Archive for the ‘Ramadan’ Category

Laylat-ul-Qadr (The Night of Majesty and Destiny) and simple astronomy – some reflections

May 22, 2020

Laylat-ul-Qadr (The Night of Glory and Destiny)

& simple astronomy – some reflections

Bismillah.

Laylat-ul-Qadr (LQ – The Night of Glory, Majesty, Decree and Destiny, etc.) is in one sense the climax of the month of Ramadan / Ramzan (R).

* Some of the hadiths about its exact date, even the allegedly authentic ones, are mutually contradictory, which is why scholars try to reconcile them.

* It is night-time for half the earth at any moment; the other half is in daytime. Day and night are relative to each person’s location on earth.

* It is presumably possible for the Angels & the Spirit to descend around the half of the earth that’s in night-time for a period of exactly 24 hours, thus giving a specific date for LQ. Presumably, this would start at sunset for the first location on earth from where the new crescent moon was visible.

* Since Muslims have differed for decades about the beginning of R, and hence about its odd nights, this presents a difficulty in finding LQ in the last 5 odd nights. One solution is to look for it throughout the last 10 nights. But what if LQ falls just before your last 10 nights or just after, i.e. on your Eid night whilst others are still observing R?

* Do the Angels & the Spirit descend throughout the last 10 nights?

* MY SOLUTION: Due to considerations like these, I follow the view of the Companion, Abdullah bin Mas’ood: LQ can be on any night of the year. Or we could say: it is on every night of the year. Every night is LQ!

* This is why the hadiths say: SEEK IT in the last 10 nights of R, etc., because it would be too difficult to seek it all year long. We are prepared with fasting & worship for a whole month to help find LQ during the last 10 nights, preferably in i’tikaf (spiritual retreat). Remember, the Prophet pbuh once did i’tikaf for the whole month of R in order to find LQ.

* These are some of the many wisdoms behind the spiritual practice of Ramadan/Ramzan. May ours have been blessed, and may we have found our Night of Powerful, Glorious Destiny, had all our prayers answered and been illuminated by The Light for at least another year!

PS “Better than a thousand months” means “Better than all of time.”

(khayrun min al-dahri kullihi – Tafsir Qurtubi)

In other words, Laylat-ul-Qadr is an opportunity to transcend Time, or experience Eternity or Timelessness.

I alluded to some of these lessons about Ramadan (Ramzan) & LQ in this poem, based on the famous opening of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:

To break your fast with a wholesome date
And recite noble verses of Light.
To seek Infinity in your unfolding Fate
And Eternity in One Night.

Usama Hasan

22 May 2020 / 28 Ramadan 1441

Tadworth, UK.

ليلة القدر و علم الفلك:

الليل والنهار أمران نسبيان لمكان كل شخص في الأرض، وهما آيتان من آيات الله تعالى.

والأحاديث في تحديد تاريخ ليلة القدر متناقضة، حتى الصحيحة منها، ولذالك حاول علماء الحديث الجمع بينها دائماً.

فنصف الأرض في أي وقت في ظلمة اليل، والنصف الآخر في ضوء النهار.

قد تنزّل الملائكة والروح لمدة ٢٤ ساعة كل عام، فتكون لليلة القدر تاريخ معيّن. ولكن عندنا مشكلة: الاختلاف في بداية شهر رمضان يؤدي الى اختلاف في اليالي العشرة الأخيرة.

من أجل هذه الاعتبارات وغيرها، أرى برأي عبد الله بن مسعود رضي الله عنه أن ليلة القدر قد تقع في أي ليلة في السنة. ولذالك جاء في الأحاديث «إلتمسوا ليلة القدر في العشرة الأخيرة من شهر رمضان» لأن إلتماسها طول العام أمر محرج وصعب جداً على المسلمين.

فشرع شهر العبادة من صوم وصلاة وزكاة وإطعام المساكين وإعتكاف وغيرها من أعمال الخير ليسهل إلتماس الليلة العظمى في العام:

إنا أنزلناه في ليلة القدر، وما أدرىٰك ما ليلة القدر؟ ليلة القدر خير من ألف شهر، تنزّل الملائكة والروح فيها بإذن ربهم من كل أمر، سلام هي حتى مطلع الفجر.

ومعنى «خير من ألف شهر» يعنى: «خير من الدهر كله» كما ذكره الإمام القرطبي في تفسيره. فإن وجدت ليلة القدر، فكأنما خرجت من حدود الزمان ولمست قدسية الدهر وذقت معنى الخلود في جنات النعيم.

اللهم بارك لنا في شهرنا و أيامنا وليالينا، آمين.

APPENDIX: A GLIMPSE OF SOME OF THE VIEWS ABOUT THE DATE OF LQ, TO SHOW THE IMMENSE DIVERSITY ABOUT THIS IN THE ISLAMIC TRADITION

NB: where “[odd nights of the] last 10” is mentioned, even this was disagreed about, e.g.: Ibn Hazm stated that if the month has 30 days, then these odd nights are 21, 23, 25, 27 & 29 but if the month has 29 days, then the last 10 nights are nights 20-29 and hence the odd nights are 20, 22, 24, 26 & 28! This was another argument for seeking LQ in all of the last 10 nights, because in the past, we were unable to know for sure in advance how many days the month would have.

IBN KATHIR

Hadith (Tayalisi): 27 or 29

Hadith (Ahmad): LQ in last 10, odd nights: 29 or 27 or 25 or 23 or the last night of the month.  The hadith has other details.  IK: the isnad is hasan, but the matn has strange, weak content (gharabah) and in some versions, rejected (nakarah) content or meaning.

Hadith (Ibn Abi Asim): LQ in last 10.

Hadith (Ahmad): Seek it in the first 10 or last 10 … Seek it in the last 10 … Seek it in the last 7.

Narration: from Ibn Mas’ood and those who followed him of the people of knowledge of Kufa that it is found throughout the year, and is hoped for in every month equally. (IK disagrees with this view)  Ibn Mas’ood used to say, “If you stand in prayer at night all year long, you will find LQ.”

Hadith (Abu Dawud): LQ may be throughout R.

Narration: from Abu Hanifa: LQ is hoped for throughout R.  This is also a view quoted by Ghazzali [i.e. in the Shafi’i madhhab? – UH] Rafi’i declared this to be an extremely strange view.

LQ is the 1st night of R: Abu Razin.

LQ is 17th R, because it was the night before the Battle of Badr, described as being on the “Day of Decision” (Yawm al-Furqan) in the Qur’an, hence it relates to LQ as the night of decision, decree and destiny: narrated from the Prophet, Ibn Mas’ood, Zayd bin Arqam, ‘Uthman bin Abil-‘Aas, Imam Shafi’i & Hasan Basri.

LQ is 19th R: narrated from ‘Ali & Ibn Mas’ood.

LQ is 21st R: Hadith of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri in Bukhari & Muslim.  Imam Shafi’i said that this was the most authentic narration on the subject.

LQ is 23rd R: Hadith of Abdullah bin Anees in Sahih Muslim – it is a very similar narration to the previous hadith (21 R).

LQ is 24th R: Hadith of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri in Tayalisi. IK: the narrators are trustworthy.  Also narrated as a hadith by Bilal, but a weak isnad. Also contradicted by the next consideration:

LQ is in the first 7 of the last 10 nights: more authentic view of Bilal rA, narrated by Bukhari.  Also narrated as the view of Ibn Mas’ood, Ibn Abbas, Jabir, Hasan, Qatadah & Ibn Wahb, and from the Prophet by Wathilah bin al-Asqa’.

LQ is 25th R: based on the hadith of Bukhari from Ibn Abbas from the Prophet: Seek it in the last 10 nights: in the 9 remaining, 7 remaining, 5 remaining.

IK: Most people of knowledge understood this to mean the odd nights, but others understood it to mean the even nights, e.g. Abu Sa’id (Sahih Muslim). IK: Allah knows best.

LQ is 27th R: narrated from the Prophet, several Companions, a group of the Salaf, the preferred view in the madhhab of Imam Ahmad and quoted also from Imam Abu Hanifa.

LQ is the 7th of last 10 (i.e. 27) or with 7 remaining (i.e. 22 or 23): narrated from Ibn Abbas.

LQ is 21, 23, 25, 27, 29 or last night of the month: Hadith of Imam Ahmad.

LQ is 27 or 29: Hadith of Imam Ahmad.

LQ is the last night of R: Hadith of Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i.

 

 

UK Ramadan fasting times for 2020

April 26, 2020

ASTRONOMICAL DATA FOR RAMADAN 2020


– by Imam Dr Usama Hasan, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

 

Ramadan & Eid Dates 2020-2025 (approx.)

Based on Crescent Moon Visibility data for London from HMNAO’s Websurf 2.0 website

(Moon Visibility is estimated on a scale of A-F. The following dates are based on the approximation that A-C represent a visible crescent moon; D-F represent an invisible moon.)

YEAR Beginning of Ramadan (+/- 1 day) Eid al-Fitr
(+/- 2 days)
2020 25 April 25 May
2021 14 April 14 May
2022 03 April 02 May
2023 23 March 22 April
2024 12 March 10 April
 2025 02 March 31 March

 

Examples of dawn/sunset timings for the UK (four UK capital cities), 2020

Dates used are: 25th April (~1st Ramadan), 9th May (~15th Ramadan) & 23rd May (~29th Ramadan)

Date City Dawn
(18°)
Dawn (15°) Dawn (12°) Sunrise
(SR)
Sunset
(SS)
Fasting length (18°) Fasting length (15°) Fasting length (12°) Fasting length SR-SS
25 April London 03:23 03:53 04:19 05:43 20:15 16:52 16:22 15:56 14:32  
9 May   02:32 03:12 03:44 05:18 20:37 18:05 17:25 16:53 15:19  
23 May   *** 02:31 03:13 04:58 20:58 *** 18:27 17:45 16:00  
25 April Edin-burgh 02:45 03:28 04:03 05:42 20:41 17:56 17:13 16:38 14:59  
9 May   *** 02:23 03:15 05:11 21:09 *** 18:46 17:54 15:58  
23 May   *** *** 02:19 04:46 21:34 *** *** 19:15 16:48  
25 April Cardiff 03:35 04:05 04:31 05:56 20:27 16:52 16:22 15:56 14:31  
9 May   02:44 03:24 03:57 05:30 20:50 18:06 17:26 16:53 15:20  
23 May   *** 02:43 03:25 05:10 21:10 *** 18:27 17:45 16:00  
25 April Belfast 03:15 03:52 04:23 05:57 20:47 17:32 16:55 16:24 14:50  
9 May   *** 02:58 03:40 05:28 21:13 *** 18:15 17:33 15:45  
23 May   *** *** 02:57 05:05 21:37 *** *** 18:40 16:32  

 

 

KEY:

18° refers to astronomical twilight, which begins or ends when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon

15° refers to when the sun is 15 degrees below the horizon

12° refers to nautical twilight, which begins or ends when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon

The astronomical definition of “dawn” is disputed, with various Muslim religious authorities adopting one of the three possible definitions given above.

