Ramadhan Fasting in the West

If Ramadhan begins tomorrow in Ontario, Canada, there will be almost 18 hours of fasting- no food or water.

The Quran was revealed in Mecca and Medina where fajr (dawn) and maghrib (sunset) did not extend for as many hours as they do in the West. Hence,  it is generally accepted that if a Muslim was to be living in the North Pole, he or she would not have to fast until sunset as that may not occur for months!!!

I am thinking of fasting according to the times of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the place of the revelation of the Quran. I am not sure that fasting for almost 18 hours a day is healthy or advisable or that it was even intended by Allah.

What do you think about this? What do your schools of Islamic thought have to say about this?


12 thoughts on “Ramadhan Fasting in the West

  1. Pingback: A Quick Guide to The Posts on Poetic Social Spiritual Human Rights Uproar | The Poetic Social Spiritual Human Rights Uproar

  2. How about living in a tent and riding camels while enjoying Allah (SWT)’s bounties in the West according to the times of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the place of the revelation of the Quran.
    By the way whatever you are thinking and trying to spread false ideas spells FITNA.

    • Greetings of Peace. Thank you for your message. I am trying to apply the universal principles to the local circumstances, and not stagnate the religion into a particular time and place as you suggest. You apply things literally by suggesting that the times of fasting must be from dawn to dusk in the region where you live in- do you then propose that a person living in the North Pole should starve to death while waiting for the sunrise? If your answer is that one should not, at some level you agree with the principle. Your rush to judgment in accusing me of “fitna”- causing division within the Muslim community-is also not reflective of the recommendation in the Quran to discuss matters in a civil manner.

  3. I do appreciate Br. Haider’s feedback; that is indeed the intent of this forum. But I urge everyone to keep the dialogue civil and not resort to personal attacks – especially remembering the sanctity of this month. If people were not open to dicussions and ideas, Islam would never have happend during our Prophet’s time. People would’ve been content with their hardline belief in idol worship. Allah (swt) gave us brains so we can think, reason and deduce. We haver seen so many changes over the years on the -minor – flexibility about the rules of fasting from our marja and religious scholars. Think about this: a 9 year girl is obligated to fast during ramadhan that fall in summer in a place like Edmonton which can last till 10.15 pm!

  4. All points valid….. but it is clearly mentioned in the Qur’an WHAT the times of fasts are – from sunrise to sunset, period!
    The points made re: 9year old fasting for the long period up to 10:15pm…. I would guess that is where discernment and judgement comes in- fast in the winter?
    My initial response to the person saying s/he would be following SA timing made me choke and question- why then does he not live in SA? and will he be doing everything SA time? from waking up to sleeping to praying? makes no sense…. but

    Remember, He gives us the tawfeek (succor or strength) all we need to do is ask! and it shall be given!
    Fasting is an amazing discipline, if we only understood it’s value we would not be questioning it at all- in fact, we would be honoured to be given this opportunity and chance to learn and understand our selves, our weaknesses, our excuses…!

    • I agree that the Quran clearly mentions what the times of the fasts are- however, it does not specify which sunset or dawn we can follow-there is nothing contradictory in following the times of the sunset and dawn of a different region with the Holy Quran. Do you personally have to see the new moon to begin fasting or end it? No. Most of us rely on the sightings of others. The point is we already understand Quran in a practical manner. Second, how can it be that Muslims are treated differently by Allah depending on where they live? I If Islam has universal principles, then the universal principles should not lead to different consequences for different Muslims.

      Finally, the religious scholars already make some exceptions along the lines I suggest for individuals who find themselves in the North or South Pole further affirming my view that there is nothing contradictory in following the dawn and sunset of a different jurisdiction.

      • I’m sorry, this is ridiculous! Your point about WHICH sunset/dawn we can follow? I am quite sure it is the sunset/dawn of the country, no not even that, the area that you live in…- isn’t that specific and precise enough?

        As for seeing the moon, again, a very clear definition as to whether you do or not- and in this case, NO, you do not have to have witnessed the sighting. There are very clear guidelines on this.

