Siyaam in Far Northern and Southern Regions of Earth


Recently in an article on Islamcity.com: "Ramadan Fasting Challenges Arctic Muslims", several solutions have been mentioned to 23 hour long days such as fast in autumn, fast as in Makkah and Madinah, cannot forgo fasting, fast as in closest Muslim country, go on vacation to old country during the month of Ramadan, etc. It was also suggested that people could choose the fasting period for themselves thereby taking out the role of the jama'ah (community) from the equation. Of course, 23 hour long nights are also a matter of concern when performing salah (daily prayer) or siyam (annual fasting in Ramadan). I thought I would reflect on this matter. My points are:

1. There is at least one narration that during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), some people, out of excessive piety, would want to fast back-to-back without eating. He absolutely forbade it.

2. Going on vacation to parents' old country would certainly not be an option for Swedish reverts. Also, it may not be such easy option for the rest.

3. Doing Ramadan in autumn or spring is an option, but it isolates the Ramadan spirit.

4. Verse 2:185 says that Allah wants ease on this month and not hardship so as to fast. It also allows people to make up fast if they are travelling or sick. So exceptions are possible. The issue is that this situation has not been mentioned as an exception. Could Muslims use ijtihad (independent thinking) to resolve this matter? It is allowable and oft-used tool in Sharia'ah (Islamic Jurisprudence)? There certainly is a serious risk to health if fasting is stretched over too long a period. What should be the cut-off point beyond which an average person faces risk to health or life when fasting back to back for an extended period of time and when first-time fasting youth could find it well nigh impossible? It is to be decided by the Ulema and practicing Muslim physicians.

5. By fasting in autumn or spring, one is already essentially stepping out of Ramadan and "violating" the ruling on fasting (2:183). So, why not "violate" the ruling in Ramadan and use the shorter day of Makkah or Madinah or that of the closest Muslim country or, if I may add, the duration of day as in latitude 23.5 degree north or south depending on whether the day is either too short or too long?

6. Also, the first hadith (saying of the Prophet) in the collection Sahih Al Bukhari says that everything hinges on niyah (intention). So, if a person does not intend to cheat on fasting which anyway is not possible because Allah is ever watchful (Raqiba), then more normal hours may be adopted.

7. Also, in 10:67, Allah (God) clearly states that the night and the day are for resting and work. This pattern works ideally for people around some margin of the equator where most of humanity lives. The five daily prayers are designed around our wakeful hours. So, while the Sun may be used as our daily clock, it only works in certain instances around the equator. There is thus a utilitarian value in sunrise and sunset with certain limitations.

8. Muslim claim Islam to be simple and practical. And, in verses 14:33, 17:12, and 27:64, for example, we are told that nature is essentially serving man. In this case, it would appear that nature is not agreeable with normal human life. And that is not a surprise when you think that the earth is a like a ball and its source of light and heat is just one and is in front of it, not on top or bottom. But then neither are deserts, equatorial forests, mountains, deep seas, or deep space conducive to normal human life.

9. Also, the Quran recognizes the variation in the seasons (2:164) and the associated variation in the length of day and night (3:27). However, it makes no exception in the length of a fasting day for such variations. However, the polar days or days beyond 23.5 degree latitudes, say, have not been directly referred to. But the exceptions mentioned earlier including intention of the worshipper, facilitation of normal daily life, ease in practicing faith, the Prophet's edict against foodless continuous fasting, the possibility of exception in the Shari'ah, etc., build a body of circumstantial evidence that should allow for shortened fasting in Ramadan in such far flung northern or southern regions.

10. Ideally, it should be a communal decision. It should not be approached on separately as individualized decision. While fasting is for an individual to do, it is a month that covers all Muslims. So, it is a communal act. The iftar (breaking fast) and the suhoor (starting fast) are communal with family and friends. The Eid celebration is certainly communal. While Fasting is obligatory, but starvation or physical endangerment is not allowed for at least one good reason - it is not sustainable. To this end, finally another hadith may be paraphrased. It is pleasing to Allah that a person does something good consistently or regularly even if it is a very small thing (Bukhari and Muslim; narrator - Ayesha (r)). Worshipping in fits and starts, therefore, is not what is desired because worship benefits man and not Allah. Irregularity in worship will produce very little positive benefit for man.

*****

Dr. Shafi A. Khaled is a freelance writer. He teaches and does research in Business & Economics.


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  5 Comments   Comment

  1. Babandi A. Gumel from U.K

    Shukuran Malam Bazamfare for your sincere observation. I do not know whether the Amanaonline is still working or not as I'm not sure. I would however like to contribute if it is working. In the meantime as you can see I regularly visit the IslamiCity and contribute in this our Global City contributing my quota one way or the other to many topics presented to which you are also welcome to this Universal City which unifies the Ummah bringing them together. Alhamdu Lillahi the bloggers Muslims and Non-Muslims contribute thousands of articles daily and weekly round the clock making it the most acceptable popular Universal Islamic Website which presents the true Islamic message for all to see and appreciate and digest .Anything that one wants about Islam could easily be found in the Universal IslamiCity which I invite you and others like you . So Welcome to the City and keep on blogging and visiting the Universal site as we have been doing.Once more Jazakallah Khair for the encouragement. May Allah give us taufiq to be the means of hidayah to the entire mankind.

  2. Bazamfare Iro from Nigeria

    Salam. My dera Babandi A.Gumel. please where have you been. we miss your Islamic articles that you used to write on Amanaonline. pkindly refer me to where i can access your write-ups.

  3. samin from usa

    Allah is the most wise and HE is the best judge.

    95:8 Is not Allah the wisest of judges?

  4. Babandi A. Gumel from U.K

    I think the people who have been living in those areas such as Northern Sweden Norway are in better position to tell us exactly the type of fasting they experienced in both Summer and Winter. We hope brothers and sisters from there can contribute to the debate.

  5. Babandi A. Gumel from U.K

    Dr Shafi might have put forward different arguments according to his opinion. Ok lets assume or say they are valid therefore all accepted. So then What about when the season changes and they fast in winter which may be dark continuously for almost 23 hours like the summer long fast or something like that. The question is Are they going to fast for one hour and said is o.k Masha Allah ? So Dr has omitted or forgotten the other side of the coin.So all I can say is intention some may say the may not fast in Summer which is not an excuse. Some people living in the same Country i.e those living far South don't fast such long hours. Without exception I think to take the Meccan Fatwah for Summer is not enough as they have to find another new Fatwah for the Winter season. All these and many other issues pause challenges to the ever increasing Muslim Ummah which their Deen would spread to every nook and corner of the World. As time goes solution would be found Insha Allah. Let us continue to make dua for our brothers and sisters to find an acceptable solution for all those who chose advertently or rather inadvertently to live in the Far Northern end of the World or the Southern Tip of the Earth which may not be Fardh if they can live somewhere where they could practice their Deen practically.Actions are judged according to intention.If you make Hijrah for the sake of Allah and His Prophet your Hijrah is for that but if you make Hijrah for Duniya or for a woman to marry your Hijrah is for that. Allah a'alam unfortunately most of the migration of our brothers and sisters are for Duniya not for Deen.