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UPDATED! The Permissibility of Zakat for Islamic Dawah Organizations: A Detailed Analysis

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zakah.gif*The conclusion or answer to the question of permissibility can be found towards the bottom of this article, after an analysis of the many opinions on this issue. Ultimately, the author believes that in light of the evidences, it is permissible to give Zakah to Islamic Dawah organizations. Please take the time to read the discussion here carefully before taking a position one way or the other. JazakumAllah khair*

From one of the most important matters that face every caller to Islam and every organisation, taking on the noble task of calling to this beautiful and perfect religion, is the question of sources of finance. After the terrorist incidents around the world, the ensuing drama and scrutiny over Islamic organisations struggling to do good has worsened and along with it anyone who funds Islamic projects. This has further resulted in large numbers of the general Muslim population not being as charitable as they normally are. I remember a friend of mine from a large charitable Islamic organisation telling me that the charity levels from people go down to less than half, after any major incident around the world. It seems that people become weary of being linked to anyone that may later be found to use the funds inappropriately. This paranoia and fear has gripped many people and has lead to a serious lack of finances for Islamic projects everywhere. In times as difficult as these, it falls upon the Shariah to bring in ease and legislate in a manner that would allow for its rulings to mould and adapt to our time and circumstances, so that its goals and purposes can be realised in all times and circumstances.

Allah the Most High legislated Zakat as a major source of revenue for the Islamic ummah. It was legislated to cater for some of the neediest sections of the ummah. These days however, when Zakat is given, usually only the poor and miskeen are sought out despite the fact that the poor only comprise one fourth of the recipients of the Zakat described in verse 60 of Surah Tawbah – since they are only two categories out of the 8 mentioned in the verse. It was defined by Allah rigidly enough for there to be divine clarity on the recipients of Zakat, but wide enough to leave the exact definition of each of the types of recipients, upon the ijtihaad of the scholars.

At the beginning of this article it is important to mention an important argument posed by some scholars, may Allah have mercy on them all, that: Ultimately, the Zakat was not intended by the Shariah to be for every cause that is good. If this was the case, then there would be little wisdom in the Quran restricting the recipients of Zakat to the eight categories in Surah Tawbah, verse 60. Therefore, the seventh category: “Fi-sabeelillah” must not mean except a limited number of recipients that fall under the “Fi-sabeelillah” category. Imam Ibn Hazm rahimahullah says: “…And every act of good is ultimately from the path of Allah, the Most High, except that there is no difference of opinion that He did not intend every type of goodness in the division of the obligatory charity. As a result, it is not permissible for the Zakat to be given except where the verse has clearly restricted – and that is what we had mentioned before and Allah is the source of inspiration and clarity.” [AlMuhalla (6/151)] Although what the Imam mentions here “…that there is no difference amongst the scholars in this point” is not entirely accurate . However, it may be more accurate to say that Allah did not intend every act of goodness for giving Zakat to. However, what He did exactly intend, is a matter of difference amongst the scholars, may Allah have mercy on them. What exactly is the benefit of mentioning the other seven categories along with fi-sabeelillah? Is it to restrict the meaning of “fi-sabeelillah” to only a very small limited category, or was it to emphasise the importance of those other categories as the more worthy recipients of Zakat, whilst the Zakat itself being suitable for a larger category than these seven? This article will attempt to shed more light on this issue inshaAllah.

Firstly, all the scholars of Islam are of the agreement that the wording “in the path of Allah” in surah at-Tawbah, verse 60, includes physical struggle in the path of Allah. This is a matter about which there is no difference of opinion amongst the scholars of Islam. [Ahkamul-Quran of Ibnul-Arabi al-Maliki (1/396) reporting from Imam Malik, AlMughni (6/333), AlMubdi’ (2/424), Kasshaf al-Qana’ (2/283) and others]. This is based on the fact that Allah says “Fight in the path of Allah…” [2: 190], “Struggle in the path of Allah…” [5: 35], “Allah loves those who struggle in His path…” [61: 4]. However, this Ijma does not mean that this phrase is to be restricted to this meaning only, since there exists in the body of scholarly opinions – a number of important differences amongst the scholars regarding the exact boundary of the meaning of this phrase. Before I go into the main issue of difference that is the centre point of this article, below are two points of differences that the also differed on regarding adding or restricting from the meaning of “in the path of Allah” which we will allude to towards the end of this article inshaAllah:

· Some of the scholars of Islam were of the opinion that this verse only refers to the poor voluntary conscript Mujahideen and not the rich voluntary conscript Mujahideen. This is the opinion of Imam Abu Haneefah rahimahullah. As for the rest of the scholars, they were of the opinion that it refers to all voluntary conscript Mujahideen whether rich or poor, due to the hadeeth of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wa sallam: “Verily, (obligatory) sadaqah is not permissible for any rich person except for five..” [Abu Dawud (No. 1635), Ibn Majah (No. 1841), AlMustadrak of AlHakim (1/566) and others] and amongst them the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam mentioned a mujahid. [For details of the difference, see AlMajmoo of An-Nawawi (6/211)] As for this phrase referring to “voluntary conscripts” and not to salaried army of a Muslim nation, then this is a point of general agreement amongst many of the scholars of Islam. [See Al-Insaaf (3/235), AlMajmoo (6/211) and others]

· Some of the scholars of Islam were of the opinion that the phrase “in the path of Allah” includes Muslims as well as non-Muslims struggling in the path of Allah – such as a non-Muslim who may be spying for Muslims, [Ash-Sharh al-Kabeer Hashiyyah ala ad-Dasooki (1/456)], or to those non-Muslims, if the Muslims require their defence. [Al-Umm of Ash-Shafi (2/60)]

Does the phrase “fi-sabeelillah” only mean those physically fighting in the cause of Allah?

The vast majority of the earlier scholars of Islam such as Imam Abu Haneefah, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi, Imam Abu Thawr, Imam Ibn Mundhir, as well as the official position of the three madhabs, including many Hanbali scholars such as Imam Ibn Qudamah who mentioned that it was the opinion of the Hanbali madhab as well; as well as Imam Ash-Shawkani and many of the earlier scholars of Ahlul-Hadeeth, may Allah have mercy on them all, were of the opinion that “in the path of Allah” is restricted to those voluntary conscripts that were physically battling in Allah’s cause only. Some of them also mentioned the purchasing of weaponry to be included in this meaning. In our time, this was the original and first fatwa of the Kibar-ulema o] Saudi Arabia that was passed in the year 21/08/1394A.H, No. 24 by agreement of the majority with 6 scholars opposing, and from those who consented to the fatwa from the Kibar-ulema, were the majority of the permanent committee for fatwa, such as Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz and others.

Other scholars of Islam were of the opinion that in addition to the voluntary conscripts in the path of Allah, it also included those who were doing Hajj. This is the opinion of a number of the esteemed companions of the Prophet sallallahualaihi wa sallam such as Ibn Umar, Ibn Abbas, Abu Hurairah, Abu Saeed al-Khudri radiallahu anhum and some of the Tabiuun and scholars such as Imam AlHasan AlBasri, Imam Bukhari, Imam Ahmed, Imam Ishaq bin Rahaweih and is the Hanbali madhab according to some of the scholars of the madhab, may Allah have mercy on all the ulema of Islam.

Yet others are of the third opinion that it includes many general acts of goodness, such as building mosques, defending Islam through Islamic dawah and so on and so forth. This opinion states that although those physically fighting in the cause of Allah are more worthy, nevertheless, there are others who are also struggling to uplift His religion, in other forms of struggle in the broader category of Jihad who are worthy as well. This is the opinion of some of the earlier scholars and a large number of the later scholars, such as Imam Ar-Razi [Tafsir Ar-Razi (16/113)], Imam Al-Qasimi [Mahasin a-Ta’weel (8/318)], AlAloosi [Rooh al-Ma’ani (10/123)], Imam Siddeeq Hasan Khan [Ar-Rawdahtun-Nadiyyah (1/206)], Imam As-San’ani [Subul as-Salam (2/198)], Sheikh Rashid Ridha [Tafsir al-Manar (10/585-587)], Sheikh Muhammad Shaltoot [Al-Islam Aqeedah was-Sharee’ah (pg: 97-98)], Sheikh Muhammad bin Ibrahim Aalus-Sheikh the former grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia [Fatawa ash-Sheikh Muhammad bin Ibrahim (4/132)]. This is also the later and final opinion of Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Baz the former grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdur-Razzaq al-Afifi professor of Azhar and the former vice grand Mufti to Saudi, and others [Fatwa Lajnah ad-Da’imah (No. 12627, dated 11/2/1410A.H.), also see (No. 7746)] may Allah have mercy on all the scholars of Islam. This is also the decree of the Fiqh council of Makkah consisting of a large number of the scholars of Saudi Arabia under the chairmanship of Sheikh Ibn Baz rahimahullah in its 8th seating in the year 1405 A.H. which states: “The council agrees with total majority, that dawah to Allah and that which helps it and benefits it, is in the meaning of (in the path of Allah) as in the verse.” [AlQararat (pg. 173)]

The proofs of those who hold the first opinion, that “in the path of Allah” is restricted to those voluntary conscripts that were physically battling in Allah’s cause only, state that.:

1. “Fi-sabeelillah” is mentioned in the Quran more than 60 times and in the wording of the Shariah, it usually means Jihad as if the phrase is only always used for it. This is because in the Quran, “fi-sabeelillah” is only used a few times in the general sense, whilst referring to physical struggle in the path of Allah in the specific sense most of the time.

2. The hadeeth of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wa sallam: “The [obligatory] charity is not permissible for any rich person, except for five: The fighter in the cause of Allah, or the [Zakat] collector, or the one in debt, or for a person who purchases an item given in Zakat from his own wealth, or for a person who has a neighbour that is poor to whom he gives his Zakat and then the poor neighbour gives the Zakat item as a gift to a rich man.” [Reported by Abu Dawud (2/119), Ibn Majah (1/590), Sunan Al-Baihaqi alKubra (7/15), and AlMustadrak (1/566). Sheikh AlAlbani graded it as authentic due to other reports (Saheeh lighay’rihi)]. So this authentic hadeeth explains the phrase “fi-sabeelillah” and so its meaning should be restricted to it.

3. If fi-sabeelillah were to have a general meaning, then there would be no benefit in mentioning the rest of the types of recipients of the Zakat such as faqeer and miskeen, since they would all be included in the meaning of fi-sabeelillah.

4. Linguistically, it has not been reported in the Quran for there to be a phrase that is general in meaning that occurs in a listing between two phrases that denote specific meaning. Rather what has been reported is that a specific may be mentioned after a general, such as “On that night [of Laylatul-Qadr], the angels and the Ruh descend by the command of their Lord with every decree.” [97: 4] Here, although “Ruh” meaning Jibraeel alaihis salam is from the species of angels, he is mentioned after the angels showing that in a listing, a specific may be named after a general. Similarly is the case in the verse: “Whosoever is an enemy to Allah, His angels, His messengers, to Jibreel and Meekal (Mikaeel), then indeed Allah is an enemy to such disbelievers.” [2: 98] As a result, linguistically, the phrase “fi-sabeelillah” cannot have a general meaning since it occurs between “gharimeen” (those in debt) and “ibnus-Sabeel” (the wayfarer) which are both terms that have specific meaning. This argument was mentioned in a lesson that I was attending in the Prophet’s mosque delivered by Sheikh Muhammad bin Muhammad al-Mukhtar as-Shanqeeti hafidahullah in his explanation of the chapter of Zakat from Umdatul-Fiqh of Imam Ibn Qudamah rahimahumullah.

