Calls for shortening fasting time are misguided

By Dr Musharraf Hussain Al Azhari OBE, DL
Ramadhan is most beneficial and the most transformative time of the Islamic calendar, a season for actively pursuing spiritual growth, developing a stronger link with Allah and a time for reflection. Fasting is a spiritual training undertaken by the whole community and this shared discipline in the community is the key to successful training. In addition to its moral benefits of nurturing sympathy for the needy and spiritual blessings, Ramadhan has clear health benefits, it’s a great medicine for everyone in our consumerist society as it empowers the fasting person to resist the persuasive power of advertisers and ensures that we do not march to the beat of their drum, but move to the beat of the glorious Quran, that is in itself an act of courage. The 30 days period of fasting is short enough to manage but long enough to actually change even an old habit. It develops self-control, and it is a powerful means of awakening God-consciousness.
Can we allow anyone to tamper with such a wonderful Divinely established ritual and a spiritual exercise practiced by the beloved Messenger?
Unfortunately Dr. Usama Hasan has been daring enough to do so by inviting Muslims in the UK to fast according to their whims rather than follow the Shariah, he said; “Those who wish to follow dawn-sunset timings of 18-21 hour fasts and can do so safely, are free to do so…Those who find this genuinely unbearable, or are convinced of the non-literalist approach of “morning to evening” rather than the literalist “dawn to sunset”, may wish to fast for 12 or preferably 14-16 hours, beginning from dawn, sunrise or even their usual morning meal (breakfast!). Such moderate timings are based on the fatwas of jurists over many centuries for high latitudes. (Huffington post 16.06.15)
This is misguidance for the following reasons;
Fasting is not an option it is a duty, Allah has prescribed it (Baqqarah.182). The Quran has also stipulated its timings from dawn to dusk (Baqqarah.186). By giving people the options of fasting as long as they want Dr Hasan is opposing the Divine injunction. The Quran clearly tells us “Obey Allah and His Messenger”. Perhaps Dr. Hasan thinks that 18-19 hour fasts is detrimental to health. Let me help him to understand biochemistry of Fasting. The human body is an amazingly powerful, flexible and self repairing machine that can cope with serious stresses. A 19 hour fast does not pose any threat to normal healthy people. In fact it is beneficial as shown in latest studies in dieting and nutrition. By the way Shariah gives diabetics and chroniclaly ill people exemption. Dr Hasan’s due care for them is not needed the shariah has already taken care of them. Furthermore, the Quranic commandments that give clear orders are really for human benefit and the ultimate goals of Islamic shariah, its wisdom and the underlying moral values are for the good of people and to prevent hardships to them. The aim of the Shariah is to protect humanity from all kinds of harm, its objectives are preservation of life, health, intellect, honour and family.
When you start the fast in the morning the body has enough glucose in the blood for about 8-10 hours. After this the body switches to using fatty acids from the fats stores and produces ketone bodies which are able to supply the brain with energy. This is how you can lose your flab during fasting. Latest research shows fasting is beneficial for reducing obesity and for detoxifying the body. So much so that many dietians are now fasting 2 days a week.
Dr Hassan is naively inviting people to disobeying the shariah and there by jeopardising faith. The shariah has already given exemption to chrocially ill, mothers who suckle their children and elderly and children. To deprive Muslims of this spiritually beneficial and physically healthy exercise is wrong. Finally my advice for DR Hasan is what Hasan al Basari said, “ Follow the book of Allah and obey all the commandments in it so you become people of insight. Allah blesses the worshipper who does everything according to the book and agrees to what is in it.” The 18-19hour fasting during the summer days in UK does not pose any health risks what so ever and therefore to create fitnah is mischievious and sowing seeds of conflict and doubts in the shariah. To make changes to shariah as Dr Hasan suggests is a slippery slope that will lead to opening of flood gates for all kinds of changes that would make a mockery of Shariah.
May Allah guide us all.