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Breaking fast while in the plane

লিখেছেন: ' shane2k' @ মঙ্গলবার, সেপ্টেম্বর ৮, ২০০৯ (২:০৪ অপরাহ্ণ)

As I am not a scholar I consider that it will not be prudent in my part to pass judgement, rather based on a given judgement may be we can discuss and pass comments to clear our confusion or concerns.  Afterall, even scholars are human beings and they knowledge or perception is also limited.

So, based on the above I have collected some question and answers which I have pasted below.

QUESTION :: At what time should a person traveling by plane break his fast?

ANSWER :: When shari`ah texts concerning a particular ruling are general in their indications, any exception needs a specific proof to be excluded from this generality. Applying this rule to those who observe fasting anywhere in the world, they are included in the generality of the texts that prescribe the time between dawn and sunset as the duration of this worship. So, fasting has to extend between these two cosmic signs and no person is allowed to break his or her fast unless the time of sunset actually sets in.
In his response to this question, Prof. `Ali Jumu`ah Muhammad, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, said,
The noble Shari`ah has made the beginning of the fast and breaking of it conditional on the fasting person’s ability to verify that the day has dawned and that the sun has set, respectively. Almighty Allah says, (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 Sawm (fast) till the nightfall.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 187)
It was also reported in the two sahihs (authentic books of Hadith; i.e., Al-Bukhari and Muslim) on the authority of `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, If the night approaches from this side, pointing to the East, and the day retreats in this side, pointing to the West, and the sun has set, the one observing the fast should break it“.
All this indicates that what counts in breaking the fast is the fasting person’s ascertaining that darkness has fallen, either physically by witnessing it or through notification by believing a person whose account is considered trustable in this regard.
The same applies to imsak (the beginning of the fast), since what counts in determining it is verification on the part of the mukallaf (the person accountable for his or her actions) that the true dawn has set in either physically or through the information provided by a person whose recount is considered trustable in this regard.
Moreover, it is well known that the more a person rises above the earth’s level the more the sunset is deferred (to him or her). This fact is perceived by those who live in high floors, and this is due to the sphericity of the earth.
Hence, the rules of Shari`ah dictate that the fasting person is not allowed to break the fast except when the sun sets, according to the place where such a fasting person may be. In his book, Tabyin Al-Haqa’iq Sharh Kanz Ad-Daqa’iq, Imam Fakhr ad-Din az-Zayla`i – a Hanafi scholar – said,
It was reported that Abu Musa, the blind jurist and author of Al-Mukhtasar, approached Alexandria and that he was asked about a person who ascends the Alexandria lighthouse and sees the sun a long time after it has set according to the people down in the town, is he allowed to break the fast? He answered: “No, (he is not allowed to break his fast) though the people in the town are allowed to do so, because each person is addressed according to his own conditions”.

Moreover, Ibn `Abideen said in his Hashiyah,
The author of Al-Fayḍ stated, “And the one who is in a high place, such as the lighthouse of Alexandria, should not break the fast as long as the sun has not set there (as witnessed from above the lighthouse), while the people down in the town are allowed to break the fast if the sun sets according to them before it sets according to him (the person on the lighthouse). The same also applies to the break of dawn, with regard toFajr Prayer or the sahur (predawn meal before the fast).”
Accordingly, breaking the fast for those who travel by plane is due when they witness the sunset, according to the position where they themselves are. They are not allowed to break the fast according to the timing of the country over which the plane is flying, the country for which they are heading, or the country from which they departed. Rather, they should break the fast upon witnessing the setting of the full disc of the sun. Thus, if – in this way – the duration of their fasting is lengthened in a way that makes fasting difficult for the one capable of observing the fast in the usual cases, then they are allowed to break the fast due to the additional difficulty accompanying the travel and not due to the ending of the daytime, and they are required to make up later for such day/s in which they break the fast.
Consequently, what is claimed by some pilots that the fasting persons aboard are allowed to break the fast according to the timing of the place of takeoff or the place over which the plane is flying is incorrect according to the Shari`ah.
Another case that is worthy of being explained is that in which the sun appears to have set and then resurfaces again in the west because of the high velocity of the plane. In this case, the fasting passengers are allowed to break the fast upon the “first sunset”; they are not required to consider the sun’s resurfacing.