      • With respect, the point of which sunset and sunrise to follow is not ridiculous. Your original argument was that the Quran specifies what times one must keep and break the fast. I pointed out that the Quran does not specify that the sunrise and sunset must be that of your region, or, as you suggest, “the area you live in”. You can argue that this should be a reasonable inference. Indeed, it is a reasonable inference except when we get further and further away from the geographical region of the middle east where sunrise and sunsets vary significantly depending on when Ramadhan falls in the seasonal cycle. Do you have anything from the Quran or hadith that directly challenges my intention to fast according to the times of Mecca?

  5. I find the above comments from Brs Haider and Athar very interesting. It is the rigidity and extreme views like this that has put Muslims on the receiving end of discrimination, bias, hatred and even violence today. This is exactly the way the Wahhabis and the Taliban think and they are the ones responsible for almost all the violence int he world today. Unfortunately, this is largely directed at other Muslims – in the mosques, while praying or attending religious functions. Any wonder why Islam and Muslims are in trouble today? Muslims (& even non-Muslims) have almost no rights in Islamic countries – which are all dictatorships. In the West, where Muslims have been give refuge and have more rights than in Islamic countries, we have been marginalized due to this type of views and actions and inflexibility of Muslims.

    Coming to the original point of fasting, I suggest you read an interesting article about a mosque in northern Canada:

    How do you figure people fast where in May through July, the sun never sets, or after that, it sets at 1.00 am?

    • Thank you for your message.

      Fasting according to Mecca time for extreme time zones makes sense for the following reasons:

      1. Allah is Just

      To suggest that Allah would want and require a Muslim in one part of the world to fast for 18 or more hours and in another part of the world to fast for significantly less makes no sense. Human beings are equal before God regardless of their geographical location. It is reasonable to assume that dawn to dusk was given as a guideline to calculate the hours required to fast in Mecca & Medina, the place of the revelation of the Quran. Indeed, it appears that the community in Alaska is following the Mecca times- see link below:

      2. Health & Safety-

      One must consider the weakest link in the chain- apparently girls aged 9 who are deemed by non-Quranic law to be mature enough to be required to fast (this is again one of those areas which needs to be reconsidered by current jurists- really- are 9 year old girls “mature”???). Even if they are physically able to fast for 18 hours a day, is it healthy? Are we being responsible? Are we doing something that Allah would not permit? Or do we follow the letter and not the spirit of Islam?

      Salaams to you all. This is a Holy Month. May Allah guide and bless us all.

  6. There is nothing personal here. Although I have heard many revolutionary ideas before but I must admit this is the most absurd proposition I have seen re fasting in the West. I think, you should have worked out all the pros and cons before going public on this.

    We have to revisit Ayat-e-Mubahila in Quran Chapter 3:61. This is a brief summary extracted from the website re background of Ayat-e-Mubahila:

    After exchange of views on several issues, the delegation did not seem to be willing to accept the observations about the incorrect beliefs of Christianity and the logical explanations proving the incorrectness of their beliefs. At that time Allah sends down the famous Ayat-e-Mubahila of the Glorious Quran Chapter 3 Verse 61:

    And unto him who disputeth with thee therein after the knowledge hath come unto thee, Say! (O\” Our Apostle Muhammad!) (Unto them) come ye, let us summon our sons, and (ye summon) your sons, and (we summon) our women and (ye) your women, and (we summon) ourselves and then let us invoke the curse of God on the liars!

    Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recited this Ayat and invited them for Mubahila – praying to God to destroy and banish the liars. Mubahila became necessary since the Christian delegation was adamant to accept the truth.

    Lesson learned from the event of Mubahila is that no point arguing with ignorant people. To suggest following sunrise/sunset of Mecca and Medina for fasting while living in the West is totally unbelievable.

    When it is explained that fasting in the West is complying with Allah’s will and order to follow dusk and dawn routine then another argument is put forward that Quran does not specify which sunset or dawn to follow?

    Commonsense tells me follow the sunset and dawn scheduled for the neighborhood you live in, printed in the local newspaper or announced on the local weather channel.

