Posts Tagged ‘high latitudes’

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.
  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 on fasting in Ramadan during the UK summer

June 30, 2014

UPDATE 1st Ramadan 1436 / 18 June 2015: Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

1. There seems to be unnecessary fuss and controversy about this scholarly and practical discussion: disagreement is not disunity; a healthy discussion is not “fitnah.” A reminder: this is not a new fatwa – it was issued by Sheikh Muhammad Abduh 100 years ago, and re-iterated by Sheikh Mustafa al-Zarqa’, a leading 20th-century jurist.  The fatwa also applies to most of Europe – see below.

2. A senior Hanafi UK mufti informed me recently that medieval Hanafi jurists gave a similar fatwa, after Muslims travelled to Northern Europe including Rus (Russia).  Ibn Fadlan (Hollywood’s “Thirteenth Warrior”) famously travelled to Scandinavia, so Muslims were aware of these issues going back centuries.

3. A junior UK mufti has recently claimed that previous fatwas only applied to places where sunrise and sunset do not occur, i.e. “lands of the midnight sun.” This is simply not true: Sheikh Zarqa’ explicitly stated that the fatwa applies to lands with a latitude higher than 45 degrees (which includes most of Europe and all of Canada, Alaska and some Northern US states – as a quick glance at a map will show; it only excludes Spain, Portugal, Southern France (roughly, Bordeaux or further south), Italy etc.), whilst the “lands of the midnight sun” begin at 66.5 degrees (in the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, during their respective summers).  This is because of the earth’s tilt of 23.5 degrees, first measured by the Abbasid astronomers at the Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) in Baghdad, 11-12 centuries ago: 23.5 degrees away from the Equator gives us the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn; whilst 23.5 degrees away from the poles (90 – 23.5 = 66.5) gives us the Arctic and Antarctic Circles.

Have a happy and blessed Ramadan, with positive and pure thoughts, words and deeds!

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

Bismillah.

1. A number of people have asked me since last year about the excessive length of fasting during UK summer months.

2. This has included those new to the practice of fasting, elderly and middle-aged people, who wish to fast but simply cannot manage the very long days. Since last year, I’ve heard reports of such people in hospital, as well as of children falling seriously ill, due to fasting more than 18 hours per day.

3. The day length in London during a midsummer Ramadan is almost 17 hours *sunrise-sunset*. Since there is no agreed beginning of dawn, the dawn-sunset timings vary from 19 to 20.5 hours.

4. The day length increases as we go further north, especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

a) E.g. I visited Dublin in June 2000: sunset prayers at the Dublin Islamic Centre (Clonskeagh Mosque) were held at 10.30pm, followed by night prayers at 12am and dawn prayers at 2am. Assuming dawn at 1am, this gives a 21.5-hour dawn-sunset fast.

b) On the other hand, I visited Stockholm in December 1999: sunrise was at 10.30am and sunset at 3.30pm. In winter there, the dawn-sunset fast is barely 6-7 hours, whereas it is 9-10 hours in the southern UK.

5. To reduce the fasting length, note that some of the Sahaba (Prophet’s Companions), including Hudhayfa bin al-Yaman, and Successors ate until sunrise or just before. Tabari and Ibn Kathir mention numerous narrations proving this under Qur’an 2:187, although both of them reject the practice based on a literalist reading of the verse (they lived in moderate climes). Ibn Hazm also approves the practice in his Al-Muhalla.

6. The jurists have discussed this matter for high latitudes (anything over 45 degrees, being halfway between the equator and poles, according to Mustafa Zarqa’.). As Sheikh Muhammad Abduh, Grand Mufti of Egypt, mentions in Tafsir al-Manar, classically they mentioned two possibilities to follow more moderate timings:

a) follow timings of the lands of revelation, viz. Mecca and Medina (Hijaz) – throughout the year, the dawn-sunset fast here is 12-15 hours

b) follow timings of the nearest “moderate land”

Abduh adds, “Both of these are valid, since it is a matter of judgment (ijtihad), and there is no unequivocal text (nass) about it.”

7. Note that following timings of the nearest “moderate land” is similar to following timings of the nearest “moderate time” in your own land, e.g. spring or autumn timings, when the days and nights are approximately of equal length.

