Al-Istiqaamah Issue No.5 – Ramadân 1417H / January 1997
DETERMINING THE BEGINNING OF RAMADHAN
[Q]: Is it permissible to rely upon astronomical calculations in determining the start of Ramadhan?
[A]: “The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam ordered the Muslims saying: “Do not fast until you see the new moon, and do not stop fasting until you see it, and if it is concealed by clouds then count out (the thirty days of Sha’ban) for it.”1 And he ‘alayhis-salatu was-salam said: “We are an illiterate nation that neither writes nor calculates (i.e. using astronomical calculations). The month is either like this, or this (Meaning: Sometimes it is of twenty-nine days, and sometimes it is of thirty.) “2
And it is established in the Sahih (no.1903) of al-Bukhari from Abu Hurayrah radiallahu ‘anhu that the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Fast when it (the moon) is seen, and cease fasting when it is seen, so if it is concealed by clouds then complete thirty days of Sha’ban.” And he sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam also said: “Do not fast until you have seen the moon, and if it is concealed by clouds then complete thirty days.”3 There are plenty of ahadith in this connection, and all of them point towards the obligation of actually sighting the moon, or if unable, then to complete the number of days in the absence of observing it. These narrations also point towards the impermissibility of using astronomical calculations in this regard. And Shaykhul-Islam Ibn TaymiWah has actually stated an ijma’ (consensus) from the People of Knowledge about the impermissibility of relying upon astronomical calculations in this regard – and this is the truth about which there is no doubt.” And with Allah alone is the ability.”5
BRUSHING ONE’S TEETH WHILST EATING
[Q]: Is it permissible to use a miswak to brush one’s teeth, whilst fasting. And it it permissible to use toothpaste as well? What if some blood appear whilst I brush my teeth, doe this invalidate my fast?
[A]: “There is no problem in cleaning one’s teeth either using water, miswak or toothbrush, whilst fasting. Some have held it to be makruh (detested) to use a miswak whilst fasting, since it changes the smell of a person’s breath. However, what is correct is that it is recommended to use a miswak in the beginning and the end of the day, since doing so does not change the odour, rather it just cleanses the mouth from impurities and small pieces of food that become lodged in one’s teeth. As regards to the use of toothpaste, then it is makruh (detested), since it contains a distinctive taste and flavour which may then get mixed with one’s saliva and then be swallowed. Thus, whosoever needs to use it should do so after suhur (the pre-dawn meal), before the time of Fajr and fasting begins. However, if one can safeguard allowing the toothpaste and salvia to be mixed then swallowed, then there is no harm in using such toothpaste. If – whilst cleaning’s one teeth with water, miswak or a toothbrush – a small amount of blood flows out, then this does not break the fast, and Allah knows best.”6
CONCERNING THE TARAWIH PRAYER
[Q]: Some people insist that there is an ijma’ (consensus) from the four well known Imams – Abu Hanifah, Malik, ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, rahimahumallah – on praying only twenty rak’ahs for tarawih. Is this correct?
[A]: “This is an erroneous claim. This is what has been stated in the Hanafi books of fiqh (jurisprudence), for we do not find any book that can be authentically ascribed to Abu Hanifah (d.150H) rahimahullah. Rather, what is apparent from looking into al-Muwatta of Imam Muhammad (one of the main students of Abu Hanifah) is that Abu Hanifah’s madhhab (school of thought) was to pray eleven rak’ahs.
Imam Muhammad includes a chapter in al-Muwatta (p.110), stating: “Chapter: Establishing the Night Prayer in the month of Ramadhan, and the virtues contained in it.” Under this chapter he relates four ahadith. The first, third and fourth narrations do not make mention of any specified number of rak’ahs for the tarawih prayer, rather they just mention the excellence of establishing Prayer in congregation and the excellence of the night prayer in Ramadhan. However, in the second narration eleven rak’ahs is mentioned. Then Imam Muhammad said (p.111): “And we take all of this.” … Thus, he has shown that his madhhab is eleven rak’ahs, and this can only be the madhhab of Imam Abu Hanifah – rahmatullah ‘alayhi – as well.
Ash-Shafi’i (d.204H) – rahimahullah – said: “There is no limit to its maximum, since it is an optional prayer. Thus, if the standing is lengthened, whilst the number of prostrations is shortened (i.e. the number of rak’ahs is fewer), then that is good and that is what is most beloved to me. However, if the number of prostrations and bowings are increased (i.e. the number of rak’ahs are increased), then this is also good.”7 So it is affirmed that Imam ash-Shafi’i – rahimahullah – does not advocate restricting the number of rak’ahs to twenty. Rather, he gives preference for there to be fewer rak’ahs and an increase in the length of standing.
