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Muslimah’s Guide to Puberty: How to talk to your daughter about Adolescence

Hena Zuberi

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Goodbye butterflies and Princess dolls

As I rip out the butterfly wall paper I had so painstakingly installed 7 years ago and roll on the hot pink paint she picked for her bedroom wall, I want to hold on to her tight but she has started her journey to womanhood and all I can do is pray for her & guide her to the best of my ability. She has outgrown Gymboree but Justice is too ‘tween’ for her. My baby can barely make her bed, how will she handle adolescence? It is natural, I know but I want her to stay a child for a little bit longer. Puberty is a confusing and emotional time for young girls. Their bodies are changing; their emotions are raw and magnified. Having taught this workshop in our masjid & in my home several times, this is the first year my 9-year-old will participant. I think she is ready.

My cousin wonders why she needs to learn so early about puberty especially since she may not get her period until 11-12. There are a myriad of reasons why this channel of communication needs to be opened: because girls are maturing earlier every decade, because we live in a world of texting & Youtube, because they will hear about it somewhere; at school, at your friend’s dinner party or from an older, ‘wiser’ neighborhood teenager. She may hear nonsense and take it for fact.

If you google muslim-puberty-girls, there is a dearth of any usable literature or practical advice. All that shows up are X-rated websites with a few Islamic fatwas sites scattered in between. I did find one Yahoo group where young Muslimahs were desperately begging each other for info about how to clean themselves, wondering whether they should they pray or not. The poor women who answered their post had her facts wrong and kept hinting at ’secrets’ after they get married. That’s not what I want for my daughters. Instead of hearing snatches of conversation that confuses them even more, wouldn’t it be better to hear it from the woman whose womb bore them or an understanding teacher who can answer their what, when and whys.

Muslim girls need guidance and knowledge at this time, but this knowledge needs to stay within the confines of hayya (modesty).  In most American public schools, parents are given a choice of showing their girls a video about puberty. Many Muslim parents opt out of this program for good reason as the videos shown are ‘very graphic’ albeit in cartoon form and discuss how you get pregnant – you can read ‘Just around the corner’ movie reviews by moms and decide for yourself. Even if some Muslim parents discuss puberty, they do not explain the Islamic responsibilities that arrive after this stage in life. They need to understand these changes are from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and with them come a great responsibility; they are now adults in front of God.

I remember reading about ‘it’ in Judy Blume’s young adult novel ’Are you there, God? It’s me Margaret’ but never connected the dots that this would happen to me as well. When I finally reached puberty over summer vacation while visiting my Nani, I remember my aunts making kheer (rice pudding) and congratulating me, grown women giggling away with each other but no one ever told me what was going on.

I felt guilty, like I had done something wrong, evil. In Muslim countries, many terrified girls look at soiled undergarments and wonder if they are dying because they are clueless, often it is taboo to talk about what is happening to them. Between these two extremes lies Islam’s golden, middle way.

Advice to moms:

It’s awkward for mothers to talk about this subject as well, so I designed this info in a class format with handouts for the girls – so a mother can talk to her daughter or a teacher can address her class and explain puberty in terms that even a 5th grader can understand.

After talking to many young Muslimahs and their moms, here are some practical suggestions I have for moms:

  • Inculcate the habit of wearing a camisole around at 8 years, this will help her get used to wearing something under her clothes. When you do purchase her first bras, make a date and take just her to the store.
  • Please buy her a small, separate trashcan as well (or reuse your diaper genie!) so she can throw away the used pads appropriately. Show her a private place where she can stash her deodorant, pantiliners and pads away from the inquiring eyes of younger siblings.
  • At this point in life, young girls can be gifted their own masallah (Janamaz or prayer mat), their own copy of the Quran and a tasbih, it makes them feel more responsible for their ibadah (worship).
  • She may want to sleep longer, so adjust her schedules. She may get moody; talk her through her feelings, as they are just as scared of their mood swings as you are.

You can give her this information in one formal class or a series of discussions, as you know your daughter’s learning style. Invite her friends, bake some brownies – make it mother-daughter time. Let them get their giggles out at the beginning- it soothes them and helps them when they see that all the girls are going through the same thing. I usually show the girls maxi pads, panty liners, and give them calendars to start their habit of marking their haidh (period). Another cute thing I hand out is a card that reads ‘Allah has chosen today to make me a young woman’. They can give this to their moms to let them know the day they get them-if they are too shy. I find it easier to show them an anatomical diagram of the uterus and use scientific terms of the body parts, without going into too much detail. Please feel free to use the information below,  just remember to give credit and make dua for me.

Muslimah’s Guide to Puberty handouts

Circle of Life: Start with a discussion on how it all begins and ends with Allah – our Creator

· Allah created the first human being Adam (AS) from dust

· Allah creates every baby in their mother’s womb – It is related from Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Allah the Mighty and Majestic appoints an angel to every womb who says, ‘O Lord! A drop! O Lord A clot! O Lord! A lump of flesh!’ ‘Then if He desires to complete His creation, He does so and the angel asks, ‘Is it to be male or female? Wretched or happy? What is its provision? What is its life-span?’ This is all decreed in the mother’s womb.”

· The baby develops from one stage to the other until it reaches full term. In the Quran, Allah tells us: It is He who has created you from dust, then from a drop of seed, then from a clot; Then He brings you forth as a child, then ordains that you reach the age of full strength and afterward that you become old – though some among you die before – and that you reach an appointed term, in order that you may understand. (40:67)

· By Allah’s will the baby is born and progresses through life from one stage to another

· Until her time on Earth is complete and she returns to her Creator

What is it?

Adolescence (balughat) is a stage of development when your body goes through changes at a fast rate under the effect of hormones produced in the body by the will of Allah (Taa’la).

