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The Ruling on Fasting for people living in the North and South Pole


How is a person to fast, who lives in an area where the sun does not set for six months of the year, and then once it does, it does not rise for another six months?


The ruling concerning their fast is the same as their prayer. They are to estimate the day and night according to the nearest country in which Muslims fast according to their normal timings of Fajr and Maghrib; those countries in which each prayer time is distinct, and whose day and night is suitable to fulfill the obligation of praying and fasting without undue hardship. It is also permissible for them to fast according to the timings of Makkah, but only after starting the month of Rama?an according to the nearest other country. They may also fast according to anyone other reliable Muslim country. In all these cases, it will be considered as if they offered the worship in its proper time.


No scholar has ever argued against the obligation of fasting for people residing in such countries. Even the later ?anafi scholars such as Ibn Abidin [1] and Sharanbulali [2] stated its obligation, since this matter was not addressed by the earlier scholars of their Madh’hab. Thus there is a consensus (ijma’) regarding its obligation, since the reason the fast becomes obligatory exists, i.e. witnessing part of the month.[3]  


Ruling on Fasting for people living in areas in which the days are very long.


In some European countries, the day may last more than twenty hours in certain seasons. At one point in time, Rama?an will inevitably fall in these seasons [4], and most often, the Muslims in these countries complain of hardship and difficulty in fasting.


Are they allowed to leave fasting, or should they fast according to the nearest country in which the length of the day is moderate?


The earlier scholars did not discuss this issue but contemporary scholars have. After analyzing their statements, we can say that they basically fall into two categories:


1) The view of the first group can be represented by the Egyptian Fatwa Authority. They stated the permissibility for the Muslims of Norway and other similar countries to fast according to the timings of Makkah or Madinah if Rama?an happens to fall in the season in which the days are too long and the nights are too short.  They also stated the permissibility of fasting according to the nearest country to them in which the length of day is moderate, by starting the fast at Fajr and ending it at the time of Maghrib in the country they are following.


Shaykh Shaltout said: “Fasting for 23 hours in a day which lasts for 24 hours is a burden which cannot be in accordance to the Wisdom and Mercy of the Most Wise, and Most Merciful.” [5]


2) The second group can be represented by the Fatwa Committee in Saudi Arabia and Shaykh Hasanain Makhluf. The Saudi Fatwa Committee stated on this issue: “If the night and day are both distinct no matter where it may be, Muslims in Rama?an must fast from Fajr till Maghrib, whether the day is long or short.” [6]


Shaykh Hasanain Makhluf said:


As for those countries in which the sun rises and sets every day, with the day lasting for about twenty hours, Muslims living in those areas must fast from Fajr until Maghrib, except if doing so leads to some harm, severe sickness or death, due to its length. In that case, it is permissible for the person to leave the fast. Mere conjecture is not a sufficient reason for leaving the fast. The person must be almost certain that this will be the result (of fasting). This can be known by its symptoms or through experience, or the advice of a good doctor who states that fasting will lead to death or severe illness, or that it will worsen or slow the person’s recovery from a previous illness. Each person is different in this regards. Those people who leave fasting due to these reasons should make up the fast once these reasons are no longer present. [7]


It seems to me that the second opinion is more likely to be correct, for it is in accordance with the sacred texts which unrestrictedly command fasting by the the mere witnessing of the month and the distinction of day and night. From these textual evidences is the verse:


“…so whosoever witnesses the month must fast.” (Al-Baqarah: 185)


This is a clear obligation upon those who witness the arrival of the new month to fast if they are non-travelers and healthy.[8]


Also the verse:


“…and eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black, then complete your fast till the nightfall. And do not have sexual relations with them while you are in devotional solitude in the mosques. These are the limits (set) by Allah, so approach them not. Thus does Allah make clear His Signs to humankind that they may become pious.” (Al-Baqarah: 187)


The people addressed in this verse are able to distinguish between night and day, the white thread of dawn being distinct from the blackness of night.


