This weekend marks the start of the holy month of Ramadan and will see the beginning of fasting over the next 30 days for Muslims all over the world. While on the surface fasting appears to be a simple process of not eating or drinking anything from sunrise to sunset, there is in fact much more to it than that.
Because Ramadan is a very sacred time of the year, Muslims are encouraged to use the time to become closer to Allah and improve themselves while paying extra attention to friends and families as well as the wider Muslim community (known as the Ummah). Educating yourself in Islam is also extremely important during Ramadan since there are some clear cut rules around fasting and how one should act throughout the fasting period.
There are also a lot of misconceptions about fasting and what actions actually invalidate one’s fast. Because of these misconceptions, we have compiled a list of the essential do’s and don’ts during Ramadan as well as tackling some of the biggest mistakes people make during the period.
What you should do during Ramadan
- Become more active in your local Islamic community.
- Regularly read the Qur’an (Some Muslims opt to read a Juz a day for each of the 30 days).
- Give to charity – Ramadan is a popular time to offer Zakat (A set percentage of your income).
- Be compassionate – Ramadan is a time for forgiveness for Muslims and is an attitude that is especially important during the holy month.
- Engage with friends more – this can even include non-Muslim friends who may not know much about Islam, it’s always nice to have an extra mouth to feed at Iftar.
What you should not do during Ramadan
- No food or drink during the fast period – this is the most obvious one but it does include things such as water, coffee and fizzy drinks.
- Hold grudges – as mentioned before, Ramadan is a time for forgiveness and you should always be open to reconciling with someone over a disagreement during the month.
- Engage in sexual activity during fasting hours – while sexual intercourse is allowed during Ramadan, it is only permissible once the sun goes down.
- Swear or use foul language – Ramadan places emphasis on avoiding negative behaviours, this can also include gossiping in a negative way about someone behind their back.
- Chew gum and/or smoke during fasting hours – while discouraged, smoking is permissible when the sun goes down.
Common misconceptions around fasting
There are a lot of misconceptions around what breaks your fast during Ramadan, we have compiled a short list of the most common misconceptions that get spread around during Ramadan:
- Brushing your teeth breaks – the majority of scholars disagree that brushing your teeth breaks the fast, as long as you do not swallow the toothpaste. You can also opt to use a miswak (a cleaning twig) which many believe the prophet Muhammad used himself.
- Swallowing your saliva breaks – this is an extremely common misconception, but there are no mentions in the Qur’an or hadiths that state this.
- Accidentally eating or drinking – it’s easy to understand why someone would think this but consuming something by accident does not void the fast. This is especially true for when someone performs absolution and they must rinse their mouth before prayer.
- Taking any kind of medication – warnings have been issued in the past over this misconception as most medicines that are not taken orally can be used during fasting hours such as eye drops or injections.
- Fasting is obligatory for everyone – both the Qur’an and many hadith clearly state there are some groups of people who are exempt from fasting such as those who are ill, pregnant or menstruating.