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For Muslims around the world, the month of Ramadhan means 30 days of sawm (fasting) during daylight hours – which means no eating and/or drinking from sunrise through to sunset. However, as well as these basic Ramadhan rules, there are others that the Islamic community are expected to abide by during this auspicious month.

Ramadhan [link to Ramadhan page] is one of the five pillars of Islam and is considered to be the most spiritual months in the Islamic calendar, of which it is the ninth month. This is the time for Muslims to become closer to their faith and to take the opportunity for reflection. Along with this tradition comes rules for Muslims to follow if they are to have a blessed Ramadhan which will please Allah (SWT).

The Basic Rules of Ramadhan

Whether you are part of the Islamic community or not, the chances are that you will be well aware of the fast that comes with Ramadhan. This is known as sawm in Islam, and while abstaining from food and drink are the most widely recognised parts of the fast, these are not the only things that Muslims avoid.

Whilst observing sawm, some of the things what you can’t do during Ramadhan include:

  • Eat
  • Drink
  • Have impure thoughts
  • Engage in sexual activity

On top of these, Muslims observing sawm are also expected to refrain from anger, violence, lust, greed and gossiping. The fast represents a period of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek increased closeness to Allah (SWT).

Not all Muslims are expected to observe sawm, though. Children under the age of puberty are exempt from fasting, although some parents encourage children (particularly older children) to fast either for part of the day or on selected days to prepare them for adulthood when they are expected to observe sawm in its entirety.

Other exceptions include pregnant, menstruating and breastfeeding women, the elderly (who are unable to safely fast), and anyone who has been advised not to fast on medical grounds (through ill health and/or medical conditions). Muslims may also be excused from fasting on selected days so long as they have a genuine reason (such as travelling for an essential reason etc…) but will be expected to pay Fidya, which is a one-off payment equivalent to the value of feeding one person.

If a Muslim misses a day of sawm for a reason that is not considered to be worthy, they must either pay Kaffarah, the value of feeding 60 people, for each day of fasting they miss, or to observe a 60-day continuous fast outside of Ramadhan. Muslims are unable to begin their 60 days of fasting immediately following the day they miss as it is not permissible to fast over the Eid celebrations that occur following Ramadhan.

What You Can and Can’t do During Ramadhan

For many, the rules of Ramadhan do leave some grey areas, often seeing Muslims seeking the advice of their local imam for guidance and assurance. 

Suhoor and Iftar

Muslims will eat and drink at the pre-dawn meal, known as suhoor, and the evening meal, called iftar, after sunset. Traditionally, the day’s fast is broken at iftar by the eating of dates as it is believed that this is what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ate to break his fast.

Forgetting to Fast

If a Muslim accidentally forgets to fast and unintentionally break it by eating or drinking, the fast is still valid as long as they continue to observe sawm once they realise what they have done. They may choose to make a Fidya payment. However, should a Muslim knowingly break their fast and they do not have a worthy reason to do so, the fast is invalidated and they should pay Kaffarah.

Washing (Bath or Shower)

Muslims are still allowed to wash by bathing and showering, but they should avoid swallowing water as this will break the fast.

Injections and Medication

You are still permitted to continue to take medication (such as pills and eye drops) and receive injections for medical reasons.


If a Muslim is sick and considered unable to fast then they are excused for doing so. Involuntarily vomiting, whether ill or not, will not invalidate your fast (as long as you do not swallow) but doing so intentionally will break your fast.

Brushing Teeth

Muslims are allowed to brush their teeth during sawm without breaking fast, as long as no water and/or toothpaste is swallowed.


Janaba is a state of impurity following sexual activity or the completion of one’s menstrual cycle, and being in Janaba at sunrise will break your fast. Muslims must complete ghusl (full-body wash) before sunrise to avoid invalidating the day’s fast.

Donating Zakat ul-Fitr

As well as observing sawm during Ramadhan, Muslims must also make the obligatory Zakat al-Fitr (Fitrana) [link to Zakat al-Fitr/Fitrana page] payment which is due during this month before Eid prayers begin. This is not to be confused with Zakat [link to Zakat page] which can be paid at any point of the year, although many Muslims choose to make this annual payment during the month of Ramadhan, particularly in the last 10 nights for Laylat al-Qadr, due to the increased rewards and benefits.

Every adult Muslim who possesses more food than their personal needs is obliged to pay Fitrana, which is approximately £5. This is the value of 2kg of rice or flour (or similar staple food) and all funds are used to distribute food to those most deserving of it. The head of the household is also expected to pay Fitrana on behalf of any dependents, such as children and other relatives who do not qualify to make this payment.

Those who receive Fitrana must also qualify for Zakat, meaning that they must fall into one of the eight below categories:

  • The poor – those who are with little to no income
  • The needy – anyone who has encountered difficulty
  • Zakat administrators – those (such as registered charities) permitted to distribute Zakat
  • Reconciled hearts - revert Muslims and friends of the community
  • Those in bondage - anyone who is held in slavery or captivity
  • Those in debt – anyone who is debt-ridden and is struggling/unable to make repayments
  • Wayfarers – those stranded and/or travelling with few resources and supplies
  • The cause of Allah (SWT) – those who are fighting in the name of Allah (SWT)

Supporters can make both their Fitrana and Zakat payments through ILM by heading to our donations page. You can choose to make a general donation or ensure that your payment is used to support a specific campaign or appeal.

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