Questions Regarding Fasting
Meaning and Customs of Ramadan
I would like to have an explanation about what Ramadan exactly is. Inform me of its meaning and its customs.
The Islamic (lunar) calendar, like the solar calendar, is divided into twelve months. Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of this lunar calendar. The significance of this month in Muslim history is that the revelation of the final book of God (according to the Muslim belief) – the Qur’an – was initiated in the month of Ramadan. Though, according to the Qur’an, fasting was also prescribed for the followers of those prophets of God, who came before Mohammad (pbuh), yet God selected Ramadan as the month of fasting for Muslims because of its particular significance with reference to the revelation of the Qur’an.
An explanation of fasting, in my opinion, should entail answers to the following questions:
1.What are the rules that a Muslim has to abide by while in a state of fasting?
2.What is the reason for which fasting is prescribed in the Divine law? and
3.What is the reason for the selection of Ramadan as a month of fasting for Muslims?
These three aspects are briefly explained in the following paragraphs:
As far as the rules relating to fasting are concerned, they are quite simple. A fast is observed from dawn to sunset. A Muslim, while in a state of fasting, has to refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations with his/her spouse. A person who is ill or on a journey, due to which it may be inconvenient for him to fast during the prescribed days of Ramadan, may miss the number of fasts during which he is not feeling well or is on a journey. Later on, when he recovers from his ailment or returns from his journey, he should complete the number of fasts missed during the prescribed month of Ramadan. A person who suffers from a permanent ailment, due to which he is permanently incapacitated from fasting, may as a compensation for each fast missed feed a poor person.
As stated earlier, a fast is observed from dawn to sunset. Thus, all restrictions regarding eating, drinking and sexual relations are observed during the stipulated time from dawn to sunset. In other words, after sunset or before dawn, there is no restriction on any of these activities.
As far as the reason for which fasting has been prescribed in the Divine law, it is clearly mentioned in the Qur’an that it is to inculcate the quality of “Taqwa” in the individuals. “Taqwa” is an Arabic word, which implies the ability and the quality to strictly adhere to God’s laws. The Islamic Shari`ah includes a number of directives, which under varying circumstances may become quite difficult to follow. Fasting, according to the Qur’an is a training period, during which for a limited number of days, Muslims are required to follow a stricter daily schedule than is the case in normal days. During Ramadan, for the purpose of this training of inculcating Taqwa, even things (like eating, drinking and having sexual relations with one’s spouse) that are normally allowed for a Muslim are disallowed/prohibited for a stipulated time. This exercise is expected not only to develop the ability of self-control in the individual – which in turn helps in abiding by the divine directives in normal days – but is also expected to develop the quality of patience and steadfastness in following the divine directives and the ability to face any difficulties that one may have to encounter in following these directives.
This training period, for the purpose of better understanding and appreciation, may be compared to the training period that a newly recruited military cadet is put through during the initial stages of his service. This training period is to develop in the cadet the ability to face the contingent hard times that he may have to go through during his tenure of service. In the same way, a Muslim, is put through a stricter schedule of a training period for one month during a year for the purpose of developing in him the ability and the quality of “Taqwa” (adhering to divine directives) in his normal course of life.
As far as the reason for the selection of the month of Ramadan for the purpose of fasting is concerned, the Qur’an itself tells us that the selection is made to celebrate the revelation of the Qur’an. It was during this month of Ramadan that, according to the Muslim faith, God revealed to man his final guidance. Fasting has been prescribed during this month to remind all Muslims of their responsibilities toward this final guidance of God – namely adhering to its directives in letter and spirit. What could have been a more appropriate way of celebrating the anniversary of the revelation of the Qur’an than reminding ourselves of our prime duties toward it – i.e. submitting to its directives with patience, perseverance and steadfastness and to thank God for bestowing upon man His guidance to the path of promised and everlasting salvation.
13th December 1999
The True Spirit of Fasting
Is it haraam for one who is fasting in Ramadan to be bad such as swear and start a fight?
Fasting, according to the Qur’an, has been prescribed upon the Muslims as a training program for the elevation of their level of piety and obedience to the Lord of the worlds in their normal daily routines. Thus, during the month of Ramadan, a Muslim is ordained to refrain even from things, which are, generally, lawful for him. During these days, from sunrise to sunset, a Muslim is directed to refrain from drinking even water to quench his thirst, from eating even the lawful food to satisfy his hunger and from having sexual contact even with his/her spouse. During these days, a Muslim adheres to these restrictions, on the fulfillment of his natural requirements and desires, only in obedience to the directives of God. Therefore, even though from a purely juristic point of view, it is only eating, drinking and sexual contact, during the daytime that breaks a fast; yet if we keep the true spirit of fasting in perspective, we can easily derive that all such other things which a Muslim should generally refrain from, should be more strictly and more consciously avoided during these days. It is, in fact, based on this spirit of fasting that the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: “Whoever is not willing to refrain from lying and from doing bad deeds; God does not require from him to refrain from eating and drinking” (as reported by Bukhari). Teaching the same spirit of fasting, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: “Fasting is like a shield against bad deeds. Therefore, [while fasting,] a person should neither involve himself in lewdness nor lose his temper. If someone tries to get him involved in a fight, he should say: ‘I am fasting’ [and, thus, avoid fighting]” (as reported by Bukhari).
Fasting is, in fact, a strenuous training program for Muslims with the target to strengthen their spirit to avoid involving themselves in any actions or deeds, which are not approved by their Lord. This is the true spirit of fasting. With this true spirit of fasting in mind, it is clear that a person should strictly refrain from involving himself in all such deeds, activities and discussions, which are clearly against the likings of our Lord.
November 26, 2000
Things related to Ramadan
It has become tradition for Muslims to pray Taraweeh prayers after Isha. After reading some of your articles I have come to realize that the Prophet NEVER prayed Taraweeh, he NEVER prayed Witr prayers and he only prayed Tahajjud prayers. Am I correct in my understanding? If I am, can you please explain how one performs the Tahajjud prayers as did the Prophet? Detail would be much appreciated (such as groups of two rak’ats to a certain number of times etc…).
I was told that the Tahajjud prayers are only to be prayed during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Also, praying Taraweeh on whatever day Lailatul’Qadr lands on is as if you’ve prayed a 1000 months of prayers (or something to that affect). This relates obviously to the surah in the Qur’an. Is this accurate and what was intended in the verse?
I may be asking too much of you but I would request that if you could inform me of the things that are Fard and Sunnah during Ramadan. There may be many misconceptions and I don’t know they are misconceptions so I’m basically asking you to weed out somethings. Ramadan is important to me and I would like to fulfill my obligations and additionally commit voluntary deeds and actions.
I know you have written quite extensively but I believe some of the queries I have posed are not mentioned in those articles.
United States of America
It is not very accurate to say that the Prophet (pbuh) never offered Witr prayers. A more accurate statement would be that the Prophet (pbuh) is not reported to have offered Witr prayers with the Ishaa prayers. On the contrary, the Prophet (pbuh) offered Witr prayers as a part of the Tahajjud prayers, which he regularly offered throughout his life.
As for the various methods in which the Prophet (pbuh) offered Tahajjud prayers, please refer to one of my earlier response to a related question titled: “How to Offer Witr Prayers?” .
I was told that the Tahajjud prayers are only to be prayed during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Also, praying Taraweeh on whatever day Lailatul’Qadr lands on is as if you’ve prayed a 1000 months of prayers (or something to that affect).
The referred idea is completely unfounded and has no basis in the primary sources of Islam. Not only did the Prophet (pbuh) offer Tahajjud prayer during the whole of the month of Ramadan, but also during all the other nights of the year.
As for the special reward of deeds – including offering supererogatory prayers like tahajjud prayers etc. – it is reported in a few narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) and, as you have mentioned, the idea seems to be based on the referred verse of the Qur’an.
I would request that if you could inform me of the things that are Fard and Sunnah during Ramadan.
The Fard practices during Ramadan are the same as during other days of the year, except for those obligatory practices, which are specifically related to the practice of fasting. As for the supererogatory practices, there is no limit or specification of these practices. One should try to involve oneself in all kinds of pious deeds, specially those related to God’s worship – as in supererogatory prayers and memorizing the supplications taught by the Qur’an and those reported in narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) – understanding God’s guidance – as in reciting the Qur’an – or helping other human beings – as in spending out of one’s wealth over and above the obligatory Zaka’h. The essence of one’s life during the month of Ramadan, specially, and during the other days of the year, generally, should be to live a life that is as much in compliance and coherence with the recommendations of the Shari`ah as possible.
I hope this helps.
November 21, 2002
Observing Ramadan in a Muslim and a non-Muslim Country
I am a Christian student taking a class entitled Muslim Faith and Feeling to learn more about your life and faith. I am doing a paper on Ramadan. Since I am from the US, my question is:
1.How is it different celebrating Ramadan in a predominately non-Muslim country, like the USA?
2.How is it easier in a predominately Muslim country?
3.What are the unique difficulties celebrating it in the USA?
4.Whatever insights and understandings you can give me would be extremely helpful and appreciated.
Thank you for this site and for your input!
Observing the obligatory fasts of Ramadan, in its essence, is not any different whether the individual is residing in a predominantly Muslim or a non-Muslim country. Obviously, certain differences do arise due to the participation/non-participation of the general collectivity in which the individual is residing. However, these differences only make it more or less convenient in fulfilling the obligation.
For instance, while living in a pre-dominantly Muslim country, it is very unlikely that a person be invited at a social gathering in which edibles are to be served, while in a state of fasting. While such inconveniences may have to be encountered while living in a pre-dominantly non-Muslim society. In the same way, the participation of the collectivity in this form of worship may in a number of other ways, support and prompt the individual in fulfilling his obligation. For instance, in most Muslim countries, the beginning and the closing times for fasts are officially announced, there is generally a restriction on eating and drinking in public places during the fasting time etc. All these factors may, in a way, help the individual in fasting. In short, the difference between fasting in a pre-dominantly Muslim and a non-Muslim country may be explained in terms of a social backing of the worship at a macro level.
However, it should be kept in mind that this difference only effects the convenience for the individual in fulfilling his obligation. It does not in any way effect the nature of the obligation itself. That is, all Muslims, irrespective of their place of residence are obliged to fast during the month of Ramadan.
13th December 1999
How Can the Differences regarding Prayer Timing and Ramadan Dates be Resolved?
I live in the United States and every year I observe Ramadan. It drives me insane that as Muslims we cannot agree as to the date of when it begins. I get highly upset that this simple issue has not been overcome yet. If Allah created everything in due measure then it must be that scientifically we can know in the most accurate way when Ramadan begins, without having to see it. My dilemma is this: Who do I follow as to the beginning of Ramadan? Who is best versed at knowing when Ramadan begins?
