x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Fatwas ease Ramadan worries

Acupuncture and nicotine patches are permissible during the holy month, with a list of the dos and don'ts of fasting and what to do if you eat or drink by mistake.

The needles used in acupuncture do not break a fast, the department said.
The needles used in acupuncture do not break a fast, the department said.

DUBAI // Acupuncture needles and nicotine patches do not break the daily fast, according to a Ramadan series of fatwas. The list is released daily by the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (Iacad) to help Muslims to navigate a variety of tricky issues presented by Ramadan. Queries about what is permitted under Sharia law are either submitted online or phoned in.

One fatwa said medical syringes and the kinds of needles used in acupuncture do not break a fast, as long as they are not injecting "nutritious substances" into the body. Nicotine patches, which can help smokers to deal with their withdrawal symptoms during the day, are also permitted. "It is allowed to use these patches as they are not nutritious and the substances in it are absorbed through the skin and blood and not through an opening in the body," said the fatwa.

Every Ramadan, local religious bodies remind Muslims to use the time as an opportunity to stop smoking permanently. In 2008, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf) issued an unprecedented fatwa that said smoking in public places was forbidden because second-hand smoke was harmful to others. According to some jurists, tobacco products are completely forbidden for Muslims because of their harm to health. However, smoking shisha well into the night remains one of the most popular activities during Ramadan after iftar.

Iacad's Ramadan list reminded Muslims that they need to express the "intention" to fast on the eve of each night or before dawn, or their fast is not valid. If anyone should eat or drink while fasting by mistake, then they should spit out what they have in their mouth and continue fasting without the need to make up for it afterwards. The Prophet Mohammed said: "Whoever forgets he is fasting and eats or drinks is to complete his fast, as it was Allah who fed him and gave him something to drink."

Another fatwa said Muslim women - who are exempted from daily prayers and fasting while menstruating, provided they make them up at another time - can take pills that prevent or delay the process if they wish to fast for the entire month. "There is nothing wrong with using a period prevention pill as long as there are no health risks to the woman using it," said the fatwa. But it stressed that the intention behind using this kind of pill should be for the sake of "worship" and "good deeds".

Another fatwa on the Awqaf website ruled that donations to relief efforts in Pakistan constitute part of zakat and should be channelled through reliable, verified organisations such as the UAE Red Crescent Authority. "Muslims should help the victims in Pakistan by providing them with medicine, food and shelter," said the fatwa. With many residents of the UAE spending this Ramadan in a foreign country because of extended school break, a fatwa answering a question from a Muslim in China reminded everyone to remain diligent fasting no matter where they happened to be.

"Even in China you can find a Muslim community that you can fast with and pray along with," said the fatwa. @Email:rghazal@thenational.ae