Are any Muslims exempt from fasting?
Muslims should start observing the fasting ritual upon reaching the age of puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. Many children and their parents also make the decision to begin fasting based on when Ramadan occurs—in the U.S., fasting during the winter months is much shorter than during the summer months. Also, children often ease into fasting—doing a few during their first Ramadan and eventually fasting for the entire month in the next year's Ramadan. Fasting is not meant to be a burden, and thus parents and their children decide how best to begin fasting and the ideal age.
While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, many children endeavor to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life.
The elderly, the chronically ill, and the mentally ill are exempt from fasting, although the first two groups must endeavor to feed the poor in place of their missed fasting. Also exempt are pregnant women, women during the period of their menstruation, and women nursing their newborns. A difference of opinion exists among Islamic scholars as to whether this last group must make up the days they miss at a later date, or feed poor people as a recompense for days missed. Lastly, those traveling (musaafir) are exempt, but must make up the days they miss.
How should the elderly and disabled handle Ramadan?
The elderly or those who suffer from a disability or disease and have no prospect of getting better in the future can pay the cost of iftar for a person who cannot afford it (for every day of Ramadan they cannot fast), or else they can host such a person in their house and have him eat with them after sunset as a way of repaying for the days they could not fast.
What happen if you accidentally break your fast?
There are times when a person who is fasting in Ramadan may forget that he or she is fasting, and accidentally eat or drink something. In such an instance, one might spit out the food being eaten or cease the forbidden activity, immediately upon remembering the fast. Then they can renew their intention to fast and continue doing so the rest of the day.
Are there any particular food to eat before fasting or to break one's fast?
Depending upon where a Muslim resides, culture and tradition dictate the foods that are prepared during Ramadan. There are particular foods and special culinary preparations that occur in nearly every Muslim community and in nearly every Muslim family around the world. The one food tradition that binds most Muslims together is the use of dates to break one's fast. Dates, which are a typical Middle Eastern fruit, was the food of choice for the Prophet Muhammad when he broke his fast. It is strongly recommended for Muslims to break their fast by saying a special prayer and then eating a date before eating anything else. If dates aren't to be found, water is a good second choice to break one's fast.
Are there any special prayers to day during Ramadan? Is there a special prayer to say before beginning one's fast?
Before fasting, a Muslim should make his or her intention to fast, or niyyat. There also is a special prayer that must be said when breaking one's fast, before actually eating something. There are other prayers that are recommended to be said during the first ten days of Ramadan, the second ten days, and the last ten days.