Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fasting and Travelling: Prophetic Traditions

DURING THE HOLY MONTH OF RAMADAN, believers are generally expected to observe fasting in normal circumstances. Many of them, however, may have to go on regular travels as part of their everyday life routine. Arduous journeys may also have to be undertaken by some people and fasting on such occasions may entail hardship for the persons concerned. Some of them, may have a health situation that necessitates continuous medication. Islam takes into account these diverse physical and health conditions of the believers and it offers the possibility of replacing the missing fasts with an equal number of days in other/ better times. Both the Holy Qur’an and the noble practice of the Holy Prophet (sa) affirm the exceptions under special circumstances. In his Friday Sermon of July 27, 2012 Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba) of Mauritius explained at length the essential wisdom of these benign teachings of Islam.

Read the Extracts from the Friday Sermon:

“And whoever is ill or on a journey - then (to replace the missed fasts) an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” (2: 186)

In this verse of the Holy Quran, Almighty Allah is referring to the travellers and the sick people. Allah says: “And whoever is ill or on a journey - then (to replace the missed fasts) an equal number of other days.” (2: 186)

A traveller who sets on a journey within a distance which enables him not to shorten his prayer, he can either fast or not fast and replace the missing fast or fasts afterwards, but if he sees that he is able to fast, then he can fast.

Journeys are classified in three categories:

1.     Those journeys which are filled with difficulties and thus this makes the fast unbearable. In that case, it is forbidden for someone to fast. In a Hadith narrated by Jabir (May Allah be satisfied with him), he relates that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) made them break their fast due to difficulty on their journeys. (Muslim)

2.     A journey which contains little difficulty, and in this case, it is preferable that the person observes the fast.

3.     If a traveller observes the fast, or prefers not to fast; it is for him to decide to fast or not. If he does not fast, he has to replace the missing fast.

In a Hadith narrated by Aisha (May Allah be satisfied with her), the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Hamza bin ‘Amr Al-Aslami asked the Prophet, “Should I fast while travelling?” The Prophet replied, “You may fast if you wish, and you may not fast if you wish.” (Bukhari)

There are people who during the month of Ramadan prefer to go on long journeys or voyages on purpose so that they may be exempted from the fast. Muslims who go on voyages to free themselves from the fast on purpose do not have a legitimate right not to observe the fast. They are not exempted from the fast. They should observe their fasts and repent to Allah for this form of dishonesty (towards Allah).

One who finds it difficult to fast during voyages or journeys must not fast, but replace the missing fasts after the days of Ramadan. In a Hadith reported by Jabir (May Allah be satisfied with him), he relates that they (the companions) went with the prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) during the conquest of Mecca and reached a place called al-Ghamim. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) heard that people were complaining about the difficulty in fasting (during this journey) and they were waiting for instructions from the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him). After the Asr prayer the Messenger of Allah asked for a glass of water and drank it before the people so that everybody can see him. (Muslim)

It is related that Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was on a journey and he saw a crowd and a man who was being shaded. He asked, ‘What is this?’ They replied, ‘Someone who is fasting.’ He said, ‘Fasting on a journey is not part of piety.’” (Bukhari, Muslim)

It is related that Anas ibn Malik said, “We used to travel with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and those fasting did not find fault with those who were not fasting nor did those not fasting find fault with those fasting.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

What we analyse and observe about fasting for a traveller is that he must do that which is easiest for him. Allah Himself says: “Yuriidullahu bikumul-yusra wa laa yuriidu bikumul usr.” (Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.) (2: 186)

In general, fasting is obligatory upon every Muslim who is mentally fit, be it for a woman or a man, but it is not obligatory upon a traveller (long distance) and especially if the person’s health is not so good. In the case of people whose health can be affected by fasting, like a mother who is expecting a child or women who are breastfeeding, therefore they must not observe the fast, because in these cases fasting can become a danger to their health, or for the child’s health. But they have to replace the missing fasts later on.

Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said: “Allah has not made fasting obligatory for the travellers, the sick and women who are expecting a child and also those who are breastfeeding.” (Imam Ahmad). Women who are in their menses also and those who have delivered their babies and bleeding, they should not observe the fast, and they should replace these missing fasts after the month of Ramadan.

Those who cannot observe the fast:

1. A mad man because he shall not be responsible for his acts. Narrated Ali ibn Abi Talib (May Allah be satisfied with him): The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “The Pen is lifted from three (i.e., their deeds are not recorded):

1. A child until he reaches puberty;
2. An insane man until he comes to his senses;
3. One who is asleep until he wakes up.” (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah)

(2) A child before he reaches puberty; Like mentioned in this Hadith, a child who has not reached the age of puberty shall not be accountable for his deeds but it is a fact that it is not obligatory upon them to observe the fast also except when they reach the age of puberty.

(3) A person who is chronically ill also cannot fast because these illnesses can endanger his health if ever he fasts. It is thus not permissible for this kind of person to fast. Like Allah says in the Holy Quran (4: 30): “Wa laa taq-tuluu anfusakum: Innallaaha kaana bikum Rahiima.” (And do not kill yourselves (or one another). Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.).

If some illness restrict someone to fast (making it difficult for him to maintain the fast) even though the illness is not harmful in itself, it is advised that the person does not fast. People who are either too old or too weak to fast and the chronically ill and in convalescence must not observe the fast but must instead offer someone (a poor Muslim) a meal for each day which he missed his fasts. The reason behind this is that they would not be recuperating their health back so soon and therefore they shall not be able to fast others days also (after Ramadan). Instead there is the institution of a payment which they shall have to give for each missed days of fasting. Allah the Almighty says: “And upon those who are able (to fast, but with hardship or because of a serious illness or old age) - a ransom (as substitute) of feeding a poor person.”

When Abdullah ibn Abbas (according to Hadith) commented on this verse, he said that the verse in question is about the old people who can fast but with difficulty, and thus they prefer to choose feeding a poor person for each day of the missing fast (of Ramadan). In addition, Hadith explains that when Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) could not observe the fast, he used to prepare Thareed (a meal composed of bread, meat and soup) and invite 30 poor people to eat.

Before ending, my advice is that a Muslim must follow the example of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). According to Anas and Zaid ibn Thabit, it is recommended to delay the Suhur and the time between the Suhur and Adhan for Fajr is as follows: “We used to have Suhur with the Prophet (peace be upon him). Then he stood up for the prayer.” Anas said, “I said, ‘How long was there between the Adhan and Suhur?’ He said, ‘Enough to recite fifty verses (of the Quran).’” (Bukhari and Muslim)

It is related from Sahl ibn Sa’d that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “People will continue to be all right as long as they hurry to break the fast.” (Bukhari)

Delaying the breaking of the fast is a serious matter, and there are two points to be considered. Delaying the Iftar can delay the Maghrib prayer and this should not be done. And this bring about also the delaying of the call of prayer for the Maghrib prayer and this is a major error which the Muezzins do and therefore the prayer is read when night has already come. This practice is against the teachings of Islam, for it preaches that the prayer must be done immediately after sunset. Allah says: “Then complete the fast until the sunset.” (2: 188).

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When you see the night advancing from here, then people fasting should break their fast,’ (and he pointed with his finger towards the east)” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Therefore a Muslim must break his fast in time so that he can go and perform his prayer in congregation. Moreover to delay breaking of the fast is against the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Narrated by Sahl bin Sad: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “My nation would continue to be on my Sunnah as long as they do not wait for the stars to come out before breaking the fast.”

Narrated by Abu Hurairah: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘(Our) Religion will continue to prevail as long as people hasten to break the fast, because the Jews and the Christians delay doing so.’ (Abu Dawud)

“Rabbanaa aamannaa fagfirlanaa warhamnaa wa anta khayrur-Raahimeen.”
Our Lord, we believe; therefore forgive us and have mercy on us, for You are the best of the Merciful.

“Rabbig- fir warham wa anta khayrur-Raahimeen.”
“O my Lord! Grant us forgiveness and mercy, for you are the Best of those who show mercy!” Ameen.