Ramadan 2015 Fasting UK Hours Should Be Shortened, Muslim Academic Usama Hasan Argues

A Muslim academic has called for Ramadan hours to be shortened in Britain because summer daylight is too long for fasting.

Dr Usama Hasan of the anti-extremisim group the Quillian Foundation, has issued a fatwa calling for Muslims in Britain to follow timings observed in Mecca where fasting lasts around 12 hours a day during the four week ceremony.

At present the fasting period - due to begin on Thursday - can stretch to over 20 hours, he said, which poses health problems for some Muslims who would need to wake around 4am to eat breakfast.

Traditionally, Muslims fast while they have light from the sun and eat and drink while their location is dark. There is no agreed-upon standard hours, with some Muslims choosing to observe Mecca time, while others fast depending on the timings in their own country.

Usama Hasan from the Quillian Foundation has called for Ramadan hours to be shortened in the UK

Mr Hasan writes in his fatwa that since last year a number of people had asked him "about the excessive length of fasting during UK summer months".

"This has included those new to the practice of fasting, elderly and middle-aged people, who wish to fast but simply cannot manage the very long days. Since last year, I’ve heard reports of such people in hospital, as well as of children falling seriously ill, due to fasting more than 18 hours per day.

Muslims in the UK can fast up to 20 hours a day during Ramadan, compared to the Middle East where it lasts around 12 hours a day

"The day length in London during a midsummer Ramadan is almost 17 hours *sunrise-sunset*. Since there is no agreed beginning of dawn, the dawn-sunset timings vary from 19 to 20.5 hours."

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Call to shorted Ramadan hours

In the fatwa, Mr Hasan suggests that Muslims should follow the "timings of the lands of revelation, viz. Mecca and Medina (Hijaz) – throughout the year, the dawn-sunset fast here is 12-15 hours".

He also notes that, "Norway use a 14-hour fasting timetable in the summer".

Mr Hasan concludes: "Those who wish to follow dawn-sunset timings of 18-21 hour fasts and can do so safely, are free to do so.

"Those who find this genuinely unbearable, or are convinced of the non-literalist approach of “morning to evening” rather than the literalist “dawn to sunset”, may wish to fast for 12 or preferably 14-16 hours, beginning from dawn, sunrise or even their usual morning meal (breakfast!). Such moderate timings are based on the fatwas of jurists over many centuries for high latitudes.

"Whatever length a person fasts, they should not feel superior to others. The spirit of Ramadan and fasting includes God-consciousness, patience, perseverance, gratitude, prayer, worship, charity, generosity, humility, self-purification, self-development, helping others, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, lowering the gaze (of the eyes from lustful glances and of the heart from other than God) and the remembrance and love of God."

Muslims outside a London mosque told the BBC that fasting times should remain unchanged, saying "you get used to it".

Asad Zaman, Imam and Chairman at Inter-Mosque Sports Association, Cheadle, told the broadcaster that the "human body is an amazing thing and it just adapts to your circumstances".

Muslim website 5Pillars suggested Mr Hasan's views "will shock many, including the vast majority of Muslim scholars, who follow the mainstream Islamic view that fasting has set hours (from dawn to sunset) – as outlined by the Quran".

The response on Twitter to Mr Hasan's suggestion has been moderate with most users simply sharing links to articles about it, rather than expressing an opinion themselves, although one user said the fatwa had stirred up "lots of controversy".

The further north you go the more difficult the Ramadan can become. In Kiruna, Sweden's northernmost town, the sun has not set this month - and it's not going to go down before August, The Independent reports.

If Swedish Muslims were to observe the fasting rules they would likely die as a result.

The newspaper quotes Mohammed Kharaki, a spokesman for Sweden's Islamic Association, as saying the organisation had issued guidelines that said Muslims should fast between the times that the sun was last clearly seen to rise and fall. This could still however, amount to a 19-hour fast.

But Mr Kharaki also advised against being too strict with the daylight rule.

The Ramadan debate follows a report last week that Muslim students in four London primary schools will not be allowed to fast during Ramadan without special permission, with the headmaster of one school citing the students’ welfare as the motivating factor behind the decision.

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