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.241H) has approved of eleven rak’ahs as well as twenty – as Shaykhul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah says in al-Ikhtiyaratul-’Ilmiyyah (p.38) and Shah Waliullah says in al-Misriyyah (1/174) and al-Musaffa (1/177).
Imam Malik (d.179H) – rahimahullah – also supports eleven rak’ahs, as Shaykhul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah mentioned in al-Ikhtiyarat (p.38) and as Jalalud-Din as-Suyuti mentions in al-Hawi lil-Fatawa (p.350), where he said: al-Juri, one of our companions said, from Malik who said: “That which ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab gathered the people upon is more beloved to us. and that was eleven rak’ahs, and that was the prayer of Allah’s Messenger sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.” It was said to him: Eleven rak’ahs with the Witr? So he said: Yes, and thirteen is close.” Then he said: “I do not know from where they have introduced these numerous ruku’s (bowings).”8
Praying eleven rak’ahs is based upon a number of authentic narrations, from them:-
 What al-Bukhari relates in his Sahih (no.2013) from Abu Salamah ibn ‘Abdur-Rahman who relates that he asked ‘aishah radiallahu ‘anha: How was the Prayer of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in Ramadhan? So she said: “Allah’s Messenger, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not used to pray more than eleven rak’ahs during Ramadhan or in other than Ramadhan. He would pray four rak’ahs, and do not ask about their beauty and length. Then he would pray another four, and do not ask about their beauty and length. Then he would pray three (witr).”
 Jabir radiallahu ‘anhu said: ”Allah’s Messenger sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam led us in the month of Ramadhan with eight rak’ahs and witr. Then on the following night we gathered in the mosque and hoped that he would come out, and we continued in that state until morning. Then we entered our houses, so we said: O Messenger of Allah we gathered in the mosque last night hoping that you would pray with us. So he said: “I feared that it would become prescribed (i.e. obligatory) for you.”9
 Imam Malik relates in his al-Muwatta (no.248): From Muhammad ibn Yusuf, from as-Sa’ib ibn Yazid who said: “‘Umar ibn al-Khattab ordered ‘Ubayy ibn Ka’b and Tamim ud-Dari to lead the people in Prayer with eleven rak’ahs. And the reciter would recite some hundreds of Verses until one of us would lean upon a stick because of the length of standing, and we had not used to finish until the appearance of Fajr.”10
 ‘Ubayy ibn Ka’b came to Allah’s Messenger sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and said: O Messenger of Allah, something happened with me last night – meaning in Ramadhan. So he said: “And what was that ‘Ubayy?” He said: Some women in my house said, we do not recite the Qur’an, so can you lead us in Prayer? So I lead them in eight rak’ahs and prayed the witr. And this was a Sunnah of his approval, since he remained quiet and he did not say anything.11
So all this goes to show that insisting that there is a consensus on praying only twenty rak’ahs for tarawih – claiming this to be the only view of all the four well-known Imams – is not only incorrect, but is against the established evidence. As regards a detailed discussion regarding the whole issue, then this is not possible here, nor is it the place to discuss the correctness, or merits, of praying twenty rak’ahs over eight, or vice-versa. Rather, one can find such discussions in the relevant chapters in the books of fiqh, whilst remembering that: “Difference in opinion must not be a source of obstinacy nor anger.”12
WHAT SHOULD I DO IN RAMADHAN?
[Q]: What should a fasting person do, and what is obligatory upon him?
[A]: “The fasting person must increase in obedience to Allah and to keep away from all the prohibited meters. It is obligatory upon the fasting person to safeguard the obligatory duties and to distance himself from all the prohibitions. So he should pray the five daily Prayers in their correct times and in congregation, and abandon lying, backbiting, cheating, dealing in usury, and all other prohibited matters. The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Whosoever does not abandon falsehood in speech and action, then Allah the Mighty and Majestic has no need that he should leave his food and drink.”13″14
EYE DROPS AND VOMITING
[A]: “Whosoever uses eye or ear drops for medicinal purposes, then this does not invalidate their fast, and this is the correct opinion. This is because such drops are not termed as being food or drink – neither are they called so by convention, nor by Islamic terminology – and this is because such drops are administered through those places which food and drink are not administered. However, if taking such drops could be delayed until the night, then this would avoid entering into any difference of opinion. Similarly, whosoever vomits whilst fasting, then this does not invalidate their fast. This is because Allah does not burden a soul with more than it can bear, and also that the Shari’ah (Divinely Prescribed Islamic Law) is built upon facilitating ease and removing hardships, as Allah – the Most High – said: “And We have not made for you any hardships in the Religion.” [Surah al-Baqarah 2:222]. Also, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Whosoever has an attack of vomiting, then no atonement is required of him, but whoever intentionally vomits, then let him atone for it.”15″16
1. Related by al-Bukhari (1906) and Muslim (no.1080), from Ibn ‘Umar radiallahu ‘anhu.
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