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QUESTION ::

Your Eminence Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, what is the legal ruling concerning plane passengers who do not break their fast in Ramadan while traveling, and when the sun is about to set, the crew announces the time of Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer according to the time of the town they are flying over, though the passengers still can see the sun for a long or a short time, especially when the plane is flying toward the west?


Another similar case is that of the people dwelling on very high floors or near tops of mountains, or those working in high lighthouses. In such cases, the media announces the time of Maghrib Prayer, and the muezzins announce the Adhan. However, such people still can see the sun going to set. So should they break their fast based on what they hear or on what they actually see?


Also, what is the ruling pertaining to such people’s abstaining from eating, drinking, and having sexual intercourse? Should this issue be considered at all prayer times, that is, at Fajr, Zhuhr, etc.?


We hope your eminence will clarify the legal ruling pertaining to this issue, and ask Allah to make your age longer, your deeds pious, and to let people benefit from you and your knowledge.


ANSWER :: Whoever can see the sun while he or she is in a high place such as a plane, a lighthouse, or a very high building, is not permitted to break the fast until the sun completely sets, and similarly when abstaining from eating and drinking. This applies also to times of prayers. As there are differences in time between the towns distant form each other horizontally, there should also be differences in time between the places distant from one another vertically.

In his response to your question, the eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states the following:

In Islam, fasting means abstaining from whatever spoils one’s fast, such as eating, drinking, having sexual intercourse, and whatever related to this, from dawn until sunset. In this regard, Allah Almighty states: (So hold intercourse with them and seek that which Allah hath ordained for you, and eat and drink until the white thread becometh distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Then strictly observe the fast till nightfall) (Al-Baqarah 2:187).

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also explained the phrase “till nightfall” by saying “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”(Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

It is also well known that the sun does not set at the same time all over the world, the same as it does not rise at the same time all over the world. As the earth is spherical and rotates on its axis, the sun sets at a specific time in each country, according to its longitude. In fact, cities and towns within the same country differ as regards the time of sunset. So for example, there are 6 minutes difference between Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt, and about 20 minutes between Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

That is why television and radio channels always declare after announcing the Maghrib Adhan that the Adhan is according to the time of Cairo, Doha, or Riyadh, and that those who live outside this city should have the difference of time in mind.

This difference in time in sunset and sunrise is perfectly clear as regards the horizontal distances, but what may be unclear to many is the vertical distance, or the altitude of a place.

When I was staying on the 14th floor in a building in Alexandria, I noticed that the Maghrib Adhan was being announced while I could still see half of the disk of the sun. So how about those who live in the 30th or the 40th floor or higher? So I said to the people with me, “There should be an addition to the important caution said to those who live outside the city, that those who live in high stories should pay attention to the difference of time between them and those who live in low stories.” This also applies to those who live on mountains and so on.

I found that jurists clarified the ruling of this issue. In his famous hashiyah (marginal annotation), the prominent scholar Ibn `Abidin Al-Hanafi quoted the author of the book Al-Fayd saying, “Anyone in a high place, like the Alexandria lighthouse for instance, is not to break his fast until he sees sunset, but the people in the city are to break their fast when the sun sets in the city. The same is applied in the sunrise as regards the Fajr (Dawn) Prayer and the predawn meal.”

No doubt that the same ruling should be applied to plane travelers who fly many miles away from the earth, as well as to those who live in mountains and high buildings. They have their own dawn time, sunrise time, and sunset time. Therefore, when dawn appears to them on the horizon, they must begin fasting and pray Fajr; they must not pray Fajr before that or eat or drink after that. The same is applied in the sunset: airplane passengers are not permitted to pray Maghrib or break their fast according to the time of the country over which they are flying. But they should eat, drink, and prayMaghrib after seeing the sun setting with their own eyes.

Some pilots in some Arab countries declare the time of sunset, allowing the passengers to break their fast if they are fasting and to pray Maghrib Prayer according to a fatwa they have heard from some sheikhs. But this is a common mistake that must be corrected. The sunset time of the passengers of a plane differs from that of those on earth. This is certain. We have clarified the main point of the issue: As time differs according to horizontal distances, it also differs according to vertical distances.

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