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Fasting the Long Summer Days of Ramadan

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This year Ramaḍān is taking place during summer, with extremely long days that may cause difficulties for some Muslims especially those who live in northern Europe. Some may express a negative attitude towards the long fasts and others might try to find excuses to avoid fasting altogether. Others may complain that there are disadvantages to fasting such long days. An underlying reason for such objections is the weakness of our belief in the afterlife that is true and everlasting.

There are many examples for us from the early generations of Muslims where they deliberated the long arduous fast. We know that Madīnah, the city of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), is a very hot place in the summer and yet it was reported that he used to fast frequently. His wife, ʿĀ’ishah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha) remarked that he used to fast continuously until they thought that he will not cease fasting, and likewise he used to not fast to the extent that they thought that he would not fast again. It was also narrated that Abu’l-Darda’ (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said:

“We went out with the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) [on a journey] during the month of Ramaḍān when it was intensely hot, such that one of us would put his hand on his head because of the intense heat, and no one among us was fasting apart from the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and ‘Abd-Allāh b. Rawāhah.”[1]

His beloved wife and our mother ʿĀ’ishah used to follow his Sunnah.

Yahya b. Abī Kathīr, a scholar from the latter era of the second generation, said:

Al-Qasim b. Muhammad, the nephew of ʿĀ’ishah, informed of ʿĀ’ishah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha) that she would fast on a journey in the heat. I asked, “What compelled her to do that?” He said, “She used to take advantage (of the situation).”[2]

The famous companion Abū Mūsā al-Ash’ari (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) heard someone call out –  most likely from the righteous jinn – at sea: “Allāh has made it incumbent upon Himself that whosoever makes himself thirsty on a hot day, from the days of this life which are extremely hot (i.e. the peak of summer), it is a right upon Allāh that this person have his thirst quenched on the Day of Resurrection.” Abū Mūsā would search out the days that were so hot that one would feel he was being cooked, and he would fast those days.[3]

When a person feels the sweetness of being close to Allāh and starts thinking about the reality of this life compared to the reality of the second life, his or her experience of acts of worship will be very different. The physical tiredness will turn to enjoyment for the sake of whom he loves: Allāh, and His pleasure and Paradise.  Saʿīd b. Jubayr, the famous scholar and righteous person, said: When ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) was near death he said, “I have not left anything behind from this world that I am grieved to leave behind other than the thirst of the midday heat (due to fasting) and walking to attend the prayer.”[4] Similar statements were attributed to many from the early generations. For example, ‘Alqamah b. Marthad, a scholar from the latter era of the second generation, said “I do not cry about your world out of desire of it, but I cry out of missing out (because of death) on the thirst of the midday heat (due to fasting) and the winter night prayer (due to its length)”.[5]

It is amazing to know that the early Muslims competed in doing good deeds even if they were not known as scholars and were just among the lay people. Al-Bayhaqi in his book al-Sunan narrated that once ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUmar  went out to the outskirts of al-Madīnah with some of his companions. They put out a dining mat when a shepherd passed by. Ibn ʿUmar said, “Come O shepherd and partake from this dining mat.” He said: “I am fasting,” Ibn ‘Umar responded, “You fast on a hot day like this while you are on these steep hillocks seeing to these sheep?” The herder replied, “I’m taking advantage of my remaining days.”[6] In a similar story, Saʿīd b. Salim said one of the noble leaders known as Ruh b. Zinba, whose father was a Companion, came to a place between Makkah and Madīnah on a very hot day. His meal was brought to him when a shepherd from the mountain approached, He said to him, “O shepherd, come and eat with me.” The shepherd said: “I’m fasting.” Ruh said, “You’re fasting in this heat?” The shepherd replied: “Should I let my days pass by in vain?” Ruh then recited a couplet: “You have used your days wisely O herder, while Ruh b. Zinba’ has wasted his.”[7]

It was attributed to Abū Dharr al-Ghifāri, the famous Companion of the Prophet who was known for his piety, that he said