*** in the above table means that the timing is not available, because the sun does not reach that far below the horizon. This happens every year during the summer at high latitudes, such as the UK.

 

NOTES:

  1. We must emphasise that the actual dates of the beginning of Ramadan and Eid, given above, are subject to vary by one or two days, within Muslim communities in the UK, due to different community approaches to determining these dates.
  2. If we use 18° astronomical twilight (Sun’s depression = 18 degrees) as the start of dawn, the fasting start time and fasting length are undefined for most of Ramadan 2020 in Edinburgh & Belfast. They are defined for most of the month, except towards its end, in Cardiff & London, where the fasting length is around 17-18 hours.
  3. If we use 15° (Sun’s depression = 15 degrees) as the start of dawn, the fasting start time and fasting length are undefined for most of Ramadan 2020 in Edinburgh & Belfast, except towards its end, where the fasting length is 17-19 hours. However, dawn does occur throughout the month in both London and Cardiff, giving fasting lengths of 16.5-18.5 hours.
  4. If we use 12° nautical twilight (Sun’s depression = 12 degrees) as the start of dawn, this results in fasting hours during Ramadan 2020 in London and Cardiff of 16-18 hours, in Belfast of 16.5-18.5 hours, and in Edinburgh of 16.5-19 hours.
  5. If we use Sunrise as the start of fasting, this results in fasting hours during Ramadan 2020 in London and Cardiff of 14.5-16 hours, in Belfast of 15-16.5 hours, and in Edinburgh of 15-17 hours.

The HMNAO data portal is: http://astro.ukho.gov.uk/ – please note that there is no www. prefixing this resource address.

REFLECTIONS FROM KUNAR 1990 AND HELMAND 2010 – THE TRAGEDY OF AFGHANISTAN’S WARS

November 10, 2017

With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

REFLECTIONS FROM KUNAR 1990 & HELMAND 2010

– THE TRAGEDY OF AFGHANISTAN’S WARS

Introduction

I am publishing this partly because I am tired of telling the same story about Kunar to dozens of journalists and academic researchers, partly because I am fed up of questions about my one-minute video message in support of British troops (2010), and partly because I hope that people may benefit and learn from the story.

I began writing this on the last day of Ramadan 1433/2012, and completed the bulk of it shortly after Eid.  The recent death of two British soldiers in Nad Ali in Helmand (Matthew Smith http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19228325 and Robert Chesterman http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19227317 ) brought back vivid memories of our FCO-sponsored four-man delegation’s “Projecting British Muslims” trip to Helmand during Ramadan in August 2010, a visit that included ISAF’s Forward Operating Base at Nad Ali.  As I finalise it, I’m reading about the 2,000th US soldier to die in Afghanistan since 2001.

*Update: I am finalising and publishing this on 10th November 2017 – it has been sitting in my draft folder for five years.*

 

Memories from the Jihad in Kunar, 1990-1

This was my second 10-day visit to Afghanistan: the first had been in December-January 1990-1991, during my second-year Cambridge University holidays, as part of a three-man fact-finding mission of senior JIMAS (www.jimas.org ) figures to Kunar.  The other two people were up to a decade older than me: Abu Muntasir and Abu Aaliyah.  I was fortunate to have the strongest Arabic at the time, and served as interpreter for much of the trip, although of course other mujahideen helped also.

We drove to Afghanistan from Islamabad via Peshawar and Bajaur, and spent a week at a training camp near Asadabad, Kunar, for Arab fighters run by Jama’ah al-Da’wah ila l-Qur’an wa l-Sunnah (JDSQ, “Group of Calling to the Qur’an and Sunnah”), the major Salafi organisation that controlled large parts of Kunar province as well as of neighbouring Nuristan.  There were separate training camps for Arab, Afghan and Pakistani fighters – we chose the Arab one, for access to more Arabic-speaking scholars.  The camp rules stated that disagreements would be solved in a last resort by referring to the fatwas of Sheikhs Ibn Baz and Albani. On our introduction to the camp, I introduced myself with my first name, upon which I was immediately corrected by a Kuwaiti mujahid: “In Jihad, we only use aliases.” Specifically, he meant aliases of the kunya type that take the form of “Abu X” meaning “Father of X.”  My colleagues were fathers and already had kunyas, so I used, for the first time, my middle name that my grandfather had given me when he named me upon birth: Abu Dharr, after an austere, ascetic Companion of the Prophet.  The emir of the training camp was a tall, well-built, muscular, fair-skinned, charismatic and learned Palestinian fighter called Abu Asim.  In appearance and character, he reminded me of Abdur-Raheem Green, then also a senior JIMAS figure.  I shed many tears upon hearing about Abu Asim’s reported death in a training accident some years later, when a weapon exploded accidentally.

Upon joining the training camp, we had to fill in a registration form, giving personal details and skills that might be useful for the jihad. The three of us all put down our computer/IT skills, and I also mentioned my mathematics and physics knowledge. A quarter of a century later, ISIS, who had turned defensive, liberating jihad into bloodthirsty terrorism, had similar registration forms, with one striking addition: asking registrants whether they wanted to be regular fighters, suicide-bombers or suicidal attackers (inghimasi).

This was Abu Muntasir’s second trip to the same region: he had trained and fought at the front line in 1989 or early 1990 also, with a close companion known as Brother Mushtaq.  JIMAS’ contacts with the Afghan mujahideen had come about via salafi scholars in Holland and meetings in London that had involved Dawood Burbank (d. during Hajj 2011, may Allah have mercy on his soul) and Brother Mushtaq.  Abu Muntasir later fought in Kashmir and even in Burma with Rohingya militia in the early 1990s.

Note that JIMAS (Jamiat Ihyaa’ Minhaaj al-Sunnah: The Society for the Revival of the Way of the Messenger) had earlier been called HISAM (Harakatu Islahish Shabab al-Muslim: The Movement to Reform the Muslim Youth) but had recently had a name-change after an offshoot insisted on retaining the name HISAM.  During this episode, one of the suggestions for the name of JIMAS was in fact JDQS – this was directly copied from the Afghan group.  The current Pakistani salafi/Ahl-e-Hadith jihadi group Jama’at-ud-Da’wah, linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, may also have based its name on the Afghan one.

We also met and interviewed Sheikh Jameel-ur-Rahman, an Afghan salafi/Ahle-e-Hadith muhaddith-mujahid (scholar of Hadith and warrior), founder and emir of JDQS.  Sheikh Jameel was an elderly, learned man with a long beard, dyed with henna.  He was accompanied by elders who constituted his shura and by a group of younger, heavily-armed men who served as his bodyguards.  Abu Muntasir conducted the interview in English: Sheikh Jameel replied in Arabic.  One of the questions was whether or not the Jihad in Afghanistan was fard ‘ayn or fard kifaya, i.e. an individual or collective obligation: his reply was the former.  The interview was recorded and it was many months before Dawood Burbank translated it into English for the benefit of other JIMAS members.  Abu Muntasir may still have this material in his possession.

The Arab mujahidin credit Sheikh Jameel with having begun the “Jihad against the communists” in 1973, way before the Soviet invasion.  Sheikh Jameel gave a talk after dawn prayers on one occasion whilst we were at the training camp, during which the camp generator failed, leaving the prayer tent in darkness.  At the end of that talk, he took questions.  One of the questions was about whether or not there was any dhikr to be recited during the prostration of gratitude (sajdah al-shukr) – this was related to the story of The Prophet’s disciples Ka’b bin Malik, Murara bin Rabi’ah and Hilal bin Umayyah and their missing a military expedition followed by their subsequent ostracism and eventual repentance recounted in the long hadith of Bukhari and Muslim in reference to Qur’an 9:118 (Surah al-Tawbah or Chapter: Repentance).  In this heart-rending story that had been recounted by one of the younger scholar-warriors at the camp after dawn prayers the day before, Ka’b performs such a prostration of gratitude.  Sheikh Jameel replied that no specific dhikr had been narrated about this prostration, and therefore any dhikr would suffice, but a young Saudi mujahid argued vehemently with him that there was no dhikr in this prostration for the same reason.  Salafism in a nutshell!

Sheikh Jameel had announced an “Islamic emirate” (imarat-e-Islami) in Kunar. One day at the training camp, one of the commanders gave us the “good news” of the full establishment of Sharia in the emirate: predictably, this involved the hudud, with which islamists are obsessed: a thief’s hand had been amputated as corporal punishment for his crime.

We were holy warriors: ascetic monks and soldiers, simultaneously. With regular congregational prayer, scriptural study, physical exercise and weapons training. Being halfway up a valley, there wasn’t much food: on one day, the camp had run out of food and all we had for 24 hours was a glass of milk and an orange. Soldiers know all about the rationing of supplies. At the firing range, Abu Muntasir embarrassed our instructor by being the only one to hit the target during a sniping contest. (This reminds me of a story about Caliph Omar: he came across some people practising archery and found that they weren’t very good at hitting their target. When he enquired as to why this was the case, they replied in ungrammatical Arabic that they were learners. “Your Arabic is even worse than your archery,” the Caliph quipped!)

Around 1993/94 we heard the awful news that Sheikh Jameel had been assassinated by an Arab fighter – many salafis blamed this on forces loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (Hizb-e-Islami), who was backed by the Jamat-e-Islami of Pakistan and the Arab Muslim Brotherhood.  Hekmatyar denied these accusations, but the incident was one of the many causes of tension between salafis and the Brotherhood, a tension that continues all over the world until today.  A few years later at Imperial College London, I asked the Riyadh-based Syrian salafi Sheikh Adnan Arour, who had taken part in Saudi-sponsored mediation amongst the warring mujahidin groups after the fall of Kabul in 1992, about Hekmatyar’s denial of being behind Sheikh Jameel’s assassination.  He replied, “Who killed him then, Ibn Baz and Albani??!”

