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5. When Does Fasting Begin And End?

Fasting begins upon sighting the new moon. Allah says:" So everyone of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting." However it is not incumbent on everyone to sight the new moon, rather if a trustworthy Muslim testifies that he has sighted it then everyone must observe fasting. Abu Hurairah narrated: "A Bedouin came to the Prophet (peace be on him) and reported: "O Prophet I have seen the new moon of Ramadan. Thereupon the Prophet (peace be on him) asked the man: Do you bear witness that (la-ilaha-illallah) (i.e. there is no god worthy of being worshipped beside Allah). 'I do'. Said the Bedouin. The Prophet (peace be on him)further asked him whether he testifies that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. The Bedouin affirmed that too. Thereupon, the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Billal (May Allah be pleased with him) to announce to the people to begin their fast the next day." Ibnu Umar too, confirmed the practice of sighting the new moon in his report: " The people were seeking the new moon. Having sighted it myself, I reported it to the Prophet (peace be on him). He begin his fast and ordered the people to begin theirs too". He who sights the new moon of Ramadan must inform those in authority in the Muslim government or community. Once the Muslim government announces the beginning of Ramadan, upon sighting the new moon, it becomes binding on the rest of Muslims to begin their fast.

It should be borne in mind, however, that astronomical calculations must be ruled out from Shari'ah and must not be relied on for sighting the moon, as the Prophet (peace be on him) has ruled that Muslims must begin their fast upon seeing the new moon, not upon calculating the month astronomically. It is only when it becomes hard to see the new moon, due to weather conditions, then Muslims may complete the month of Sha'ban, which precedes Ramadan, as thirty days. The lunar month is either 29 or 30 days. It has neither fewer nor more days.

This is based on a Hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Umar that Allah's Messenger (peace be on him) mentioned Ramadan and said, "Do not observe Saum (fast) unless you see the crescent (of Ramadan), and do not give up Saum till you see the crescent (of Shawwal), and if the sky is overcast (if you cannot see the crescent), then act on estimation (i.e. count Sha'ban as thirty days)." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Hadith No. 130, Vol.3)

The Day Of Doubt:

Fasting on the day of doubt is undesirable. Ammar bin Yasser, (May Allah bless him) said: " He who fasts on the day of doubt would disobey Aba Al- Qassem, the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him)".

The day of doubt is that day which is uncertain whether it is the beginning of Ramadan or the end of Shaban.

Wholehearted Intent for Fasting:

Um-al-Mumineen Safiya (May Allah bless her) reported that the Prophet(peace be on him) said "He who does not determine to fast before dawnbreak has no fasting". (to be counted for him).

Determination is marked by the feeling of the heart and not the utterance of the mouth. So he who takes his Suhour before dawn for the purpose of fasting in compliance with the precepts of Allah has in fact intended practically to fast.

Time of the Fast:

For every day of Ramadan, complete abstinence from food and drink, as well as continence in other respect, is enjoyed from the moment of dawn when its white light can be distinguished from darkness until the setting of the sun. Allah said:

"And eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night) then complete your fast till the night appears". (Al-Baqra S.II 2:187)

That is complete the fast throughout the day until night falls by the setting of the sun.

Suhour (The pre-dawn meal):

The Suhour before dawn is preferable; it is a light meal usually taken late at night by people intending to fast. It is recommended by the Prophet (peace be on him) who said: " Take care of the Suhour, it is the blessed meal which gives strength to the fasting man and makes his fast easier for him".

The Prophet (peace be on him) also said: " Suhour is a blessing not to be missed by you, though a drop of water is suffice, as Allah and His Angles send blessings and pray for those taking Suhour".

It is a Sunna to delay your Suhour meal until late at night and to speed up the breaking of the fast at an early time in compliance with the Apostle's Hadith (peace be on him): " My people will remain good so long as they speed up breakfast and delay Suhour".

He, who is in doubt whether dawn time is due or not, can eat and drink until he is certain of the break of dawn.

Allah Said:

"And eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night) ..." (V.2:187)

Estimating the interval between the (end of) Suhour and the Fajr prayer: Narrated Anas (May Allah bless him): Zaid bin Thabit (May Allah bless him) said, "We took the Sahour with the Prophet (peace be on him), then he stood for As-Salat ( the prayer)." I asked, "What was the interval between the Sahour and the Adhan?" He replied, "The interval was sufficient to recite fifty verses of the Qur'an." (3:144-O.B)

Ending the Fast (Iftar) and its supplication:

The daily period of observance starts before the break of the dawn and ends immediately after sunset. Normally there are accurate calendars to tell the exact time, but in the absence of such facilities one should consult one's watch and the sun's positions, together with the local newspapers, weather bureau, etc.

However, it is strongly recommended by Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) to observe these practices especially during Ramadan: To break the fast soon as the sun sets and to make Du'a upon breaking fast.

And the Prophet (peace be on him) said: "When one of you breaks the fast, he should do so with dates, because it is blessed. If he couldn't get dates, then (break your fast with) water, because it purifies". (Tirmidhi).

The Prophet (peace be on him) used to say at the time of Ifatar: "O Allah I kept the fast for You, and with Your sustenance I am breaking (my fast). The thirst is gone, and the veins replenished, and the reward is confirmed, if Allah wills." (Abu Dawud).

Make your meals as light as possible because, as the Prophet (peace be on him) put it, the worst thing man can fill, is his stomach.

Fasting in Countries of Unusual Day Length:

Fasting in counties whereby the day hours are longer than the night hours such as in the North and South Poles, or vice versa at other parts of the world whereby the night is longer than the day, the hours of the fast are estimated in accordance with those observed in the nearest country to them. If the observed fasting hours there are seven, for example, it is necessary for the residing populace of the poles to follow suit and after breakfast they count for the next day on this basis and so forth.

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