The proofs of those who hold the second opinion, that in addition to the voluntary conscripts in the path of Allah, it also included those who were doing Hajj, state that:

1. It is authentically reported from the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam that he considered an item that was specifically kept for physical fighting,] to also be suitable for Hajj, with the reasoning that both were from the path of Allah. This is from the Hadeeth of Abu Taleek radiallahu anhu who said that his wife Umm Taleek radiallahu anha asked him: “Give me your camel so that I can perform Hajj upon it.” He (Abu Taleek) replied: “Do you not remember that I have kept it safeguarded only for the path of Allah (fi-sabeelillah)?” She replied: “Verily, Hajj is from the path of Allah – so give it to me, may Allah have mercy upon you.” So Abu Taleek said: So I went to Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wa sallam and I passed on her salam to him and I told him what Umm Taleek told me. So the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam replied: “Umm Taleek spoke the truth! If you were to give her the camel, then it would be in the path of Allah.” [Mu’jam al-Kabeer of Tabarani (22/324), Ad-Dulaabi in AlKuna wal-Asmaa (No. 249, 1/121) and AlHaithami reports this hadeeth from AlBazzar in Majma’ az-Zawaid (3/280), however I did not find it. This hadeeth was considered good by Ibn Hajr in AlIsaabah and authenticated by AlAlbani. See Irwa al-Ghaleel (3/376)]

2. Similar to the above is another incident that was reported from the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam from the story of Umm Ma’qal radiallahu anha. She said: “When the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam performed the final Hajj – at that time we used to have a camel that Abu Ma’qal had kept exclusively for the purpose of using it in the path of Allah. Thereafter, we became sick and Abu Ma’qal passed away and the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam set off for Hajj. So when he came back from his Hajj, I went to him, so he asked me: O Umm Ma’qal what prevented you from going out (to Hajj)? So I replied: Abu Ma’qal wanted to (but passed away), and he has a camel that I was going to do Hajj on however Abu Ma’qal willed that it be only for the path of Allah. So he said: So why did you not come out on it? Indeed Hajj is from the path of Allah!” [Reported by Ahmed (No. 27107), Abu Dawud (No. 1979) and others. Graded Hasan by AlAlbani in Al-Irwa (3/376)]

3. Ibn Abbas radiallahu anhuma said: He (the slave) should be freed from the Zakat of his (owners and others) wealth and given from it (Zakat) for Hajj. [Reported by AlBukhari in Ta’leeq form and connected by Ibn Abi Shaibah in his Musannaf (4/41) and declared Hasan by AlAlbani in Al-Irwa (3/377)] Similarly it has been reported by an acceptable chain from Ibn Abbas by Abu Dawud in his Sunan (No. 1990) that Ibn Abbas said: “Verily, Hajj is from the path of Allah.”

4. Ibn Umar radiallahu anhuma said when asked about using a camel for hajj that was originally kept for fighting in battle: Indeed Hajj is from the path of Allah. [Reported with a connected chain by Abu Ubaid in AlAmwal (No. 1976), Sunan Ad-Darimi (2/519) and authenticated by Ibn Hajr in Fathul-Bari (3/332)]

5. Ibn Abbas radiallahu anhuma said: We took Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wa sallam for Hajj upon a camel from the camels of (obligatory) charity. [Musnad Ahmed (4/221), AlMustadrak (1/611), Sahih Ibn Khuzaimah (4/73), Sunnan alBaihaqi alKubra (5/252) Also supporting evidence for the narration as mentioned by Ibn Hajr in Fathul-Bari (3/331) and Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaibah (3/180). This narration has Idtiraab in it, however it is most probably authentic up to Ibn Abbas. Also this narration was mentioned by AlBukhari in the introduction of this chapter in a mu’allaq form. Sheikh Shuaib Arnaut said in his checking of the hadeeth in Musnad Ahmed: Its isnad is Hasan (acceptable) See: Musnad Ahmed (4/221)]

6. There is no known difference to the opinions of the companions that they used to permit giving the Zakat for Hajj as well. It is for this reason, that some scholars use the absence of any authentic report of any difference from other companions as silent Ijma on this topic. Sheikh AlAlbani rahimahullah says after mentioning the statements of Ibn Abbas and Ibn Umar radiallahu anhum on this point: “And I say: In the two Abdullahs: Meaning (Abdullah) Ibn Abbas and (Abdullah) Ibn Umar is the best and superior guidance, especially given that there is no known difference to them from the companions, as well as what has preceded mention of from the hadeeths (that support their opinion).” [Irwa al-Ghaleel of AlAlbani (3/377)]

The proofs of those who hold the third opinion, that it includes many general acts of goodness, such as building mosques, defending Islam through Islamic dawah, etc, include the proofs of the second opinion, as well as the following additional proofs:

1. In addition to Hajj, the Sunnah also mentions other matters that are from the path of Allah showing that it is not restricted to physical struggle only. From that, is the hadeeth which is elevated [Ar. Marfu’] to the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam: “Whoever leaves (his home) to seek knowledge then he is fi-sabilillah until he returns.” [Tabarani (8/66)] It is also for this reason that it is reported from Abu Dhar radiallahu anhu that he said: Whoever thinks that seeking knowledge is not Jihad, then there is a deficiency in his intelligence!

2. “Fi-sabeelillah” in the majority of the verses of the Quran means Jihad, however it does not necessarily have to mean the restricted definition of Jihad only – that of physical armed struggle. Rather, Jihad has a deeper and broader meaning.

a. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says: “… And strive against them with it (the Quran), a greater struggle.” [25: 52] This verse very clearly shows that dawah is also a form of Jihad.

b. The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam explained that it has a more comprehensive meaning, when he said: “Fight the [transgressing] Mushrikeen with your money, your bodies, and your tongues.” [Musnad Ahmed (3/124, 153), Abu Dawud (3/10), Ad-Darimi (2/280), AlMustadrak (2/91). Shuaib Arnaut said in the checking of Musnad Ahmed: The hadeeth is authentic upon the condition of Muslim. AlAlbani graded the hadeeth as authentic in Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud]. Explaining the comprehensive meaning of Jihad, Sheikhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah says: “That is because the reality of Jihad is to expend effort in achieving that which is beloved to Allah from acts of emaan and righteous actions, and to repel that which is disliked by Allah from disbelief, transgression and disobedience.” [Majmoo al-Fatawa (10/191-192)]

3. From one of the most important proofs that show that the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam used Zakat for that which is generally for the good of Muslims and removal of harm from them, is the incident wherein: The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam gave 100 camels from the camels of (obligatory) charity to the family of Abdullah bin Sahal, when he was killed and no one knew who had killed him. [Reported by AlBukhari (No. 6898) and Muslim (No.1669)] AlQurtubi says about this incident: “Truly he did this on account of his noble nature, perfect governance, in order to achieve the good and ward off all harm, to quell any argument and to rein in the emotions and upon the inability to establish the truth (i.e. the punishment of manslaughter) due to lack of clarity in the matter (i.e. not knowing who the killer was).” [AlMufhim Sharh Sahih Muslim of AlQurtubi (5/15,16)] The point of witness from this hadeeth is that blood money is not one of the places where Zakat can normally be spent, unless we categorise it under the fi-sabeelillah category under the broad meaning of that phrase. Some scholars tried to deny the apparent clarity of the hadeeth of using Zakat for general good by insisting on different arguments such as perhaps the narrator of the hadeeth made a mistake, or perhaps the family of Abdullah bin Sahal were poor and so they were given the 100 camels by way of being poor or by way of being from the category of Mu’allafati quloobihim so that their hearts may be inclined towards Islam – these arguments are not based on any clear evidence and are simply based on conjecture. Imam An-Nawawi rahimahullah says: And the saying of some of them that the guardians of the dead were in need (poor), from those deserving of Zakat, then this is a futile argument since this (100 camels) is a huge amount that is not given to a singular beneficiary of Zakat as against the noblemen of a tribe and also because, he (the narrator) called it Dee’ah (blood money). And also the ta’weel of some of them that he (the Prophet sallallahu aliahi wa sallam) gave it to them from the portion of the Mua’llafati quloobihim from Zakat to soften their hearts perhaps that they may accept Islam, then this is weak! This is because it is not permissible to give the zakat to the disbeliever [Translator’s comment: This is the opinion of the vast majority of the ulema] so the chosen argument is what we have mentioned from the majority, that he purchased it from the camels of (obligatory) charity [Translator: Imam Nawawi mentions this as his preferred opinion since he is upon the opinion of the Shafiyyah that Zakat is not to be given to all worthy causes].” [Sharh Sahih Muslim (11/150)] Therefore, what is clear is that this hadeeth shows that the camels of zakat were used for a matter of general good and forbidding general harm and evil. [See also Fathul-Bari (12/235)]

Discussion of the proofs:

From what is clear from the list of the proofs provided by each opinion, is that:

· There is no clear definitive proof about the explanation of the phrase “fi-sabeelillah” in the verse in surah Tawbah, verse 60 that has been directly reported from the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. Although the phrase has been used to mean physical warfare in the Quran the majority of the times, this is not proof enough that it should also only mean physical warfare in this verse as well. Also, a large number of times it has also been used in the Quran to mean the general path of guidance and acts of goodness, such as in [31:6], [4:89], [6:116], [2:262], [38:26], [22:58], [16:125], [12:108], [9:34] (Ibn Hajr mentions this verse 9:34 refers to those that do not spend money in general acts of goodness). There are many other examples of such verses. As a result, to insist on restricting this phrase in the ayah of Zakat to only mean the fighters in Jihad – is not apparent. It is for this reason that Imam Siddeeq Hasan Khan says: “There is no clear proof to restrict the meaning of this portion to them (fighters) only, rather it is correct to give it in every cause that is in the path of Allah, glorified be He. This is the meaning of the phrase linguistically. It is obligatory to restrict oneself upon the linguistic meaning since nothing authentic (and clear) has been reported in this matter from the Shariah.” [Ar-Rawdatun-Nadiyyah (1/206)] Similarly, the hadeeth that mentions that Zakat can’t be given to the rich except 5 and that the rich mujahid is amongst them, cannot be used to restrict the meaning of the verse to fighters only. The hadeeth simply shows how the verse can refer to the Mujahideen, however this does not in any way restrict it to this meaning. Similarly, mentioning the numerous narrations, such as the narrations from the companions and tafsir of ayahs to show that fi-sabeelillah means Jihad – is of no consequence here, since the opposing views already agree that physical warfare is already included in the meaning of the verse and is from the more worthy recipient of the portion of fi-sabeelillah. The point of disagreement is whether it is only restricted to this meaning or whether it can include other acts of goodness as well.

· There are numerous ahadeeth that are authentic as mentioned by those who hold the second and third opinion – that show that fi-sabeelillah is not restricted only to fighters in the path of Allah. The authentic proofs show that Hajj, as well as blood money which were from general good and benefit for the community are also from the sources that deserve Zakat. There is also no known opposition to this understanding from the companions of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam and had there be any opposing narration, then it would have been related to us.

· As for the argument that if “Fi-sabeelillah” were to mean all acts of goodness, then this would defy the purpose of mentioning the other recipients of Zakat in the verse, then this can be explained in the following way: That the mentioning of other recipients that can also be in the greater meaning of fi-sabeelillah is by way of increasing affirmation [Ar. Ta’keed] and not by way of division and separation [Ar.Tafreeq]. Singling out the other recipients who may also be from the general meaning of fi-sabeelillah, shows that the Zakat should not be simply put into the Baitul-Mal as from other sources of revenue, such as should be done with Kharaaj (produce of the land) and Jizyah, rather that is should specifically be used for these 8 types of recipients. Therefore, regarding fi-sabeelillah, the meaning would be that – the Zakat should be used for all those projects and matters that raise the word of Allah, defend it, protect it and sanctify it.

· It should be clear to the one that researches this topic closely, that the vast majority of the ulema of the past, simply reported the other opinions and proofs – and a large number of them did so without actively seeking to clarify which opinion is stronger than the other. [Dr Ahmed Awid Abu Shabab, Majallah alBuhooth alFiqhiyyah alMua’sarah (No. 68, dated 1/7/2005)] They simply reported the view of the majority and moved on from that. An example of this is what Abu Ubaid reports in his book AlAmwal, after authenticating the narration from Ibn Umar that people going for hajj can be given from Zakat: “And the ulema are not upon this, and I do not know of anyone who has given the fatwa that Zakat should be given to those going for Hajj.” [AlAmwal pg. 723] This is largely because of the fact that since physical warfare was regular and constant throughout the centuries of Islamic history, there were hardly any other causes that matched the worthiness and importance of having a capable Muslim army that was well equipped and trained. Thus, there was little need to expand the meaning of fi-sabeelillah. The reader will note that the trend to expand the meaning of fi-sabeelillah occurred more from the scholars of the later centuries and particularly in our time given the fact that our times and situation are so different.

