‘National team members not fasting during Ramadan is haram:’ Former head of Azhar

The former head of the Fatawa Committee at al-Azhar University Abdel Hamid Al-Atrach denounced a previous Islamic ruling that allowed members of the Egyptian national football team to break their Ramadan fast during the World Championship.

This came during a phone interview with anchor Amr Abdel Hamid on his show “Ra’ay ‘Am”, during an interview with Dr. Soaad Saleh, Professor of “Fiqh” (Religious rulings) on Wednesday.

“Fasting during travel is not required, however, some religious experts say that the fasting rule only falls on travelers with the purpose of pleasing God and not to disobey him. Travel that pleases God includes someone traveling to work or earn money to feed his children, someone who traveled to study or someone who traveled to spread the word of God, or traveled to free the holy house — this is all to please God.”

“If he is traveling 85 km or more he is then allowed not to fast in Ramadan even if he is traveling by plane. But are footballers allowed to break their fast in Ramadan? Football can be postponed until after Ramadan. We can postpone the World Cup until after Ramadan, why not?”

“What would we get out of the World Cup?” he added, “are we going to free a holy house?”

“We have to observe the reason for travel, in that case it is to play football.”

However, Dr. Saleh did not share Al-Atrach’s point of view: “In the Quran God said whoever has a difficulty fasting should feed a poor person instead. He said do not fast, but feed a poor person.”

To which Al-Atrach rebutted, “The prophet said, ‘anyone who misses Ramadan fasting for no excuse will not be forgiven, even if he fasts for an eternity to make it up.’

This is not the first time the issue of the national football team fasting during the World Cup has been brought up.

The reason for this debate is that Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam had already issued a Fatwa on Monday saying that the players of Egypt’s national football team are not required to fast during Ramadan.

Allam told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Muslims traveling during Ramadan are allowed to break their fast during their days of travel, as long as they make the days up when they return.

Despite that, Allam stressed that the national team members must only break their fast under dire circumstances, but if they can play while fasting they should do so.

He added that breaking a fast is generally only allowed to those who cannot perform their jobs while fasting and only if this job is their sole source of income, a principle that does not apply to national team players.

The World Cup will take place between June 14 and July 15, 2018. Ramadan is expected to begin on May 16, a month where Muslims abstain from food and drinking during daylight hours.

Egypt will have its first match against Uruguay on June 15, followed by a match against Russia on June 19, before facing Saudi Arabia on June 25.

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