Even our prayer times differ. Here’s an example, say I am looking up prayer times in my area, I get questions such as “is your prayer method: Umm Al-Qura, Muslim World League, Egyptian General Authority of Survey, University Of Islamic Sciences Karachi, ISNA” etc… The other question is “Jurist Method: Standard or Hanfi…” Another is if we observe day-light savings time… I understand there are different schools but I am a Muslim and that’s it. I don’t belong to any of the major schools of thought and I don’t even want to be distinguished as Sunni or otherwise. I am a Muslim because Allah has asked/told us not to divide. So who do I follow? The Saudis, the Egyptians, etc… Who? When is the accurate prayer time? When does Ramadan begin and end (especially in the U.S.)? It is in the nature of mankind to disagree with one another but I just want the truth, it is the only thing that makes me closer to my Creator.
Any help in my decision making would be of great value, especially for prayer times and Ramadan.
Jazak Allah Khair,
As a principle, a Muslim, in his individual capacity, may ascribe to and follow the opinion of any of the schools of thoughts, which he considers to be more understandable and in keeping with the spirit of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In this sphere, no one has a right to force the individual to an opinion, which he – the individual – is himself not comfortable with. However, in contrast to matters relating to the individuals, which may be decided by each individual in question, matters relating to the collectivity of the Muslims may not be as simple to deal with. It is because of this reason that the Qur’an has recommended the principle of deciding such matters on the basis of consultation between the Muslims or their representatives.
In view of the recommended principle of the Qur’an, all decisions relating to the collectivity of the Muslims – whether it is the timings of the congregational prayers, the beginning or the end of Ramadan or any other matter – should be taken on the basis of consultation. This really implies that in case of a difference of opinion among the Muslims, the opinion ascribed to by the majority of the Muslims should be accepted and implemented.
As an application of the foregoing principle, in the Muslim countries, it would indeed be recommended that the timings for the congregational prayers should be decided by the respective governments of these countries, through consultation between the representatives of the Muslims of these countries, within the allowable range of time for each prayer specified by the Prophet (pbuh). In case of a difference of opinion, the opinion of the majority of the representatives should prevail and be implemented. The same principle would apply in deciding about Ramadan.
In non-Muslim countries, it would be advisable for Muslims living in those countries to form informal consultative forums to facilitate decision-making in religious matters relating to these Muslim collectivities. These forums may be formed at various levels. For instance, to decide about the timings of congregational prayers and to look after the upkeep and administration of the mosques, a more localized forum may be formed, while to decide about the more universal issues, like the beginning of Ramadan, it would be advisable to form a council at a state or a national level. Common Muslims should be encouraged to adhere to the decisions of these forums.
As for using technological means of predetermining the dates of Ramadan, there would be no harm in doing so, provided such a determination can be made on a reliable basis.
I hope this helps.
November 16, 2001
On the Verses on Fasting
The First Question
Hi, could you send me the translation for the verses 186 to 188 of the second Surah. Also explain the meaning of these verses. It seems that initially it was not permitted, in the month of Ramadan, for the men to sleep with their wives even in the nighttime; later on the prohibition was removed. Is that right?
As far as your question regarding the Ramadan Ayah (verse) is concerned, I shall try to explain the issue very briefly.
As I understand it, the first part of the revelation regarding fasting in Ramadan, was from Al-Baqarah 2: 183 to 184. A simple translation of these verses follows:
“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may learn to live according to the commands of Allah. (183) A few numbered days. However, if anyone of you is ill or on a journey then the prescribed number should then be completed in other days. And for those who can bear it, feeding of an indigent, shall be a ransom. And he that gives more (than this) of his own freewill, it is better for him. And that you fast (and thus complete the number) is better for you, if only you knew. (184).”
Later on, Al-Baqarah 2: 185 – 187 were revealed. In these verses:
•The reason for prescribing Ramadan as the month of fasting was given.
•The allowance of “fidyah” or ransom for any missed fast, (feeding of one indigent) was removed. As it was only a temporary allowance, to train the people, as obligatory fasting was quite a tough proposition. (185)
•Questions asked about maintaining the sanctity of Ramadan were answered. (186-187)
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, I think that when Ramadan was initially prescribed as a month of fasting, people became overly cautious about maintaining the sanctity of this month. They thought it was better to completely abandon sexual relationships with their wives, even during the nights, throughout the sacred month of Ramadan. This restriction was never mentioned in the first revelation (or even later ones). It was only an overly cautious assumption of the Muslims. Thus, later on, when a question regarding the issue was put to the prophet, the verses that you have referred in your letter were then revealed.
I think that if you keep this explanation in mind while reading these verses, your basic assumption, i.e., “initially it was not permitted, in the month of Ramadan, for men to sleep with their wives even in the nighttime”, would not hold. It was not really a matter of permission… but was an over cautious assumption of the Muslims.
Please do let me know if more explanation is required.
10th October 1997
The Second Question
Here is the translation by NJD (N.J. Dawood) for the verses 186 and 187 of the second Surah:
“If My servants question you about Me, tell them that I am near, I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls to Me; therefore let them answer My call and put their trust in Me, that they may be rightly guided.
It is now lawful for you to lie with your wives on the night of the fast; they are a comfort to you as you are to them. God knew that you were deceiving yourselves. He has relented towards you and pardoned you. Therefore you may now lie with them and seek what God has ordained for you. Eat and drink until you can tell a white thread from a black one in the light of the coming dawn. Then resume the fast till nightfall and do not approach them, but stay at your prayers in the mosques.
These are the bounds set by God: do not approach them. Thus He makes known His revelations to mankind that they may guard themselves against evil.”
What I understand from the above is that do not approach your wives while fasting but stay at your prayers in the mosques. You and the other translation refer to ‘aitikaf’ (which I believe is something like staying at the mosque during night saying your prayers). By the way what is meant by “… what God has ordained for you.”
As far as the text is concerned, you will most definitely see the words “wa antum `aakifuna fil masaajid” (Al-Baqarah 2: 187) in these words, the word “`aakifun” is given to mean the same as “Mu`takif” which in turn has been translated as: “secluded, isolated, withdrawn, solitary, recluse, remaining, staying, abiding” (Al-Mawrid, Arabic to English Dictionary, dar al ilm lilmalayeen)
Now, in the Qur’an, the word “`aakifun” is used as a term just like the word “Sala’h”. It means a “complete temporary seclusion for concentrated praying”.
I think that NJD’s translation over here is not a very accurate one. I would think that the word “`aakifun” (because it is a term) should not be translated at all. It could be something like this: “and do not approach them, when you are in `aitikaaf in mosques” and then this word could have been explained in a footnote.
“but stay at your prayers in the mosques” is not a good translation of “wa antum `aakifuna fil masaajid”. I really do not know what should be the correct English Translation for the words which are translated as: “… what God has ordained for you”. The meaning, as I see it, are the outcomes of sexual relations.
2nd November 1997
Clarification of a Narrative Regarding Ramadan…
The common understanding of Muslims is that when Ramadan begins the devils are chained and the gates of heaven are opened. However, this does not seem to make sense because if the devils are chained then how is it possible to do evil during Ramadan? Is the suggestion then that during Ramadan no human beings are being enticed to do evil, but rather it is from within them? This does not seem to make sense either since one could argue that evil continues to exist with the same vigor during Ramadan as it does outside of it.
Before presenting my comments on the referred concept of the Muslims, it may be clarified that it is based on a narrative ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh). According to the reporting of Bukhari, the Prophet (pbuh) is ascribed to have said:
When the month of Ramadan approaches, the doors of heaven are cast open, while the doors of Hell are shut down and the forces of evil are tied in chains.
The correct implication of this narrative, in my opinion, is close to what Ibn Abd al-Burr has mentioned in his commentary on the Mu’atta of Imam Maalik – Al-Tamheed. The narrative, in my opinion, implies that during the days of Ramadan, God protects all those who faithfully and sincerely intend to fast and earn for themselves the mercy, forgiveness and protection of their Lord. This implication of the narrative is coherent with the declaration of the Qur’an that when a person resolves to do good and to follow the path prescribed by his Lord, God helps him in doing good and makes the path of piety easier for him to tread. In Surah Al-Ankaboot, the Qur’an promises:
Those, who strive in our ways, We shall definitely guide them to Our paths. (29: 69)
Then again in Surah Al-Layl, the Qur’an promises:
For him, who gave [in charity], feared God [abiding by His limits] and testified the good [end], We shall, indeed, make the path of bliss easier for him [to tread]. (92: 5 – 7)
In keeping with the cited promise of the Qur’an, the Prophet (pbuh), in the referred narrative, is reported to have said that when Ramadan approaches, God opens the doors for heaven and shuts down the doors to hell and enchains all evil forces for all those who have a sincere resolve to piety and to live their lives in a manner which is prescribed by their Lord. In this way, God protects the faithful and the obedient among people from the attacks of evil forces and makes the treading of the path of piety easier for them .
November 30, 2000
Would you please describe Suhoor and it’s purpose. What is supposed to happen? Is it just the pre-breakfast breakfast? Is it obligatory? Is there anything particular that we should be eating? Most importantly when is the time of Suhoor. For example: let’s assume that Fajr is at 6:00 am and Shurooq is at 7:20 am where would Suhoor fall?
Please provide any other information related to this issue.
United States of America
Literally, the word ‘Suhoor’ means taking breakfast in the early morning. In the modern Arabic language, ‘Suhoor’ is also used simply for breakfast.
As a term used with reference to Ramadan, ‘Suhoor’ is the time when Muslims wake up in the early hours of the morning to eat and drink, as a part of their preparation for the fast of the day.
The time of ‘Suhoor’ ends at the breaking of dawn. Thus, Suhoor may be taken anytime before the breaking of dawn. As for the exact time period between the end of Suhoor and the time at which Fajr prayers are offered in a particular area may vary significantly and may not, therefore, be easily determinable.
The purpose of Suhoor is primarily to take food and water, while it is still permitted to do so, during the month of Ramadan and, while doing so, to remind ourselves of the restraints that we have to exercise during the day that is about to break.
Taking food at the time of Suhoor is not obligatory, but was a regular and recommended practice of the Prophet (pbuh). If a person, due to any reason, does not have the opportunity to take Suhoor, he can still fast without taking Suhoor.
I hope this helps.
December 2, 2002
Why not a Universal Time for Fasting?
I am sure you already know that hours of the day are different in different parts of the world and during different seasons. Why did Islam not standardize the hours of fasting?
We know that fasting starts at sunrise and ends at sunset, but in some parts of the world it may take more than 20 hours. Was the prophet (pbuh) not aware of it?
One of your brothers from Kualalumpur.
