It’s Abdul Hadi again, and I’m back to write a bit more about how to practice your faith as a traveller. To suit the occasion of this very special month of Ramadan, I’ll be writing about the fiqh of fasting as a traveller inshaAllah (once again from the Hanafi perspective). So before we get into the thick of things, I want you to recall a very important point that was made in the first instalment of the series. Remember that it’s very important that we don’t get mixed up between the conventional usage of the word “travelling” and the specific legal “fiqh” usage of the word. By travelling we mean exiting your city’s limits while intending a journey of 77 kilometres (48 miles) or more. A traveller is someone who has done the above, and hasn’t yet intended to settle for 15 days or more in another location. For more details, please see: Traveller’s fiqh – Part One: Definition of a traveller
Now to get to the meat of the sandwich! Most of you probably already know that travellers have a dispensation not to fast during Ramadan, and to make up these fasts later in the year. What follows inshaAllah will be a clarification of some important details that you’ll probably want to keep in mind before taking this dispensation.
I’m travelling at noon time, do I have to fast?
So, you’re going to board your flight today noontime outbound towards Marrakech. You’re going to be a traveller today, so the first thing you tell yourself is that you don’t have to fast right? Hold that thought! The day of fasting begins at Fajr, so if you’re not a traveller yet (i.e. by exiting the city limits) then it’s still a must that you fast.
And if we take a moment to reflect on this, it really makes sense. What if you had plans to travel, but it didn’t work out? Or you missed your plane? You would have missed an important day of fasting for travel that didn’t even eventuate.
Now what if you’ve done this before? The first thing to do is to repent. It’s a grave sin to miss a day of fasting without a valid reason! The second step is that you make up for that day by fasting another day outside of Ramadan. In this scenario, there is no need to perform a 60 day expiation fast.
Can I break my fast midway?
So you’ve started fasting because you weren’t a traveller yet at Fajr time, but now you’ve just become a traveller. The plane’s taken off, and you’re airborne, dhikr beads in hand, praying for a safe flight, and the thought comes to mind – can I now break my fast? The answer is still a no. You’ve already started fasting so it’s obligatory that you complete it. Yes, there are examples of excuses that allow you to break your fast midway, such as illness, but travelling isn’t one of them.
Now by answering the above two questions, we’ve come to an important principle: The dispensation of not fasting is only available to you if you begin travelling before Fajr. If you start travelling after Fajr, you must fast, and you don’t have the option to break your fast.
Do I have to take the dispensation? What if I want to fast?
Allah Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an, “And that you fast is better for you… (2:184)” Generally speaking, to leave the dispensation and fast is more praiseworthy. However, if your travel will be a cause of hardship or difficulty, or if you are travelling in a group and most of your fellow travellers are not fasting, then it would be better not to fast.
Do I break my fast according to Maghreb at home or at my destination?
If you do end up fasting, then remember to break your fast according to Maghreb wherever you are at that point in time. The bottom line – just look out for the sunset and you’ll be fine. Once the sun dips below the horizon, it’s all halal inshaAllah! Just remember to begin with a bismillah!
What if I want to fast some days and not others?
Choosing to fast as a traveller on one day doesn’t make it obligatory to fast the other days that you’re travelling. Similarly choosing not to fast on one day doesn’t make it obligatory for you to keep following the dispensation of not fasting. Every day of fasting is taken as a separate act of worship and you’re given the choice to fast or not.
What if I expect to return home before Maghreb time?
This one is a bit of a curveball. You’ve been a traveller for a few days now, and you’re now spending your last night away before starting on your journey back home. Since you’ll be going to sleep as a traveller, you’ll be in a state of travel before Fajr time enters. On account of this, it should be permissible for you to take the dispensation of not fasting. However, we’re going to add a spanner to the works. We’re going to say that you expect to return home before Maghreb time. Adding this to the scenario, it actually becomes prohibitively disliked and sinful not to fast!
So now we’ve come to our second important principle: Even if you’re a traveller before Fajr, the dispensation of not fasting is not available to you if you expect to return home before Maghreb time.
What if I’m unexpectedly arriving home before Maghreb time?
You’ve decided not to fast because you fulfilled both conditions of being a traveller before Fajr, and expecting to return home after Maghreb time. However, it turns out that Allah placed ease in your path and speed in your steed allowing you to reach home a few hours before Maghreb time. What do you do? In this case, it would be obligatory for you to abstain from all food, drink and intimate relations just as any fasting person would. You’re no longer a traveller anymore, so the dispensation no longer applies.
Do I need to make up these fasts that I missed?
Absolutely. Remember the dispensation is just one of delaying your fast to another time, not one where the obligation of fasting itself is dropped. Allah Most High says, “And whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days. (2:185)” So remember to keep count of the days of Ramadan that you didn’t fast while travelling, and make sure to fast these days as soon as you’re able.
Till next time where we’ll explore the topic of prayer as a traveller inshaAllah.
This article was written in consultation with Dr Salah AbulHajj, Associate Professor of Shariah and Law from the World Islamic Sciences and Education University, Jordan. The books Tuhfat al-Muluk by Imam Al-Razi and Maraqi al-Falah by Imam Al-Shurunbulali were also referenced.