· It is very evident that the scholars of the past would explain the verse of the Zakat upon their prevailing situations at that time. So even though the majority generally agreed that in the path of Allah means physical warfare – they still differed on its exact limits. As has preceded, some allowed Zakat for all types of fighters, other restricted it to only voluntary conscripts; some allowed Zakat only for those far away from their lands, others allowed it for those near and far; some restricted Zakat to the poor fighters, whereas others allowed it for all; some allowed the purchase of weaponry with Zakat money, whereas others disallowed it. This shows how the scholars were applying the verse of Zakat to their situations and times as their situation dictated and called for it. This is also what is noticeable from the opinions of a large number of scholars who have chosen to apply the broader meaning of fi-sabeelillah to the verse, given that in our time, many of the types of recipients of Zakat are difficult to find or limited in different parts of the world only, and there are other similarly worthy causes that fall under the broader meaning of fi-sabeelillah that are also in need in our time today. It is for this reason that interestingly, Syed Qutb rahimahullah says: “Fi-sabeelillah is a broad terms that encompasses every good that uplifts the word of Allah for the muslim community. From the most clear proofs of this is the preparations for battle and equipping and training voluntary conscripts and the sending of missionaries for calling to Islam and to clarify and spread its teachings to all people. Also to setup schools and universities that will teach and raise a generation upon the correct fundamentals, so that we do not leave them to the public schools that teach them everything but Islam, nor to the schools of the Christian missionaries who exploit their childhood and innocence with false teachings about religion – that which they are not able to defend against.” [Fi Dhilaal al-Quran (10/82)] It is also equally interesting to note that the companions of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam – permitted giving the wealth kept for fi-sabeelillah – for hajj, when the times and situation had changed in one of the years – in which there were no wars going on in the Muslim empire, such as the incident reported by the student of Ibn Umar – Nafi rahimahullah who said that a man came to Ibn Umar and said: Verily a man (who passed away) gifted a camel to me in his will, to use in the path of Allah only, and this is not the time when there are any battles going on. Can I use the camel for doing Hajj? So Ibn Umar replied: “Hajj and umrah are both fi-sabeelillah!” [Ad-Darimi (2/519) and authenticated in AlFath (3/332)]

The preferred opinion:

From what has preceded mention, the broader meaning of fi-sabeelillah is the preferred opinion and Allah the most High knows best. In times like we are in today, it is imperative that the scholars, may Allah have mercy on them all, give their fatwas in a manner that caters for the needs of our society to defend against the intellectual onslaught against our values and way of life and aid us in fulfilling our obligation to show case to the world the beauty of our religion. This cannot be done except by appropriate funding for dawah and community development organisations, Islamic radio and media, Islamic institutes and universities, funding students of knowledge and supporting teachers of goodness – and any project or worthy cause that is directly involved in working in the broader meaning of the path of Allah. Such was the guidance of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam when he gave the blood money of Abdullah bin Sahal from the Zakat – that ultimately the Zakat is meant for the attainment of benefit and prevention of harm from the Muslim ummah.

And Allah knows best.

Written by

Tawfique Chowdhury
Director
Mercy
Mission and AlKauthar Institute
8th Shawwal 2007 A.H. corresponding to 20th October 2007 C.E.

PDF Version for Distribution & Dissemination:

is-zakat-permissible-for-islamic-dawah-organisations.pdf

Sh. Tawfique Chowdhury is the founder of AlKauthar Institute, the unrelated Australian twin of AlMaghrib. A graduate of Islamic University of Madinah, he has also excelled in secular fields: An IT Project Manager, and soon to be a doctor as well (he is completing his medicine degree). He is very active in working with many Islamic organizations around the world and is also an international media contributor appearing on numerous TV and radio stations. The most notable are his appearances on ABC Asia Pacific, AlMajd Channel and the Islam Channel in the UK, where his lectures are frequently shown.

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Amad

    Amad

    October 24, 2007 at 8:22 AM

    jazakAllahkhair Shaykh Tawfique…

    I really believe that this analysis is of great significance to the Muslim communities in the West. Everyday is a struggle for our institutions, our schools, our dawah organizations, etc. to just survive financially. Historically, by earmarking most of our Zakat for needy causes outside America (and no doubt they are needy), we do miss out on building what we need to sustain the future generations of Muslims in the West.

    I hope inshallah that Shaykh Tawfique’s message is spread far and wide so that it may help sustain the next generation of activities and institutions for the protection and betterment of Muslims in the West.

  2. Avatar

    MR

    October 24, 2007 at 10:00 AM

    Wow. You had the daleel on lock, mashaAllah!

    So now what organizations qualifies as an “Islamic Dawah Organization”?

  3. Avatar

    Alex

    October 24, 2007 at 10:53 AM

    Salaam ‘alaikum,

    Assuming that one accepts the legitimacy of the third opinion, there is a lot that has to be worked out in order to actualize such a ruling.

    -Since Zakat is an act of worship and some Muslim organizations are not all that they should be- how much research into the organization should the individual Muslim do in order to insure that their ibadah is accepted?

    -What sort of organizations fall under the definition of fisabilillah? And perhaps more importantly, is that a decision that can be left up to the individual Muslim?

    -What organizations would definitely not qualify?

    -Would it be better to have an oversight committee made up of Ulema and financial professionals to certify organizations that wish to receive zakat funds?

    And I’m sure there’s a lot that I’ve missed.

  4. Avatar

    Comments of Muhammad al Jibaly

    October 24, 2007 at 11:52 AM

    The following is from Muhammad Jibaly’s mailing list ..I have only quoted what is relevant ..

    Jibaly said:
    The author brings many examples where the Prophet (S) considered hajj expenses as legitimate “fee sabeel-illaah” zakaah expenditure. There is little difference among the `ulamaa that hajj counts as “fee sabeel-illaah”, and bringing all those hadeeths serves only to diffuse the issue and make it appear as though there are so many violations to the understanding that “fee safeel-illaah” refers only to the physical struggle for Allaah’s cause.

    The author then brings a lone example other than hajj: The Prophet (S) gave from the sadaqah camels as blood-money to a family whose family-head was killed and his killer was not known. None of the reports I saw in al-Bukhaaree and Muslim indicate that these “sadaqah” camels were “zakaah” camels. And even if they were, this incident can be explained so as not to conflict with the established shar’ee rule regarding “fee sabeel-illaah”: that the deceased’s family was eligible for zakaah under the “mu’allafati quloobuhum” (those who need to be fortified in Islaam) category or the “needy” category. The author waves off the latter possibility as mere conjecture! And why is that? Is he only seeking a conclusion that serves his organization’s needs? The correct fiqhee rule is that an established legislation cannot be overridden by doubts, not that doubts can override the legislation! Since there are doubts in this case as to why the Prophet (S) used the zakaah fund (if it was zakaah), we cannot use this example to override the shar’ee rule regarding “fee sabeel-illaah”.

    Just before his conclusion, the author cites a long quotation from Sayyid Qutub which, in essence, cancels the eight categories mentioned in the aayah of soorat at-Tawbah, making “fee sabeel-illaah” inclusve to most of them! Is Sayyid then, to our friend the author, the final word and “Hujjat ul-Islaam” in this and other issues of Islaam? We seek Allaah’s protection from misguidance.

    A very important note that our Shaykh al-Albani (r) often emphasized is that those who try to widen the scope of “fee sabeel-illaah” provide a great “service” to wealthy Muslims who are reluctant to give any sadaqah besides the required zakaah (if they give it at all). They essentially tell them: “You only need to pay your zakaah, and we will apply it to all paths of good. You do not have to pay anything extra for building schools and masjids, paving roads, different forms of da’wah, etc.” This is far from being true. The welathy Muslimd have a great obligation: to spend much more than the required zakaah for supporting various Islamic projects. Otherwise, Allaah (T) would deprive them of their wealth like He deprived the farmers mentioned in Soorat Noon.

  5. Avatar

    Islam Blog

    October 24, 2007 at 12:58 PM

    Salaamualaykum,

    Here are some additional fataawa relevant to the issue:

    Giving zakaat to a primary school which is in need of funds
    http://www.islamqa.com/index.php?ref=6977&ln=eng

    Printing the Qur’aan is not one of the things that zakaah should be spent on
    http://www.islamqa.com/index.php?ref=21797&ln=eng

    Building mosques from zakaah funds
    http://www.islamqa.com/index.php?ref=13734&ln=eng

    Jazakallah for post. It was very educative

  6. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    October 24, 2007 at 10:38 PM

    Assalamu Alaykum

    Firstly, I must say that I respect Sh. Tawfique and he has made a good case for his view.

    However, with all due respect, although I feel the words of Sh. Jibaly were a bit harsh I agree with his conclusion. In particular, for some time, I have also felt as Sh. Jibaly mentions:

    ((A very important note that our Shaykh al-Albani (r) often emphasized is that those who try to widen the scope of “fee sabeel-illaah” provide a great “service” to wealthy Muslims who are reluctant to give any sadaqah besides the required zakaah (if they give it at all). They essentially tell them: “You only need to pay your zakaah, and we will apply it to all paths of good. You do not have to pay anything extra for building schools and masjids, paving roads, different forms of da’wah, etc.” This is far from being true. The welathy Muslimd have a great obligation…))

  7. Avatar

    Ardit

    October 25, 2007 at 1:06 AM

    As far as i know the mufti of Saudi Arabia, al-Shaykh, has given a similar fatwa, permitting the zakah per the purpose of dawa or islamic institution.

  8. Avatar

    Tawfique

    October 25, 2007 at 1:07 AM

    Assalamualiakum all

    I will try and answer most of the comments inshaAllah, however let me start off with the arguments and aspersions raised on the article.

    Let me start off which the attempt at refuting the content of the article by Sh Md AlJibaly. With all due respect to the Sheikh, he is a friend of mine, however the arguments he provides are not strong in the least bit and some of them are plainly argumentative without any point being made. Let me take each argument step by step:

    Our beloved Sheikh hafidahullah says: “The author brings many examples where the Prophet (S) considered hajj expenses as legitimate “fee sabeel-illaah” zakaah expenditure. There is little difference among the `ulamaa that hajj counts as “fee sabeel-illaah”, and bringing all those hadeeths serves only to diffuse the issue and make it appear as though there are so many violations to the understanding that “fee safeel-illaah” refers only to the physical struggle for Allaah’s cause.”

    This is incorrect. Rather, there is a huge amount of difference amongst the scholars that Hajj is included in the ‘fi-sabeelillah’ category. Infact the vast majority of the madhabs and including as Ibn Qudamah rahimahullah says, the hanbali madhab as well, as he leaves the established narration from Imam Ahmed about including Hajj in the fi-sabelillah category and chooses the opinion that it is not included. Even a cursory look at the books of fiqh of each madhab will show that. So how can it therefore be said that “there is little difference among the `ulamaa that hajj counts as fee sabeel-illah”? Similarly, I quoted in the article the statement of Imam Abu Ubaid in his book AlAmwaal pg 723 wherein he says: “And the ulema are not upon this, and I do not know of anyone who has given the fatwa that Zakat should be given to those going for Hajj.” So again, how can it be said that there is little difference amongst the ulema that fi-sabeelillah includes Hajj? Rather, there is a lot of difference and it is precisely this reason why I mentioned all the proofs that exist out and all the existing hadeeths and narrations to show that hajj is indeed from the fi-sabeelillah category – and not as you state – “to diffuse the issue”!

    Then the sheikh argues: “The author then brings a lone example other than hajj: The Prophet (S) gave from the sadaqah camels as blood-money to a family whose family-head was killed and his killer was not known. None of the reports I saw in al-Bukhaaree and Muslim indicate that these “sadaqah” camels were “zakaah” camels. And even if they were, this incident can be explained so as not to conflict with the established shar’ee rule regarding “fee sabeel-illaah”: that the deceased’s family was eligible for zakaah under the “mu’allafati quloobuhum” (those who need to be fortified in Islaam) category or the “needy” category. The author waves off the latter possibility as mere conjecture! And why is that? Is he only seeking a conclusion that serves his organization’s needs? The correct fiqhee rule is that an established legislation cannot be overridden by doubts, not that doubts can override the legislation! Since there are doubts in this case as to why the Prophet (S) used the zakaah fund (if it was zakaah), we cannot use this example to override the shar’ee rule regarding “fee sabeel-illaah”.”

