Every Ramadan, I receive all sorts of questions about the blessed month. Here are some short answers to these questions:

  1. Should I fast if I am sick? How sick do I have to be? Do I have to make it up later?
    1. If you have an illness where fasting will probably either cause harm to your body, increase your illness, or delay your recovery, then you should not fast.
    1. If you are unsure of the severity of the illness, then consult an expert or someone with knowledge about that condition.
    1. If you have a minor cough, mild headache, or slight fever, you should still fast, because that will not usually cause much harm.
    1. Remember that fasting, even when you are healthy, causes some discomfort, so be careful when deciding whether or not you are too sick to fast.
  2. Should I fast if I am pregnant?
    1. Many pregnant women fast in Ramadan and it neither harms them nor their baby.
    1. However, this depends on the health and stature of the woman, as well as the season and her lifestyle. Every case is different.
    1. It is best to consult a medical professional who is both well versed in pregnancy as well as nutrition to see if there is a real threat to either the mother or child due to fasting. If there is, you should not fast, but you must make up the days missed later on.
  3. Should I fast if I am breastfeeding?
    1. Many women breastfeed their baby and continue fasting. It neither harms them nor their milk supply.
    1. However, this depends on the health and stature of the woman, as well as the season and her lifestyle. Every case is different.
    1. It is best to consult a medical professional who is both well versed in breastfeeding as well as nutrition to see if there is a real threat to either the mother or the production of milk due to fasting. If there is, you should not fast, but you must make up the days missed later on.
  4. Do I still have to make up my missed fasts if I kept getting pregnant and breastfed my children, so I skipped fasting for several years?
    1. Normally, if you miss some fasts in Ramadan, you must make them up before the next Ramadan comes in.
    1. If you missed more than one Ramadan for a good reason, you still must make up these fasts.
    1. Try to make up these fasts in the winter when the days are shorter and spread them out by fasting one day a week, if it is difficult. If this is still not possible then wait until you no longer are pregnant or breastfeeding and then begin making up all those fasts.  
  5. If I cannot fast due to a chronic illness or very old age, what do I do?
    1. Since fasting would cause significant harm, you do not have to fast and must feed one poor person, two average meals (about $15), for each day of fasting missed. This is called fidyah.
    1. You can pay for the entire month at the beginning of Ramadan because you know you will not be able to fast the whole month.
  6. Should I still fast when traveling?
    1. If you are traveling a long distance, you have the option to not fast.
    1. You must make up these missed fasts before the next Ramadan.
    1. If there will be minimal difficulty to fast while traveling, then it is better to fast. This usually occurs when traveling by plane forward-in-time, like a flight from LA to New York.
  7. What do I do if two different masjids in my area are starting/ending Ramadan on different days?
    1. Follow the masjid that you trust the most or follow what the rest of your immediate family is doing.
  8. Why do different masjids and apps have different timetables for when fasting beings?
    1. The timings for Fajr prayer [which is when fasting begins] are determined by true-dawn, which is when a clear thread of light is seen on the horizon. Due to environmental factors such as mountains, light pollution, and elevation, people, even in the same city, will not be able to observe dawn at exactly the same time, depending on their point of observation. Therefore scientific calculations are used to approximate the time of dawn.
    1. Since these calculations cannot predictably determine the true time of dawn, there will be different opinions on how many degrees the sun needs to be below the horizon before dawn should be considered to have occurred. I suggest a 15 degree calculation for the USA as a good approximation of the right time.
  9. Does vomiting break my fast?
    1. Vomiting unintentionally does not break your fast.
    1. Vomiting a mouthful [or more] intentionally does break your fast, but that is rare.
  10. Do eye/ear/nose drops or enemas break my fast?
    1. No, and it is fine to use them because the liquid does not normally reach the stomach or nourish the body.
    1. If the enema is used for hydration or nourishment and it reaches the stomach, then it will break the fast.
  11. Does a medical injection break my fast?
    1. No, since it neither nourishes your body nor reaches the stomach.
    1. Injecting glucose or some other nourishing substance does break your fast.
  12. Can I brush my teeth with toothpaste while fasting or use mouthwash?
    1. Yes, if you are very careful not to swallow any of it.
    1. It is better to not use toothpaste or mouthwash, unless needed (like when you have bad breath), because it does leave a taste in your mouth.
  13. If I forgetfully eat or drink something, should I stop fasting?
    1. No, forgetfully doing that does not break your fast, even if it was a large amount. Continue fasting as usual and spit out the food or drink as soon as your remember.