With hindsight, it was probably for the best that the Kunar emirate had fizzled out with the death of Sheikh Jameel, otherwise the obsession with hudud might have led to a situation similar to ISIS.

Around 2004, I briefly met one of Sheikh Jameel’s sons who was studying at the Islamic University of Madinah during my only visit there, facilitated by Yasir Qadhi.

Back to Kunar: we spent a day and night at the front line, taking part in the Jihad against forces loyal to President Najibullah.  The Soviets had of course withdrawn in early 1990, but most mujahideen groups fought on, firstly against Najib’s communists, and then against each other during the vicious civil war of 1992-6.  The latter war helped me realise the emptiness of the Islamist dream that the mujahideen were going to establish the ideal “Islamic state” after taking Kabul in 1992.

The Saudis subsidised half the cost of mujahidin’s flights to Pakistan, but kept a record of all names. There was, of course, close co-operation amongst the US, Saudis and Pakistanis during the anti-USSR Jihad.  We met a couple of Libyans at the front line who had burnt their passports, since returning mujahideen were not too welcome in Gaddafi’s police-state.

The training camp’s courtyard had a disused Soviet tank in the centre and was covered in snow: many of the Arabs, religious scholars and committed warriors, had never seen snow before and thoroughly enjoyed their first snowball fights whilst we, the British trio, looked on bemused.  The Arabs were from various countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Egypt and Palestine.  There was also a trio of Indonesian or Filipino fighters who kept to themselves since they didn’t know Arabic.  At the camp, we received basic weapons training: Kalashnikov/M16 and also studied scripture after regular, congregational prayers.  In between the prayer rows would be lines of AK-47s belonging to the warrior-worshippers. At the front line, we exchanged artillery fire with invisible communist forces, as several mountain ridges separated us.  Our guns were 76mm cannon.  One enemy shell, fired from several miles away, landed a hundred feet from us but we were quite safe: this taught me about the fragility of life, but not to be afraid of the ever-present danger of death.  A disturbing scene throughout Kunar was the sight of large cemeteries in place of villages.

At the front line, I had hoped to use my expert Further Mathematics A-level knowledge of precise mathematical calculations of projectile motion to help with the accuracy of our shelling. (18 months earlier, I had been the only one to score 100% in our Lower Sixth Form mathematics examination at the City of London School for Boys, where I held the John Carpenter Scholarship, 1987-9, and been awarded the Mathematics Prize in the Upper Sixth Form, although a couple of Jewish friends were better mathematicians than me.) But we were only there for a day, and there were no PCs or calculators. The mujahideen’s method to ensure shelling accuracy was simple: it was piety – we were encouraged to mention and remember God in dhikr every time we fired a shell!

There were many funny incidents during our stay: a sense of humour helps in tough situations.  The Kuwaiti who stopped the jeep to pick up snow for the first time: “This is not like the snow in our freezer!” (Snow and ice are synonyms in Arabic: thalj.)  The young Saudi who had studied English “whilst he wasn’t religious” in Cambridge some years ago and knew the Pakistani-run Nasreen Dar store there, famous amongst Fitzwilliam and Churchill College students for selling cheap, out-of-date biscuits.  This was a surreal moment for me: I had travelled thousands of miles from Cambridge to meet an Arab mujahid in the mountains of Afghanistan and talk about a shop back home.  (Partly due to our salafist influence in Cambridge, Nasreen Dar eventually stopped selling alcohol. And it finally closed recently.)  Abu Muntasir nicknaming the Indonesian or Filipino mujahid, “Brother One-Bullet” since he could only afford one bullet for his M16 gun (these bullets were much more scarce and therefore expensive, compared to AK-47 bullets). Abu Muntasir saying to Abul Qa’qa’ (named after a Companion of the Prophet), “They’re calling you,” when a flock of crows crowed loudly: caw! caw! The 007-style “pen gun,” disguised as a heavy ink pen that housed a bullet instead of an ink cartridge, with the pen clip as the trigger, and used for close-range assassinations.  The Arabs called it the “ben gun” since there is no “p” in Arabic, and this made me think of my primary-school days spent reading Treasure Island.  At the front line, I described the “man in the moon” that I could see in the full moon through binoculars.  Our Arab guide there, unfamiliar with the nuances of the English language, rebuked me gently although unfairly with the teaching of the Prophet (pbuh), “Tell the truth, even if you are joking.”

My parents, siblings and extended family, plus the JIMAS group in the UK, were very supportive of our jihad trip and very proud of us. My grandfather, Sheikh Abdul Ghaffar Hasan, a very senior salafi scholar of India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, quoted to me the hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him, upon my return, “There are two eyes that will not be touched by the Fire: an eye that watches guard at night in the path of God [esp. holy war], and an eye that weeps from the awe of God.” My grandfather added, “I hope that you will qualify on both counts.” It was a quarter of a century later, prompted by a journalist’s question, that I asked my dear mother how she felt whilst I was away for a fortnight – I had remembered her tears upon both my departure and return. She told me that there were some days when she couldn’t eat, out of worry. The FATE video showing a family of a jihadi fighter at a dinner table gives some idea of how she must have felt.

JIMAS and other UK groups later sent dozens of fighters to Afghanistan and hundreds to Bosnia (1992-5).  One young man from Southall spent months in Afghanistan and described fishing in the river by use of hand-grenades: the explosion would blast the fish onto the banks.  One Londoner I know, currently a primary schoolteacher, spent a year or so in Afghanistan in the mid-90s, having gone there with the intention of a “sacred migration to the Islamic state” (hijrah), but became disillusioned when he heard talk of plans to attack western countries: some of the mujahideen were of course building Al-Qaeda.

So, fast-forward 20 years to 2010, almost a decade after 9/11 and the whole idea of Jihad had become utterly confused, including in the UK after the 7/7 attacks.  British involvement in the war in Afghanistan was deeply unpopular amongst UK Muslims, so when the FCO offered me a trip to the country to project British Muslims, I jumped at the chance, deciding that I would also treat it as a fact-finding mission again as to what was going on there.

 

Ex-Taliban Mullahs at the UK Embassy in Kabul, August 2010

We flew from London to Kabul via Dubai, after having undergone two days of “Hostile Environment Training” in Shropshire provided by ex-army people.  The training included practice in wearing the body armour (with ceramic plates) and helmet that we would need everywhere in Afghanistan, a simulated roadside bomb attack on the armoured jeeps in which we would travel and advice on what to do if we got kidnapped (co-operate with your kidnappers, don’t try anything silly, and hope to get rescued).  Whenever I wore the body armour, I thought of the Qur’anic story of Prophet Sulayman, or King Solomon, manufacturing iron armour under divine inspiration for protection in war: modern body armour, with its light but strong material that is ever-improving due to science and technology, is the latest manifestation of the Solomonic Sunnah.

At the heavily-fortified UK embassy in Kabul, we had iftar with a couple of ex-Taliban, including Mullah Ishaq Nizami, who had once served as a junior communications minister for Mullah Omar.  Nizami spoke of the need for human rights and corruption-free institution-building in Muslim-majority countries, something much stronger in western ones. He was also working with other, higher-profile ex-Taliban, including Mullah Mutawakkil and Mullah Zaeef (author of My Life With The Taliban, http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/my-life-with-the-taliban/), in negotiations between Karzai’s government and Taliban leaders.  The iftar was hosted by Ambassador Sir William Patey and his staff.

 

Lashkar Gah ISAF Base, Helmand

The next day we flew to Lashkar Gah (“Lash”) via the formidable Kandahar Air Base.  At Lash we met the Commander of Task Force Helmand, Brigadier Felton.  (He had the England v Pakistan cricket test match from Lord’s on TV in the background via satellite: Sky Sports, but switched it off when we entered. This was the test match when Mohammed Amir bowled “those no-balls.”) I led the delegation in that meeting and my first question to him was about civilian casualties: his reply was that the Taliban were now killing more civilians than ISAF were, and that the new strategy under US General Petraeus was to minimise civilian casualties.

The head of the civilian mission here was Arthur Snell, formerly head of UK Prevent and now (2012) our High Commissioner in Barbados.  At the Lash command centre, one poster showed a big gun with the caption: “One size fits all: Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Haqqanis and HIGs” – the latter referring to Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, i.e. the fighters still loyal to our old friend-or-foe Hekmatyar.  (Hekmatyar finally laid down his arms in 2017, after almost 40 years of fighting.) Another striking recruitment poster read, “Who is fighting in place of your son?”

One striking feature at Lash was the presence of a handful of young, female soldiers. I saw a couple of male soldiers pumping iron whilst staring lustfully at a young female who was jogging in her shorts, and looking quite scared. I felt an air of fear and tension, as these young, British men and women had been transplanted into the midst of a war against a ferocious enemy: they were thousands of miles from home, and millions of miles away from any understanding of the surrounding Afghan Muslim culture. I asked the base chaplain about sexual ethics in the camp. His reply was that the soldiers were advised “not to have sex” but that if a female soldier became pregnant, she could return home immediately.

We also met the local mullahs at Lash’s rebuilt Central Mosque, including the Chief Mullah. A few years ago, a suicide-bomber had destroyed the mosque and killed the previous Chief Mullah: his shrine was next door.  There was a long queue of local men waiting to apply for the Hajj programme.  All of the mullahs were anti-Taliban; most were vehemently anti-Pakistan also, blaming the country for supporting insurgents.  The day before we eventually left Helmand, the Chief Mullah was arrested on charges of corruption relating to the embezzlement of Hajj application fees.


Nad Ali and the death of a young, British soldier

We also spent a few days in Nad Ali, where facilities were much more primitive compared to the relative luxuries of Lash (nicknamed “Lash Vegas” by soldiers).  We flew there and back by helicopter (RAF Merlin and Chinook, respectively): my first rides in a chopper.

We again met local mullahs in the main Nad Ali mosque.  There was almost a riot outside because two ISAF soldiers, both Muslim (one British male, one American female), had entered the mosque: a mob became very angry at the fact that foreign soldiers and a woman had “desecrated” their place of worship: they found it very difficult to comprehend that NATO soldiers could be Muslim.  Some of the mullahs accompanied us back to the base to show the public that NATO were not anti-Islam.

A Scottish army major here told me that many of the young Taliban recruits were clearly very devoted and brave fighters who believed in their Jihad, attacking NATO posts in their flip-flops, armed only with AK-47s: they stood no earthly chance against NATO’s superior firepower.

