Fatwa about shortening the fast


1. Regarding the question on the Dar al-Ifta’ al-Misriyyah fatwa that one may fast in the Northern European countries by the timings of Mecca or Medina, “Apart from these respected modern day ‘ulama, are there any classical sources that mentions this position at all?”

The Egyptian fatwa that one may use the awqat of the Haramayn apparently has no scholarly backing earlier than Shaykh Muhammad Abduh’s position as related by his student Rashid Rida in Tafsir al-Manar (mentioned verbatim in the fatwa itself), and they both left it unsourced.

In the Shafi`i madhhab the fatwa has always been aqrab al-bilad as early as Qadi Husayn (d. 462), and that fatwa is confirmed as the standard fatwa in the Kuwaiti Mawsuaa and the Fatwa of al-Mujamma` al-Fiqhi in Jeddah.

So the fatwa that in the Northern regions one may fast according to the timings of Mecca appears to be exclusively a modern Egyptian ijtihad. Sh. Musa Furber said:

As far as that specific position goes: I looked through Azhar’s fatwa and found three fatwas about fasting in land with extremely long days.

The first was from Sh. Husnayn Muhammad Makhluf, dated 1952. He just says to break the fast if it is long enough to be harmful, similar to someone who is sick.

The second was from Sh. Jad al-Haqq Ali Jad al-Haqq, dated 1982. It is detailed. He gives many references for using the closest land. The only support he mentions for referring back to Mecca and Medina (since they are the moderate lands where Islam was revealed) is Rashid Rida. It really is very strange how Sh. Jad al-Haqq was able to list numerous sources for the closest land position and then listed just a single source for referring back to Mecca and Medina – and that source himself doesn’t source it.

The third was from Sh. Abd al-Latif Hamza, dated 1984. He mentions two options: closest land, or Mecca and Medina. His fatwa is not very detailed when it comes to reasons. The passage from Tafsir al-Manar is:

الْمُعْتَدِلَةِ تفسير المنار (2/ 131)
وَالَّذِينَ لَيْسَ لَهُمْ شَهْرٌ مِثْلُهُ يَسْهُلُ عَلَيْهِمْ أَنْ يَقْدُرُوا لَهُ قَدْرَهُ، وَقَدْ ذَكَرَ الْفُقَهَاءُ مَسْأَلَةَ التَّقْدِيرِبَعْدَمَا عَرَفُوا بَعْضَ الْبِلَادِ الَّتِي يَطُولُ لَيْلُهَا وَيَقْصُرُ نَهَارُهَا وَالْبِلَادِ الَّتِي يَطُولُ نَهَارُهَا وَيَقْصُرُ لَيْلُهَا، وَاخْتَلَفُوا فِي التَّقْدِيرِ عَلَى أَيِّ الْبِلَادِ يَكُونُ فَقِيلَ عَلَى الْبِلَادِ الْمُعْتَدِلَةِ الَّتِي وَقَعَ فِيهَا التَّشْرِيعُ كَمَكَّةَ وَالْمَدِينَةِ، وَقِيلَ عَلَى أَقْرَبِ بِلَادٍ مُعْتَدِلَةٍ إِلَيْهِمْ، وَكُلٌّ مِنْهُمَا جَائِزٌ فَإِنَّهُ اجْتِهَادِيٌّ لَا نَصَّ فِيهِ.

This summary of the fiqh is copied into other books, including Fiqh al-Sunnah, and some of Dr. Ali Gomaa’s works. [Also: in Wahba al-Zuhayli’s al-Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuh and his Tafsir. – Gibril]

Not a single one lists a source for this opinion save that it traces back to Rashid Rida. They and many others endorsed an opinion that Rashid Rida ascribes to scholars yet never seems to have ever been mentioned by any Sunni scholar before him.

It would not be the first time that a scholar endorsed something because something sounds good and reasonable. Sh. Ali Gomaa, et al may have signed it because Rashid Rida’s opinion sounds good and reasonable – something that Sunni fuqaha could have argued and, according to Rashid Rida, actually did. I think they signed it with good intentions and based on Rashid Rida’s say so.

While I personally find such a simple and practical opinion to be attractive, I cannot see any precedent for it.

2. As for the question, “What is the limit for the fast becoming too long? 21 hours? 20 hours? 19? 18? – how is this limit defined? Or is it merely up to the individual to decide, based on what constitutes hardship for the individual?”


Two answers here. Sh Musa Furber said:

Given that the mustafti is in a region that lacks an Islamic authority whose opinion is binding upon the masses, and given that there are multiple legitimate opinions on the matter; so in practice it ends up being a personal choice.

Sh. Azlan Abdullatif said: As for fasting, as long as as dusk and dawn is well defined, then the fasting period is in between them, be it 21, 23 or 23.5 hours, due to the asl (i.e. khait abyadh / khait aswad). If a person is unable to perform it, there is no sanctioned dispensation (rukhsah syar’iyyah), as in solah musafir for example, although he can claim ‘adamul istita’ah and perform qadha’ during a milder season as in the case of an ‘ajuz [old woman] unable to withstand the rigours of fasting,  although I’m not sure which is the stronger position; qadha’ or fidyah.

An interesting issue mentioned by Ibn Hajar in the case of a person in a location in a place where dusk and dawn is so close, that he can only perform either maghrib or iftar but not both together; he would have to break fast and perform qadha‘ of maghrib due to the injunction of performing wisal of the fast.

