This article was originally published on aaila.org in 2015
The mannerism of breaking our fast
The month of Ramadan is filled with blessings where there is an opportunity to gain plenty of reward such as by being generous to people and giving money to charity, making Du’a (supplications), making Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah), increase in worship, feeding others and reciting Quran. Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
"The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the most generous of people, but he would be most generous during Ramadan when he would meet with Angel Jibreel (peace to him). He would meet with him every night and recite the Quran. When Jibreel met him, he peace be upon him would be faster in spending charity than a fast wind." [Bukhari]
In addition, we also have reward for having good character and its virtues have been expressed in many Hadiths. Amongst these is the following:
"The most beloved of Allah’s servants to Allah are those with the best manners." [Al-Bukhari]
Manners is one of the foundations that bring a good relationship whether that be with your family, friends, neighbours, teachers, colleagues and anyone else. The scope of the article focuses on a different aspect of mannerism – our approach when making and breaking of the fast (Sawm) during Ramadan.
Fasting gives us pangs of joy and peace as we invite and unite with our families, friends and neighbours sharing food and drink. Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
‘Whosoever fasts experiences two joys. He is joyful when he breaks his fast, and is joyful because of his fasting when he meets his Lord.’ [Sahih Muslim].
However, whether we are hosting or as a guest, we should uphold the following etiquettes that aid in making our fast both respectful and productive.
Maintaining Our Hygiene
Cleanliness is a pleasing attribute in Islam and our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) put emphasis in being clean:
‘Cleanliness is half of faith’ [Muslim]
We should wash our hands before and after handling food and rinse our mouth after eating. Several authentic sources have confirmed that our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) used Miswaak (tooth stick) whilst fasting.
Making the fast
The first thing one has to do is to make the intention of fasting. Ibn Umar from Hafsa (may Allah be pleased with her) said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever does not have the intention of fasting before Fajr, there is no fast for him.”
This is followed by eating Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) which is between middle of the night and dawn. Eating Suhoor strengthens us by providing us with more energy as well as giving us ease whilst fasting. Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
‘Eat a pre-dawn meal, for there are blessings in it.’ [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
However there is etiquettes regards to quantity of food eaten and the time for Suhoor. Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him advised us by:
"The pre-dawn meal is blessed, so do not neglect it even if you only take a sip of water. Verily, Allaah and the angels pray for those who have the pre-dawn meals." [Ahmad]
This emphasises that there is no particular amount one needs to consume for Suhoor; even a sip of water is sufficient. In relation to timing, it is best to leave Suhoor as close to Fajr (dawn) as possible.
Zayd Ibn Thabit (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
"We ate the pre-dawn meal with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and then we got up for the prayer. Zayd was asked: 'What was the amount of time between the two?' He responded: 'The time it would take to recite fifty verses.'" [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
If you are in doubt in when Suhoor ends; Allah, The Most High says in the Glorious Quran:
‘…Eat and drink until the white thread of the dawn becomes distinct from the black thread [of the night]...’ [2:187]
This suggests that one can continue to eat until they are sure dawn has reached.
Breaking the fast:
The fast is broken at sunset; the Arabic term is Iftar. We begin by mentioning Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala by making Du’a. If Allah wills, our Du’as will be accepted whilst we are fasting as well as breaking fast. Our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
‘Three supplications will not be rejected (by Allah (SWT)), the supplication of the parent for his child, the supplication of the one who is fasting, and the supplication of the traveler.’ [Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Tirmidhi]
'Three men whose dua is never rejected (by Allah) are: when a fasting person breaks fast (in another narration, the fasting person until he breaks his fast), the just ruler and the one who is oppressed.' [Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi]
This is followed by making Dua to break the fast:
Allahumma laka sumtu wa `alaa rizqika aftartu
‘O Allah! For You have I fasted and upon Your sustenance have I broken my fast.’
This is followed by Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem. Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said:
“When one of you eats, he should mention Allah’s name; if he forgets to mention Allah’s name at the beginning, he should say: ‘Bismillahi awwalahu wa aakhirahu’ (In the name of Allah at the beginning and at the end of it)’” [Abu Dawud].
It is important to break the fast as soon as it is due and the Prophetic etiquette is to break our fast with dates. Our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
"People will continue to be upon virtue so long as they hasten in breaking the fast."
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) would break his fast with ripe dates before he would pray. If those were not available, he (peace be upon him) would eat dried dates. If those were not available, he would drink some water.’ [Abu Dawud, Al-Hakim and Al-Tirmithi]
If the meal is ready, one can begin to eat, and however, if it is not ready, one can pray the Maghrib (sunset) prayer as reported by Anas (may Allah be pleased with him)
"If the food is already presented, eat before praying the sunset prayer and do not eat your meals in haste." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
At the table, ensure that you be patient and wait for your turn for taking food. When food is given, eat with your right hand, what is in front of you and eat with balance. If something is far, ask someone to pass it to you rather than leaning. Our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Mention Allah’s Name (i.e., say Bismillah before starting eating), eat with your right hand, and eat from what is near you” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
“Blessing descends upon food in its middle, so eat from the sides of the vessel and do not eat from its middle” [Al-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud]
“No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing” [Al-Tirmidhi].
Another etiquette is to look after those sitting besides you, so offer them food before taking it for yourself. Our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
‘Whoever provides the food for a fasting person to break his fast with, then for his is the same reward as his (the fasting person’s), without anything being diminished from the reward of the fasting person’. [Al-Tirmidhi]
Avoiding bad habits!
- Please do not talk when your mouth is filled with food. There is a probability that you will spit on someone or their plate and is an unpleasant sight!
- Whether you think smoking is prohibited (haraam) or makrooh – please don’t do this whilst eating especially in the presence of children, friends who can learn from this and will also be prone to being passive smokers!
- Please protect your tongue from false speech as Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
- Avoid wasting food. If there are extra food, give it to your neighbours rather than disposing it in the bin. Allah, the Most High said:
- Do not drink and eat in expensive plates and with expensive cutlery as Prophet (peace be upon him) advised us no to.
Ultimately, fasting is a form of worship that purifies our souls and brings us closer to Allah; The Most High. There are etiquettes in how we should fast. Besides fasting, we should reflect on our actions and improve for the better. I end by this verse:
"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may attain God-consciousness." [2:183]