Daytime – the time during which the sun shines on a particular region of the earth – symbolizes life for that part of the earth. Active life has traditionally been related to the time during which the sun keeps the particular part of the world illuminated. The remaining part of the day is basically a time of inactivity and sleep. It is for this time of active life during the day that Islam has prescribed fasting. In other words, Islam wants its adherents to fast through the daytime, symbolizing a training session that starts with one’s active life and ends at, or close to, the time of one’s retirement for the day. Fixing hours for fasting rather than relating it to the rising and setting of the sun would obviously have removed this symbolic implication from the timings prescribed for fasting, as fixing hours for fasting, would have meant severing its relation with the movement of the sun. In my opinion, it is primarily for this reason that Islam has not standardized the hours of fasting and has related the duration of fasting with the rising and the setting of the sun in the particular region, even if it meant a longer fasting time for a particular region in a particular month of Ramadhan and a shorter fasting time for another region during that month.
I hope this helps.
November 8, 2000
Prayer and Ramadan Timings on the North and South Poles
I have an interesting question concerning the issue of a Muslim living in Alaska or Iceland. Now there are times in these places where the day never ends and the sun never sets. How is one supposed to keep the fast then? How does one know when the time for sala’h is?
If there is a Muslim community residing in such areas, it can collectively decide on such timings, as well as timings for prayers etc.
As a matter of fact, people who live in places like these, do have a way of managing their hours. I am sure, they wake up in the “morning”, take breakfast, go to work, take lunch, may be even take an “afternoon” nap, take their “evening” tea, and retire to their bedrooms, in the “night” time.
Just like all these activities are managed even in these areas, and managed quite effectively, in the same way, prayers and fasting can also be managed independent of the movements of the sun, if such movements are not easily visible in any areas.
(Date not recorded)
Timings for Fasting for a Traveling Pilot…
I am a pilot and I may be flying in the month of Ramadhan. Could you please tell me as to what time of IFTAR should I observe if I change my location (i.e. city or country) from where I took my Sahoor. Secondly, if the flight is heading west or east whereby the sunset time changes, and I am still in the air then what Iftar time should I observe.
Your question pertains to a situation, which is the result of developments in the transportation facilities. It is primarily due to these developments that a person initiating his fast in Pakistan can be thousands of miles away from Pakistan at the time of Iftaar. It is obvious that the issue was not even considered a remote possibility during the times of the Prophet (pbuh). The Shari`ah, for the stated reasons, has not given any express directives regarding the issue. As a result, the issue should be decided through Ijtehad.
There can be two possible opinions regarding your question:
Firstly, one may ascribe to the opinion that the person should complete his fast, according to the timings for fasting at the place where he initiated his fast. Thus, according to this opinion, a person who has initiated his fast in Pakistan, may take Iftaar after a time interval when he would have taken his Iftaar had he remained stationed in Pakistan.
Secondly, one may ascribe to the opinion that the person should follow the timings of the place where he is physically present. Thus, a person, who had initiated his fast in Pakistan and undertook a journey to another place, should observe the timings of that other place. In case, the person encounters sunset before reaching his destiny, he should then take Iftar at the time of the sunset, even if he has not reached his destiny.
I am personally inclined towards adhering to the second of the stated options. In my opinion, the second opinion is not only more in keeping with the directive of the Qur’an, regarding fasting, as that directive relates the timings for fasting with the movements of the sun, but is also in keeping with the collective spirit which Islam promotes.
November 15, 2000
Using Inhalers While Fasting…
Can one use inhalers while fasting?
Using inhalers, specifically in case of or to avoid asthmatic emergencies, does not, in my opinion, effect fasting. Such inhalers do not entail any nourishment (food value); they do not go to the stomach and they are not swallowed (like food or water). In my opinion, they should not, therefore, be grouped with eating, drinking or indirectly taking nourishment, which is prohibited while in a state of fasting. I am of the opinion that a person with an asthmatic problem may take his dose of inhaler to clear his breathing path, while in a state of fasting.
It should, however, remain clear that the matter pertains to ‘Ijtihaad’ regarding whether or not such medication should be grouped with items, the intake of which should be avoided while fasting or not. A difference of opinion can exist in such matters.
December 9, 2000
A Comment on ‘Using Inhalers While Fasting’
The inhalers are particles of medicine and other chemicals that go to the airways but a majority (depending on the size) are deposited in the nose, back of throat and indeed are ingested and go to the stomach!!
There are inhalers for asthma (like Serevent, for instance), which need to be taken only twice a day.
Dr. Nasir H. Siddiqi
Thank you for your feedback.
Under the circumstances, I would suggest that the patient should consult his physician regarding the effects of the particular inhaler that he is using. If the vapors of the particular inhaler go directly to the stomach, then he may request the physician to change it to one which either does not have that effect or may be taken before the initiation of the fast and after its end.
December 12, 2000
A Further Comment on ‘Using Inhalers While Fasting’
I have read the discussion on the ‘use of inhalers during fasting’ between you and Dr.Nasir with interest and found myself compelled to participate as I had some views to share.
In general all human systems are so intricately connected with each other that it is very difficult to claim that anything (medicine or food) remains restricted to just one of them and is hence allowed or disallowed during fasting. Most if not all things, crossover from one system to the other to take effect and then to a third to get excreted. Take for example the skin ointments, a nitroglycerine patch or earache drops. As per common belief they are believed to be perfectly safe during fasting. But they cannot exercise their desired effects unless they are absorbed into the blood stream to be carried to target cells in blood or brain. While, on the other hand, a tablet to be taken by mouth for the same effects is considered ‘not permissible’ in Ramadan. It is therefore obvious that there are more factors than just one that govern the final dictation of something as ‘permissible’ or ‘not permissible’ during fasting and they all must be taken into account when making such a comment. I’ll list them as:
1.Mode of drug use…. if a certain drug is used in a way that it does not enter the mouth, throat or more distant parts of digestive system as its primary portals of entry, it should fall in the category of ‘permissible’.
2.Spill or crossover…. if a small percentage of a drug is involuntarily carried into the digestive system where it is not supposed to produce significant effects, it should remain permissible during fasting.
3.Type of response produced…. if a drug produces a response which defies the basic philosophy of fasting e.g. giving energy or producing delirium, it should fall in the category of ‘not permissible’ no matter which way it gets into the human body.
As I have said earlier, all these should be considered in each case and then a decision be made.
In view of all this I believe that even if a small amount of inhaled medicine might find its way into stomach (it is proven that most of it goes to the lungs) it should remain legally permissible because its primary effect is only in the lungs, and that it is carried into the stomach involuntarily and that the small amount reaching the stomach does not produce any significant effects on ones fasting status. So is the case with an injection (intramuscular or intravenous) of painkillers.
On the other hand if one opted for an injection of concentrated nutrients (glucose, proteins etc.) during
fasting, it would break his fast because, in spite of the fact that it did not involve mouth as its portal of entry and it is quite similar to an injection of pain killers, it does produce the effects which defy the philosophy of fasting.
Dr. Rizwan Haider
Eating at Dawn after Sexual Intercourse
I am a new Muslim in United States. This is the first time I am keeping fasts. I want to know do I have to take a shower before eating at dawn, if I have had sexual intercourse with my husband.
You do not need to bathe before eating at dawn. However, it is necessary to bathe for your morning prayers. One may, therefore, bathe before or after eating at dawn, as is convenient for the individual.
November 21, 2001
Seminal Emissions During Fasting…
I am a boy of 17 years and I am fasting since last 2 years. This year I am facing a great problem. After sehari when I sleep I am getting nocturnal emissions almost everyday. I cannot understand why? I am not masturbating but it comes out automatically. Please suggest what to do. Also is my fast ok or is it not. Also if I have emitted in the day time and I did not know how it happened means I did not masturbate it just came out is my fast still valid??
Please also tell me that if I have nocturnal emission and then I have a bath, then next morning can I read namaaz without a bath even if I sleep in the same bed where I had the emission on the same bedding???
Your fast is not affected by any involuntary seminal emissions. However, if the seminal emission is of the nature of ejaculation (that is, entailing sexual climaxing), while you are sleeping, then you should take a bath to clean yourself for offering your prayers. On the other hand, if the seminal emission is only of the nature of ‘dripping’, then you should simply wash yourself (your organ) and perform a new ablution (Wudu), for saying your prayers.
Yes. You may offer your prayers without taking another bath, even if you had slept in the same bedding on which you had a nocturnal emission. However, it would be advisable that if your bedding is significantly spoiled due to the emission, then you should change it before lying down, as that is likely to spoil your clothing.
I hope this helps.
December 2, 2001
Sexual Relations with Spouse during the Month of Ramadan
Is any kind of sexual activity allowed by the Shari`ah during the month of Ramadan?
All sexual activities are forbidden, while in a state of fasting. This implies that a person may have sexual contact with his/her wife during the nights of Ramadan. However, if, during the month of Ramadan, a person decides to undertake ai`tikaaf, then till the time that his/her ai`tikaaf continues, the person should refrain from sexual contact with his/her spouse even during the nights.
I hope this helps.
December 15, 2001
Medication intake during Fasts
I plan to perform some supererogatory fasts. However, I am on oral medication that needs to be taken twice daily, and once during the time that I would be fasting. Typically, the patient drinks water with this medicine. According to the Shari’ah, would it be permissible for me to take the medication while fasting without the water? The medicine does not taste very good, so it would not effect any gustatory pleasure.
The first thing that you may consider is to consult your physician regarding whether or not you may adjust the timing of your medication dose to before and after the timing of the fast. In case that is not possible, then you may ask him to replace your oral medication with an injection, if that is possible. In case neither of the two options is available to you, then you may offer supererogatory abstinence from eating and drinking, except for the intake of your medication. However, being extra-careful with the terms and prescriptions of the Shari`ah, I would not recommend calling this abstinence a ‘fast’. It should be considered as a voluntary abstinence from eating, drinking and indulging in all kinds of sexual acts to gain the pleasure of the Almighty and with the intent to develop and strengthen the spirit of Takwaa (training oneself in adherence to the directives and commandments of the Almighty).
May the Lord reward you for all your efforts in His ways.
May 12, 2002
Masturbation during Fasting…
If someone masturbates during fasting then what would be the affect of masturbation on fasting? I want to figure out whether the fasting remains stable or not?
The very spirit of fasting seems to develop self control by abstaining from fulfilling all of our physical needs, including hunger and sex. Masturbation or any other means of gratifying our sexual desires is clearly against this spirit of fasting and must, therefore, be refrained from.
I hope this helps.
November 26, 2002
Further Exchange regarding Masturbation during Fasting
You say masturbation should be refrained from during fasting. But if someone indulges in such act, then what would be the fate of that fast? Whether would it be stable? What would be the penalty, if no more stable.
As a corollary of my opinion given in my original response, I hold that if a person, who agrees with my stated understanding, masturbates, while in a state of fasting and while fully conscious and mindful of his intended fast, then his fast shall stand invalidated.
