By: Zainab Mudallal
With only a few days left to go in the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims who observe the fast fall into two broad categories. Some are so used to the rhythms of fasting that it feels almost natural at this point. For others, the final stretch is psychologically and physically the hardest.
This year poses an even greater challenge, with Ramadan falling during some of the longest and hottest days of the year, requiring a fast of 15 or more hours in some parts of the world. The dramatic change from regular eating habits can take a toll on an one’s health and energy, and makes it difficult to keep up a regular fitness regimen. But there are ways to turn it around.
Here are some tips to make a Ramadan fast beneficial, rather than damaging, to your health:
Alhamdulillah, Allah s.w.t. has blessed all of us to be in this blessed month of Ramadan and he has blessed you guys to be watching this video this very moment. Now in this blessed month of Ramadan, there are three stops or there are three stations that you don’t ever want to miss and subhanAllah, this is the mercy of this blessed month that Allah s.w.t has given us these three stops or stations for this blessed month.
The first station, the first stop comes where the Prophet s.a.w. said, Whosoever does qiyam, i.e. taraweeh in the month of Ramadan, Allah s.w.t inshaAllah forgive all of his previous sins.
The second station is…Whosoever fasts in the month of Ramadan with imaan and hoping the reward from Allah s.w.t., Allah s.w.t will forgive all of his previous sins.
And the third stop or station comes which is (Arabic) whosoever does qiyaam or tahajjud and taraweeh on the night of laylatul qadr, Allah s.w.t shall forgive all his previous sins.
The pre-Ramadan enthusiasm I felt within me was unmatched compared to any other point in time throughout the year. In prior months before this spiritual season, I regretfully admit to losing sight of many of the priorities and principles that I used to hold so dear. Thus, as Ramadan drew near, my spiritual preparations began. By mid-Sha’ban, my goals had already been set, my schedule was arranged and my heart was desperately anticipating the blessed month of Ramadan. However, despite all of the extensive and precise planning on my part, I had come to understand that Allah is Al-Khaliq, the best of planners.
One week prior to Ramadan, I was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease in which cells within the patient’s pancreas fail to produce insulin, a hormone necessary to transport glucose into the body’s cells. Without insulin, the body is unable to use glucose for energy. Thus, diabetics recreate this process by injecting insulin into their bodies several times throughout the day. It is essential to continually monitor one’s blood sugar in order to maintain a precise, stable glucose level.
Unfamiliar with the disease at the time of the diagnosis, my first concern had little to do with my health, but rather whether or not I would be able to fast in the upcoming Ramadan. However, my doctors and family did not see this as a priority considering the disease had been developing within me for several months and their sole concern was to immediately begin treatment. Because I had been readily awaiting Ramadan for the past few months, this news was heartbreaking. I was absolutely crushed.
Completely terrified by this entire process, I quickly fell into somewhat of a depressive state for the days following the diagnosis. I was extremely frustrated by this whole situation and frankly, angry that this happened to me. The thought that consistently occupied my mind day and night was, “Of all the weeks to get diagnosed with diabetes, it had to be the week before Ramadan.” Even my doctors agreed that it was somewhat of an unfortunate coincidence. But nothing is ever a coincidence.
The first week of the diagnosis was the most disheartening, agonizing week of my life. All of my excitement for the upcoming Ramadan had instantly faded as I became so extremely occupied with doctors’ appointments and coping with the side-effects of the new medication. I was told that because I was recently diagnosed, fasting was not an option since regulating your blood sugar is a learning process that comes with time. Discouraged, I lost hope in having the much-anticipated “Ramadan experience.”
Although I was feeling weak in my iman (faith), I attended the first Jummah (Friday prayer) before Ramadan. As expected, the khateeb (speaker) gave a beautiful khutbah (sermon) about fasting. He explained how there is no act of worship comparable to this because it is the one act of worship done solely for the sake of Allahsubhanahu wa ta`ala (Glorified is He). I felt as if I was hearing the concept of fasting for the very first time in my life; because for me, it was the very first time in my life where it was not definite that I would be able to fast. My eyes filled with tears as this thought became more of a reality. Last Ramadan I never would have considered the possibility that only one year later, I would be uncertain about my ability to partake in one of the most special parts of Ramadan.