During our stay in Nad Ali, Lance Corporal Jordan Bancroft (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-11068103 ) was killed.  All private communications by troops were disabled whilst the MoD officially informed the family, rather than them receiving the news via friends.  Back at Lash, almost everyone turned out for a moving memorial service.  Bancroft’s commanding officer read a tribute to him and the chaplain read from Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer.  The service happened to occur at the time of the late afternoon Muslim prayer, so throughout the ceremony, the Islamic call to prayer rang out from the speakers of local mosques.  The total effect was something like:

The Lord is my shepherd

God is Greatest! God is Greatest!

I shall not be in want

He makes me lie down in green pastures

I bear witness that there is no god but God

He leads me beside quiet waters

He restores my soul.

I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Come to life-giving prayer!

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil

Come to life-giving success!

For you are with me; your rod and staff they comfort me.

God is Greatest! God is Greatest!

There is no god but God.

God is Greatest! God is Greatest!

Our Father, who art in heaven

Hallowed be thy name

I bear witness that there is no god but God

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven

I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses

Come to life-giving prayer!

As we forgive those who trespass against us

And lead us not into temptation

Come to life-giving success!

But deliver us from evil

God is Greatest! God is Greatest!

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory

For ever and ever, amen!

There is no god but God!

 

A friend commented that many of Bancroft’s comrades would have been offended by the Islamic prayers, that they associated with the Taliban, throughout his memorial service, but this was a poignant moment for me: here we had thousands of western soldiers and Jihadist insurgents fighting each other, with no understanding at all of their shared, Abrahamic, religious heritage that is utterly devoted to the Glory of God.  As a Muslim believer in the divine origin of the Torah, Psalms, Gospel and Qur’an, the futility of the war was summed up for me in this scriptural and liturgical encounter: when will the Children of Abraham ever stop killing each other, I wondered?


Visit to a British-run training camp for Afghan police recruits

 We visited a British-run camp training Afghan police to take over security roles.  Helmand has a very high illiteracy rate, and the literacy levels of these police officers after training was that of 5-year-old children.  As may be expected, “unlettered” nations like this rely heavily on oral tradition and word-of-mouth means of communication and education.

 

Visit to the British-built Lashkar Gah Prison, and the would-be suicide-bomber aged 16

We also visited a relatively state-of-the-art British-built prison, where a significant minority of the inmates were Taliban or Pakistani and there was a separate wing for women, who were probably in the safest place for them.  Here we met 18-year-old Umar, a madrasa graduate from Pakistan who had served two years of his sentence ever since being intercepted before he could carry out a suicide-bombing attack.  “I came for Jihad,” he told me, “… The people who sent me are not good.  I won’t return to them when I’m released.”  I also asked him whether or not he got to exchange letters with his parents in Pakistan.  (Twenty years earlier, I had met a Pakistani fighter at the front line of the Jihad whose family home happened to be near my parents’ one in Karachi.  He had given me a letter and message to convey to his family, since he hadn’t seen them for years: my mother had accompanied me when I did so, feeling the pain of another woman whose son was at war in a far-off land.)  But Umar’s reply was a sign of the times: “I speak to them via mobile phone, two or three times a week.”

Another tragic story at the prison was that of the child imprisoned, mainly for his own safety, after he shot dead his own father in a fit of rage after the latter had shot dead the family’s pet goat in a fit of anger.  The authorities said that there was no drug problem in the prison, but we noticed a discarded hypodermic needle lying in the yard.  They also told us that they had procured TVs for the prisoners, and that all of the Taliban had gratefully accepted these, despite Mullah Omar’s fatwa banning television.

 

Other visits in Lashkar Gah

We met officials dealing with the problem of poppy-farming and opium-production: most of the world’s heroin supply originates in Helmand.  We were shown official UN figures to this effect, which also recorded the remarkable anomaly of near-zero poppy production in summer 2001 after Mullah Omar’s decree prohibiting it: 9/11 followed soon afterwards and narcotics production resumed.  Instability and war are clearly in the interests of the drug-traffickers, and the drugs trade is of course a massive source of income for warlords and insurgents.

We met a senior local judge whose work was supported by British officials: a traditional version of Hanafi Sharia law was applied, but the penal code consisted of fines, imprisonment or the death penalty by hanging: there were no floggings, amputations or stonings to death.  The judge maintained that Sharia embodied justice in all matters.

We had iftar at the official residence of the Governor of Helmand, a humble and educated man who served us personally.  Governor Mangal has come to the UK several times on FCO-sponsored trips.  He was himself not from Helmand but from one of the other 33 provinces: bringing outsiders to govern provinces is a common practice in Afghanistan due to the tribal rivalries everywhere.  I discussed with him the importance of education for the future of Afghanistan, having noticed the fledgling Helmand University in Lash, occupying two floors of a multi-storey building and reminding me of universities similarly-housed in simple surroundings in Pakistan.

We also had suhur (the pre-dawn meal in preparation for fasting) with the local head of the Afghan National Army, after which I remember seeing the familiar and reassuring sight of the Pleiades, Taurus, Orion and Sirius rising in the eastern sky.  In the middle of war-torn Helmand, it was nice to be reminded that we were actually still on the same planet as our comfortable homes in the UK.

Our scheduled 3-day stay in Helmand was extended to a week due to a large sandstorm that grounded all flights – a common occurrence, during which insurgent attacks are more dangerous since air cover is not available.  Back in the UK, families and civil servants were desperately worried about an official delegation being stranded in a war-zone, but we took the opportunity to benefit as much as possible from the experience.  I even did a half-hour interview by phone for Edinburgh’s Radio Ramadan, discussing lunar visibility, Islamic dates and prayer-times etc.

  

Reflection: three decades of brutal war in Afghanistan

During this trip, talking to many experienced people helped me build up a picture of the tragic story of Afghanistan over the past century, a story of which I had been entirely oblivious when joining the Jihad as a well-intentioned but naïve undergraduate in 1990. Here is a rough timeline:

1919-1973: A monarchy rules Afghanistan.  (In the mid-90s, I saw the copy of the Qur’an used in the early 20th-century initiation ceremony of the King of Afghanistan into Freemasonry on public display at the United Grand Lodge near Holborn – and no, I am not a freemason!)  By the end of this phase of history, the royals are living in obscene luxury whilst most of the people are in abject poverty.  Hence, it is no surprise when …

1973: A coup overthrows King Zahir Shah.  Many of the various political factions and warlords are in touch with the neighbouring Communist superpower USSR, vying for influence and funding.

1979: The USSR invades to support the Marxist-Communist coup of 1978.  Warlords and tribal leaders announce a Jihad against the “atheist, communist enemy.”  The Jihad is backed heavily by the Pakistani, Saudi and US governments.  Thousands of Jihad fighters (mujahideen) flock to Afghanistan from all over the Muslim-majority world.  The Soviets commit many massacres: between 600,000 and 2 million Afghans, mainly civilians, die in the war.

1989: The Soviets withdraw, defeated by a combination of mujahideen operations and US-supplied Stinger anti-aircraft missiles that erase Soviet mastery of Afghan airspace; the Jihad continues against Afghan communist forces.

1992: Kabul falls to the mujahideen.

1992-6: A vicious civil war ensues, as the various Afghan mujahideen warlords fight for power: Hekmatyar (backed by Pakistan’s Jamat-e-Islami), Massoud, Mujaddedi, Rabbani, Sayyaf, Dostum, etc.  The Saudis attempt to broker peace, with limited success.  The warlords commit many massacres, notably including the regular, heavy shelling of Kabul by Hekmatyar’s forces, said to be far worse than any Soviet bombardment.

1996-2001: The Taliban emerge and rapidly take over most of the country, disarming the warlords.  Civil war continues as the Northern Alliance fights the Taliban.  Both sides commit atrocities.  Massacres of Afghan Shias almost lead to war between the Taliban and Iran. (Religious sectarianism is a serious problem in Afghanistan, as in many countries: in the Lash prayer-room, I found a polemical Shia text deeply offensive to Sunnis; no doubt, reverse cases are in abundance too.)

2001-12: The US-led invasion force removes the Taliban from power after 9/11 and  continues fighting Al-Qaeda.  NATO and the Taliban (the latter allied with Al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network and remnants of Hekmatyar’s fighters) commit many atrocities in over a decade of fighting.

 

Conclusion: hope from Helmand?

Back in the UK, I was asked by a video-wall company to record a short message of support for British troops in Afghanistan who were obviously missing their families back home.  I obliged, wording it carefully with the hope that we could help end the war, leave the Afghans with the peace and freedom to rebuild their devastated country, and bring our troops home as soon as possible.  With UK combat troops set to withdraw by 2014, that hope is closer to fruition.  And with it being an open secret that NATO is negotiating with the Taliban and GIROA (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan), the talks being hosted in Qatar, the seeds of peace and mediation efforts that we saw in 2010 seem to have also borne some fruit.

But what next for the Afghans?  I had asked many people this question whilst in the country, and of course everyone was very uncertain.  One thing they generally agreed upon was that the country was caught between brutal, religious extremists and corrupt, secular politicians, with most people simply wishing to get on with their lives in peace: sadly, a familiar story in Muslim-majority nations.

Wherever we had driven in Helmand, children had mostly waved at our prominent, armoured jeeps but a few boys would always hurl pebbles at the convoys.  During one of our excursions in Lash, I had watched a very old woman slowly cross a busy road. (She reminded me of my Indian-Pakistani grandmothers and great-grandmothers).  It struck me that this woman had probably been in Helmand all her life, and would have lived through most of the history described above, including three decades of near-constant war.  What’s more, there were probably millions of men and women like her in Afghanistan: all touched by war and death, yet determined to achieve the best for themselves and their families.  The old woman’s enduring, wrinkled face was a tribute to humanity’s courage, faith and perseverance in the midst of constant tragedy: a message of hope from Helmand.

© Usama Hasan

London, UK

30th September 2012 (minor edits & publication: 10th November 2017)

UK Ramadan fasting times for 2017

May 22, 2017

Bismillah. As I’ve written about before, there are different views on excessive fasting hours in the summer at high latitudes such as the UK. I am not going to repeat those, but try to provide the scientific, astronomical data, information and knowledge to help support others to come to their own conclusions.

In this post, I give the dawn, sunset & possible fasting times for 2017, when mid-summer occurs towards the end of Ramadan: the average fasting times are slightly shorter than last year (2016), when they were maximum in the 33-year lunar/solar cycle, but not by much.

