In this holy month of Ramadan Muslims fast from drinking water, eating food, smoking cigarettes and having sex during the daylight hours but what happens if the fast is broken?
People can find out from Fatwa sites like Islamweb where these questions are regularly asked and answered.
The Fatwa Centre says:
“A person who has sex with his wife during the day of Ramadan, his fast becomes null and void [what about the woman?]. On the other hand, he is required to expiate his sin either by freeing a slave, failing that he should observe fast for two consecutive months, failing that he must feed sixty poor people. Moreover, he has to follow the mentioned order of expiation in case of falling short of doing any of the three ways. This is the opinion of the majority of Muslim scholars.”
It’s a difficult job at the Fatwa centre responding to complicated rejoinders such as, “If my wife and I have been in the sack during the day of Ramadan, how can my sin be expunged when I have no slaves to free and no money to feed sixty poor people.” There are answers for these FAQs and a host of others about getting expiation (that’s a great word) for failing to keep the Ramadan fast.
The great religions portray God as the judge of all the earth but coming up with deeds to expiate the sin is in danger of turning God into a referee who blows the whistle, adjudicates and hands out the appropriate punishment.
How many wrongs do you have to do before you get a Yellow Card and can you get Red Carded and thrown out of the game?
On the flip side it is interesting that in the final week of Ramadan, there is a special night when believers are rewarded for being engaged in prayer? No one but God knows when this time is, so believers need to be active in worship in order to get credited with the extra merit points.
Keeping the Ramadan Fast Perfectly
It is easy to identify visible breaches of the Ramadan Fast such as eating a sandwich, drinking a coffee or having sex but the fast goes much deeper than this, to the purity of a person’s thoughts and the intangible dimension of human motivation. Who can discern the rightness of our motives?
Who has kept the Ramadan fast this month? Who has been perfect in this holy month? No one keeps it perfectly but this is not cause for throwing out the practice and the benefits that surely come from a month of fasting.
If it is a matter of refraining from enough things or doing enough things to keep in God’s good books then this is to turn God, not only into a referee but into a scorekeeper.
The problem with this notion is that we are never certain whether we have earned sufficient points to win God’s favour.
Ultimately there is no one who lives life perfectly. Yet God is revealed as a God of grace who keeps on with us despite our slipups and failings.
This truth turns a month or a life of law-keeping into a faith that is truly liberating.
Expiation for Sex During Ramadan, Fatwa Centre, Islamweb, 30 March 2002.
1.6 Million Iftar Meals served During Ramadan in UAE, ETE, 2 September 2009.
Ramadan Around the World in 2009, ETE, 2 September 2009.
UAE Offers 10,000 Dirhams to Quit Smoking During Ramadan, ETE, 1 September 2009.
On Related Sites
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Get Into the Frame with Alan Nambiar and His Fujairah 100 Photo Project, Fujairah in Focus, 16 September 2009.
Dr Geoff Pound
Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.
Image: To many people the deliberate giving up of life’s pleasures can make a period of fasting appear negative and a miserable time of self-denial. Yet the truth behind a month of fasting is to be made aware of the things in life that truly nourish and refresh us and that which satisfies us with deep joy.
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