· Every baby girl is born with two ovaries

· and a uterus – a muscle the size of your fist where a baby can grow

· Allah produces hormones called estrogen and progesterone in your body

Changes in body will include:

· Hair grows on the underarms and in the private area – Muslims should shave these areas at least every 40 days – using wax, creams or shavers

· Sweat glands develop – take regular showers as body odor tends to increase at this age

· The chest starts growing so it can produce milk when you get married and have a child

· The ovaries release an ovum (egg) every month

· The uterus prepares a thin layer of tissue to receive the ovum

· Upon puberty, the uterus shed this thin layer of tissue every month and it discharged from the body. This is your monthly period or menstruation.

Why do we get it?

Little girls are starting to become women – the process takes several years but you have to learn to carry yourself like a Muslim woman. Over time, your body matures so that one day it will be ready to be a mother when you get married. A healthy, able body is a trust from Allah. Allah made it, so He knows best how to take care of it and he tells us how through the Quran and Sunnah – by doing halal and staying away from haram.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, ‘This is something that Allah has decreed for the daughters of Adam.”  Unlike Judaism, Hinduism or Christianity, Islam does not view your period as a curse. Our faith does not teach any connection between menstruation and Eve or the first sin – Islam does not preach that women are the source of evil. We believe that Adam and Hawwa (AS) made the choice to disobey Allah together.

When will I get it?

In Islam, puberty cannot begin before the age of nine. Even if you do not menstruate by the age of fifteen (Islāmic years), you will have reached the age of puberty. A girl’s first period usually begins between the ages of 9 and 16. The average age is 12.5 years. You and your best friend will probably not get it the same day or even the same year. So relax!!! As long as you are eating healthy and sleeping enough hours you have nothing to worry about. It is a special time chosen by Allah and it will happen when your body is ready of it.

Some signs that your body is getting ready:

· Developing Breasts – First, you’ll get breast “buds”. (Your breasts then can take up to 3-4 years to fully develop.) Generally, you will get your period 2-3 years after your breasts start developing. The average age for breast buds is 10.5 years

· Growing Pubic Hair -Right after your breasts start to form, you’ll start developing pubic hair. It will be soft and thin at first, and then gradually become coarser. Your period usually arrives around 1-2 years after the hair development.

· Discharge -This is the big sign. You’ll start to experience vaginal discharge that will be either white or yellowish. If you like, you may want to start using panti liners to protect your underwear. This is from Sunnah, the women of Madinah used to wear a piece of cotton wool (karsoof). Your period may start around 6-18 months after the start of discharge. A girl’s first few periods are usually light. You will lose about two to five tablespoons of blood over a period of two to eight days.

There’s one more way to figure out when you’ll start menstruating: Ask your mom. You’ll probably get your period within a year or so of when she got hers.

Now that I have it, what should I do?

Basic Supplies

  • Lots of pads.
  • A change of clothes kept in your locker at school.
  • Tylenol, Panadol, Midol or Advil.
  • A hot water bottle.
  • Lots of chocolate!

· Use a pad to wear with your underwear. Change the pad as often as you need to stay dry and comfortable. Keep some underwear exclusively for use during these days.

· Be prepared. You should start carrying pads around with you in advance of getting your period. If you find yourself stuck at school without a pad , go ask your school’s nurse.

· If at any point while at school your period leaks through your clothing, excuse yourself to the office and get them to call your mom to bring you something to change into. These clothes are now najis and need to be washed. Avoid wearing white or light-colored pants and underwear during the week of your period to cut down on the chance of visible leakage as well.

· During your period, you may get cramps- which is because your uterus is contracting- use a hot water bottle, exercise, drink hot tea and cuddle with your mom. If it really hurts ask your doctor if it is OK to take pain medication.

· It is perfectly normal not to have a regular pattern or habit the first few months or even few years. Start keeping a calendar and keep track of your habit, lots of rules depend on this.

· Make sure you wrap your used pad and throw it in garbage. It is really bad manners to leave them in plain sight. Do not flush down the toilet. You are not a little kid anymore; be a proud, clean Muslimah!

· During your period, you are excused from salah. This is a gift from Allah (SWT), as he knows how much a woman is suffering. Do not cut all connection with Allah. Do make wudu, sit and make dhikrdua, read salawat/durood etc. so you don’t lose the habit of praying 5 times.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “… a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses” (Sahih Muslim).

·You don’t have to make up the salah, however; the menstruating woman must make up the missed fasts after Ramadan.

Aishah (RA) said: “When we would have our menses during the lifetime of the Prophet, we were ordered to make up the days of fasting that we had missed but were not ordered to make up the prayers that we had missed.”

(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

· After you are sure the bleeding has stopped than make ghusl *Handout. Women used to send ‘A’isha (RA) little boxes containing pieces of cotton cloth which still showed some yellowness.

‘A’isha would say, “Do not rush [to do ghusl] until you see white cotton,” meaning by that purity from menstruation.’After you are sure that all discharge has changed to white then you are ready to make ghusl and get back to praying five times a day. “When we purified ourselves by doing ghusl after menstruation, we were allowed a small amount of light perfume.”

· Every religion has a corner stone, the cornerstone of is Islam is hayaa (modesty). We should try to act on this principle in every action of our lives. Don’t discuss your period around boys, men and younger sisters.

· Most importantly, the pen has started flowing, every action is recorded now. You are responsible for your salah, your fasting in Ramadan is compulsory, hijab becomes obligatory. Congratulations!

FIQHI ISSUES: I am not an a’lema, please always refer to a scholar for detailed questions on menstruation. However there are some basic fiqh questions that every Muslimah should learn and can be discussed in follow up sessions. The following are according to the Hanafi/Shafaee madhab and has been reviewed by Mufti Ibrahim Qureishi.

