Khalid Zaheer
“I am convinced about the veracity of my opinions, but I do consider it likely that they may turn out to be incorrect. Likewise, I am convinced about the incorrectness of the views different from mine, but I do concede the possibility that they may turn out to be correct.” — Imam Shafa’i
MORE Q/A

Can the Duration of Fasting Time be Shortened?

Question:
Can't fasts be shortened in view of the fact that in many countries in the West the duration of it is so long that it becomes unbearable for Muslims who have to attend to their full duties to do fast and work?

Response:
Fasting is a religious obligation desired by God Almighty. He has also mentioned in His book the starting and ending time of it (Qur'an; 2: 187) which He knew would vary from season to season and from place to place. The duration of fasts is longer in the Arabian peninsula too during summers and shorter in winters. In winters fasts can be for just twelve hours while they stretch to fifteen hours or more during summers. In the West, the duration of fasts can be as long as eighteen to twenty hours. We are talking of a difference of three to five hours. However, what the people in the Arabian peninsula gain in the form of lesser fasting hours, they pay by way of enduring much hotter weather. The average difference between day temperatures in the countries with hot climate and the cooler regions can be as high as twenty degrees centigrade.

God Almighty has, however, shown us a way to overcome the difficulty. He says He wants ease for His servants, not difficulty. And He has allowed them to fast in days other than Ramadan if they are taken ill or are journeying to complete the number of fasts for a particular year. In other words, whenever there is a genuine difficulty in fasting, God allows His expectation from servants to fast during Ramadan eased to be done in days other than Ramadan. Not all people who are taken ill stop fasting during the holy month nor indeed those who are on a journey always do it. They exercise their own judgement while deciding whether to choose the facility or not. There is no reason why people who are in a state of similar difficulties cannot avail the concession, especially when God Himself emphasises that He wants ease for His servants, not difficulty.

One thing is sure: If some people in the West will avail the permission to fast in days other than Ramadan because of the difficulty associated with fasting in the long summers days and working for the full day at the same time, they can always fast during the weekends of Ramadan since there is no similar difficulty of working during weekends. Thus, if my proposal is accepted, some Muslims would keep eight to ten fasts during the Ramadan months falling during summers and will complete the number of those left in later months of the year.

I am humbly proposing this solution because not fasting and shortening the duration of fasting hours from what the Almighty expects are no options. The proposal I am suggesting is the second best option. It goes without saying that those who muster up the strength to fast throughout Ramadan in summers while working the entire day would certainly be doing the ideal thing. Everyone should strive for achieving that level. Some people can also avail their annual leave during Ramadan months of summers to go through the exercise of fasting comfortably.

May the Almighty enable us all to follow His right path.

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