Fasting in the holy month of Ramadan while incarcerated has challenges. Here are questions frequently asked by incarcerated Muslims:
Q1: Do I still have to fast during Ramadan even though I am in prison?
A: Yes, you do. Allah states in the Holy Qur’aan (HQ) at Chapter 2 Verse 183: “O’ ye who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, in the hopes that you will gain God Consciousness.” (HQ 2:183).
Q2: Do I start fasting when the news says Mecca has started?
A: No, you do not. Mecca is nine to 12 hours ahead of us – depending upon where you are located in the United States. Therefore, if the news report states that Mecca has started Friday, then you do not start until Saturday, the following day.
Q3: As a non-Muslim, can I fast during Ramadan?
A: Yes, you can. The verse quoted above did not say, “O’ ye who are Muslim,” it says, “O’ ye who believe.” (HQ 2:183).
Q4: Do I, as a Muslimaat (female Muslim), fast during the time of my monthly cycle?
A: No, you do not. Women make up those days missed later in the year, or they can feed a poor person.
Q5: When is the latest that I can eat Suhoor?
A: Allah states “…eat and drink until the light changes…” (HQ 2:185).
Q6: My breath smells during Ramadan. Can I rinse my mouth out during the daylight hours with mouthwash so I do not offend anyone?
A. It is better to use either peppermint or lemon flavored miswak during Ramadan if you are around other people who are not fasting.
Q7: Can I work out during fasting hours?
A: Yes, you can. However, do not work out to the point of complete exhaustion. Do whatever you normally do, just modify it, staying aware that you are fasting.
Q8: What am I supposed to do if I do not feel welcome at the Masjid to receive a Suhoor meal?
A: Allah states, “…all of you hold fast to the Rope of Allah … and be not divided amongst yourselves…” (HQ 3:103).
Sunni, Shi’a, Sufi, Salafi, N.O.I., 5 percenter, Moorish Science Temple, etc., all must meet in the same Masjid inside of prison. Allah says, “There is no compulsion in the religion,” (HQ 2:256). The Suhoor is a right for all Muslims. In this type of situation, you can do the following:
- Explain your situation to the Muslim chaplain. See if you can go get your Suhoor meal and return to your cell/dorm.
- See if another Muslim can bring the Suhoor meal to you.
- If neither of these works, the day before Ramadan starts, save your lunch. Then, eat that lunch as your Suhoor meal. Go to breakfast and save that, as well as your lunch. In the evening, go get your dinner and save that until its time to break your fast.
Break your fast with water and something sweet to eat (if possible). Then, after Maghrib prayer, eat your breakfast that you saved. During the time between Isha prayer and when you decide to sleep (or if you go to sleep and wake in the night to eat something), eat the dinner that you saved. When you wake to start the day, eat the lunch as a Suhoor. You can do this every day and get through Ramadan. You still have a duty to Allah to fast this holy month.
“All of you hold fast to the Rope of Allah … and be not divided amongst yourselves..”
Q9: I have to take food and water with my medication. How do I do this and still fast?
A: Allah states, “… but whoever is sick or on a journey… feed a poor person…” (HQ 2:184).
In this case, you have two options. The first is to break your fast and feed a poor person.
The second option is to eat and drink the amount necessary for the medication only.
Q10: Is there more than one way to fast during Ramadan?
A. No. However, there are three levels of fasting during Ramadan:
(a) The Muslim Fast is simply not eating, drinking or any form of sexual discharge during the daylight hours.
(b) The Mu’min Fast is the same as (a). However, the person fasting adds the following:
Fasting the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, hands, hips, legs and feet from all things haram.
(c) The Muhsin Fast. This fasting is (a) and (b) as well as doing good work. Setting a good example for others to emulate, establishing excellent morals and character, teaching others, feeding the poor, having a smile that can uplift another’s spirit.
Insha’Allah, these questions and answers bring clarity to issues that are unique to prison life. Islaam is an easy religion; humans make it difficult. May you have a blessed holy month of Ramadan.