“O people, I am an adviser to you all and considerate. Pray in the darkness of the night for the loneliness of the grave. Fast in this world for the heat of the Day of Resurrection. Give charity fearing the day of hardship. O people, I am an adviser to you all and considerate.”[8]

The famous scholar Ibn al-Qayyim who used to speak frequently about the actions of the hearts explained how a person can carry out difficult tasks by saying “Know that a slave traverses the heights of travel to Allāh by his heart and volition and not by his body. Taqwa (piety) in reality is the piety of the heart not that of the body. Allāh says, ‘And whoever honours the symbols [i.e., rites] of Allāh – indeed, it is from the piety of hearts.’ and the Prophet said, ‘Piety is here – and he pointed to his heart’ ”. Thus the smart person can traverse a distance by sound resolve and high aspiration; and pure focus and correct intention, along with little action that is several times more compared to the distance traversed by one who is void of all this even if the latter has with him much labour and undergoes an arduous travel. Resolve and love do away with difficulty and make the journey pleasant. Advancement and being foremost in racing to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) is only achieved by aspirations, genuine love and determination. Hence, one who possesses aspiration with little activity outstrips one who does much by many ranks. If however their aspirations are of the same level then one can outstrip another through action.

It is a sad indictment of our state that if one of us were presented by an employer with the opportunity to work day and night for a month in lieu of a luxury car and large mansion situated in a prime location, I am certain he or she would jump at the chance. Others would even complain at not being afforded this same opportunity. The reality is that if we had a strong conviction in what Allāh has promised us for fasting long days we would wish that Ramadān extended to the entire year, and with long daylight hours. Allāh says,

“Eat and drink at ease for that which you have sent on before you in days past!”[9]

“Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full, without reckoning.”[10] 

A number of Qur’anic commentators state that those who fast are among those who are patient.

Al-Hasan al-Basri, the well-known scholar from the second generation and the one who was known for his wisdom in speech,  said: The Houra, a title of one of the beautiful women in paradise, shall say to the walī of Allāh, the righteous person, whilst he lounges with her beside a river of honey passing him a cup, “What a great life! Do you know, O beloved of God, when it was that my Lord wedded me to you?” He shall say, “I do not know.” She shall say, “He watched you on a long summer’s day whilst you were thirsty in the midday heat, and He called the angels saying “Look at My slave.  He has left his wife and pleasure and food and drink for Me out of his desire for what I have for him.  Bear witness that I have forgiven him,” and He forgave you on that day and wedded me to you.”[11]

Many of us wish that our fasts pass by easily – while we tolerate a little difficulty we expect a significant reward without the exertion of any real effort. Many people hold that fasting should be easy as they do not expect to face any hardship on the path of salvation. However, once a person prepares himself mentally and spiritually, fasting will be easy. Real strength is not of a physical nature but rather of the heart.

In addition to the above points, there are a number of things that can help people to fast long days. The pre-dawn meal (suhūr) is a main aide. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Partake in the pre-dawn meal (suhūr) for in the suhūr there is blessing (barakah).”[12] Consuming dates for your suhūr and iftār is another fundamental component. Besides being a sunnah encouraged by our Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), it is the experience of many people that eating dates for suhūr removes thirst, hunger and tiredness. Another practical way that may help many persons to fast long days is to be busy during the day. The best thing a person can make himself busy with during the days of Ramaḍān is reading Qur’ān, as we know it is indeed the month of the Qur’ān.

The Month of Ramadān, in which the Qur’an was revealed

If a person has a target of a good amount of the Qur’ān to read, learn or even memorise during the days of Ramaḍān, one will notice that the days are not boring and pass by quite quickly. Supplicating to Allāh is also a prime method by which to make worship easy upon the slave. Allāh says,

“And when My servants ask you concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me (by obedience) and believe in Me that they may be guided.”[13]

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

Islam21c requests all the readers of this article, and others, to share it on your facebooktwitter, and other platforms to further spread our efforts.

