Fatwa about shortening the fast in Northern countries


As-salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah to all respected scholars and people
of knowledge

A blessed Ramadan to you all.

As you probably know, Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah has published a fatwa about shortening the fast in countries where the night is short. I realize that this isn’t a new issue and that perhaps it has already been discussed. However my search came up empty.

I have only a single question: What is the position of the traditional scholars from the four madhhabs on this matter, especially in relation to regions where there is actual sunset that lasts for at least a few hours?

In Denmark for example we have sunset, around 22:00 local time, whereas the earliest fajr time (according to nisf al-layl) is around 01:15. There are the other fajr calculations (sub’ al-layl, and others) that are much later, up until around 02:30 etc. It seems there are several different timetables around based on a array of different positions/options.

Our scholars have rejected this fatwa and I don’t see anything in the Hanafi madhhab to make it a valid option in our case (Denmark), however some people pointed out that they felt that we were unnecessarily making things difficult for people so I wanted to ask what other scholars state about this issue.

I would like to add that we have been fasting according to nisf al-layl and the longest our fast has been is around 20 hours and 50 minutes, and al-hamdu li-Llah it hasn’t been any issue in our climate and situation to keep it despite work/studies etc. People seem to be doing just fine.

The fatwa is published here: http://www.dar alifta.org/viewfatwa.aspx?id=2806&mu&Home=1&LangID=2

pdf-edition here:

Any response would be highly appreciated.


Alaykum Salam,

Alhamdulillah, Shaykh Jad al-Haqq, Shaykh Mustafa al-Zarqa and Dr. Ali Jumaa are traditional scholars of the four madhhabs and the Azhari fatwa came specifically in response to the situation in Scandinavian countries and is well-argued and well-supported. It gives leeway for those who want the dispensation (rukhsa) of following the times of Mecca and Madina in view of the inordinately long times in their climes as well as for those who want to treat the uncommon Scandinavian timings as ordinary, which is strictness (`azima). Our teacher Dr. Nur al-Din `Itr was more strict on himself than anyone else, yet he would often remind us of the hadith narrated by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih from Ibn `Abbas, from the Prophet (s):

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ أَنْ تُؤْتَى رُخَصُهُ، كَمَا يُحِبُّ أَنْ تُؤْتَى عَزَائِمُهُ
“Allah loves for His dispensations (rukhas) to be applied just as much as He loves for His strict orders (`aza’im) to be followed.”

Furthermore, al-Layth bin Sa`d said:

أهل العلم أهل التوسعة
“The people of knowledge are the people of leeway!”

Sufyan al-Thawri said:

إذا رأيتَ الرجل يعمل العمل الذي قد اختُلِف فيه وأنت ترى غيرَه، فلا تَنْهَهُ
“When you see anyone do something over which there is a difference of opinion, and you follow a different position, do not forbid them!”

He also said it is easy for anyone to be strict; fiqh consists in finding leeway for the people.

And al-Nawawi said:

العلماء إنما يُنْكِرون ما أُجْمِعَ عليه؛ أما المختَلَفُ فيه، فَلَاإِنكارَ فيه
“Scholars only condemn what there is consensus about; as for what is differed about, condemnation is impermissible! because according to one of two positions, every mujtahid (verifying scholar) is correct. This is the preferred position of many of the verifying scholars or even their majority.”

Al-Suyuti reaffirmed this rule in al-Ashbah wal-Naza’ir in Shafi`i fiqh.

We must assume

(i) that the first group feels grateful at the fact that their fast is fully valid and accepted in sha Allah, without their having to subject their bodies to what they experience as an unbearable strain — because the Prophet (s) said verbatim “Verily the religion is ease” (inna al-dina yusrun) and “Make things easy for people, not difficult” (yassiru lil-nasi wa-la tu`assiru), both as narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari — and also without false misgivings, because this is an authoritative fatwa which may be followed in the Religion and is — as already shown — impermissible to condemn, even if one is free to disagree with it;

(ii) and that the second group feels grateful that Allah gave them the ability to keep the fast even under more extreme conditions than the rest of the world, without self-pride because merit does not hinge on quantity but rather entirely depends on the sincerity of the fast whether for one hour or for 24 hours, just as it does in Salat, whether 2 rakaats or 20. They must know that any thought of themselves as superior to others has brought them closer to shirk (associating themselves as partners with Allah, the Sole Owner of the Day of Judgment).

Both groups must be content that Allah does not burden anyone beyond their capacity, without browbeating the other disapprovingly. The Prophet (s) said, “As you measure it out for others so it shall be measured out for you” (`Abd al-Razzaq, al-Bayhaqi and others) and Imam al-Baydawi cited this in his tafsir on Maliki Yawm al-Din. There needs not be “rejection” nor judging of others, nor mutual estrangement from those who adopt either one of the respective positions but rather be a sensible, loving and united community and trust in the principles that were applied in the fatwa which is a manifestation of the mercy and practicality of this Religion.

Hajj Gibril Haddad

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