In this video Brother Inshaal looks at what the Holy Quran says on the benefits of fasting, and focuses on the attributes that fasting promotes, looking specifically at self restraint and tolerance.
Day Five: Fasting – The Conclusion
All able-bodied Muslims throughout the world commence a jihad on 6 June 2016 as Holy Quran Commanded:
O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil. . . And those who find it extremely hard may affect redemption by feeding a poor person. So whoever does good spontaneously, it is better for them; and that you fast is better for you if you know.” (Ch 2, V 183-184)
Our non-Muslim friends will see from this that Islam is not a new religion. Allah sent prophets to all mankind for their guidance. Followers of all religions, including Muslims, are Commanded to keep fast. In Christianity, there is fasting before Lent. In Hinduism, on special days, wives fast and pray for their husbands. Islam, in words of Jesus, came to fulfil the law and so carries on with the tradition of fasting.
The Holy Quran tells Muslims to fast because fasting helps them guard against evil. By resisting normal desires on which our very lives depend; we remind ourselves how important it is to stay away from the forbidden. The jihad of fasting is spiritual training to make the well-fed feel pangs of hunger which are the daily experience of the poor. Fasting is not meant to be torment so the Holy Quran says that if we cannot fast we can make recompense by feeding a poor person. So, if a Muslim cannot experience the pain himself, he is required to relieve the pain of someone who experiences it regularly.
Islam levels all temporal differences whether of position, power or wealth. During salaat (prayers), the king and pauper stand shoulder to shoulder. During the Hajj, or pilgrimage, everyone goes round the holy Kaaba together without distinction, clothed in the same simple white sheet. When fasting, the mighty king is just as helpless in the matter of eating and drinking as a poor person without a square meal. Remove the trappings of this world and we are all the same is the lesson of all Islamic religious devotions.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad explained further the purpose of fasting in these words:
He who does not give up uttering falsehood and acting according to it, Allah has no need of his giving up food and drink.
So, fasting is doing one’s best to become a better person; a more truthful, honest, kind and helpful person and not an exercise in slimming. Let us aspire to the ideal even if we do not achieve it. Even if we make a small but permanent change for the better in our character and habits every year, it will make us better human being. Otherwise we will be like the student who keeps repeating GCSEs without moving to AS level! If we keep trying we may, one day, get close to achieving the ideal.
If our Muslim brothers and sisters conduct the jihad of acting upon the injunctions of the Holy Quran, both in letter and in spirit, people of this country will be in great danger because they will want to embrace Islam!
Please warn your readers to beware that Muslims are about to launch a great jihad which will have a devastating impact upon the people of this country and make them realise that real jihad is not a bloody war against others but one against our own demons.
This year Ramadan falls during June, which makes the length of the fasting day in the Northern Hemisphere very long. Even in the UK, in the northern areas, duration of the fast is over 19 hours. Is there any ruling in the Holy Quran or the hadith or by jurists to say that the length of the daily fast may be reduced?
There is no direct ruling in the Holy Quran or the hadith, which says that hours of the daily fast may be reduced. However, the Holy Quran says:
Do they not reflect on the Quran? Or, are there locks on the hearts? (47:24)
Taking this as our guiding principle, let us look at the background to the revelation regarding the timing of the daily hours of fasting, Commands of the Holy Quran, the hadith and the opinions of the jurists to see what is said about the timing of the daily fast.
Background to setting the timing of the daily fast being fixed from dawn to dusk
The Holy Quran did not prescribe the times of starting and ending the daily fast when Muslims were first Commanded to fast during Ramadan. Muslims set these times. The fast started when a person fell asleep at night and it was broken at sunset the next day. So if a person fell asleep at 10:00 pm that is when his fast started and if the sunset was at, for example, 06:00 pm the next day, then the fast would be about 20 hours long. This caused great hardship and some people even fainted.
It was at this time that the revelation regarding the timing of fasting e.g. from dawn to dusk on the same day, was sent down. By fixing the timing of the fast in this way the Holy Quran reduced the daily fasting hours to around a maximum of 15.
Therefore, we may consider long fasts to have been stopped by Allah because He sent down a revelation to end this practice. We may use this as a strong argument to say that daily hours of fast can be reduced.
