On Friday 11 July 2014 at 23:30 the Ask Ramadan event took place at Al-Mahdi Institute. The programme started with recitation of Qur’an followed by an introduction of the evening’s structure. An interesting talk by Sheikh Arif followed a lively discussion, where the audience engaged and posed their questions and comments. Ayatollah Muhaqiq Damad regrettably could not participate in the event due to technical difficulties and Seyed Mirza Abbas was not able to attend due to being unwell.
Sheikh Arif gave a brief introduction of how he planned the evening to commence with a promise to talk of fasting in the modern world. There was emphasis on fasting being a communal practice as well as a benefit for the individual. He then highlighted that fasting came to the Muslims at a time where the community was already familiar with the practice, it was already established and came within a particular context.
Sheikh then spoke of the nature of fasts which were initially practiced prior to Islam. He then goes deeper into a couple of fasting verses which came to a particular context followed by a law that came directly to the Muslims. He then continued to take the audience through verses pertaining to fasting and explaining them.
He spoke of ease and hardship in fasting and that our Merciful God did not intend suffering as a result of worship. There is a distinction he believes in the Quran in form and essence, where the form is relaxed and essence remains the same.
He spoke of the different sunrise and sunset calculations globally where fasts in certain regions can reach to 23hours and other places a mere few hours. The problem of the short fast is that a 2-6 hour fast does not do anything for one who observes abstention for that amount of time and so fasts become valueless. On the other hand 23hour fasts become counter-productive.
Sheikh makes it clear that he feels strongly that Day and night as form is not connected with the fast and gives reasons for this. He gives traditional scholarship answers to solving the problem at hand however demonstrates that they are ineffective. He also speaks of Ayatollah Muhaqiq’s solution of feasibility where individuals use their discretion to open the fast however argues that there is not a standard law for the human body.
Sheikh states that in order to stipulate the length of the fast we could refer back to Meccan or Tus where Imam Reza fasted. He then gave examples of how new injunctions come about which emphasised the argument of ease and also referred to exploration of modern conventions.
He then concluded on questioning the nature of fasting and spoke of the imam’s advice of those with chronic illness where sufferers should fast however do so within their limits.
Before opening the floor to questions a couple of statements from Ayatullah Muhaqiq Damad and Ayatullah Rahim Nobahar were read out. Ayatullah Muhaqiq Damad’s idea on feasibility was presented where if a believer finds unbearable hardship in any act of worship then he is permitted to do what he is able to do.
The discussion ended with lively Q & A and discussion with Seyed Mohammad Naqvi.