Moreover, the wordings in this verse are unrestricted, inclusive of all Muslims regardless of their location or length of day. The Prophet (?allallahu `alayhi wa-sallam) said:


“If the night appears from here, and the day ends from here, and when the sun sets, the fast has ended.” [9]


The people addressed in this verse are able to distinguish between night and day, in that the day ends and the night arrives, with the sun setting every 24 hours (approximately). The ruling revolves around this situation, and if fasting in this situation results in some harm, it is allowed to break the fast.


Those who are confused as to the start of the month of Rama?an


If a Muslim is imprisoned, trapped or is in some remote location and receives no news of the time of year, it is obligatory upon him to strive his utmost in determining the start of the month.


If he does not strive his utmost to determine the time of the month of Rama?an, there is no difference amongst the scholars that his fast is invalid, whether it happened to be in the month of Rama?an or outside. [10]


If he does strive his best to determine the month and then fasts, the following rulings apply:


1) He does not come to know whether his fasting fell in the month of Rama?an or not and he remains confused. In this case, there is no difference amongst the scholars that his fasts are valid, and he does not need to repeat them.


2) He came to know that his fast fell in the time of Rama?an. The majority of scholars believe his fast to be valid.


3) He came to know that he fasted after the month of Rama?an already passed. There is a consensus (ijma’) amongst the scholars that the fast is valid, for he fasted with the intention of Rama?an after it became obligatory upon him. The difference of opinion of whether he must make up for the fasts due to necessity does not exist in this case, for the intention of fasting takes its place.


4) That all the fasts are completed before the month of Rama?an. According to the majority, the fasts are invalid.


The Maliki scholar Abdul-Malik, along with some of the Shafi’i scholars held the view that the fasts are valid. They believed this to be the case because the person fulfilled the obligation of striving his best to determine the time of Rama?an.


This is the stance I also adopt due to the following proofs:


 “Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear.” (Al-Baqarah: 286)


This person strove his utmost. Also from the Sunnah, we have the statement of the Prophet (?allallahu `alayhi wa-sallam):


“When I order you to do something, do as much of it as possible.” [11]


This person did what he could without falling short. It has been authentically reported in Al-Bukhari and Muslim [12] on the authority of Adi ibn Hatim that he said: When “…until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black,” (Al-Baqarah: 187) was revealed, I said: O Messenger of Allah, I have placed two threads under my pillow, one white and one black, so that I can differentiate between night and day. The Messenger of Allah (?allallahu `alayhi wa-sallam) said:


“Indeed your pillow is very wide![13] What is meant here is the blackness of night and the whiteness of day.”


The Prophet (?allallahu `alayhi wa-sallam) did not order him to repeat his incorrect fasts. Adi strove his best to understand the verse and fasted according to his understanding, which the Prophet (?allallahu `alayhi wa-sallam) then explained was incorrect. However, he did not order him to repeat his fasts.


The same can be said about those who did their best to determine the time of Rama?an without falling short in this obligation. If they happened to fast before it, I believe their fast to be valid and they need not repeat it.


However, if they repeat the fasts to be on the safe side, this is something good, but if they suffice with the fasts they already performed prior to the month of Rama?an, this is sufficient, Allah willing.


However, we must mention that if one comes to know the arrival of Rama?an by some authentic means, he must fast, even if he had already fasted a month before it, for he is addressed in the saying of Allah:


 “…so whosoever witnesses the month must fast.” (Al-Baqarah: 185)


5) If he fasted the night instead of the day, the scholars are in agreement to the fact that he must make up for them. [14] If it was not for this consensus, I would have said differently.


Those who came to know that it was Rama?an after sunrise or at the time of the sun’s zenith.



There is a consensus amongst the scholars that if it is ascertained at night that the month of Rama?an has arrived, but people did not come to know of this until daytime, or it was ascertained during the day, those who did not commence the fast need to refrain from those things which break the fast until sunset, and they must make up the day.[15] The same is said for those who came to know of the arrival of the month some days later.


The fast of one who commits fornication during the day of Rama?an, one who is forced to break his fast, and an apostate.



