Question # 249: Bismillaah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Rahiim; As-salaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh; There are two questions I have a hard time finding answers for in the books of fiqh which pertain to the salaah as well as the sighting of the moon.

1. Sometimes, in prison, we are not allowed out of our cells for a very long time. For ‘asr and maghrib, this can lead to us not being able to pray in jamaa’ah, except at the time which is makruuh for ‘asr or at a time for maghrib when it is way past when it should be prayed. In these situations, should we pray alone or should we wait? I am aware of a hadith which states that there will come a time when the people delay the prayer, and the hadith states that one should pray alone and in jamaa’ah, but our situation is somewhat different.

2. Sometimes, for the beginning and end of Ramadaan, we are not able to reach our families — and many brothers in prison do not have Muslims in their families — in order to learn if the moon was sighted. The non-Muslim staff will sometimes tell us that Ramadaan has started or ended, but this year it became clear to us that the chaplain, who is non-Muslim, is using calculations. What is the ruling on this type of statement? What if the non-Muslim says that they saw it on a Muslim website or that they heard it from a Muslim? The point being that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) required the one sighting the moon to give the shahaadah and there is also the general issue that what the kuffaar say is rejected without more proof.  Jazaakumullaahu khayran.

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) burdens not a person beyond his scope or beyond what He has given him. Hence, although prayer and fasting are not waived for inmates, they must try their best to work out the right times, either by noting the feeding times, listening to radio, asking some mates or officials, using available calendars. If the inmate tries to work out the right time for praying and fasting, then his worship will (In sha Allah) be valid and acceptable, even if he later finds out that he did it at the right time or after it, or he does not find out anything. The only exception is that if he later finds out that he fasted on the days of Eid, he should make them up or if he finds out that he prayed or fasted before the proper time, then he has to repeat the fast or prayer. Lastly, it is mustahabb (recommended) to make up missed prayers in congregation. 

Long Answer: The scholars have determined that prayer and fasting are not waived for prisoners and detainees, and that what they must do is to try their best to work out the right times. If the prisoner thinks it most likely that the time for prayer has come, then he should pray, and if he thinks it most likely that Ramadan has come, then he should fast. He can work out the times by noting the times when he is fed, or by asking the guards and so on.

If he tries to work out the right time for praying and fasting, then his worship will be valid and acceptable, whether he finds out later on, that he did it at the right time, or after it, or he does not find out anything, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an:

  • “Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:286)
  • “Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him” (Soorah al-Talaaq, 65:7)

However, if he finds out later that he fasted on the days of Eid, he should make them up, because fasting on the days of Eid is not valid. Similarly, if he finds out later that he prayed or fasted before the proper time, then he has to repeat the fast or prayer.

It says in al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah: “The majority of fuqaha’ are of the view that if the months all seem to be the same to a person, the fast of Ramadan is not waived in his case, rather it is still obligatory because he remains accountable and the ruling still applies to him.

If he tries to work it out and he fasts, then one of the following five scenarios must apply to him:

  1. The problem continues and he cannot find out, so he does not know whether he managed to fast at the time of Ramadan or before it or after it. In this case, his fast is valid and he does not have to repeat it, because he did his best, and he is not required to do any more than that.
  2. The fast of the prisoner coincided with Ramadan, so that is acceptable.
  3. If his fast happened to be after Ramadan, that is also acceptable according to the majority of fuqaha’.
  4. There are two possibilities with the fourth scenario:
    • If he started fasting before Ramadan, and he finds out about that before Ramadan comes, then he must fast when Ramadan comes, and there is no difference of opinion among the scholars concerning that.
    • If he started fasting before Ramadan and he did not find out about that until after it had finished. There are two opinions as to whether this is acceptable:
      • It is not acceptable for Ramadan, rather he has to make it up. This is the view of the Maalikis and Hanbalis.
      • It is acceptable as Ramadan, just as if the pilgrims are uncertain of the day of ‘Arafah and they observe the standing before the day. This is the view of some of the Shaafi’is.
  5. If the fast of the prisoner coincides with one part of Ramadan and not the other; that which coincides with Ramadan or comes after it is acceptable, and that which comes before it is not acceptable. (al-Majmoo’ and al-Mughni)

According to AMJA Permanent Fatwa Committee: “The beginning of Ramadan is decided by sighting the moon. However, if it has been difficult for [someone] to sight the moon at the end of Sha’ban because of clouds or so, it is legislative to consider the thirtieth day as the completion of the month of Sha’ban. This is evidenced by what the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “Fast when you sight it “the new moon” and break fast when you sight it, and if it is cloudy then consider the thirtieth day as the completion of the month of Sha’ban.”

[Inmates] can know the beginning of Ramadan by listening to the radio or asking some mates or officials. However, if that is difficult…, [they] can then follow the available calendars provided by the Islamic centers. The jail administration should provide that for the Muslim prisoners; whose simplest right is to be provided with such information. Since [inmates] can attain [their] rights by demanding them persistently, [they] have to insist gently on attaining this information through available legal means.”

[Next,] it is prescribed to pray in congregation when making up missed prayers, because of the report narrated by al-Bukhari, Muslim and al-Nasa’i from Abu Qataadah who said: We were with the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) (on a journey) and some of the people said: Why don’t you let us stop to rest (at the end of the night) O Messenger of Allah? He said: “I am afraid that you will sleep and miss the prayer.” Bilal said: I will keep watch for you. So, they lay down and went to sleep, and Bilal leaned back against his mount. The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) woke up and saw that the edge of the sun’s disk had risen. He said: O Bilal, what about what you said? He said: I have never slept like that. The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Allah took your souls when He willed and He returned them when He willed. Get up, O Bilal, and call the people to prayer.” So, Bilal got up and called the people to prayer, and they did wudu’, i.e., when the sun had gotten high, then he stood up and led them in prayer.

Ibn Qudaamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said in al-Mughni: “It is mustahabb (recommended) to make up missed prayers in congregation. On the day of al-Khandaq, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) missed four prayers, and he made them up in congregation. And in the hadith of Abu Qataadah and elsewhere it says that when the Prophet made up for Fajr prayer on the day of al-Khandaq, he and his companions, he led them in offering the prayer in congregation.”

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: From the hadith of Abu Qataadah it may also be understood that it is prescribed to offer made-up prayers in congregation if there is a group, because making up is to be done as one would have performed the prayer. If they would have offered the prayer in congregation if they had prayed on time, then when they make it up they should offer it in congregation. This is also mentioned in the Sunnah in the hadith of Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه), when the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) told Bilal to give the call to prayer, then he prayed two (Sunnah) rak’ahs of Fajr, then he led them in praying Fajr prayer in congregation. (al-Sharh al-Mumti’)

(Most part of the above reply is based on various answers by Islam Q&A)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam