We address some of the most pertinent questions about fasting in Ramadan.
As a non-Muslim member of the community, it is only fair for you to ask questions about Ramadan. Contributor Ayesha Ghaffar answers some of our readers’ most popular questions.
What is the purpose of Ramadan?
Ramadan spans over 29 to 30 days, subject to the sighting of the moon. Muslims discipline themselves to strengthen their relationship with God throughout the month. In its real essence, the purpose of Ramadan is to develop empathy for underprivileged people, therefore charity is encouraged in this month. Muslims gain virtue in abundance and a sense of brotherhood is instilled in the community at large.
Is fasting mandatory?
Fasting is mandatory after a person reaches puberty but only if a person is mentally able and healthy, because God does not burden a soul with more than it can bear. Therefore, a breastfeeding mother, traveller or someone who is temporarily ill are exempted from fasting. However, they must make up for the missed days by fasting later. In case a person has an illness or ailment that is incurable, they should feed a poor person as compensation for each day of the month.
What does it feel like fasting for a month?
From an outsider’s perspective, fasting for 29 days may seem overwhelming, and truth be told, it’s extremely challenging, especially when the weather reaches 40ᴼC. But that is what teaches us how to be perseverant and composed. Globally, Muslims wake up and prepare a pre-dawn meal (suhoor) to remain energetic throughout the day. Contrary to popular belief, Muslims are supposed to go about their regular business (luckily in the UAE and other Islamic countries, work hours are reduced) until the sun sets when they can break their fast with the evening meal, called iftar.
How can you survive without food and drink?
As humans, of course we do feel the urge to drink and eat but self-control, patience and compassion are the core values of Ramadan, which act as a boost. Having said that, we do in fact eat and drink at pre-dawn hours and after sunset. So, technically, we don’t starve ourselves.
What if you accidentally eat while fasting?
As per religious rulings, a mistake is considered a mistake. If someone forgetfully eats or drinks while fasting, they are forgiven and may continue with their fast. The Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said, “Whoever forgets he is fasting and eats or drinks, let him complete his fast for it is Allah who has fed him and given him to drink.”
How are people in the Arctic region supposed to fast?
The Midnight Sun, a natural phenomenon where the sun doesn’t set for 24 hours, is experienced in countries such as Norway, Finland, Canada and Sweden. As Ramadan requires Muslims to break their fast at sunset, Islamic devotees who live in these regions can eat and drink according to the time zone of the nearest Islamic country, or with Mecca in Saudi Arabia, as per Islamic rulings.