As for the penalty of intentionally breaking an obligatory fast before its completion, the Shari`ah has not appointed a specific penalty for it. However, in view of the fact that breaking a fast, in its spirit, is closely related to breaking a vow of prohibiting something upon oneself, therefore, the Prophet (pbuh) applied the same penalty on breaking a fast as was appointed by the Shari`ah upon Zihar .
According to this application of the Prophet (pbuh), if a person intentionally breaks his fast before its completion, he is recommended to:
a)Fast for two consecutive months; or if that is not possible
b)Feed sixty destitute people with food the standard of which should be comparable to the average standard of food taken by the person who has broken the fast.
I hope this helps.
December 7, 2002
Using Toothpaste While Fasting
Thank you for this website. I have learnt a lot from your answers. Could you tell me if using toothpaste on a toothbrush in order to clean the teeth is prohibited during fasting in the month of Ramadan?
Thank you for your answer
JazaakAllah for your encouraging remarks on our website.
Although using toothpaste to clean one’s teeth is neither ‘eating’ nor ‘drinking’, and therefore its use, while in a fast, cannot be termed as prohibited, however using toothpaste is not only likely to leave a taste in one’s mouth but may also be unintentionally swallowed while brushing the teeth. I would, therefore prefer to brush my teeth without putting toothpaste on the brush, while in a fast. It should remain clear that this is a matter of one’s personal preference only. You may, if you like, opt to brush your teeth with toothpaste. Unless a person starts eating the toothpaste, which obviously no person in his senses would, using toothpaste – with due care – to clean one’s teeth cannot be termed as prohibited in the Shari`ah.
28th December 1999
Is it Allowed to Pass One’s Saliva while Fasting?
I would like to ask one thing. Is it true that you are not allowed to swallow your own spit during fasting?
I don’t think so but my friend insists about not letting anything pass the throat including one’s own saliva.
That seems rather silly to me since it is a normal reflex that one didn’t even think about. So if you could, can you please clarify the matter?
The opinion expressed by your friend is not correct. Passing the saliva during a fast is not only allowed but is impossible to refrain from. While in a state of fasting, we are directed to refrain from ‘eating’ or ‘drinking’ any thing. Passing the saliva does not come under the scope of either ‘eating’ or ‘drinking’.
Thus, in my opinion, passing the saliva is not prohibited while in a state of fasting. I do not know of any scholar in the past, who held an opinion contrary to the one that I have given.
10th December 1999
Concessions & Missed Fasts
Fasting in a State of Illness
A few days back, while hosting a television program “Sawal Yeh Hay”, Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan expressed his opinion that if a person is suffering from such a disease, due to which, it is necessary for him to take his medicines at least thrice a day, but otherwise his general health is good, then during the month of Ramadan, he should fast but take medicine during Sahar , then at noon and then after Aftar .
Do you agree with Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan? If yes, then please refer to those Nasoos of Qur’an and Sunnah on which your opinion is based.
As far as I know Qur’an explicitly describes what a patient should do during Ramadan. Either he should fast after Ramadan when he is healthy and complete the number of fasts, or if he does not expect that he could ever be so healthy, he should feed a poor person, once against each fast.
I would tend to differ with the referred opinion of Dr. Mohammad Farooq Khan, which he reportedly expressed on a television program. I agree with you that the referred issue has been explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an and in such a case, there seems to be no room for anyone’s opinion or ijtihad. The Qur’an has specifically mentioned that if anyone is not well and due to his illness, is not in a position to fast, he should complete the number of fasts missed, during other days. Prior to this final directive regarding completing the number of fasts missed, during the month of Ramadhan, the Qur’an had also given Muslims the option that if someone was not in a position to fast due to illness, he may complete the numbers so missed during other days or if he can afford to do so, he should feed a poor person (Al-Baqarah 2: 184) for each fast missed. Later on, the Qur’an removed the allowance of feeding a poor and directed the Muslims that if they are in any way incapacitated to fast during Ramadan, they should now complete the number of fasts that they had to miss because of their illness or journey (Al-Baqarah 2: 185).
On the basis of the stated directives of the Qur’an, I tend to agree with you that if a person is temporarily incapacitated from fasting because of any illness, he should then complete the number of fasts that he had to miss, during other days. While if he is permanently incapacitated from fasting, he should then feed a poor person as a penance for each fast thus missed.
23rd March 1999
Completing the Number of Fasts
When a Muslim misses fasts during the month of Ramadan due to illness, how long does he/she have to make up those fasts? The common thing that I have heard is that the number of fasts must be completed within the year before the next Ramadan begins.
What is this opinion based upon?
When a person misses any fasts during the month of Ramadan due to illness or journey, the Shari`ah directs him to complete the number of fasts during other days. The Shari`ah has not restricted us regarding the number of days, months or years during which the number of missed fasts is to be completed. Thus, there is no religious obligation to complete the missed fasts during a particular time period.
However, we must remember that till the time that we complete the number of missed fasts, it would remain our religious obligation to do so. Like all other liabilities, we should try to free ourselves from this liability as soon as we get the opportunity of doing so. For, who knows, we may not get another opportunity to retire our obligations.
Thus, although the Shari`ah has not given any specific directions regarding the number of years, months or days in which the missed fasts should be completed, prudence requires that we do so whenever, and as soon as, it is easily possible for us.
28th June 1999
The Number of Fasts Missed due to Menstruation
The First Question
Are women supposed to complete the number of fasts missed during [menstrual] periods after Ramadan?
According to the established practice of Muslim women, since the times of the Prophet (pbuh), the number of fasts missed due to menstruation is completed any time after the month of Ramadan. It should, however, be kept in mind that the number of prayers thus missed may not to be completed.
8th September 1999
The Second Question
I want to know the answer with references.
What I have learned is that one has to complete the number of fasts which one misses due to some disease or illness. However, menstruation is neither an illness nor a disease.
Can you please clear me on this issue?
You have correctly stated that the Qur’an has given an allowance for a person who is ill or is on a journey that he may not fast during Ramadan and later, when his ailment or his journey ends, he should then complete the number of fasts missed. If you look at the two bases of this allowance, they may be classified as reasons that are internal to one’s self – illness – and external reasons – as a change in the environment and the circumstances as in the case of a journey. Thus, the Qur’an, in essence, has directed the Muslims that if they have to miss their fasts due to any reason whether internal or external to themselves, they should then complete the number of fasts later.
Moreover, a close look at the related verses of the Qur’an (Al-Baqarah 2: 183 – 185) shows that it has greatly stressed completing the number of days prescribed for fasting. Verse 184 opens with the words: “[These are] numbered days”, then again in the same verse it says that “thus, whoever among you is ill or is on a journey, he should then complete the number [of fasts] in other days”. In verse 185, the Qur’an says, “And whoever is ill or is on a journey, he should then complete the number [of fasts] in other days”. Then in the same verse, the Qur’an once again says, “So that you complete the number [of fasts]”. This special stress on completing the number of fasts of the month of Ramadan should also help us understand why the Prophet (pbuh) directed women to complete the number of fasts that they miss due to their menstruation. Thus, once when Hadhrat Ayesha (ra) was asked why should a woman complete the number of fasts missed due to her menstruation and not the number of prayers, the umm al-Mumineen is reported to have replied: “This happened to us [during the days of the Prophet] and we were directed [by him] to complete the fasts thus missed but not the missed prayers” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Haaydh).
As far as the basic evidence of the fact that a woman should complete the number of fasts missed due to her menstruation is concerned, it is the practical perpetuation of this practice among Muslim women of all times and places (including the Muslim women of the times of the Prophet) and the consensus of the Muslim scholars . It is therefore that in my previous response I only mentioned that “According to the established practice of Muslim women, since the times of the Prophet (pbuh), the number of fasts missed due to menstruation is completed any time after the month of Ramadan”. In my opinion, one of the most authentic bases for a religious practice to be correctly ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) is that there is practical perpetuation of the Muslims on such practice.
10th September 1999
The Third Question
You stated in your reply that the most authentic bases for a religious practice to be correct is that there is practical perpetuation of the Muslims on such practice.
What I want to know is that if the traditions and living styles of people have considerably changed couldn’t the practice be reconsidered/discussed. As you know in today’s’ world the interaction between male and female has become more frequent, in their own houses and outside. Women from the families with adult male members, such as brothers, chacha [uncle] etc wakes up at ‘sahri’ (even if it is not their duty to prepare it) just to avoid the awkward situation. Some even go to the lengths of eating during the day in hiding places in their own house. The situation of working women and the girls studying in co-education is even worse. Sometimes they don’t eat the whole day due to non-availability of proper place and to avoid the awkward situation. Now if the girl/woman tries to complete her fasts after Ramadan the situation is even more difficult to handle. It is very hard to avoid telling people that you are fasting and if you tell them then the questions! (To tell you the truth one has to be a woman to really understand this) What I mean is that Islam is the religion that is for all cultures and times and for what I think is a religion that doesn’t believe in hardships for its followers. On one side if we say that one has to bear all the difficult situations in performing our religious duties then, on other hand, is the concept of ‘hayaa’.
In addition, hasn’t Islam taught us not to accept things as they are or being done by our ancestors but try to understand the real reason, the basic concept?
I hope you understand that I’m very confused on this topic. As I think, all traditions/practices of Islam are very convenient. And I don’t find this practice convenient.
I do appreciate the embarrassment that a woman may feel due to the situation. However, this is primarily because our society has a very strange concept of “Hayaa”, whereby we are not even in a position to discuss or make our natural problems known to others. It is obvious that when a woman is living in a household with adult male members [including brothers, uncles etc.], all adult male and female members are well aware of the natural phenomenon of menstruation, and yet no one is willing to accept that due to the natural phenomenon, the woman [who woke up each of the thirty days during the month of Ramadan] should actually have missed a few fasts. However wrong it might be, we have to live with it. Social norms and concepts cannot be emended overnight.
In any case, to avoid the psycho-social embarrassment that a woman may feel while completing the number of fasts, after the month of Ramadan, she may give the impression that she is fasting naf’l [non-obligatory or supererogatory] fasts. I think this may remove the element of embarrassment felt.
13th September 1999
Rules of Fasting related to Travel
I would like to know the rules concerning exemption from fasting while traveling. What are the criteria to break the fast in terms of the distance, mode of transportation, time of travel, purpose of the trip or any other relevant matters. I am planning to travel a long distance (1000 km) by car to visit a non-muslim friend. I would like to know if I can eat while traveling, and once I get to my destination.
The Qur’an has clearly allowed us to miss the fasts (and complete the number later) that fall during the time in which we are ill or on a journey. The details of the illness and that of the journey during which a person may take advantage of this allowance have not been specified by the Shari`ah (i.e. the Qur’an or the Sunnah of the Prophet). In other words, it has been left to the individual to decide, keeping in view the gravity of the ailment or the conditions of the journey, whether he should take advantage of the allowance or not. If a person feels that it will become quite cumbersome for him to complete the fast due to any journey or ailment, he may take advantage of the allowance. On the contrary, if the individual feels that the nature of his ailment or the conditions that he is likely to encounter in a journey are such that he does not need to take advantage of this allowance, he may then opt for not doing so.
