Misunderstandings of Ramadan

Like all other religious practices gifted to us by God, fasting during the month of Ramadan is another great system to develop the soul in preparation for the Hereafter. While there are scientifically proven health benefits of the fast as well, there is the real benefit of enhanced remembrance of God throughout the month. The additional time spent before dawn preparing for the fast, the breaking of the fast, the supplications to God for His support in making the fast easy and the increased gatherings to commemorate God, all help us remember God so much more. Our every action is based with the remembrance of Allah behind our thoughts. Every moment that we submit to God’s command to refrain from food and drink from dawn to sunset, we are automatically remembering and praising Him consciously and subconsciously. ..... the fasting men, the fasting women, ..... GOD has prepared for them forgiveness and a great recompense. - Q33:35

..... But fasting is the best for you, if you only knew. - Q2:184

Not only has God given us this great blessing, He is also compassionate in accommodating every kind of situation, just so that His servants can submit to His commands and fulfill their obligations.

Specific days (are designated for fasting); if one is ill or traveling, an equal number of other days may be substituted. Those who can fast, but with great difficulty, may substitute feeding one poor person for each day of breaking the fast. If one volunteers (more righteous works), it is better. But fasting is the best for you, if you only knew. - Q2:184

.... Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. GOD wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify GOD for guiding you, and to express your appreciation. Q2:185

Unfortunately, like with almost everything else in the religion, Muslims end up nullifying their worship by following laws made by corrupt, ignorant religious leaders, or other sources such as unconfirmed Hadiths and Sunnah. These man-made rules have no basis in Quran, are difficult to follow, and often repel people from embracing Islam. Here are some of typical misunderstandings and violations committed during Ramadan, for you to consider in light of the Quran and mediate on.

Start and end of fasting only after sighting the moon physically

Many people believe that they must start and end the fasting month only after they sight the moon physically, while God tells us that He rendered the sun and the moon as calculation devices. This idea of waiting to see the moon first is not logical. Muslims use the moon to decide other months and events such as Hajj years ahead without seeing the moon, so how is it justified to enact Ramadan only after seeing the moon. Muslims also use the sun to calculate the Salat prayer and do not need to see the sun physically to check if it is time to pray. So why do they not apply the same law for the moon during Ramadan? At times, due to the rise and set of the new moon near to the rising or setting of the sun, it is almost impossible to see the new moon. Just like it will be too late if you wait to see the sun rise before you decide to do your dawn prayer, it may also be too late if you wait to see the moon before you commence Ramadan fasting. You may be off by a day or two and lose out on a perfect month! If the weather is cloudy and you cannot see them, does it mean the sun and moon are not doing their perfect appearances? Even within sighting of the moon there are rules about how to sight the moon and some countries even send out a plane if they have to. During the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) time and the those before him, they did not did have any aircraft to send into the air. They used the sun and moon to calculate. Nothing has changed, so calculate.

He is the One who rendered the sun radiant, and the moon a light, and He designed its phases that you may learn to count the years and to calculate. GOD did not create all this, except for a specific purpose. He explains the revelations for people who know. -Q10:5

At the crack of dawn, He causes the morning to emerge. He made the night still, and He rendered the sun and the moon to serve as calculation devices. Such is the design of the Almighty, the Omniscient.  - Q6:96

We have made the Night and the Day as two (of Our) Signs: the Sign of the Night have We obscured, while the Sign of the Day We have made to enlighten you; that ye may seek bounty from your Lord, and that ye may know the number and count of the years: all things have We explained in detail - Q17:12

The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly) computed - Q55:5

Ramadan month must be 30 Days

This is also an incorrect idea without any basis. God says to fast during the month of Ramadan. He does not say to adjust the month to fast 30 days. Depending upon the position of the new moon, different places can have a lunar month of 29 fasts in some years.

Not swallowing saliva

People simply miss the spirit of Islam. God wishes for us convenience not hardship, but by refusing to understand that God wants to help us slow down, practice self restraint and upgrade our remembrance of Him, they end up making the religion difficult to enjoy and appreciate. God only orders us not to eat and drink, and surely He does not want us to suffer while we are it! Just doing something because He said so (whether we need it or not), is Submission to Allah. Saliva is not a food or drink substitute. So avoiding swallowing saliva, a biologically natural product of the mouth, and deliberately making oneself more thirsty or believing it constitutes breaking the fast is a false notion. If the idea is to suffer the hardship of heat and thirst during Ramadan as some people think, why do they sit in the breeze or an air conditioned room which definitely reduces thirst?

Not watching TV

Watching TV also does not nullify a fast although we do have to careful with the contents we watch. Imagine in our modern world, going a whole month without listening to the news. And the same people who want to ban the watching of TV are the same ones sponsoring islamic programs on TV stations. Besides, if TV is okay to watch during the rest of the year, it must be okay to watch during a fast. Like with everything else, we must only see that nothing in life distracts them from the remembrance of God, be it TV, or business, family or anything.

Traveling to escape fasting; forbidding others from eating

While continuing to believe themselves to be good Muslims, many of them try and escape fasting by abusing God’s law which allows exemption from fasting if a person needs to travel during Ramadan. But the law clearly talks about Substituting other days for the missed ones, so fasting cannot and will not be avoided by sincere Muslims. People must realize that they cannot fool God. He knows the intentions of anyone who really needs to travel and cannot fast due to travel or illness.

Specific days (are designated for fasting); if one is ill or traveling, an equal number of other days may be substituted....... But fasting is the best for you, if you only knew. Ramadan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein. Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. GOD wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify GOD for guiding you, and to express your appreciation. - Q2:184-185

There is also no compulsion in religion and that is why it is not right to punish or criticize others who cannot fast, may choose not to fast, or follow another religion which does not specify fasting. When Muslims are fasting, it does not mean they should turn unpleasant and intolerant, and make it difficult for others to lead a normal life, eating and drinking as they wish to. As long as people are not opposing or oppressing you because of your religion, showing kindness and tolerance of people’s choices is actually a better way of inviting people to Islam rather than forcing it upon them.

Zakat to be given only during Ramadan

Zakat, the obligatory charity for Muslims is such an important requirement that God says He reserves His mercy for those who give it. The Quran teaches us that Zakat is given on the day of harvest namely, whenever we ‘harvest’ or earn income. But people give their Zakat only once a year in Ramadan which can turn out to be wasteful, besides being economically unsound. Since Zakat can also be given as food, is not uncommon to hear of needy people waste or refuse perishable food because of surplus food receipts. But Zakat given throughout the year brings about constant circulation of wealth and periodic relief to the needy. Imagine what would happen to a poor person who received Zakat just once a year and it was stolen or misplaced. Can the poor person afford to wait for the next Ramadan?

Breaking the fast with salt or date fruit

Many people believe that the fast can only be opened with select foods such as a pinch of salt or date fruit. Some go even further by importing dates from Mecca or Medina because they believe that it those dates that must be eaten, not just any other dates from God’s spacious and bounteous Earth. These are false rules which find their root in some Hadiths. We are free to end or start a fast with whatever food we want (even dates), provided they do not make a religious law out of it and attribute it to God.

Who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He hath produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand. -Q7:32

Eid celebration

The end of Ramadan is celebrated by festivities called Eid-ul-fitr. On the first day after Ramadan ends, people get together and celebrate with a feast, greeting and congratulating each other for fulfilling such a great obligation to God. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this, provided it is not made into a religious requirement. It is a personal choice and is absolutely optional because it is not a religious law.


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