What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a time when Muslims are obliged to observe one of the Five Pillars of Islam – fasting. Each day during Ramadan, from dawn until the sun sets, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, or engaging in any acts deemed to be ill-natured or excessive.

The fast begins each day at Suhoor, also known as Sehri (just before sunrise), and ends at Iftar (directly after sunset). It was during the month of Ramadan that the Holy Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (saw) as guidance for mankind.

Ramadan 2021 is based on the Islamic lunar calendar, so each year it moves forward approximately 10 or 11 days, depending on the sighting of the new moon. The fasting phase finishes on the sighting of the next new moon, which takes place after 29 or 30 days. Ramadan 2020 began on 23April.

In 2021, Ramadan is estimated to begin on or around the 13th of April, upon the sighting of the moon.

Ramadan ends after 29 or 30 days, depending on the sighting of the new moon. The end of Ramadan is marked by the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast. It occurs on the first day of the next lunar month, Shawwal, and begins with special prayers at the mosque, the gathering of families and friends, and celebratory meals. It is also a special time to ask for forgiveness and make amends.

Ramadan 2021, is anticipated to end on or around the 12th May, with Eid-ul-Fitr taking place on or around the 13th May – subject to the sighting of the moon.

Fasting is compulsory for Muslims once they reach puberty, although many children fast for as many days as possible. However, there are exemptions for those who are seriously ill or whose health would be at risk through fasting; the elderly, and the infirm.

Fasting (known as Sawm) is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is a willing act of abstaining from eating, drinking, and smoking, from dawn until dusk. It also includes refraining from engaging in any sexual relations or sinful behaviour, such as backbiting, cursing, having bad intentions and much more.

In removing the comforts of daily life, fasting essentially focuses on purifying the body and mind, increasing spirituality and strengthening faith. The rewards during fasting are believed to be multiplied during the auspicious month of Ramadan. Therefore, increased recitation of the Holy Qur’an and offering of prayers is most beneficial.

Fasting is obligatory for all adults in Islam, and children who have attained the age of puberty. Those who miss a fast because of illness or women who are having their period have to make up that fast at a later date. Those who can not fast at all because of health reasons, old age or infirmity, pay fidyah as compensation. Fidyah is a sum that should provide one person with two meals, or two people with one meal, for that day.

You can not drink or eat anything when fasting.

It is believed that eating or drinking unintentionally during fasting does not break your fast. As long as you stop once you remember, your fast is still valid.

A fast is typically opened with dates or salt, and then usually followed by a meal.

Once children reach the age of seven, they should be taught how to fast and encouraged to do so, at least sometimes. By the age of ten, children should be encouraged by their parents to fast the entire month, or as much as they can.

It is best to consult a medical professional who is well versed in pregnancy as well as nutrition to see if there is a real threat to either the mother or child due to fasting. If there is a pregnant woman, she should not fast, and make up the days she missed later on.

It is best to consult a medical professional who is well versed in breastfeeding as well as nutrition to see if there is a real threat to either the mother or the production of milk due to fasting. If there is, the nursing mother does not need to fast but will have to make up for the days she missed later on.

There is a difference of opinion among Muslim scholars on how to determine the start/end of Ramadan. It is best to follow the masjid that you trust the most concerning their Islamic knowledge. However, if this will cause a division within your family or will result in other difficult circumstances, it is permissible to take the opinion of the other masjid and follow their timing, even if you feel they are less qualified in Islamic knowledge.

The timings for Fajr prayer [which is when fasting begins] are determined by true dawn, which is when a clear thread of light is seen on the horizon. However, given environmental factors such as mountains, light pollution, elevation, etc. people, even in the same city, will not be able to observe dawn at the same time, depending on their point of observation. Therefore, scientific calculations are used to approximate the time of dawn. Since these calculations can not predictably determine the true time of dawn, there will be different opinions on how many degrees the sun needs to be below the horizon before dawn should be considered to have occurred.