*I urge mosque timekeepers (muwaqqits) or others who develop fasting timetables to be transparent about the method they are using, and not vague references like “fiqh according to Madhhab X” because there are many views in every Madhhab. E.g. using an 18-degree or even 15-degree rule gives no timings for most of the UK. Fasting timetables in the UK summer should clearly state what method is used to arrive at the beginning time of fasting. Many timetables have excessive gaps between ‘dawn’ and sunrise of 2-3 hours with no sensible justification, since this is merely one possibility amongst many others and is indeed the most difficult for people. Indeed, with the summer midnight being at 1am BST, some of these timetables are forcing people to fast from soon after midnight. With the sunset-sunrise night length being 6-8 hours across the UK, the most reasonable view within this paradigm in my view is that of the last 1/6th, 1/7th or 1/8th of the night, giving a fasting time beginning an hour before dawn. However, other approaches are even more preferable. Over to others for discussion and to arrive at their own conclusions.*

Examples of dawn/sunset timings for the UK, 2017 (four UK capital cities)

This data is taken from HMNAO’s Websurf 2.0 website, and was reproduced with permission by the ASCL in their Ramadan 2017 guidelines. I have used the four UK capital cities, with three dates for each, roughly corresponding to the beginning, middle & end of Ramadan.

Date City Dawn (AST) Dawn (15D) Dawn (NAUT) Sunrise Sunset Fasting length (AST) Fasting length (15D) Fasting length (NAUT)
27 May London *** 0220 0305 0454 2103 *** 18:43 17:58
10 June   *** 0139 0245 0444 2117 *** 19:38 18:32
25 June   *** 0122 0243 0444 2122 *** 20:00 18:39
27 May Ed’burgh *** *** 0201 0441 2140 *** *** 19:39
10 June   *** *** *** 0428 2157 *** *** ***
25 June   *** *** *** 0428 2203 *** *** ***
27 May Cardiff *** 0232 0318 0506 2115 *** 18:43 17:57
10 June   *** 0152 0257 0456 2129 *** 19:36 18:32
25 June   *** 0136 0255 0457 2134 *** 19:58 18:39
27 May Belfast *** *** 0245 0500 2143 *** *** 18:58
10 June   *** *** 0159 0448 2158 *** *** 19:59
25 June   *** *** 0134 0448 2204 *** *** 20:30


AST
refers to astronomical twilight, when begins or ends when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizonKey:

15D refers to when the sun is 15 degrees below the horizon

NAUT refers to nautical twilight, when begins or ends when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon

The astronomical definition of “dawn” is disputed, with various Muslim religious authorities adopting one of the three possible definitions given above.

*** in the above table means that the timing is not available, because the sun does not reach that far below the horizon. This happens every year during the summer at high latitudes, such as the UK.

 

NOTES:

  1. As confirmed by HMNAO, there is always a possible error of 1-2 minutes in sunrise and sunset timings: although we can calculate exactly the position of the sun relative to our horizons, refraction of the sun’s rays can introduce an error: the sun may be below the horizon but we see it just above, due to refraction.  (This does not always happen, of course: hence the error will be zero, one or two minutes.) This means that technically, mosque prayer timetables may wish to add 2 minutes to sunset timings and subtract 2 minutes from sunrise timings, just to be safe about the timings of the sunset and dawn prayers, and for breaking the fast.  However, this might also be hair-splitting: I recommend making these adjustments, but would not worry if they are not made.
  2. If we use astronomical twilight (Sun’s depression = 18 degrees) as the start of dawn, this does not occur at all during Ramadan 2017 in any of the four capital cities. Therefore, the fasting start time and fasting length would be undefined.
  3. If we use (Sun’s depression = 15 degrees) as the start of dawn, this does not occur at all during Ramadan 2017 in Edinburgh or Belfast. Therefore, the fasting start time and fasting length would be undefined in those cities. However, it does occur in London and Cardiff, giving fasting lengths of 19.5-20 hours during the month.
  4. If we use nautical twilight (Sun’s depression = 12 degrees) as the start of dawn, this results in fasting hours during Ramadan 2017 in London and Cardiff of 18-19 hours, and in Belfast of 19-20.5 hours. We only get defined fasting hours at the beginning of Ramadan for Edinburgh, of 19.5-20 hours.
  5. Hence, it should be obvious that some ijtihad is required, eg a fraction of the night or a lower angle of the Sun below the horizon to designate the “beginning” of dawn. Another option is sunrise-sunset fasting rather than dawn-sunset, as done by some of the Sahaba (Tafsir Ibn Kathir & Ibn Hazm’s Al-Muhalla), or other, non-literalist options that I have described elsewhere.

NB: Our local latitude determines the lowest angle the Sun will dip below the horizon at mid-summer (~22 June). This angle can easily be calculated by subtracting 66.5 degrees (the latitude of the Arctic & Antarctic Circles) from the local latitude.

E.g.:

Within the Arctic Circle (66.5 deg or higher latitude), lowest Sun angle = zero or higher: the sun doesn’t set at all in the “land of the midnight sun.”

Edinburgh (56.0 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 56.0 – 66.5 = 10.5 deg below the horizon

Belfast (54.6 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 54.6 – 66.5 = 11.9 deg below the horizon

London & Cardiff (both 51.5 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 51.5 – 66.5 = 15 deg below the horizon

*NB: even using these angles of 10.5 deg, ~12 deg, 15 deg & 15 deg for Edinburgh, Belfast, London & Cardiff respectively will give very long fasting hours, as the table of timings above demonstrates.

Btw for Paris (48.9 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 48.9 – 66.5 = 17.6 deg below the horizon, so using the 18-degree rule gives no timings for Paris or anywhere north of it either at midsummer.

Have a blessed Ramadan 1438 / 2017!

Usama Hasan, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, UK

UK Ramadan fasting times for last year (2016)

May 22, 2017

Bismillah. As I’ve written about before, there are different views on excessive fasting hours in the summer at high latitudes such as the UK. I am not going to repeat those, but try to provide the scientific, astronomical data, information and knowledge to help support others to come to their own conclusions.

In the first of these posts, I am including the dawn, sunset & possible fasting times from last year (2016) because then, mid-Ramadan coincided with mid-summer, hence giving the longest average fasting lengths in the 33-year cycle as the lunar years move through solar years.

Examples of dawn/sunset timings for the UK, 2016
(four UK capital cities)

This data is taken from HMNAO’s Websurf 2.0 website, and was reproduced with permission by the ASCL in their Ramadan 2016 guidelines. I have used the four UK capital cities, with three dates for each, roughly corresponding to: beginning, middle & end of Ramadan.

Date City Dawn (AST) Dawn (15D) Dawn (NAUT) Sunrise Sunset Fasting length (AST) Fasting length (15D) Fasting length (NAUT)
07 June London *** 0147 0248 0445 2114 *** 19:27 18:26
22 June (midsummer)   *** 0117 0241 0443 2122 *** 20:05 18:41
06 July   *** 0156 0256 0452 2118 *** 19:22 18:22
07 June Ed’burgh *** *** *** 0429 2154 *** *** ***
22 June (midsummer)   *** *** *** 0427 2203 *** *** ***
06 July   *** *** *** 0437 2158 *** *** ***
07 June Cardiff *** 0159 0300 0457 2126 *** 19:27 18:26
22 June (midsummer)   *** 0131 0254 0456 2134 *** 20:03 18:40
06 July   *** 0209 0308 0504 2130 *** 19:21 18:22
07 June Belfast *** *** 0209 0450 2156 *** *** 19:47
22 June (midsummer)   *** *** *** 0447 2204 *** *** ***
06 July   *** *** 0219 0457 2200 *** *** 19:41

Key:

AST refers to astronomical twilight, when begins or ends when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon

15D refers to when the sun is 15 degrees below the horizon

NAUT refers to nautical twilight, when begins or ends when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon

The astronomical definition of “dawn” is disputed, with various Muslim religious authorities adopting one of the three possible definitions given above.

*** in the above table means that the timing is not available, because the sun does not reach that far below the horizon. This happens every year during the summer at high latitudes, such as the UK.

 

NOTES:

  1. As confirmed by HMNAO, there is always a possible error of 1-2 minutes in sunrise and sunset timings: although we can calculate exactly the position of the sun relative to our horizons, refraction of the sun’s rays can introduce an error: the sun may be below the horizon but we see it just above, due to refraction.  (This does not always happen, of course: hence the error will be zero, one or two minutes.) This means that technically, mosque prayer timetables may wish to add 2 minutes to sunset timings and subtract 2 minutes from sunrise timings, just to be safe about the timings of the sunset and dawn prayers, and for breaking the fast.  However, this might also be hair-splitting: I recommend making these adjustments, but would not worry if they are not made.
  2. If we use astronomical twilight (Sun’s depression = 18 degrees) as the start of dawn, this did not occur at all during Ramadan 2016 in any of the four capital cities. Therefore, the fasting start time and fasting length were undefined.
  3. If we use (Sun’s depression = 15 degrees) as the start of dawn, this did not occur at all during Ramadan 2017 in Edinburgh or Belfast. Therefore, the fasting start time and fasting length were undefined in those cities. However, it did occur in London and Cardiff, giving fasting lengths of 19.5-20 hours during the month.
  4. If we use nautical twilight (Sun’s depression = 12 degrees) as the start of dawn, this resulted in fasting hours during Ramadan 2016 in London and Cardiff of ~18.5 hours, and in Belfast of just under 20 hours at the beginning and end of Ramadan, but not in mid-Ramadan (mid-summer). We had no defined fasting hours throughout Ramadan 2016 for Edinburgh.
  5. Hence, it should be obvious that some ijtihad is required, eg a fraction of the night or a lower angle of the Sun below the horizon to designate the “beginning” of dawn.

NB: Our local latitude determines the lowest angle the Sun will dip below the horizon at mid-summer (~22 June). This angle can easily be calculated by subtracting 66.5 degrees (the latitude of the Arctic & Antarctic Circles) from the local latitude.

E.g.:

Within the Arctic Circle (66.5 deg or higher latitude), lowest Sun angle = zero or higher: the sun doesn’t set at all in the “land of the midnight sun.”

Edinburgh (56.0 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 56.0 – 66.5 = 10.5 deg below the horizon

Belfast (54.6 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 54.6 – 66.5 = 11.9 deg below the horizon

London & Cardiff (both 51.5 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 51.5 – 66.5 = 15 deg below the horizon

*NB: even using these angles of 10.5 deg, ~12 deg, 15 deg & 15 deg for Edinburgh, Belfast, London & Cardiff respectively will give very long fasting hours, as the table of timings above demonstrates.

