It is the time of year when I find myself asking the same question to people who I find collapsed.
'Are you fasting?'

For it is currently Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast during the hours of daylight. We have a lot of Muslims in Newham.

But it is not just people with low blood sugar that are affected by the fasting.

My brother has two men at his work who are fasting at the moment. They are currently in real pain from their stomach ulcers. While we spend some hours asleep without eating, our stomachs are less active at that time. If you are fasting while awake, then you are being bombarded with the sights and smells of food, and your stomach responds appropriately.

So fasting is not just a simple matter of being hungry.

Some Muslims are exempt from fasting, most notably those who are pregnant or diabetic. But not everyone takes advantage of this exemption, so for example the baby we recently delivered on a kitchen floor was born to a mother who was fasting.

So far, I've not had a fainter due to fasting, but with around 20 days left to Ramadan, I'm expecting at least one.

32 thoughts on “Fast”

  1. I believe that they break the fast each day just before sunrise? I might have that wrong… but one has to wonder if people aren't eating enough when they break the fast to last them the whole day. If it were me I'd stuff my face. Perhaps there are rules about what sort of food and how much you can eat.

  2. This is correct. Eating, smoking, drinking and sexual intercourse are all prohibited between dawn (fajr), and sunset (maghrib), except for certain people.

    For example, if not eating will cause you to do something which would be against Islam principles (like endangering life, if you are an airline pilot) then you are allowed to eat. I don't know of any religious exemptions for ****ing 😉

    When I was in Egypt a few Ramadans ago, all the house boys in the hotel disappeared as soon as the sun went down and had a big 'breakfast'. At the time, I needed a pair of scissors, but the hotel said they would be a few minutes due to Ramadan Breakfast. I said that was no problem, Ramadan Breakfast being important. The response was amazing… double salaams from both desk boys and huge grins. Unsurprisingly, not many western people (and the Russians, who are worse) understand the importance and so unwittingly give offence.


    (Standard white brit, but interested in Islamic history)

  3. Justin's comment illustrates how valuable blogs can be with the interchange of comments, views, soh's and general information from different nationalities and races. So often one can unwittingly irritate and annoy through lack of knowledge. Years ago I didn't know that the lady showing me to my seat in a Parisian cinema wasn't paid a wage and was completely reliant on tips.Not an experience I wish to repeat!


  4. One of the Muslims at our place is fasting, so I asked him how it was going and if his soul was feeling cleansed, he replied “Oh I'm only doing it so I can lose some weight.”

  5. Justin – I was very impressed with your knowledge – a big thumbs up to ya!!!In Ramadhan/Ramadan/Ramzaan (various names, same thing) you are prohibited of doing certain things, one of them being eating food. The reason we (Muslims) do this is for us to experience what it is like for those that are less fortunate than us all over the world. We're lucky that we're in a position to stuff our faces before and when we open the fast, but what about those who dont know where their next meal (if any) is going to come???

    Additionally, there are other significances of this month in Islam. Going back to not eating, Reynolds, it seems this pregnant lady was a bit silly as you are exempt from fasting when pregnant – it could endanger you and your child, so you dont have to fast at all. For those that are ill, have to rely on medication (diabetics, asthmatics etc) are also exempt from fasting. Instead, they are required to give a little money to charity. I know of many Muslims who, because they cant fast, will send money (equivalent of 3 a meal???) to places like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh etc as 3 here might not buy you very much, but over there you could have a feast for days… so this money is sent to poor people… works well all round is the idea.

    I know that this is Reynolds blog – and he does a FAB job of it too, but if there are any questions, post them and see if other Muslims like myself can help.

    Cheers. T

  6. I was flying home from Egypt a few years ago during Ramadam. We arrived at the airport, with the usual high security – guards with guns everywhere. An hour later when looking out of the departure lounge windows just as the sun set, all the guards were sitting on the ground having their picnics and chatting happily – guns being completely ignored.I do admire them – I have problems fasting between lunch and dinner!

  7. I don't know the context, but I think that asking that women be discreet about breaking the fast in that circumstance “to avoid rumours” could partly be so that people don't jump at her for not being devout enough…? Maybe. I don't know.

  8. In Muslim countries, people can be assaulted if they're seen not fasting A non-muslim friend of mine was on a tour in Morocco during Ramadan, and children through stones at them when they saw them eating. So discretion is a good idea.

  9. Interesting – I have a student who suffers from recurring migraines. He is on medication for them but won't take the tablets while he is fasting. This, combined I think with low blood sugar is making the migraines worse. I don't want to presume to tell him to take the tablets and get into school but this is having a major effect on his A levels. Is there any clause about medication and fasting if it causes illness and severe pain?

  10. Agreed T. Thanks for pointing that out.What most Muslims and non-Muslims alike fail to understand is that the rules for fasting are extremely reasonable, if it cannot be done due to health reasons etc then that is fine. Pregnant women, menstruating women, do not have to fast. And those that do are not adhering the the rules. The old and weak, children, diabetics, anyone who is incapable of fasting for religious reasons should not.