Purity is islam is of two types Hukmi (ritual)and Haqeeqi (real).

You may be bleeding but still not be impure or you may not be bleeding but you could be impure. For example: bleeding stops after two days and resumes on fourth day so you weren’t bleeding on day 3 but you were impure. In istihadha, you are bleeding but are ritually pure.

ISSUE 1 
If a young girl experiences bleeding for the first time, then it should be observed whether it continues for three days and three nights (seventy-two hours). {According to Imâm Shafi’î (R.A). for twenty-four hours.} If it does, then it is menstruation.

ISSUE 2
If bleeding continues for more than three days and three nights and stops at any time within ten days and ten nights, then all of it would be menstruation, similarly all of it would be menstruation if bleeding continued for full ten days (two hundred and forty hours). {Fifteen days and fifteen nights according to Imâm Shafi’î (R.A).}

ISSUE 3
If bleeding continued for full ten days and ten nights {Fifteen days and fifteen nights according to Imâm Shafi’î (R.A.)} then the ten days and ten nights will be menstruation and the bleeding beyond it is chronic discharge (istihadha).

Since any bleeding beyond ten full days is chronic discharge (istihadha). She should take a bath after ten days and start her prayer. The minimum amount of time between two periods is 15 days, if you start bleeding before the fifteen days then it is also istihadha. In istihadha, a young woman has to pray regularly – just change her pad, clean her private parts and make a freshwudu before each salah.

But if a woman is a mo’tâda [one who has a normal set menstruation period] and bleeding continues beyond her habit, then it should be seen, if it stops within ten days, all of it is menstruation and if it continues after ten days, then only the days of her habit would be regarded as menstruation and the days after that is chronic discharge (istihadha).

Therefore, she should make up the prayer for the days beyond her habit. If she has a habit of seven days and she bled for twelve days then only seven days would be menstruation and the rest chronic discharge (istihada). But if she bled for nine or ten days only then all of it is menstruation.

ISSUE 4
If a mubtadeah keeps bleeding continuously for a few months, then in every month ten days from the day when bleeding started, these are of menstruation and the remaining nineteen to twenty days are of chronic discharge (istihada) e.g. if bleeding started on the fifth of a particular month, the days between the fifth and the fifteenth of every month are of menstruation and from the fifteenth to the fifth of the next month are days of chronic discharge (istihada). Note: the Islamic (lunar calendar) is used regarding Islamic matters.

ISSUE 5
If a woman notices blood for three full days and three nights or more, or any number of days up to ten days and ten nights and then remains clean for full fifteen days or more, and again sees blood for three or more days then both bleedings are called menstruation and the days in between are regarded as a period of purity.

ISSUE 6
If a woman notices blood for three days and three nights or more and then remains clean for fifteen days or more and again sees blood for less than three days then the first bleeding was menstruation while the second bleeding is chronic discharge (istihada) because the bleeding was for less than three days although the period of purity was for fifteen days.

ISSUE 7
If a woman notices blood for less than three days and three nights and after full fifteen days or more sees blood again for less than three days then both bleedings are called chronic discharge (istihada) and she will be regarded as pure for all these days.

As soon as the bleeding stops within three days, she should make ritual ablution (wudu) and start her prayer during the last stages (end part) of the mustahab [preferable] timing (i.e. just before disliked or makruh timing). She must also make up prayers for those days which she has missed while she was bleeding.

ISSUE 8
If a woman who is ritually pure puts on sanitary pads, etc. at night and in the morning when she removes it; she finds it to be blood-stained, then her menstruation starts only at the time when she sees the blood.

ISSUE 9 
If a menstruating woman notices no sign of blood on her pad, then the clean period will be counted right from the time the pad was put on.

credits: Dr. Rida Bashir’s lecture, Fiqh of Menstruation by Shaykh M. Ibrahim Palanpuri

Related on Muslim Matters:  Quandary of Female Vaginal Discharge: Pure or Impure?

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She is also a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. She serves on the board of the Aafia Foundation and Words Heal, Inc. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. A mom of four and a Green Muslim, she lives and preaches a whole food, organic life which she believes is closest to Sunnah. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

74 Comments

74 Comments

  1. Avatar

    M.M.

    October 4, 2010 at 1:57 AM

    JazakAllahu Khair for writing about this topic.

    Its vital to educate our young girls about this subject before they experience it themselves because without this knowledge, it just leads to confusion.

    • Avatar

      Yasmeen

      May 13, 2015 at 5:11 PM

      Thank you sister for sharing this topic with us i am currently 11 years old and thanks to you i know what is happening to my body. I think this was very helpful…JazakAllahu Kair

  2. Avatar

    Muslimah

    October 4, 2010 at 3:01 AM

    Thanks for sharing this. I remember meeting some younger girls at a masjid who were in one of the weekend schools, and feeling bad for them because they knew they coulnd’t pray, but were also told they can’t go out on the playground during recess time to play – so they sat alone inside the closed classroom. I was like “huh?”

    I am also curious how many women allow their daughters to wear tampons, instead of just pads, considering the fact that the under garments are cleaner, they have more free range in motion, once you are used to them, you don’t even notice they are inserted, unlike pads which slip around, etc. Since Islamically we know that a women doesn’t lose her virginity this way, then why not create this as an option?

    I’m curious what taboos are surrounding this? Until I met Muslims, I never knew a single female growing up into adulthood who used pads. The only reason I heard from Muslims that they only used pads, was that it was “shameful to insert something” internally.

    Thoughts?

    • Avatar

      M.M.

