Allah says in the Qur’an what may be interpreted as, "O' you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may achieve Taqwaa (righteousness, God-fearing)."
The prophet Muhammad said, "Whoever observes the fast during the month of Ramadan, (while) believing in Allah and seeking His rewards, will have his past sins forgiven."
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the main pillars of Islam. It is obligatory upon every sane, healthy Muslim who has reached puberty and is not traveling during the time of fasting. As for women, they must not fast if they are menstruating or having post-childbirth bleeding.
The essential elements of the fast
There are two essentials elements for your fast to be valid and accepted. They are:
Intention: You must have the intention to fast before fajr (dawn) every night during the month of Ramadan. The intention does not need to be spoken, because in reality it is an act of the heart, which does not involve the tongue. It will be fulfilled by one's intention from the heart to fast out of obedience to Allah seeking His pleasure.
Abstaining from acts that nullify the fast: The second essential element for your fast to be accepted is that you abstain from the acts that nullify the fast from dawn to sunset.
If you maintain these two essential elements during fasting, then your fast will be valid and accepted.
Six actions that invalidate or nullify the fast:
Intentional eating or drinking: If someone eats or drinks due to forgetfulness, a mistake, or coercion, then his fast is still valid and should continue to fast. If you choose to eat or drink, for any reason, then your fast will become invalid.
Intentional vomiting: If one is overcome by the urge to vomit, and vomits unintentionally, then he should continue to fast. If someone chooses to vomit, for any reason, then his fast will become invalid.
Intentional sexual intercourse: If one has sexual intercourse while fasting, then he must perform kaffaarah, expiation of the sin, which is fasting continuously for sixty days or if unable then one should feed sixty poor people.
Menstrual or childbirth bleeding: The fast becomes invalid during menstrual or post-childbirth bleeding. Even if such bleeding begins just before sunset, the fast of that day is invalid and the day must be made up at a later time.
Actions that are permissible during fasting
There are some actions that are permissible to do while fasting, which will not nullify the fast. For example:
Taking a shower: It is permissible to shower, for any reason, even if you are showering due to thirst or being overheated.
Rinsing the mouth and nose: It is permissible to rinse the mouth and nose without exaggeration; using too much water may cause you to swallow water, which may invalidate your fast.
Applying eyeliner or eye drops: It is permissible to apply kohl (eyeliner) or eye drops or anything else to the eyes, even if some taste from it finds its way to the throat.
Taking injections: It is also permissible to take injections for nutritional or medical purposes; there is no text that proves this invalidates the fast.
Accidental consumption: Your fast will not become invalid if you consume something that you could not protect yourself from. For example, swallowing your saliva or accidentally swallowing dust or sifted flour that has accidentally entered your mouth.
Tasting food with the tongue: Your fast will be valid even if you taste food with your tongue or use toothpaste or mouthwash as long as nothing is swallowed.
Drawing blood: It is also permissible to draw blood in any amount for any reason. If drawing blood weakens the person, it will be considered a disliked action.
Those excluded from fasting
There are certain situations when it is optional to fast during the month of Ramadan, however, the fast must be made up at a later date. This is the rule for the sick or for the one who is traveling.
However, women who are experiencing post-childbirth bleeding or are in their menses are not allowed to fast until their bleeding ends. They must make up the days they missed fasting at a later date.
For those who cannot fast due to a permanent illness or old age, they have to pay fidiya (feeding one poor person) for each day that they have missed.
Pregnant and nursing women, who are afraid that fasting may weaken them or the child, have the option of fasting or not. After Ramadan ends, they have the choice of fasting or paying fidiyah (feeding one poor person) for each day that they had missed during Ramadan.
Recommended acts during Ramadan
There are some acts that are recommended, and if you practice them, you will gain more rewards from Allah such as:
Having suhuur (pre-dawn meal) and delaying it until just before fajr (dawn) time.
You should also hurry to break the fast at sunset.
Another recommended act is that you break the fast by eating an odd number of fresh or dry dates, and if those are not available, then having a drink of water would be sufficient.
Another recommended act is that we pray taraaweeh daily after Isha.
To gain even more rewards, it is recommended that during Ramadan we increase our recitation and study of the Qur'an. This is because the revelation of the Qur'an began during this time, and also Angel Gabriel used to review the Qur'an with the Prophet during this month.
We can also gain rewards by using Miswaak (a piece of root from the Araak tree used to clean the teeth), if not available, any other cleaning tool to clean the mouth is sufficient.