Monday, 25 June 2012

Tips for fasting healthily and successfully during Ramadhan.

Millions of worshippers offering Taraweeh Prayer during Ramadhan in Masjid'il Haram
The blessed month of Ramadhan is considered by Muslims to be the month of mercy, patience and forgiveness in which the Tranquility of Allah Azzawajal decends upon His servants.  

The fast of Ramadhan is absolute in the sense that Muslims are prohibited from the Halaal (consuming any kind of food or drink, engaging in intimate relations, and talking excessively) as well as the Haraam (the major and minor sins which include lying or backbiting and smoking) from early dawn to dusk for a period of 30 days.

The Fast assists the increase in righteousness and dutifulness to The Creator through practicing restraint of our actions, emotions and general self (nafs).  

Allah the Almighty commanded the Muslims to fast in Ramadhan. The Blessed Qur’an says (translation of the meaning);

"Oh you who believe! Observing fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you [of the people of the Book, meaning Christians and Jews], so that you may become pious." 

In this verse Allah The Exalted is highlighting that the fasting prescribed for previous nations is like an encouragement and motivation for Muslims and that Siyaam (fasting) is a well established method of attaining Taqwa (piety) and inner peace.

And also;

"The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the Criterion (between right and wrong). So, whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan), he must observe fasts that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe (fasts) must be made up] from other days..." 


Although fasting for a month may initially seem tough, particularly when the days are longer due to Ramadhan falling over the summer months, fasting is not really that hard. Your body soon gets used to the changes, and from a health point of view, it is well documented that the fasting process allows the body to detoxify and repair itself.

So what steps can we take to make fasting as spiritually and physically beneficial as possible?

Get into the habit of fasting beforehand.

Fasting at regular intervals throughout the year in the build up to Ramadhan will by the Grace of Allah Almighty provide immeasurable blessings and rewards and can also help the human body to be better prepared for 30 days of abstinence from food and drink.

Muslims are recommended to fast outside of Ramadhan if they are able. It was the Sunnah of the Blessed Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to fast on Mondays and Thursdays every week, and also during the 13th, 14th and 15th of every lunar month. He (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) also fasted on the Day of Al Arafah and encouraged his nation to fast on the first six days of the month of Shawwal.

More info on voluntary fasting can be found here.

The sighting of the Hilal (new crescent moon) heralding the blessed month of Ramadhan.

The new crescent moon
Whomsoever has an unobstructed view of the horizon to the west is encouraged to go out on the evening of the 29th and/or 30th of Sha'baan to try and sight the new crescent. It will be located close to where the sun has just set and will only stay visible for a few moments after sunset. The testimony of a multitude of people upon the sighting of the Hilal is better than the testimony of just one person.

Muslims are encouraged to congregate and congratulate each other upon the sighting of the Hilal, welcoming the blessed month and seeking Allah Tala's Bounty.

Perfecting the Niyyah (intention) for fasting.

The Niyyah (intention) to fast is a required condition of obligatory fasts (such as that of Ramadhan).
It should be made within the heart (not aloud) and should be based on pleasing Allah'Tala and earning His forgiveness, rather than a desire to lose weight (!). The Niyyah for Ramadhan can be made only once at the beginning of the month and does not have to be repeated on each night before each days fast. The Niyyah can be made at any point during the night right up to a moment before the Fajr prayer on the first day of the month.

Awaking for Sehri (pre dawn meal).

The blessings of the Ramadhan pre-dawn meal are immeasurable and it is the one act which makes the fasting of Muslims distinct from the fasting of the two religions of the Book and although it may seem difficult to get out of bed so early in the mornings, it’s well worth doing so. If you find it beneficial, upon awaking you can wash your face and hands with cold water to help drive away the sleepiness.

Abu Hurairah (radhi Allahu anhu) narrated the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) as saying, "How good is the believers meal of dates shortly before dawn."
Sunan Abi Dawood Book 13, Hadith 2338. Classed as Sahih by Sh. Al Albani (rahimullah).

And also;

'Amr b. al-'As (radhi Allahu anhu) narrated the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) as saying, "The difference between our fasting and that of the people of the Book is eating shortly before dawn."
Sunan Abi Dawood Book 13, Hadith 2336. Classed as Sahih by Sh. Al Albani (rahimullah).

