I will be traveling in Ramadan and I want to know if I need to fast?
There are multiple scenarios for fasting while traveling. We’ll take them one at a time.
Scenario 1: Person starts traveling after maghrib and before fajr.
In this case it is permissible to not fast on that day because the day begins while the person is in a state of traveling.
Scenario 2: Person starts traveling after sunrise.
This is the more common scenario. Someone has a trip that starts in the morning or afternoon and they do not know if they should fast or not. There is a scholarly difference on this question.
Opinion 1: They must not break their fast. This is because they started fasting and then traveled afterwards. This is the opinion of the Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi’i schools.
Opinion 2: They can break their fast. This is an opinion in the Hanbali school.
– Those who held this opinion differed as to when they break their fast. The Hanbali school holds that it must be only after they have started their journey and left the jurisdiction of their city. Some other early scholars, such as Hasan al-Basri, held that they may break their fast while still at home.
As a general principle when there is valid scholarly difference one can choose the opinion that is most reasonable for their situation as long as they are not trying to play with the deen.
If the person does decide to break their fast then they must make up that day after Ramadan.
Recently a number of local Imams and students of knowledge gathered to discuss the different fajr timings that are used in the prayer timings charts. After discussion and actual observation of fajr they issued the following:
In preparation for this year’s Ramadan calendar, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California tasked a team of brothers from the Southern California community to go out into the Mojave desert to observe the timing of Fajr. Their observations, which have been recorded in a separate report, corroborated the view that the beginning of Fajr approximately corresponds to the time the center of the sun makes a 15 degree angle with the horizon. The conclusions were discussed and verified with Dr. Khalid Shaukat, from moonsighting.com, and Dr. Ahmed Salama, a NASA physicist and astronomer.
Based on the information above, the Shura Council makes the following recommendations to the community:
1. The timing of Fajr should be calculated according to the 15 degree method.
2. As a precautionary measure, imsak (beginning of the fast) should be observed 5 minutes before the 15 degree time.
3. Fajr prayer should not be performed before the 15 degree time.
You should start fasting with the community that you are in and end fasting with the community that you are in. It is possible that this means that you will fast 31 days. If that is the case then you fast 31 days. It is also possible that you will fast 28 days. If that is the case then you fast 28 days and make up an extra day later on. This is the opinion of the majority based on the hadith, “Your fast is the day the people fast and your breaking of fast is the day when the people break the fast.”
This is an article written by Imam Mustafa Umar for IIOC’s website. ICOI adopted the decision of the Fiqh Council of North America. For more info on their position and what it is based on see www.fiqhcouncil.org
Different masjids [mosques] in my area are using different methods to calculate when Ramadan will begin and end? Which one should I follow? What if my family is following a different one?
There are certain things in Islam that have been left open to interpretation. The exact method used to determine the month of Ramadan is a matter of disagreement among scholars. There are two variables involved. First, whether the moon must be sighted in your locality or whether it may be sighted anywhere else where Muslims are present. Second, whether or not the moon must actually be observed or whether astronomical calculations can serve as a substitute for an actual sighting. It is our opinion that these methods all have some sound level of scholarship and therefore should not cause any unnecessary arguing in any Muslim community.
There may be two or more Islamic organizations which are using different criteria in your area. In that case, you would have to pick one to follow and stick to it. You may choose which one to follow by either:
- following the most local Islamic organization
- following the one you trust the most and believe that the scholarship at their center is more sound
- follow the one your family is going with since you are living with them [hence, eating with them as well]
Whichever one you choose to go with, reflect on the ramifications it will have on both yourself and the people closest to you.
In closing, keep in mind that Allah will reward you for your intention and it is hoped that everyones fasting will be accepted, regardles of the scholarly differences of opinion that exist in this regard.