Vomiting a large amount, intentionally, when it comes out with force and can not be kept in, does break the fast. This is usually a rare scenario because it is rarely done intentionally. However, unintentional vomiting does not break the fast.

It is permissible to use eye/ear/nose drops because the liquid does not normally reach the stomach or nourish the body. Therefore, it is not analogous to food or drink. However, when using nose drops, it is important to not swallow any of the fluid if it goes down and reaches the mouth. Using an enema to empty the bowels or administer medicine into the bloodstream does not break the fast. However, if the enema is used for hydration or nourishment and it reaches the stomach, then it does break the fast.

Normally, a medical injection does not break the fast since it neither nourishes nor does it reach the stomach. However, injecting glucose or some other nourishing substance does break the fast.

There are many references as to whether or not it is permissible to brush your teeth during Ramadan. Please consult your local Imam for further information.

It is not recommended to use mouthwash while fasting because it does leave a taste in your mouth. However, if it is necessary to remove bad breath that might affect people you are near, it will not break the fast as long as you are careful not to swallow any [e.g. through gargling].

Swallowing food accidentally does not break the fast, even if it is a large amount. Continue fasting as usual.

Giving blood while fasting does not affect the fast, although it is disliked if it will weaken the person very much and make their fast more difficult.

This situation might make a woman miss several Ramadans and have to make up fasting for a few years. Usually, when a person misses a fast in Ramadan, they should make it up before the next Ramadan comes. In the case where someone has missed more than one Ramadan, they have more leniency in spreading these makeup fasts over a longer period. It is recommended for women to try making up their fasts in the wintertime when days are shorter and spreading them out by fasting one or two days a week if it is difficult for them due to their circumstances.

Using an asthma inhaler does not break the fast because it neither nourishes the body nor goes into the stomach.

It is permissible to wear perfume while fasting since inhaling that fragrance neither nourishes nor reaches the stomach.

This is allowed and does not affect the fast. There is nothing wrong or disliked about this.

Illness, old age, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menstruation and traveling are all reasons that exempt the individual from fasting. Those with permanent or long-term illnesses are advised to seek medical advice and guidance if they wish to fast.

People who can not fast because they have fallen ill or are traveling during Ramadan are obliged to make up for the days they have missed.

Those who can not fast at all because they are old, infirm or ill are obliged to pay Fidyah, the daily equivalent of two meals for a person for each day of fasting missed.

Any Muslim who deliberately breaks a fast without reason or does not fast during Ramadan is liable for Kaffarah.

Fidyah is paid by those who are unable to fast because of illness, old age, or infirmity. Fidyah consists of paying for two meals for a person per day of fasting. If you are obliged to pay Fidyah, the current rate is:

  • £5/10 $ per day
  • For 30 fasts of Ramadan, the amount is £150 /300 $

Fitrana is a small amount of charity given before the Eid al-Fitr prayer to mark the end of Ramadan. The current monetary rate for Fitrana is £5/12 per person. It can be given either directly before the prayer or a few days in advance.

Every Muslim is obliged, if they have the means, to pay. This payment should be made by responsible adults of sound mind on behalf of children or others in the care that are unable to make the payment themselves.

If you deliberately miss a fast or break a fast in Ramadan without a legitimate reason, then you are obliged to make up for this by way of Kaffarah; to fast for 60 continuous days per fast missed or broken.

If due to illness, old age, or infirmity you are unable to fast for 60 consecutive days, then you may give a monetary amount as Kaffarah. For each fast missed or broken, you are obliged to pay the equivalent of two meals for 60 people.

Based on £5 as the price of two meals, Kaffarah for one fast missed or broken is £300.

Note: The majority of scholars and schools of fiqh (jurisprudence) say that missing a fast without a justifiable reason should be made up by a Qadah fast and that Kaffarah is not liable. However, some have ruled that Kaffarah is liable even in these cases. Please consult your local imam or shaykh, or a qualified scholar, for more guidance.