[1] Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1945; Muslim, no. 1122

[2] al-Tahawi, Sharh Ma’ani al-A’athar, (vol.2, p.70)

[3] Ibn al-Mubarak, al-Zuhd; Ibn Abi Dunya, al-Hawatif. Also narrated in Ibn Abi Shaybah (vol.2, p.273) and Abdur Razzaq (vol.4, p.308)

[4] Ibn Abi Shaybah (vol.7, p.230)

[5] Abu Nu’aym, Hilyatu’l-Awliya (vol.2, p.88)

[6] al-Bayhaqi

[7] Tarikh Ibn Ma’in (vol.4, p.455)

[8] Ahmad, al-Zuhd, p.148

[9] Al-Qur’ān, 69:24

[10] Al-Qur’ān, 39:10

[11] Ibn Abi Dunya, al-Ju’, hadith no. 40.

[12] al-Bukhari and Muslim

[13] Al-Qur’ān, 2:186

About Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Council of Europe. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Council of Europe as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.

20 comments

  1. Very very good point brother. Thats exactly what I hope some will understand. I live under those conditions and although it is a comfort to hear about the companions it does solve my problem. We have fastimg times of 21-23 hrs which leaves very little time to break fast pray maghreb-isha-taraweeh-fadjr and than make suhur. This has nothing to do with heat since in very nothern (and southern) areas it is not the problem.
    http://liveislamiccenter.com/

  2. yusuf Garba yusuf

    alhamdulillah

    its quite enlightening

  3. You put very insightful thoughts about fasting. But tell me if i need to work in 47 C whole day in sunlight, Is it necessary for me to fasting? it could lead me to severe dehydration. In non Islamic country, we had to work whole day in Ramazan, Its not like Suadia Arabia where in Ramazan, everyone work in night

  4. EID Mubarak SMS

    This is just the beginning … In the coming years, people will face further hardship during summers. But one cannot forget that he get extra sawab during these days.

    • Tracey Rahman

      i was wondering if you genuinely cannot fast dew to the long hours, and compensate by giving meals to poorer people plus pay back when the days arent so long, will Allah still punish you. thank you kindly for your reply

  5. Good reminder of how the compainions were… but. I live close to polar circle where there is 15-30 minutes between maghreb and fadjr! So I suggest one tries to fast that during a month while working before reminding himself of patience and the faith of others! Ever heard of easier said than done? Imaan or no imaan, some things are really really hard to endure, and one needs experience to understand that, not wise words. Thank you.

    • The earth of Allah is vast and indeed people have travelled further for lesser reward.Its simple the Commands of Allah come first,one way or another they just do.They have to.Making excuses is how Christianity became such a weak faith people put the dunya first.

  6. We are living in India, which is a hot enough country and it is not easy for Muslims to observe fasting during daytime for a whole month. I just wonder sometimes about those countries who are even hotter than India. How are Muslims there going to sustain fasting during daytime. I just wish them good luck and may Allah have mercy on all

  7. Beautiful article and a great reminder for us all.
    Obviously, without needing to mention. The permit to not fast for the sick, pregnant women etc is there and not forgotten by the author.

    I don’t understand some posts here, Are you saying that the companions and wife of the prophet fasted that they made themselves sick??

    They persevered to get the most reward in this world, not to make themselves sick.
    I think some of us are so used to stuffing ourselves, over eating and indulging in multiple types of food (Morning Coffees, Morning Snack, Lunch, Afternoon Snack & Coffee, Dinner & deserts) that our bodies are not conditioned to fast anymore.
    Its important to have Zuhd in this world and abandon the its pleasures in hope of the immense reward in the hearafter.
    The Human body is capable of amazing things, just needs conditioning and discipline which only come from struggling.

    Again beautiful article that needs our full attention.

  8. I wonder if we would ever complain about having to fast in winter by saying “Allah subhana wa taala does not want hardship for any of His slaves and yet we are made to fast on such small days that will make us miss out on the rewards of the longer days”.

    “And indeed We have put forth every kind of example in this Quran, for mankind. But, man is ever more quarrelsome than anything” (18:54)

    • ameela momoniat

      @AbdAllah
      Allahu Akbar my thoughts exactly! We don’t see anyone complaining when the days are short!

