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Ramadan myths – Can you listen to music, brush your teeth or chew gum while fasting?

Ramadan myths – Can you listen to music, brush your teeth or chew gum while fasting?
24 May
3:45

Ramadan is known as a month of fasting for the Muslim community.

That doesn’t mean just abstaining from food and drink between early morning and sunset, but also giving up smoking, sexual activity and ‘sinful behaviour’ including swearing, lying and spreading gossip.

It’s also a time for being kind and charitable to others.

That may sound simple enough but there are many things to bear in mind.

For instance, not everyone is able to take part. People with medical problems, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding and the elderly are among those exempt from fasting.

And for those who do take part, there are often many questions about what is permissible. In Islam, anything that’s allowed is called halal, while things that are forbidden are haram.

Here we take a look at some of the myths about Ramadan and whether there is any truth in them.

You can’t listen to music while fasting for Ramadan

Listening to music - but is it allowed during Ramadan?
Listening to music – but is it allowed during Ramadan?
(Image: Tom Hull)

This is a tricky issue, as some Muslims – including many on the Islamic Board forums – believe that music is haram.

Others say only vocal music is permissible and that instrumental music is forbidden. This has led to a tradition of acappella devotional singing in Islam.

But it’s been pointed out that the Qur’an itself makes no explicit mention of music being forbidden. Some interpret a phrase “idle talks” as including singing or music, others do not.

Many take a more tolerant view that it’s okay to play music during Ramadan but not in any way that disrupts prayer or worship.

In this case, you should make sure it’s not loud as it may upset those who are fasting. It shouldn’t be loud enough to be heard outside your home or car and it’s best to use earphones or headphones.

And of course the lyrics shouldn’t have any swearing in them.

You can’t brush your teeth during Ramadan

Is brushing your teeth allowed during Ramadan?
Is brushing your teeth allowed during Ramadan?
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Yes, you can. But be careful not to swallow anything, as that would invalidate the fasting, Dr Tamer Mohsin Abusalah of Burjeel Dental Clinic told the Khaleej Times .

He advises that it’s fine to use a regular toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

It’s best to brush your teeth outside the hours of fasting, just in case you swallow any water or saliva accidentally.

Others say you should use miswak. Also called sewak, this is a teeth-cleaning twig made from Salvadora Persica, a shrub that’s also known as the toothbrush tree or mustard tree.

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Ramadan in Birmingham

You can’t chew gum while fasting for Ramadan

This is actually true because chewing gum is seen as eating and that is not allowed during the hours of fasting.

At the times you can eat – the pre-dawn meal of suhoor and the sunset meal of iftar – the focus should be on nourishing meals so chewing gum should not really be a priority but it would be allowed then.

You can’t you use eye drops during Ramadan?

Eye drops for glaucoma must be taken every day - even during Ramadan
Eye drops for glaucoma must be taken every day – even during Ramadan

The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) says people MUST continue using eye drops for the treatment of glaucoma – and there is a way to do it without breaking the daily fast.

Stopping drops even for a short period of time can cause permanent loss of vision, it warns.

Subhash Suthar, IGA development manager, said: “We want to reassure the Muslim community that drops can be taken before dawn and after sunset, when food and drink can be consumed.

“We also suggest that patients close the tear duct when taking eye drops (known as punctual occlusion) as this means that fluid stays in the eye and does not drain into the throat and so cannot be tasted.

“This is achieved by putting finger pressure at the corner of the eye next to the nose (punctual occlusion) immediately after instilling drops.

“It is distressing when patients realise through a follow up appointment at their ophthalmologist or optometrist that their vision has been damaged through stopping drops.”

Muslim Council of Britain deputy secretary general Dr Omer El-Hamdoon has confirmed that all Islamic schools of thought agree that taking eye drops does not invalidate the fast unless the eye drops reach the throat, which is unlikely.

You can’t use an asthma inhaler during Ramadan

A woman uses an asthma inhaler
(Image: Getty Images)

Muslim experts have differing opinions on this issue.

Some say using an asthma inhaler isn’t the same as eating or drinking and is therefore permitted during fasting. In their view, people with asthma can fast and use their inhalers whenever they need to.

But other scholars say the inhaler provides small amounts of liquid medicine to the lungs, so it breaks the fast. They say people with poor control of their asthma mustn’t fast until good control is achieved.

Some people with asthma may opt for longer-acting inhalers so they can fast. See your GP for further advice.

You can’t do any fitness or exercise during Ramadan

Aero-Kick Gym in Highgate where an all-women boxing and exercise class includes Muslim women
Aero-Kick Gym in Highgate where an all-women boxing and exercise class includes Muslim women
(Image: Birmingham Mail)

One common question that gets asked is if you can work out or exercise during Ramadan. Some believe it’s forbidden – or at least a bad idea because you would be unable to refuel with food or drink if you do a fitness session during fasting hours.

The answer is yes, you can exercise, but you have to plan it accordingly. It’s vital to remember that your body won’t have the same amount of energy that you would have on a normal day.

Try to do light exercise like walking and meditative exercises in any spare time you have; this can help to keep the system working and blood circulating.

Step outside, cycle, play a game, go to the gym for a light workout session, or do some gardening. Even helping out in the kitchen would be better than just sitting down and waiting for the iftar time, or at least do something that keeps you moving and that you enjoy.

Cardiovascular exercises like walking and cycling, full body stretching and mat exercises are great at helping to burn calories and improve stamina.

Avoid high intensity exercises like sprinting or heavy lifting as this could cause injury and lead to dizziness and low blood pressure, and you could end up feeling weak or sick.

If you exercise within eating times, make sure you have allowed enough time for food to be digested before you exercise and that you drink plenty of water during iftar and suhoor times. Keep workouts short to between 30-60 minutes.

You can’t swim during Ramadan

Yes, you can swim – but you must take care not to swallow the water.

A bath or shower, or swimming, has no effect on the fast.

However, no water should be taken in during any of these activities, as that would break the fast.

Before and after fasting, drinking plenty of water is essential.

So be sure to stay hydrated during night time hours – experts advise to drink as much water as possible during iftar and suhoor times, especially if hot weather is expected during the day.

Have at least two litres of water during the night before the next day’s fast begins.

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