The lack of specification of the nature of the ailment or that of the journey in the Qur’an is not without wisdom. We know that traveling conditions as well as health-care facilities cannot be standardized for all times to come and for all places. A journey of twenty miles that could have been considered quite cumbersome fourteen hundred years ago, may easily be perceived as routine commuting in our times. Likewise, traveling conditions may also vary from one place to another and from one mode of travel to another. A distance of over a thousand miles covered in the comfortable environment of an aircraft may be far less cumbersome than a distance of a hundred miles covered in public transport (bus) in a third-world country like Pakistan.
In view of the above explanation, it should be quite clear that the Shari`ah has allowed us to defer the completion of the number of fasts if we suffer from an ailment or are on a journey. As for the details of the ailment and the distance of the journey are concerned, the Shari`ah is silent on that. The individual, keeping in view his specific ailment and conditions should decide for himself whether he should take advantage of the allowance of the Qur’an.
23rd December 1999
Fasting for a Feeding Mother
Can a woman, who is breastfeeding the baby, fast during the month of Ramadhan?
The issue should, in my opinion, be decided through consultation with a qualified medical practitioner. If he/she thinks that the feeding mother can bear the burden of fasting throughout the day, without affecting her own health and that of the baby, and if the mother also feels strong enough to do so, she may, then continue fasting. On the other hand, if the medical professional thinks otherwise, then it would better and advisable to avoid fasting till the time that the child has to be fed. Nevertheless, the general practice of Muslim women has generally been to refrain from fasting during these days, for medical reasons, for which the Shari`ah has allowed the person to miss fasting. The Qur’an has clearly allowed a person to miss the number of fasts during which it is medically advisable for him/her to refrain from fasting.
Thus, whether a feeding mother should fast or not is, basically, a decision regarding the fitness of the woman for fasting. If she feels and is declared to be fit for fasting, she may decide to do so. On the contrary, if she feels weak and is advised to refrain from fasting during these days, then the Shari`ah allows her to miss fasting, during the month of Ramadhan and then complete the number of missed fasts, when she is fit to do so.
November 14, 2000
Last year I missed all of my fasts during Ramadan and was not able to even fast a single day, because I was 7 months’ pregnant and weak, therefore, I could not keep my fasts, this year now I feed my daughter because she just takes milk and nothing else, therefore I feed her after every hour. Kind sir, please tell me what should I do in this situation. please give me a detailed answer. Thank you
If a person, due to any reason relating to his/her health is unable to fast during the month of Ramadan, then the Qur’an has expressly allowed him/her to complete the number of missed fasts during other days.
In view of the allowance given by the Qur’an, I would suggest that you may, if required, defer completing the number of your fasts till the time that you are in a position to do so. Furthermore, if required, you may, as in the previous year, miss your fasts during the coming Ramadan as well.
Please let me know if any further clarification is required.
October 5, 2001
Regarding Taraweeh Prayers
How To Offer Witr Prayers?
Somebody mentioned that the Prophet (SAW) used to offer 2 sunnats and 1 witr. And if we offer 3 witr, we shouldn’t sit down after the 2nd Rak`ah to say Atta Heeyat.
Please tell me what is the correct process.
The word “witr”, in the Arabic language means “odd” (as in “odd number”, as opposed to “even number”).
The “witr” prayer that the Muslims generally offer after “`isha” prayers are basically a part of the “tahajjud” prayers, which were obligatory for the Prophet (pbuh) and are a “naf’l” (supererogatory) prayer for other Muslims besides the Prophet (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) offered his tahajjud prayers in such a way that the number of the rakaat totaled to an odd number. When some Muslims came to the Prophet (pbuh) informing him that it was very difficult for them to wake up in the middle of the night for their tahajjud prayers, and inquiring from the Prophet (pbuh) regarding what should they do to earn the rewards of offering tahajjud prayers, the Prophet (pbuh) allowed them to offer their “witr” prayers, after `isha.
It must be kept in mind that the Prophet (pbuh), never in his life, offered his “witr” prayers after `isha.
As far as the method of offering tahajjud prayers is concerned, the following few facts can be derived from the actions and/or words of the Prophet (pbuh) in this respect:
1.The Prophet (pbuh) never exceeded eleven rakaat in this prayer;
2.The following three methods may be adopted in offering these rakaats:
•the rakaats may be offered two at a time, and finally one rakat may offered separately;
•the rakats may be offered four at a time, and finally three rakaat may be offered separately, without sitting in tashahhud; and
•all the rakaats may be offered in one go, without sitting for tashahhud, that is two, four, six, eight or ten rakats may be offered one after the other, without sitting for tashahhud. And finally one rakat may be offered separately.
It must also be kept in mind that the Taraweeh prayer, normally offered during the month of Ramadan, after the `isha prayers is also the tahajjud prayer, which was offered by the Prophet (pbuh) only in the middle of the night, and never after the `isha prayers.
31st October 1998
Clarification Regarding Witr Prayers
Can you please give the Hadith on which you have based your opinion regarding the method of offering Witr prayers. I have dicussed this with friends here and they are saying that they want the source.
The various methods of offering Witr prayers given in my referred response, with their respective references, is given below:
The first method of offering Witr prayers was given in my response as:
the rakaats may be offered two at a time, and finally one rakat may offered separately
This method is mentioned in Bukhariy, Kitaab al-Wudu, Narrative number 177 and Bukhariy, Kitaab al-Jum`ah, Narrative number 938.
The second method of offering the prayers was given as:
the rakats may be offered four at a time, and finally three rakaat may be offered separately, without sitting in tashahhud;
This method is mentioned in Bukhariy, Kitaab al-Jum`ah, Narrative number 1079; Abu Dawood, Kitaab al-Sala’h, Narrative number 1140.
The third method of offering the prayers was given as:
all the rakaats may be offered in one go, without sitting for tashahhud, that is two, four, six, eight or ten rakats may be offered one after the other, without sitting for tashahhud. And finally one rakat may be offered separately.
This method is mentioned in Muslim, Kitaab Sala’t al-Musaafireen wa Qasrihaa, Narrative number 1217 and Narrative number 1233; Tirmidhi, Kitaab al-Sala’h, Narrative number 421.
I hope this helps.
December 15, 2001
Clarification on the timing of Witr and Taraweeh prayers..
“It must be kept in mind that the Prophet (pbuh), never in his life, offered his “witr” prayers after `isha.”
Does this mean that the current practice which is prevalent among Muslims of offering their Witr after their ‘Isha Fardh (and Sunnah and in some cases after Nafl) is incorrect? Please can you clarify your statement.
Further down you have written the same, but this time it is directed at the Taraweeh prayer:
“[The Witr prayer] was offered by the Prophet (pbuh) only in the middle of the night, and never after the `isha prayers.”
Again, is the practice of Muslims offering their Taraweeh after their ‘Isha (and before their Witr) incorrect?
Please can you clarify this for me.
Witr, as I have clarified in my previous responses, is in fact a part of the Tahajjud prayers. Although the Prophet (pbuh) is not reported to ever have offered his Tahajjud prayers with the `Ishaa prayer, yet he is reported to have allowed offering Naf’l rak`ahs and the Witr prayer (which actually implies Tahajjud prayers) after the `Ishaa prayers, to those who found it difficult to wake up in the middle of the night to offer their Tahajjud prayers. It is because of this status of the Witr prayers (i.e. as being a part of the Tahajjud prayers) that those, who intend to wake-up in the middle of the night to offer Tahajjud prayers, should be advised not to offer their Witr after `Ishaa prayers, but to defer it till the end of their Tahajjud offering.
In view of the stated permission of the Prophet (pbuh), offering Witr prayers after the `Ishaa prayer cannot be termed as incorrect.
My answer to your question regarding Taraweeh prayers – which also are in fact the Tahajjud prayers, offered after the `Ishaa prayer, for the convenience of those, who cannot wake-up at the more desirable time of Tahajjud prayers – is the same as the one given above for Witr prayers.
I hope this helps.
January 8, 2002
Some Questions Regarding Missed Fasts and Taraweeh Prayers
I would like to ask you some questions.
If someone forgets the number of fasts that he had missed, then what should he do?
Is it valid, for someone to offer 8 raka’h in Taraweeh prayer?
If a person is ill or is on a journey, due to which he is not in a position to fast during the prescribed month of Ramadan, the Qur’an has allowed him to miss the number of fasts, during which he is ill or is on a journey and then to complete the number of fasts later, when he is well or when he returns from his journey, as the case may be. The Qur’an, while giving this allowance, has stressed to complete the number of fasts, when it becomes possible to do so. In view of this stress of the Qur’an, it is important that a person keep an accurate record of the number of fasts missed during Ramadan and then to complete the number later. However, if a person forgets the exact number of fasts missed during Ramadan, he may assess the number so missed and complete the number according to his assessment. In such a situation, it may be hoped that if the assessment is made diligently and still a mistake has been committed, God in His infinite mercy shall forgive us and not punish us for such a mistake.
Moreover, it should also be remembered that all our unintentional mistakes and the shortcomings in our obligatory acts of worship are not only covered but also greatly rewarded, if we offer some supererogatory (nafl) acts of worship on our own. For instance, an unintentional and unnoticed mistake in our obligatory prayer is not only covered by our sincere offering of a supererogatory (nafl) prayer but we are also greatly rewarded for offering the supererogatory prayer. The same is the case of our unintentional mistakes in fasting and other forms of worship.
Taraweeh is not an obligatory prayer. The number of rak`ah of the Taraweeh prayer is also not fixed. Actually, the Prophet (pbuh) himself did not ever offer the Taraweeh prayer, as is now a regular practice among Muslims. The Prophet (pbuh) only offered the Tahajjud prayer. However, because the Prophet (pbuh) allowed those who could not wake up in the middle of the night for their Tahajjud prayer to offer this prayer after the `Ishaa prayer, therefore it is not incorrect to offer any number of rak`ah after the `Ishaa prayer, as is now a practice among Muslims, especially during the month of Ramadan. There is thus, no harm in offering fewer or more number of rak`ah in the Taraweeh prayer. The Prophet (pbuh) did not fix any particular number of rak`ah of the Tahajjud prayer and therefore, this number cannot be fixed by any one else either.
10th December 1999
Regarding Taraweeh and Tahajjud Prayers…
My questions are about Taraweeh and Tahajjud prayers.
1.During Ramadan, Taraweeh prayers are held in the mosques with the Imam . In some mosques 8 rak’ahs are prayed whereas in others 20 rak’ahs. Which is correct, 8 or 20?
