"When the month of Ramadan begins, the doors of Paradise are opened and the doors of Hell are closed and satans are chained,”
Fasting in Ramadan
A Muslim must fast from dawn until dusk each day for the whole month of Ramadan. Fasting includes refraining from consuming any fluids or food, and also no smoking or sexual relations (dawn to dusk). Similarly, one should avoid foul language, back-biting, and other such unsavory talk and behaviors which would detract from the spiritual nature of Ramadan.
The month is based on the lunar calendar, and as a result Muslims will, over their lifetime, observe fasting during few hours of daylight (such as in North America during winter) or the many hours of daylight (similarly, in North America during the summer months) depending on where the month falls that year. Ramadan begins approximately 10 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar. The feeble, young children, pregnant or nursing women, or anyone who has a medical need to, are excused from fasting. Women must abstain from fasting during the menstrual cycle and post-natal bleeding. These days are to be made up at a later time. It certainly is a rigorous undertaking; however, many new Muslims find that they become accustomed to it quickly if they approach it with a fresh spirit.
Allah SWT has commanded us to fast in the following verses from Qur'an:
"O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint, (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew. Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful," Qur'an 2:183-185
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Fasting is purely done for Allah SWT alone. The aim of Ramadan is primarily to become closer to Allah (SWT) by means of increasing one's spirituality. Other aims of Ramadan is to learn self-control and self-discipline, and to be more understanding and compassionate for the poor who regularly experience hunger.
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Before beginning fasting, one must make the intention in his/her heart. What this means is a sincere intention that one is about to complete the fast for Allah alone. Simply make intention in your heart saying “Nuwaytu siyam” which means “I intend to fast” before you begin fasting. In Hadith, it was reported by Hafsah that the Prophet (SAW) said: “He who did not make intention of observing the fast before dawn, in fact did not fast at all,” (Musnad Ahmad).
Fasting is not observed solely during the month of Ramadan; Many Muslims regularly fast throughout the year, particularly on Mondays and Thursdays (according to Hadith remarking about these days to have more virtues) also during the 10 days just before the start of Eid Al-Adha. Concerning the day of Arafat, which is the day before Eid Al-Adha starts, the Prophet Muhammad SAW is said to have remarked that a person who fasts on this day would erase their sins of the previous and remaining year, Subhanallah! Allah is so Merciful and Generous!
Reported by Abu Said (RA): I heard the Prophet (SAW) saying, "Indeed, anyone who fasts for one day for Allah’s Pleasure, Allah will keep his face away from the (Hell) fire for (a distance covered by a journey of) seventy years," (Bukhari).
More Ramadan related information
Other Pillars of Faith
Du'aa for Breaking Fast
Allahumma inni laka sumtu wa bika aamantu wa ‘ala rizq-ika aftarthu
اللهم إني لك صمت, وبك آمنت, وعلى رزقك أفطرت
Which means: "O Allah I fasted for You and I believe in You and I break my fast with Your sustenance."