Three Steps to Ramadan: How the early Muslim community learned to fast
Muslims today wake up before dawn to prepare for the fast, they fast all day, and then they break fast at the setting of the sun. Did you know the rulings for fasting went through a few changes during the ministry of the Messenger of God? Read on to learn the gradual stages that fasting went through in the early days of Islam.
To fast, or not to fast? That was a question!
“You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God. Fast for a specific number of days, but if one of you is ill, or on a journey, then on other days later.” 2:183
The final stage was to obligate fasting except for those who have valid excuses not to fast.
Big consequences for Missing the Breakfast Meal
If the Muslims did not break their fast at sunset, however, they could not eat until the following pre-dawn meal. One of the early Muslims came home on a day he was fasting, and fell asleep before breaking his fast. He also missed the next morning’s early meal, and then passed out in the middle of the next day.
Some of the Muslims admitted to the Messenger of God that they had relations with their wives in the nights of Ramadan.
When this story about the man passing out, and these admissions were made, God revealed, “It is permissible for you to lie with your wives during the night of the fast: they are as close as garments to you, as you are to them. God was aware that you were betraying yourselves, so He turned to you in mercy and pardoned you..” 2:187
The early Muslims were delighted that they were allowed to have intimacy during the nights of Ramadan and not have to fast until right before dawn.
The Fast we Know
After that, another verse was revealed which made fasting an obligation for everyone, and paused fasting all night until the pre-dawn meal. God revealed, “..So any one of you who sees in that month should fast, and anyone who is ill or on a journey should make up for the lost days by fasting on other days later. God wants ease for you, not hardship. He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful.” 2:185
Every person who was present when Ramadan came was to fast the month. Those who were sick or travelling at the time could make up for the days later, and the rule remained that the weak and the elderly could feed people instead of fast.
It’s enlightening to know about the gradual stages of the revelation of the Quran and the gradual rulings about different aspects of Islam. God willing, this will motivate you for the rest of this blessed month.
Many of us at NMA (New Muslims) are eager to fast and to show our dedication to God. Some of us are feeling guilty for not being able to fast due to our health condition. It is important for us to realize that God does not desire for us to put ourselves in harm’s way. Showing dedication to God is to obey Him, even if it means taking the legal concessions He has given us instead of doing a ritual devotion that we may desire.
I want to remind you that God knows your condition and does not hold you accountable for what you cannot do physically.
The general principle with acts of devotion is that they are based on one’s ability to perform them. This is taken from the text of the Quran and the prophetic teachings.
God says, “…..He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty.” 22:78
“God does not charge a soul except with that within its capacity.” 2:286
“Keep your duty to God as best you can” 64:16
Islam is not meant to overburden you or cause you stress, neither are its regulations and commands. What is meant is peace of mind, heart and soul through devotion to Almighty God.
Sicknesses are of different types and degrees of severity. Some sicknesses affect the fast while others do not.
A sick person has one of these three scenarios
Does not get effected by fasting. Examples of this are having a minor cold, a light headache, toothache etc. This individual is obligated to fast.
Experiences difficulty by fasting but it does not risk definite personal bodily harm. Examples of this are flu (unless the person is very old); certain common infections like tonsillitis; migraine headaches or severe tension headaches, etc. This individual is recommended not to fast.
Experiences difficulty by fasting and it causes personal bodily harm. Examples of this are kidney failure, diabetes, cancer etc. This individual is forbidden to fast and will be sinful for doing so. Hence, a person with a chronic disease is obligated not to fast.
As for making up the missed days of fasting: If the sickness is temporary with the hope of recovery, the person should make up those days sometime in the near future after recovery. However, if you have a chronic condition where the sickness is permanent and there is no hope of recovery, the person atones for the missed days by feeding a poor person twice daily for the amount of days he/she has missed.
A sick person who has a chronic condition does not fast. Instead, you get the same reward of fasting by feeding a poor person for everyday you miss.
This is an example of how to do so utilizing one of the many Muslim charity organizations.