3. As for the question “Based on this position, would it then also be possible to do the same with the ‘isha prayer?”

The Abduh/Rida statement does not address the time of `Isha. When there is no `isha — since neither `isha nor fajr actually enter when the sunlight does not completely disappear (after the discus disappears) before the sun rises again — traditionally the schools have advocated EITHER (I) taqdir (estimation) either (i) from the nearest geographical location that has a true `isha, or (ii) from subdividing the time between sunset and sunrise, as alluded in the question; OR (II) qada‘ (make-up).

Sh. Azlan Abdullatif said:

The basis of the [Shafi`i] school is the delineation of time, where the time is identifiable, the ibadah shall be defined by it. In other words, the ibadah is pre conditioned (syarat) by identification of time. As long as the period and demarcation is identifiable, the amr / commandment shall be defined by it. On the other hand, if the pre-condition is unfulfilled / unidentifiable, it shall be treated as such.

For example, in a location where there is constant twilight where the demarcation of time is unidentifiable, the school advises referring to the nearest location where time is identifiable and the various awqat al-solah and fasting time are interpolated from it. In the case where all the prayer times are identifiable but the fajr and dusk is too close to allow a demarcation between maghrib and `isha, the `isha is considered outside of time and qadha‘ is advocated (since maghrib and fajr are definite but leaves no room for the definition of `isha according to the asl (i.e. the hadith of isha being performed after the disappearance of the syafaq)

4. As for the question “Why Mecca time? If we depart from the real time, based on leeway, why is the choice for ijtihad limited to Mecca? Why not aqrab al-bilad or aqrab al-ayyam?

Mecca time excludes neither aqrab al-bilad nor aqrab al-ayyam; however, the Azhari fatwa already gave its rationale when it said: “Estimating the times for starting and ending a fast based on the nearest country with moderate hours is an extremely confusing matter. Those who are in favor of this method, stipulate knowledge of the precise calculations for starting and terminating the fast in the nearest countries with moderate hours without any difficulty or confusion. From experience and practice, both of these conditions are lacking in the above method of estimation, giving rise to greater confusion. For this reason, Sheikh Gad al-Haq, the former Grand Imam of al-Azhar, ruled out this method after mentioning another alternative. He called upon the residents of countries with lengthy daylight hours to follow the timings of Mecca or Medina.”

Sh. Musa Furber said:

The Dar al-Ifta fatwa gave some reasons why they prefer Mecca timing over the nearest land. The gist of the argument is that there are multiple legitimate opinions, and Mecca is the easiest one for people to implement.

5. As for the question “How would this principle of opening the fast by Mecca time actually work with regards to the maghrib prayer? Does the position entail that people break their fast around Mecca-time, but then wait until local sunset before praying maghrib?”

The answer is: this is just the same as breaking fast and praying according to the nearest land as discussed in Imam al-Suyuti’s Hawi lil-Fatawi:

Fatwa entitled “al-As’ilat al-Mi’a” [The Hundred Questions]

وَأَمَّا السُّؤَالُ التَّاسِعُ وَالْخَمْسُونَ، وَالسِّتُّونَ: فَجَوَابُهُ أَنَّ البرهان الفزاري أَفْتَى بِوُجُوبِ صَلَاةِ الْعِشَاءِ وَالْحَالَةُ هَذِهِ. وَأَفْتَى مُعَاصِرُوهُ بِأَنَّهَا لَا تَجِبُ عَلَيْهِمْ ;
لِعَدَمِ سَبَبِ الْوُجُوبِ فِي حَقِّهِمْ وَهُوَ الْوَقْتُ. وَيُؤَيِّدُ الْأَوَّلَ الْحَدِيثُ الْوَارِدُ فِي أَيَّامِ الدَّجَّالِ، حَيْثُ قَالَ فِيهِ:
اقْدُرُوا لَهُ قَدْرَهُ، قَالَ الزركشي فِي ” الْخَادِمِ “: وَعَلَى هَذَا يُحْكَمُ لَهُمْ فِي رَمَضَانَ بِأَنَّهُمْ يَأْكُلُونَ بِاللَّيْلِ إِلَى
وَقْتِ طُلُوعِ الْفَجْرِ فِي أَقْرَبِ الْبِلَادِ إِلَيْهِمْ، ثُمَّ يُمْسِكُونَ وَيُفْطِرُونَ بِالنَّهَارِ كَذَلِكَ قَبْلَ غُرُوبِ الشَّمْسِ إِذَا غَرَبَتْ عِنْدَ غَيْرِهِمْ كَمَا يَأْكُلُ الْمُسْلِمُونَ وَيَصُومُونَ فِي أَيَّامِ الدَّجَّالِ.

As for the 59th question: Its answer is that al-Burhan al-Fazari gave the fatwa that Salat al-`Isha is obligatory even in such a situation, while his contemporaries gave the fatwa that it is not obligatory for them, because the cause of obligatoriness is inexistent for them, namely, timing. The first position is supported by the hadith of the time of al-Dajjal, wherein he [saws] said: “Estimate its time and duration.’ Al-Zarkashi said in al-Khadim: ‘Accordingly, the ruling for them in Ramadan is that they should eat at night until the time of the rising of dawn in the nearest land to them, then they refrain from eating, and they break their fast in the daytime likewise before the setting of the sun, when it sets in other than their own country, just as the Muslims eat and fast in the days of the Dajjal.'”

WAllahu a`lam.

Hajj Gibril Haddad

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