    With all due respect, to recollect the fiqhi arguments that were presented by that point, it may have been a single incident from the hadeeth that I reported, but it was by no means the only proof that was presented by that point. By that point, I had already shown that:
    a. There is no authentic hadeeth that fi-sabeelillah is only restricted to physical jihad.
    b. That nothing authentic is established from the Prophetic guidance on this matter.
    c. That even in the Quran, fi-sabeelillah has been used in over 8 different verse for general good and not just for physical warfare.
    d. That the ijmaa of the companions is that hajj is included in the category of fi-sabeelillah showing that it is not just as simple as physical struggle only.

    Also, as for the fact that the camels were camels of Zakat and not of any other charity, is that in the Urf of the shariah, when sadaqah is mentioned in the the ma’rifah form – al-sadaqah – it usually and almost always means the obligatory sadaqah i.e. Zakat. Examples of this is: in the verse of surah tawbah, verse 60 wherein Allah starts the verse by saying: Innama alsadaqaatulil fuqaraa… and others. Also I personally myself have yet to find a narration where in Ibilus-Sadaqah is mentioned and it does not mean the camels of obligatory charity (i.e. Zakat). Also the discussion presented by ibn Hajr in FathulBari for that hadeeth as in alFath (12/235) and by alQurtubi in alMufhim (5/15-16) shows that the ulema understood the hadeeth to mean that the camels were from Zakat.

    Secondly, why did I dismiss the argument that the camels were given to the family of the dead by way of mu’allafati qulubihim or being from the faqeer category – because of the following reasons:
    1. Ibn Hajr mentions in AlFath (12/235) that a number of ulema and fuqaha who did indeed reject the arguments since there is no proof to limit the understanding of the hadeeth to the zakat being given for being poor or mua’llafati quloobihim.
    2. There is little justification for giving 100 camels (!) to the poor. Yes if a family is poor – give him 2, 3, 5, or even 10 camels if you so wish. But 100 camels? Does this not seem even slightly farfetched that Rasulullah sallallahu aliahi wa sallam would give so many camels by way of zakat to a family for being poor? Rather, it as AlQurtubi states in alMufhim (12/15-16) when he comments on this hadeeth saying: “Truly he did this on account of his noble nature, perfect governance, in order to achieve the good and ward off all harm, to quell any argument and to rein in the emotions and upon the inability to establish the truth (i.e. the punishment of manslaughter) due to lack of clarity in the matter (i.e. not knowing who the killer was).”
    3. Another reason that it is clear that the 100 camels from Zakat was not given because of being poor or for being mu’allafi qulubihim and that this is a very weak argument and essentially conjecture and speculation, is what Imam Nawawi rahimahullah mentions in Sharh Sahih muslim in the explanation of this hadeeth and he clearly says: “And the saying of some of them that the guardians of the dead were in need (poor), from those deserving of Zakat, then this is a futile argument since this (100 camels) is a huge amount that is not given to a singular beneficiary of Zakat as against the noblemen of a tribe and also because, he (the narrator) called it Dee’ah (blood money). And also the ta’weel of some of them that he (the Prophet sallallahu aliahi wa sallam) gave it to them from the portion of the Mua’llafati quloobihim from Zakat to soften their hearts perhaps that they may accept Islam, then this is weak! This is because it is not permissible to give the zakat to the disbeliever [Translator’s comment: This is the opinion of the vast majority of the ulema] so the chosen argument is what we have mentioned from the majority, that he purchased it from the camels of (obligatory) charity [Translator: Imam Nawawi mentions this as his preferred opinion since he is upon the opinion of the Shafiyyah that Zakat is not to be given to all worthy causes].” [Sharh Sahih Muslim (11/150)]
    4. What we are arguing with is with the dhahir [Tr. clear, apparent] wording of the hadeeth and our argument is dhahir whereas your argument is an extension upon the nass [Ar. Text] and upon the qaaidah that says: A’yee amr dakhala fihi-ihtimaal batala bihi al-istidlal – which every argument that enters upon it uncertainty, then to use it as a proof is false. So the argument of Sh Muhammad here is not dhaahir and is ziyaadah (extra and extension) of the text and that is muhtamal (speculative) and thus weak in argument.
    5. As for what Sh Muhammad says: “The correct fiqhee rule is that an established legislation cannot be overridden by doubts, not that doubts can override the legislation! Since there are doubts in this case as to why the Prophet (S) used the zakaah fund (if it was zakaah), we cannot use this example to override the shar’ee rule regarding “fee sabeel-illaah” then this argument is absolutely unbelievable! Here you are doing istidlal bi ma’rad alKhilaaf (using the point of difference as if it is an established proof in and of itself)! This is plainly incorrect. Since when has it been an issue of ‘established legislation’? The whole argument of my article is that this is NOT established legislation – so how can someone use the point of difference that I am showing and clarifying in the article to argue that I am wrong?? My argument from the hadeeth is not ‘doubts’, it is holding on to the dhaahir of the text of the hadeeth which is an established point of proof in usul-ul-fiqh and not ‘doubt’.
    6. As for what Sh Muhammad says: “The author waves off the latter possibility as mere conjecture! And why is that? Is he only seeking a conclusion that serves his organization’s needs?” – With all due respect, this is a low blow! I would urge that the Sheikh keeps his arguments on the fiqh dimensions of the article and not speculate on intentions and amaanah behind writing this article. This not a place that anyone should attempt to go to and throws aspersions on people’s characters. This is just not on!

    Then the Sheikh says: “Just before his conclusion, the author cites a long quotation from Sayyid Qutub which, in essence, cancels the eight categories mentioned in the aayah of soorat at-Tawbah, making “fee sabeel-illaah” inclusve to most of them! Is Sayyid then, to our friend the author, the final word and “Hujjat ul-Islaam” in this and other issues of Islaam? We seek Allaah’s protection from misguidance.”

    This is argumentative and raising hue and cry for what? Just because I mentioned Sayyid Qutb? By that time, I had already spent 8 pages making my point already and I only mentioned him since his comment was in agreement with the point I was trying to make and he phrased it in an emphatic manner, not for any non-reason. Since when have I said he is hujjah and or hujjatul-islam?? Sheikh Muhammad, this is quite clearly inappropriate and not required and frankly I expected more from a refuation. I never used Sayyid Qutb’s argument to prove my case, I merely stated it in the context of showing how the earlier commentators would understand the verse from the perspective of their own situation and the later ones – from there’s. Please read my last paragraph and you will see the context. Ultimately, I ended my argument with the narration from Ibn Umar and not from Sayyid Qutb – and there in that is the clarity. So please, there is no need to taint the article with speculation and raising hue and cry and as if I have misled people just simply because of quoting Sayyid Qutb! Out of 9 pages of proofs and adillah, and one quote from Sayyid Qutb and this becomes a point of interest? This is simply amazing!

    Lastly, the sheikh says: “A very important note that our Shaykh al-Albani (r) often emphasized is that those who try to widen the scope of “fee sabeel-illaah” provide a great “service” to wealthy Muslims who are reluctant to give any sadaqah besides the required zakaah (if they give it at all). They essentially tell them: “You only need to pay your zakaah, and we will apply it to all paths of good. You do not have to pay anything extra for building schools and masjids, paving roads, different forms of da’wah, etc.” This is far from being true. The welathy Muslimd have a great obligation: to spend much more than the required zakaah for supporting various Islamic projects. Otherwise, Allaah (T) would deprive them of their wealth like He deprived the farmers mentioned in Soorat Noon.”

    Again, this is simply not a point to disprove an opinion of fiqh. What the sheikh is mentioning is relevant to those ill informed zakat agents who when collecting the zakat from the rich, do not clarify the truth to them, that the zakat is not enough, rather more is required. So they should be corrected in their advice to the rich when taking money from them, not that, this point itself is an argument to disprove the validity of the opinion itself.

    Wallahu alim. I am not on the Sheikh’s list, so pls send this to the list. Jzk.

    Tawfique

    • Avatar

      Islam Blog

      February 28, 2011 at 12:30 AM

      Why there are too many “�” in your comment?

  9. Avatar

    aarij

    October 25, 2007 at 1:50 AM

    argh, my comment got caught in Akismet’s faulty spam filter!

    I suggested for the MM crew to please have these articles by the Shuyookh available as PDFs so it’s easy to print them out and read them. Reading a looong entry on a blog is mind-numbing at times :(

    e.g. http://trueword.wordpress.com/downloads/

  10. Avatar

    Tawfique

    October 25, 2007 at 2:31 AM

    Well done Alex, your questions are very pertinent mashaAllah.

    – You asked: “Since Zakat is an act of worship and some Muslim organizations are not all that they should be- how much research into the organization should the individual Muslim do in order to insure that their ibadah is accepted?” Well, a person is required by the shariah to ascertain that the recipient is genuine. This means to look into the needs of the person and that which is clear and apparent from the recipient. There is no requirement to open up people’s hearts and look into their chests, or to ask for detailed analysis of their accounts. So, as long as a person is reasonably sure that a person is poor and needy, then the zakat can be given to him in reasonable amounts. Same should be the case with dawah organizations. So saying, I encourage all dawah organizations in general to lift their level of transparency and accountability by having annual reports or AGMs or other sources and means that clarify to the public that they are collecting zakat and sadaqah from. I am aware that this is being done by many organizations already.

    – You asked: “What sort of organizations fall under the definition of fisabilillah? And perhaps more importantly, is that a decision that can be left up to the individual Muslim?” This is an important issue. Generally the zakat is not left upon individuals to decide on who is or isn’t needy. It is the responsibility of the muslim government and amir. If there is no muslim government, then the responsbilty is on each community to come together and have central zakat collection points to enforce the maslahah of zakat. Lastly, failing this, then nothing is left except for each individual to exercise his or her best judgement. If this can be done regarding the poor and who the poor are, then so too it can be done regarding dawah organizations as well.

    – You asked: “What organizations would definitely not qualify?” those organizations that are clearly misusing funds, or have enough already or are not doing enough for the money with them. I am sure Allah will show those that are more worthy from the less worthy and thus make it clear in time which organizations are more worthy than others. Wallahu alim.

    -you asked: “Would it be better to have an oversight committee made up of Ulema and financial professionals to certify organizations that wish to receive zakat funds?” Yes definitely. This definitely what is required – a central zakat collection and distribution agency in each community consisting of ulema and professionals for zakat auditing of individuals and businesses and then delivery of these funds to all suitable recipients.

    Wallahu alim.

    Abu yusuf

  11. Amad

    Amad

    October 25, 2007 at 1:22 PM

    ((A very important note that our Shaykh al-Albani (r) often emphasized is that those who try to widen the scope of “fee sabeel-illaah” provide a great “service” to wealthy Muslims who are reluctant to give any sadaqah besides the required zakaah (if they give it at all). They essentially tell them: “You only need to pay your zakaah, and we will apply it to all paths of good. You do not have to pay anything extra for building schools and masjids, paving roads, different forms of da’wah, etc.” This is far from being true. The welathy Muslimd have a great obligation…))

    With all due respect, Shaykh Abu Bakr, and Sh. Jibaly as well, the above-quoted contains an emotional appeal of sort, it is not a point of fiqh or a refutation of an evidence. This is merely a distraction from the info. presented.

    And even from a non-fiqhi perspective, this line of reasoning is faulty. We have to first try to make the wealthy Muslims to just pay the obligatory Zakah, before being concerned about a reduction in Sadaqah. We all know that the percent of Muslims who keep up with Zakah, esp. the rich guys, is small. And even if we can “sell” the organizational support idea and make them complete their obligation, that will be a victory for them and for the Muslims. Because otherwise they may have had not paid anything– in sadaqah or Zakah. That is the unfortunate reality of the situation.

  12. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    October 25, 2007 at 1:32 PM

    this may be too specific of a question for the topic at hand, but it came to my mind when reading this, what about how the actual dawah organization uses the funds? for example, someone may be starting a dawah project and they have various expenses like print materials, website, etc. if they choose to say pay extra for a fancy website, would something like that make a difference in their accepting of zakaat for the organization?

    jazakallahu khayr

  13. Amad

    Amad

    October 25, 2007 at 1:46 PM

    Aarij, the PDF file for the article has been added now (see bottom of article)

  14. Tawfique

    Tawfique

    October 25, 2007 at 10:38 PM

    Article updated with crucial additional quote from imam nawawi refuting those who use the hadeeth of abdullah bin sahal’s blood money. Jzk

  15. Avatar

    Abu Adam

    October 26, 2007 at 9:44 AM

    Assalaamu Alaykum,

    I have a question about this:

    Da’wah organisations (in the form we know today) have existed for decades. Other Islamic organisations have existed for hundreds of years.
    Zakah has existed for 1400 years.