I feel like I listened to the khutbah in a different light than everyone else that day. For others, it may have been an annual reminder about the blessings and beauty of the upcoming fasts. For me, however, it was an eye-opening reality that forced me to apprehend my lifelong ungratefulness.
As I broke down in front of my close friend that night, I grieved over the timing of this situation. She stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Perhaps this is the best time.” She continued to explain that yes, a significant part of Ramadan is about fasting, but it is also about developing and strengthening your relationship with Allah (swt). The beauty of the situation is that, while I may be experiencing one of the most difficult times in my life, I am doing so in the most blessed month out of the entire year where His divine mercy is shown everywhere. In that instant, I realized what an amazing blessing I was given. I realized that this couldn’t have happened at a better time.
“Verily, with hardship comes ease.” (Qur’an 94:6)
As only a few days remained before the commencing of Ramadan, I met with my doctor and reluctantly asked her again about the possibility of fasting. I spoke from the heart and explained that one’s health is a priority in Islam, but it would mean the world to me if we could figure out a way to safely go about fasting, although we are still in the beginning stages of treatment. To my surprise, she was extremely understanding and willing to try any sort of changes in medication to make it work. Currently, we have entered into the last 10 days of Ramadan and I feel so unbelievably blessed to be fasting and experiencing this month as I would ordinarily. However, I have come into this month with a new frame of mind. I am truly thankful for how easy my situation has become, and for every other functioning part of my body that I previously tended to neglect.
We are all faced with trials that come in different forms and at different times in our lives. Theses trials have the ability to make or break us. It all depends on your attitude and your willingness to put your trust in Allah (swt). I originally considered my diagnosis and its timing an absolute disaster. However, with a change in perspective, I am able to view this situation as one of the greatest gifts that Allah (swt) could have given to me. Not only is this hardship a means of attaining closeness to Him, it is also happening at one of the most beautiful, blessed moments in time.
May Allah (swt) make us successful in our journey back to Him this Ramadan. Let us never neglect to be eternally grateful for every imperceptible cell that seamlessly functions so efficiently and beautifully within our bodies. Ameen.
There are a number of highly recommendable worshipful practices to be performed during the days of Ramadan, for those who seek closeness to their Lord and His Companionship. Even if in the first part of the month we have missed out on one or more of these acts, we can still make an effort from now to reap their benefits insha Allah.
Don’t Forget or Neglect the Pre-dawn Meal (Suhoor)
It is recommended to partake of a light meal (suhoor)prior to commencing the fast. The fast begins at first light and ends at sunset (maghreb).
“Eat some food before the fast begins, there is blessing in its partaking.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Zaid, the son of Thabit related: “We partook of suhoor (food before the commencement of the fast) during Ramadan with the Messenger of Allah and then stood up for prayer.
He was asked what was the interval of time between the two, so he replied: ‘The time it takes to recite fifty verses (of the Quran).’”
The Messenger of Allah, praise and peace be upon him, said: “My nation will remain in goodness as long as they break the fast as soon as it is due.” [Muslim]
Joy When Breaking the Fast
The fast is broken at sunset, and it is termed in Arabic iftar. It is a time of happiness and refreshment after experiencing the pangs of hunger and thirst. It is usually broken with dates and in many cultures a light soup with bread or small side dishes. Breaking the fast is followed immediately by the evening obligatory prayer. In many parts of the world, including the US, breaking fast is observed in congregation in mosques and homes.
The Prophet (s) said: “Whosoever fasts experiences two joys. He is joyful when he breaks his fast, and is joyful because of his fasting when he meets his Lord.”
“When evening approaches from this side (east) and the day retreats from this side (west) and the sun has set, the one who is fasting breaks his fast.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
“Break your fast with a date, or with water because it is pure.” [Abu Daud and Tirmidhi]
Generosity and Good Deeds During the Month of Fasting
Our beloved prophet, Prophet Muhammad, praise and peace be upon him, spoke on many occasions about the fast of Ramadan.
