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Rules of Fasting
In Islam, for any act of worship to be valid and acceptable, it must be
observed in accordance with the instruction of Allah (SWT) and the practice of the
Messenger of Allah (PBUH). Obviously, we did not know about the fasting until we were told
about it. It would be unwise to just decide to fast in the way one wishes. That is why
there are in Islamic Law (Shari'ah) rules of fasting (Adab As-Siyam). Observation of these
rules helps the devotee maximize the physical as well as spiritual benefits of fasting.
This is a light meal taken shortly before the break of dawn. There is consensus that this
meal is a highly recommended Sunnah.
In reports by Bukhari and Muslim, Anas (RAA) related that the Messenger of
Allah said: "Take your early morning meal for in that is a blessing." In another
report by Miqdam bin Ma'a Diyikarib (RAA) the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: "Take
this early morning meal for it is a blessed meal." In both ahadiths the statement
underscores the importance of sahuur, and to caution anyone from thinking they can just
stay without a meal all night and continue with fasting. This may explain why the
statement came as a command.
Although it is not mandatory to eat sahuur, it is highly encouraged so that
anyone intending to fast will make an effort to take sahuur. The crux of the matter is not
to show how strong you are, but how obedient you are. Sahuur, above all, ensures that the
devotee has the energy he or she will need during the course of the day, and it makes the
Sahuur can be achieved by a large meal, a small meal, or even by a sip of
water or soup. In a report by Abu Sa'eed Al-Khudri (RAA) the Messenger of Allah
(PBUH) said, "Sahuur is a blessed meal, do not neglect it even if it is a mouthful of
drink. For Allah and the Angels bless those who observe
it." (Ahmed) You see, what reaches Allah is the intent that you have made a genuine
effort to obey Allah in fasting. This is why it is recommended to make
intention with the sahuur, to emulate the Prophet. And to eat the food to gain strength
and energy during fasting, so as to get the reward from Allah.
The hadith also contains the information that during the course of this meal the fasting
person receives a special blessing that cannot be found elsewhere: that Allah (SWT)
blesses your meal and that the angels seek on
your behalf forgiveness for you during sahuur. Thus, with sahuur you receive
both physical and spiritual blessings.
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HASTEN TO BREAK FAST
The Lawgiver highly recommended that the fast be broken as soon as the sun
sets is certain. Although newspapers, in their daily almanac, mention the time of sunset
and sunrise, one should be strongly advised to look through the window to make sure the
sun has set. For example, you might hear that "Today's sunrise is at 6:50 a.m. and
sunset at 4:58 p.m.," and when you look
outside, you find that there is still light out side. By sunset it is meant
the disappearance of the sun from the western horizon. In the books of Bukhari and Muslim,
the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: "The people will always remain in a good state of
mind and body (during fast) so far as they hurry in the breaking of the fast and delay the
It is recommended also to break the fast with fresh dates, Rutub, or regular table or
supermarket dates, tamr, all in odd numbers. Water can also be used. If dates are not
available, any fruit will do. If there is no food or drink to break the fast with, intend
in your heart to break fast, and whenever food is available you should eat.
In a report by Anas (RAA), he said: "The Prophet (PBUH) used to break fast with
fresh, ripe dates rutub, before he offered his Maghrib prayer. If they were not available,
he would break with regular dates, or drink water if there were no dates." (Abu Dawud
In this report, there is an indication that with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) breaking
fast precedes evening prayer, Maghrib, as if to say the last
meal before fast precedes the morning prayer. Likewise, the first meal at the time of
Iftaar, the fast breaking meal, precedes evening prayer, Maghrib. Hence, the procedure at
Iftaar goes like this: break with a light meal, preferably dates, make Iqamah for Maghrib
prayer, then take your regular meal.
The meal may be taken with the family at home or friends and relatives may
be invited to the Iftaar, as we shall see that charitable works are highly recommended in
the month of Ramadan. Over the years phenomenon have evolved in different masajid, and
Islamic Centers in the United States of America and elsewhere, where arrangements are made
by the believers to break fast in jama'ah in the masajid. These gatherings are excellent
and are encouraged as they lead to Taraweeh prayer in Jamaa`ah in the masjid.
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