    So why do we have a student give a fatwa on this subject only now?
    Where are the fatwas from the scholars (i mean real scholars – in the proper sense of the word) on the subject??

    I don’t understand this….

    Thanks,

    Wasalaam

    Abu Adam

  16. Avatar

    Tawfique

    October 27, 2007 at 12:16 PM

    Jazakallahulkhair Abu Adam, but it seems you havn’t read the article properly.

    Please read the article carefully and you will find all the details of all the real scholars who have given tens of fatwas on this including full references. I believe its on page 3.

    Jzk.

    Tawfique

  17. Avatar

    Tawfique

    October 27, 2007 at 12:19 PM

    Ibnabeeomar you made a very valid question there. Generally it goes back to the one running the organisation and the person giving it to be careful to not misuse funds.

    Remember my friend: Ultimately there is something called fatwa and before all of that, there is taqwa!

    Tawfique

  18. Amad

    Amad

    October 27, 2007 at 12:32 PM

    salam… I love all the catch phrases coming out on MM:

    -Taqwa before Fatwa
    -Sending a Knee-Mail to Allah (Sajdah)

  19. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    October 27, 2007 at 1:16 PM

    jazakallahu khayr!

  20. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    October 27, 2007 at 3:13 PM

    We should have a “Catchy Islamic phrases” post (or page!) :p

  21. Avatar

    Mahdi Bray

    October 28, 2007 at 9:59 PM

    Very interesting read

    Thanks for posting this

  22. Amad

    Amad

    October 28, 2007 at 10:39 PM

    Welcome Imam Mahdi to MM. JazakAllahkhair for stopping by. You are doing a wonderful service for the Muslims… may Allah assist you in all your endeavors. I hope everyone visits your blog and keeps up with the efforts inshallah:

    http://mahdibray.wordpress.com/

  23. Avatar

    Mahdi Bray

    October 30, 2007 at 3:50 PM

    Thank you Brother Amad. I encourage you all to continue the good work that you all have been doing as well

  24. Pingback: muslimmatters.org » And One Year Ago, MM was Born

  25. Avatar

    IF

    May 29, 2008 at 6:04 AM

    salaams,

    i would love to hear the opinion of shaykh yasir on this topic – as in one of his talks he clearly stated that he was against this opinion and that can be heard on the below talk.

    http://www.audioislam.com/index.php?subcategory=Zakat

    i don’t know if the shaykh has changed his mind as he has changed alot of his opinions recently.

  26. AbdulHasib

    AbdulHasib

    May 29, 2008 at 9:01 AM

    @ brother ‘IF”

    ‘alaikum as-salam wa rahmatullah,

    If you ARE from madeenah.com please pass on a message to those brothers to have some adab and learn some manners in asking a question, and learning some adab ul ikhtilaaf.

    Secondly, your ‘inquiry’ certainly does not come off as intending to seek knowledge but rather try to make some kind of ‘point.’

    I urge you and the brothers in Madeenah.com that If you have honest disagreements that is alhamdulillah MORE than fine, but when one can’t even show respect in expressing those disagreements with people who call to the ‘Aqeedah of Ahlus Sunnah wal Athaar, and in advising them with HIKMAH. (hikmah means to put something in it’s proper place, to say the right thing to the right person at the right time in the right context in the right way, intending good).

    May Allah bless you and those brothers, i urge you to truly Fear Allah and exercise hikmah when attempting to give ‘nasiha’ – whose root even MEANS Sincerity.

    MORE so with regards to speakers and students of knowledge, and i’m sure the teachers of the students at Madinah.com would vouch in ardently calling the students to give these type of nasiha in private with such person.

    Thirdly, if we disagree with someone in the realms of fiqh and, other areas, it does not mean an all inclusive pass for us to bring a critize-fest in all of their opinions. We are human beings in need of nasiha – even if the nasiha comes from a person of less knowledge than us, we are all in need of it.

    And lastly, as students or lay, we need to know our role. We can’t but utter a few sentences in Arabic, have some basic fiqh and usool, read some books of hadith, and listened to a whole ton of lectures, and attend ‘forums of benefit’ online… It’s simple. Know your Role.

    As Ibnul Jawzi rahimahullah mentioned in Talbees Iblees – The Devil’s Deception, of the ways that shaytan deceives the son of Adam is that he busies himself with something that is good where as in reality he could be doing something that is BETTER.

    May Allah forgive us and grant us blessing in our affairs. Ameen.

    WAllahu ‘Alam

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  28. Avatar

    MR

    October 30, 2008 at 12:22 AM

    Salams
    The main issue of our time is there is no Islamic government, hence the state funding by bait-ul-maal doesn’t exists anymore to support Islamic projects and initiatives, and the rich Muslims are not doing enough to support them..

    It’s important to mention that Zakat is not the only charity in Shariah, rather its one specific kind of charity. Hence, we can divide Charity in two types:
    ■ Obligatory or Special Type Charities, e.g. Zakat (زكاة), Zakat-ul-Fitr (زكاة الفطر)
    ■ Voluntary or General Charities, e.g. Sadaqat (صدقات)
    There are differences in applications between these two types of charities. The Prophet (pbuh) gave money in charity to variety of reason, and number of them fell into Sadaqat. Zakat has rather very specific purpose. Sadaqa is very general in nature as the Prophet (pbuh) said: كلُّ معروفٍ صدقهٌ – “Every good thing is Sadaqa” [Sahih Bukhari/Muslim].

    Then, whatever is not covered under these two types of charities is to be provided by Bait-ul-Maal for general public welfare.

    Unfortunately, the bail-ul-maal is occupied by people like Zardari, so it seems some people who are trying to do good deeds are expanding scope of Zakat to get their funding, which should otherwise be covered from bait-ul-maal.

    Hence, it creates this paradox where contemporary scholars are trying to find means to support Islamic dawah and education and other activities. And I don’t blame em. However, we don’t see same level of intensity to collect zakat for jihad, which is the main purpose of zakat fi-sabeel-allah.. Why is that.. don’t we need it for that..

    Let say we can agree that because in current times, when all Muslim wealth and bait-ul-maal is occupied by agents of Taghoot, then Muslims can pool their Zakat money to do jihad fi-sableel-allah with his expended scope but with sincere and honest intention to spread or defend Islam with right methodology

    However, if we need to pay zakat fi-sabeel-allah, then should we sent it to mujahideen or give it to give to Islamic Centres of americas.. which is closer in meaning?

    and if ‘today’s circumstances’ are the basis, then whose circumstances are worse? mujahideens or islamic cetres of america..

    just a thought..

    and Allah knows best.

  29. Avatar

    Da'wah Organisations?

    July 28, 2009 at 6:55 PM

    I wonder what constitutes a da’wah organisation, are institutes such as al-Maghrib and al-Kauthar included under such an umbrella or would they come under the banner of businesses?

  30. Avatar

    AbuAbdullah

    September 16, 2009 at 5:21 PM

    Jazak Allahu kheirun, very informative article

  31. Avatar

    Johnny

    August 9, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    I am an American seeking more knowledge into Islam. I read the above analysis and find myself somewhat lost. I have two simple questions and would enjoy reading simplistic answers to these questions.

    Question # 1: Is it the opinion of the author that Islam is a “beautiful and perfect religion” or a widely held belief of Muslims from around the world? I am not questioning the “beauty” of Islam, but the “perfect” aspect of this comment.

    Question #2: Can the “fi-sabeelillah” aspect of Zakat donations include organizations or individuals that directly or indirectly fund, support, or participate in violent jihad?

  32. Avatar

    Islam Blog

    February 28, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    Assalamualaikum,

    It’s a very big article, I do not have any intermet connection and thats why I am browsing this website from a cyber cafe, can I make a PDF of this post for reading this full post on my home?

    Jazak

  33. Avatar

    Q8231171

    February 25, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    I think this is an important issue that needs to be discussed in detail especially by those Involved in public finance. In a society of Muslims Zakat would play a vital role in public finance as it would be one of the main sources of income of the state. I do not see why we tend to narrow the meaning of fi sabillah to just a physical fight. In my humble view any public expenditure that leads to the betterment of the society would fall into this category. Perhaps we need to consider the fact that social fulfillment leads to harmony and help people accept a given system of governance. Hence, if Zakat plays the vital role of fulfilling the needs of the society then it gives Muslims a reason to hold on to their belief while compelling the non-Muslims to think about Islam as a comprehensive solution to life both in this world and the hereafter.

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What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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Should I Pray Taraweeh Or Make Up Prayers?

Danish Qasim

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Every Ramadan I’m asked by Muslims whether they should pray Taraweeh or make up missed prayers. They have the guilt of missed prayers but the desire to pray Taraweeh. They do not want to miss out on the special Taraweeh prayer but know that they have to make up obligatory prayers.

I find Muslims bogged down by not only the number of prayers to make up but by the fact that they have to make up prayers that they missed, sometimes too many to count. They emotionally want to move past the memory of missing prayers. While one should not dwell on the sin of missed prayer, at the same time, they should also realize that the prayers remain a debt that needs to be addressed.

Many of us feel a shame associated with past sins. This connection is a sign of true repentance. Shame due to sins, however, becomes problematic when it serves as an impediment for our religious progress. When the guilt reaches this level, one should seek refuge in Allah from Shaytaan and ignore all negative thoughts.

We, as Muslims, should believe that Allah has forgiven our sins, including missed prayers. Forgiveness is done through our repentance. Therefore, we should see makeup prayers as an opportunity to draw closer to Allah, rather than a punishment. Allah tells us in a Hadith Qudsi that

“My servant does not draw nearer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than what I have ordained upon him. He continues to draw near to me with nafl (non-obligatory) actions until I love him” (Bukhari).

Each time we perform a make-up prayer, we are doing what Allah loves us to do the most- an obligatory action. We are drawing nearer to Allah and should feel grateful for being able to do so.

In the Hanafi school of thought, one can pray makeup prayers as non-emphasized sunnahs, which include the prayer of greeting the mosque[1] and Tahajjud prayer. Many Muslims feel more spiritual praying these types of nafl prayers, and they will take their time to pray with the presence of heart. However, when they pray makeup prayers, they rush, praying quickly to get past it as soon as possible. The dreadful feeling of makeup prayers is due to a negative association for the initial neglect, but we must see makeup prayers as not only more critical than nafl prayers, but as something that can be done as nafl prayers.

Taraweeh is an emphasized Sunnah[2] and for Hanafis that means one does not neglect taraweeh[3] due to previously missed prayers[4]. One should have a regiment of making up prayers, such as praying one makeup of Zuhur after praying Zuhur for the day and manage that along with Taraweeh.

For Malikis[5] and Shafis[6] however, one is not supposed to pray Taraweeh if he has prayers to make up. For those following this view, I would advise them to still go to the masjid if that is their habit during the Taraweeh time and pray those due prayers in a space outside of the congregation so they can still enjoy the Ramadan atmosphere in the masjid. Also, it’s worth noting that in the Shafi school, one can have the intention of a makeup prayer even if the imam is praying a different prayer[7]. Hence, twenty rakah of Taraweeh in units of two can be prayed by a follower as ten makeup prayers for Fajr.

Ramadan is a great time to form positive habits. If you do not already have a routine of making up missed prayers, establish one this Ramadan. Make your routine something that you can be consistent with throughout the year, not just when you have the Ramadan energy. We are advised in a hadith to only take on the amount of good actions that we are able to bear because the best actions are those in which we can be persistent, even if they are minor (Ibn Majah 4240).

Lastly, as Ramadan is here, I urge everyone to remember that praying Isha in congregation is more important than praying Taraweeh in congregation. Taraweeh is more alluring due to its uniqueness, and you will see latecomers quickly praying Isha so they can join the Taraweeh prayer. Each prayer is worship, but the priorities of worship are based on its status. Obligatory prayer is more important than a non-obligatory prayer, although every prayer is important. We must prioritize what God prioritizes.