He informed us of the way in which we should prepare ourselves as well as urging us to do good, to be charitable, and to refrain from ways in which our fast would become invalid.
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: The Prophet was the most generous amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel visited him, and Gabriel used to meet him on every night of Ramadan 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). [Bukhari].
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)”
[Bukhari]. “Allah, the Mighty, the Glorified says: ‘All the deeds of the son of Adam are for himself, but his fasting is for Me and I shall reward him for it.
The fast is a shield. When any of you fasts he should forsake swearing and noise.’”
Retreat – ‘Itikaf
Regarding the retreat, it was the practice of the Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, to retreat to the Mosque during the last ten days and nights of Ramadan, fasten his cloak around his waist and encourage his family to do the same. His time in the Mosque was spent in worship and not in idle talk.
If it is one’s intention to offer the retreat then there are specific rules to be observed:
- Once the intention or vow has been taken to observe these days of continuous retreat, the continuity of its observance is broken if he leaves the mosque without a justifiable necessity, such as to attend a funeral.
- However, the observance is not broken when one leaves to go to the toilet. Those in retreat are permitted to renew their ablutions in their own home, but the restatement of the intent must be renewed unless the intention to spend the ten days in advance has been made. Any form of business to and from the mosque is not permissible.
- It was the practice of the Messenger of Allah, praise and peace be upon him, not to leave the mosque except for the call of nature. Neither would he inquire about a sick person except as he passed by without stopping.
- Sleeping, eating, washing hands in the mosque do not invalidate the retreat, nor yet the emergence of a limb or part of the body from the mosque.
- Sexual intercourse invalidates the observance of the retreat, but not a non-arousing kiss.
The Messenger of Allah, praise and peace be upon him, would go into seclusion for (the last) ten days during the month of Ramadan, but the year in which he passed away he went into seclusion for twenty days.
Narrated ‘Aisha: “Allah’s Apostle used to practice `Itikaf in the last ten nights of Ramadan and used to say, ‘Look for the Night of Qadr in the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan’”. [Bukhari]
Narrated ‘Aisha (r) (the Mother of the Believers):” Allah’s Apostle used to let his head in (the house) while he was in the mosque and I would comb and oil his hair. When in `Itikaf he used not to enter the house except for a need.” [Bukhari]
Syrian refugees across the Middle East are having to spend another Ramadan away from the festivities and extravagant meals associated with the month.
Many say they feel abandoned during a month when Muslims are meant to remember the less fortunate.
At one camp in Lebanon, charities are only able to provide meals for families to break their fasts every other day.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin reports from Sabra refugee camp just outside of Beirut.
Dr Zakir Naik: The things which are Fard for a person who fasts as I mentioned earlier one of them is to abstain from things that break the fast i.e. food, drink and having sexual relationship but besides this one another important factor is, is the intention, is the Neeya…
Yusuf Chambers: So Dr Zakir Naik what are the common errors committed by Muslims during the month of Ramadhaan
Dr Zakir Naik: The other common errors committed by Muslims in the month of Ramadhaan that is fourth category is
No. 1 is that many of the Muslims they stay awake the full night and then they sleep in the day and they do the normal activities in the night time and sleep in the day time they are converting day into night and night into day and the whole purpose of fasting is defeated.
Dr Zakir Naik: To welcome month is good Alhamdulillah and our Prophet always informed that the people about this month and as I mentioned earlier that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saws)
its mentioned in Musnad Ahmad Vol. no. 2 page no. 230 Hadith no. 7148 which is also repeated, it is mentioned in Sunan Nasai ch. no. 5 Hadith no. 2106 that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saws), he used to always tell the people when the month used to approach, when it used to come the Prophet used to tell in advance
“O people the blessed month of Ramadhaan is approaching you and Allah (swt) has ordained for you that you fast in this month and the gates of heaven will be open and the gates of hell will be closed and the Satan will be chained and in this month is the night of Qadr which is better than a thousand months and if you will be deprived of the Sawab, of the blessings you are really a deprived person.”
“Fasting is a higher state of consciousness.”