If you live in the USA, by paying $10/per day ($300 total) to a charity organization. They will handle the rest of giving the money to those eligible.
One such organization is Islamic Relief
Good news for You, the Sincere Convert to Islam
Fasting takes practice. And a lot of energy. And self-control. Sometimes you can actually hear the argument that your stomach gives you when you fast!
God knows how hard it is for you to do what you do for His sake. He knows your intention, and He will reward you greatly.
Converts to Islam don’t have nostalgia or family culture to comfort them during Ramadan. They perform the prescribed ritual devotions, fast, read the Quran and offer prayers that are foreign to their own cultural customs and traditions. They believe wholeheartedly in a Messenger that they have never even seen.
Did you know that the Messenger of God mentioned such people over 1400 years ago?
The Messenger of God once was with his disciples and said, “I wish I could meet my brethren.”
The Messenger’s disciples said, “Are we not your brethren?”
The Messenger said, “You are my companions and disciples, but my brethren are those who believe in me although they have never seen me.”
May God bless us to be among those people that the Messenger of God mentioned so long ago!
In the Quran there is also good news for the sincere new Muslim:
“Those who believe in God and His Messengers are the truthful ones who will bear witness before their Lord: they will have their reward and their light…”(57:19)
So take heart, and welcome this great news from the Messenger of God and the Quran that you are on the right path, and your reward is certain if you are sincere.
May God bestow on us sincerity and purity of intention, and the capacity to do all the good we intend to do in this month, and always!
What New Muslims can do in Ramadan when Not fasting
Fasting and Ramadan are synonymous, aren’t they? Those who are not fasting during Ramadan don’t exactly broadcast the fact. Sometimes it can seem like if you can’t fast, there’s no point to celebrating Ramadan. It can either be due to illness, or the monthly break Muslim ladies will have from the prescribed ritual devotion due to the menstrual cycle.
Good news! There is much more to Ramadan than just fasting! Don’t think about all that you can’t do, and take a look at the list of the things that you can do this Ramadan:
Realize that this condition is something that God decreed. His plan is perfect and His timing is perfect. Don’t feel sad, but try to be content that God has allowed you this time for you to explore other areas where you can draw near to Him. Here’s an amazing thought: you are worshiping God by NOT offering the prescribed ritual. You are obeying God’s command to refrain from offering the prescribed ritual devotion and fasting while on your menstrual period.
Pray anyway. No I don’t mean offer the prescribed ritual devotion, I just mean pray to God. Prayer has no prerequisites or conditions of ritual purity. You simply talk to God when you feel like it.
Keep your connection with the Quran. Continue to listen and read the translation of the Quran during your period while you refrain from the ritual devotion and the fast. If you set aside the time of each prescribed ritual for Quran, you might even read more than usual!
Learn and say the daily supplications for different occasions: going to sleep, waking up, eating, leaving the house etc.
Prepare some food to share with others. Perhaps your family or neighbors would appreciate something you’ve made for yourself. Ramadan is a month of charity!
The self-control and patience that fasting helps develop should be kept up during the time when you refrain from fasting. Continue to guard your tongue from saying bad things, and protect your ears from hearing bad things or being silent when someone is saying something evil.
Donate clothes, food, toys, money etc
God decreed this time as a mercy for Muslim women. You are relieved of the burden of offering the prescribed ritual devotion and fasting, so that you can concentrate on other ways to worship God. May God help you be consistent in your worship through the whole month.
Battling Loneliness during Ramadan
Although Ramadan is known for those who are born Muslim as a time of community and family gatherings just like any typical holiday season, for the new Muslim it’s just not.
When you’re going through a test alongside someone else, it’s a bit easier. So, what can the convert to Islam do, on their own, to make Ramadan special?
The New Muslim Academy forums are busy with activity all year. Why not join the discussion? Great pains are taken to ensure that all students are converts to Islam, so you will be discussing Ramadan, breaking fast alone, predawn meals in secret and other topics with people that are going through the same struggles that you are experiencing.