The Holy Quran
Let us now turn to the Holy Quran. It says:
O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil. . . But whoever among you is sick or on a journey, (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days. And those who find it extremely hard may effect redemption by feeding a poor man. . . Allah desires ease for you, and He desires not hardship for you, . . . And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands and do good (to others). (2:183 -195)
Let us now reflect upon these verses, as the Holy Quran Commands us. We have to start with deciding what is the object of fasting and what is not the object of fasting. The Holy Quran tells us that the object of fasting is to make us pious and it is not to cause us hardship. Clearly, if we can achieve piety, the objective of fasting, by fasting for fewer hours, this is permissible. Further, fasting for 19 hours is causing hardship to almost everyone and this is exactly what the Holy Quran says Allah does not want to do. It then goes on to provide relief to the sick, the travellers and the old by saying they can fast at a time other than Ramadan or feed a poor person. Thus the Holy Writ takes common situations where fasting will cause hardship and provides alternatives. There were other conditions not known to the people at that time where fasting causes hardship and we can extrapolate what the Holy Quran has done so that fasting is possible without hardship.
In the verses that follow, the Holy Quran describes other duties of the Muslims and adds that Muslims must not do anything that puts them in danger. Fasting for 19 hours or more will put people’s health in danger. Therefore, in my opinion fasting for long periods violates the purpose of fasting, the relief given by Allah in those situations when fasting causes hardship and by putting ourselves in danger.
Just like the Holy Quran there is no direct reference in the hadith to reduction of the number of hours of the daily fast. However, there are references in the hadith to fixing timings of the daily prayers. There is a hadith in Abu Dawood (36:13), according to which the companions (r) asked the Holy Prophet (s) about the timing of the prayers when the day and night last for months. The Holy Prophet (s) replied that in that case, in such places to fix the length of a day, they should use the length of the day in their own countries. And, then fix the timing of the prayer according to that.
This is not an isolated narration. It is in many collections such as Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Muslim there is a hadith regarding the coming of the Anti-Christ. The hadith relates that when the Anti-Christ appears he will stay on earth for 40 days and at the time a day will be a year or a month or a week or a day. The Holy Prophet (s) was asked about the timing of the daily prayer when the day is a year-long and whether the five daily prayers will be said over a year. The Holy Prophet (s) gave the same reply quoted above.
In Islam prayer has a higher place compared to fasting. Thus, if timing of prayer can be fixed, the same can happen to the daily fast.
It is also worth pointing out that the fast is ended at the time of the maghrib prayer. Thus, if the time of maghrib prayer is fixed, the time of breaking the fast is also fixed.
There are many hadith, which speak of Islam being a religion of ease rather than difficulties (Tafseer ibn Kathir, vol 1, page 852 onwards). Therefore, we have to be sure that we follow the Holy Prophet’s (s) injunction in this regard and act upon the relief that Islam has granted us.
Ibn Hajr in Fatul Bari (volume 2, page 62) and Imam ibn Tamiyah in Mukhtasir fatwah (vol l, page 38), among others, say that the Commands of the Holy Quran are for normal circumstances. When we face exceptional circumstances then we have to reflect and find a solution. I suggest that having to fast for 19 hours is exceptional and we need to reduce this to a manageable number.
Among others, Sheikh Mahmud Shaltut of Al Azhar has said (Fatawah, page 125) that the Command of the Holy Quran regarding when to start and when to end fast is for normal circumstances where the length of the day is around the average annual length of the day. Many countries in the Northern Hemisphere are above 45 degrees. This includes most of Europe, whole of Russia and Canada and a part of the US. In these countries the day is extremely long during the summer and thus it is not normal. Therefore, in these countries we need to set a limit to the hours for which we fast.
Scholars have suggested these alternatives.
- That those who cannot fast for such long hours feed a poor person for each fast, as prescribed by the Holy Quran.
- That people take advantage of the relief given where the Holy Quran says that if we cannot bear the fast then put it off to another time. The problem is that a person who does this will miss the wonderful atmosphere of Ramadan.
- That we adopt the timing of fasting at Makkah. The reasoning is that had the Holy Prophet (s) been alive at this time that is the number of hours he would have fasted.
- That people in lands with long hours of daily fast find the timing of the fasts in the nearest country where hours are close to average and use them.