      October 4, 2010 at 10:08 AM

      Yes, that’s true tampons do not break your virginity but they do break the hymen and this is some cultures is something that is disliked before marriage.

      ( Not that I agree with that thinking or anything! I agree with you, there is much more freedom when wearing them but I guess its up to mothers to decide this ).

      • Avatar

        Hena Zuberi

        October 7, 2010 at 12:55 PM

        Salaam sisters-

        Tampons are an option- I honestly don’t know if they break any ‘rules’- don’t think so but I can ask. Some moms I spoke to were uncomfortable letting their daughters use them even though the moms use them. They are not as common in predominantly Muslim countries maybe as M.M. said because of the affect on the hymen.

        As for the girls who were not allowed on the playground- that is precisely why this topic should be talked about so misinformation is dispelled and girls are not treated like they did something wrong! So much cultural baggage piled on in the name of Islam.

      • Avatar

        Muslim Sister

        November 20, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        I have to comment that the hymen does not get “broken” by anything, this is a myth. The hymen is a porous membrane that actually STRETCHES normally WITHOUT anything being inserted into the vagina. It stretches from exercise, moving around, etc…it doesn’t pop and you won’t bleed when this stretching happens. And there is no hymen breaking during the first instance of sexual intercourse. I learned this from a sexual health educator who co-teachers Muslim girls with me on this topic and it’s sad that cultures within Islam are perpetuating this myth! Tampons are fine to use since they won’t break anything…it depends on the comfort level of the girl and the religious views of herself and her family. Let’s educate ourselves on what the hymen actually is from a medical/physiological standpoint and stop perpetuating myths that cause girls to get scared if they DON’T bleed after their first sexual intercourse.

        • Avatar

          kendra

          May 31, 2014 at 3:22 PM

          I am sorry to inform you that you are wrong . You do bleed the first time that you are with your husband. If you do not bleed this may mean that you have ruptured it somehow. Many athletic girls had this happen to them . Also woman that ride horses daily ( not many ppl do this anymore ) even falling the wrong way, my daughter was 5 and she jumped on my back suddenly from the couch I leaned back to fast and she fell backward and she landed with her foot hitting her private parts she was in pain and when she used the bathroom there was blood. I called her dr and the dr said she may have ruptured her hymen altho she was was scepticle I have never had that happen to me and I grew up playing like a boy .

  3. Avatar

    ayesha

    October 4, 2010 at 3:10 AM

    jazkAllah for writing in so much detail and answering questions I have even as a much older girl! you explain things soo well, and leave no room for doubt.

  4. Avatar

    ummi

    October 4, 2010 at 6:16 AM

    mashallah,may Allah reward u for ur efforts.
    i have boys and am wondering how to approach pubrty with them?

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 16, 2011 at 7:27 PM

      InshaAllah the Muslim guide to Adolescenece is almost complete, I will be posting it it in MAy inshaAllah.

      • Avatar

        Anonymous

        April 25, 2015 at 6:07 PM

        Asalamu alaikum, above information made me satisfied so I wanna ask dat it’s said during 1st time of menstruation girls should nt go out nd 1 of my friend came for school it was her 1st time so is there no restriction in that please answer me i really wanna no????

        • Avatar

          Aly Balagamwala

          April 27, 2015 at 5:10 AM

          Dear Sister

          There is no such restriction on going out of the house during your menses.

          Aly

          *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

  5. Avatar

    Zayna

    October 4, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    Masha’Allah and Jazak Allah Khair. I’m not a mommy yet, but just sent the link to my sisters and they couldn’t thank me (you actually :)) enough!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 29, 2011 at 1:02 AM

      Aww JazakAllah May Allah make it easy for them and give us all pious children who please Allah SWT.
      Ameen

      • Avatar

        zita

        March 6, 2015 at 9:37 AM

        Shukran Jazakh Allah Kheir Sister
        I’ve a nine year old girl
        I was wondering how to explain puberty…
        Masha Allah you have really helped me

  6. Avatar

    Sadaf

    October 4, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    Hena, this is wonderful. JazakAllah for posting it.

  7. Avatar

    naz

    October 4, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    jazakallah for this article. it was very much needed.

  8. Avatar

    Daily Hadith Online

    October 4, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    Thanks for the good article. Parenting is extremely important and many parents do not put the in time and effort their kids deserve. =(

    Allahu Musta’an,

  9. Avatar

    Iftikhar Ahmad

    October 4, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    children should be allowed to have CHILDhoods, and not forced into adulthood by a sex-mad society. Maybe if we didn’t bombard young people with messages of how great and “perfectly safe” sex was in every television program, magazine article and new pop song, then they wouldn’t be doing the things they do.

    The teenager prégnances and the sheer madness of sex education teaches nothing about morality. A fifteen years girl has a child from a thirteen year old boy. They and their parent are very proud of the child and grand child. Now two more boys claimed that they are the fathers of the child. DNA test will prove the child’s paternity. This means that the girl had multiple sexual relations. Britain’s rate of teenage pregnancy is the highest in western Europe. This is a clear indication of broken society. It is an eye opening for the Muslim community who send their children to state schools with non-Muslim teachers.

    Sex education and contraception in schools make children as quasi adults, capable of making their own life choices. Children are being taught that sexually transmitted diseases could be easily treated and there is no acknowledgement of the emotional harm of premature sexual activity. The truth is that more sex education and contraception are provided to children and teenagers, the more they fall pregant. Studies have shown that access to contraceptions and sex education, sexual activity and conception and prgnancy rates go up.

    The teaching of sex education could not curb teenage pregnancies. Infact, it has simply increased it. The spectre of hidden epidemic of sex crimes inside Britain’s classrooms has emerged after Scotland Yard revealed there have been nearly 900 rapes or sex attacks in schools. The vast majority of victims were school children under the age of 16. As many as one in three were under 11.

