Ramadān: Delay the Sahūr (but make sure you take it) before True Fajr and hasten the Iftār at Sunset ―And break your Fast with something from the Sunnah

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Taking Sahūr (Pre-Dawn Meal) And Hastening To Break The Fast At Maghrib

Sahl bin Sa’d (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) stated that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “The people will not cease to remain upon goodness so long as they hasten to break the fast.”[1]

And Anas bin Mālik (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “Take the pre-dawn meal for indeed in the pre-dawn meal (sahūr) there is a blessing.”[2]

He also narrated that “Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) would break his fast with fresh dates before praying [Maghrib]. And if there were not any fresh dates, then with dried dates and if there were no dried dates, he would take some mouthfuls of water.”[3]

These narrations are concerning the etiquettes of breaking the fast and taking the pre-dawn meal before Fajr. The Sunnah encourages with hastening to break the fast once it is established that the Sun has set. The setting of the Sun is known either by witnessing it yourself or by a report that reaches you from someone whose witness can be accepted, or by hearing the Adhān from a Masjid in your locality that is known to be precise in these matters.

Thereafter, you are to make haste with iftār (breaking the fast). Delaying the iftār opposes the Sunnah and is a sin―and whoever delays his iftār thinking it to be from piety and that it pleases Allah has innovated into the Religion an affair that is not from it―and he has added to the fast, extra minutes that are, in actuality, from the night time because the day finishes when the Sun has set. It is not allowed to add to matters of worship nor to take anything away from them―rather, you merely commanded to follow the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) without any deviation. ‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) narrated that the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said:

إِذَا أَقْبَلَ اللَّيْلُ وَأَدْبَرَ النَّهَارُ وَغَابَتِ الشَّمْسُ فَقَدْ أَفْطَرَ الصَّائِمُ

“When the night approaches from here (the east), and the daylight passes away from there (the west) and the sun sets, then the fast of a person is broken.”[4] So, the fast is to be broken as soon as the sun has set. It does not matter if some of the sky still seems to be bright because the darkness spreads in the east and the sun sets in the West, and the fast is broken for the one who clings to the Sunnah. Sahl bin Sa’d (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) stated that Allāh’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “My ummah will not cease to be upon my Sunnah so long as they do not delay breaking their fast until the stars appear.” Sahl (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) said: “When the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) was fasting, he would command a man to stand upon something [elevated], and as soon as the man would say, ‘The Sun has set’, the Prophet would break his fast.”[5]

Some of the misguided groups ignore this command of Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam), and they delay breaking their fast―this is in imitation of the Jews because they delay breaking the fast until a portion of the night has passed and the stars begin to appear.

With what should you break your Fast?

We also learn from the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) what to break the fast with―and it is with dates. That is because dates have specific medical benefits that are not found in other foods. It is the best type of sweet and the best thing for a fasting person to take to break his fast because it is good for the stomach. And if he cannot find dates, then he should drink some water because it is pure and good―it purifies and cleanses the stomach. So, the best thing after dates is water. 

As for what people, in these times take to break their fast from a large assortment and variety of foods and drinks, then that is in opposition the Sunnah―and it causes digestive sicknesses and heaviness in the stomach. Eating too much food and a wide assortment of foods will cause a person to delay the prayer in congregation, thus falling into sin. It is better to have a light iftār with dates, and that it best, and water. Then you should pray just as the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) would do. Once he has returned from praying, he may eat from whatever permissible foods he like. Allah (the Most High) stated:

وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ

“Eat and drink [after dark] until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread, then complete your fast till the nightfall.”[6] 

Abdullāh bin ‘Amr (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “There is for the fasting person, when he breaks his fast, a supplication that is not refused.”[7] Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) narrated that the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) would say when he broke his fast:

 ذَهَبَ الظَّمَأُ وَابْتَلَّتِ الْعُرُوقُ وَثَبَتَ الأَجْرُ إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ 

“Thirst has gone, the arteries are moist, and the reward is certain if Allah wills.”[8]

So, Muslims should avoid large amounts and assortments of food and drink that is common these days at iftār time because that opposes the Sunnah, causes people to leave the congregational prayer and to inflict harm upon their stomachs by filling them quickly with food after a long period of being empty. This is harmful to health, therefore eating in stages, in small amounts is more beneficial to one’s health and upon the stomach. Whatever else is eaten should be eaten after the prayer―the food should be humble, simple and not excessive.

The Sahūr (Pre-Dawn Meal) and the Start of Fajr in the Sky

Sahūr is the food that is eaten just before the true time of Fajr begins. The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) commanded the Muslims to eat before Fajr in Ramadan and he emphasised its importance in several narrations. It’s the Muslims in carrying out the fast and it distinguishes us from the Ahlul-Kitāb (the Jews and Christians) because they do not take the pre-dawn meal. The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “The difference between our fast and the fasting of the Ahlul-Kitāb is the taking the pre-dawn meal.”[9] The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) called it, “The blessed breakfast.”[10] It is blessed because it aids you in fasting, it nourishes the body, it aids you in the obedience of Allah and it is from the Sunnah of your Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam).

