Fatwa from Dar al-Ifta al Misriyyah; Number: 2806
Fasting in countries where the nights are short.
We reviewed request no. 1256 for the year 2009 which includes the following: What is
the ruling for fasting in northern (Scandinavian) countries where there is an interval of
only two hours between sunset and dawn in the southern parts of these countries and
where daylight hours extend to 24 hours in the northern parts during which the sun does
Answer of the Fatwa Council:
Muslims in countries with extreme variations in daylight hours and nights and where it
is difficult to fast, are to estimate the time for starting and breaking their fast. They are
to disregard the signs on which the legal rulings for prayers and fasting are based such
as dawn, sunrise, midday, sunset, the disappearance of twilight and the like.
This is because the Divine injunctions deal with common circumstances and situations
without establishing a ruling on what is uncommon. From this, Muslim legal theorists
and jurists stated that the Lawgiver's intent with regards to the general meanings of the
texts concerns common circumstances that are present in the lives of people.
* The hadith scholar, Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, mentioned in Fath al-Bari (2/62): "The
[primary] texts pertain to common and normal circumstances and not to what is
uncommon." In the same book (2/199), he cites Imam Abu al-Fath ibn Sayed al-
Nas al-Ya'mari, "Rulings are contingent upon what is common and not on what is
* The luminary and Hanafi scholar, Ibn 'Abdin, wrote in Rad al-Muhtar 'ala al-Dur
al-Mukhtar (2/123): " ... the general texts are construed in reference to what is
prevalent and common and not in reference to what is uncommon and unknown."
From the above, many scholars of the principles of jurisprudence established that
uncommon and exceptional circumstances do not fall under the general meanings of the
[primary] texts. Scholars, who maintain otherwise, do not contradict the specificity of
uncommon circumstances in the existence of evidence. A conflict thus arises: Are these
statements that denote specificity general or appear general but are intended
[exclusively] as specific? After scholars agreed that the general texts do not include
specific circumstances, this amounts to but a fruitless lexical controversy with regard to
the ultimate outcome of the matter.
Sheikh Ibn Taymiyah, the Hanbali scholar, determined that the timings mentioned in
Islamic law pertain to normal days. He mentioned in Mukhtasar al-Fatawa al-Misriyyah
(1/38): "The [prayer] times which Jibril (peace be upon him) 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. There is a different ruling for
the day of which the Prophet said will extend to the length of one year. Concerning this
day, he said, "Estimate [the timings of prayer]."
In applying this principle of estimation to the issue of prayer and fasting timings in
countries where daylight hours and nights are not moderate, Imam Mohammed Abdou -
the former Grand Mufti of Egypt- (as cited by his student Sheikh Mohammed Rashid
Reda in Tafseer al-Manar [2/163]) said: "Allah--who revealed the Quran, Knower of
the unseen and Creator of the Heavens--gave ordinances that can be followed by
everyone alike. The command to establish prayers is general; the Prophet [pbuh]
specified prayer times based on the hours that suit countries with moderate hours and
which constitute the greater part of the world. This was the norm until Islam reached
those countries where day and night is longer than usual. Muslims living in these
countries may estimate prayer times depending on their independent reasoning and in
analogy to the timings specified by the Prophet [pbuh] in the hadith of al-Dajjal.
The same applies to fasting. The fast of Ramadan is obligatory only upon those who
witnesses the month of Ramadan i.e. are present. Therefore, the principle of estimation
facilitates the matter for those living in regions where it is difficult to perceive the
beginning and end of the month. Scholars mentioned the principle of estimation after
they became aware that some countries have long nights and short daylight hours while
others have long daylight hours and short nights. However, they differed on which
country to base the fasting hours of Ramadan. One opinion stated that fasting hours
must be estimated based on the timings of the cities with moderate hours where
religious rulings were prescribed such as Mecca and Medina. Another opinion stated
that fasting hours should be estimated according to the timings of the nearest country
with moderate hours. Both opinions are permissible; the matter is open to independent
reasoning since it is not dealt with in primary texts."
Sheikh Mahmud Shaltut, the former Grand Imam of al-Azhar (may Allah have mercy
on him) stated in Fatawa (p. 125): "There is no doubt that specifying prayer times
during the day and night and months in the year in the manner which people have
known and followed from one generation to the next, was based on the timings of
countries with moderate hours where the specific timings are discernible over the
course of day and night and where the month of Ramadan is discernible in the year;
these countries constitute the greater part of the globe. At the time when religious
rulings were legislated, people did not know of those parts of the world where the year
is divided into a single day and night, or where daylight hours are longer than the night
to the extent that the night constitutes only a small portion of the day, or where the night
is longer than daylight hours to the extent that the day is very short."
