Ramadan, the holy month of Muslims and the ninth month of Islamic calendar is the month of fasting for observing Muslims. Ramadan is said to be the month of Allah. Fasting is supposed to be one of the five pillars (duties) of Islam, which a Muslim should follow.
Since the cycle of the lunar calendar does not match the solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan shift slightly each year. During the month of Ramadan, adult Muslims engage in ritual fasting from dawn to dusk.
This practice, Sawm, is one of the five pillars of Islam, and requires that individuals abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse.
All Muslims are expected to observe the fast once they reach the age of puberty. However the fast can present unique challenges for those living in non-Muslim nations around the world where business hours and social schedules are not altered to accommodate the month.
In general, the practices of Ramadan are meant to purify one from thoughts and deeds which are counter to Islam. By removing material desires, one is able to focus fully on devotion and service to God.
The holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, takes place on the first day of the following month and celebrates the completion of the 30 days of fasting.
The first condition for one to be obligated to fast is to be Muslim. In this world, the non-Muslim is not requested to fast, however, in the Hereafter, he will be punished for neglecting to fast, as he will be punished for his blasphemy. Rather, the obligation on the non-Muslim is to embrace Islam, then afterwards, to fast Ramadan.
Secondly, it is the adolescent Muslim who is compelled to fast. Children are not obligated to fast. Rather, it is a requirement on the parents or the guardian of the child to order fasting once the child is seven (lunar) years old, with the condition that the child’s body can withstand that fasting, and would not be harmed by it.
To fast, one has to be sound minded. Any mentally challenged person is not required to fast. Fasting is not requisite on a person whose body cannot tolerate fasting, either due to old age or because of a severe illness.
Fasting is not mandatory on the menstruating woman or the woman who is in her postpartum bleeding period. It is illicit for them to fast. The woman who missed days of fasting during Ramadan for these reasons has to make up each missed day.
Pregnant women are also excused from fasting as it can cause damage to the growing fetus. Breastfeeding mothers also fall here because they need to eat to be able to feed their babies. Both women have to compensate the fasting period they missed.
The one who is traveling a distance of two or more walking days is allowed to not fast provided his traveling is not sinful. This traveler is permitted to break his fast even though he would not encounter hardship in his trip, such as if he crossed this distance quickly, by plane, or comfortable, in a car or a train. The matter of traveling is not based on the hardship; rather it has to do with the distance.
This facility for the traveler was mentioned in the Qur’an. Allah said in Surat al-Baqarah, Verse 184: which means: “If you are sick or traveling, then you are allowed to break your fast and make up for these days later.”