8. Abduh is not alone in the above fatwa: he is quoting from centuries of earlier jurists. After him, his fatwa has been echoed by Muhammad Hamidullah, Mustafa Zarqa, Sayyid Tantawi, Jad al-Haqq, and Ali Gomaa amongst others. Texts and discussions of these fatwas may be found on the internet, e.g. see http://alrukn.com/long-fasts-fiqh/

9. The above fatwa implies partially decoupling fasting from dawn/sunset.

10. The spirit of fasting is clearly “from morning until evening” and to focus on its inner aspects, without hair-splitting about external matters.

11. The famous Qur’anic passage about fasting 2:183-7 begins and ends with taqwa (God-consciousness), and includes the memorable wisdom, “God wishes ease for you, not hardship … that you complete the course, magnify God for guiding you, and that you give thanks.”

This verse is in fact the basis of the numerous hadiths about making matters in religion relatively easy and not difficult, of the classical Hanafi principle of istihsan (attaining goodness, even if opposed to analogical reasoning) along with 39:17-18, cf. the first page of Kitab al-Istihsan in Al-Mabsut of al-Sarakhsi, and of contemporary jurists’ emphasis on taysir (easing matters), part of the Prophetic spirit and one of the principles of jurisprudence.

12. In exceptional circumstances, the Prophet (peace be upon him) understood that “morning” and “evening” were relative to people’s habits and culture.

Hadith: Safwan bin Mu’attal, who as a virgin was caught up with Aisha, Mother of the Believers, in the scandalous rumours that rocked Medina after the Mustaliq expedition, eventually got married. His wife once came to the Prophet and complained about her husband on three counts. (The Prophet defended and made excuses for him regarding all three matters.) One of these was that “he does not get up for the dawn prayer, and only offers it after sunrise when he rises.” When the Prophet asked him about this, he replied that his people or tribe customarily rose after sunrise, and not at the crack of dawn. The Prophet’s wise answer was, “In that case, pray when you wake up.” (Fa idha-stayqazta fa salli, a sound hadith in the Sunan, rated as authentic by Albani in his evaluation of the hadiths of Mishkat al-Masabih.)

Thus, for example, those who work night-shifts, working throughout the night and sleeping during the day, should fast during the night. This is because night has become day for them and vice-versa. The Qur’an that encourages fasting during the day also states that night is for sleep whilst the day is for work (e.g. 78:9-11).

13. An Azhari sheikh recently suggested to me that 12 hours’ fasting was sufficient, based on the average length of a day over a whole year: this is true of the sunrise-sunset day, for every place on earth. If we use dawn-sunset instead, we get 13-14 hours’ fasting. Note that this approach implies keeping a similar-length fast irrespective of the season in which Ramadan falls: in the winter, fasting would be much longer than the dawn-sunset timing, and some of us do follow that approach. This has an element of “continuous fasting” (sawm al-wisal, where fasting continues by night) about it: the Prophet practiced this regularly for several days at a time, but disallowed it for his followers, unless they were sure they could manage it.

14. I am reliably informed that Muslims in Norway use a 14-hour fasting timetable in the summer.

15. A case may be made for 16-hour fasts, based on Imam Ghazzali’s view that the maximum a person should sleep at night is a third of the day and night, i.e. 8 hours.

16. Insisting that those unable to complete long fasts should make them up at another time is practically equivalent to moving Ramadan out of the summer and into the seasons of autumn, winter or spring.

CONCLUSION / FATWA

All Praise belongs to God. Peace and Blessings be upon the Messengers of God.

1. Those who wish to follow dawn-sunset timings of 18-21 hour fasts and can do so safely, are free to do so.

2. Those who find this genuinely unbearable, or are convinced of the non-literalist approach of “morning to evening” rather than the literalist “dawn to sunset”, may wish to fast for 12 or preferably 14-16 hours, beginning from dawn, sunrise or even their usual morning meal (breakfast!). Such moderate timings are based on the fatwas of jurists over many centuries for high latitudes.

3. Whatever length a person fasts, they should not feel superior to others. The spirit of Ramadan and fasting includes God-consciousness, patience, perseverance, gratitude, prayer, worship, charity, generosity, humility, self-purification, self-development, helping others, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, lowering the gaze (of the eyes from lustful glances and of the heart from other than God)  and the remembrance and love of God.

May Allah, the One and Unique having Infinite Beautiful Names, bless all of humanity during this month, and shower upon us its internal and external grace.

