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The ruling on peaking the fast (Iftar)

The Muslim jurists have differed on the ruling of iftar whilst travelling. The masses have stated that it (fasting) is allowed and that if a traveller fasts then his fast is valid and he will be rewarded. They have deemed it permissible basing their proofs on traditions which Muslim has reported in his Sahih.

Amongst them is what is reported from Abu Sa'id al-Khudri who said: "We went on an expedition with the Prophet of God (P) when sixteen days of the month of Ramadhan had elapsed. There were those amongst us who fasted, others who poke their fasts. Those who fasted did not taunt those who did not, nor did those who poke their fasts find fault with those who had fasted."

On his authority from another chain, he said: "We used to travel with the Prophet of God (P) in Ramadhan. The one who fasted would not be taunted for his fast nor was one who did the iftar [blamed] for his iftar."

The answer is that these traditions - assuming they are authentic - are apogated without doubt by the sahih [traditions] reported by the masses, by other authentic traditions reported by our chains of authority from the Imams of the ahl al-bayt, peace be upon them.

I present to you what has been authentically reported on this topic by others. Jabir b. 'Abd Allah said - as stated in Muslim's Sahih - that "the Prophet of God (S.A.W.) went in the year of the conquest to Mecca in Ramadhan and he fasted until he reached Kira' al-Ghamim and the people [also] fasted. Then he asked for a glass of water and he raised it until the people saw it then he drank it. After that it was said to him: 'Some of the people have fasted'; he (S.A.W.) said: 'They are sinners, they are sinners.'"

It has also been reported from Jabir: He said: "The Prophet of God (S.A.W.) was on a journey and he saw the people had gathered around a man and had cast a shadow over him. He said: 'What is the matter with him?' They said: 'He has fasted.' He said: 'It is not virtuous that you fast on a journey.'"

We said that these sunna apogated those [reported before] as they were, by the admission of the masses, issued later. That is proven by what has been reported in the Sahih of Muslim and by others from 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abd Allah b. 'Utba from Ibn 'Abbas that he informed him that the Prophet of God (P) went out in the year of the conquest and he fasted until he reached al-Kadid then he poke his fast. He said: "The companions of the Prophet of God (S.A.W.) used to follow the most recent of his commands."

On the authority of al-Zuhri - as reported in the Sahih of Muslim and other sources - by the same isnad: "The [ruling] of peaking the fast was the later of the [two] commands, the later commands of the Prophet of God are to be followed."

A similar narration on the authority of Ibn Shihab - as reported in the Sahih of Muslim and in other sources with the same isnad. Ibn Shihab said: "They used to follow the latest of his commands and would see it as an apogating and a fixed [command]." In short, if it is assumed that it was correct for some of the companions to fast when travelling with him, that was before the imposition of [the ruling of] peaking the fast and before his (P) saying: "It is not virtuous that you fast when you are travelling," and before his (P) saying about those fasting: "They are sinners, they are sinners."

As for the Imamis, they are agreed that iftar when travelling is compulsory, this is [also] the edict of Dawud b. 'Ali al-Isfahani and his companions. Many companions like 'Umar b. al-Khattab and his son 'Abd Allah and 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas, 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf, Abu Hurayra and 'Urwa b. al-Zubayr have followed [this ruling]. This has also been successively transmitted from the Imams of guidance, from the pure family. It has been narrated that 'Umar b. al-Khattab commanded a man who had fasted when travelling to repeat his fast - just as is our ruling and the ruling of Dawud. Yusuf b. al-Hakam has narrated saying: "I asked Ibn 'Umar on fasting when travelling." He said: "How would you feel if you give a person [something] in charity then he returned it to you, wouldn't you be angry? This is a sadaqa from Allah which He has granted you, so do not reject it." 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf reported saying: "The Prophet of God (S.A.W.) said: 'One who fasts on a journey is like one who has poken his fast when staying at his home town.'" On the authority of Ibn 'Abbas [who said]: "Iftar when travelling is compulsory." On the authority of Abu 'Abd Allah al-Sadiq (A.S.) who said: "The one who fasts in the month of Ramadhan whilst travelling is like one who has poken his fast whilst at home." And [it is reported] from him (A.S.) also: "If a man who is fasting on a journey dies then I would not pray over him." And [it is reported] from him (A.S.) also: "One who travels must peak his fast and shorten the prayers unless his journey is a sin against Allah the Almighty, the most Glorious." Al-'Ayyashi has reported with a chain of transmission connected to Muhammad b. Muslim from Abu 'Abd Allah al-Sadiq (A.S.) who said: "This verse 'Whoever of you is sick or on a journey' was revealed at Kira'a al-Ghamim at the prayer [time] of the midday heat. The Prophet of God asked for a glass which contained water and he drank it and he commanded the people to peak their fasts. The people said: 'The noon [time] has passed, if only we were to complete this day's [fast].' The Prophet of God (P) called them sinners and they were called sinners upto the time when the Prophet of God (P) passed away."

