Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
A few years ago, I wrote about Muslims in Iceland and Ramadan. We all know that in Ramadan Muslims abstain from food and water from dawn till dusk. It is almost impossible or very difficult for Muslims living in countries situated close to the North Pole.
In such areas, the time to eat or drink is very short. The fasting time in some of the countries closer to the North Pole is more than 20 hours. The purpose of fasting is not to see people starve to death or it is not aimed at causing health problems. It is a training program for the believers, which if followed properly, results in various benefits to the body, soul and mind.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam.
Just a few days ago I came across a very nice article by a well-known Kuwaiti columnist in which he had asked as to why was there no clear fatwa regarding fasting during the month of Ramadan in countries like Norway and Finland. Some scholars say that they fast and break their fast according to the timings of the nearest Muslim country.
This means for example, Muslims in Sweden should follow the Ramadan timings of Northern African Muslim countries. Some say, Muslims in areas close to the pole follow countries with Muslim majority. And there are scholars who went as far as saying that Muslims close to the North Pole should not fast during Ramadan and instead they should give the needy a specified amount of rice or flour for each day of the month. They say this according to Islamic teaching that says obey and worship Allah (SWT) according to your ability.
Islam is an easy religion with flexibility. Let us be clear, there is a huge difference between the true teachings of Islam and the behavior of Muslims. For example, the third pillar of Islam is Zakat. It is a very small portion of one’s money that is given to the poor. If all Muslims, who are eligible to pay Zakat, use this money to help poor the Muslim world would become free of poverty. But, we are seeing exactly the opposite. Poverty in Muslim countries is widespread and it is behind many social problems.
We need to differentiate between what many Muslims around the world practice and the pristine teachings of Islam. In addition to that we should answer many questions that have risen in modern times. Failure to do so will only lead to confusion among Muslims or will give rise to unscrupulous elements.
Last month a well-known Saudi religious scholar, Saleh Al-Mugamsi, raised many issues that were until recently considered taboo. He spoke about music. And with music, there are other forms of art like theater. He also spoke about non-Muslims in the Kingdom and that there is no clear edict banning them from visiting Madinah. His lectures highlight the importance of moderation in Islam. Our religion is not only about Halal and Haram. It is a way of life that should be followed by Muslims. Islam is to believe in Allah (SWT) and all his messengers, loving each other, respecting people of all faiths, helping the poor, living a clean and healthy life, being honest, taking care of orphans and others in need, having social equalities, enforcing justice and much more.
Instead of leaving ignorant people to interpret the teachings of our beautiful religion, we should heed the advice of true scholars who highlight the true values of Islam.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Promoting True Values of Our Religion reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.