This has been produced with the Northern Hemisphere in mind where the fasting day is long at this time (June 2015). When the fasting day is short in the Northern Hemisphere it will be long in the Southern Hemisphere. However, in the Southern Hemisphere this problem of long days hardly arises because only a little land mass (apart from Antarctica) is at a latitude more than 45 degrees.
With Ramadaan having started we thought it would be good to re-publish this article from Professor Abu Zafar, which was first published in ‘The Light’ magazine in 1982.
The article shows with conclusive proof that there is nothing “un-Islamic” about using modern methods to determine the new moon.
Observing the Moon
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) had this to say about observing the moon to determine the beginning or end of the month of Ramadaan:
- “Ibn Umar related the Holy Prophet (phub)) as saying : When you see it (the moon) start the fast, and when you see it (again) end it (i.e. Ramadaan) ; if it is cloudy then estimate it” (Bukhari).
- “We are an unlettered people ; we neither write nor keep account, Sometimes a month is this much and sometimes that much, so that it is sometimes twenty-nine and sometimes thirty days” (Bukhari).
- “Look for the moon to start the fast and look for it to end it (i.e. Ramadaan), and if it is cloudy then complete thirty days” (Bukhari).
Meaning of Ru’yat and Faqduru
The issue becomes clear if the words ru’yat and faqduru lahu meaning “seeing” and “estimate it” are explained. Literally, ru’yat means to see with one’s eyes .or sense or heart. All lexicons of Arabic (al:Munjid, Aqrab al- Muwarid, al-Qamus, Lisan al-Arab, Mantah al-Arab) contain all of these alternative meanings. Further, Imam Raghib in the Mufradat gives examples of the various meanings in which the Quran has used this word:
“Ru’yat (or to see) is of many different kinds in accordance with human faculties. First, as perception, e.g. “you will surely see hell”. Second as imagination, e.g., “if only you could see him when he was taking the unbelievers’ soul”. Third, as intellect, e.g., “you do not see what I am seeing”. Fourth, as Understanding, e.g., “there was no shadow of doubt in what the heart saw” (Mufradat, Letter ra followed by ya, p. 208).
Therefore, ru’yat includes seeing by eye, by imagination, by intellect, or by understanding. So, ru’yat means to gain knowledge of a thing by any of the methods described above. The Holy Quran uses ru’yat (to see) thirty or forty different times in such a way that it cannot possibly mean “to see with the eye”. For example :
- “Did you not see how your Lord dealt with Aad” (89 : 6).
- “Did you not see him who argued with Abraham” (2 : 258).
In neither of these verses can one take “to see” to mean “to see with the eye”, for none of those who witnessed these events were alive at the time of the revelation of the Holy Quran. Therefore, in these verses, “to see” means to gain knowledge from historical or technical sources. So when the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, “when you see the moon…” it means when you determine that the moon is new, by seeing it with the eye, or by some other method, then start and end the month of fasting.
Similarly, the other phrase of the tradition, faqduru lahu, literally means “estimate it”. Since the early days of Islam the elders of religion have been interpreting this phrase in two ways:
- Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn All of Baghdad (d. 370 A.H.) famous as Imam Jasaas, writes in Ahlconi al-Qur’an (vol. i, p. 236) : “Some people say that this tradition means to rely on stages of the moon. Therefore, if the location is such that, had there not been cloud or dust, the new moon would have been visible, then both for the beginning and end of the month of Ramadaan, the order of “seeing with the eye” would be applicable ; otherwise not. Others contend that if it is cloudy then thirty days of Shabaan (month preceding Ramadaan) should be completed.”
We are not concerned here with a discussion of the correctness or otherwise of either of these interpretations. However, it is clear from this that from the very inception there were at least some people who felt that astronomical calculations could be relied upon. In fact both interpretations are correct because the two different traditions (numbers 2 and 3 listed in the beginning of this article) deal with two different situations. One relates to completion of thirty days for those places where astronomers or astronomical data are not available. The other to where such experts or data is available, so that the day and the time of the new moon can be determined by computation.
- Hadrat Matarrif ibn Abdullah of Basra (d. 87 A.H.), a leading personage from the generation after the Companions, gave the same interpretation (Hadaita al-Mujtahid lil-Qurtabi, 275) : “When the new moon is hidden by clouds then the knowledge of the movement of the sun and the moon shall be referred to.”
