14 Nov Fasting: Important points.Part2
THE PREDAWN MEAL AND BREAKING THE FAST
Having a predawn meal between the middle of the night and dawn is sunna (recommended). It is considered best to delay it so that it will be eaten as close to dawn as possible. Those who are fasting should hasten to break the fast when the sun has set and, just before eating, make the following supplication (highly recommended):
“O God, I have fasted for You, believed in You, placed my trust in You, and break my fast with Your provisions.”
THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF FASTING
Making the proper intention to fast the month of Ramadan is required. Preferably, this intention should be made before dawn and during every night of Ramadan. However, it is valid if made during any part of the night and can even be made as late as noon if one forgot to make it before dawn. It does not have to be spoken out loud, for it is, in reality, an act of the heart that does not involve the tongue. In addition, it is fulfilled by one’s intention to fast out of obedience to God and to seek His pleasure. According to many jurists, the intention for a voluntary fast can be made until noon.
During the fasting hours, one cannot eat, drink, or engage in marital sexual relations. Before the Qur’an’s revelation, married couples could not engage in sexual intercourse during the fasting period. This rule was alleviated by 2:187, which allows sexual intercourse between married couples during the nights of Ramadan:
It is made lawful for you to go in to your wives on the night of the Fast; (there is such an inalienable intimacy between you that) they are a garment for you (enfolding you to protect you against illicit relations and beautifying you,) and you are a garment (of the same sort) for them. (2:187)
However, it is still forbidden during the fasting hours.
AVOIDING UNBEFITTING ACTIONS
Fasting, a type of worship for drawing closer to God, was ordered to purify the soul and train it in good deeds. Those who are fasting must guard against any act that might cancel the benefits of their fast. Thus, their fast will increase their personal God-consciousness and piety. Fasting is more than not eating and drinking; it also means to avoid everything else that God has forbidden. The Messenger said:
“Fasting is not (abstaining) from eating and drinking only, but also from vain speech and foul language. If one of you is being cursed or annoyed, he should say: ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.‘”
BEING GENEROUS AND DOING OTHER MERITORIOUS ACTS
Being generous, studying the Qur’an, and supplicating to God are recommended at all times, but are especially stressed during Ramadan. During the last 10 days of Ramadan, God’s Messenger would wake his wives during the night and then, remaining apart from them, engage in acts of worship. He would exert himself in worshipping his Lord during this time more than he would at any other time. (Bukhari, “Sawm,” 2:9; Muslim, “Siyam,” 164)
PLACES WITH VERY LONG DAYS AND VERY SHORT NIGHTS
Muslims who are in such areas (e.g., close to the polar regions) should follow the norms of the areas in which the Islamic legislation took place (e.g., Makka or Madina) or follow the schedule of the closest area that has “normal” days and nights.
Making an oath means to swear by God that one will not do something. In Islam, one can swear only by God. People who make such an oath must do their best to fulfill it, and so should not make one carelessly.
People who make false statements by mistake or unknowingly, and then swear to them by God, are not held responsible for them and do not have make any expiation. However, consciously lying and then swearing by God or declaring God as a witness to the lie is an extremely grave sin that many times has resulted in misfortune descending upon the liar. Such people must perform an act of expiation, earnestly seek God’s forgiveness, and repair any damage caused by the lie.
If people swear by God not to do something in the future and then do that very act, they must seek God’s forgiveness and make an expiation. In this case, this involves emancipating a slave. If this is not possible, the oath-breaker must feed a poor person for 10 days with meals that are similar to what his family eats. If this is not possible, he or she must fast for 10 consecutive days.
A vow is a solemn promise to do, in God’s name, something that resembles an act of worship and make obligatory upon oneself that which is not obligatory. A vow is considered “Islamic” only if it is made in God’s name and involves an obligatory or necessary act of worship (e.g., to fast or help the poor). Therefore, one can vow to perform two rak’ats of prayer or fast, but not to make a prostration of recitation or perform ablution, for these latter two acts are not obligatory acts of worship in themselves but rather are the means to such acts. Also, vows can be made concerning only that which can be fulfilled.
There are two kinds of vows: appointed and unappointed. An appointed vow can be, for example, vowing to fast on a certain day if one’s desire for something religiously lawful is met. If the desired thing happens, the vow must be fulfilled. An unappointed vow can be, for example, a vow to fast for one day or to give charity to the poor if one’s desire for something religiously lawful is met. If the desired thing happens, the vow must be fulfilled.
If one vows to do something resembling an act of worship if something does not occur, he or she must either fulfill the vow or make an expiation. For example, if one addicted to lying vows to fast for a week if he or she does not lie again, but then does so, he or she either has to fulfill the vow or make an expiation like that made for broken oaths.