Sunday, October 22, 2006

ramadan fiqh: intention, mindfulness and responsibility

Perhaps someone out there can shed some light on this issue. Something I've never really understood about the rules for Ramadan is the following... take two people, Zayd and Jamal.

Zayd is a conscientious Muslim. It is the month of Ramadan. Zayd made intention to fast on the night before. He even makes the effort to follow the sunnah and gets up before fajr in order to have a little something (say some water and dates) to help him last through the day. Unfortunately, he later finds out that his clock has been slow and it turns out that at least on a few occasions he had been eating and drinking after fajr had come in, even though he sincerely believed otherwise.

Now take Jamal. Jamal is not so conscientious. He didn't bother getting up before fajr. In fact, he slept through fajr. When he woke up he sort of realized it was Ramadan and so he knew to skip breakfast but other than that he started his day much as any other day. He was absorbed in various mundane tasks and responsibilities until the middle of the day when he would normally have a lunch break. As was his habit, he goes around the corner to his usual lunch spot to order some food. He noticed he was hungrier than usual so he gets the extra large sandwich, a large pop, a side order and some dessert. After his lunch break he goes back to work and an hour after his meal it occurs to him, with the appropriate amount of shock and surprise, that he just had a full meal in the middle of the day during the month of Ramadan.

Now here's the weird part: It is my understanding (based on the fiqh books I've read) that the slow clock doesn't constitute an excuse so Zayd's fast has been broken and he has to make up the days when he accidentally broke his fast. But Jamal's fast, on the other hand, actually hasn't been broken and that he doesn't have to make up any days.

First, it would probably be good to keep in mind that the question of what breaks your fast or not is different from the question of how actions are judged spiritually or not. For example, lying, gossiping and stealing don't break your fast either but that doesn't mean these are acceptable activities to engage in. Also, I would guess that the above issue is related to how scholars of fiqh understood the relationship between intention, minddfulness and responsibility, but I myself don't have a really good understanding of what the reasoning process is. Anyone out there have a good suggestion?


sondjata said...

perhaps related, perhaps not. a while back it was discovered in a Jewish community that some Kosher meat they had been purchasing was not in fact Kosher. There was a great uproar and people went about purifying the containers that the food had come into contact with.

I thought to myself

"How silly". If the people went through all that was required of them to procure Kosher goods AND to maintain Kosher cooking and storage practices, why go through the whole "cleansing" when I would think (and it would only be me) that God would be far more concerned with the intent and actions rather than the 'fact" of Kosherness. If anything the person who had sold non-Kosher goods to the Jews would be the one in need of "purification" and would be the object of Gods wrath.

DA said...

Interesting post. I actually have a few days to reconsider then :-/

On a somewhat similar note to what Sondjata said, if anyone thinks most of the "halal" meat in America is really produced in a halal, let alone tayyib, manner...Man, they haven't looked into it then :-)

Abdul-Halim V. said...

sondjata: i definitely see what you are saying. There is some part of me that definitely says that deeds should primarily be judged by their intentions.

At the same time time, when it comes to certain issues intention isn't always the sole consideration and ignorance isn't necessarily an excuse.

Something else which occurs to me is that the rules for Ramadan are in some sense meant to be part of an enforcible legal system where individuals are at various spiritual levels. And if ignorance of the precise time counted as en excuse then a person could chose to remain ignorant of the precise time and use that to eat longer.

Or perhaps another comparison which comes to mind is to think about how a basic principle of islamic laws is that an "insane" person generally isn't responsible for their actions.

So maybe if someone is "sane" enough that they are conscious of the fact it is Ramadan then they are expected to know the rules and make reasonable efforts to follow them. (including making sure that their clocks are set on time)

But if they are "insane" in the sense that they had a "brain-fart" and sincerely forgot that it was Ramadan altogether then they should be excused.

I honestly don't know what fiqh scholars say.

In terms of kosherness, and to some degree in terms of the rules for the Islamic dietary code there is an assumption that it has to do with facts. It's not just a game played for spiritual effect. For example, in terms of Islamic purity laws, pork and wine are similar to urine, feces and semen. So if a dish or utensil where accidentally and unintentionally stained with some of the latter substances you probably wouldn't just say "oh its the thought that counts" and ignore it, you would probably want to purify the containers "with great uproar" yourself.

Abu Zahra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Abu Zahra said...

This, of course, only applies to the Ja'fari school, but here is what Ayatullah Nasir Makarem Shirazi says regarding your scenario:

4- If a person, in the month of Ramadhan, without investigating as to whether Fajr has set in or not commits an act which invalidates a fast, and it becomes known later that it was Fajr. Also, if after investigation, he doubts or thinks that it is Fajr, but if after investigation, he becomes certain that it is not Fajr yet, and eats something, and it becomes known later that it has been Fajr, it is not Wajib to give qadha.

5- If someone else informs that it is not Fajr yet, and there is still time left, and one does something which invalidates a fast, and it expires later that it was Fajr, in such a case, it is also necessary to give qadha.

In the first point, the person thought that it was not yet Fajr. As a result, his deed is apparently accepted, even though he found out later that it was not Fajr. I think your guy with the alarm clock would fit that category.

The second point is someone who relies on someone else to tell him that it is Fajr, as such, he is being irresponsible by not investigating for himself. Therefore, he must perform a makeup fast for it.

In either case, however, kaffara is not necessary, whereas it would be if one intentionally broke the fast.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

jazakallahukhair for the information