    According to official figures, nearly half of babies are now born out of wedlock. They are more likely to suffer social.mental and emotional problems. Researchers have revealed the migrants in Britain are more likely to have children within marriage. If Muslim children keep on attending state schools with non-Muslim monolingualk teachers than there is a possibility that teenage Muslim girls will have children out of wedlock.

    The sexualisation of children by the government, Dept of Education, ‘pregnancy advice centres’, social workers, school nurses, media aimed at teen girls, contraceptive industry lobbyists, fashion industry and the welfare state to name just a few, is a crime against humanity.

    It is also gross hypocrisy for the police to prosecute paedophiles when the government is overseeing boy scouts being given condoms from the age 11 and girls of the same age being told it is OK to have sex if they use ‘protection’. Boys and girls at age 11 are not allowed to marry but they can have sex and produce children. Every parent is worried about his child being indoctrinated into the idea that gay and sexual promiscuity is “normal” modes of behaviour. At the same time, all parents have the right to control their children and it is their Duty to control them.

    It is an eye opening for the Muslim parents who keep on sending their children to state schools with non-Muslim monolingual teachers. Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers a s role models during their developmental periods. Muslim teachers are in a better position to teach sex education to teenagers according to Islamic perspectives. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school. State funded Muslim schools are crucial for social cohesion, religious and cultural harmony. They are preparing children and young people to face the challenges of life in modern Britain and to also contribute in a positive way to wider society. Muslim children will develop self-confidence and self-esteem. According to TES, pupils make more progress at Muslim secondary schools than anyother type of schools. They are promoting tolerance and support the spiritual, moral, social, linguistic and cultural development of pupils.
    Iftikhar Ahmad
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 29, 2011 at 1:09 AM

      Brother I don’t understand- you seem to be preaching to the choir-you and I are saying similar things- I agree that they should remain children and not grow up too soon.
      I agree with

      Muslim teachers are in a better position to teach sex education to teenagers according to Islamic perspectives

      that is what we are trying to do. Every single time I hold this workshop 100% of the girls know more than their mothers ever could imagine they knew- They need to be educated about these topics from an Islamic perspective.

      please add any links that you may have helping teach it from an Islamic perspective.
      JazakAllah khair

  10. Avatar

    Sarah

    October 4, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    Great article! JazakiAllahu khayrn :)

  11. Avatar

    umm.esa

    October 4, 2010 at 6:53 PM

    JazakiAllahu khyran for sharing this information.

  12. Avatar

    Middle Ground

    October 5, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    Salam

    Due to the lack of any half decent Islamic books about this, I bought this Christian focussed book from Amazon for my daughter:

    http://www.amazon.com/Facing-Facts-Truth-About-Design/dp/1600060153/ref=pd_cp_b_3

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      October 7, 2010 at 1:05 PM

      Wasalam,
      Interesting but sad- I have thought about developing this into a book but honestly I am having a hard enough time getting people to share this article or facebook it- It is too awkward, don’t want the boys/men to read it just because it is so accessible, some think I am being too open about my experience. I tried to balance hayya and information.

      What did you think of the book?

      • Avatar

        Jeremiah

        October 7, 2010 at 2:29 PM

        Jazakillah khair to the author.

        Please, if you have the time and resources develop this into a book, inshAllah. This could be a valuable resource for the weekend schools. We also need one for the boys. I am sure you are familiar with the resistance from many parents once the chapters on purity for salah are being discussed. Some parents want to completely skip the parts on what makes ghusl necessary even when their kids are in middle school! It makes the rest of the year really awkward.

      • Avatar

        sumaiya

        June 12, 2013 at 10:58 AM

        MashaAllah amazing article, and JazakAllahu Khairan for sharing it. And I agree with jeremiah that you publish a book about this, even for boys. We can definitely use it as parents, Islamic schools can use it and even Masjid Qur’an/Islamic classes can use it. I teach my girls this every year in our evening Islamic classes at the masjid so it would be nice to teach from a good book and give the girls the book with Islamic guidelines, a calender, etc. so that they can always look through it. And I’m also sure if there are any single Muslim dads out there, they’d love this book.

  13. Avatar

    Ibn Muhammad

    October 5, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    According to Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, there is no such thing as Adolescence in Islam.

    • Avatar

      Marwa

      October 5, 2010 at 6:27 PM

      Well, there is.

      • Avatar

        Sister

        October 7, 2010 at 4:54 AM

        There isn’t.

        Your either a child or an adult.

        • Avatar

          Hena Zuberi

          October 7, 2010 at 12:27 PM

          Speaking legally, you are one day a child and then an adult. Fiqh rules that do not apply to children, start applying as adults the day they reach puberty . No doubt about it- we can’t say ‘oh she is only 11- even though she got her period she is too young to be expected to pray 5 times a day’

          Baligh means developed. A human is said to be baligh when they have attained the age of puberty or what fiqh has defined as ‘adulthood’, when a child is not a child anymore and becomes responsible for his or her deeds for which they may entail punishment on Judgement Day.
          True Form: بالغ

          However, there is a physical process that takes starts a couple of years before puberty is reached. Islam is not just law or Fiqh-it is our total life- your Islam is also your body, your feelings, your understanding, sense of responsibility. Just like in childhood there are physical stages: a newborn, an infant, a toddler, being an adolescent is also a stage. This stage needs to be addressed and discussed.

          Many parents ignore this crucial stage and then it too late. That is why we are instructed to start Salah training your children at 7 and at 10 the practice of praying 5 times a day must be established. If a child attains puberty the very next day after she turns 10, she is on the spot “legally an adult”.

          .

