The etiquettes of Ramadan and fasting are of two types: obligatory etiquettes and preferred etiquettes. If the obligatory etiquettes are not observed then your fast may not be accepted, but if the preferred etiquettes are not observed then it does not diminish your fast, but you will have missed out on extra rewards.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:
“Whoever does not abstain from lies and ignorant conduct, Allah has no need for him to abstain from his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhari)
Jabir (radiallahu anhu) said:
“If you fast then let your ears, your eyes, and your tongue fast from lying and sins; refrain from upsetting your neighbor; act dignified and calm; and don’t let your day of fasting be spent the same way you spend your day not fasting.
Here the Prophet ﷺ and his noble companion are referring to some of the obligatory etiquettes of Ramadan, and that is to perform your obligations as a Muslim and to keep away from sins.
The first and foremost obligation for the Muslim is to pray the five daily prayers, because it is the most important of the 5 pillars of Islam after the Shahadah. So the Muslim man must perform the prayer with all of its pillars, obligations, and conditions. One of the most important conditions of the prayer is that each prayer is prayed in its allotted time, so you cannot go to sleep during the day with the intention of waking up just before it is time to break fast and then pray Thuhr, and Asr together. Those prayers will not be accepted, Allah, the Most High, said:
“Indeed, the prayer has been decreed for the believers (to be performed) at specified times.” (An-Nisa:103)
Some fasters during Ramadan may even leave off the obligatory prayers for the supererogatory prayers by abandoning the 5 daily prayers, but performing the Tarawih prayers every night. Tarawih can be the highlight of Ramadan and I certainly don’t want to discourage people from praying it, but the Tarawih is sunnah, meaning that if you don’t do it there is no sin upon you, but the 5 daily prayers, on the other hand, are wajib, meaning that if you don’t do them then you are sinning, and in this case it is one of the worst of the major sins.
The Muslim man should also refrain from the sins of the tongue, because they are very easy to fall into and can be extremely serious in terms of their punishment. An example of a sin of the tongue is lying, the worst of which is to lie on Allah and His Prophet ﷺ, Allah, the Most High, said:
“And say not concerning that which your tongues put forth falsely: “This is lawful and this is unlawful,” so as to invent lies against Allah. Verily, those who invent lies against Allah will never prosper. A passing brief enjoyment (will be theirs), but they will have a painful torment.” (An-Nahl:116-117)
And the Prophet warned us from lying in general:
“Beware of lying, for lying leads to wickedness and wickedness leads to the Hellfire.” (Al-Bukari and Muslim)
The Muslim man should likewise avoid backbiting and tale-carrying, because Allah, the Glorified and Most High, said:
“O you who believe! Avoid having suspicions, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would detest it. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.” (Al-Hujarat:12)
And the Prophet ﷺ said:
“The tale-carrier will not enter Jannah.” (Muslim)
Another thing that the Muslim man should avoid are the sins of the eyes and this is especially true for the brothers fasting in the non-Muslim countries during the summer time. Allah, the Almighty, said:
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is well acquainted with what they do.” (An-Nur:30)
These are an example of some of the duties and sins that the Muslim man must abide by whilst fasting, so as not to nullify or lessen the reward of his fast and if one should fall into one of these things then let him seek Allah’s forgiveness and mercy during this blessed month when the doors of Jannah are opened.
From amongst the preferred etiquettes of the fast is to eat Suhur. Suhur is the meal the Muslim eats in the early morning before beginning the fast. The Prophet ﷺ said:
“Suhur, all of it is a blessing, so do not leave it, even if you were to just drink a cup of water, because Allah and His angels send their prayers upon those who have Suhur” (Ahmad)
The Prophet ﷺ instructed us to delay Suhur to close to the time to start fasting, because that is better for the faster and makes it less likely for him to fall asleep and miss the Fajr prayer, he ﷺ said:
“Eat and drink until you hear Ibn Umm Maktum call the adhan, because he doesn’t call the adhan until Fajr has entered.” (Al-Bukhari)
Also from the preferred etiquettes is to hasten to break your fast once the time for Maghrib has entered. The Prophet ﷺ said:
“People will not cease to be upon goodness for as long as they rush to break their fast.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
And the Prophet ﷺ said that Allah said:
“Indeed the most beloved of my slaves are those who rush to break their fast.” (Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi)
The sunnah is to break your fast with rutub dates (moist dates), and if those are not available then tamr dates (dried dates), and if those are not available then water. Anas (radiallahu anhu) said:
“The Prophet ﷺ used to break his fast before he prayed with rutub, and if there were no rutub, then tamr, and if there were no tamr, then water.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and At-Tirmidhi)
When you break your fast you should make dua for what you want, because the Prophet ﷺ said:
“When the fasting person breaks his fast, his dua is not refused.” (Ibn Majah)
And when you break your fast it is the sunnah to say:
ذََهَبَ الظَمَأُ وَابْتَلَتِ العُرُوقُ وَثَبَتَ الأَجْرُ إِنْ شَاءَ الله
“Dhahabah adh-dhama’u wabtalatil urooqu wa thabatal ajru insha’allah.”
“The thirst is gone, the blood vessels are moistened, and the reward is affirmed, if Allah wills.”
From the preferred etiquettes of the fast and Ramadan is to increase in reading the quran, making dua, performing the prayer and giving charity. Ibn Abbas said:
“The Prophet was the most generous of people and he was at his most generous during Ramadan when the angel Jibra’il (alaihi assalaam) used to meet him every night and teach him the Quran. The Messenger of Allah was more generous than the blowing wind.” (Al-Bukhari)
And the Prophet ﷺ said about praying the night prayer during Ramadan:
“Whoever prays in Ramadan with sincere faith, hoping for Allah’s reward, will have his past sins forgiven.” (Muslim)
So implement these simple etiquettes so that you may perfect your fast this Ramadan, and beware of the things that will decrease or nullify the rewards of your fast.
And don’t miss the next installment of the TMM Ramadan Series where we will be talking about the rulings of Zakat Al-Fitr.