Ramadan Fasting Rules and Guides

  • Fasting is mandatory for Muslims during Ramadan, which they observe for spiritual and physical well-being.
  •  Fasting during Ramadan has an immense outcome on your body and is not levied upon everyone, specifically those whose health is compromised. 
  • By eating a healthy diet that meets the required calories, a person is ensured to still have enough energy to continue functioning normally without any issues. 
  • Healthy eating includes food from different food groups, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat.

 

Fasting is a mandatory religious obligation of Muslims. During the holy month of Ramadan,  they commit to abstaining from eating food or even drinking any water. This is done from sunrise till sunset for the whole month. 

You might have heard that fasting has adverse effects on health. However, in this particular practice among Muslims, it is considered a type of meditation. It is done to achieve certain goals pertaining to spiritual and general well-being. 

Are you curious about how fasting works for our body and mind? And how can we ensure that we maintain the basic caloric requirements during this time? Keep reading to find out!

Do you know what fasting is?

Sawm” is the Arabic terminology for fasting. It refers to abstaining from having regular meals, from the “Fajar” prayer to the “Maghrib” prayer. These prayers are done at dawn and at dusk respectively. So, Muslims fast for that amount of time too.

The Holy Quran emphasizes the importance of fasting in Ramadan by saying:

O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.

Another Quranic verse highlighting this period of fasting says: “The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So, whoever sights the month, let him fast.”

As a Muslim, you have to abide by the rules decreed by Islam. Fasting is done during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Among the five basic pillars of Islam, fasting during Ramadan is the fourth pillar.

 Muslim men and women around the globe refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and several other activities during fasting hours. Many of us may find fasting challenging. How can someone fast for fourteen to eighteen hours, from dawn till dusk?

Well, the answer to why  Muslims fast is because of their “Taqwa” or “Iman” on Allah (God). Taqwa is an Arabic word that means faith or gratitude towards Allah (God). For example, if you want to drink or eat secretly, the heart inside your body stops you. This is Taqwa. During Ramadan, there is a battle between the heart and brain saying that ‘‘I won’t disobey Allah (God) until Maghrib prayer calls to break the fast.” 

Fasting in Islam focuses on controlling one’s thoughts and desires. One must partake in charity work, show virtue, practice kindness, patience, and love during Ramadan.

What are the rules of fasting during Ramadan?

There are a few rules and guides in Islam to undertake fasting during Ramadan. A person can only have two meals throughout the whole day. One is at Suhr, which happens before sunrise, and the second meal is Iftar, when you break the fast after sunset. 

Suhr meals provide sufficient energy to the body to complete everyday activities. It is preferable to take whole grains that are rich in carbohydrates, dates, and low-fat milk during this meal. 

Meanwhile, Iftar meals help us to re-energize our dehydrated and energy drained bodies. Lavish meals at Iftar times usually start with dates. This is because of their numerous benefits.

You might be concerned about being unable to have midday snacks or refreshing drinks throughout the day. You may think it will result in an inability of your body to function properly. You may even think it will take a toll on your health. However, the body will function with no problems if a proper diet is followed. This is done during the allotted meal times during this long period of fasting. 

Fasting provides ample time for the body to use stored reserves such as fats and proteins. You are advised to adopt healthy eating during Ramadan fasting. This will cut off your body weight to a healthy level and remain active the whole month. 

 

Am I exempted from fasting?

So if fasting is mandatory for Muslims, are there any exemptions to this? 

The answer to this question is yes. If someone is unable to fast for health concerns or any other reasons during this time, they may be exempted from fasting. Here are some instances where people may be allowed to forego fasting.

1. Those who are chronically sick or with deteriorating health. 

People who fall in this group are not compelled to fast. However, they are required to pay ”Fidyah.” This refers to an offering of two meals  (Suhr and Iftar)  for missed fasts. They may also give an equivalent sum of money to the poor. 

Diabetic patients are not required to fast as there is an increased risk of hypoglycemia and severe dehydration. However, it is left up to the individual if they feel that they are able to fast. 

Similarly, children before puberty are also exempted. This is because fasting can result in depleted energy demands. They may also not receive the calories and nutrients needed for a healthy brain and high-energy physical activities.

 

2. Pregnant, nursing, and menstruating women should not fast in these timeframes. 

However, they may fast for those number of days at a later date to compensate. There are certain health risks if a woman fasts during any of the above-mentioned times. For example, if a nursing mother fasts, it can affect their potassium and milk levels.

3. Fasting isn’t imposed on any person who has to travel for any serious reason. 

According to the Quran, this is done so as to not make traveling more difficult. However, there are no exemptions for those who are traveling for leisure or holiday. Those who missed their fasts must also fast on different days to compensate.

To prevent negative impacts on one’s health, there are certain ways in which fasting can be undertaken.

The Do’s and Don’ts of fasting:

The  Ramadan fasting guide is very easy to follow. It will also ensure that anyone fasting gains the best from the experience. There are just certain Do’s and Don’ts of fasting that should be followed. 