      JazakAllahKhair to Shaykh Haitham

  9. Allah wishes for us ease not hardship 2.185
    No commentary should be required for the verse below:
    2.185 The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

  10. Keeping fasts where days are much longer
    Thanks for writing on keeping fasts in the hot days of summer. What needs the attention of our scholars is the solution of problems when the days are very long, for example 20 to 24 hours.Even if a person is able to fast there is no time left, after breaking the fast to say his Maghrib prayers, have breakfast dinner, say Traweeh prayers, eat sehr dinner, and say fajr prayers. If one of dinner is given up, then the fast will become the fasts of ‘wasal’ for which the prophet pbuh forbade his companions.
    This problem must be pondered over and give a practical solution to the resisidents of northern and southern regions.

    • Very very good point brother. Thats exactly what I hope some will understand. I live under those conditions and although it is a comfort to hear about the companions it does solve my problem. We have fastimg times of 21-23 hrs which leaves very little time to break fast pray maghreb-isha-taraweeh-fadjr and than make suhur. This has nothing to do with heat since in very nothern (and southern) areas it is not the problem.

    • I fully agree with you Riaz Sheikh and Field. I am a resident of a country in the Northern Europe. It is not just about the long days…it is about having left with small number of hours to eat, pray, sleep and re-generate energy for the next day.
      In addition, the long fasting days mean:
      – Not being able to eat any meal with our children for the whole month
      – Not being able to introduce the fasting to our kids
      – Not being able to visit or invite friends and relatives

      We need some serious thinking and guidance in this matter in order to ensure that we are not leaving our next generation without this important pillar of Islam.
      Please do let us all know if you have come across any rulings in this regard.

  11. Fasting is not meant to be hardship
    Fasting as prescribed is not meant to be a hardship. If people want to choose by themselves to do extra fasting and choose a longer day, that is their choice. It can’t be imposed on them.
    Sura 2. verse 185:
    The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. [Noble Quran]
    Everybody is not sitting at home during Ramadhan, everybody is not in the best of health, especially as they get older. Logical corollary, is that dont do fasting in such a way as to make YOU sick!!

    • ameela momoniat

      @Sohaib
      Subahan’Allah the Shaykh isn’t talking about those whom Allah Ta’ala has exempted, the sick, the elderly, the traveller. What is wrong with Muslims? Always arguing, exactly like the ayah the brother mentioned:

      “And indeed We have put forth every kind of example in this Quran, for mankind. But, man is ever more quarrelsome than anything” (18:54)

      You said: “Everybody is not sitting at home during Ramadhan, everybody is not in the best of health, especially as they get older. Logical corollary, is that dont do fasting in such a way as to make YOU sick!!”

      In the UK the fast is approx 20hrs and NO my hubby doesn’t sit @ home he works 8hrs a day…..
      I work and teach and doing my MA.
      What is wrong with Muslims nowadays, Ramadhan is a blessing we may not be alive for the next one. If you think you are exempt then discuss it with a reliable Muslim doctor and get advice from a Shaykh. If you are sick, then fast what you can but don’t throw away this opportunity you may not get another.

      May Allah Ta’ala grant us all a blessed Ramadhan and forgive our sins. Ameen

  12. What an interesting Piece.
    May Allah rewarrd the writer and also grant us all the sweetness of Iman.(ameen)

  13. what a motivation
    bismillahir rahmanir rahim
    salamualaykum
    this is the strongest motivation (obviously, from a sheikh) so far. seriously when i first read the 20hours fast from muslim village it gave me goose pimples and i had bad ideas if i was ever to live in that type of place but after this i wish i was there for 30days, may Allah grant us understanding…i always remember this qoute from sh. anwar alawlaki, may Allah have mercy on him, when a brought a narration in his hereafter series, where one of the salaf said, I miss praying aduring the long winter nights, fasting the long summer days and sitting with those brothers who choose their words…sic
    hope i was first to post
    salamualaykum

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