There is a consensus amongst the scholars that one who fornicates with a Muslim or non-Muslim [man or] woman during the day of Rama?an must refrain from things which break the fast until sunset, must make up the fast, and must offer the required expiation.[16]


If one was coerced into breaking his fast and he does so, he must refrain from those things which break the fast until dusk. He must also make up for the day later according to the majority of scholars. However, there is no sin upon him, for the fast is performed for Allah alone, [as in the Qudsi ?adith]: “Fasting is for Me….” [17]


If one is unable to fast due to some resulting harm from others and thus breaks his fast, there is no sin upon him, but he must make up for it some other day. The coerced becomes like the ill in their inability and also in the obligation of making it up. [18]


According to the Shafi’i scholars, the fast is not broken, due to the fact that it was done out of coercion, and in these cases, the result of the action is not given any regards. His action was something prescribed, not something prohibited. His case is like one who forgets, rather he is more deserving of the ruling that the fast is not broken, for he has been commanded to eat in order to repel the harm which results from coercion.


This is the stance I take due to the above reasoning. The same is said for those who are coerced into having sexual intercourse while fasting. [19]


As for becoming an apostate, there is a consensus that the fast becomes invalid. [20] Based upon this, a person who commits apostasy [21] during the day of Rama?an has invalidated his fast.


Must he make up for the fast after his repentance from the act which made him an apostate?


There is a consensus that a disbeliever who embraces Islam is not required to make up for missed acts of worship, and there is no difference of opinion that an apostate is a disbeliever. The Shafi’i scholars held the opinion that making up the fast is obligatory for the apostate and not a disbeliever. [22] This is also one of the narrations of Imam A?mad, in opposition to the majority. [23]


However, the following statement of the Prophet (?allallahu `alayhi wa-sallam) counters this opinion: “Islam wipes out the sins committed before it.” [24]


Abu Bakr (ra?iyallahu anhu)  did not order those who apostated to make up for the acts of worship they missed.


The fast of those who accept Islam after the start of Rama?an and during the day.


If a disbeliever accepts Islam in Rama?an, there is a consensus amongst the scholars that he is not to make up for the fasts he missed. There is also a consensus that he must fast the remainder of the month. [25]


However, they differed whether one who accepts Islam during the daytime must refrain from those things which break the fast and make up for it.


Abu ?anifah, Ath-Thawri, and Al-Awza’i held the opinion that the person must refrain for the rest of the day. This is also one of the two narrations of A?mad. They reasoned that if the cause for fasting is present before Fajr, the fast would be obligatory, and if the reason came into existence during daytime, it would be obligatory to refrain. An example of this is coming to know the month of Rama?an [during the day].


In Al-Ikhtiyar, it states that it is not obligatory upon a disbeliever to fast that day. If a new-Muslim fasts, it is invalid due to the fact that he was not one whose fast would be valid at its beginning, and obligations cannot be broken into parts. But he must refrain for the rest of the day so people do not accuse him, as it is an obligation to stay clear of things which lead to accusations. [26]


Malik and Ash-Shafi’i held the opinion that it is not an obligation upon him to refrain for the rest of the day, for it was permissible for him to not fast at its beginning, both internally and externally. If he was not fasting, he may continue this state, as in the case of others who do not fast due to valid reasons. This is also one narration of A?mad. However, refraining is regarded as better.


Must he make up for that fast some other time?


The ?anafi scholars, Malik and Abu Thawr are of the opinion that it is not an obligation to make up for it. They stated that the person was not able to start the worship at its prescribed time, and thus it is like the one whose excuse ends after the time for the worship has passed.


The Shafi’i scholars held two opinions, the correct opinion of the school being that it is not obligatory.


The ?anbali scholars held two opinions, and in Manar As-Sabil, the preferred stance is that one must make it up. [27]


I hold the view that it is obligatory for the person to refrain due to the sanctity of the month, and so this sign of Islam is now apparent on him, as it is impermissible for a Muslim to involve in anything which breaks the fast during the daylight hours of Rama?an without a valid excuse, and this person’s excuse no longer exists.


This is the case even if it is not obligatory upon him to make up for the missed fast, according to the statements of the scholars of Fiqh mentioned previously.


Many companions accepted Islam during various days of Rama?an, but there is no report in which the Prophet (?allallahu `alayhi wa-sallam) ordered them to make up for it.


Is work a valid excuse for not fasting?