1. Do not ingest any food or liquid. This will invalidate your fast. However, unintentionally having a sip of water is permissible.

2.  Do not engage in sexual contact during the time of fast. Smoking, entertaining evil thoughts, or taking part in arguments can also void fasting.

3. Do abstain from cruelty, hurting, or disrespecting others, especially during Ramadan. Islam teaches us to be polite, humble, and generous when fasting.

4. Do your religious responsibilities. Fasting brings us blessings and rewards. This happens if you offer prayers five times a day, recite the Quran, and give Zakat and Fitr charity to those in need. 

5. Do not take any medication, whether orally or intravenously. This will invalidate your fast.

6. Do be careful with brushing your teeth, and any other daily activities. If done during fasting hours, they can also negate fasting.

7. Do not worry if involuntary vomit occurs during the fasting period. This will not affect your fast.

8. Do take a shower or swim. These activities are fine as long as the water is not sipped.

9. Do eat healthy and simple feasts. Energy levels drop during fasting hours. Therefore, we recommend eating foods rich in fibers and in large quantities.

Now, let‘s go through the effects of nutrition on our bodies during Ramadan.

How does fasting affect our bodies?

How does the body respond to fasting?

Fasting has amazing effects on our bodies. Researchers highly recommend having a balanced diet while fasting.  It helps your body fight against many diseases through elevated immunity levels. 

Foods such as dried fruits (like dates), fresh fruits, yogurt, and vegetables are good to keep in your diet. Pair them with plenty of water in meals at Suhr and Iftar. This will compensate for the body’s stress. Calories obtained from these food items will maintain your body’s glucose level and uphold energy levels. 

Avoid using artificial sugars, oily or saturated fats, and processed foods. If you’re consuming more than 11.8g of sugars and more than 3g of fats per 100g, you may be putting yourself at risk. We recommend preparing home-cooked food instead. Make sure to get them from all the five food groups so that they can meet the energy demand during fasting periods. 

 

Whole grains:

Whole grains can give you a kick start. They are bursting with nutrients to provide energy throughout the whole day. If you’re thinking of fasting, do include more from this group. Whole grains provide carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and minerals. They are also sufficient energy reserves. We recommend taking cereals, oats, and bread with natural sugars such as dates, nuts, and honey. They will be good energy supplements.

 

Dates and dry fruits:

Breaking your fast with dates is actually in the Quran. It is called Sunnah in Islam. This is a practice  Prophet Muhammad performed. 

Various research studies have revealed the nutritional values and importance of dates. They are naturally enriched with potassium, copper, manganese, folate, dietary fibers, and vitamins. 

They are also considered gifts for a healthy heart and life as eating dates lowers blood pressure levels. They also reduce your risks for heart diseases. Dates can help normalize your low sugar levels during fasting. 

Whether or not you are fasting, add dates to your food plate. 

Diary and Meat: 

Foods from this group are full of proteins. Chicken, meat, legumes, nuts, yogurt, milk, fish, and beans are valuable additions to body nourishment.

During fasting your body shifts due to having an empty stomach the whole day. Therefore, it is important to have more protein to maintain your health.

 

Fresh fruits and vegetables

Most of us know the importance of fresh vegetables and fruits for healthy living. While not fasting, you can replenish your body’s needs for sugar and water by taking in fresh fruit. Include juicy ones such as watermelon or oranges. 

You can also blitz carrots, peas, corn, or tomato soups in Iftar meals. This will provide your body with ample amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Water

You can become dehydrated because of fasting. Therefore, try drinking more water than usual. A person must consume 8-12 glasses of water a day. Be careful not to over dilute your body with water and electrolytes all at once. 

Remember that it is more important to satisfy your hunger instead of going overboard at Iftar meals. Eating more than needed is always damaging. Fasting in Ramadan can be healthy. Just be sure to keep your eating, sleeping, and physical behaviors on track. 

Ramadan is a month of blessings. It also includes the hardship of refraining from food and liquid intake. Fasting means waking up early before dawn and having Suhr with empty stomachs till dusk in Maghrib, when we break the fast. 

One should delightfully practice fasting by setting up healthy eating habits. Fasting can cause certain health issues such as a drop in blood sugar levels and dehydration. However, if you nourish properly in non-fasting hours, this can be prevented. Dates are the best part of Ramadan. They provide a high number of calories to retain blood sugar levels. Fasting can have an impact on cholesterol levels, diabetes, and other illnesses. We recommend consulting a physician for assistance before fasting.

Summary

Fasting during Ramadan has evident effects on the human body and mind. We abstain from eating and drinking during fasting hours, which stresses out our bodies. Keeping a healthy diet can help us achieve the Ramadan goals customary by Islam. Offering prayers, giving charity, being humble, avoiding ungrateful acts are the heartiest sides of fasting.

Scientific Information

Written by:
Ifrah Awais, MS
Microbiology
Reviewed by:

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