- Some members of the Shafi’i school of jurisprudence also agree with this. ‘ala I-madhahib al-arba’ (vol. i, p551) states : “An astronomer, and any one who has faith in such computation, can rely on a statement (of the appearance of the new moon).”
- Imam Subki Shafil considered computation to be more reliable than the evidence of two eye-witnesses. In Rad al-Mukhta; (vol 100, published in Egypt) it is said : “In a writing of his, Imam Subki Shafi has also inclined to relying on astronomers because computation is definite…”
- Qazi Abdul Jabbar and the author of Jam’ al-Ulum also adopted this position. In vol. ii (p. 100) of the above mentioned book we also find : “Qazi Abdul Jabbar, and the author of Jam’ al-Ulum have already been quoted as saying that there is no harm in relying on astronomers.”
- In the same place the author of Quniya is quoted as giving the view-point of Ibn Muqatil as follows: “He used to consult astronomers, and when a group of them concurred he used to accept their advice.”
- Allaraa Subhi Mamsani quotes Ahmad Shakir’s Awail al-Shahor in falsifatu al-Shri as saying that it is a unanimously agreed principle of jurisprudence that an effect remains only for the duration of its cause, and then it ends. He then goes on: “And it is on the basis of this principle that some jurists declared the use of astronomical computation to be lawful in determining Muslim months, particularly the month of Ramadaan. The explanation is that the tradition which commands that only “seeing with the eye” of a new moon can be relied on, was related to a special reason. That was that the nation being addressed was unlettered and could not compute. Now that this nation has come out of its state of illiteracy and is literate and can compute with certainty, it now becomes incumbent that they should refer to certainty (computation) to determine the new moon, and only on the previous method where astronomical computation is not known.”
- According to Muwahib al-Din, a commentary of the Hadith collection Mu’ atta of Imam Malik, (vol ii, p. 85) : “Ibn Arabi has quoted Ibn Suraij’s statement that “fagduru lahu” (estimate it) is for those who have knowledge of astronomy, and fakmilu al-‘iddah (“complete the term” of thirty days) is addressed to the ordinary people.”
Use of Knowledge
There is nothing in Islam which makes the use of knowledge for religious purposes illegal. Here four examples are quoted. Firstly, law of heritage is a religious matter. However, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) himself used the science of physiognomy to determine lineage.
Secondly, punishment of a thief is a religious matter in Islam. However, if a thief is apprehended by the use of fingerprints or tracker dogs this would not be unlawful.
Thirdly, determining times of daily prayers is a religious matter. Scholars of the past had decreed that the use of computation was unlawful even for this. Yet, today we find such time tables in every mosque and every home.
And, fourthly, determination of, the times of starting and ending a daily fast is a religious matter and yet we find that these time tables are published months in advance. What makes these lawful?
Indeed, the scholars should direct themselves more to declaring the computed timetable for prayers unlawful, rather than the determination of the new moon by computation. For prayer has a higher place in Islam than fasting and it is said that after death one will be questioned about prayer first!
In this day and age, astronomical computations are as certain as two plus two makes four, and experts can compute times of all events related to heavenly bodies so that there is not a hair’s breadth of difference between the occurrence and the computation. The Lord did not create these bodies to deceive us, or so that we may ignore them. On the contrary, they were created so that we may make use of them to determine the calendar.
..and ordained for it stages that you might know the computation of years and the reckoning (10 5),
These stages are predestined so that there can be no deviation and this leaves no doubt in computation. That is why the Holy Quran exhorts us to use rather than ignore them.
Time is the best dispenser of religious decrees. When the loudspeaker was invented its use was, declared unlawful for sermons, but now it is used even for prayers. Paper currency was also declared unlawful, yet there is not a single Muslim country without it now. Of course, there are differences of opinion on all matters of jurisprudence; if these are going to make us unacceptable to each other then we will have to wash our hands of all of these. Indeed, as Astronomy and astronomical computation have reached a pinnacle, and the time when, as they improve in scholarship, all Muslims accept them is not far, these problems will, in fact, find their own solution automatically and the world will bow its head to the commandments of Islam. It is a sad commentary on our intellectual state that at a time when men are landing on the moon we are involved in heated debates on whether it is lawful to determine a new lunar month by computation! May Allah grant us the wisdom to understand and act upon the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
The question was whether ru’yat can be applied to determine the new moon by astronomical knowledge. In the light of the Holy Quran, traditions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), and the views of the elders of religion, our honest opinion is that, because knowledge of astronomy has reached such a level of certainty, there is no danger to our faith to do so.