    When nothing seems to be working then you bring 9-year old girls argument. This is another clear sign of lack of knowledge. Both 9-year for girls and 15-year for boys are fictitious or figuratively speaking numbers. There are clear physical signs of adulthood, which generally appears around 9-year for a girl and 15-year for a boy. Do you know that if for some reason those physical signs of adulthood do appear in a girl at an early age of 7 or at a delayed age of 11 then this adulthood age of 7 or 11 will dictate her obligatory fasting and salat. Do we know or believe that Allah (SWT) is wise and knowing all? If we knew then who are we, without being ignorant, to challenge Allah’s (SWT) wisdom and in the same breath label cruelty in asking a 9-year (adult) girl to fast?

    In short, all this back and forth argument reminds me of people of Najaran.

    For the sake of argument let us say I agree with your proposal and decide to follow Mecca and Medina time to follow my Islamic practices. Today on June 5 the Fajr time in Mecca is 4:30 AM and Maghrib time in Mecca is 7:00 PM. If I live New York or Toronto, Mecca’s August 5 Fajr (4:30 AM) coincides with Toronto’s August 4 9:30 PM and Mecca’s Maghrib (7:00 PM) coincides with Toronto’s 12:00 noon. There are two choices and I don’t know which will bring universality in Islam, so help me.

    1. To follow exactly Mecca’s sunset and dawn timings – while living in Toronto I start fasting on August 4 at 9:30 PM and end fasting on August 5 at 12:00 noon.

    2. Without considering whether it is false dawn or true dawn I just start fasting on August 5 at 4:30 AM and end fasting at 7:00 PM although sunset is still 2 hours away. This is not following Mecca’s sunset and dawn schedule rather following Mecca’s number of hours.

    Which option you suggest? Also, while I am following Mecca time for fasting how this will work for Salat? Do I have to adjust Salat timing as well in the West? Under option 1, can I do Fajr salt at 9:30 PM as I begin fasting for August 5 and then I don’t have to get up early in the morning for Fajr prayers? Do you know that both Fajr and the beginning of fasting coincides? So this is a legitimate question.

    Fasting and prayers go hand in hand. You cannot pick convenience for one leave unattended other seemingly unrelated issues. Universality means same rule apply to everyone, no loopholes, whether you live in West or East.

    Alaska or North Pole examples are the worst kind. Allah (SWT) among many attributes is also Rehman and Rahim and He does not test anyone beyond his or her abilities. Also all human beings are not equal before Allah, whether man or woman, each is ranked based on taqwa. Allah’s wisdom provides abundant of exceptions. If you are sick you pray Salat sitting or lying and you delay fasting for another day. If you live in Alaska and North Pole then you don’t starve yourself to death but you follow exception guidelines explained by your Maraja. Do not suggest making this Alaska exception as a rule for everyone.

    May Allah (SWT) guide us all on the right path, the path of chosen ones, Insha’Allah.

    • You appear to have difficulty addressing the point of Justice of Allah and the very common sense argument I put forward that Allah is Just and it makes no sense whatsoever that Allah would require a Muslim in one part of the world to fast for 18 hours or more for his or her purification and significantly less in another part of the world. There is NO LOGICAL relation between requiring a Muslim to fast more depending on which geographical location one happens to be in. It appears to me that if common sense is lacking it is in your rigid argument that one must fast from dawn to dusk regardless of where one happens to be!

      Oh Wait! You actually do NOT believe that fasting from dawn to dusk is required in all regions- for instance ALASKA. So you agree that there are exceptions to the rule despite your previous bold, firm and rigid assertions that fasting must be from dawn to dusk because it is prescribed as such. You base your exception on the rule of the mercy of God. If so, why cannot the same principle- the mercy of God-be used to approximate all fasting times according to the Mecca times?

      If you fast in accordance with Mecca times you can also pray in accordance with Mecca times. This appears to be what the community in Alaska is doing. You can extend your principle of the “Mercy of God” which you appear to be comfortable doing in respect of Alaska but not in respect of other regions.

      With the greatest of respect, just a personal observation. You compare my argument to the incident of Mubahila. You appear to be speaking with a holier than thou attitude. Do you have an inspiration from God, or a revelation from Him, indicating that I am wrong? At the same token, produce to me a SINGLE QURANIC verse which requires a 9 year old Muslim to fast? I am not questioning the wisdom of God or Allah just your interpretation of Islam.


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