[1]  “ويسن تحية ) رب ( المسجد ، وهي ركعتان ، وأداء الفرض ) أو غيره ، وكذا دخوله بنية فرض أو اقتداء ( ينوب عنها ) بلا نية)”
(رد المحتار على الدر المختار)

[2]  (التراويح سنة  مؤكدة لمواظبة الخلفاء الراشدين  للرجال والنساء إجماعا ” ( رد المحتار على الدر المختار

[3] (والسنة نوعان : سنة الهدي ، وتركها يوجب إساءة وكراهية…”  (رد المحتار على الدر المختار”

[4] وأما النفل فقال في المضمرات : الاشتغال بقضاء الفوائت أولى وأهم من النوافل إلا سنن…”
المفروضة وصلاة الضحى وصلاة التسبيح والصلاة التي رويت فيها الأخبار . ا هـ . ط أي كتحية المسجد ، والأربع قبل العصر والست بعد المغرب” (رد المحتار على الدر المختار،باب قضاء الفوائت)

[5]   (ولا يتنفل من عليه القضاء، ولا يصلي الضحى، ولا قيام رمضان…”  (لأخضري”

[6]   “وَإِنْ كَانَتْ فَاتَتْ بِغَيْرِ عُذْرٍ لَمْ يَجُزْ لَهُ فِعْلُ شَيْءٍ مِنْ النَّوَافِلِ قَبْلَ قَضَائِهَا”
(الفتاوى الكبرى الفقهية على مذهب الإمام الشافعي ,فتاوى ابن حجر الهيتمي)

[7]

تنبيه : تصح قدوة المؤدي بالقاضي ، والمفترض بالمتنفل ، وفي الظهر بالعصر ، وكذلك القاضي بالمؤدي ، والمتنفل بالمفترض ، وفي العصر بالظهر ؛ نظراً لاتفاق الفعل في الصلاتين وإن تخالفت النية ، والانفراد هنا أفضل ؛ خروجاً من الخلاف ، وعلى أن الخلاف في هذا الاقتداء ضعيف جداً فلم يقتض تفويت فضيلة الجماعة ، وإن كان الانفراد أفضل . ( تحفة المحتاج مع حاشية الشر واني ۲ / ۳۳۲ – ۳۳۳ )

وذكر في ( إعانة الطالبين ۲ / ۷ ) : وإن لم تتفق مقضيتها شخصاً . . فهي خلاف الأولى ولا تكره

. وذكر في « البجيرمي على المنهج ۱ / ۳۳۳ ) : قوله ( ويصح الاقتداء لمؤد بقاض ومفترض بمتنفل . . . ) : أي ويحصل له فضل الجماعة في جميع هذه الصور على ما اعتمده الرملي .

————————————————————

– قول متن المنهاج ( وتصح قدوة المؤدي بالقاضي ، والمفترض بالمتنفل . . . ) قضية كلام المصنف – أي النووي – كالشارح الرملي أن هذا مما لا خلاف فيه ، وعبارة الزيادي وابن حجر : ( والانفراد هنا أفضل ؛ خروجاً من الخلاف( فيحتمل أنه خلاف لبعض الأئمة وأنه خلاف مذهبي لم يذكره المصنف ، لكن قول ابن حجر بعد على أن الخلاف في هذا الاقتداء ضعيف جداً . . ظاهر في أن الخلاف مذهبي . ( الشبراملسي ) . ( حاشية الشرواني ۲ / ۳۳۲ )

وهذا لا يجوز في المذهب  الحنفي  “…يشترط أن يكون حال الإمام أقوى من حال المؤتم أو مساويا”  (رد المحتار على الدر المختار(

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Shedding Light on the Moonsighting, Isha / Fajr times, and Long Fasts

Shaykh Abdullah Hasan and Shaykh Naveed Idrees discuss the many issues that crop up pre-Ramadan, seeking harmony amid confusion.

Sh. Abdullah Hasan

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The aim of this discussion paper is to place the annual debate on moonsighting and fasting in its jurisprudential context, namely, that it is an area where the application of the sacred texts are open to different but valid interpretations ( ijtihadat). The sincere efforts of scholars on all sides to arrive at what they believe is the strongest opinion must be acknowledged and respected. This discussion paper does not seek to promote any particular viewpoint, but merely to illustrate the breadth of acceptable opinion.

It is also important to recognise that difference of opinion in these matters relates to the furu’ (derivative law) and not the core definitively established aspects of Religion. As individuals and groups, we should not allow differences of opinion on peripheral matters to undermine the cohesion of our families and communities. When strongly held views in Fiqh lead to dissension, discord and division, then we should give greater weighting to community cohesion and seek to avoid the negative impact on the lives of the Muslim community. There are definitively established texts that regard unity and community cohesion as wajib (an obligation). In addition, the principle of muwafaqa ahl-al-bilad (conforming with the local community) should be followed, irrespective of one’s belief in the correctness or otherwise of the dominant ijtihad in one’s locality.

Preliminaries[1]

  1. Islamic Law and the Natural World

It is part of the sacred beauty of Islam – the religion of natural disposition (din al-fitra) – that throughout our lives, our daily worship interpenetrates the rhythms of nature: the rising and setting of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon, the turning of the seasons, and the elemental forces of fire, air, earth and water. The external world is a manifestation of the attributes of the Creator; everything within it a sign of Allah perceived by the senses (ayatullah al-manzur).

We are not merely urged to turn our gazes to the created world as an act of sacred contemplation; but rather are compelled to do so, in order to consecrate acts of worship to the Lord who transcends that same creation. The times of obligatory prayer can only be known through observation of sunlight and shadow; the obligatory and optional fasts through the phases of the moon. The length of those fasts are determined by the order of the seasons; purification for prayer is attained through water or earth.

Considering this, it is clear that far from there being animosity between ‘fiqh’ and ‘fact,’ they are mutually dependent. Science is nothing but the systematization of the same kind of observations as determine the times of prayer and fasting, and their extrapolation on the basis of sound, verifiable principles. Therefore the opinions of experts in fields such as astronomy have always been taken into consideration when issuing fatwa. An example might be the expert medical opinion which has always played a central role in applying various dispensations regarding purification, prayer, fasting and hajj.  Given this fact of our scripture and our history, the idea that both legal and scientific experts can and should work collaboratively to determine the onset of true dawn is both right and proper. At the same time, one should be cognisant of where priority lies when the opinions of these experts appear mutually contradictory.

  1. The Imperative to Follow Qualified Scholarship

Allah describes the Quran as ‘a comprehensive explanation of all things (tibyan li-kulli shay).’ However, a central pillar of its revealed guidance has been the commanding of recourse to those eminently qualified to guide others as to the true interpretation – or interpretations – of the Divine scripture. First without equal among these guides is, of course, our beloved Master Muhammad (endless peace and blessing upon him and his family); the imperative to obey him is one of the most oft-repeated commands found in the Quran. Thereafter, believers are commanded to follow those steeped in understanding of the Quran and Prophetic Sunnah – known variously as: ‘possessors of living hearts (ulu al-albab),’ ‘those deeply rooted in knowledge (al-mustanbitin fi al-ilm)’, and ‘the people of the Remembrance (ahl al-dhikr).’

The central Quranic verse on this subject is, ‘if you know not, ask the people of the Remembrance.’[2] Its clear implication is that, when matters are unclear or uncertain, the primary responsibility of the Muslim is to have the critical self-honesty to acknowledge his or her own lack of understanding. Thereafter, it behoves one to have the humility to consult those who do have true expertise in the field of religion, whom the Holy Prophet (s) termed ‘inheritors of Prophetic knowledge[3] – the scholars of Sunni Islam. These are the authorised representatives of the four orthodox schools of law – the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii and Hanbali madhabs.

These four knowledge traditions, though they concur on most major articles of law, will often differ in its various derivative aspects, providing different answers to the same question. This is sometimes a matter of consternation for the lay Muslim – for how can the truth be multiple? And if the truth is indeed one, how can one determine which school has grasped it? The doctrine of Sunni Islam clarifies that, although the truth is indeed one, attaining unto that truth is not always obligatory.

To explain further: if the lay Muslim has obeyed Allah by asking the people of knowledge about an obscure or difficult matter, then he or she has fulfilled God’s right over them. Similarly, if those scholars have obeyed Allah by exercising all their learning and expertise to sincerely comprehend Allah’s command, they have fulfilled God’s right over them. In both cases, they will be rewarded and brought near to Allah, even if their conclusions are wrong. This is clear from the hadith, ‘if the verifying scholar is correct, he (or she) receives two rewards; if incorrect, they receive one.’[4]

On the contrary, if a lay Muslim seeks to bypass the Prophetic inheritors and determine the truth for himself – despite having none of the pre-requisite knowledge, qualities or skills – they will have disobeyed Allah and deserve His censure – even if they stumble across the right answer! This is similarly based on the hadith, ‘whoever interprets the Quran on based on [unqualified] opinion should prepare to take their seat in Hell.’[5]

It is clear, then, that the responsibility of the individual Muslim begins and ends with seeking qualified scholars to advise them on the derivative rulings of sacred law, such as the issue of when precisely the fast begins and fajr can be prayed. Thereafter, it is the responsibility of the ulamah to exert all their efforts to determine the answer to this question with as much precision as possible.

It should, of course, be noted that the terms ‘lay Muslim’ and ‘scholar’ are not absolute divisions; a learned 21st century Muslim, university-educated in physics and astronomy, is not the same as an illiterate peasant farmer in a 15th Century Turkish village. In legal terms, there is a difference between an educated non-specialist (‘aami thaqafi) and an ignorant non-specialist (‘aami jahil). The difference between them, however, lies in the nature of the questions they might ask, rather than their ability to answer them in correspondence with the sophisticated legal principles of the religion.

  1. Respecting Valid Differences of Opinion

The preceding indicates that one sometimes finds a range of opinions on a particular matter of law. There would not merely be a difference of opinion between schools, but sometimes within schools as well. Classically, these discussions would be conducted in closed classes, private debates or by correspondence between the scholars concerned. Crucially, the debates were between people who – by and large – understood the ethics of debate and disagreement. Their longstanding and sometimes fiercely contested arguments would nonetheless be characterised by civility and mutual respect.

The nature of the modern world – especially the near-total eradication of private space – has entailed these debates spilling over into the ever-expanding public domain. Increasingly, they have been witnessed by the Muslim laity who do not understand the ethics of disagreement, and erroneously assume that differences of opinion must entail antagonism. Imam Ghazali stated that, ‘debating over religion is disliked for scholars and forbidden for the laity.’[6]

A fundamental principle of our religion is that, on matters genuinely differed-upon, there can be no mutual condemnation (la inkar fi masa’il mukhtalaf fihi).[7] This has been elucidated by many scholars from the earliest generations up until present day, and accounts for the harmonious co-existence of different schools of law who worship, trade and conduct their family lives in different ways. The fact that a Hanafi might pray Dhuhr when a Shafii is praying Asr brings about no acrimony or dissension.

This does not entail a free-for-all in the domain of legal opinion; it has been further expounded by our scholarly tradition that genuine difference of opinion (alikhtilaf) is based on opinions that are derived through sound methodology from authenticated narrations. As the ulamah state, ‘if you transmit a position, let it be an authenticated one; if you make a claim, prove your point.’[8] It thus excludes aberrant, unfounded opinions or roundly rejected interpretations from the ambit of this toleration.

Overview of the specific issues that are a source of difference of opinion

There are 3 key issues that are matter of difference of opinion amongst scholars and different groups:

  1. Determining the start and end of Ramadan
  2. Determining the start and end time of Isha and start time of Fajr/Suhur in periods of persistent twilight during the summer months
  3. How to deal with the issue of long fasts during the summer period?

A Summary of the Context of these Issues

  • Scripture provides broad indicators to establish prayer and fasting times linked to the Sun and moon that are generally reliable in hot climates where the skies are clear and day & night are of moderate length
  • These indicators are not defined in a scientific manner e.g. based on precise minutes or degrees, but rely upon general observations that any ordinary person could make as part of their daily life
  • Over the last 100 years sizable communities of Muslims have established themselves in the Northern Hemisphere above 48.5 degrees latitude
  • The climate in the these regions makes it difficult to observe the Sun and Moon consistently. There are days when there is persistent twilight which means Isha and Fajr/Suhur times are difficult to establish, and there are extreme variations in the length of night and day, especially in Summer and Winter periods
  • The growth in the use of artificial lighting, industrialisation of society, and progress in the means of communication over the last 150 years has meant that work and leisure patterns were no longer linked to sunrise and sunset; instead, clocks became the means of telling the time and regulating daily life. In practice, the shari’ah indicators no longer directly play an active part in daily life.
  • Although there are texts in the Qur’an and Sunnah on these matters (see below), their application in Northern Regions above 48.5* latitude is not clear-cut and requires scholarly interpretation. This is the source of difference of opinion on these matters.
  • Scholars have attempted to convert astronomical signs which were meant to be broad into scientific and precise formulas, relying on scientific definitions, e.g. 18* as definition of disappearance of twilight and start of night/true dawn
  • Scholars continue to debate the strength and weaknesses of each opinion and whether they accurately reflect the shari’ah indicators. All opinions are supported by strong direct or indirect proofs and evidences, and are backed by references to the works of eminent scholars

An Overview of the Different Positions

Issue 1: Moonsighting

A variety of methods have been suggested in classical and modern scholarship to determine the beginning of the new month, especially Ramadan, Shawwal and Dhul Hijja. They are all based on some interpretation of what the hadith ‘fast when you see it and cease the fast when you see it’ actually means – who are ‘you’ and what does ‘seeing’ mean?