Sheikh Gad al-Haq Ali Gad al-Haq determined that the ruling to fast from dawn until
sunset is applicable to the majority of countries which are those with moderate hours,
and not to uncommon circumstances or to countries lying in the Polar regions and other
nearby countries as has become evident after the era of legislation.
Adopting the principle of estimating prayer times and fasting hours and disregarding the
signs that define these times is based on a legal source--the hadith relating to al-Dajjal's
[Antichrist] time on earth. 1In the hadith, the Companions asked the Prophet [pbuh], "O
Messenger of Allah! How long will he stay on Earth?" The Prophet [pbuh] replied,
"Forty days: one day will be like a year, one day will be like a month, one day will be
like a week and the rest of the days will be like your days." We [the Companions] asked,
"O Messenger of Allah! Will one day's prayers suffice for the prayers of the day that
will be equal to one year?" Thereupon, the Prophet said, "No, you must estimate the
timings (of prayers)."
The conditions during the time of al-Dajjal in regard to the disappearance of the timings
are the same as those in the Polar regions where day and night last for six months each.
Scholars included the regions lying near the Poles where the days are long and the
nights are short under the principle of estimating prayer times during the time of al-
Dajjal due to the rational cause of each, which are the extreme variations in the timings
upon which acts of worship are contingent. Therefore the ruling applied to the
disappearance of the signs is likewise applicable to their variations.
Ibn 'Abdin mentioned in his meta-commentary Rad al-Muhtar 'ala al-Dur al-Mukhtar
(1/366): "I do not know of someone in our school of jurisprudence who discussed the
issue of fasting in lands where dawn breaks just as the sun is setting or sometime after it
sets such that there is not enough time for a person who is fasting to eat enough food to
sustain him. It cannot be maintained that they are obligated to fast in such a continuous
manner since this is harmful. Therefore, if we were to maintain the obligatoriness of the
fast in their regard, then it is necessary to estimate the time [for starting and breaking
the fast]. However, are they to estimate the time based on the nearest countries as the
Shafi'is maintain, estimate the time that suffices for eating and drinking or are they only
to forgo fasting and make up the fast [at a later time]? All of these options are possible.
We cannot maintain that fasting is not obligatory under these conditions due to the
existence of the reason for the fast--witnessing part of the month [of Ramadan] and the
break of dawn every day. This is what is apparent to me and Allah Almighty knows
The principle of estimating fasting hours that extend beyond the normal hours is derived
from actual circumstances. People living in countries with extreme variations in
daylight hours and nights face an 18 hour fast or more (more than three quarters of the
entire day) which is certainly a difficult feat. Expert opinions determined the inability of
the human body to tolerate such extended periods of fasting which definitely poses
harm. Therefore, we cannot maintain that harm is the objective of Islamic law.
Furthermore, we cannot maintain that it is permissible for whoever is incapable of
fasting in countries of extreme latitude to break his fast and make it up at a later
time under more favorable conditions. The ruling for this person is the same as that
of another with an excuse [for not fasting]. Since the command to fast from dawn until
sunset is general, it does not specify a certain country or community.
The dispensation of breaking the fast and making it up at a later time is applicable to the
obligations which can be endured by the majority of the people but which are
interrupted for some by exceptional circumstances rendering them unable to perform
these religious duties. When it becomes known, based on facts, that it is difficult for the
human body to tolerate fasting for extended periods and experts established that this is
harmful to the healthy individual; scholars determined that causing harm is not the
purport of the Lawgiver. However, it cannot be maintained that it is permissible for a
person who is unable to fast to refrain from observing this duty and make it up at a later
time. This is because it will lead to either entirely waiving the obligation of fasting,
harming the person fasting by interrupting his work and interests and disrupting his life
(if exceptional circumstances continue for the entire year) or fasting during a month
other than Ramadan when the hours are more moderate (if there are months when
extreme variations in the hours of the day are absent). All of the above are incongruous
with the Divine wisdom behind the obligation of fasting.
