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An Iftâr (Fast-Breaking) Routine for a Productive Ramadan

The Prophet, on him be peace, said: “Whoever feeds a faster, for such a one is the like reward of that faster without diminishing the faster’s reward in the least” (Tirmidhî).

What is the best way to break a daily Ramadan fast?

The best way to break one’s fast is to follow how the Prophet, on him be peace, broke his fast, an act called iftâr.

He did three things, on him be peace:

1. He hastened to break his fast

The Prophet, on him be peace, said: “The state of the people (meaning Muslims as an Ummah, or Community) will remain good for as long as they hasten to break the fast” (Bukhârî and Muslim).

Acting quickly to break the fast when sunset is complete shows high consciousness of one’s spiritual act for the sake of God; a character of restraint, moderation, and abstinence; and an understanding of the prophetic ways.

When these qualities are widespread among Muslims, there will be no doubt about the spiritual health of the community and Allah’s pleasure and blessings upon us.

2. The Prophet, on him be peace, preferred to break his fast on fresh dates before praying Maghrib, the Sunset Ṣalâh

If not at hand, he broke fast on dry dates. If not available, he had several sips of water (Abû Dâwûd, Tirmidhî).

Note the Prophet, on him be peace, broke his fast on no more than a few morsels of food or sips of water before the prayer. This is important. It emphasizes his intention to hasten to break the fast.

Dates, especially, allay hunger and bring the blood sugar up quickly to give energy for the immediately due prayer. Water slakes a daylong thirst and refreshes. Neither fills one, for when people eat their fill, they are more likely to become negligent about or indolent in their Ṣalâh prayer.

After praying Maghrib, one may eat a fuller meal, but also in moderation. The upcoming ‘Ishâ’, or Night ṣalâh prayer, comes quickly, about 80 minutes after sunset. One needs time to get ready, to make it to the mosque or place of prayer, and also to remain attentive during the lengthier Tarâwîḥ Ṣalâh, or Prayer of Intervals, that follows ‘Ishâ’ prayer in Ramadan.

3. The Prophet, on him be peace, said bismillah, “in the Name of Allah,” or “in the Name of God,” before eating

This is obligatory, according to most Muslim scholars. (If one forgets, one says, “In the Name of Allah, in its beginning and its end.”)

This is also the time to make other du’a, or supplication, right before iftâr, fast breaking, at sundown. One is still fasting, and the prayers of the faster are accepted by God. The Prophet, on him be peace, said: Three prayers are not rejected: the prayer of the father, the prayer of a faster, and the prayer of a traveler” (Bayḥaqî).

The best time to make such petitions is while fasting. In that state, one is performing an act of worship that Allah loves best and that is for Him alone. One is weakened by abstention from food and drink. One has sublimated the passions of his or her nafs, or self. And Allah delivers people from punishment in the Hereafter at the moment of breaking fast.

“Every time the fast is broken, Allah has people that He ransoms,” meaning from Hellfire (Ahmad).

Also, Allah answers a prayer for the Muslim each day and night in Ramadan.

“Allah ransoms people each day and night [in Ramadan]. And each day and night the Muslim has a prayer that is answered” (Bazzâr).

What other things can I do using iftâr time to focus my Ramadan?

As Ramadan recedes into the spring and winter, the time between ‘Aṣr, Mid-Afternoon, and Sunset shortens. Two practices during this period, however, make for a very productive iftâr time and then blessed Ramadan night, God willing.

1. Since the time of the Prophet, on him be peace, Muslims have used the time after the ‘Aṣr ṣalâh prayer for recitation and study of the Quran

If you have an opening of time, engagement with the Quran is the best use of it. 

Quran reading will elevate your soul, increase your consciousness of Allah and the worshipful purpose of your life, raise in you a sense of urgency to adhere more obediently to God’s will and to do good with your quickly lapsing life before the coming of your inevitable and fast-approaching death, and it will fill the divine balance you are building with priceless ḥasanât, good deeds, for each letter of it you read — 10 times the worth of each, according to the Prophet, on him be peace, and magnified incalculably in Ramadan, while fasting, for this is Allah’s great spiritual multiplier month, where all deeds He immeasurably increases for His faithful servants.