  14. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    October 5, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    A good and free way to keep track of your monthly cycle is through monthlyinfo.com. You can graph your menses and they offer pretty accurate predictions and a reminder email before the start of your next period.

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      October 7, 2010 at 1:13 PM

      Jazakillah Ify,
      ain’t the net great :) I signed up! Will give feedback in a couple a months.

  15. Avatar

    Hina

    October 6, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    good job, hena, masha’Allah! i’m sharing this with all of my girlfriends and they are most appreciative. may Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) reward you for your hard work in educating our kids in a gentle, intelligent manner. aameen.
    wassalaam,
    hina

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      October 7, 2010 at 1:38 PM

      Hina Bhabhi!
      Your comments mean a lot alhamdulilah
      Ameen to your duas- Jazakillah khair for sharing it with your friends- you may be my tipping point lol

  16. Avatar

    Hena Zuberi

    October 7, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    Salaam to all the sisters who read and appreciated it- i understand that this is a sensitive subject.
    Please use the info, talk to your daughters, nieces, there are many girls who may not have moms- host a workshop at your home!
    I hope and pray that Allah (SWT) helps us fulfill our responsibilities and raise pious children who please Him. Ameen

  17. Avatar

    D. Khan

    October 7, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    Jazak Allah for sharing all these wonderful tips. I have a 2 year old daughter and have always wondered how I would talk to my daughter about this topic. This is exactly how I would want to talk to my daughter, so thanks for sharing. I am sure I’ll be digging this article up when the time comes.

  18. Avatar

    xainab

    October 11, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    Very educative indeed!

  19. Avatar

    Sarah

    October 17, 2010 at 6:42 AM

    Please, I think it would be a very good idea to make a post for girls who know about sex but their mothers haven’t told them a thing!

    My mother hasn’t told me about about sex, not a word, and I’m fourteen! The truth is that it’s partly my fault as I didn’t tell her when we had sex education in seventh grade. I’m in an international school in a Muslim country so the chapter was strictly scientific and there wasn’t really anything explicit. However, by the next year dirty jokes were everywhere, and I deal with them all the time, although they’re never directed at me as I’m muhajaba and most people act like I’m off-limits *eyeroll*. I think that I’m extremely lucky in the fact that I actually went on my own and read my father’s hadith books last year and found out about porn, homosexuality, marriage and love within marriage etc on Muslim sites. I’ve had crushes ever since about first grade, but never told my mom as her attitude has always been ‘kissing/hugging/love/dating is haraaaam”. I’d love to be able to casually talk to my mom about boys, crushes, sexuality, what I think about Islam and stuff but I just can’t approach her! So that none of you get the wrong idea, although I’ve had deep crushes, talked and laughed and teased my friends about them, I have never flirted or dated (couldn’t if I wanted to anyway). The flirtiest things I’ve ever done are lend a guy a book or laugh at a joke. Also I’ve always disapproved of swearing with my friends (they do it anyway), as well as disapproving of their never-ending language, “that is so gay”. Bastard, suck my ballz, all these are pretty normal phrases around me at school. I don’t mind a dirty joke, say between girls but I hate it when it’s suggestive and between guys and girls. I’ve since made up my mind on lots of Islamic topics and have my own ideas/views, but we live in a very close space and I’m embarrassed to be seen reading Quran or ahadith or religious books as it always makes me feel as though I’m being fakely religious. I feel very free and easy at school, had debates with teachers and showed my views, but when I’m at home it’s like I’m in a different world!

    Does anyone have some help for me, please? Thank you.

    • Avatar

      Hazem

      November 24, 2010 at 1:24 PM

      Your post suggests already part of the help you’re asking for. It looks like you feel you’re living a “double life”: the so called religious life and worldly life. In Islam, there is no separation between religion and life. You live by your Islam. If you chose (or were forced to) not to discuss with your parents, then there should be a way you educate yourself more islamically. This will create a bigger gap in yourself between the two worlds you live in. Read more in details about the issues of Fiqh and purification that present these “sensitive” topics within the boundaries of Hayaa and religion. Make a lot of dua’a and in shaa Allah I’m sure you’ll be able to decide which path you want to follow. More precisely, you’ll feel comfortable (in shaa Allah) when reading Quran, performing Salah, etc… but you’ll feel disturbed when mingling with the company you;ve mentioned.

      May Allah guide you to the good company that gives you help and support in this Dunyia.

    • Avatar

      Erum

      April 7, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      Yeah, that’s so true. My mom told me about periods the day I got my first one. And she hasn’t told me anything about sex, obviously living in a non-Muslim country, I have to hear it all the time at school. And it sort of makes me guilty knowing about it. About boys, yeah I’ve had huge crushes too and considering the fact that if I told my mom she would kill me, I just deal with it. I don’t usually talk to boys, but if they talk to me and one of my brother sees that he goes straight home and tells my mom and my moms like why was he talking to u? And I’m like what the hell?! It’s not like its a crime and all he said was hello, why don’t u talk much? Another thing, I’m thirteen and my mon doesn’t by be proper bras, she just buys me those vests, the ones that eight year olds wear that have lace on the neck. My mom gets really annoying all the time she’s always making me do the housework. I swear i really wouldn’t have a problem with that, but when she says your a girl and look at your brothers, they do all the work I really want to kill myself. I’m like hello woman?! Who unloaded the dishwasher right now or who just vacuumed the whole house? Of course, I don’t have the guts to say that cuz I’m scared of her. I think she wouldn’t really care if I died. She’s got a problem with everything I do, in school, I have to bring 90 percent in every subject and when I do, she’s like why? Why not 100 percent? I wish my life was better. Wow this has almost nothing to do with what u wrote, but Im posting it anyways because I know there’s more girls like me who will read this and be happy to know there not alone.

