Guide to SKOPJE

Ramadan and 10 frequently asked questions about fasting

Before dawn I wait for the first smell of Suhoor from the kitchen. My mother is cooking. I can feel the smell, unusual, sweet, full of feelings. It is not just the smell of food, it is the smell of all souls waiting for Allah’s forgiveness and mercy in those blessed hours. It is Ramadan, the month of fasting, the biggest Muslim holiday.ramadan-2013-first-day-holy-month-muslims

It is the second half of Ramadan. We live in a multicultural society and Muslims usually have to deal with many questions from their friends who are not Muslim during this period. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.

Balkon3 will try to explain the essence of fasting by answering 10 of the most commonly asked questions:

1. Why do you fast?

Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It can easily be explained in a metaphorical sense as “forced poverty” which Islam prescribes to establish equality among people through abstaining from food, drink and bodily pleasures. The Prophet, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, in one of the hadith books explains the particular values of Ramadan: “It opens the gates of heaven, it closes the doors of jahannam, it ties in chainsthe unruly devils, a night in Ramadan is better than a thousand months”and encourages believers to do good deeds and get benefits from Ramadan values.

2. Is it true you don’t drink waterWhat about coffee? You can’t even have a cigarette or chew gum!?

Yes, we do not drink any water nor coffee, and even the heaviest smokers will denounce their pleasure during the month of fasting. When strictly following the rules not even a drop of water should be consumed. Fasting lasts from dawn (Imsak) until sunset (Iftar). For example this year fasting starts at approximately 3 am and finishes at 8:20 pm, which is about 17 hours.

We are careful not to exaggerate with food at Iftar and it is advisable to eat several small portions. After Iftaryou can have tea or coffee. During the summer when there is very little time between Suhoor and Iftar, about five hours,we are careful not to eat too much so that we can eat for Suhoor.


3. Is it hard to fast? We live in mixed communities so is it difficult to watch others eat?

This is the most difficult question to answer. A person should maintain his composure and clean his soul from primal instincts and not be a slave to passions. One must control his urges. You decide whether it is easy or not.

When it comes to watching others eat, I think that if you plan to keep the fast, food does not even come to your mind.

4. Why do you wake up at night to eat? Cant you eat before you sleepWhat do you have for Suhoor?

Yes, Suhoor is eaten at night. Suhoor should be a light meal and it is important to make smart choices in what we consume. We avoid having a large meal so as not to overeat.

Here is a fine example of a combination for a quick and highly nutritious Suhoor: wholegrain bread, cottage cheese, bananas, dates, almonds, water, yogurt, eggs, fruit, homemade honey…

You shouldn’t have a lot of coffee, tea, salt and fried food so that you go through the day more easily!

5. What do you eat for Iftar and do you ever have guests?

For Iftar we eat anything, there are no restrictions. Guests are certainly welcome, and the host recieves a great reward for preparing Iftar. Allah’s Messenger, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, said: “He who prepares Iftar for a fasting man will have the same reward as him, and the fasting man will not be deprived of his reward”. Before starting Iftar it is obligatory to learn this dua: “Allah, we fast for Thy pleasure, we have Iftar with what you provided for us, so receive it from us! You are, indeed, He who hears and knows.”

iftar meal_balkon3

6. Are fasting rules the same everywhere? Do all Muslims fast in the same way and why is Ramadan at a different time every year?

Yes, Ramadan is one of the Pillars of Islam, it is obligatory for every Muslim, the rules are the same everywhere and they cannot be changed. The time period is different because the month of Ramadan depends on the lunar calendar and moves 10 days back.

7. Who should keep the fast?

– a Muslim

– a person of age

– a sane person

– a healthy person

– a person who is not travelling at that time

– a woman who is not having her period.

8. Who can be exempt from fasting?

– an ill person

– a traveller

an old person who is in no condition of keeping the fast (for every day that they do not fast they should feed a poor man)

– an ill person who is not expected to recover has the same status as an old person who can’t fast

– a pregnant woman or a woman who is breast-feeding.ramadan-2013

9. Do you help the poor during Ramadan and how?

Yes. Sadaqat’ul-Fitr is a prescribed material obligation which encourages Muslims to look after the poor. At the end of Ramadan, every Muslim is obliged to set aside about 3 kg of food that is characteristic of that region and give it to the poor, so that they can enjoy the days of Bayram together with the rich.

 10. Is it easy to return to the regular routine, and do many people turn to excessive eating and drinking to “compensate” what they have missed?

Returning to normal life does not present a problem because we eat as much as we need. There is nothing that we have missed because everything is compensated between Iftar and Suhoor. The only problem that we face is Bayram. We should be careful not to have too much baklava. But that is also true for any time of the year 🙂


Balkon3 wishes a Happy Ramadan to all Muslims.

Husamettin Gina