2.After the Taraweeh prayer in the mosques, is it permissible to pray additional rak’ahs as Tahajjud prayers at home, before the Fajr prayer.
3.Most of the ahadith say that prophet (SAW ) never prayed more than 11 rak’ahs of night prayer. If so who started 20 rak’ahs of Taraweeh prayer. I understand that in Haraam at Makka, the taraweeh prayers is 20 rak’ahs. Is it correct?
4.In the last 10 days of Ramadan, in the mosques both Taraweeh and Kiyamul-Lail prayers are held with the Imam. Is it permissible to pray Kiyamul-lail prayers after praying Taraweeh prayer.
Would appreciate your answers to above queries, quoting Sahih Hadith.
Before reading my response to your specific questions, I request you to kindly take a look at a couple of my earlier responses to related questions titled: “Some Questions Regarding Missed Fasts and Taraweeh Prayer” and “Reading From the Qur’an While In Taraweeh Prayer” .
The answers to your specific questions follow:
1-The number of the rak’ats of the Tahajjud and/or the Taraweeh prayer were not fixed by the Prophet (pbuh). Therefore, the number of rak’ats offered in these prayers may not be found to be uniform. Because this is a naf’l (supererogatory) prayer, therefore fixing the number of rak’ats offered was against its nature and spirit. However, when these prayers are sought to be offered in a congregation due to any reason, the very nature of organizing the congregation would require to fix a number of rak’ats. In my opinion, it was actually due to this reason that fixing the number of rak’ats of this prayer became an issue during the time of the second caliph, when Omar (ra) organized the prayer in a congregation.
2-If a person wants to and can offer Tahajjud prayer at home, it is better for him to skip Taraweeh prayer and offer his Tahajjud prayer at home in seclusion. Taraweeh is a substitute of the Tahjjud prayer for those who cannot offer the Tahajjud prayer at its stipulated time. However, offering both the prayers (Taraweeh as well as Tahajjud) cannot be prohibited.
3-There is quite a bit of difference among Muslim scholars regarding the recommended number of rak’ats in the Taraweeh prayer. The reason for this difference, as I have stated earlier, is that the Prophet (pbuh) did not fix the number of recommended rak’ahs for the prayer. Some scholars feel that the recommended number of rak’ahs should not exceed eleven – including witr – while others are of the opinion that twenty-three rak’ahs should be offered, another group makes the recommended rak’ahs at thirty-six and yet another group takes the recommended number to over forty. This difference is due to the difference of interpretation of the information about this prayer given in the various narratives.
Besides this, we also get the information that the Prophet (pbuh) never exceeded eleven rak’ahs in his Tahajjud prayer, the Mu’atta of Imam Maalik gives some good and organized information about the origination and development of the Taraweeh prayer in its congregational form. The information provided in the Mu’atta is summarized below:
•The Prophet (pbuh) never offered the Taraweeh prayer. However, one night the Prophet came out of his room (at the time of the Tahajjud prayer) and offered his prayers in the mosque. People gathered behind and joined him in his prayer. The same thing happened on the night that followed, with a greater number of people joining the Prophet (pbuh). On the third or the fourth night, people gathered in anticipation of joining the Prophet (pbuh) in his prayer again, but the Prophet did not come out. In the morning, the Prophet (pbuh) told the Muslims that he had not come out of his chamber to offer his Tahajjud with the Muslims due to the fear that the Muslims may consider this to be an obligatory prayer.
•The first time that the night prayer was organized at a mass congregational level, was during the days of the caliphate of Omar (ra). One night, when Omar (ra) came into the mosque after the `Ishaa prayers, he saw that people had gathered in a number of various groups and were offering their prayers behind various imams (leaders of prayers). This situation was creating a chaotic scene. The recitation of one imam could not be clearly distinguished from that of another. After observing this scene, Omar (ra) suggested that those who want to offer their night prayer in congregation should all join behind one imam, so that the Qur’an is clearly audible. He also appointed Ubayee ibn Ka`b as the leader of this prayer, because of his good style of recitation. The next day, when Omar (ra) came to the mosque, he was satisfied with the development in the situation. However, Omar himself never joined this congregational prayer and is reported to have commented that the prayer being substituted is far superior to its substitute.
•Omar (ra) directed Ubayee ibn Ka`b to offer the prayer in eleven rak’ats. The qiyaam (standing posture during the prayer) of these rak’ats was so long that some people had to recline on their staffs to keep themselves standing. It seems that this was the reason that later on the rak’ats were increased to twenty-three (including witr prayers) as is reported in some other narratives of the Mua’tta.
4-Answer given in number 2 above.
I hope this helps.
20th February 2000
Reading from the Qur’an While Leading Taraweeh Prayer
I am in a small town of US, and there are only 8 to 10 Muslims who pray together. This small community is divided on performance of Taraweeh Salah. Being a small community it is hard to find a Hafiz to lead Taraweeh prayers, so a brother is leading prayers with small Qur’an in hand and reciting from there but our other brothers have strong objections as such prayers are wrong as you cannot read from anywhere when you are leading or following any prayers. So, because of this we are only 4 or 5 Muslims praying Taraweeh together. It was decided to get a fatwah so I need your immediate attention to this matter.
It is generally believed that it is essential to complete the Qur’an from the beginning to end in the Taraweeh prayer. This is not correct. Taraweeh is actually a substitute of the Tahajjud prayer, allowed for those people who have difficulty in waking up in the middle of the night – the prescribed time for the Tahajjud prayer. The Prophet (pbuh) offered his Tahajjud prayer with a longer qiyaam [standing position] than was the case in other prayers. This obviously meant that in Tahajjud prayer the Prophet recited a larger portion of the Qur’an as compared to that in other prayers. It seems that this factor later prompted the Muslims to make a tradition of reciting the whole of the Qur’an in Taraweeh prayer during the month of Ramadan.
It should be clear in view of the above explanation that:
•Taraweeh prayer is not an obligatory prayer;
•It is not essential to offer the Taraweeh or Tahajjud prayer in congregation;
•If no one in the community is a Hafiz or remembers a large portion of the Qur’an, yet people want to offer this prayer in congregation, the person leading the prayer may read out aloud from the Qur’an – as there is nothing that prohibits such an act in supererogatory prayers;
•The best and the most desirable way of offering this prayer is to offer it alone at the time prescribed for the Tahajjud prayers.
I hope this helps.
15th December 1999
‘Good Bid`ah’ and ‘Bad Bid`ah’
Is there something like ‘good Bidah’ and ‘bad Bidah’ as some scholars allege?.Can u explain this hadith which makes reference to ‘good Bidah’!!?.
“…. On that, ‘Umar remarked, ‘What an excellent Bid’ah (i.e. innovation in religion) this is; but the prayer which they do not perform, but sleep at its time is better than the one they are offering.(He meant the prayer in the last part of the night)” (Taraweeh Prayer, Bukhari).
Also please explain why the arrangement of congregation Taraweeh Prayer by Umar(ra) and an additional Azan during Juma’ah by Uthman(ra) are not Bidahs?.
The word Bid`ah as a term of the Islamic literature, implies making an unsubstantiated and unauthorized addition to the corpus of Islam, which is the same as what you have explained as ‘innovation in religion’. Keeping this explanation in perspective, it should be clear that, when used as a term, there is no such thing as ‘a good bid`ah’, as no unsubstantiated and unauthorized addition to the corpus of Islam – or an innovation in religion – is even acceptable, let alone ‘good’.
However, in its literal sense, the word ‘Bid`ah’ is used simply to imply ‘beginning’, ‘starting’, ‘initiation’ etc. Used in its literal sense, a number of things may be considered as ‘good’.
In my opinion, the word ‘Bid`ah’, in the referred statement of the second caliph, has been used in its literal sense, rather than as a term.
In the second part of your question, you have asked about my opinion regarding the status of the ‘extra’ Adan for the Friday congregation, which was initiated by the third caliph and that of the congregation for Taraweeh prayers, which was initiated by Hadrat Omar (ra).
For my opinion regarding the Friday Adan, I would request you to kindly refer to one of my earlier responses to a related question titled “How many Adan should be Recited before Jum`ah?” .
As for the initiation of the Taraweeh congregation, it is clear that, if required, congregations can be organized for supererogatory prayers. This point is substantiated by some incidents during the time of the Prophet (pbuh). Obviously, when it is established that supererogatory prayers can be offered in congregation, then organizing any one or the other supererogatory prayers in a congregation cannot be termed as unauthenticated. Keeping in mind the above clarification as well as the fact that the Tahajjud prayers were offered quite regularly by the Prophet (pbuh) during his life, we can now easily understand that Omar’s organization of the said supererogatory prayers in a congregation cannot be termed as an unauthenticated addition to the corpus of Islam.
I hope this helps.
November 25, 2001
“Bid`ah” & “neither Bid`ah nor Sunnah”
Please explain how to differentiate between Bid`ah and “neither Bid`ah nor Sunnah” category. I understand Bid`ah as whichever act done thinking that it is a part of Sunnah of the Prophet when it is actually not. Is my understanding correct?
Could you please explain whether wearing cap (thinking that it is a part of Sunnah), congregational
supplication, saying Ameen aloud in Qunoot behind Imam, reciting Darood before Adhan, reciting Fathihah for the deceased, fasting during night of Mehraj, “Sabeh-Baraat” etc. are bid`ahs? The person practicing Bid`ah will easily argue that they practice the above mentioned acts only as an additional good deed and not thinking that it is Sunnah. How to counteract the argument?
I would define Bid`ah slightly differently. In my opinion, Bid`ah is an unsubstantiated addition to the corpus of Islam.
Incorrectly considering something to be a part of Sunnah can merely be an error of understanding, placement and categorization of a particular directive of action and may not necessarily amount to Bid`ah. Nevertheless, when any belief, concept or action is added to the corpus of Islam, without any basis for it in teachings or actions of the Prophet (pbuh), then such an addition, in my opinion, is a bid`ah.
Keeping the foregoing explanation in perspective, it should be clear that all those actions which fall within the category of ‘Jaayiz’ or ‘allowable’ are those, which are neither Sunnah nor Bid`ah.
With the above explanation in mind, I consider the recitation of Darood with the Adhan, reciting Faatihah for the deceased, celebrating Shab-e-Bara’at and making a general routine of offering congregational supplications at the end of Sala’h to be bid`ah. In the case of fasting on a particular night, it cannot be considered as Bid`ah as doing so is ‘allowable’ in Islam. However, giving a particular night a special status, without the authority of the Prophet (pbuh) is clearly incorrect. Covering the head during Sala’h also falls within the ‘allowable’ actions. Nevertheless, considering the covering of the head to be a part of the religious directives is not correct. Finally, saying “Aameen” – whether audibly or inaudibly – at the end of any supplications is also ‘allowable’ and should, therefore, not be considered as bid`ah. However, it would not be correct to consider it necessary to say “Aameen” loudly at the end of any given supplication.