The blessings of Sehri are so great that it’s not worth missing out on them. After all, none of us know with certainty whether Allah’Tala will bless us with another visitation of Ramadhan next year. Many thousands of Muslims are taken from the World before they can welcome this sacred month again.

Filling the stomach with a large meal at Sehri is not recommended as it will have the effect of making you feel increased hunger during the day and lethargy in the early afternoon. Instead, have a small snack, for example perhaps some fruit, a slice of wholemeal toast, maybe a small paratha or a boiled egg. Protein-rich food choices are better than carbohydrates as they take longer to digest and so should keep you feeling fuller for longer. Don’t forget to have a drink to keep your fluid levels topped up. After eating and drinking in sha’Allah, you will soon feel refreshed and peaceful and ready to start the day.

When eating and drinking, consider the following points;

The Blessed Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) instructed his Ummah to compartmentalize their stomachs into three, whereby they should eat as much as that which will be enough for the first part. Then they should drink as much as that which will be enough for the second part. The third part should be left empty to aid easy breathing. This clearly indicates that the bad habit a lot of Muslims employ of stuffing themselves with food at Iftaar is not beneficial for spiritual or physical well being.

Miqdam bin Madikarib (radhi Allahu anhu) said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) say:‘A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third for drink and one third for air.’”
Sunan Ibn Majah Book 29, Hadith 3474; classed as Sahih by Darussalaam

It is also greatly beneficial to make use of Sunnah foods and medicines, such as dates, milk, honey, black seed oil, talbinah porridge, barley bread, melon, cucumber etc.

Tea and Coffee can dehydrate rather than hydrate
When Ramadhan falls over the summer months, a key consideration for Muslims is to ensure that they stay as hydrated as possible. Phasing out the consumption of caffeinated drinks will help. Avoid drinking tea/coffee at Sehri and Iftaar as they tend to dehydrate rather than hydrate. Mineral water or unsweetened fruit juices are a better choice. A glass of cold Nabeez is even better than this and it was a drink favoured by Rasool'Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

Break your fast with a date.

Ajwa dates from the blessed city of Medinah, Saudi Arabia
The fast is to be broken immediately after sun has set (a moment before the Azhaan for the Maghrib prayer). In a Hadith narrated by Anas Ibn Maalik (radhi Allahu anhu), he says, "The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) used to break his fast with fresh dates before praying [maghrib], if fresh dates were not available, he would [eat] dried dates, if dried dates were not available, he would have a few sips of water."
Jami' at Tirmithi Vol. 2, Book 3, Hadith 696. Classed as Hasan.

Focus on Prayer and be aware of your words and deeds.

Disconnecting from TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet (particularly social networking) can help you stay focused on the purpose of your fasting. You will be less tempted to spend the blessed time in a wasteful manner. Staying up for a portion of the night, particularly the last third and engaging in Taraweeh is also strongly encouraged.

The night prayer in Ramadhan has a special consideration different from any other time of the year. Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the blessed Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, "Whoever offers optional congregational prayers (like Taraweeh prayers) throughout the nights of Ramadan, believing in Allah and seeking His rewards, will have his previous sins forgiven."
[Muslim Book 9, Hadith 1188] Riyaad us Saliheen in the Book of Virtues

Qiyyam of the nights of Ramadan includes the early as well as the late night. So the Taraweeh is considered from the Qiyaam of Ramadhan and so we should perform it.

It was called Taraweeh because the Companions of the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the successors to the Companions used to make a lengthy standing in them and they would take rest by sitting only after offering every four Rak'ah. This is how these came to be named Taraweeh (Rest prayer). (A set of four Rak'ah are called 'Tarweehah').

Increasing Du'a (supplications).