Break Fast with a Lecture
Plan ahead, and look for a great lecture to watch or listen to while you eat your break-fast meal. You will really benefit from listening to someone’s voice so it may as well be someone who is teaching you something new! Here are some recommended lectures:
“The Prophet’s Ramadan” series
“The Prophetic Day” series
“Building the Foundation” series
Be the Host with the Most
You could get rewards multiplied by hosting a dinner at your home, at which you break your fast with your family, co-workers or fellow students. Everyone loves to eat! If you invite people to come and eat when you are having dinner, it will be a great way to introduce your new faith.
The charity that you spend on your family and neighbors is also greatly rewarded. Consider inviting a few non-Muslims, who are close to you, love you and accept you for who you are, over while you break your fast.
Have mercy on yourself and make it a potluck, explaining your dietary restrictions, and the time of day that you will be breaking your fast. The fastest way to a person’s heart is through his/her belly!
May God bless your heart with gratefulness and satisfaction in your chosen faith and Way of God, and may He ease your emotional hurt of loneliness this Ramadan.
What Fasting Does for You
When the doc says no to fasting: some rulings for the New Muslim
Covert Fasting for Converts
Dear New Muslim
Even though you feel alone, and this Ramadan is a struggle, we are proud of you and praying for you.
Every pain you feel and every challenge you face we increase in your love. We support you and wish to provide you with some tools to help you at this trying time.
Keep in mind that each circumstance and situation calls for a different course of action. The following are only suggestions and you are best suited to implement what works for you.
Muslims around the world share the bond of fasting as a brotherhood around the world. A big part of the difficulty of fasting is relieved when everyone around you is also fasting, openly.
But what if no one knows you’re Muslim? Many of us, New Muslims, have not disclosed the decision of embracing Islam to our family and loved ones.
Here are some creative ways that you can use to avoid the awkwardness of being the only one in the room not eating:
6 Tips for Fasting in Secret
1. Deflect and Avoid
If invited to a dinner or a party, excuse yourself out. No one can force you to attend a gathering, like a birthday, where partaking in food will play a central role. You can opt out of that cake and ice cream by simply telling your family, friends, or co-workers, that you “don’t feel like it”. You can soften the blow by asking for a rain check and promising to make it up to them at a different time.
2. Excuses, excuses
If getting out of the gathering is unavoidable, simply refrain from eating. You may opt out at the table, and join in the conversation. There is no need to lie or make up a false excuse. It is doubtful that you will be pressured to eat if you refuse, and unlikely that someone present will force you to eat. If you are physically forced to eat, you would be excused and should not feel guilty.
3. Get busy
If you are at home and there is an event that will put pressure on you to eat or drink, you could make yourself busy in the kitchen or elsewhere in the house, preparing for the guests. You can stay busy while the meal is served, or start cleaning up.
4. Home away from home
If you predict that when you return home at a certain time, you will be caught fasting, then stay out. Go to the library or to a museum or another place that will occupy your time until you imagine the meal at home is over. Your alibi can be reinforced if you take up a class that brings you home after the sun has set.
5. Time for Eating
If invited out, or to plan an event where you will feel this pressure, plan it so that it extends past the time the sun sets. You can duck out to offer your prescribed ritual devotion and come back to the event to break your fast. If the choice is there to decide between a daytime or night-time gathering, choose the late one so that you can eat and drink along with the rest of the group.
You are reading this online, which means you are already aware of the programs that the New Muslim Academy offers for new Muslims. We have a forum to which you can contribute your conversion story, introduce yourself, and take part in discussions.
The most important step to building your faith in Islam is finding a trustworthy, empathetic and qualified teacher. The teachers at NMA specialize in your service and are wisely aware of the struggles you go through. Continue to come back to the site to voice your concerns. Chances are, other converts to Islam are wondering the same things that are of concern to you.
With NMA, your knowledge base is covered. You can also find an avenue for social interactions with others going through your struggles.
What we find when we look into building faith in Islam is that it is a solitary activity. Our relationship with God is an intimate one which takes dedication and consistency to build and strengthen. Consider the following acts which can help you strengthen your faith in Islam on a daily basis: