Akash and Aamir reciting the holy Quran.
By Shawkat Hashmi, Ethnic Affairs Producer
BBC Sheffield & South Yorkshire
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.
It is compulsory for every Muslim who is sane and mature - male or female - to fast.
Almighty Allah has promised great reward for those who fast, whilst severe punishment is in store for those who do NOT fast.
Fasting has many physical, moral and social benefits. Allah made fasting compulsory so that Muslim become pious, fearing and God-conscious.
A Muslim man praying at mosque.
The essential rules for fasting are as follows.
Du'a for breaking fast:
Allahumma laka sumtu wa 'ala ridhqika aftartu (O Allah! For You did I fast and with Your bounties did I break the fast.)
The things which invalidate fast are of two kinds. The first one requires Qada (only making up missed days), the other one not only requires Qada but also Kaffarah (a penalty).
The things that require Qada only:
a) Eating or drinking intentionally. This includes non-nourishing items taken by mouth.
b) Deliberately causing oneself to throw up.
VALIDITY OF FASTING
Abstaining from food, liquids and sexual activity from dawn to sunset.
The intention to fast must be made every day before dawn. The intention (niyyah) may be made during night before going to sleep or it can also be made at the time of Suhoor before dawn
It is desirable to break the fast as soon as possible after sunset. Breaking the fast with dates or water is a tradition of the Prophet
c) The beginning of menstruation or post-childbirth bleeding even in the last moment before sunset.
d) Ejaculation for reasons other than sexual intercourse.
e) Intending to break the fast before sunset even if one changes his mind, since intention is one of the pre-requisites of the validity of fasting.
f) Eating, drinking or having intercourse after dawn on the mistaken assumption that it is not dawn yet. Similarly, engaging in these acts before Maghrib on the mistaken assumption that it is already sunset.
Things that not only require Qada but also Kaffarah:
Sexual intercourse during fasting (dawn to dusk). The penalty is to fast an additional period of 60 continuous days. If one is not able to do so then he/she must feed sixty poor people-one average meal each.
Before the days of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), slavery was a common practice in the Arab world. Islam eliminated slavery from the society in a very short period of time. A useful approach was to allow people free a slave as a charity or as a penalty for a sin. Thus during the time of the Prophet (S.A.W.), setting a slave free was the penalty one must pay as a kaffarah, if he or she had a slave.
What does not break the fast:
a) If anyone forgets that he is fasting and eats or drinks, he/she should complete his/her fast.
b) Unintentional vomiting.
c) Brushing the teeth.
d) Injection or intra-venous which is solely medical and not nutritional.
e) Swallowing things which are not possible to avoid, such as one's saliva, street dust, smoke does not break the fast.
Who is exempt from Fasting
a) The insane
b) Children who are not adolescent yet
c) The elderly and chronically ill for whom fasting is unreasonably strenuous; such persons are required to feed at least one poor person every day in Ramadan for which he or she has missed fasting.
d) Pregnant women and nursing may postpone the fasting at a later time
e) The ill and the travellers can also defer their fasting.
Allah says in the Qur'an, Surah Al-Baqara:
'But if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties.'
Women during the period of menstruation or of post childbirth confinement. Fasting during these periods is forbidden and should be made up later, a day for a day.