Btw for Paris (48.9 deg lat): lowest Sun angle at midsummer = 48.9 – 66.5 = 17.6 deg below the horizon, so using the 18-degree rule gave no timings for Paris or anywhere north of it either, at midsummer.

Usama Hasan, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, UK

UK Ramadan dates, 2017-2025

May 22, 2017

Bismillah.

Ramadan dates 2017-2025 (approx.) for the UK

Based on Crescent Moon Visibility data for London from HMNAO’s Websurf 2.0 website

(Moon Visibility is now calculated very accurately on a scale of A-F. The following dates are based on the approximation that A-C represent a visible crescent moon; D-F represent an invisible moon.)

NB: The following dates may vary by 1 or 2 days because even with a visible crescent moon, there are intra-Muslim disagreements over how far this applies geographically.

YEAR Beginning of Ramadan Eid al-Fitr
2017 27 May 26 June
2018 17 May 16 June
2019 07 May 05 June
2020 25 April 25 May
2021 14 April 14 May
2022 03 April 02 May
2023 23 March (~ Spring equinox) 22 April
2024 12 March 10 April
2025 02 March 31 March

 

Difficulties with fasting: Al Azhar Fatwas and other resources

June 6, 2016

Bismillah.  Here are some relevant resources:

 

  1. The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has worked with Islamic scholars, imams, chaplains and leaders to produce an information paper for schools and colleges over the observance of Ramadan during this summer’s exams.
  2. The Practice of Fasting in the Modern World – seminar abstracts from Al Mahdi Institute
  3. Al Azhar fatwa from 2010 on “Fasting in Countries where the Nights are Short [and the Days are Long]” – detailed jurisprudence, worth a read. Mentions the 18-hour example as definitely constituting harm: “People living in countries with extreme variations in daylight hours and nights face an 18-hour fast or more (more than three-quarters of the entire day), which is certainly a difficult feat. Expert opinions determined the inability of the human body to tolerate such extended periods of fasting which definitely poses harm. Therefore, we cannot maintain that harm is the objective of Islamic law.” Their conclusion is to follow the timings of Mecca and Medina, or what is known as the Hijazi timetable.  For practical advice on following this in the UK, see Hafiz Naveed’s work at http://www.al-rukn.com
  4. Al Azhar Fatwa (2015): “Fasting For Those Working in Strenuous Jobs”
  5. Fatwa on breaking the fast during Ramadan for students revising for exams (see below for Arabic text)

    Source: http://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/36353, 09/08/2012

    Question: Is it permitted for the student to break his/her fast in Ramadan to be able to revise in preparation to take exams?

     Answer: Dr. Ali Goma, the Mufti of Egypt, replied:

    It is appropriate to distinguish between a student who can handle revising with some degree of hardship and one who cannot do so at all because of fasting. It is also appropriate to distinguish between students who finds someone to sponsor him and one who works to support himself and his dependants and whose working life, essential for him to support them, will be affected as a consequence of his failure in the exam.

    If student who is mature and responsible under Sharia is in a desperate and real need to revise during the days of Ramadan such that it will affect his and his dependants’ livelihood, and he knows that most probably – by any sign or experience – that his fasting will lead to his failure due to physical weakness or will impair his academic education which is necessary to generate his income and his essential expenditure or the livelihood of his dependants, in this case it permitted for him to break his fast. This is based on what Ibn ‘Abdin and other jurists stated where they allowed bakers and people with similar occupations of manual labour to break their fast.

    It is mandatory on these students in this case to make up the missed days, because of this necessity (darurah) or the need (hajah) that is effectively a case of necessity, as soon as this emergency situation comes to an end.  It should be noted that this fatwa is based on necessity (darurah), which is always evaluated in terms of its extent and degree. The necessity here is conditional upon (i) the student being forced to revise during Ramadan and it not being possible to postpone the exams.  It is again conditional upon (ii) the near-certainty on the part of the student that he will fail if he cannot study and (iii) upon the conviction that this failure will impair or deprive him from completing his education where he will not be able to find work except through it or he will not be able to provide for his and his family’s basic needs except by obtaining it (the education). If one of these conditions is not met, fasting becomes obligatory on him and it is not allowed for him to break the fast.

    Translation by Salah al-Ansari & Usama Hasan

    اسأل والمفتى يجيب.. هل يجوز للطالب أن يُفطر فى رمضان ليتقوَّى على المذاكرة فى أيام الامتحان؟

    هل يجوز للطالب أن يُفطر فى رمضان ليتقوَّى على المذاكرة فى أيام الامتحان؟ يقول الدكتور على جمعة مفتى الجمهورية: ينبغى أن يُفرّق هنا بين من يستطيع المذاكرة مع نوع من المشقة وبين من لا يمكنه المذاكرة أصلاً بسبب الصوم، وأن نفرق أيضاً بين مَن يجد عائلاً يعوله وينفق عليه وبين من ينفق هو على نفسه أو عياله بحيث إن رسوبه سيؤثر على حياته العملية التى لا بد له منها لكسب قوته وقوت عياله؛ فإذا احتاج الطالب المكلَّف شرعاً احتياجاً أكيداً يؤثر على معيشته أو معيشة من يعوله إلى المذاكرة فى نهار رمضان، وغلب على ظنه بأمارة أو تجربة أن صومه يُفضِى إلى رسوبه المستلزم لضعفه أو عجزه عن إكمال مسيرته التعليمية التى لا بد له منها لاكتساب معيشته ونفقته الأساسية أو نفقة عياله: فإنه فى هذه الحالة يباح له الفطر؛ أخذاً بما استظهره ابن عابدين وغيره من إباحة الفطر للخبّاز ونحوه من أرباب الحِرَف الشاقة، والواجب على هؤلاء الطلاب قضاء ما أفطروه بسبب هذه الضرورة أو الحاجة التى تُنَزَّل منزلتها فور زوال هذا الظرف الطارئ عنهم. ويجب التنبه إلى أنّ هذه الفتوى إنما هى فتوى ضرورة، والضرورة تقدر بقدرها، وأنها مشروطة بكون مذاكرة الطالب مضطرّا إليها فى شهر رمضان ولا يمكن تأجيلها، ثم هى مشروطة أيضاً بأنه يغلب على ظنه الرسوب إن لم يذاكر، وهى مشروطة ثالثاً بأن هذا الرسوب سيضعفه أو يحرمه من استكمال دراسته التى لا عمل له إلا بها، أو من توفير الاحتياجات التى لا قوام له أو لعياله إلا بها. فإن عُدِم شرط من هذه الشروط فالصوم واجب عليه ولا يجوز له الإفطار.

Fatwa concernant le jeûne du mois de Ramadan au cours de l’été en Angleterre et les latitudes élevées

June 3, 2016

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim 

 

Fatwa concernant le jeûne du mois de Ramadan au cours de l’été en Angleterre

 

Un certain nombre de personnes m’ont questionné sur la durée excessive du jeune pendant les mois estivaux en Angleterre.

 

Parmi celles-ci figurent ceux qui se sont mis récemment au jeûne, ainsi les personnes dans la force de l’âge ou âgées qui désirent jeûner mais ne parviennent pas à supporter les trop longs jours.

 

La durée d’une journée en Angleterre est d’à peu près 17 heures, du lever au coucher de soleil.

 

Puisqu’il n’y a pas de consensus quant au lever du soleil, la durée varie entre 19 heures et 20H05.

 

Cette durée augmente au fur et à mesure que l’on progresse vers le nord, spécialement en Écosse et Irlande du nord.

a/ Par exemple, j’ai visité Dublin en Juin 2000 : les prières du soir au Centre Islamique de Dublin (Mosquée de Clonskeagh) avaient lieu à 22H30, suivies par les prières nocturnes à minuit et celles de l’aube à 02 heures. En partant du principe que l’aube est à 01h du matin, cela donne une période de jeune de 21H30, de l’aube au coucher de soleil.

b/ En revanche, j’ai visité Stockholm en décembre 99 : le lever de soleil était à 10H30 et le coucher à 15H30. En hiver, la période de jeune est de seulement 06 ou 07 heures (alors qu’elle est de 09 ou 10 heures dans le sud de l’Angleterre).

 

Afin de réduire la période de jeune, notez que certains des Sahaba (Compagnons du Prophète), dont Hudayfa bin al-Yaman et ses héritiers mangeaient jusqu’au lever du soleil ou juste avant. Tabari et Ibn Kathir mentionnent plusieurs récits rapportant ce fait sous Coran 2:187, bien que les 2 rejettent cette pratique basée sur une lecture trop littérale (ils vivaient dans des pays aux climats modérés). Ibn Hazm approuve cette pratique dans son Al-Muhalla.

 

Les juristes ont discuté de ce point de droit concernant les latitudes élevées (tout ce qui est supérieur à 45 degrés selon Mustapha ZARQA, soit à mi distance entre l’Équateur et les Pôles). Ainsi que le Sheikh Muhammad Abduh, Grand Mufti d’Égypte le mentionne dans le Tafsir al-Manar, ils mentionnent de façon classique deux possibilités afin d’avoir des périodes plus modérées:

 

a/ Suivre les périodes des pays de la Révélation (La Mecque et Médine), tout au long de l’année, la période de jeûne y étant de 12 à 15 heures de l’aube au coucher du soleil

b/ Suivre les périodes du “pays modéré” le plus proche.

 

Abduh ajoute : “Ces deux options sont toutes deux valides puisque c’est une question de jugement (itjihad) et qu’il n’y a aucun texte équivoque à ce sujet.”

 

Vous noterez que se référer aux périodes du “pays modéré le plus proche” est équivalent au fait de suivre les “périodes modérées” de votre propre pays, c’est à dire le printemps ou l’automne, pendant lesquelles jour et nuit sont de durées similaires.

 

Abduh n’est pas le seul à prendre pareille fatwa. Il se réfère à des juristes plus anciens  de plusieurs siècles. Après lui, sa fatwa a trouvé un écho chez Mustapha Zarqa, Ali Tantawi et Jad al-Haqq, parmi d’autres. Les textes et les discussions afférents à ces fatwas peuvent être trouvés sur Internet.

 

La fatwa ci-dessus implique de séparer le jeûne de la période aube/ coucher de soleil.

 

L’esprit du jeûne est clairement “du matin au soir” et se focalise sur les aspects intérieurs sans couper les cheveux en quatre quant aux aspects externes.

