is meant is encouragement not to leave before the prayers are completed, even if there is more than one imam.  

 8. Qiyamulail. 

Allah says, “And the servants of Allah most gracious are those who walk on the earth with humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say (Peace); those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrating and standing” [Qur’an 63-64]. 

Thus, waking up in the night to pray QiyamuLail i.e. performing prayer in the middle of the night was a regular act of the Prophet SAW and his Companions.  

Aishah RA said, “Do not abandon Qiyamulail, for the Messenger of Allah SAW never left it. If he was not well or he felt heavy, he prayed sitting.” [Bukhari and Muslim] 

Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, used to pray at night as what he wished, until it was in the middle of the night, when he would wake up his family to pray; then he would say to them “prayer… prayer”, and would recite this verse of the Qur’an, “Enjoin prayer on your people, and be constant therein. We ask you not to provide sustenance: We provide it for you. But the fruit of the Hereafter is for righteousness” [Qur’an 20:132]. 

Ibn Umar used to recite, “Is one who worships devoutly during the hours of the night, prostrating himself or standing (in adoration), who takes heed of the Hereafter, and who places his hope in the Mercy of his Lord like one who does not?” [Qur’an 39:9]. He said that was referring to Othman Ibn Affan RA. 

Ibn Abi Hatim said Ibn Umar said that it was due to the length of the prayer of the commander of the faithful, Othman, at night and his recitation to the extent that he may have recited the entire Qur’an in one raka’ahs.  

Alqamah Ibn Qais narrated, “I slept at the house of Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud RA one night. He woke up in the early part of the night and began to pray. He recited with a recitation similar to that of the neighborhood imam with a medium regular pace. Those around him could hear him and he continued until what remained of the night’s darkness was equal to the time between the Adzan for Maghrib prayer and the end of the Maghrib prayer time, i.e. a short time before daybreak. He then performed Witir prayer”  

9. Refraining From Performing Any Actions That Do Not Befit Fasting.  

Fasting is an act of worship that draws one closer to Allah. Allah has prescribed it to purify the soul and to train it in good deeds. The fasting person must be on guard against any act that may cause him to lose the benefits of his fast. Thus, his fast will increase his Allah-consciousness, as Allah Says: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may attain God-consciousness.” [Al-Baqarah, 2:183]  

This entails that fasting is not just refraining from eating and drinking, but it is also refraining from everything else that Allah has forbidden. Abu Hurairah RA reported that the Prophet SAW said:  

“Fasting is not abstaining from eating and drinking only, but also from vain speech and foul language. If one of you is being cursed or annoyed, he should say: “I am fasting, I am fasting.” [Ibn Khuzaimah, Ibn Hibban and Al-Hakim] 

To stress the importance of having one’s fast reflecting on his actions, the Prophet SAW said: “Allah does not need the fast of one who does not abandon false speech or acting according to his false speech.” [Al-Bukhari]  

Abu Hurairah RA narrated that the Prophet SAW said: “Perhaps a fasting person will get nothing from his fast save hunger, and perhaps the one who stands to pray at night will get nothing from his standing except sleeplessness.” [An-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, and Al-Hakim]  

10. Using Miswak (A Tooth Stick) Or A Brush. 

It is preferred for the fasting person to use a tooth stick or a brush. There is no difference if he uses it at the beginning or the ending of the day. It is confirmed that the Prophet SAW   used tooth stick [Miswak] while fasting. 

11. Reciting Quran. 

Al-Sa’id Ibn Zaid narrated in a Hadith that the reciter would recite (the Qur’an) with hundreds of verses such that we supported ourselves with staves due to the lengthiness of the prayer and did not leave until the time of fajar (dawn prayer).  

12. Charity (Sadaqah) 

Muslims are encourage being more generous and to performed a lot of sadaqah in Ramadhan. 

Ibn ‘Abbas narrated that The Prophet SAW was the most generous amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadhan when Gabriel visited him, and Gabriel used to meet him on every night of Ramadhan till the end of the month. The Prophet used to recite the Holy Qur’an to Gabriel, and when Gabriel met him, he used to be more generous than a fast wind (which causes rain and welfare). [Al-Bukhari]

13. Striving to perform Qiyamulail and as many acts of worship as possible during the last ten days of Ramadhan.

‘Aishah RA said during the last ten days of Ramadhan, the Messenger of Allah SAW would awaken his wives during the night and then remain apart from them (refrain from sexual relations with his wives and concentrate on worship) [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. A version in Muslim reads: “He would strive [to do acts of worship] during the last ten days of Ramadhan more than he would at any other time.” 

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Adopted with modification from Islam Web published on 13 September 2007 

About Md Radzi Ahmad
A retired Malaysian civil servant. Served the Malaysian government for thirty-one years. Posted to London, Rangoon, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bangkok. Born in Kampong Hutan Kandeh, Alor Star, Kedah. Educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Currently resides in Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan,Malaysia.Blessed with three children, a son, two daughters, daughter in law and two grandaughters.

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