I hope this helps.
December 10, 2001
The Last Ten Days of Ramadan
During the Last Few Days of Ramadan
The new millennium is coming in like about 13 days time. I heard that most probably the NIGHT OF POWER will be on the 31st Dec 1999. I know it is not for sure but I was just wondering, what should I do in the last ten days of Ramadan to fully get God s.w.t’s RAHMAT , besides reading the Qur’an? What are the night prayers that should be performed?
May God be with you.
Ramadan should be considered the month solely of the Qur’an. However, the basic stress should not be on reading more of the Qur’an, but on the comprehension of the Qur’anic message. We must always keep in mind that the Qur’an is the only straight and the guaranteed path to God’s mercy. All else comes later.
The main activities that you may consider especially during the blessed month, besides reading the Qur’an, may entail regular offering of the Tahajjud prayer. Tahajjud, as you may know, is offered anytime after mid-night and before dawn. The right time to offer this prayer is after taking some sleep. The salient feature of this prayer is the recitation of a larger part of the Qur’an in each rak`at than is the normal practice in other prayers. If you have memorized some parts of the Qur’an, you may recite these parts in your Tahajjud prayers. On the contrary, if you do not know any significant portions of the Qur’an by heart, then you may read out from the Qur’an, while in your prayers.
This should point to another important activity that may be considered in these last days of Ramadan, namely committing some portions of the Qur’an to your memory. You may begin with the shorter Surahs (chapters) of the Qur’an, as they would be easier to memorize. You should then regularly recite the Surahs that you memorize, as this would serve the double purpose of not only reciting the Qur’an but also as an effective means of revising all the Surahs, that you commit to memory.
Ai`tikaaf can be another activity that may be considered. During Ai`tikaaf, one gets an even bigger opportunity for concentrating on the meaning of the Qur’an, as well as offering naf’l prayers in seclusion.
Regular and mindful recitation of the Qur’an shall, insha’Allah, provide us with the knowledge of the path that leads us closer to our Merciful Lord. For no source of this knowledge is more authentic than the Qur’an. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that it is not just the knowledge of the path but, even more so, sincerely traveling that path that shall expedite bringing us closer to our Lord. For this purpose, we should make a note of all the directives of the Qur’an that apply to us and make a whole-hearted effort of living our lives according to these directives. Of special significance, among these directives, is to spend in the way of our Lord. Spending our money as well as our efforts in the way of our Lord shall, insha’Allah, prove to be a great source of bringing us closer to Mercy of our Lord.
Finally, another very important source of bringing us closer to our Lord is our sincere supplications invoking God’s mercy for ourselves, our loved ones and our friends. For this purpose, one may benefit from the narrated supplications of the Prophet (pbuh). You can find a number of small books in which various supplications of the Prophet (pbuh) have been compiled. These supplications should also be memorized and invoked at their respective occasions.
23rd December 1999
Watching Videos of Islamic Lectures in Mosques during the Last Few Days of Ramadhan…
Some brothers want to organize a program involving watching an Islamic video in the local mosque in the last ten days of Ramadan.
Firstly, are there much better ways of spending time in the worship of Allah in Laila-tul-Qadr other than learning from an Islamic video?
Another concern that brothers have expressed is that is it okay to watch a video in the mosque? There have been reservations about images of people being shown in the prayer hall, which is the only space that can be provided for a large gathering.
Thank you kindly.
As far as showing an Islamic video, for instance a lecture, is concerned, if one agrees with the opinion previously expressed at ‘Understanding Islam’ that only the polytheistic images have been prohibited by the Prophet (pbuh), then there is no harm in showing it in the prayer-hall. However, I would request you that if the idea of showing an Islamic video in the mosque is not welcomed by all the regular participants, then it should rather be avoided. There may, indeed, be Muslims who do not agree with the opinion (regarding pictures) given at ‘Understanding Islam’, who may feel that showing or watching recorded lectures is prohibited in Islam, because of the images of the person delivering the lecture. One may try to convince such people of one’s opinion, but one should never try to enforce his opinion on others, especially in a common place like a mosque. After all, even if one ascribes to the opinion that it is not prohibited to show or watch pictures, it only implies that showing/watching pictures is lawful or allowed, not obligatory.
I would, therefore, suggest that unless the participants unanimously agree and allow playing the said Islamic videos, playing such videos should be avoided, to avoid flaming any disputes and differences.
As far as whether or not there are any better ways of spending the last few nights of Ramadhan is concerned, it really depends on the personal inclinations of the individuals involved. One individual may like to spend his nights in prostration to his Lord, another may like to spend his nights reading or memorizing the Qur’an; while yet another may like to read the explanations/commentaries on the Islamic literature of a particular scholar. Due to these variances in the likings of the individuals, I do not like the idea of organizing any collective activities (like showing Islamic videos or even arranging lectures on the Qur’an) during these nights. I would rather suggest that each individual should organize and plan for his own activities. However, if the whole Muslim community of the area is inclined towards organizing to show Islamic videos during these nights and there exists no difference among them as to what sort of videos should be shown, then there would be no harm in doing so.
November 20, 2000
What does Sunnah of the Prophet tell us about ai`tikaaf? What are the rules which one has to follow? What are the restrictions and limitations during this period??
Ai`tikaaf really implies restricting oneself to a particular place for a period of time. The period may vary from a few hours to ten or more days. The objective of restricting ourselves to a particular place, during Ai`tikaaf is to separate ourselves from our regular business and to spend some time in the remembrance and worship of the Almighty. In view of this objective, the most appropriate place for Ai`tikaaf is the mosque, if one exists in the accessible locality.
During Ai`tikaaf, the most important rule is to strictly remain limited to the place of Ai`tikaaf and not to get out of that place, except in case of a pressing requirement.
I hope this helps.
November 12, 2001
A question has been asked as to whether women should do ai`tikaaf at home or at the mosque and which is more preferable.
The Qur’an has referred to the practice of ai`tikaaf with the words: “While you are in the mosques in a state of ai`tikaaf”, which clearly implies that the prescribed method for ai`tikaaf is by restricting oneself to the mosque. There is no distinction between men and women in this respect. Thus, it should be quite clear that the preference shall clearly be in favor of performing ai`tikaaf in a mosque, for men as well as women.
However, most of the present day mosques do not provide adequate facilities for women, in this respect. Under these circumstances, a woman may be left with no choice except to complete her ai`tikaaf at her residence. This allowance is based on the same principle as the allowance of tayammum under conditions where a person cannot perform wudhu due to the unavailability of water or due to any other reason. In the same way, if a woman – or even a man – cannot complete her ai`tikaaf in a mosque due to any reason, she may complete it at her residence by restricting herself to a particular room or a corner in the house.
Nevertheless, if a woman can find a mosque in which there is adequate arrangement for women’s ai`tikaaf, undertaking the ai`tikaaf in the mosque should be preferred.
8th August 1999
Taking a Bath while in Ai`tikaaf
Can a person have SHOWER (BATH) while he is sitting for “ETAKAF” DURING RAMADAN if so please give examples from hadith.
Bathing or otherwise cleaning oneself while sitting in Ai`tikaaf is not prohibited, as has been reported in Bukhairy that while the Prophet (pbuh) was sitting in Ai`tikaaf, Ayesha (ra) washed and combed his hair. However, because in the past, one had to go out of the mosque to take a bath, therefore, some Muslim scholars restrict the allowance of taking a bath, only when it has become obligatory upon a person to take a bath. Nevertheless, the modern-day mosques generally have toilets and bathrooms built within them, due to which a person sitting in Ai`tikaaf does not need to go out of the mosque to take a bath. In view of the availability of this facility in the modern days, a person may take a bath while sitting in Ai`tikaaf, even though it has not become a requirement of the Shari`ah for him to take a bath.
I hope this helps.
December 26, 2001
A Question on Eid
The First Question
If one begins Ramadan in Pakistan and then finishes Ramadan in America but the starting of the two respective countries was different then which day shall we celebrate EID ? Washington DC started a day earlier than here in Atlanta and so there are some brothers who are confused whether they should celebrate Eid the same as their community in Washington DC or here in Atlanta? Especially of concern is if one is in a different community and only ends up fasting 28 days if one celebrates Eid with the new community.
Eid shall be celebrated, according to the sighting of the moon in the place the person is living at that particular time. This may cause a shortfall in the number of fasts or it may take the number of fasts over 30. If there is a shortfall, for example if he has 28 fasts, the person should later on, complete at least 29 fasts. While, obviously no such remedies would be required, in case, the fasts go above 30.
(Date not recorded)
The Second Question
It is right that if a man changes place and celebrates Eid with the locals and the number of days of fast are less than 29, after Eid a fast should be observed to bring the number to 29 at least. But a learned man told me that fasting should be omitted after 30. The fasting days are neither less than 29 nor more than 30.
I would like to clarify at the outset that the question you have asked is not an issue related directly to the Qur’an. It is basically a matter of Ijtehad. Ijtehad of two individuals may differ from each other. In an instance where you come across a differing Ijtehad of two individuals, it is advisable that you listen to their arguments and analyze the basis of their differing reasoning. In this way, you shall Insha’Allah be in a position to judge for yourself, which of the two opinions is closer to the principles laid down by the Shari`ah.
If, during Ramadan, some one moves to a place where the Ramadan dates are behind those of his first place of residence, it would be better for him to fast the remaining days of Ramadan according to his new place of residence, even if doing so increases his total fasts to over thirty. Our opinion in this case is based on the fact that Islam has given its various kinds of prescribed obligatory worships the shape of a collective activity of the Muslims residing in a locality. Thus, to us, it seems closer to this spirit of the obligatory worships prescribed in Islam that a person should fast with the Muslim community with which he is residing. If doing so increases his fasts to over thirty, he shall Insha’Allah be greatly rewarded by his Most Gracious Lord.
(Date not recorded)
Celebrating Eid Throughout the Muslim Ummah on the Same Date…
Is it not necessary for all Muslims to celebrate Eid only one day, i.e. according to Saudi Arabia, because that is our Qibla?
Nothing can be termed as “necessary”, in religious matters, unless a clear directive of the Qur’an or the Sunnah has specified it to be “necessary”. The case for celebrating Eid on the same day, throughout the Ummah is not “necessary” because the Qur’an and the Sunnah have not given it such a status. However, this does not mean that celebrating Eid on the same day throughout the Ummah is prohibited. Muslim countries, in this case, may decide to follow any particular area (which may be Saudi Arabia – as you seem to suggest) or may, on the other hand, decide to celebrate Ramadan and Eid according to their own moon sightings. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the case for Hajj should be considered separately. The reason is quite obvious. Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr are universal in nature, while Hajj is performed only in the Saudi Arabia. Thus, in my opinion, the day for Hajj – and subsequently Qurbani (slaughtering an animal) – should be in accordance with the moon sighting in the Saudi Arabia only. However, even this is not necessary – as it has not been termed as such by the Qur’an or the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh).
