Posts Tagged ‘schoolchildren’

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.

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On children fasting Ramadan in UK primary and secondary schools

July 31, 2013

Bismillah. A couple of weeks ago, a UK primary school asked me for advice. They had allowed Year 5-6 pupils (aged 9-11) to fast during Ramadan, but not anyone younger. This policy was agreed after input from local mosque leaders and the school’s Muslim governors.  However, a Year 4 child (aged 8-9) fasted the 18 hours every day and his parents insisted that he continue, even though his performance was affected negatively in the afternoons (the school admitted that this effect was no more than that on the Year 5-6 pupils). The school threatened to refer the family to social services, who could have taken the child away from parents and into care.  The parents felt their religious wishes were most important; the school held that their duty of care towards the children’s health and wellbeing was the top priority.

The advice I gave, in my personal capacity, is below, but this may be something to prepare for by next year, when nearly all of Ramadan will be in term-time and the fasts will be even longer. (This year, about half the month was during term-time.)  We have a year for proper consultation between UK schools and the Muslim parents and governors associated with them – perhaps the points below may be used as a basis for discussion.

NB 1)The primary school in question indicated that it might be easiest for them to ban fasting altogether for the next few years, as Ramadan moves through midsummer.

NB 2) Some UK mosque timetables were operating a 20-hour fast this year, others had 18 hours – the average length of the fast will increase for the next 3 years.

Anecdote: about 30 years ago, with Ramadan around midsummer in the UK, I kept my first and only full fast whilst at school, aged 11 and in the equivalent of Year 6 primary.  I was sick after iftar.  Like my brothers and many children of my generation, I began fasting the full month of Ramadan aged around 14-15, when the fasts were a little shorter.  My two sisters began the full fasting aged a couple of years younger, due to the prevalent traditional view mentioned in 2(a) below.

ISLAMIC RULES FOR CHILDREN FASTING IN UK PRIMARY & SECONDARY SCHOOLS

1. In Islamic law, children are not required to fast during Ramadan: they are only required to fast when they become adults.

2. a) The age of adulthood is disputed: some traditional views look at only biological factors, i.e. puberty. This usually equates to 12-15 years old for boys and 9-15 years old for girls (depending on when their periods start).

b) The stronger traditional view is that emotional and intellectual maturity is also required for adulthood, ie 15-20 years old for both sexes. [This view is found in all four of the main Sunni schools of law – cf. Sheikh Wahba Zuhayli’s Al-Fiqh al-Islami wa adillatuhu (Islamic Jurisprudence and its Evidential Bases); the age of 18 or 19 was often mentioned classically as true adulthood.]

3. In Islamic tradition, children are often encouraged to fast, even though it is not a legal requirement, in order to prepare them for adulthood. The situation here is analogous to that of prayer (5 times a day), which is also expected of adults. For prayer, the ages of 7-10 are traditionally when they begin. Hence, many parents introduce their children to fasting at a similar age.

4. In Islamic law, the health of an individual is the first priority after their faith. This is why adults are exempt from fasting if they are sick or face other hardships that make fasting too difficult, eg travelling or unduly laborious or safety-critical work, e.g. medical surgeons or airline pilots.

5. In Islamic law, the decisions of relevant authorities in disputed matters are upheld and respected, eg court judgments or school policy.

6. Hence, if a school has a policy on fasting in the best interest of children, with input from Muslim parents, governors and leaders, parents are obliged by Islamic law to abide by that policy, even if it goes against their wishes.

7. Violation of such a policy by parents would entail going against their religion in two ways:

(i) by breaking their agreement with the school to abide by its policy and rules; and

(ii) by mistreating their child, since the school policy and Islamic law have the same purpose, ie to safeguard the health and education of the child.

8. a) Since social services have the same aim as Islamic law also, ie to safeguard children, a school’s referral to them would also be in accordance with Islam.

b) Such a step is not ideal, of course, because of the status and importance of parents and the parent-child relationship in both Islam and UK society, and all attempts should be made to reach agreement such that a referral is not necessary.

Sheikh Dr. Usama Hasan – London, July 2013 (Ramadan 1434)