The month of Ramadan has arrived and Muslim communities will be preparing for a period of fasting.
During Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual intercourse from sunrise until sunset. Even a tiny sip of water or a puff of smoke is enough to invalidate the fast. At night, family and friends gather and feast in a festive atmosphere.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and aims to bring the worshipper closer to Allah and remind them of the suffering of the poor.
The specific rules on what is permitted during Ramadan might not be clear to everyone, and there can be different interpretations by different people. However, there is some simple guidance agreed by most.
Can you drink water during Ramadan?
Drinking water during the hours of fasting is not permitted – no food or drinks are. Outside of the hours of fasting, drinking water is fine.
The charity Muslim Aid said: “It is imperative that Muslims drink adequate amounts of water when the time comes to eat at suhoor (pre-sunrise meal) or iftar (evening meal) to prevent becoming ill through dehydration.”
Some have also said its a good idea to spread out your water intake over the period of time when you are not fasting.
Can you brush your teeth?
Various sources confirm that brushing your teeth is fine during fasting times in Ramadan, as long as the toothpaste is not swallowed.
Based on advice from Dr Tamer Mohsin Abusalah, general practitioner and the dental and medical director of Burjeel Dental Clinic, The Khaleej Times reported: “It is permissible for a fasting person to use any fluoride toothpaste while fasting, as long as he is careful not to swallow anything.”
Muslim Aid also said it is fine brush your teeth, as well as showering or washing your face during Ramadan.
Others have suggested using miswak twig called siwaak to brush teeth during Ramadan instead, for those who have concerns.
Can you swallow your saliva?
There appears to be no valid basis for the idea that swallowing saliva goes against the fast.
Shabbir Hassan, an advanced student of Islamic sciences and sharia law, told the BBC: “This misconception has no basis at all, swallowing your saliva is natural. It definitely will not break the fast.”
Can you chew gum?
There are mixed views on this, but the consensus is that many types of chewing gum contain components that break down when chewed, and therefore count as breaking the fast.
One response to this question on the Islam question and answer forum said that in terms of chewing gum with sugar or artificial flavouring: “Chewing this kind of gum leads to breaking the fast, because the sugars and flavourings dissolve in the saliva and enter the stomach. Undoubtedly this breaks one’s fast, because nutrients enter the stomach.”