 

Position Notes Issues
Local sighting Only sighting by a local populace validates the new month, else 30 days are completed. The classical strong position of the Shafii and Maliki schools. ‘You’ means ‘the local community’ What does ‘local’ mean in the context of the modern ease of communication over vast distances, and why? On what legal basis should one restrict ‘local’ to a city, country or region?
Global sighting A valid sighting anywhere in the world is applicable to everywhere in the world. The classical strong position of the Hanafi school and some Malikis. ‘You’ means ‘the Muslims in general’ Practically, this would entail that a sighting of the moon in California at 6pm would be retrospectively valid for Muslims in Indonesia, for whom it would be 2pm the next day, so this is impractical despite the ease of communication
‘Horizonal’ sighting A valid sighting anywhere to the east, north or south is applicable for everyone to the west. A strong variant of the Shafii position and the Hanafi school Avoids the logistical difficulties of the first two options, but introduces an arbitrary restriction for which there is no textual basis. Effectively assumes the possibility of sighting the moon to the west if it has been actually sighted in the east.
Calculation If it is determined (by agreed criteria) that it is possible to sight the crescent, that possibility is deemed an actual sighting.   A strong position in the Shafii school, and held by others as well. ‘See’ means ‘potentially see’ – based on the variant hadith of Bukhari: ‘if it is obscured, then calculate’ Potential sighting criteria need to be agreed. Deviates from the literal sense of the central hadith and rejected by a number of schools. However, enables future planning of calendars and so determination of important dates in advance.[9]
Following Saudi Arabia Effectively the proposal that the Saudi decision should be binding on all Muslims. Possible to adopt as any country may choose to follow the ruling of Qadi outside its jurisdiction. ‘See’ means only the Saudis. Not a classical position despite being possible in the Middle East. Significant concerns about the validity of sightings done there, given the calculation basis of the rest of the year’s calendar (Umm al-Qura). Major Saudi scholars reject the position.

Issue 2 – Determining Suhur and Isha time during persistent twilight

Both the fajr prayer and the fast commence at al-subh al-sadiq (true dawn) by consensus, which Allah describes as being when ‘the white thread (of the sky) has become clearly distinct to you from the black thread (of the horizon) at the time of fajr’. Any fajr prayer performed before this, or fast commenced after, is definitively invalid. What precisely constitutes al-subh al-sadiq, however, is not definitive, because dawn is not a binary event: the intensity and spread of light on the horizon changes incrementally over time, making the precise determination of phenomenon open to interpretation. Equally, isha time commences by consensus at the disappearance of twilight (ghuyub al-shafaq), but there is similarly a difference of opinion about what this constitutes and how to determine it. There are thus a variety of opinions on what precise observable phenomena constitute these two critical periods.

Far northern latitudes, however, additionally experience persistent twilight, where the sun does not sink sufficiently low beneath the horizon during summer, and twilight can persist through the night until morning. This entails that the normal signs indicating the onset of isha, fajr, and the fast are absent. Classical jurists have discussed this intermittently over 800 years, focussing almost entirely on isha rather than fajr, and reaching no consensus on how to deal with this issue. In modern times, a number of suggestions have thus been propounded, given how many people are now affected by this issue. A summary of these options, most of which revolve around determining a time (taqdir) for isha and fajr, follows:

Position Notes Issues
Perform isha after midnight Assumes that there was a very brief isha time that has been missed, so it is performed effectively in fajr time Fajr therefore begins just after midnight, leading to a very long fast (up to 21-22 hours).   There also clearly is no isha time that has been missed
Taqdir according to the nearest place/time where isha enters The classical Shafii position, adopted by Malikis, Hanbalis and some Hanafis Entails a very brief isha period between 0100-0130 if adopted strictly, as well as a very long fast.
Taqdir by fixing a duration A modern solution (including Umm al-Qura) of creating an isha by adding 90 mins to sunset and subtracting 90 mins from sunrise Creates a reasonable isha and fajr time, but has no basis in observation, astronomy or Islamic law. Also entails a jump between a very early fajr/late isha to the 90 min taqdir
Taqdir by an average of the normal durations The so-called ‘1/7th of the night position’ – formed by looking at the average ration of maghrib : isha through the year A variant of the original Shafii position that avoids the hardship of the nearest place/time position but also has some basis in the observations through the year and scholarly precedent
Combine maghrib and Isha This is the position of the Islamic Fiqh Council, European Council for Fatwa & Research. This of course should not be done in perpetuity. A means of avoiding hardship, but why should it not be applied also to a very late but validly entering isha? If it should, when does it become hard? Also does not answer the question of when fajr begins
Isha is not obligatory A position debated in the classical Hanafi school, because its signs do not enter Rejected by the virtual consensus of modern scholarship, as would entail no performance of isha for months.

Issue 3 – Dealing with a Very Long Fast

The length of the fast varies much more widely in northern latitudes than in any of the classical Muslim lands, with the significant exception of the lands of Bulghar, which are now in Kazakhstan. In summer, the fasts can reach to 18-21 hours, depending on how far north one is and what position to determine fajr one adopts. As such, very little attention is paid to the length of the fast in summer months in northern latitudes in classical works, likely because a textually-specified dispensation for hardship already exists. The default is that the fast remains obligatory no matter how long it is, though the time of al-subh al-sadiq can be determined by taqdir. Should keeping the fast prove too onerous, it should be broken and made up on easier days. This has been the default practice of the Bulghars for hundreds of years, as well as the Muslim populations of the west for the last 40 years or so.

However, a number of renowned Egyptian scholars in the 19th-20th centuries proposed that fast durations should be artificially set in far northern countries in the same way that prayer times were determined there by taqdir. It was proposed that the length be set by either the length of that day’s fast in Makka or another mid-latitude country. Their rationale was three-fold: an extension of the taqdir of prayer times in the absence of their signs (in this case the onset of dawn), the relieving of excessive and harmful difficulty from people in having to keep such long fasts, and retaining the sanctity of Ramadan – as it would be inconceivable to simply not fast during a summer Ramadan. Scripture relating to the timings of the fast needed to be understood in the context of the geographical realities of mid-latitude countries, and to not exempt those outside this range would be to misunderstand the underlying purpose of sacred law related to the fast.

The position has been critiqued from a number of perspectives: the explicit delineation of fasting times by scripture, the fact that – though the onset of the fast can be estimated by taqdir – sunset does in fact occur and should be adhered to, the existence of a scripturally-mandated dispensation for difficult fasts, and the crucial factor that there is neither medical or experiential evidence that fasting 18-21 hours daily is significantly harmful to health or functioning in most cases. Given this, the position of these late Azhari scholars should be considered anomalous (shadh) and in contradiction to that of the overwhelming majority of both classical and modern scholars, and therefore not followed. If people are genuinely struggling and fasting causes harm then the legal dispensation is present in the shari’ah to break the fast. Individuals should consult reliable and authoritative scholars in their locality.

General Counsel to the Muslims

We would strongly counsel the lay Muslim to remember and act upon the following principles in their daily practice:

  1. It is a communal obligation (fard kifaya) to accurately determine the prayer times and the start and end times of the fast, as well as the commencement of Islamic months. If some members of the community have fulfilled the responsibility, it is lifted from the remainder.[10]
  2. Furthermore, such determinations are a matter of public order (min al-umur al-intizamiyya) – that is, they are not meant to be carried out by just anyone. Rather, in the traditional Muslim world, fulfilling this particular duty would be the role of a government department or authorized working group. For those living as minorities in non-Muslim lands, the responsibility devolves onto the community as a whole, who in turn appoint figures of authority, such as the ulamah and educated mosque committees, to fulfil the task on their behalf. In either case, it is imperative to act in consultation with those qualified for the task (ashab al-ahliyya) – in this case, legal and scientific experts.
  3. By the grace of Allah, this fard kifaya has already been performed by a number of scholars over the decades in the UK. Their differing results are likely a function of the sighting difficulties and differing legal positions noted earlier on.
  4. Most importantly, it should be noted that senior, qualified scholars have given fatwa on the differing positions. In accordance with the well-known legal principle, in the absence of a judge (qadi) to rule decisively or a clear preponderance of opinion in a school, the lay Muslim may follow any of the positions agreed by their scholars without fear of their prayers or fasts being invalid. By doing so, they have fulfilled their personal responsibility to Allah.
  5. At the same time, we urge those given responsibility by the community to come together, clearly review the evidence – scriptural, legal, astronomical and observational – and agree upon a way forward for all their communities that brings unity (muwafaqa) despite any ethnic, legal or minor doctrinal differences that may exist in our diverse community.
  6. Finally, it is imperative that we avoid sowing doubt in people’s minds about the validity of their fasts and prayers. This is a matter of genuine scholarly debate and ongoing discussion – there is much work that still needs to be done. We would therefore urge everybody to remember that there should be no condemnation about matters genuinely differed upon in the religion.[11]

May Allah provision our minds with clear understanding, our bodies with willing and joyful submission, and our hearts with a unity that comes from love and mutual respect, despite our differences.

‘Oh Allah, let us see the truth as true and follow it, and let us see falsehood as false, and avoid it.’

Appendix 1: Central Source Texts for Moonsighting, Prayer Times and Fasting

As a starting point, ijtihad (independent juristic reasoning) is only permissible in the absence of a clear and unequivocal text (Nass) whose authenticity is established (qat’i al-dalalah, qat’i- al wurud). In the context of these issues, the sacred texts establish clear positions in general terms, but are open to multiple interpretations when applied in different contexts. For ease, only basic referencing will be used – for further discussion, please refer to specialist works on the topics.

Texts relevant to Key Issue 1 (determining the start and end of Ramadan – moonsighting)

“They ask you concerning the crescent moons, say they are measurements of time for people and for the pilgrimage” (2:189).

Abu Huraira narrated: The Prophet (s) said, “Start fasting on seeing the crescent (of Ramadan), and give up fasting on seeing the crescent (of Shawwal), and if the sky is overcast, complete thirty days of Sha’ban.”

(Sahih Bukhari, book 30, hadith 19).

Do not fast until you see the crescent-moon, and do not break the fast until you have seen the crescent moon, but if conditions are overcast for you then calculate it (f’aqdiruhu).”

[Bukhari, Muslim, Muwatta]

What is definitively established from the above texts (qat’i al dalala) is that the start and end of Ramadan should be established based on the sighting of the moon.   These texts, however, are not definitive on the issue of what should be done if visibility is impaired, or whether some form of local sighting (ikhtilaf al matal’i) is sufficient, or can a sighting anywhere (ittihad al-matal’i) in the world be relied upon, or whether calculations can be relied on if atmospheric conditions do not permit sighting of the moon.   There are multiple interpretations within the parameters of these texts that are possible, and this has been an area of discussion and debate amongst scholars both past and present. Similarly, scholars have differed over the nature of seeing e.g actual physical sighting, scientific data only as ru’ya can mean to know, or actual physical sighting with use of scientific data to support or negate (Ithbat wa Nafiy). Completing 30 days in regions such as the UK over a number of months will lead to some months eventually being 25 or 26 days, and the lunar year would become more than 355 days!