 

Le fameux passage du Coran sur le jeûne 2:183-7 commence et finit avec taqwa (la conscience de Dieu) et inclut ce passage d’une sagesse mémorable: “Dieu désire que cela soit facile pour vous et non pénible … que vous arriviez au terme, magnifiez Dieu de vous avoir guidé et remerciez-le”.

 

Ce verset est en fait la base de nombreux hadiths dont le propos est de faciliter la pratique religieuse suivant le principe classique Hanafi (atteindre le bien même en opposition avec le raisonnement analogique) en accord avec 39:17-18 (cf. la première page du Kitab al-Istihsan dans le Al-Mabsut de al-Saraksi ainsi que les précisions des juristes contemporains sur Taysir (sujet facilitant), composant de l’esprit Prophétique et principe de la sharia.

 

Dans des circonstances exceptionnelles, le Prophète (la Paix soit sur lui) comprenait que “matin” et “soir” étaient relatifs aux habitudes et cultures des gens.

 

Hadith: Safwan bin Mu’attal, qui, vierge, fut impliqué avec Aïsha, mère des croyants, dans les scandaleuses rumeurs qui firent trembler Médine postérieurement à l’expédition de Mustaliq, fini par se marier. Sa femme rendit visite au Prophète et reprocha trois choses à son mari (Le Prophète défendit celui-ci et pardonna concernant les trois reproches). Une de celles-ci était que celui-ci “ne se levait pas pour la prière de l’aube et ne priait qu’après le lever du soleil quand il se levait”. Quand le prophète le questionna à ce sujet, il lui répondit que sa tribu ne se levait traditionnellement qu’après le lever du soleil et non à l’aurore. La sage réponse du Prophète fut la suivante: “Dans ce cas, prie quand tu te réveilles” (Fa idha-stayqazta fa salli, une hadith censée dans le Sunan, considérée comme authentique par Albani dans son évaluation des hadiths de Mishkat al-Masabih).

 

Ainsi, par exemple, ceux qui travaillent de nuit, œuvrant de nuit et dormant la journée, devraient jeûner pendant la nuit, la nuit étant devenu le jour pour eux et inversement. Le Coran qui encourage le jeune pendant la journée déclare de la même façon que la nuit est réservée au sommeil et le jour au travail (exemple: 78:9-11).

 

Un sheikh Azhari me suggéra récemment que 12 heures de jeûne étaient suffisantes, cela étant fondé sur la durée moyenne d’une journée: Ceci est vrai pour une journée durant du lever au coucher du soleil, quel que soit l’endroit sur Terre. Si on utilise la durée aube-coucher du soleil, on a des périodes de jeune de 13-14 heures. Notez que cette approche implique de conserver un jeune de même durée, sans rapport avec la saison pendant laquelle tombe le ramadan. En hiver, le jeûne serait bien plus long que si on se conformait à la période aube-coucher du soleil et certain d’entre nous suivent cette approche. Ceci fait référence au “jeune continuel” (sawm al-wisal où le jeûne continue la nuit): le Prophète le pratiquait pendant plusieurs jours d’affilée mais ne l’autorisait pas à ses disciples, à moins que ceux-ci soient certains d’en être capables.

 

Je suis informé que les musulmans de Norvège utilisent une période de 14 heures pendant l’été.

 

Un cas à part devra être fait du jeûne de 16 heures, fondé sur le point de vue de l’Imam Ghazzali suivant lequel le maximum qu’une personne soit dormir pendant une nuit est un tiers de la journée et de la nuit, à savoir 08 heures.

 

Insister sur le fait que ceux qui sont incapables de compléter de longs jeûnes devraient les faire à un autre moment est équivalent à déplacer le Ramadan de l’été vers l’automne, l’hiver ou le printemps.

 

CONCLUSION / FATWA

 

Que toutes nos louanges soient adressées à Dieu, La Paix et les bénédictions soient sur les Messagers de Dieu.

 

1/ Ceux qui veulent se conformer à la période aube-coucher du soleil, soit des jeûnes de 18 à 21 heures et peuvent le faire sans risque sont libres de le faire.

2/ Ceux pour qui cela est insupportable ou qui sont d’avantage convaincus par une approche non littérale de “matin jusqu’au soir” que par une approche littérale “aube jusqu’au coucher de soleil” peuvent jeûner pendant 12 ou de façon préférable 14 à 16 heures, commençant à l’aube, lever du soleil ou même leur déjeuner matinal habituel (petit déjeuner!). Ces horaires modérés sont fondés sur des fatwas de juristes vieilles de plusieurs siècles pour des latitudes élevées.

3/ Quelle que soit la période pendant laquelle une personne jeûne, elle ne doit pas se sentir supérieure aux autres. L’esprit du ramadan et du jeûne incluent la conscience de l’existence de Dieu, la patience, la persévérance, la gratitude, la prière, la vénération, la charité, la générosité, l’humilité, la purification de soi, le développement personnel, le fait d’aider les autres, la pitié, la compassion, le pardon, le fait de baisser les yeux (de ne pas adresser de regards lubriques à d’autres et n’avoir dans le cœur que Dieu), et le souvenir et l’amour de Dieu.

 

Puisse Allah le seul et l’unique possesseur d’une infinité de beaux noms, bénir l’humanité pendant ce mois et nous couvrir de sa grâce.

 

Sheikh Dr. Usama Hasan (Londres, Grande Bretagne)

 

1er Ramadan 1435/ 29 juin 2014 (updaté 6ème Ramadan, 4 juillet)

 

Traduit par Maître Charles Emmanuel Herbière

 

aussi: http://oumma.com/220871/fatwa-ne-parviennent-a-jeuner-cours-de-l-ete-angleter

 

A FATWA ON ZAKAT AL-FITR AND FOOD BANKS IN THE UK

July 16, 2015

WITH THE NAME OF GOD, MOST GRACIOUS, MOST MERCIFUL

A FATWA ON ZAKAT AL-FITR (“FAST-BREAKING ALMS-GIVING” AT THE END OF RAMADAN) & FOOD BANKS IN THE UK

Measuring foodstuffs for zakat al-fitr

(Please click here for a PDF of this fatwa: Zakat al-Fitr and food banks)

All Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.  Peace and Blessings of God be upon His Noble Messengers.

  1. The “fast-breaking alms-giving” (zakat al-fitr or sadaqat al-fitr) is a confirmed Islamic tradition at the end of Ramadan, of donating food (in the form of staple foodstuffs) to poor people before Eid prayer in the morning of the day of Eid. The majority of jurists hold that zakat al-fitr is compulsory (fard), whilst a minority hold that it is a highly-recommended tradition (sunna); a small minority even argued that it was abrogated by the full obligation of zakat.
  2. Any charitable donation may be sent abroad. However, it is a basic Islamic principle, in common with other religions, that “Charity begins at home,” or as the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, expressed it repeatedly, “Begin with your dependants.” (ibda’ bi man ta’ul, a sound hadith with several narrations)  Thus, it is recommended for Muslims in Britain to distribute their zakat al-fitr offerings locally.  Furthermore, God and His Prophets repeatedly recommend the rights of neighbours: regarding food, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, emphatically taught, “By God, they are not trustworthy believers: those who spend the night with stomachs full whilst their neighbours go hungry!”
  3. Zakat al-fitr is usually given as food items; the Hanafi jurists allowed the giving of cash, but this was with the intention that the poor recipients may use the cash to buy food or other essential items. Therefore, it remains an option to donate zakat al-fitr as either food items or cash.
  4. The amount of zakat al-fitr payable is, per wealthy Muslim head (adult or child), traditionally equal to one saa’ (approximately 3 litres in volume[1]) of the staple food item, or possibly half of one saa’ (approximately 1.5 litres) for more expensive foodstuffs.[2] One saa’ equates to the following approximate weight of common UK staple foods: rice 2.5kg, flour 2kg, pasta 1kg, porridge (porage) oats 1kg; by comparison, one saa’ of dates (not a UK staple food) weighs approximately 2kg.[3]
  5. The retail prices of the above items imply that UK zakat al-fitr is approximately £3-£5 per person. Some jurists recommend, to be safe, giving 3kg of staple food, which would be more than one saa’ in the vast majority of cases of staple food.
  6. Alternatively, the zakat al-fitr amount was traditionally understood to be the equivalent of food for one or two meals, each meal consisting of one or two mudds (one saa’ = four mudds). Since an average, filling meal costs roughly £2.50-5.00 in the UK currently, this approach gives us a similar answer, i.e. zakat al-fitr at £2.50-5.00 or £5-10.
  7. Traditionally, zakat al-fitr was mostly given to poor Muslims: most jurists held that poor people who were not Muslim were not eligible to receive zakat al-fitr, since both poverty and Islam were conditions for recipients. But Imam Abu Hanifa and others held that poor dhimmis (non-Muslim People of Scripture, protected by Muslim authorities) were eligible to receive it, since poverty was the only condition for recipients.
  8. Since the category of dhimmis was abolished by the Ottoman caliph in 1856 in favour of equal citizenship (muwatana) irrespective of faith or religion, and since Muslims comprise only 4-5% of the population of Britain where all citizens are equal, zakat al-fitr in the UK may simply go to poor people, irrespective of their religion, faith or belief (or lack thereof).
  9. With up to a million annual estimated uses of food banks by people in the UK to complement their situation of poverty, an obvious way for Muslims to distribute their zakat al-fitr locally is via their local food banks. Since the recipients do not have to be Muslim, based on the view of Imam Abu Hanifa, this should pose no problem religiously.  Food banks based in areas of the UK with Muslim-majority populations, or those run by mosques, are likely to have recipients who are mainly Muslim.
  10. Suggestions for the staple foodstuffs of people in the UK include, but are not limited to: bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, cereals, flour, couscous, etc. (Traditionally, zakat al-fitr has been given in solid staple foodstuffs, whereas for fidya and kaffara, bread was prominently given, accompanied by oil, fat, vinegar, meat, etc. – cf. Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Qur’an 5:89 & 5:95. Long-life milk and juice is in demand at UK foodbanks, and it is arguable that these liquids are also UK staple foods.)
  11. It is thus recommended for wealthy Muslims in the UK who wish to distribute their zakat al-fitr to do so either directly to needy families, else via their local food bank, else via cash to a local, national or international charity.
  12. May God accept and bless our worship during Ramadan, Eid and all year round, and guide us towards helping to eliminate poverty and unnecessary hunger.