Sheikh Dr. Usama Hasan (London, UK)

1st Ramadan 1435 / 29th June 2014 (updated: 4th Ramadan 1435/ 2nd July 2014; 11th June 2015)

Download a 2-page PDF of this fatwa here: Fasting in the UK summer

Ramadan in the summer at high latitudes – by Sheikh Ahmad Kutty

April 15, 2014

Bismillah. An interesting fatwa published last Ramadan (July 2013). Parts of Ramadan will be in midsummer for the next few years, so this discussion will continue.

I’d add the following notes:

1) According to Ibn Kathir, in his Tafsir under 2:187, Tabari narrated from several Successors (Tabi’in) that fasting only becomes obligatory at sunrise. (In my view, this is based on, and a logical extension of, the difficulty of defining “dawn” precisely – when the sun appears, there is no argument!) Ibn Kathir adds that in his view, “No person of knowledge can remain stable on this view, since it contradicts the unequivocal text of the Qur’an.”

2) Does anyone have the text of Mustafa al-Zarqa’s fatwa cited below? As quoted, it says that fasting at high latitudes in the summer can follow clock timings from more temperate latitudes, ie to end fasting before local sunset.

U.H.

http://www.onislam.net/english/shariah/contemporary-issues/islamic-themes/453299-sunnah-and-determining-the-times-of-fajr-and-imsak.html

Determining the Times of Fajr and Imsak
By Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, Senior Lecturer, The Islamic Institute of Toronto

Conclusion

(Since the day hours are excessively long, such rigidity when determining imsak can be viewed as only dampening one’s spirit about fasting.)

In light of the above incontrovertible evidence, it should be rather easy for us to conclude that relying on astronomical dawn to determine the time of imsak is unwarranted, and that we cannot go wrong if we consider the nautical dawn, if not the civil dawn, as the starting time of imsak and beginning of fajr. Furthermore, there is no basis for compelling people to start the imsak way before fajr, for, as it has been clearly demonstrated, the companions were in the habit of standing up for fajr soon after finishing their suhur.

Furthermore, it has been clearly demonstrated from the Sunnah and the practices of the pious generations that the time of imsak and fajr is not determined by minutes, seconds, or degrees, but by sufficient latitude, ease, and flexibility. Hence, there is no compelling reason for us to insist on the astronomical definition of dawn.

Still another point to note: When we consider the above statements and reports carefully, it is clear that their approach to the issue unravels another fundamental principle of jurisprudence. This has been often phrased as “That which is certain cannot be removed by doubts.” When we apply this principle to the issue at hand, since the night precedes dawn, that is a certainty, as such, it cannot be ruled out until we can clearly determine that the dawn has arrived.

Closely allied with the above is the importance of taking into account our own times and circumstances. No one can doubt we are living at a time where Muslims are showing increasing complacency and are slipping away from the practice of Islam. Moreover, since the day hours are excessively long, such rigidity when determiningimsak can be viewed as only dampening one’s spirit about fasting.

We saw all of the above leniency and latitude as pointed out above were demonstrated in standard time zones like those of Makkah and Madinah. So one might legitimately ask: By applying a far more stricter rule in calculating the time of imsak, are we trying to prove to be more pious than the Prophet’s companions and successors, and end up causing greater and greater hardship for people, who reside in less than standard time zones?

In this regard, therefore, let us recognize that the juristic traditions in all of the acceptable schools of jurisprudence have taken into account the circumstances of people and countries, for they knew too well that Shari`ah is based on tangible maqasid (higher purposes) and masalih (benefits). They also understood that the function of an `alim (scholar) is to render ease where there is difficulty. Long ago, Imam Sufyan Ath-Thawri said, “A true scholar is one who finds (based on sound principles) an easier way for people, because as far as making things difficult is concerned, one need not have any knowledge to do that!”

It is perhaps pertinent to mention here that, according to one of the great jurists of the Hanafi school of the twentieth century, the late Shaikh Mustafa Az-Zarqa, Muslims living in time zones where daylight hours are unusually long may base their times for imsak and iftar on the regular timetables followed in Makkah and Madinah.

If this is the inference of an eminent Hanafi jurist, coming as he is from a long lineage of authentic representatives of the Hanafi school, how can we be faulted for going by a time-table which calculates the Fajr in a slightly flexible manner?

As a final word, it would be wise to remind ourselves of the dire warning of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “There are among you those who simply drive people away from Islam.” (Bukhari and Muslim).

I pray to Allah to guide us to the straight path, make us instruments of guidance and gather us all under the banner of the seal of prophets and messengers.

Usama Hasan, https://unity1.wordpress.com