Ramadhan holds the promise of the acceptance of Du'as to a much greater degree than at any other time of the year. The best times to offer Du'a are in the last third of the night, a special hour on Fridays or between the Azhaan and the Iqaamah of the Jummu'ah prayer and at the point of breaking the fast;

Abu Hurairah (radhi Allahu anhu) reported that the beloved Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, "There are three people whose supplications are not rejected - the fasting person when he breaks his fast, the just ruler and the supplication of the oppressed."
[At Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban] Classed as Hasan

One of the most superior Du'as for forgiveness is 'Sayyid al Istighfaar';

Allahumma anta rabbee la ilaha illa anta, 
Oh Allah, You are my Lord, none has the right to be worshiped except You,
khalaqtanee wa-ana ‘abduka, 
You created me and I am Your servant,
wa-ana ‘alaa ‘ahdika wawa’dika mas-tata’tu, 
and I abide to Your covenant and promise [to honour it] as best I can,
a’oothu bika min sharri maa sana’tu, 
I seek refuge in You from the evil of which I committed [my sins]
aboo-u laka bini’matika ‘alaya, 
I acknowledge Your favour upon me
wa-aboo-u bizambee, fagh fir lee
and I acknowledge my sin, so forgive me,
fa-innahu la yaghfiruz-zunooba illa ant.
for verily none can forgive sins except You.

Shaddad bin Aus (radhi Allahu anhu) narrated that the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) said "The most superior way of asking for forgiveness from Allah is: 'Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha illa anta, Anta Khalaqtani wa ana abduka, wa ana 'ala ahdika wa wa'dika mastata'tu, A'udhu bika min Sharri ma sana'tu, abu'u Laka bini'matika 'alaiya, wa Abu Laka bidhanbi faghfirli innahu la yaghfiru adhdhunuba illa anta." The Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) added. "If somebody recites it during the day with firm faith in it, and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise; and if somebody recites it at night with firm faith in it, and dies before the morning, he will be from the people of Paradise."
Sahih al Bukhari Volume 8, Book 75, Number 318

Increase in the recitation of the beautiful Qur'an.

What better time for us to re-establish our connection to the blessed Qur'an than in the month when it was revealed?

Abu Umamah (radhi Allahu anhu) narrated that, "I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) saying, "Read the Qur'an, for it will come as an intercessor for its reciters on the Day of Resurrection.""
Sahih Muslim in Riyad as-Saliheen Book 9, Hadith 991

Give in charity.

With millions of people living in poverty across the world or stricken by war or disease, it is more important than ever for the Muslims of the West to reassess and strengthen their solidarity with their brothers and sisters who are less fortunate. Ramadhan should be a time when charitable donations are increased and given with a happy heart which is in remembrance of Allah's glorious favours and hopeful of His all-encompassing mercy.

Ibn 'Abbas (radhi Allahu anhu) narrated that Allah's Apostle (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) was the most generous of all the people, and he used to reach the peak in generosity in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel (alayhisalaam) met him. Gabriel used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Qur'an. Allah's Apostle (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) was the most generous person, even more generous than the strong uncontrollable wind (in readiness and haste to do charitable deeds).
Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 1, Book 1, Number 5

Consider your schedule and if possible, avoid strenuous activities.

Fasting within the routines of a normal day can be testing. You're challenged to complete your tasks without that snack or coffee break that you might otherwise be used to taking. It is always important to pace yourself throughout the day, and if strenuous activity can be avoided, then try to do so. In many Middle Eastern countries, work and school days are shortened during Ramadhan. But nowadays, many of us need to do our work while we are fasting, so try and make it physically easier on yourself so that you have enough energy to strive for that spiritual connection with Allah'Tala.

If the opportunity to have a midday nap presents itself, don’t hesitate to take it!
Napping before the Zuhr prayer was the practice of the blessed Companions of Rasool'Allah (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) and there is no harm in it as long as you are sure that you will not miss the Prayer;

Sahl bin Sa'd (radhi Allahu anhu) narrated that Allah's Apostle (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) went to Fatima's house but did not find 'Ali there. So he asked, "Where is your cousin?" She replied, "There was something between us and he got angry with me and went out. He did not sleep (mid-day nap) in the house." Allah's Apostle asked a person to look for him. That person came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! He (Ali) is sleeping in the mosque." Allah's Apostle went there and 'Ali was lying. His upper body cover had fallen down to one side of his body and he was covered with dust. Allah's Apostle started cleaning the dust from him saying: "Get up! O Aba Turab. Get up! O Aba Turab (literally means: O father of dust)."
Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 1, Book 8, Number 432

Further reading on the Fiqh of Ramadhan can be found here.

Hope you find this article useful and I wish for all of the viewers of this article a healthy and prosperous Ramadhan!


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