The beginning of the fasting hours ...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

The beginning of the fasting hours


When should the fast begin?


God has defined the start of the fasting hours by saying in the Quran: "Eat and drink until you can see the white streak of dawn against the blackness of the night. Then resume the fast till nightfall" (2: 187). So, the fasting hours begin at dawn when the dawn prayer is due and end at sunset when the sunset prayer is due. There is no contention over this. Yet people have introduced something called imsak which means abstention from eating and drinking, and they established various beginnings for it: they put it at 20, 15, 10 or 5 minutes before dawn. They do so out of a desire 'to be on the safe side. However, all of this cautiousness is unnecessary. God defined the time and we should keep to it.

Suppose a person wakes up five minutes before the dawn prayer. He can manage to have a drink of milk or water or take a bite before dawn. If he does so, is his fast valid? If those people who speak about imsak say that his fast is valid, then why start the fast earlier? If they say it is not, they commit a huge error. The point is that Islam does not condone the idea of 'keeping on the safe side' in matters of worship because it opens the door for rigidity and adds hardship to acts of worship.

What is very important about Islamic worship is what God says in the Quran within the context of fasting: "God desires that you have ease. He does not desire that you be afflicted with hardship" (2: 185). Thus, the position of scholars is that if you happen to be drinking a glass of water and hear the call to dawn prayer, do not stop drinking. This is because God desires what is easy for us.

And God Almighty knows best.

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