      • Avatar

        Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        April 8, 2013 at 12:52 AM

        Dear Erum

        As we grow up and reach that stage in life where we become adults but the people around us fail to recognize it, it can be very frustrating. When parents refuse to accept that we are no longer the cute kid but an adult with a new found look on life and feelings that were previously not there, it can make you scream and shout and punch someone in the face.

        We all go through this, and it is very easy as an adult to tell someone at 13 oh this is a phase you will get through it. But your feelings are now, your anguish is real. While I am a parent, I still have several years before my eldest reaches that age but I hope I will be prepared to recognize the stage of his life and sit and talk with him on this subject. However, one thing that I learnt as I grew up is that whatever the case may be, respect of parents is mandated to the utmost by our Creator and thus it may be better if one sits down (with whichever parent one is closer to) and start with your love and respect for them and carry on to describe how things are changing for you and you are growing up. Talk about your feelings and how their not recognizing these feelings makes you feel. It may seem awkward to you and may be the last thing you want to do. And I don’t even guarantee your parent(s) will understand it but in the long run it will definitely make things better for you InshaaAllah.

        However, make sure you point out that bringing this subject up does not mean you disrespect them in any way.

        -Aly
        *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

        • Avatar

          Erum

          October 10, 2013 at 1:41 AM

          No offence, but I wasn’t expecting a man to answer, and if u were such a loyal muslim u wouldn’t be reading ‘girls puberty’

      • Avatar

        Muslimmah

        November 14, 2014 at 9:34 PM

        It’s really bad what your mom is doing with you.This attitude towards children leads to children towards negative things .i must say parents should give children proper respect and confidence to make them a better person in society.at this stage you really need some good and sins re friend who soothes you at this point that you feel you are not alone as far as your mother thinking living in a society like this you don’t talk to boys is really ridiculous either ppl change their places if they want to live like a real Islamic society.i specially suggest mothers should be very caring and loving for girls specially just eye upon them and teach them about good and evil education is necessary.first educate them well

  20. Avatar

    Bayan

    October 17, 2010 at 6:46 AM

    It would be a whole lot nicer if parents told us about adolescence and sex instead of leaving it till we’re twenty…

  21. Avatar

    UmmZayn

    November 1, 2010 at 2:56 PM

    jazakillah khayr, this is very much needed for our community. i just noticed a typo in your handout, the last sentence in the pink box of the last page reads:

    “Don’t forget Allah just you cuz you have your P”

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      December 12, 2010 at 9:09 PM

      thats just the slang that used in our area- will fix it: P=period

      • Avatar

        Nasrat

        January 9, 2011 at 2:48 PM

        Jak
        Please could you provide similar information for boys
        N

        • Hena Zuberi

          Hena Zuberi

          January 10, 2011 at 11:11 AM

          Insha Allah Sister,

          I am working on it with a scholar – hope to have it available soon.

  22. Avatar

    Sister

    November 30, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    Salaam,

    I’m a teem and I have a question. It said that your period counts from the time you actually see blood.
    Sorry about being graphic but I need to have this question answered.
    The night before I started, I noticed that my discharge was a slightly different colour in that it was white but to me there seemed to be some kind of a very, very light pink colour. But I couldn’t tell if it was blood because it was very faint.
    I went to check and when I wiped myself in that section it seemed to be clear. I did that quite a few times, but one time I saw something very small and red, but it didn’t absorb into the tissue it looked like a dried stain. I wiped myself againn and there was nothing there.
    the next day I began my period, so do I start counting from the night before I started my period or on the day I actually saw blood and I’m certain i started.
    I’m asking because I last for ten days.

    Jzk :)

    • Avatar

      Hena Zuberi

      December 12, 2010 at 9:36 PM

      Sorry for taking so long to answer- was double checking the answers with people of knowledge. According to rulings once your discharge changes color your period or menstruation commences:

      Discharge of any color—red, yellow, muddy, green, black, or earthy—
      which a woman sees in the days of menstrual bleeding is considered
      menstrual discharge and her menstruation will continue until the discharge
      is pure white or there is no discharge. Once blood flows onto the external
      skin of the vagina (i.e., out of the inner lips),ḥayḍ commences.
      This is irrespective of whether it flows out to the outer lips or not. If some cotton, a
      pad, or a tampon is inserted into the vagina whereby the blood cannot flow
      out, then as long as the blood remains in the vagina and no blood is seen on
      the outside of the cotton, menstruation has not commenced. When blood
      appears onto the inner lips of the vaginal opening (or on the external visible
      area of the inserted cotton wool), menstruation will commence from the
      time the blood is seen.

      Example: If a woman inserted a piece of cotton or tissue in the internal
      vagina at night and in the morning she saw blood on the tissue,
      menstruation will be calculated from the time she saw the blood.

      If you continue bleeding after the ten days, it will be considered istehaadha.

  23. Avatar

    Shazia

    December 12, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    Jazakallah for all your advice. Its clear and informative and still modest. I need to tackle this topic soon with my daughter and was feeling very lost as to where to begin. Im so glad I found Your website. May Allah reward you for your sincere hard efforts!

  24. Avatar

    Holly Garza

    January 26, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    MashaAllah!!!! May Allah reward you for all your efforts!!! Ameen

    This is the absolute best article/blog/handout I have seen in 2 months!

    One of the sisters asked me in the home school page if I knew of anything and it has been a long search of crazy, obscure, untrue, irrelevant options. This is by far the best! JazakAllah Khayer I will share it with her

  25. Avatar

    Young Muslimmah Lady

    March 3, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Jazakallah Khair for writing about this `taboo` in which not many people would feel uncomfortable talking about. It is vital for young Muslimmah’s to know such things to let them know you’re not a little girl anymore and you’re becoming a young modest Muslim lady. This has probably helped many, many, many young Muslims understand all this before confusion hits them.

