Some aspects are obligatory (waajib) and others are recommended (mustahabb). We should make sure that we eat and drink something at suhoor, and that we delay it until just before the adhaan of Fajr. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Have suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing (barakah).” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/139). “Suhoor is blessed food, and it involves being different from the people of the Book. What a good suhoor for the believer is dates.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 2345; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/448).
Not delaying iftaar, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The people will be fine so long as they do not delay iftaar.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 4/198).
Breaking one’s fast in the manner described in the hadeeth narrated by Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him): “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to break his fast with fresh dates before praying; if fresh dates were not available, he would eat (dried) dates; if dried dates were not available, he would have a few sips of water.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 3/79 and others. He said it is a ghareeb hasan hadeeth. Classed as saheeh in al-Irwa’, no. 922).
After iftaar, reciting the words reported in the hadeeth narrated by Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both), according to which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), when he broke his fast, would say: “Dhahaba al-zama’, wa’btallat al-‘urooq, wa thabat al-ajru in sha Allaah (Thirst is gone, veins are flowing again, and the reward is certain, in sha Allaah).” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 2/765; its isnaad was classed as hasan by al-Daaraqutni, 2/185).
Keeping away from sin, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “When any of you is fasting, let him not commit sin…” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 1904). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not stop speaking falsehood and acting in accordance with it, Allaah has no need of him giving up his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 1903). The person who is fasting should avoid all kinds of haraam actions, such as backbiting, obscenity and lies, otherwise his reward may all be lost. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It may be that a fasting person gets nothing from his fast except hunger.”(Reported by Ibn Maajah, 1/539; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/453).
Among the things that can destroy one’s hasanaat (good deeds) and bring sayi’aat (bad deeds) is allowing oneself to be distracted by quiz-shows, soap operas, movies and sports matches, idle gatherings, hanging about in the streets with evil people and time-wasters, driving around for no purpose, and crowding the streets and sidewalks, so that the months of tahajjud, dhikr and worship, for many people, becomes the month of sleeping in the day so as to avoid feeling hungry, thus missing their prayers and the opportunity to pray them in congregation, then spending their nights in entertainment and indulging their desires. Some people even greet the month with feelings of annoyance, thinking only of the pleasures they will miss out on. In Ramadaan, some people travel to kaafir lands to enjoy a holiday! Even the mosques are not free from such evils as the appearance of women wearing makeup and perfume, and even the Sacred House of Allaah is not free of these ills. Some people make the month a season for begging, even though they are not in need. Some of them entertain themselves with dangerous fireworks and the like, and some of them waste their time in the markets, wandering around the shops, or sewing and following fashions. Some of them put new products and new styles in their stores during the last ten days of the month, to keep people away from earning rewards and hasanaat.
Not allowing oneself to be provoked, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:”If someone fights him or insults him, he should say, ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari and others. Al-Fath, no. 1894) One reason for this is to remind himself and another reason is to remind his adversary. But anyone who looks at the conduct of many of those who fast will see something quite different. It is essential to exercise self-control and be calm, but we see the opposite among crazy drivers who speed up when they hear the adhaan for Maghrib.
(*) Not eating too much, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The son of Adam fills no worse vessel than his stomach.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2380; he said, this is a hasan saheeh hadeeth). The wise person wants to eat to live, not live to eat. The best type of food is that which is there to be used, not that which is there to be served. But people indulge in making all kinds of food (during Ramadaan) and treating food preparation as a virtual art form, so that housewives and servants spend all their time on making food, and this keeps them away from worship, and people spend far more on food during Ramadaan than they do ordinarily. Thus the month becomes the month of indigestion, fatness and gastric illness, where people eat like gluttons and drink like thirsty camels, and when they get up to pray Taraaweeh, they do so reluctantly, and some of them leave after the first two rak’ahs.
(*) Being generous by sharing knowledge, giving money, using one’s position of authority or physical strength to help others, and having a good attitude. Al-Bukhaari and Muslim reported that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was the most generous of people [in doing good], and he was most generous of all in Ramadaan when Jibreel met with him, and he used to meet him every night in Ramadaan and teach him the Qur’aan. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was more generous in doing good than a blowing wind.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 6). How can people exchange generosity for stinginess and action for laziness, to the extent that they do not do their work properly and do not treat one another properly, and they use fasting as an excuse for all this.
Combining fasting with feeding the poor is one of the means of reaching Paradise, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “In Paradise there are rooms whose outside can be seen from the inside and the inside can be seen from the outside. Allaah has prepared them for those who feed the poor, who are gentle in speech, who fast regularly and who pray at night when people are asleep.” (Reported by Ahmad 5/343; Ibn Khuzaymah, no. 2137. Al-Albaani said in his footnote, its isnaad is hasan because of other corroborating reports). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast, will have a reward equal to his, without it detracting in the slightest from the reward of the fasting person.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 3/171; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/451). Shaykh al-Islam [Ibn Taymiyah] (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “What is meant is that he should feed him until he is satisfied.” (Al-Ikhtiyaaraat al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 109).
A number of the Salaf (may Allaah have mercy on them) preferred the poor over themselves when feeding them at the time of iftaar. Among these were ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar, Maalik ibn Deenaar, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others. Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar would not break his fast unless there were orphans and poor people with him.