Ramadan: Islamic Police arrest Muslims for not fasting

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The Islamic Police in Northern Nigeria’s state of Kano have arrested some Muslims who have not been fasting during the Ramadan season. Known as the Hisbah, the police in Kano state arrested 11 people for not fasting.

According to the Spokesperson for Hisbah, Lawal Fage, 10 men were arrested near the markets in the city while one woman was arrested for eating some of the groundnuts she sells. All 11 people were arrested on Tuesday, barely days after Muslims began fasting worldwide.

“We got 11 persons on Tuesday including a lady selling groundnuts who was seen eating from her wares, and some persons alerted us. The other 10 were men and were arrested across the city especially close to markets where a lot of activities happen,” Fage stated.

He said all culprits were absolved of their crimes after they assured the authorities that they would abstain from food and drinks and observe fasting. Others he said, the team met their families and requested them to monitor to ensure compliance.

“For some of them, we had to see their relatives or guardians to have family monitor them,” Fage announced as reported by Africanews. 

While Muslims would be arrested for not fasting, Fage noted that non-Muslims are not part and will only be arrested if they are found aiding Muslims to breach the fasting. He said other than that non-Muslims are exempt.

“We do not arrest non-Muslims because this does not concern them, and the only time they could be guilty of a crime is when we find out they cook food to sell to Muslims that are supposed to be fasting,” Fagge added.

Can a Muslim decide not to fast during Ramadan?

Fasting is one of the five pillars or duties of Islam. Muslims who are healthy are thus required to fast during the month of Ramadan. Muslims who are healthy to fast but for any reason fail to fast have penalties to pay. According to Islamic Relief, a Muslim who deliberately breaks or skips a fast would pay Kaffarah and Fidya respectively.

While Kaffarah is paid for deliberately breaking a fast during Ramadan without a valid reason, Fidya is paid if one skips a fast day with a valid reason and cannot fulfil the missed day on a future date. The penalty for intentionally skipping a fast is to fast continuously for 60 days. When a person cannot fast for 60 days, they are to feed 60 people as punishment.

Because fasting during Ramadan is obligatory, paying the punishment for missing a fasting day is compulsory as well. Muslims are therefore encouraged to fulfil their obligations either in fasting or charity which is also a pillar in Islam. Kaffarah is a donation that must be paid to feed the poor so Muslims can either donate to charity to feed 60 people as payment for Kaffarah or do it themselves.

Who can be exempted from fasting?

While fasting is a requirement in Islam, not everyone is permitted to fast. There are valid exemptions from fasting. There are five categories of valid exemptions from fasting.

Illness is one of the five valid exemptions. If a person is sick in any way that fasting could endanger their health, according to Ibn Qudamah (d. 1223ce), “There is consensus among the scholars regarding the permissibility of breaking the fast due to illness in general, as stated in the verse of the Quran: Yet if one among you is sick or is on a journey, [such a person shall then fast] the same number of other days (Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:185).” While illness is a legitimate exemption, not every sickness should stop a Muslim from fasting. However, if the person determines that fasting will worsen their condition, they are allowed to be exempt from fasting.

Travel, Age and Severe hunger and thirst are the other three categories of valid exemptions. Each of these exemptions has conditions that must be met before an exemption is considered to be valid. For instance, travel has distance, duration, exceedance and intentionality conditions which must be met before an exemption is considered valid. Also, the elderly are allowed to abstain from fasting. However, there is no exact definition for old age and that must be taken based on what people generally agree is old age. Severe hunger and thirst form the last category of valid exemption categories. If a person believes that the continuation of their fast will harm them physically because of severe hunger or thirst, they are permitted to break the fast early.

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