    • Avatar

      Nidsthewriter

      March 7, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      mashallah.. thank you for giving this valuable information.. may allah bless you for taking the effort to share the knowledge.. :-)

  26. Pingback: A Women’s Guide to Spirituality in Ramadan during Menstruation and Postnatal Bleeding - MuslimMatters.org

  27. Avatar

    Khaoula

    December 31, 2012 at 4:04 AM

    I have a question?Can a Muslim girl who is still a virgin wear tampons in Islam?Please help me all my friends wear them and I never asked my mom but am inshallah planning on. I really want to wear tampons but deen is more important to me.

  28. Avatar

    Salizah

    July 4, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    JazakAllah Khair.. May Allah reward you for all your efforts!

  29. Avatar

    amina

    August 11, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Thank you so much for the article it is amazing I am only 12 and I got mine when I was 11 and a half years old anyway this is amazing thank you it was very educative and helpful allah hafiz

  30. Avatar

    ummiumar

    August 13, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Jazakallah for the article its perfect. Do u have some info about puberty in boys too since being a mother i think its more difficult witjh boys .

  31. Avatar

    A

    October 2, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    It’s been a while since I read this and I am still passing it on to others ma sha Allah. Has the boys version come out yet? I haven’t seen it…

  32. Pingback: Managing "Sexpectations" as a Newlywed - SimpleMuslimWeddings.com

  33. Avatar

    Naeema Halim

    May 22, 2014 at 1:49 AM

    Great article I must say..but pls clarify,should at this stage 9 onwards,should we just tell the girls about puberty and menstruation..what about the actual process of baby birth,how the ovary is fertilized by the sperm..thats the toughest part..how to convey that and at which stage ,because when we will tell them about ovary and babies,they would ask this question.Please advise

    • Avatar

      Fatima

      August 23, 2015 at 9:55 PM

      Same question i posted too.

  34. Avatar

    Zainab O.

    May 27, 2014 at 3:16 AM

    May Allah reward you abundantly , may He accept it a an ibadah for you and a hujja for you on the day of Qiyam. Ameen. We really need this and yes may Allah make it easy for you to publish it and the boy’s version as well . An e-book will be a good start, insha Allah

  35. Avatar

    Free Palestine

    September 27, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    what if you get it for only one month and dont get it any of the next months :( what DOSE THAT MEAN?

  36. Avatar

    malaika

    October 9, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    My daughter is 11 and everyone in her class has waxing or shaving but I didn’t start shaving until I was 18 what should I do let her shave or wait?

  37. Avatar

    Umm Afraz

    April 22, 2015 at 2:37 AM

    Masha Allah, a much needed article! Very beneficial!
    BarakAllahu feeki fid-dunya wal aakhirah!

    Is the Muslim’s Guide to Puberty published? I can’t seem to find it.

  38. Avatar

    Fatima

    August 23, 2015 at 9:52 PM

    JazakAllah! This covers almost all the things that concerned me. My little girl is showing most signs of puberty now, for which i have already explaind almost everything about her first period (as this page tells). But The only question that bothers me (which i hv skipped so far) is “how does pregnancy really happen, and The mating processes etc!
    I hv not discussed sex with her, and i am really unsure what to tell, and how much to tell her? She is going to be 12 yrs in 2 months time, and mentally she is still a small little child !
    I m lost!

  39. Avatar

    Khadija

    November 30, 2015 at 4:18 PM

    I am 12 yrs of age and have started my period but r we as Muslims allowed to tell our fathers, etc about starting our periods.
    Also Jazaakallahukairun for explaining this in so much detail. May Allah reward you.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      November 30, 2015 at 4:26 PM

      Congratulations! May Allah make this an easy transition for you. There is no Islamic reason not to tell your father as now you have become baligh and many rules such as those of salah and fasting have started to apply to you, but please keep your local culture in mind.

  40. Avatar

    Jenna Chowdhury

    January 27, 2016 at 5:49 AM

    I’m reading this article in 2016 and it is so refreshing and vitally important to have this kind of education available for young girls. This is not always an easy topic to discuss with family but there is some excellent advice in this article. My daughter just recently started her period and I had her read this article which proved to be very helpful. I also bought my daughter a monthly subscription box from a company called Madame Ladybug which delivers pads/tampons directly to your home. They also have a first period box for young girls which I bought for my daughter and she loved it. I highly recommend it, especially if you feel awkward buying feminine hygiene products in public. Thank you for writing this article, so very important!

  41. Avatar

    Rahmah

    July 15, 2016 at 3:17 AM

    Mashaa Allah. Jazakallah khayran for this article. It is quiet helpful

  42. Avatar

    Farhana Sharmeen

    September 20, 2017 at 9:43 PM

    JAK for this article. I hope sisters benefit from this post on the same topic-
    http://simplymuslimmom.com/muslim-moms-guide-to-puberty-part-2/

  43. Avatar

    Desert Rose

    May 22, 2019 at 8:43 AM

    Aslam-o-alikyum, sister
    I am a student and i have really a issue of menstruation cycle. Whenever i read 15 days gap in between two periods i can’t get that point. Is this 15 day gap start from the first day of period like if i have period on 1st of month and have habit of 10 days, then after 10 days my periods stop. Now, on what date my mens is consider on 15th of that month(if i bleed) or on 25th? Please explain that thing. and one more thing, i have continuous bleeding for 4months, and now can i fast on 11day before taking gusal or not? please explain my these question… i will be grateful to you.

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#Islam

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

Published

on

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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