If you can’t read the Arabic of the divinely intentionally “Arabic Quran,” then begin that program for yourself this Ramadan, at ‘Aṣr time if possible (or anytime). You can do it, one letter at a time. The more you struggle with reading the Quran in Arabic, the more Allah will reward you for it.

If you’ve been meaning to get back to the Quran, or get to it, do it now in Ramadan. Memorize that surah you’ve been intending to, or those ayât (verses) you’ve so wanted to learn.

The Prophet, on him be peace — the chosen (al-Muṣtafâ) recipient of its divine revelation that Allah inscribed on his pure heart — used to review the entire Quran every Ramadan with the Heavenly imparter of it to him: the Angel of Revelation, Jibrîl, or Gabriel.

This is a great sunnah, or “way,” of the Prophet, on him be peace.

2. If you have the luxury of the time, take an ‘Aṣr nap.

Sleep. This will revive your spirit, replenish your physical energies, and enable you to get the best of your Ramadan nights, where exertion of worship — Tarâwîḥ prayers (in congregation if at all possible) and Qiyyâm prayers solitarily and collectively deep in the night) pays most dividends.

This especially holds for the last 10 Ramadan nights, when we are seeking out Laylat Al-Qadr, the Night of Empowering Decree, worth a lifetime — 83 years and four months — of forgiveness and worship.

What acts will make my iftâr even more blessed?

Give. Give to the utmost of your capacity. Provide food to others — especially the countless poor, hungry, orphaned, and displaced who are also fasting seeking Allah’s pleasure and blessing. This gives you reward on two counts, feeding those in need and feeding the fasting.

The Prophet, on him be peace, said:

“Whoever feeds a faster, for such a one is the like reward of that faster without diminishing the faster’s reward in the least” (Tirmidhî).

Feeding the fasting in your presence is also replete with God’s grace.

The Prophet, on him be peace, said:

“The angels send blessings upon the faster who feeds others present with one until they finish” (Tirmidhî).

Are there other supplications (du‘â) I should make at iftâr?

Fasting, and Ramadan in general, is the optimal time for accepted requests to God. In addition to saying bismillah, in the Name of Allah, the Prophet, on him be peace, said this upon breaking fast:

“Gone is the thirst, moistened the veins, and established is the reward, if God wills” (Abû Dâwûd). 

(Transliterated: “Dhahaba al-ẓama’ wa abtallat al-‘urûq wa thabata al-ajr inshâ’Allâh.)

Some of his Companions also reportedly said: 

“O Allah! For you have I fasted. And with your provision have I broken my fast.”

(Transliterated: (Allahumma! Inni laka sumt wa ‘ala rizqak aftart.”)

What if someone annoys me before iftâr when anger comes easy?

In general, Allah has commanded us to repress our anger and cites it as a practice and sign of true belief in Him. The Prophet, on him be peace, made this a particular requirement of fasting, that is, that anger should not find expression in our speech or actions in the course of a fast.

This holds all the more true throughout the entirety of Ramadan, and the truth is it is no easy thing to maintain. Expression of anger can break a fast (but if it happens, one is still not permitted to stop one’s fast from food, drink, and relations — all the things we fast from).

The Prophet, on him be peace, said:

“Fasting is a shield. Therefore, utter no obscene or religiously ignorant speech [when fasting]. If another contends with one [fasting] or reviles one, let one say twice, ‘Indeed, I am fasting’ ” (Bukhârî).

(Also: “O Allah! Indeed, I am fasting.” Transliterated: “Allahumma! Inni aayim.”)

This, of course, will work best when said to Muslims who know what it means to fast as Islam prescribes it.

It does two things. First, it alerts one’s antagonist that the person he or she is assailing is in the middle of an act of worship that requires of him or her piety and restraint before God. It lets the opponent know one cannot and will not respond in kind or in verbal defense. It also makes the contender aware of one’s spiritual state and, if he or she knows what fasting means, it may act as a deterrent to any further aggression.

Second, it reminds the faster to hold oneself from violating the purity of his or her fast by returning this belligerence or saying something adverse or improper.

Adding Allahumma, O Allah, to one’s statement emphasizes the religious significance of one’s fasting condition by calling Allah to witness. It also turns one’s statement into a supplication for God’s blessing.

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