Scientific knowledge should be used in matters of religion
Excerpts from the sermon of Hazrat Khalīfatul-Masīḥ IVrh delivered on Jan. 19, 1996
Therefore, you should understand the true meaning of the month of Ramaḍān. When the visible signs cannot be used to determine the length of days and nights, then it is incumbent upon you to estimate the normal durations of days and nights.
Guidance from the Holy Qur’ān
According to the Holy Qur’ān, a normal day is considered when there is a period of absolute darkness between the whiteness of dawn and the darkness of dusk [night], i.e., as per the Holy Qur’ān, the white thread is separated from the black thread.
[“. . . eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn” (2:187)]
If both threads are white, then how can they be separated?
Formation of RESEARCH CommitteeS
Therefore, those Jamā‘at members that are situated closer to the North Pole or South Pole should form boards of scholars and experts who can guide their respective Jamā‘ats.
The fact of the matter is that even within the same country, the days of Ramaḍān can be an abnormal length in some parts, and in other parts they are of normal length. Hence, instead of asking Markaz to do all the calculations, different Jamā‘ats should understand the principle and consult their local observatories, weather networks and other relevant government departments to make the schedule for Ramaḍān well in advance. They should state that such and such Jamā‘at will follow the normal schedule for these specific dates and will adapt to the abnormal schedule from these specific dates.
Ramaḍān TimingS and Prayer Timings can be adjusted
Indeed, the meaning of the Holy Qur’ān understood by the Holy Prophet Muḥammadsa was correct, and allows you to establish a modified schedule of prayer timings and the times of the fast.
There are two ways of fasting that one can follow during abnormal length of days. One option is to split the day in two equal parts, 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. However by doing this, one may end up with a big difference between the abnormal days and the remaining days. Whenever the abnormal days will be joined with normal days, the difference between the two will be very large. Therefore, in my opinion, the second option is better, which is that such Jamā‘ats should follow the nearest Jamā‘ats that have normal length of days and nights. For example, a city that is situated at 60° to 70° North should follow another city that is situated at 40° to 50° north, where the whole month of Ramaḍān has a normal length of day and night. In other words, instead of following a city closer to the equator, it makes more sense to follow a city that is slightly more north and has normal timings, and fast according to their schedule. Similarly, the timing for Tahajjud, Iftār and Sehar should also be adopted from the nearest normal city.
Unity is important
Insh’Allāh, if this principle is followed, then despite the difference in timings, the whole Islāmic community will be united. The unity lies in following common principles and not in creating new rules. The guidance provided by the Holy Qur’ān and the Holy Prophetsa is clear and absolute. If we follow this, then it would not make any difference if Ramaḍān starts differently or has different timings. The unity lies in obedience of One God and does not lie in manmade clocks.
I hope that, after today, I will not receive letters asking what to do in abnormal situations. Based on these instructions, these countries should form committees and guide members of the Jamā‘at. I have explained this with absolute clarity and there is no doubt left.