Our argument for the obligation of peaking the fast when travelling is sufficiently proved by the saying of the Almighty, most Glorious: "Those of you who witness the month of Ramadhan (at home) should fast, those who are sick or on a journey should fast a number of other days, God wishes ease for you, he does not wish difficulty." The verse contains proofs for the obligation to peak the fast due to several reasons:

1) The command to fast in the verse is directed at those at home, not at those travelling. The words are as you see them: "Those of you who witness the month - that is when they are at home in the month - let them fast." Therefore, the traveller is not commanded, so his fast is [tantamount to] inserting in religion what is not a part of it, it is a burden and an innovation.

2) What is understood from the saying of the Almighty: "Those of you who witness the month of fasting should observe the fast" means that one who is not at home in the month it is not obligatory for him to fast. That which is [ordinarily] understood from a conditional statement is binding as has been established in usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence). Therefore, the verse indicates that it is not obligatory to fast when travelling by the literal and implied meaning of the text.

3) The saying of the most Glorious, Almighty: "Those of you who are sick or travelling then [they should fast] a number of other days." This implies they should fast a number of other days. This applies if you recite the verse with the words "a number" in the nominative case. If you recite it in the accusative then it would [also] mean let him fast a number of other days. In both cases, the verse indicates the obligation to fast on other days and this requires the obligation to peak the fast when travelling since there is no one who says it is necessary to combine both the fast and then also repay the fast. Moreover combining [the two] refutes the ease indicated in the verse.

4) The saying of the most High: "Allah wishes ease for you, He does not wish hardship." Ease here means iftar just as hardship here means nothing else but to fast. Therefore the meaning of the verse is that God wishes you to peak the fast, He does not wish you to fast.

The amount of travelling which necessitates the shortening of the prayer and peaking of the fast

The Imams of the Muslims have differed regarding its (travelling) extent. Abu Hanifa and his Kufan companions have stated: "The minimum for which the prayers have to be shortened and the fast to be poken is the journey of three days, and that the qasr and iftar are only for those who travel from a horizon to [a different] horizon."

Al-Shafi'i, Malik and Ahmad and many other people have stated: "The prayer is shortened and the fast is poken in the month of Ramadhan by travelling a distance of 16 farsakhs whilst going [away from home] only."

The people who depend on the apparent meaning of the Qur'an (ahl al-zahir) say: "The qasr and iftar are [obligatory] for every journey even if it be a short one." Ibn Rushd said in "On the prayer of travelling from the beginning and the end": "The reason for their differences is due to the difference between the meaning which is rationally understood from al-taqsir and al-iftar on a journey and the narrations [reported] on this topic. That is because what is [rationally] understood by the affects of a journey which necessitates the observation of qasr and iftar are the difficulties [involved] in it (the travelling).

If that is the matter, then they (taqsir and iftar) apply wherever there is any difficulty. For Abu Hanifa, there is no difficulty encountered except after having crossed three stations. For al-Shafi'i, Malik and Ahmad, it will be after travelling 16 farsakh." He said: "As for those who pay attention to the letter only like the Zahiris, they said: "The Prophet (S.A.W.) said that Allah has removed the fasting and separating the prayer from the traveller. For whoever can be called a traveller it is permissible for him to observe the qasr and iftar.'" He (Ibn Rushd) said: "They are supported by what Muslim has narrated from 'Umar b. al-Khattab that the Prophet (P) would shorten the prayer when he reached about 17 miles."

Based on this, the Imams of the four schools of law, when defining the distance, did not depend on what has been narrated from the Prophet or on his acts (S.A.W.). They depended on a philosophy to which they applied the term "what is rationally understood." That is not something which would please the Imams of the ahl al-bayt. Nor would the Imamis be contented with it in the derivation of juridical principles.

The people of Mecca - in the times of the Prophet (P) and Abu Bakr and 'Umar - when they travelled from Mecca to 'Arafa would shorten the prayer at 'Arafa, al-Muzdalifa and Mina. This is proven without doubt.

The two Shaykhs have reported in their Sahihs that the Prophet (P), when he would leave Mecca to go to 'Arafa, would shorten the prayer and that Abu Bakr and 'Umar did likewise after him. [They also report] that 'Uthman also shortened his prayer. Then he performed the complete prayer after six years had passed of his Caliphate. The people objected to it. This is what Imam Malik depended upon in his ruling that the taqsir of the pilgrims in these places is highly recommended whether they are the people of Mecca or distant places, so refer to the Maliki jurisprudence. This is what we depend on in shortening the prayer when travelling, the distance of 8 farsakhs whether it be prolonged in one direction or joined by four (farsakh) going and four coming back like the distance between Mecca and 'Arafa. This is the minimum distance at which the Prophet of God (S.A.W.) would shorten the prayer, and this is the decisive proof, thanks be to God.

Adapted from the book: "Questions on Jurisprudence" by: "Abdul Hussein Shareefaldin Al-Musawi"

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