Many people have abandoned taking this meal so, they eat a long time before Fajr because they want to sleep in the last part of the night, and they stay awake in its early part filling their stomachs―then they fall asleep and do not awake until after Fajr, even missing the prayer itself. They wake up after the Sun has risen. This is a terrible and sad state of some people in Ramadan, may Allah guide them. The Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) would take the pre-dawn meal, then go out and lead the believers in prayer. The narrator of this hadīth was asked: “How much time was there between his meal and his prayer?” He replied: “The time it takes to recite fifty or sixty verses.”[11] This is clear proof that the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) would delay his pre-dawn meal right up until the beginning of Fajr time. And Allah (the Most High) instructed us with food and drink up until the appearance of Fajr in His saying:

وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ

“Eat and drink [after dark] until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread, then complete your fast till the nightfall.”[12] 

So, Allah prescribed food and drink until the appearance of Fajr and then to “complete your fast till the nightfall.” So here are the manners of the pre-dawn meal:

  • Delay taking it.
  • There should not much time between taking the meal and praying Fajr.
  • One should eat right up until the adhān for the start of the true Fajr, and if he hears the adhān, and if there remains something in his hand of food or drink, he should take his fill from it, as occurred in the time of the Prophet with one of his Companions.
  • Suhūr should never be left, rather one should hasten to take it.
  • If you do not feel like eating, then take just a small amount to establish the Sunnah, even if it is a gulp of water or just one morsel.

One must be mindful of understanding the issue of Fajr (dawn) because there are two Fajrs: the false Fajr and the true Fajr. The false fajr is a vertical light and not horizontal and it does not cling to the horizon, there is between it and the horizon darkness. It lasts a short time and is followed by darkness. The false Fajr normally appears 45 minutes to an hour before the true Fajr. At the onset of the false dawn or false Fajr (al-fajr al-kadhūb), the fast does not begin, food and drinks are not prohibited nor is sexual relations with one’s wife, and it is not the time for Fajr prayer.

As for the second Fajr, this is the true Fajr―this is the horizontally spreading whiteness in the horizon over the mountain tops and the rooftops of the houses. The light of the true Fajr clings to the horizon with no gap between it and the horizon―and there is no darkness after it starts spreading ―the sky just gets brighter and brighter until sunrise.

False Fajr, (a) is a vertical light, not horizontal, (b) is followed by darkness and, (c) is disconnected from the horizon so there is darkness between it and the horizon.

True Fajr, (a) is a horizontal spreading light from north to south, (b) is not followed by darkness, rather the sky gets brighter and brighter once it begins, and (c) it is connected to the horizon and there is no darkness between its light and the horizon.[13]

Allah (the Most High) stated concerning it:

وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ

“And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread.”

So long as a person is not certain whether true Fajr has arrived, he can continue to eat and drink ―even if he doubts whether it has arrived when he looks in the sky, he can eat and drink until he is certain of the fact that it is Fajr. That is because Fajr has clear signs, and a person can eat and drink until those signs are clear ―the origin is that the night continues until Fajr is clear in the sky. As for Maghrib, then one withholds from breaking his fast until he is sure that the Sun has set or that he has overwhelming suspicion that the Sun has set.[14] In a situation where there is cloud-cover, then the Muslims should base their decision on the previous day’s sighting because one day is similar to the last. A timetable should only be used as a general guide.

It is a mistake to rely on timetables to start and end your fast because they are usually very inaccurate and cause you to leave the Sunnah of looking to the sky for these matters. Sometimes a person may cling to a timetable even though the reality of the sky opposes it, and that is a severe error. In a locality where a Mu’adhin calls the adhān for Fajr based on his actual sighting, then the Muslims should begin their fast and break their fast based on his adhān.

Some Examples of the True Fajr


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Footnotes:

[1] Al-Bukhāri (no. 1957), Muslim (no. 1098).

[2] Al-Bukhāri (no. 1923), Muslim (no. 1095)

[3] Abu Dawūd (no. 2356), sahīh.

[4] Muslim (no. 1100)

[5] Ibn Khuzaymah in As-Sahīh (no. 2016) with a sahīh chain of narration, and Ibn Hibbān (no. 891)

[6] Al-Baqarah: 187.

[7] Ibn Mājah (no. 1753).

[8] Abu Dawūd (no. 2357).

[9] Muslim (no. 1096).

[10] Abu Dawūd (no. 2344).

[11] Al-Bukhāri (no. 575).

[12] Al-Baqarah: 187.

[13] See Ash-Sharhul-Mumti’ of Ibn ‘Uthaimin, vol. 2, 107.

[14] See Fatawa fi Ahkām As-Siyām of Ibn ‘Uthaimīn, p. 299.

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