For this reason, Imam Mahmud Shaltut (may Allah have mercy on him) stated in
Fatawa: "There is no doubt that adopting the known prayer times and fasting hours [of
Ramadan] in areas [of extreme latitude] will lead a Muslim to perform only five
prayers during the day and night (which constitute the entire year in regard to his
location) distributed over the entire year. Additionally, it will lead Muslims in some
regions to perform only four obligatory prayers or less, depending on the length of the
day, obligate Muslims living in these regions to fast Ramadan when they do not witness
it in the first place, while in some places it will lead to fasting 23 out of 24 hours. All of
the above are inconsistent with the wisdom and mercy of Allah, the Most Merciful.
Therefore, they must be ruled out."
The luminary Mustafa al-Zarqa stated in his book Al-'Aql wa al- Fiqh fi Fihm al-Hadith
al-Nabawi (p. 124): "Generalizing [the principle of adopting normal prayer times to
countries of extreme latitude] based on the ability to distinguish between day and night
regardless of the great difference in their length, totally contradicts the objectives of
Islamic law and the legal principle of mitigating harm. It is unreasonable to distribute
the prayers performed during daylight hours and night over a half hour period as it is
likewise unreasonable to break one's fast for one hour and fast for twenty three."
We propose to those living in countries of extreme latitudes to fast according to the time
of Mecca since Allah designated it as the 'Mother of Villages'; a mother is the source of
existence. Moreover, Mecca is the city to turn to, not just for the Qibla [direction of
prayer] but also when estimating timings when there are extreme variations in day and
Estimating the times for starting and ending a fast based on the nearest country with
moderate hours is an extremely confusing matter. Those who are in favor of this
method, stipulate knowledge of the precise calculations for starting and terminating the
fast in the nearest countries with moderate hours without any difficulty or confusion.
From experience and practice, both of these conditions are lacking in the above method
of estimation, giving rise to greater confusion. For this reason, Sheikh Gad al-Haq, the
former Grand Imam of al-Azhar, ruled out this method after mentioning another
alternative. He called upon the residents of countries with lengthy daylight hours to
follow the timings of Mecca or Medina. He said: "It may be difficult to calculate
precisely [the fasting hours] of the nearest countries to Norway with moderate hours.
Therefore, I call upon Muslims living in Norway and other countries with similar
circumstances to fast the same number of hours as Muslims in Mecca or Medina. They
are to start their fast at the time of true dawn according to their location and disregard
the number of hours for day and night as well as sun set (for breaking the fast), the
disappearance of the sun's light and the coming of nightfall. This is based on scholarly
opinions which have been derived from the previously mentioned hadith on al-Dajjal
and on following the commands of Allah and His instructions in the Quran which is a
mercy to His servants."
Modern scholars who maintain that it is permissible for Muslims living in countries
where daylight hours are long and nights are short to adopt the fasting hours of Mecca
* Sheikh Mohammed Abdou, the first to hold the office of Grand Mufti of Egypt.
He favored this opinion which he derived from juristic opinions on this issue as
mentioned earlier. This is likewise the opinion that was implemented later by Dar
* Sheikh Gad al-Haq Ali Gad al-Haq (in fatwa no. 214 for the year 1981 CE).
* Sheikh Abdul Latif Hamza (in fatwa no. 160 for the year 1984 CE).
* Dr. Mohmmed Sayed Tantawi (in fatwa no. 171 for the year 1993 CE and in fatwa
no. 579 for the year 1995 CE).
* Dr. Nasr Farid Wasil (in fatwa no. 438 for the year 1998).
* Dr. Ali Goma Mohammed, the current Grand Mufti of Egypt.
* Dr. Mohammed al-Ahmadi abu al-Nur, former Minister of Endowments and
member of the Islamic Research Academy, in the fatwa issued on 24 April 1983
CE by the Fatwa Committee at al-Azhar in his capacity as president of the
* The luminary Mustafa al-Zarka.
* Dr. Mohammed Hamidullah in his book Al-Islam.
* Sheikh Mahmud Ashur, former deputy to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar and
member of the Islamic Research Academy.
This is the opinion maintained by other contemporary scholars as well as the opinion
implemented for fatwa by scholars from various religious bodies around the globe such
as the Board of Fatawa in Amman, Jordon in a fatwa signed by Sheikh Mohammed
Abdou Hashem, the Grand Mufti of Jordon, on 19 September 1399 AH. This is the
opinion that best serves the objectives of Islamic law and the most lenient in realizing
the welfare of man on earth.
Allah Almighty knows best.
1- The hadith is included in Sahih Muslim and elsewhere through al-Nawas ibn Sam'an
(may Allah be pleased with him).