8th January 2000
A Question Regarding Zaka’h al-Fitr
My question pertains to Zaka’h al-Fitr. According to a hadith of the Prophet (from Bukhari), each person is required to give 6 pounds of barley as Zaka’h al-Fitr before Sala’h of Eid. Now the confusion that I run into is that this obviously goes against the directives of justice established within the Qur’an and Sunnah. For instance, it makes little sense that an established Zaka’t be made for all people regardless of their social standing. This would seem to promote injustice in that individuals who were less fortunate would suffer more. Could you comment or explain the validity of the hadith and my concerns.
Before answering your specific question, I would like to clarify that the Zaka’h al-Fitr is not a universally fixed amount of any particular grain that has to be paid, as you seem to have interpreted from the referred narrative. In fact, the particular grain that is to be given out can vary from person to person (or from family to family), as is clearly narrated in most of the narratives on the topic.
The real spirit of this Zaka’h (sadaqah), as is clarified in a few of the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) is to offer a voluntary atonement for the intentional or unintentional and known or unknown shortcomings in our fasts during the month of Ramadan, on the one hand, and to feed the hungry and the destitute on the blessed day of Eid, on the other. The Qur’an has also prescribed feeding of the poor and the hungry as atonement for some of our mistakes. For instance, in case of inability to fast or breaking of an oath or intentionally hunting an animal while in ihraam – i.e. in a state of Hajj – or taking back an oath of Zihaar etc. It is inherent in all these directives of the Qur’an regarding atonement for a wrong or a mistake that the quality of the food, with which the poor be fed, should be the same as the average quality of food with which the person offering the atonement feeds his family with. This inherent qualification regarding the quality of the food has been explicitly mentioned in one of the cases referred to above (Al-Maaidah 5: 89).
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, it should be clear that the real directive regarding the Zaka’h al-Fitr is that of feeding the poor with the average quality of food that is generally eaten in a household. The specification of grains in the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) is primarily due to the fact that the bulk of the average food consumed in an Arab household, generally, consisted of grains. Furthermore, the options given in the choice of grains, mentioned in these narratives is due to the variance in the average consumption of these grains in a particular household. In other words, a household that generally consumed barley should give barley as Zaka’h al-Fitr, while a household that generally consumed wheat, should give wheat. The amount of the particular grain given as Zaka’h al-Fitr for each person of the household should be equal to the average daily food requirement of one person.
In view of the above explanation, it should be clear that the principle of levying Zaka’h al-Fitr on a particular household is clear of all injustice. It is not a universally applied quantity and quality of food that has to be given by each person, irrespective of his financial position. It is, on the contrary, related to the average quality of food consumed by the household in question.
I hope this helps. In case any aspect of question remains unanswered, please feel free in writing back to me at your own convenience.
May God guide us to the path of his liking.
Eating in Public during the Month of Ramadan
In certain parts of Pakistan, it is considered almost criminal for a person to be eating in public during the day in Ramadan. One can get beaten up if caught in such a situation by the general public.
Where does such strong public sentiment have its roots? Would you support a law that would make the practice illegal?
The root of this practice is only in the uncontrolled temper of individuals who behave as self-appointed divine inspectors of Islam. In their zeal of bringing people in line with their own perception of the norms of Islamic behavior they forget that while in a state of fasting they were not only to refrain from eating and drinking, but were also to keep all other Muslims and human beings secure from any harm that their hands or their tongues may bring upon them.
I do acknowledge that eating in public while the whole society is observing a fast is indecent and uncouth behavior. Any individual who is guilty of public indecency and uncouthness can be apprehended and even punished, if the law of the land makes such provisions. However, this detention and punishment can only be effected by those, who have the moral as well as the legal authority to do so. Taking the implementation of laws – which, in most cases, are not even legislated – in one’s own hands is crime itself.
The referred practice is already not only illegal but also lacks all moral grounds. In my opinion, individuals involved in such criminal practices should themselves be severely punished under the law of Qisaas .
I hope this helps.
December 8, 2002
Clarification of the Reasoning behind your Response
You describe eating in public as “uncouth and indecent.” Does this happen to be your own personal perception of the issue, or is this attitude borne of your understanding of the portion of the Qur’an and Sunnah that directs us in this matter?
Do you not think that what constitutes indecency and uncouthness is relative from person to person, or one culture to the next?
Further, I was quite surprised to read that you think eating in public during the day in Ramadhan should be punished “severely”. Eating in public during the day in Ramadhan does not upset social order, and nor does it harm anyone. Why then do you feel that an act like this should be so severely punished?
Making this act illegal would curb the freedoms of people of other religions. From this perspective as well, I would tend to disagree with your assessment that eating in public during Ramadhan is as serious an offense as you have stated.
I feel that this is an issue of personal freedoms, and forcing compliance to an Islamic directive such as fasting borders on compulsion in religion, which according to my understanding is against the spirit of Islamic teachings.
Kindly explain the reasoning behind your response to my earlier query.
I do acknowledge that indecency and uncouthness can be a highly relative phenomenon. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there can be cases where most of the people, if not all, would readily agree to a certain assessment with regards to decent and/or indecent behavior.
I had written:
… eating in public while the whole society is observing a fast is indecent and uncouth behavior.
In my opinion, eating and drinking in public, while most or all of the society – whether a Muslim or a non-Muslim society – is observing a fast, seems to indicate a complete disregards and apathy on the part of the individual towards his/her social circle. I don’t think many people would disagree that apathy towards others is indecency and uncouthness. Empathy, understanding and compassion towards others are most certainly desirable and highly valuable qualities of social life and play a major role in strengthening our social relations.
I would therefore like to refrain from eating and drinking in front of my friends – whether Muslim or non-Muslim – while they are observing a fast, as a show of my respect and regard for them.
Nevertheless, I do submit that there can be a difference of opinion in such matters.
Further, I was quite surprised to read that you think eating in public during the day in Ramadhan should be punished “severely”.
This, unfortunately, is not what I meant. The sentence which gave you this impression is reproduced below:
The referred practice is already not only illegal but also lacks all moral grounds. In my opinion, individuals involved in such criminal practices should themselves be severely punished under the law of Qisaas.
The phrase ‘The referred practice’ is not meant for ‘eating in public’, but is, in fact, meant for beating people up for eating in public.
What I had actually meant was as follows:
The practice of beating people for eating in public during the month of Ramadan is already not only illegal but also lacks all moral grounds. In my opinion, individuals involved in such criminal practices should themselves be severely punished under the law of Qisaas.
I am sure that after this clarification there is no need to answer any of your remaining questions.
I hope this helps.
January 10, 2003
If a Person Dies During Ramadan…
I want to ask whether it is true that if some body died during the month of Ramdhan his previous sins will be vanished? Or will he still be responsible for them?
As a principle, it should be remembered that according to the Qur’an, a person shall only be rewarded in the hereafter for what he actually strives for. The Qur’an has emphatically declared:
… And that man shall get only what he strives for (Al-Najm 53: 39)
Thus, according to the Qur’an, man shall neither be punished nor rewarded for anything, which he did not earn or strive for.
In the light of the mentioned principle, it should be easily determinable that because the place, time and mode of one’s death is, generally, not in the control of a person, therefore, a person would not be rewarded or punished for the time, place and mode of his death.
Nevertheless, the above mentioned principle should not be construed to refute the good fortune of a person, who dies in a state of piously observing the sanctity of the month of Ramadan or that of Hajj or the like. It is indeed good fortune of a person to be taken to his Lord, while he is in the process of sincerely carrying out any of His directives or after having sincerely and effectively repented for his deeds.
May the Almighty forgive us all our sins.
January 1, 2001
Should the Prophet’s Supererogatory acts of Worship be Included in His Sunnah?
Is it Sunnah to fast on Mondays and Thursdays?
As I have clarified in my responses relating to the nature and scope of Sunnah, the term Sunnah refers to those actions of the Prophet (pbuh), which the Prophet (pbuh) initiated, performed and promoted among ALL his followers, as a part of God’s religion.
In view of this explanation of Sunnah, supererogatory acts of worship, such as supererogatory fasts of the Prophet (pbuh) should be placed in the uswah e hasanah of the Prophet (pbuh), rather than in his Sunnah. It should be kept in mind that the Sunnah is an independent source of the Islamic Shari`ah, while the uswah-e-hasanah of the Prophet (pbuh) is, in fact, the excellent way in which the Prophet (pbuh) practiced Islam.
There are some narratives, according to which the Prophet (pbuh) used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. However, the information regarding the Prophet’s fasts on Mondays seems comparatively more reliable. Nevertheless, if the information provided in these narratives is considered accurate, then it would correct to derive that the Prophet (pbuh) did, in fact, fast on Mondays and Thursdays, generally.
October 9, 2001
The Hadith Regarding Fasting for Six Days in Shawwaal
Could you please relay the Hadith which states that the ajar [I.e. reward] of fasting 6 days in the month of Shawwaal is equivalent to that of fasting the whole year? I have not been able to locate it.
Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Daarimiy report the referred narrative. However, it may be of interest to note that the narrative does not (except in one reporting) state that the reward of fasting six days during the month of Shawwaal, in addition to the month of Ramadan is equivalent to that of fasting the whole year. On the contrary, the narrative states that a person who fasts the month of Ramadan and six days during the month of Shawwaal is as if he has fasted for the whole year.
If we look at the content of all the narratives on the referred topic, it seems that subject matter of this narrative is not to describe the reward of fasting six days of Shawwaal or that of Ramadan; it is actually to promote a balanced approach towards life. Man, as we know, has the tendency of being driven by instinct and thereby disturbing the natural balance in his everyday life affairs. It seems that the referred narrative is actually an advice of the Prophet (pbuh) to promote and maintain the natural balance in one’s life. This apparently seems to be the case in one of the narratives reported by Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood. According to this narrative, a person asked for the Prophet (pbuh)’s permission to fast for the whole year, without break. The Prophet (pbuh) replied:
“Indeed your wife has a right on you. Fast during the month of Ramadan and then [six days] during the month that follows and then on Wednesdays and Thursdays. If you can maintain this, it would be as if you fasted the whole year.”
In my opinion, as I have stated earlier, this narrative does not tell us about the reward of fasting during Ramadan and then subsequently during Shawwaal. It actually teaches us to maintain the natural balance in our affairs. As it is quite possible that a person may get carried away to earn the extraordinary reward attached to fasting and start fasting continuously. In doing so, there is a good chance that he may ignore the duties that nature has imposed on him regarding his own self, his family members, his society and his nation. It is in this context that the Prophet’s referred advice should, in my opinion, be understood.
28th December 1999