To begin with, I say that work is not a valid excuse for not fasting, and there is a consensus amongst the scholars in this, as rarely do you see someone not working in Rama?an due to fasting, whether that be in Muslim lands or in non-Muslims countries, despite the fact that in some non-Muslim countries they do not believe in our fast nor do they hold any regard for the exhaustion which results from it. They do not hold any regards for our feelings by shortening or changing work hours for those fasting. [28]


What would be the condition of the fasting person in this situation?


If he is able to fast without incurring illness and he is not in fear of some harm or death, the fast remains an obligation and it is not permissible for him to break his fast at all. Most of the Muslims in non-Muslim countries fall into this category. [29]


If he is unable to fast, he should take his yearly vacation during Rama?an so he can fast. This is the obligation if he is able to do this. If he cannot do any of the above mentioned and leaving his job will not cause any legitimate harm to him, his family or his dependents, then it is obligatory upon him to resign from his work.


If he is not able to do any of this, and he is not able to think of any other way to fast while he is working, such as changing his job or work location, he can continue his work with the intention of fasting every day. If he becomes unable to complete his fast during work, he may break his fast when he becomes almost sure that it will harm him or through experience. He may also heed the advice of a good upright Muslim doctor that fasting during work will result in death, illness or some severe harm, in which case he may make up the fasts during his vacation time and need not leave his work. In Fiqh As-Sunnah, it states:


“It is permissible for those people who have laborious work to break their fast. If fasting exhausts them and is extremely difficult throughout the year, they need not make it up, but rather they may offer expiation for it.” [30]


Those who break their fast in Rama?an without excuse


Abu Hurayrah (ra?iyallahu anhu) narrated: that the Prophet (?allallahu `alayhi wa-sallam) said:


“If a person breaks his fast even one day without an excuse, his fasting forever will not make up for it.” [31]


Ibn `Abbas said:


“The hand hold of Islam and the foundations of the religion are three: the testimony that none is to be worshipped but Allah, the Prayer, and the fast of Rama?an. Whoever leaves any one of them is a disbeliever.” [32]


Adh-Dhahabi said: it is a known fact to the believers that leaving the fast of Rama?an for reasons other than sickness is worse than fornication and addictive drinking. They even doubt in the persons’ Islam, seeing him as a hypocrite.” [33]


Let those who break their fasts beware that a trial does not befall them, leading them to the Hellfire.


Is the advice of a non-Muslim doctor acceptable in deciding the permissibility of not fasting Rama?an?


The scholars are in agreement that the advice of a skilled upright Muslim doctor is acceptable and is to be followed, but they differed in regards to non-Muslim doctors.


The ?anafi scholars held the view that their advice is not acceptable. They said, “The advice of non-Muslim doctors is not acceptable, for they may be merely intending to render ones worship invalid.” [34]


The Maliki scholars regard it permissible to heed their advice. In Al-Mi’yar Al-Ma’rib its states:


“It is permissible to heed the advice of a non-Muslim doctor if the judge asks about some issues known particularly to doctors, despite the fact that they are not upright [35] or Christian if there is no other option.” [36]


Based upon this, their advice is acceptable if there is no other Muslim doctor available.


In Al-Mu?alla, Ibn ?azm stated that the Maliki scholars hold the opinion that the statement of a non-Muslim doctor is acceptable.[37]


This is also the view held by Al-Khattabi in Ma’alim As-Sunan when discussing the rulings learnt from the Prophet (?allallahu `alayhi wa-sallam) employing a spy from Khuza’ah on the Day of Hudaibiyyah. He said:


“In this is evidence that it is permissible to accept the statement of a non-Muslim doctor about the cause of the illness and the treatment if he has not been accused in regards to his medicine, and it seems that he will not prove treacherous in this. [38]


The general ruling in this topic is that one should consult an upright Muslim doctor. If there is none available, it is permissible to heed the advice of a non-Muslim doctor if he holds some regards to religion. As for those who announce their disbelief in religions, it is not possible to trust him, as he may intend to merely spoil the Muslim’s worship.


Here, I would like to advise that more than one doctor be consulted if there are no Muslim doctors available, and they should be those in whose trustworthiness one does not doubt. They should either come to an agreement in this issue, or he should heed that advice which is closer to preserving his religion and he is sure about.


