A UK-based Islamic charity has released a calendar of fasting hours for Muslims taking part in Ramadan in Britain.
The timetable below has been sourced from the East London Mosque and is applicable for London, the charity says. It has also supplied variables for other areas in the country.
‘Fajr’ refers to the first prayers at dawn. Zuhr is the time for noon prayers, Asr for afternoon, Maghrib for evening worship and Isha for nighttime.
According to the sighting of the crescent moon, this year Ramadan begins on the evening of 17 June, meaning Muslims will begin their first day of fasting at sunrise on 18 June.
Because the celebration begins around 11 days earlier each year, it can occur in the winter months when the days are short, and as is the case this year, during the longer days of summer.
The longer days mean the fasting period can stretch to over 20 hours, which can cause health problems for some Muslims who would need to wake around 4am to eat breakfast.
Islamic Relief UK concedes this, stating on its website: “This Ramadan, our fasts will reach up to 19 hours, making this year quite a challenge for Muslims in the UK.”
The matter has prompted Muslim academic Dr Usama Hasan call for fasting hours to be to be shortened in Britain.
Dr Hasan, of the anti-extremism group the Quillian Foundation, issued a fatwa calling for Muslims in UK to follow timings observed in Mecca – where fasting lasts around 12 hours a day during the four week ceremony.
The elderly, middle-aged and children are some of those who wish to fast but are unable to manage the long days he said.
He added: “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.
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 follow a lunar calendar and a moon-sighting methodology that can lead to different countries declaring the start of Ramadan a day or two apart. However, this year religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia and most other parts of the world announced based on their sightings of the moon that daily fasting would begin on Thursday.
Authorities in Pakistan have yet to announce the sighting of the moon.
The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. Muslims often give to charities during the month, and mosques and aid organizations organize free meals for the public every night.
Fasting also is seen as a way to physically and spiritually detoxify through exercising self-restraint. Sexual intercourse between spouses also is off-limits during the day, while Muslims also are encouraged to be mindful of their behavior and to avoid gossiping, cursing and quarreling.