(Sheikh Dr) Usama Hasan: London (UK), 29th Ramadan 1436 / 16th July 2015

APPENDIX: SOME BACKGROUND RESEARCH

 

  1. EXTRACTS FROM THE BOOK OF ZAKAT AL-FITR (“FAST-BREAKING ALMSGIVING”) by IBN RUSHD / AVERROES[4]

Its ruling: The majority of jurists hold that zakat al-fitr is compulsory (fard).

The ‘Iraqi jurists and some of the later Maliki ones hold that it is a recommended tradition (sunna).

Some said that it was abrogated by the obligation of zakat, based on the hadith of Qays bin Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah, who said, “The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, used to order us to give it [zakat al-fitr] before the obligation of zakat was revealed.  When the verse of zakat was revealed, we were neither commanded to, nor forbidden from, giving it [zakat al-fitr], but we continue doing so.”[5]

 

When does zakat al-fitr become obligatory?

Abu Hanifa and Malik via Ibn al-Qasim: At dawn on the day of Eid al-Fitr.

Shafi’i and Malik via Ashhab: At sunset on the last day of Ramadan.

Thus, for a newborn baby between these two times, there is disagreement as to whether or not zakat al-fitr is due on his/her behalf.

 

Recipients

Poor Muslims may receive it, by consensus (ijma’).

As for poor dhimmis [protected non-Muslims], most of the jurists say that they may not receive it. Imam Abu Hanifa said that they may receive it. Some said that only monks amongst dhimmis may receive it.

 

 

  1. EXTRACT FROM FATH AL-BARI, IBN HAJAR AL-‘ASQALANI’S COMMENTARY ON SAHIH AL-BUKHARI, CHAPTERS ON SADAQAH AL-FITR, HADITHS NOS. 1503-1512 (translations of these hadiths widely available)

http://hadith.al-islam.com/Page.aspx?pageid=192&TOCID=965&BookID=33&PID=2783

Ja’far al-Firyabi narrated in his Kitab Sadaqat al-Fitr (Book of Fast-Breaking Almsgiving) that when Ibn ‘Abbas was the governor of Basra, he ordered the giving of zakat al-fitr: a saa’ of dates etc. or half a saa’ of wheat. When ‘Ali came and saw the cheap prices, he commanded that a saa’ measure be used for all foodstuffs, indicating that he considered the value of the food, whilst Abu Sa’id considered the volume of the food.

ويدل على أنهم لحظوا ذلك ما روى جعفر الفريابي في ” كتاب صدقة الفطر ” أنابن عباس لما كان أمير البصرة أمرهم بإخراج زكاة الفطر وبين لهم أنها صاع من تمر ، إلى أن قال : أو نصف صاع من بر . قال : فلما جاء علي ورأى رخص أسعارهم قال : اجعلوها صاعا من كل ، فدل على أنه كان ينظر إلى القيمة في ذلك ، ونظرأبو سعيد إلى الكيل كما سيأتي .

 

  1. ABOUT UK FOOD BANKS

In the UK, the Trussell Trust (http://www.trusselltrust.org/) runs a network of foodbanks, although there are many other independent foodbanks and collection points run by churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, community centres, etc.  Trussell can help community and faith organisations to begin a foodbank, and also have a partnership with Tesco, such that every Tesco store is potentially a foodbank collection point.  Many foodbanks distribute food parcels to the needy on one day each week.

Trussell’s recommended items for foodbanks, based on http://www.trusselltrust.org/resources/documents/foodbank/website-shopping-list.pdf and variations in printed leaflets from Trussell:

  • Milk (long-life/UHT or powdered)
  • Sugar
  • Fruit Juice (long-life or carton)
  • Soup / Hot Chocolate
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Sponge Pudding (tinned)
  • Cereals
  • Rice pudding / Custard
  • Tea Bags / Instant Coffee
  • Instant Mashed Potato
  • Rice / Pasta
  • Tinned Meat / Fish
  • Tinned Fruit, incl. tomatoes
  • Jam
  • Biscuits or Snack Bars
  1. APPROXIMATE WEIGHT (MASS) OF ONE SAA’ (THREE LITRES) OF VARIOUS FOODSTUFFS, THE RECOMMENDED AMOUNT OF ZAKAT AL-FITR TO BE GIVEN PER PERSON

This is based on simple measuring out and weighing using a measuring container and scales found in an average kitchen, by the author on the date of the fatwa. (This is a fun, instructive and educational activity for adults and children towards a religious, humanitarian objective.)

  • Rice 2.4kg
  • Flour (medium chapatti) 1.8kg
  • Dates (sticky Saudi ones) 2.1kg
  • Pasta (white fusilli) 1.0kg
  • Porridge / porage oats (Scott’s) 1.1kg
  • Corn Flakes (Kellogg’s) 480g
  • Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes (Kellogg’s) 600g
  • Cheerios (Nestle) 360g

 

  1. EXAMPLE OF DIY ZAKAT AL-FITR IN ACTION IN THE UK

On this date, the author and his wife are blessed with four children, so the following foodstuffs, all in 500g packets, were bought from a local supermarket and delivered to a local foodbank collection point, by the grace of God:

Rice 5kg

Pasta 3kg

Porridge oats 2.5kg

Total cost: £20, working out at just under £3.50 per head for a family of six

May Allah (God) accept and bless our Ramadan and Eid!

FOOTNOTES / REFERENCES

[1] Cf. http://www.bakkah.net/en/zakat-fitr-measurements-saa-three-litres-mudd.htm

[2] Cf. Sahih al-Bukhari, Book of Zakat, Chapters on Sadaqat al-Fitr, Hadiths nos. 1503-1512

[3] Note that 3 litres of water weigh exactly 3kg, so this implies that all these foods are less dense (“lighter”) than water. In fact, they are denser than water but the air trapped between the food particles means that 3 litres of food generally weighs less than 3 litres of water (3kg).

[4] Extracted from: Ibn Rushd al-Qurtubi al-Andalusi [Averroes], Bidayat al-Mujtahid [The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer], Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1418/1997, vol. 1, pp. 413-420; a full English translation of this work is available, by Prof. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee

[5] Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, Hakim & Bayhaqi

The coward of the caliphate

July 1, 2015

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim [With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful]

[MUSLIM TUNISIA – LOGO]

BREAKING NEWS: Tens of innocent holiday-makers, supporting the economy of Muslim Tunisia and the livelihoods of Tunisian Muslims, killed and injured in a cowardly attack in the city of Sousse in Muslim Tunisia

9 Ramadan 1436 [26 June 2015]

In a cowardly attack, which God facilitated Muslim members of the local security services to cut short and save many innocent lives, a coward of the so-called caliphate, the loser Abu Yahya, calling himself al-Qayrawani, as though he was steeped in prayer and learning at one of the world’s most ancient mosques and universities, although neither was the case, launched an inhuman attack upon Muslim-owned resorts where innocent, guest civilians were enjoying their summer holidays, supporting the economy of Muslim Tunisia and the livelihoods of Tunisian Muslims, and benefiting from traditional Muslim hospitality in the city of Sousse. Taking advantage of soft targets on the al-Qantawi beach: men, women and children, including families and the elderly, our deluded brother was unfortunately able to reach the Imperial Hotel. Rather than attempting to share the beautiful teachings of mercy, compassion and kindness of the Noble Qur’an and the Holy Prophet, a mercy to the worlds, Abu Yahya mercilessly killed nearly forty people aged 19 to 80 in cold blood and injured just as many, leaving little children psychologically and emotionally traumatised. Most of them were nationals of western democracies where millions of Muslims enjoy unparalleled freedom and prosperity as equal citizens, including the freedom to practise their faith and criticise their governments. This was a painful blow and a message dyed with blood to the 99% Muslim Tunisia and their civilised friends of all faiths and humanistic philosophies, from a small band of people devoid of true faith, understanding, compassion or humanity. Civilised people should seek God’s refuge and protection against more sad news in the coming days, by the permission of God, for in Muslim Tunisia, there are hate-filled, ruthless and raging madmen who do not sleep on the absurd grievances taught to them by their tours of qital [fighting for the sake of fighting, devoid of ethics and humanity] in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere. We ask God to accept the innocent victims amongst the ranks of the martyrs, and make from their blood a ray of light to illuminate the path of noble and courageous people everywhere. We ask God to envelop the innocent victims in His Mercy and Compassion, and to deal with their murderer with His Infinite Justice. [END]

The caption under the photo of Seifeddine Rezgui that is being circulated online reads, The coward of the so-called caliphate Abu Yahya (may God deal with him harshly), the loser who carried out the attack on Muslim Tunisia, murdering people from the same western nations that taught him to enjoy break-dancing and the football of Real Madrid

 

Make sense?  Now read the pathetic and monstrous original:

[ISLAMIC STATE TUNISIA – LOGO]

BREAKING NEWS: Tens of Crusader coalition nationals killed and injured in unique raid in the city of Sousse in Muslim Tunisia

9 Ramadan 1436 [26 June 2015]

In a unique raid, for which God facilitated the causes of success, a soldier of the Caliphate, the gallant knight Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani, launched an attack upon the filthy dens where prostitution, vice and disbelief in God are bred in the city of Sousse. In spite of the stringent security protecting these target dens on the al-Qantawi beach, our brother was able to reach the target in the Imperial Hotel. God enabled him to defy the infidels with a great defiance, killing nearly forty and injuring just as many. Most of them were nationals of states of the Crusader coalition that wages war on the state of the Caliphate. This was a painful blow and a message dyed with blood to the apostates in Tunisia and those behind them, their masters in the Crusader alliance. They should brace themselves for good news that will sadden them in the coming days, by the permission of God, for in Muslim Tunisia, there are gallant men who do not sleep on the grievances taught to them by their tours of jihad in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere. We ask God to accept our brother amongst the ranks of the martyrs, and make from his blood a ray of light to illuminate the path of monotheists everywhere. [END]

The caption under the photo of Seifeddine Rezgui that is being circulated online reads, The soldier of the Caliphate Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani (may God accept him), the knight who carried out the raid in Muslim Tunisia.

ISIL on Tunisia hotel attack 2015

 

Read both visions and narratives for the world, and make up your mind.  Choose the right one, and share it with others! As Muslims, including British Muslims, we need to challenge extremist and murderous rhetoric robustly whenever it appears, dismantling its arguments so that we do not leave a shred of doubt for impressionable people.  May God guide us to help heal humanity’s self-inflicted wounds, and not deepen them further.

Usama Hasan

London, 14 Ramadan 1436 / 1 July 2015