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Fasting in the air

Coffee and dates still life

What happens when you are fasting and flying during Ramadan?

July 2, 2014 9:04 by

By Atique Naqvi

Many airlines provide special iftar meals for passengers that are fasting during the Holy Month, but when should you break your fast when airborne?

If you board a day flight from Dubai going west, you might end up having a longer fast than your peers in the UAE. But if you are traveling east, the duration of your fast will be shorter.

For example, if you take a 14-hour Dubai-New York flight at 7am UAE time in July, you will arrive at your destination at 9pm Dubai time, but in New York the sun will be at its zenith, as it will be 1pm on your arrival. Also, iftar in New York falls at around 8.30pm, so your fast will be more than 24 hours, considering your fast began at approximately 4.30am UAE time.

On the contrary, if you are flying from Dubai to Sydney, which is a 14-hour flight, you will end up having a shorter fast. If your flight takes off at 7am UAE time, you’ll reach Sydney by 9.30pm UAE time – and it will be 3am in Australia. In this scenario, you might break your fast while flying over Malaysia – and your fast time will be just under 12 hours.

Regarding this, religious scholars refer to the Holy Quran, Chapter 2, Al Baqarah, verse number 187, which states: “And eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your Sawm (fast) till the nightfall.”

According to one of the authentic fatwas, or rulings, by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih Al Munajjid: “If the sun sets and the person breaks his fast on the ground, then when the airplane takes off he sees the sun, he does not have to refrain from eating and drinking, because he has completed his fast in full, and there is no need to repeat the act of worship after he has finished it.

“If the plane takes off before sunset, and he wants to complete that day’s fast while travelling, then he should not break his fast until the sun sets in the place where he is in the air.

Emirates Airlines uses a unique tool to calculate the correct timings for Imsak
(the time to start fasting) and iftar while in-flight. Emirates developed the tool, an industry-first, in conjunction with the Dubai Astronomy Group. The tool allows Emirates to calculate the exact Ramadan timings using the aircraft’s longitude, latitude and altitude; ensuring the greatest level of accuracy possible while onboard.

For example, customers who are in-flight when the sun sets will be informed of the iftar time by the captain. Iftar will be determined based on where the aircraft is located at the time the sun goes down.

However, Islam provides a window for those who don’t want to fast while traveling. The Quran states: “And whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Sawm (fasts) must be made up] from other days.” [Al Baqarah 2:185]

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