imam ibn al-qayyim (may allah have mercy upon him) said, "the guidance of allah's messenger pbuh in ramadhan was the most complete and perfect for achieving the desired objective with ease. fasting ramadhan was made obligatory in the second year following the hijrah, so at his death he pbuh had fasted nine ramadhans.
at first, the choice was given between fasting and feeding a poor person for each day, and then the choice was abrogated and fasting was required. feeding the poor remained an option only for the elderly man and woman who fast with difficulty; they were allowed to feed the poor for each day missed. sick and traveling persons were permitted to break the fast and make up the missed days later. the same applied to pregnant or nursing women if they feared harm to themselves. but if they feared harm to the child, they had to feed the poor in addition to making up the days. that is because, in this case breaking the fast occurs whilst healthy and not due to fear of illness; hence, it is compensated by feeding the poor as healthy people did at the beginning of islam.
increase in worship
the prophet pbuh used to intensify his acts of worship during ramadhan. the angel jibreel (gabriel) would meet with him in this month to review the qur'an. and when jibreel met him he pbuh was faster than the wind in doing good deeds. he pbuh was the most generous of people; but he was more generous than ever in ramadhan, wherein he increased charities, acts of kindness, recitation of the qur'an, prayer, mention of allah and seclusion in the masjid. he pbuh used to worship during ramadhan more than in any other month, and sometimes would continue fasting throughout the night in order to make use of the time for worship. he prohibited his companions from doing so, however, and when they said to him, "but you continue through the night,"
he pbuh would say, "you are not like me. i remain with my lord who gives me food and drink."
he forbade them from continuing their fast all night out of mercy to his ummah, and allowed them to continue only to the hours before dawn.
in saheeh al-bukhari, abu sa`eed al-khudri may allah be pleased with him reported that he heard the prophet saying,
"do not continue fasting all night. anyone who wishes to may continue until the hours before dawn."
that is easier on the fasting person and actually takes the place of his dinner, although at a later time. one who fasts has one meal, so if he eats it before dawn he has only shifted it from the beginning of the night to the end.
his guidance in confirming the month
he pbuh would begin the fast of ramadhan only after a verified sighting of the new moon or the evidence of one muslim witness. he fasted on the testimony of ibn`umar may allah be pleased with him, and once on the testimony of a bedouin. he depended on their information and did not make the witness pronounce the shahadah. in case the moon was not sighted and without any witness, he would complete sha`baan as thirty days and then begin fast.
he pbuh did not begin fasting on a cloudy day, nor did he order it. rather, he ordered the completion of sha`baan as thirty days when it was cloudy. that was his practice and what he ordered, and it does not contradict his saying,
"if it is overcast, estimate it." (al-bukhari and muslim) for an estimate is one's calculation, and it means: complete the month when it is overcast, as stated in the hadith saying, "complete the days of sha`baan." (al-bukhari)
his guidance in ending the month
he pbuh ordered people to fast on the testimony of one muslim man and terminated the fast based on the testimony of two witnesses. if two witnesses gave testimony about sighting the moon after the eid prayer time had passed, he would break his fast and order people to do so. then he would perform the eid prayer at its time the following morning.