We should also note that this issue is not an issue of testimony, but rather closer to acceptability of narrations.




[1] Radd Al-Muhtar 1/244.


[2] Maraqi Al-Falah 75; See Majallah Al-Buhuth Al-Islamiyyah, Issue # 25, p.34.


[3] Usul Al-Sarkhasi 1/103; Radd Al-Muhtar 1/244.


[4] Such as Germany and Norway


[5] Fatawa Shaltout p.146; Waqfah Dhawi Al-A’dhar p.65.


[6] Majallah Al-Buhuth Al-Islamiyyah, Issue 16, pp. 109-110, Fatwa #1108.


[7] Fatawa Shaykh Makhluf 1/272, Majallah Al-Buhuth Al-Islamiyyah, Issue 25, p,32.


[8] Ibn Kathir 1/381.


[9] Al-Bukhari 2/240 and Muslim 3/132, both on the authority of Ibn `Umar. This particular wording is the narration of Al-Bukhari.


[10] Al-Majmu` 6/284.


[11] Al-Bukhari 24/82, #7288; Muslim 8/420, # 3321.


[12] Al-Bukhari 2/231; Muslim 3/128. This wording is Muslim’s.


[13] A metaphor used when saying someone has been heedless.


[14] See A?-?urqani, `Ala Mukhtasar Al-Khalil, p.20200; Al-Kharshi 1/395; Al-Majmu 6/285 and afterwards; Al-Mughni Wa ash-Shar? 3/14.


[15] See Al-Hidayah 1/129; Al-Qawanin Al-Fiqhiyyah p.103; Al-Kharshi 1/389; Al-Mughni Wa ash-Shar? 3/14.


[16] Al-Majmu 6/341.


[17] Al-Bukhari 7/170, #1894; Muslim 7/274, # 2764.


[18] Usul Al-Sarkhasi 1/119; Radd Al-Muhtar 2/116; Al-Majmu 6/325.


[19] Al-Majmu 6/325-326.


[20] Al-Mughni Wa ash-Shar? 3/29; Siraj Al-Malik 6/325.


[21] An apostate is a liable person who willingly turns away from Islam, whether explicitly stating this, by some statement he makes or by some action he performs.


[22] Al-Qalyoubi Wal-Umairah 1/121; Usul Al-Sarkhasi 1/75.


[23] See Radd Al-Muhtar 4/251; Minah Al-Jalil  4/472; Hashiyat Al-Bajuri 2/428; Al-Mughni Wa ash-Shar? 1/410.


[24] Muslim 1/78.


[25] Al-Qawanin Al-Fiqhiyyah, p.110; Al-Mughni Wa ash-Shar? 3/15.


[26] 1/172.


[27] See Al-Hidayah 1/127; Al-Ikhtiyar 1/172; Al-Kharshi 1/392; Al-Qawanin Al-Fiqhiyyah, p.100; Al-Majmu 3/14; Manar As-Sabil 1/213.


[28] There is a consensus amongst the scholars that the fast of a person who has slept the whole day in Rama?an is valid. Shar? Rawdah A?-?alib 1/418; Al-Mughni Wa ash-Shar? 3/22.


[29] Various groups of people who live in non-Muslim countries confirmed that people are able to fast at work without undue hardship.


[30] 1/371.


[31] See: See the various studies on this subject found in Majallah Al-Majma’ Al-Fiqhi of the Muslim World League, Issue # 3, 2/1115-1277.


[32] Narrated by At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i from Al-Mutawwas. Ibn ?ibban said: The narrations he narrated alone cannot be used as proof. Al-Bukhari narrated it in a “Hanging” (mu`allaq) form without implying its authenticity. See Kitab Al-Kaba’ir by Adh-Dhahabi, pp.40-41.


[33] Ibid; see also what was said about its chain in Tamam Al-Minnah, p.131.


[34] Fiqh Al-Sunnah 1/367.


[35] Radd Al-Muhtar 2/116; Maraqi Al-Fala?, p.271.


[36] What is meant by “upright”, is a trustworthy Muslim.


[37] 10/17.


[38] Ma`alim As-Sunan 2/326.


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