    1. This also applies to food bits that are stuck in your teeth.
  14. Can I give blood while fasting?
    1. Yes, but it is disliked if it will weaken you very much and make your fast more difficult.
  15. Can I use an asthma inhaler while fasting?
    1. Yes, it does not break your fast because it neither nourishes the body nor goes into the stomach.
  16. Can I rinse my mouth with water or take a shower to cool down while fasting?
    1. Yes, there is nothing wrong or disliked about this.
  17. How soon do I have to make up missed fasts in Ramadan?
    1. You must make it up before the next Ramadan.
    1. It is slightly recommended to not delay without a reason.
    1. It is slightly recommended to make them up consecutively.
    1. If you did not make up your missed fasts by the next Ramadan, you are sinful, but still must make them up later, and there is no compensation (fidyah) to pay.
  18. If I got hungry or thirsty and broke my fast in Ramadan, do I just ask Allah for forgiveness?
    1. No, you must also do a penalty (kaffārah) for violating the honor of the month of Ramaḍān. This is to fast for sixty consecutive days after Ramaḍān is over.
    1. If you intentionally broke your fast more than once in Ramaḍān, you still only offer one penalty.
  19. Why do some people pray eight and others twenty units of tarawih prayer [in the nights of Ramadan]?
    1. There is a difference of opinion among scholars as to how many units must be prayed for tarawih prayer. It is best to follow the masjid you are praying in and not argue with those who follow the other opinion.
  20. Can I go to the dentist while fasting?
    1. Yes, but it is better to schedule it for after Ramadan since water is often accidentally swallowed.
  21. Can I go swimming while fasting?
    1. Yes, as long as you try your best to not swallow any water.
  22. Do I have to renew my intention to fast every night?
    1. You must have the intention to fast, but don’t need to renew it every night. You can make a general intent to fast the month of Ramaḍān and that suffices. No specific wording is required and it does not need to be said aloud. It is very rare that anyone could fast in Ramadan without having the intention, so don’t worry about this too much.
  23. Can I pray Witr behind an Imam who normally prays a different way?
    1. It is common for Witr prayer to be performed in a congregation during the month of Ramadan. If the Imam who leads that prayer does so in a different manner than you do, it is recommended to follow the way he prays.
    1. Scholars differ about how the Witr prayer should be performed because the Prophet Muhammad prayed different ways. It is best to give up your own opinion of the way you prefer and follow the designated Imam when praying behind him.
  24. If I didn’t pray Isha yet, can I join the Taraweeh prayer with the intention to pray Isha?
    • No. You must pray Isha separately and then join the Taraweeh prayer afterwards.
    • The intention of the Imam and follower must either match (i.e. they are both praying the same prayer) or the Imam must have a stronger intention (i.e. he leads a required prayer while the follower prays an optional prayer). Vice versa is not allowed.
    • This is the view of the majority of Muslim scholars, but a few such as Imam ash-Shafi’i allowed someone to pray a required prayer behind an Imam praying an optional prayer, so no one should be pressured to follow the majority view when there is a legitimate difference of opinion.
  25. Can I hold a copy of the Qur’an or electronic device during Taraweeh prayer?
    1. This is allowed but disliked since it results in unnecessary, excessive movements during prayer.
    1. The ultimate purpose of congregational prayer is to listen to the recitation of the Qur’an, not to read it.
    1. If you have a difficult time concentrating during prayer, there are other methods you can use to improve that.
    1. Using an electronic device is a light emitting device which will also disturb the people around you who are trying to concentrate in prayer.
  26. Is it better to pray Witr with the group in Ramadan or delay it until after Tahajjud prayer?
    • Witr is only recommended to be prayed in a group in Ramadan.
    • Outside Ramadan, Witr should be prayed alone.
    • Outside Ramadan, it is recommended to delay it until after Tahajjud prayer.
    • It is wrong to pray Witr twice in one night.
    • Since prayer in a group is superior to praying alone, it is better to pray Witr in a group in Ramadan, even if you will pray Tahajjud again later in the night. Do not pray another Witr if you do that.
  27. When should my children start fasting?
    1. Once they reach puberty they must fast, if their bodies can handle it.
    1. They should try fasting sometimes before this age to prepare them for it.
  28. What is Fiṭrah and when should it be paid?
    1. It is a required charity paid before the end of Ramaḍān. It gives the needy an opportunity to enjoy the day of Eid without having to worry about working for their livelihood on that day.
    1. It is an obligation on every Muslim who has the minimum amount [niṣāb] for Zakāh (which is about $5,500) in excess of personal items on the day of Eid.
    1. A man must pay on behalf of himself and his minor children, while a woman must pay for herself.
    1. It must be paid before the Eid prayer begins, but if it is late, it still must be done.
    1. It is better to pay it at least a few days before Eid if someone else it distributing it for you. You can pay it in advance from the first day of Ramaḍān.
    1. The amount to be paid is the value of four double handfuls of dates, barley, raisins, or any other staple food. This is about $15 in 2024.
    1. Fiṭrah, like Zakāh, must only be given to the poor and needy who do not possess the minimum amount [niṣāb] of wealth (which is about $5,500).