    Fasting does not prove how devout a woman is at all. And as for misconceptions about losing weight…well you can eat all you want between sunset and sunrise…and people do!! You can have your three meals, its just that you have them at odd times. I tend to put on weight when I'm fasting!! Funnily enough during the day you sometimes have cravings, especially when people around you are eating (forbidden fruit so to speak) but when it is time to eat, your hunger just disappears.

    And its not just about food or the lack of it, its about control and self-restraint. Controlling your mind, your tongue, your actions, your whole being and making sure you don't say or do anything to hurt anyone in any way.

  11. The fast can be observed at a different time of year if the person is ill, or is doing something that conflicts with Ramadan. As long as the full period is observed before the following year, there is no problem.As far as I am aware water is allowed….you might collapse otherwise.

  12. Hi,I'm afraid you're not allowed to drink water or any kind of liquids… I know that people are fasting in hot countries, but to be honest, the ones I have spoken to say one or two things; they change their routine so that they work at night, and sleep during the day, or that they dont feel the thirst… because God gives them the strength to keep the fast in the first place…. I'm sure there ARE many out there that feel thirsty, but you know, thats how it is – for us lucky ones, only for a short time, but for those that have this life day in, day out, no food, no water – its the norm….

    I agree with whoever put in the comment that sure, when you're fasting, you wanna eat everything, but when you open your fast, the smallest thing fills you up… and yes, you do tend to eat even more of the richer foods in fasting, so I put weight on too!!!


  13. Your student should be taking his medication… but I guess he is using this once in a year chance to pray, to fast, and to adhere to Islam. However, as has been mentioned in the other blogs, if he suffers from severe migraines, then he needs to reconsider…. Ultimately its up to him. I was the same during my GCSE's/A levels (I think the strain of using your brain 24/7 and then eating little took its toll, but I still kept my fasts because it only happens one month of twelve)T

  14. Muslim fasting is a farce… True fasting is going without food for at least 40 days… not feeding your face the moment the sun sets or just before it rises…

  15. wow – did you say that deliberately to sound ignorant, or are you trying to start a fight? I am sure that the readers of this blog who have a better understanding of Islam than me will be able to far more correctly point this out – but the fasting at Ramadan is not about starving yourself for 40 days…

  16. here's an idea then, how about *you* don't eat anything for 40 days? And that can be because of *your* beliefs. However Muslims can keep adhering to *their* definition of fasting, because of *their* beliefs. And then nobody needs to get upset about things.Islam, when not in the hands of fanatics, tends to be quite a sane religion. Ramadan fasting is not about “punishing” followers of Islam by witholding food. It is about changing one's routine (although that's not the best way of describing it) and thereby actively increasing your awareness of those less fortunate than yourself, for a significant period of time rather than a two-minutes silence once a year.

    Personally, I'm glad I don't “have religion”.

  17. it is Christians who are meant to fast for 40 days (lent) although if you notice, lent is more than 40 days to Easter. This is because they (are supposed to) fast every day except Sundays (which are feast days) you complete 40 days in total but but with every seventh day off, basically.Also, Christian fasting is not like Muslims fasting, as water is permitted. Muslims do not eat or drink anything at all during daylight hours, no one can sustain that for 40 days straight.

    Ask any Muslim and they will tell you that come sunset “stuffing your face” is the last thing on your mind. I have about 5 lychees in syrup at sunset and I feel full. I cannot stand to eat a great deal until at LEAST an hour after sunset. The importance of the pre-dawn meal in preparation for the fast ahead has been stressed by Muhammad as the idea is not hardship, but God consciousness. Critics should try it for a week and THEN come back and have their say.

  18. I had a call from a lady who had collapsed at a Synagogue yesterday during a service, also fasting related as it was Yom Kuppur (Jewish day of Atonement). I was really impressed with the way it was dealt with by the synagogue. The first thing they did was make her drink and eat to get her blood sugar levels up explaining that health was more important.Newbieatcac

  19. And also, you are allowed to rinse your mouth with water, if your mouth is really dry, as long as you do not swallow any of the water. So I guess Muslims in hotter climates tend to do this.

  20. I can't believe you just said that! How dare you dismiss any person's religion. You may not agree with it, but please don't come into a public arena and declare it as being farcical, especially without the guts to sign in.

  21. And here I am wondering if so many human societies do ritual fast as a way to regulate behaviour during famine- an all too normal part of human history. When a groups fasts under controlled religious circumstances, their culture has a better handle on dealing with how to behave when hungry, what kinds of food are best on very empty stomachs, who gets food first (children, pregnant women, the old.)I had a friend who grew up Muslim, and although he no longer considered himself religious at all, he still fasted at Ramadan. He didn't know how to explain why, but it felt right to him. He still drank water, because he had kidney stones. I tend to think he was honoring his culture, just as I put up a Christmas tree.

  22. T. I have a question. Is the surname 'Begum' something to do with Islam? I just meet it a lot, especially with pregnant young ladies.

  23. Lol Reynolds!!!Begum is a common name for women in Islam, sometimes associated with Bengali's more than any other nation (well, from what I know anyways!)

  24. Yes, you can rinse your mouth out so long as you dont swallow… this is one of the actions you perform when washing yourself for the 5 prayers of the day anyways, so its done regularly (if you pray regularly that is!)T

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