Texts relevant to Key Issue 2 (determining suhur and prayer times during periods of persistent twilight)

‘And eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to You distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), Then complete Your Saum (fast) till the nightfall.’ (2:187)

The above text is definitive in establishing the start of the Fast (imsak) where these astronomical signs are observable. However, in regions above 48.5 degrees latitude the phenomenon of persistent twilight means that the distinguishing signs are no longer observable. In these regions, this is an area where ijtihad is permitted, as the text is not clear on what approach should be taken in the absence of these signs. Scholars have resorted to various methods of estimating the start time of suhur (subh Sadiq) by trying to find an equivalence based on solar degrees of depression ranging from 12-18 degrees ( see Appendix). However, it is important to note that there is no direct text that links the astronomical signs with any particular degree. These correspondences are based on the ijithad of scholars. Similarly, there is no (definitive and unequivocal) text that supports the options for taqdir (calculation of a time): nearest day, nearest city, one seventh of the night, Umm al Qura time (1hour 20/30 mins), Half night (nisf-ul-layl). The legal basis of all these is the intellectual efforts of scholars since the 4th Century Hijri.

As for the timings of prayer, many texts establish these times. For example:

‘Establish regular prayers – at the sun’s decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning are witnessed.’ (15:78)

“The time for the morning prayer lasts as long as the first visible part of the rising sun does not appear and the time of the noon prayer is when the sun declines from the zenith and it is not time for the afternoon prayer and the time for the afternoon prayer is so long as the sun does not become pale and its first visible part does not set, and the time for the evening prayer is that when the sun disappears and (it lasts) till the twilight is no more and the time for the night prayer is up to the midnight.”

(Sahih Muslim)

This and other similar texts are clear that Isha time starts with the disappearance of twilight. The scholars have differed on the meaning of twilight whether it refers to the redness or whiteness after sunset. In addition, these texts are not definitive on the issue of when Isha time starts during periods of persistent twilight. This again is an area where the scholars have exerted their efforts to arrive at a solution.

Texts relevant to key issue 3 (long fasts in summer days)

‘And eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to You distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), Then complete Your fast till the nightfall … but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) during later days. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties.’ (2:187)

Allah’s Messenger (s) said, “When night falls from this side and the day vanishes from this side and the sun sets, then the fasting person should break his fast.” (Sahih Bukhari)

The phenomenon of fasts of more than 18 hours is an issue that has arisen in modern times due to the settlement of significant Muslim communities in the Northern Hemisphere. This text is definitive and unequivocal in regions that do not experience persistent twilight. In regions that experience this phenomenon it is impossible to distinguish darkness of night from twilight, therefore 2:189 is not a Nass that can be applied.   The scholars have proposed various solutions to resolve this issue (see appendix 1).

There is a difference of opinion amongst scholars whether the texts that relate to timings of prayer are applicable only where day and night are roughly equal. In regions where there is a significant disparity e.g day length is more than 18 hours, these texts are silent and therefore ijtihad can be relied upon to achieve an outcome that is consistent with the aims of the Shari’ah. This is based on the juristic principle that a hadith scholar, “The [primary] texts pertain to common and normal circumstances and not to what is uncommon.” (Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, in Fath al-Bari (2/62): and “the general texts are construed in reference to what is prevalent and common and not in reference to what is uncommon and unknown. (Ibn ‘Abdin, Rad al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Dur al-Mukhtar (2/123), and “The [prayer] times, which Jibril (pbuh) taught the Prophet [pbuh], and which the Prophet [pbuh] taught his community, are those which the scholars mentioned in their books, and which refer to normal days.” (Sheikh Ibn Taymiyah, Mukhtasar al-Fatawa al-Misriyyah (1/38). As a result some scholars ( e.g Sh Mustafa Zarqa’) have stated that people living in these regions should fast based on an average day, and have proposed fasting to the length of Makkah or Madinah. العقل والفقه في فهم الحديث النبوي للشيخ الزرقا   ص : 124 طبعة دار

القلم 1996

Ayah 2:185 is a definitive and unequivocal text on creating an exemption from fasting for one who is ill or is travelling. However, it is not clear on the issue of one who is struggling to fast during long summer days. Based on ijtihad some scholars have extended the exemption in 2:185 to include people living in regions that have abnormal length of day, based on analogy (qiyas) with those who are ill, and have advised people to make up (qadaa’) of fasts at another time of the year.

Appendix 2: Key Texts on The principle of Muwafaqa Ahl-al-Bilad (conforming with the local community)

The importance of maintaining community cohesion and not dividing the family or community has been explicitly mentioned in the Quran, and is a core principle of religion.

3:13. the same Religion has He established for you As that which He enjoined on Noah – the which we have sent by inspiration to Thee – and that which we enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast In religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which Thou callest them.

19:94. He [Hârûn (Aaron)] said: “O son of My mother! seize (me) not by My beard, nor by My head! Verily, I feared lest You should say: ‘You have caused a division among the Children of Israel, and You have not respected My word!’ “

In matters relating to communal religious practice that are not based on qat’i texts and that relate to differences of opinion, it is obligatory to maintain unity within a local community than to insist on following one’s opinion. An example of this is the principle of ‘muwafaqa ahl al-bilad’ (conforming with the local community) which seeks to avoid ill feeling, hatred and division in a local community. There are countless examples of the pious predecessors (salaf) giving up their opinion to maintain community cohesion. In the context of Eid and Ramadan, the principle of Muwafaqa states that one should fast with the local community even if it means that you end up fasting one day extra or one day less. Aisha overruled Masruq when he sought to fast out of caution on the day of Sacrifice stating:

‘Sacrifice is on the day that people make the sacrifice, and the end of the fast is when people end the fast’

This is supported by the following hadith:

The fast is the day when you all fast, and the end of the fast is when you all end the fast, and the Eid of sacrifice is when you make the sacrifice.

(Tirmidhi 697 – hasan gharib), Abu Dawud (2324), Ibn Majah (1660)

Commenting on this Hadith Imam Tirmidhi states: ‘some of the people of knowledge have explained this to mean that one should fast and end the fasting with the community (Jama’a) and the majority of the people.’   Similarly, San‘ani comments: ‘in this is evidence that the conformity of a people on can be taken into account when establishing the Day of Eid, and that it is obligatory (wajib) on a solitary witness who has sighted the moon, to conform with the local community.

The scholars are clear that even if the local community makes an error in their ijtihad on the day of Eid or Ramadan, this will not affect the validity of the fasts and Eid even if it later transpires that a mistake was made. For instance Abu Dawud narrated the aforementioned hadith of the Prophet under the chapter heading: ‘if people make an error in sighting the moon’. Finally, the following hadith also has bearing on this matter:

‘If you see differences, then stick with the vast majority…’

It is important to point out that there can never be Eid on one day all over the globe, due to different time zones. However, what is obligatory is that within one family, neighbourhood or city, there should be one Eid. This is in keeping with the core principle of religion which came to bring people together, it is time to revive the Sunnah of the pious predecessors (salaf) and give up our opinions on matters that are from the ‘Furu’ (peripheral) aspects of religion, in order not to fall into the conundrum of creating fitnah and division amongst the believers.

Appendix 3: Parameters within which the Moonsighting and Ramadan Debate should take place

  1. The issue of which method should be used is a matter that relates to the Furu’ (Peripherals) and not the Usul (Core matters) of the Deen established by definitive /texts/ proofs based on al-Dalil al-Qat’i)
  2. This is a matter that relates to Fiqh and not Aqidah
  3. It is not a matter on which takfir of individuals or groups should be made
  4. The Nusus (text) on many of these issues are open to different interpretations
  5. There is no ijma’ (consensus) amongst the scholars on which method to deploy if visibility is impaired, or there is persistent twilight
  6. All parties are sincerely trying to arrive at what they believe is the strongest shar’i (legal) position
  7. People are free to follow any of the sound and valid ijtihads
  8. It is not wajib to follow any of these ijtihads exclusively
  9. It is legally (in fiqh terms) wrong to claim that the fast/Eid of those who follow a different ijtihad is invalidated.
  10. The matter of creating harmony and avoiding discord amongst the community of Believers is established by definitive texts. This is wajib.
  11. Giving up the ijtihad of the group or scholar you follow to avoid discord and division will not invalidate your fast/Eid
  12. In some cases it may be considered wajib to give up the opinion you feel strongly about, if it will cause division within a family or a town/city
  13. The Qur’an and Sunnah are full of examples of prioritising community cohesions and harmony e.g The prophet pbuh ordered a Mosque to be pulled down, as it was dividing the Muslim community, the Prophet Haroon did not enforce his will on the Children of Israel for fear of splitting the community (faraqta bayna bani israeel, Surah Taha)
  14. Disagreements in this area amongst the Muslims, leads to a negative portrayal of Islam, and is damaging from a Dawah perspective
  15. The Maqasid of Eid as a celebration that brings the entire community together is violated by having Eid on different days within the same family, town or city
  16. There is no precedent in Fiqh that justifies Eid being celebrated on different days within the same family, town, city for people who are resident there (Ahadith refer to companions who were travelling and returning to their city)
  17. Having Eid on different days disrupts the education of children, makes it difficult to organise holiday leave for working people, which means that many people end up booking the wrong day and therefore end up working on Eid day

Appendix 4: further reading

Book: Shedding light on the dawn: on the determination of prayer and fasting times at high latitudes by Sheikh Asim Yusuf

The challenge of how to determine twilight prayer and fasting times at high latitudes is an issue that has vexed successive generations of Muslims since the community first began to dwell in northern lands. This work represents the most comprehensive, meticulous and balanced approach to the subject composed in any language. The author has both demonstrated and collapsed the complexity of the subject by exploring it from the perspective of definitions, science, scripture, and sacred law, as well as providing a literature survey of classical and modern attempts at observation, before presenting the results of his own systematic, scientifically-rigorous set of observations. As well as providing a comprehensive set of recommendations for the issue under discussion, this work sets a standard for works on modern legal issues in general.

This is a necessary read on this subject. The author is a friend and colleague who has tirelessly and meticulously researched the issues of long fasts and prayer times. Some of the discussions above have been taken from the book.

For more information on the book and how to purchase it: http://www.lightonthedawn.com/

Few articles providing overview of some issues discussed:

http://www.understanding-islam.org.uk/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=8054:towards-understanding-the-moonsighting-debate-in-the-u-k&Itemid=102

Arguments for using calculation:

https://musafurber.com/2015/06/06/ramadan-moonfighting-shafi%CA%BFic-calculations/

An Analysis of Moon Sighting Arguments

The argument against using calculation:

http://www.islam21c.com/islamic-law/964-an-insight-into-moon-sighting/

https://almadinainstitute.org/blog/an-islamic-legal-analysis-of-the-astronomical-determination-of-the-beginnin/

Issues of the long fast:

http://www.islamtoday.net/bohooth/artshow-86-136794.htm

http://www.exploring-islam.com/fasting-during-the-long-summer-days-in-some-western-countriesworship.html

http://alrukn.com/long-fasts-fiqh/

Combining Maghreb and Isha:

https://www.e-cfr.org/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B1%D9%82%D9%85-3-2/

https://www.leedsgrandmosque.com/isha-prayer-in-british-summer

https://www.islam21c.com/fataawa/166-summer-isha-a-fajr-prayer-times/

[1] All from the introduction to ‘Shedding Light on the Dawn’

[2] Al-Nahl 16:43

[3] Jami’ Tirmidhi 2683

[4] Bukhari 7352, Muslim 4487

[5] Jami Tirmidhi

[6] Ihya Ulum al-Din, Kitab al-Ilm

[7] Al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir of Suyuti – a very well-known principle among the righteous predecessors (salaf) and their successors (khalaf).

[8] Kubra al-Yaqiniyyat al-Kawniyya 34: in kunta naqilan fa al-sihha, wa in kunta muda’iyyan fa al-dalil.

[9] NB: contrary to popular opinion, crescent visibility curves are not a modern invention, having been known about in the classical Muslim period. There are many examples in medieval astronomical literature that look very similar to modern ones

[10] Ibn Qudama in his al-Mughni [2:30-31], for example, notes that, ‘when one hears the adhan from a reliable source, one should commence prayer, without attempting to work out whether the time has entered oneself, for the Prophet (s) said, ‘the muadhins are entrusted,’ (Abu Dawud) and ‘there are two duties Muslims must perform that hang from the necks of the muadhins: their prayers and their fasts’ (ibn Majah). – dar alam al-kutub

[11] Al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir of Suyuti 224 – la yunkar al-mukhtalaf fihi, innama yunkar al-mujma’ alayh: a well-known principle among the righteous predecessors (salaf) and their successors (khalaf).

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