Tajuddin B. Shu'aib
This is a light meal taken shortly before the break of dawn. There is
consensus that this meal is a highly recommended Sunnah.
In reports by Bukhari and Muslim, Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) related
that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said:
"Take your early morning meal for in that is a blessing."
In another report by Miqdam bin Ma'a Diyikarib (may Allah be pleased with him)
the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said:
"Take this early morning meal for it is a blessed meal."
In both ahadiths the statement underscores the importance of sahuur, and to
caution anyone from thinking they can just stay without a meal all night and
continue with fasting. This may explain why the statement came as a command.
Although it is not mandatory to eat sahuur, it is highly encouraged so that
anyone intending to fast will make an effort to take sahuur.
The crux of the matter is not to show how strong you are, but how obedient you
are. Sahuur, above all, ensures that the devotee has the energy he or she will
need during the course of the day, and it makes the fast easier.
What Constitutes Sahuur?
Sahuur can be achieved by a large meal, a small meal, or even by a sip of
water or soup. In a report by Abu Sa'eed Al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with
him) the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said,
"Sahuur is a blessed meal; do not neglect it even if it is a mouthful of
drink. For Allah and the Angels bless those who observe it." (Reported by
You see, what reaches Allah is the intent that you have made a genuine effort
to obey Allah in fasting. This is why it is recommended to make intention with
the sahuur, to emulate the Prophet, and to eat the food to gain strength and
energy during fasting, so as to get the reward from Allah. The hadith also
contains the information that during the course of this meal the faster
receives a special blessing that cannot be found elsewhere: that Allah
(Glorified and Exalted be He) blesses your meal and that the angels seek on
your behalf forgiveness for you during sahuur. Thus, with sahuur you receive
both physical and spiritual blessings.
Time of Sahuur
The time for sahuur begins from midnight until the break of dawn. It is
recommended, however, to delay it till shortly before the time of Subh
In a hadith by Zaid bin Thabit (may Allah be pleased with him) he related
"We ate sahuur with the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) then we went to
pray Subh. I asked the Messenger 'What was the time period between sahuur and
prayer?' He responded 'The time period between them is the equivalent of the
time it takes to recite fifty verses in Al-Qur'an.'" (Reported by Bukhari and
This citation is instructive in that it settles the question of whether one
should stop eating before Morning Prayer (Subh/Fajr), or before sunrise, as we
see in certain prayer times tables showing the so-called shuruq (the sunrise,
which some think is the time to stop eating). The hadith is explicit. The
recommendation to delay Sahuur is only to the hour or so before (Subh). The
mentioning of the period of recitation of fifty verses (ayats) is a cushion or
a grace period in which food or drink should not be taken. All the reports
that recommend delay of Sahuur must be understood in this way.
During the time of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), the tradition
of two adhans (or call to prayer) was established, and it has continued up
until now in some Muslim countries. The first adhan is to indicate the
beginning of sahuur, the adhan of Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum (may Allah be
pleased with him). The second is the adhan of Bilal Ibn Rabah (may Allah be
pleased with him): the adhan of Salaah, a morning prayer.
However, if you hear the second adhan while you are eating or drinking, you
should immediately stop eating in preparation for fasting.
Doubt in the Break of Dawn
Even in the age of watches and alarm clocks, sometimes we doubt whether it is
time to stop eating. In this event, one should eat and drink until he is
certain and no longer in doubt about the break of dawn. No decision on Islamic
deeds should be based on doubt. Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) made the
determining factor in every affair certainty. He (Glorified and Exalted be He)
"And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from
its black thread." (Al-Qur'an, Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:184)
As I mentioned earlier, by "White thread" is meant the light of the day. And
"black thread" is meant darkness of the night. Hence, the verse is explicit in
that eating and drinking are permitted until the doubt and uncertainty are
removed from your mind.
A man told Ibn Abbas, (may Allah be pleased with him), that he observed Sahuur
and he only stopped when he doubted about the break of dawn. Ibn Abbas (may
Allah be pleased with him) instructed him to eat as long as he doubted until
he doubts no more. Similar reports are attributed to many companions and
scholars inferring from the above verse.
With the advance in time keeping technology, proliferation of wrist watches,
and alarm clocks, the possibility of uncertainty is minimized, at least in the
case of a believer who has a time keeping device. These time pieces can be
set, not only to sound an alarm, but to call Al Adhan, recite some verse, or
simply just tell you to get up for sahuur.
In the heartland of the Muslim world, the states take the responsibility for
public announcements with the firing of cannons, or radio, or television
announcements. There has evolved a special culture of Ramadan in many
Working hours in some Muslim countries during Ramadan are changed to night,
virtually changing or shifting daytime activities to night. In some countries,
the governments are not involved in public announcements, but some families
and volunteers over the years have taken the duty of wake-up calls by going
door to door, in groups and individually in an attempt to wake up the city for
It would be excellent if Muslims in non-Muslim countries try to adjust their
annual vacations during Ramadan, so as to allow themselves the maximum use of
the blessed month.
Source: Essentials of Ramadan