Year after year millions of Muslims around the World fast, as prescribed to us by our faith.
In this speech we look at how many modern Muslims in the UK seem to only stand by the fasting aspect of this blessed month and ignore the fact that we should be making behavioural changes.
If you are a smoker who gives up for Ramadan, and promptly goes back to smoking then you have not participated in Ramadan.
A Muslim must make sure that they change their behaviour for the better every year.
We also look at the recent commercialisation of this blessed month, the big corporations looking at the money that can now be made from Muslims.
Don’t like video? Then you can listen to the podcast below
Muslims generally feel that so long as they go hungry during Ramadan they have fulfilled Allah’s Command. But linked to fasting is Zakat or giving 2.5 percent of savings to the poor and needy. And yet some Muslims use all manner of tricks to avoid having to pay Zakat. Fasting is meant to make us feel the way those who don’t have money to buy food, feel. If we are not going to give Zakat so that hungry can buy food then our fasting is meaningless.
The purpose of Fasting in Islam
1. To develop and strengthen our powers of self-control, so that we can resist wrongful desires and bad habits, and therefore “guard against evil” (see extract 1 above). In fasting, by refraining from the natural human urges to satisfy one’s appetite, we are exercising our ability of self-restraint, so that we can then apply it in our everyday life to bring about self- improvement.
“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” — The Holy Quran, 2:183
2. To attain nearness and closeness to God so that He becomes a reality in our lives. As we bear the rigours of fasting purely for the sake of following a Divine commandment, knowing and feeling that He can see all our actions, however secret, it intensifies the consciousness of God in our hearts, resulting in a higher spiritual experience.
Allah says: “And when My servants ask you (O Prophet) about Me, surely I am near. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should hear My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way.” — 2:186
3. To learn to refrain from usurping other’s rights and belongings. In fasting we voluntarily give up even what is rightfully ours; how can then we think of unlawfully taking what is not ours but belongs to someone else?
“And swallow not up your property among yourselves by false means, nor seek to gain access thereby to the authorities so that you may swallow up other people’s property wrongfully while you know.” — 2:188
4. Charity and generosity is especially urged during Ramadan. We learn to give, and not to take. The deprivation of fasting makes us sympathise with the suffering of others, and want to try to alleviate it; and it makes us remember the blessings of life which we normally take for granted.
Fasting in Islam does not just consist of refraining from eating and drinking, but from every kind of selfish desire and wrong-doing. The fast is not merely of the body, but essentially that of the spirit as well (see extract 4 above). The physical fast is a symbol and outward expression of the real, inner fast.
“He who does not give up uttering falsehood and acting according to it, God has no need of his giving up his food and drink.” — The Holy Prophet Muhammad
5. Fasting is a spiritual practice to be found in all religions. The great Founders of various faiths, such as Buddha, Moses and Jesus, practised quite rigorous fasting as a pre- liminary to attaining their first experience of spiritual enlightenment and communion with God.
Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights, and explained it by saying: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:2-4). Moses also fasted forty days and forty nights (Exodus 34:28)
The real purpose of fasting is to attain righteousness. A person who undergoes hunger and thirst, but does not behave righteously, has done nothing. If someone is told the aim and object of doing a certain duty, and he does that duty but without attaining the required aim and object, it is as if he has not done that duty – Maulana Muhammad Ali
In his Eid Ul Fitr speech Dr Zahid Aziz, looks at what Biblical Prophets say about Fasting, and shows how it is a fundamental practise taught in the Holy Bible.
He then goes on to discuss the Lahori Ahmadiyya movement and how despite very limited resources Maulana Muhammad Ali went on to produce the greatest English translation of The Holy Quran. A translation which has been copied many times, often without credit.
Mustaq Ali examines what non Muslims have said about Fasting and how it is a time which can truly foster real relationships.
He discusses how the month of Ramadan is the ideal time to embrace with your fellow man and jamaat members. It is a time to reinforce your relationship with the God that you say you believe in.
During a general discussion someone said that the longer the fast and the more you suffer the greater is the reward of fasting. But this contradicts what the Holy Quran tells us and shows how little we know of the purpose of fasting.