Good Practices while Fasting
By Adil Salahi
Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate on the authority of Aishah, the Prophet’s (Pbuh) wife, that: “When the last ten days of Ramadan began, the Prophet used to spend the whole night in worship, awaken the other members of his household for night worship, and exercise a high degree of self-control.” Let us reflect upon the practices recommended by the Prophet (Pbuh) to follow when we fast.
k Suhoor: It is unanimously agreed throughout the Muslim world that a meal before one starts his day of fasting is of great benefit, as it makes fasting easier, particularly in overcoming the effects of hunger towards the end of the day. However, if one chooses not to have a meal, no blame is attached to him. Anas quotes the Prophet as saying: “Have a meal before you fast, for suhoor is blessed.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). This means that having suhoor is a Sunnah, which is fulfilled whether one has a full meal or a light snack. Indeed, it is deemed to have been done even if one takes only a drink of water.
k End the fast soon: We are strongly recommended to finish our fast immediately when we are certain that the sun has set. Sahl ibn Saad quotes the Prophet as saying: “People will continue to be well as long as they finish their fast immediately after sunset.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). It is strongly recommended to start with a few dates, an odd number of them, and if not then to start with a drink of water. Anas reports that the Prophet used to end his fast with eating a few dates before offering Maghreb prayers. If no dates were available, he would have a few sips of water.” (Related by Abu Dawood and others). Sulayman ibn Amr quotes the Prophet as saying: “If one of you is fasting, let him end his fast by eating a few dates, and if dates are not available, then let him drink some water as water purifies.” (Related by Ahmad and Al-Tirmidhi). This Hadith suggests that it is preferable to end one’s fast in this way before offering Maghreb prayers. When one has finished praying, one may have his meal, unless the food is already served, when he starts with eating. Anas quotes the Prophet as saying: “If your evening meal is served, then start by eating before offering Maghreb. Do no hasten to pray before eating.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
k A short prayer before ending the fast: Abdullah ibn Amr quotes the Prophet as saying: “As a fasting person is about to end his fast, he is certain to have a prayer answered.” (Related by Ibn Majah). Abdullah used to pray at fast-breaking time: “My Lord! I appeal to you with your mercy which encompasses all to forgive me.” It is also authentically reported that the Prophet used to repeat this prayer: “Thirst is quenched; the veins are watered and the reward is certain, God willing.” He is also reported to say: “My Lord! For your sake I have fasted and with your provisions I end my fast.” Al-Tirmidhi relates that the Prophet said: “Three types of person are certain to have their prayers answered: a fasting person until he ends his fast, and a just ruler, and an oppressed person.”
k Refraining from anything which conflicts with fasting: Fasting is one of the main acts of worship in Islam. God has decreed fasting for us as an exercise of self-discipline which helps us form good habits. It is essential, therefore, to guard against anything which is in conflict with fasting so that we gain its benefits and attain the quality of God-fearing people, which is the aim of this act of worship. Fasting is not merely an abstention from eating and drinking. It is an abstention from anything which God has forbidden. Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: “Fasting is not merely to go without food and drink; fasting is to abstain from idle talk and obscene language. If anyone calls you bad names or insults you, answer him by saying: ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’” (Related by Ibn Khuzaymah and others). It is also authentically reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet has said: “God does not need him who continues to indulge in telling lies and cheating to abstain from food and drink.” This means that God will not accept such a person’s fasting. The Prophet also says: “Many a fasting person will reap nothing but hunger, and many a night worshipper will reap nothing but staying up late.” (Related by Al-Nassaie and others).
k Using a toothbrush: A fasting person is recommended to clean his teeth with the traditional toothbrush, i.e. miswak, which is a stick taken from the Arak tree. No toothpaste is used with such tooth stick. It may be used at any time throughout the day. It is also perfectly permissible to use an ordinary toothbrush, but without toothpaste, during the day of fasting.
k Charity and Recitation of the Qur’an: To give charity and to recite the Qur’an are two actions encouraged at all times, but they are especially recommended in Ramadan. Al-Bukhari relates on the authority of Ibn Abbas: “God’s Messenger used to be the most generous of people. He was at his most generous in Ramadan when Gabriel, the angel, used to come to him every night and they recited the Qur’an in turn. During that time, the Prophet used to be more charitable than unrestrained wind.”
k Voluntary night worship especially during the last ten days: Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate on the authority of Aishah, the Prophet’s wife, that: “When the last ten days of Ramadan began, the Prophet used to spend the whole night in worship, awaken the other members of his household for night worship, and exercise a high degree of self-control.” “The Prophet used to exercise more effort in worship during the last ten days of Ramadan than at any other time.