For more lectures by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, see below:
Hamza Yusuf – Various Lectures (Video)
Hamza Yusuf – Various Lectures (Audio Only)
Hamza Yusuf – IslamOnDemand Lecture Series
Hamza Yusuf – Rihla 2004 (USA)
The holy month of Ramadan comes to the Islamic world every year to remind the Muslim faithful on the need to return to Allah by following His teachings in all walks of their lives in order to achieve peace in this world and the Hereafter.
The daytime fasting and nighttime prayers spiritually energize the faithful to lead a new life, benefiting the whole humanity and opening a new chapter of peace and progress.
Ramadan is not a month for shopping festivals as many people wrong believed.
It is a month for fasting, reflection, devotion, generosity and sacrifice observed by Muslims around the world.
While major holidays of other faiths have largely become commercialized events, Ramadan retains its intense spiritual meaning.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, has cautioned Muslims 14 centuries ago that the Ramadan fasting should have a real impact on their lives. He has advised the faithful: “Let it not be that the day that you fast and the day that you break fast be equal.” Meaning, Ramadan should change one’s behavior, attitude and outlook toward life.
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you, so that you may attain Taqwa or piety.” 2:183) While fasting, Muslims must ponder whether it had any effect in making them more God-fearing and pious.
Ramadan is a month-long training program for Muslims to change their lives.
During this month, they engage in prayers seeking the forgiveness of Allah, recite and reflect on the Qur’an during night and day, perform the Taraweeh night prayers, and attend special Islamic classes and meetings.
Many faithful perform itikaf or retreat at mosques during the last ten nights of Ramadan, leaving all worldly pursuits to establish closer relationship with God.
Patience is another important quality one develops during Ramadan through fasting.
Allah has mentioned the word sabr or patience more than seventy times in the Qur’an and commanded patience in more than sixteen ways in the holy book.
When one fasts from dawn to dusk, giving up food and drink and marital sexual relations for several hours, he/she learns restraint and patience.
The Islamic nation needs men and women that are strong willed, who can stand upon the Qur’an and Sunnah and not waver in front of the enemies of God.
Ramadan encourages the faithful to engage in charitable and good activities beneficial to humanity.
The fasting in the holy month develops a strong feeling among the faithful that Allah is watching all their activities.
As a result, they will ask themselves before doing anything, ‘Does God love this action? Is God pleased with this action?’ Thus they gain the quality of watching oneself and staying away from showing off. According to a Hadith of the Prophet, Allah has said: “Fasting is for Me and I reward it.” (Bukhari) God singles out fasting from all other types of worship saying, “Fasting is for Me,” because no one knows whether you are fasting or not, except God. For example, when one is praying or giving charity or making tawaf or circumambulation around the Holy Kaaba, people watch him/her.
During Ramadan, Muslim faithful are trained to keep away from sins. The Prophet has advised them, “Whoever does not abandon falsehood in word and action, then Allah has no need that he should leave his food and drink.” (Bukhari) This Hadith reminds Muslims that they should purify their manners. The Qur’an has stated that the Prophet Muhammad “was sent to perfect good manners.”
Ramadan is a month for Muslims to change their lives for the better, leaving behind un-Islamic and immoral practices, to lead an exemplary life. The Prophet has said, “Every human being sins and the best of the sinners are those who repent.” (Ibn Maajah) God provides many opportunities to repent and seek His forgiveness. Allah says in the Qur’an: ” Say, O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (39:53)
Muslims do not fast because of medical benefits, which are of a secondary nature.
Fasting has been used by patients for weight management, to rest the digestive tract and for lowering lipids.
There are many adverse effects of total fasting as well as of crash diets.
Islamic fasting is different from such diet plans because in Ramadan fasting, there is no malnutrition or inadequate calorie intake.
The physiological effect of fasting includes lowering of blood sugar, lowering of cholesterol and lowering of the systolic blood pressure.
In fact, Ramadan fasting would be an ideal recommendation for the treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin diabetes, obesity, and essential hypertension.
In 1994, the first International Congress on “Health and Ramadan,” held in Casablanca, entered 50 extensive studies on the medical ethics of fasting.