Muslims agree that it is preferred to eat a pre-dawn meal and that there is no
sin upon one who does not do so. Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah
said: “Eat a pre-dawn meal, for there are blessings in it.” This is related by
al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Al-Miqdam ibn Madyakrib reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “You should eat this pre-dawn meal for it is a blessed nourishment.” This is related by an-Nasa’i with a good chain. The reason why it is a blessing is that it strengthens the fasting person, makes him more energetic, and makes the fast easier for him.
What would fulfill the Sunnah of eating a pre-dawn meal?
The Sunnah would be fulfilled by eating a small or large quantity of food, or even just by drinking a sip of water. Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “The pre-dawn meal is blessed, so do not neglect it even if you only take a sip of water. Verily, Allah and the angels pray for those who have pre-dawn meals.” This is related by Ahmad.
The time for the pre-dawn meal
The time for the pre-dawn meal is between the middle of the night and dawn. It is considered best to delay it (that is, as close to dawn a possible). Zaid ibn Thabit reported: “We ate the pre-dawn meal with the Messenger of Allah and then we got up for the prayer. He was asked: ‘What was the amount of time between the two?’ He responded: ‘[The time it would take to recite] fifty verses.’ “This is recounted by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
‘Amr ibn Maimun adds: “The companions of Muhammad, upon whom be peace, would be the first to break the fast and the last to eat their pre-dawn meals.” This is recorded by al-Baihaqi with a sahih chain.
Abu Zharr al-Ghafari related that the Prophet said: “My nation will always retain some goodness as long as they hasten breaking the fast and delay eating the pre-dawn meal.” This hadith has in its chain one Sulaim ibn Abu Uthman who is unknown.
Fasting, doubt concerning the time of Fajr
If one is in doubt whether or not the time of fajr has begun or not, he may continue to eat and drink until he is certain that it is fajr. He should not base his action on doubt or suspicion. Allah has made the signs for beginning the daily fast very clear and unambiguous. Allah enjoins (upon the believers) in the Qur’an: “Eat and drink until the white thread of the dawn becomes distinct from the black thread [of the night].”
A man said to Ibn ‘Abbas: “I eat until I suspect that its time has ended so I stop. Ibn ‘Abbas observed: “Continue to eat until you are certain about the time.” Abu Dawud reported that Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: “If you have some doubt about Fajr, eat until you are sure dawn has come.” This is the opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Ata, al’Auza’i, and Ahmad.
An-Nawawi informs that: “The followers of ash-Shafai agree that one may eat if he is uncertain whether dawn has come or not.”
Hastening in breaking the fast
It is preferred for the fasting person to hasten in breaking the fast when the sun has set. Sahl ibn Sad reported that the Prophet said: “The people will always be with the good as long as they hasten in breaking the fast.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
The fast should be broken with an odd number of dates or, if that is not available, with some water. Anas reported: “The Messenger of Allah would break his fast with ripe dates before he would pray. If those were not available, he would eat dried dates. If those were not available, he would drink some water.” This hadith is related by Abu Dawud and by al-Hakim, who called it sahih, and by at-Tirmizhi, who called it Hassan.
Sulaiman ibn ‘Amr reported that the Prophet said: “If one of you is fasting, he should break his fast with dates. If dates are not available, then with water, for water is purifying.” This is related by Ahmad and by at-Tirmizhi, who called it Hassan Sahih.
The preceding hadith also shows that it is preferred to break the fast in the above manner before praying. After the prayer, the person may continue to eat, but if the evening meal is ready, one may begin with that. Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “If the food is already presented, eat before the sunset prayer and do not eat your meals in haste.” This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Supplications while breaking the fast and while fasting
Ibn Majah related from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-’Aas that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “A fasting person, upon breaking his fast, has a supplication that will not be rejected. When ‘Abdullah broke his fast he would say: “O Allah, I ask of You, by Your mercy that encompasses everything, to forgive me.”
It is confirmed that the Prophet would say: The thirst has gone, the glands are wet and, Allah willing, the reward is confirmed. In Mural form, it is reported that he would say: “O Allah, for You I have fasted and with Your provisions do I break my fast.”
At-Tirmizhi recorded, with a good chain that the Prophet said: “Three people will not have their supplications rejected: a fasting person until he breaks his fast, a just ruler, and an oppressed person.”
Refraining from performing any actions that do not befit the fasting
Fasting is a type of worship that draws one closer to Allah. Allah has prescribed it to purify the soul and to train it in good deeds. The fasting person must be on guard against any act that may cause him to lose the benefits of his fast. Thus, his fast will increase his God-consciousness, and Allah says in the Qur’an: “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so perchance you may attain God consciousness.”
Fasting is not just refraining from eating and drinking, but it is also refraining from everything else that Allah has forbidden. Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said: “Fasting is not [abstaining] from eating and drinking only, but also from vain speech and foul language. If one of you is being cursed or annoyed, he should say: “I am fasting, I am fasting.” This is related by Ibn Khuzaimah, Ibn Hibban, and al-Hakim. The latter said that it is Sahih according to Muslim’s criterion.
Abu Hurairah also reported that the Prophet, (SAW), said: “Allah does not need the fast of one who does not abandon false speech or acting according to his false speech.” This is related by the group, except for Muslim.
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet said: “Perhaps a fasting person will get nothing from his fast save hunger, and perhaps the one who stands to pray at night will get nothing from his standing except sleeplessness.” This is related by an-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, and al-Hakim. The latter said that it is Sahih according to al-Bukhari’s criterion.
Fasting, using the tooth stick [brush]
It is preferred for the fasting person to use a tooth stick or a brush. There is no difference if he uses it at the beginning or the ending of the day. At-Tirmizhi affirms that: “Ash-Shafhi did not see anything wrong with using a tooth stick [brush] during the beginning or the ending of the day.” The Prophet would use his tooth stick [brush] while fasting.
Fasting, being generous and studying the Qur’an
Being generous and studying the Qur’an is recommended during any time, but it is especially stressed during the month of Ramadan. Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn ‘Abbas said: “The Prophet was the most generous of people, but he would be his most generous during Ramadan when he would meet with [the angel] Gabriel. He would meet with him every night and recite the Qur’an. When Gabriel met him, he used to be more generous than a fast wind.
Fasting, striving to perform as many acts of worship as possible during the last ten (10) days of Ramadan
Al-Bukhari and Muslim record from ‘Aishah that during the last ten days of Ramadan, the Messenger of Allah would wake his wives up during the night and then remain apart from them (that is, being busy in acts of worship). A version in Muslim states: “He would strive [to do acts of worship] during the last ten days of Ramadan more than he would at any other time.” At-Tirmizhi also recorded this from ‘Ali. “
.To be continued