Basic Questions about the Month of Ramadan
Ramadan is directly mentioned in the following ayah:
‘The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for mankind, and as clear signs that show the right way and distinguish between right and wrong. So whoever witnesses (the new moon of) the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey, then an equal number of other days (i.e. he must make up the missed fasts). Allah intends for you ease and does not intent for your hardship, and (He wants) you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that (to) which He has guided you, and perhaps you will be grateful’. [The Noble Qur’an, 2:185]
The above ayah states that:
Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an, and a time for glorifying Allah for His guidance
It is obligatory to fast in Ramadan
However, travellers and sick people can instead make up the fasts afterwards, due to Allah’s mercy upon them!
Alhamdulillah, Ramadan increases us in gratitude towards Allah
‘O you who have believed, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it was prescribed upon those before you, so that you may attain Taqwa (piety).’ [The Noble Qur’an, 2:183]
From the above ayah, we can see that the main purpose of fasting is to increase our piety or consciousness of Allah. Fasting is ultimately a reiteration of our submission to Allah and a shield from displeasing Him. (Learn more about the benefits of fasting in our article: The Rewards of Fasting).
When a person has either become extremely weak due to old age, or they are suffering from an illness which prevents them from fasting, they are not obliged to fast during Ramadan. Instead, if they have the means, they must feed a person in need two meals for every day of Ramadan. This payment is called Fidyah.
If you break or miss a fast intentionally and without a valid reason, you must fast consecutively for 60 days. If you are unable to do this, you are required to pay the Kaffarah (expiation). The donation will feed 60 needy people two meals.
It is Sunnah to have a pre-dawn meal before you begin fasting – this is known as sahur (in Urdu, it is called sehri). Sahur is not obligatory, but it is highly recommended, even if it’s just a few dates and a glass of water:The Prophet (saw) said, ‘Take sahur as there is barakah (blessing) in it’. [Bukhari]
Iftar refers to the food you use to break your fast at sunset. It is Sunnah to first break your fast with dates and then pray Maghrib, so many Muslims eat their full dinner after praying Maghrib:
Anas ibn Malik (ra) said, ‘The Prophet (saw) would break his fast with fresh dates before praying (Maghrib). If there were no fresh dates, then with dry dates. If there were no dry dates, then with some sips of water’. [Tirmidhi]
It is also Sunnah to provide iftar to other people, particularly those who are unable to afford food. The Prophet (saw) said, ‘Whoever gives iftar to one who is fasting will have a reward like his, without that detracting from the reward of the fasting person in the slightest’. [Tirmidhi]
Tarawih is a Sunnah night prayer performed only in Ramadan. It is voluntary and is prayed after the ’Isha prayer, usually in congregation, though many people pray it individually in their own homes. It consists of at least 8 raka’at (units of prayer), but most masjids will pray 20 raka’at, as this was the practice of the Sahabah.
Traditionally, Muslims recite one Juz during each night of Tarawih prayer. They will thus recite all 30 Juz of the Qur’an across Ramadan.
The BEST night of the entire year takes place in Ramadan. This is known as Laylat al-Qadr, The Night of Power (sometimes referred to as The Night of Decree or The Night of Destiny’. Surah Qadr mentions the status and blessings of this night:
′Indeed, We sent it (the Qu’ran) down during The Night of Power. And what can make you know what The Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months! The angels and the Spirit (i.e. Jibril) descend therein, by permission of their Lord, for every matter. Peace it is until the rising of the dawn’. [The Noble Qur’an, 97:1-5]
Laylat al-Qadr is the night on which the first verses of the Qur’an came down to us – and it is essential to commemorate this day every year! Its exact date is unknown, so Muslims are encouraged to seek out its blessings on every night of Ramadan, in particular the last ten nights:
The Prophet (saw) said, ‘Look for Laylat al-Qadr in the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan’. [Bukhari]
Due to other narrations, we believe it is most likely on one of the odd nights in the last ten nights of Ramadan, with many scholars placing special emphasis on the 27th night. Of course, Allah knows best, and the ultimate benefit of not knowing is that Muslims will often choose to spend ALL ten nights in intense worship, drawing closer to their Lord, in sha’ Allah!
This worship includes standing in prayer, reciting Qur’an, doing dhikr, participating in Islamic gatherings and giving charity. (Check out our handy tool, The Best 10 Nights, if you would like to automate your charity over the last ten nights so you don’t miss Laylat al-Qadr!)
The lunar month following Ramadan is called Shawwal. The first day of Shawwal is also known as Eid al-Fitr. This is a holiday, a festival and a celebration for Muslims.
So how do Muslims celebrate Eid? In the morning, we make ghusl (a ritual bath) and put on new clothes. We give Zakat al-Fitr (see definition below) before attending the masjid for a congregational Eid prayer. We greet other Muslims with salaam (peace) as well as a supplication that their efforts during Ramadan were accepted by Allah.
It is traditional to give small gifts to each other, especially to children – these could be sweets, toys or even money. It is also traditional for families to meet up with each other to spend the blessed occasion with each other.
Zakat al-Fitr (also known as Fitrana) is a form of charity given to the poor at the end of Ramadan.
Abdullah ibn Abbas (ra) said, ’The Messenger of Allah (saw) prescribed the Zakat al-Fitr as a purification of the fasting person from empty and obscene talk and as food for the poor. If anyone pays it before the prayer (of Eid), it will be accepted as Zakat. If anyone pays it after the prayer, that will be a Sadaqah like other Sadaqahs’. [Abu Dawud]
It is obligatory to give Zakat al-Fitr before the Eid prayer, to provide impoverished families with food on the day of Eid. This way, the entire community shares the blessings of this special day! Zakat al-Fitr is due on every member of a household, including any children or elderly persons.