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Fasting during the month of Ramadan is specifically mentioned in three consecutive verses of the Qur'an:
- O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. [Surah Bakarah - 2:183]
- (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew. [Surah Bakarah - 2:184]
- Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. [Surah Bakarah - 2:185]
Prohibitions during Ramadan
Eating, drinking and sexual activity are not allowed between dawn (fajr), and sunset (maghrib). During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, angry/sarcastic retorts, gossip, and are meant to try to get along with each other better than normal. All obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. Purity of both thought and action is important. Fasting is an act of deeply personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God.
Fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would be excessively problematic. Children before the onset of puberty are not required to fast, though some do. Also some small children fast for half a day instead of a whole day so they get used to fasting. However, if puberty is delayed, fasting becomes obligatory for males and females after a certain age. According to the Qur'an, if fast would be dangerous to people's health, such as to people with an illness or medical condition, and sometimes elderly people, they are excused. For example, diabetics and nursing or pregnant women usually are not expected to fast. According to hadith, observing the Ramadan fast is not allowed for menstruating women. Other individuals for whom it is usually considered acceptable not to fast are those in battle, and travelers who intended to spend fewer than five days away from home. If one's condition preventing fasting is only temporary, one is required to make up for the days missed after the month of Ramadan is over and before the next Ramadan arrives. If one's condition is permanent or present for an extended amount of time, one may make up for the fast by feeding a needy person for every day missed.
If one does not fit into one of the exempt categories and breaks his fast out of forgetfulness, the fast is still valid. If, however, one intentionally breaks his fast, he must continue fasting for the remainder of the day but then make up for the entire day later. If one breaks the fast through consensual sexual intercourse, the transgressor must make up for the day by fasting for sixty consecutive days.
Breaking the fast
Many mosques will sponsor iftar (literally: break fast) meals after sundown for the community to come and end their day's fasting as a whole. It is also common for such meals to take place at Muslim soup kitchens. The fast is broken with a date (when possible), following the tradition of Muhammad.