The Terms and Concepts of ‘Death Fast’ or ‘Hunger Strike’ – [Brief Observations By Imaam Abdul Azeez Bin Baaz and Imaam Albaanee]

In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.

Death Fasts/Hunger Strikes

An Important Principle Regarding Terms and Concepts

Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [rahimahullaah] said: The basis of Banee Aadam’s misguidance is as a result of ‘General Terms’ and ‘Ambiguous Meanings’ [i.e. terms & meanings which can either be utilised for truth or falsehood when not explained in detail and distinguished], especially if they come in contact with a confused mind, then how about when [evil] desires and misguided enthusiasm is added to that? Therefore, ask the One Who keeps the hearts steadfast [i.e. Allaah] to keep your heart firm upon His Religion and not allow you to fall into this darkness. [Ref 1]

The basis of a person’s Islaam is to testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad [sallal-laahu-alayhi- wasallam] is the Messenger of Allaah, to believe in Allaah, declare that Allaah is One without partner, obey Allaah’s commands, keep away from what Allaah has forbidden and single out Allaah in worship. And safeguarding this path [necessitates] the prohibition of every expression [term or word] that contains Shirk Billaah [i.e. ascribing partners to Allaah] or Kufr, or will lead to one of the two. [Ref 2]  In the Qur’aan, there are many words that are utilised to rebut the words [or terms] that are in opposition to the call of the Messengers, the revelation that was revealed to them and the truth they brought. [Ref 3]

One of the general fundamental principles [in Islaam] is to know that words [or terms] are two types: Words that are mentioned in the Qur’aan and [authentic] Sunnah, therefore, it is obligated on every believer to affirm them – affirm what Allaah and His Messenger have affirmed, and negate what Allaah and His Messenger have negated. The words [or terms] affirmed by Allaah is truth and the ones Allaah negated are [negated] in truth, for indeed Allaah speaks the truth and guides to the straight path. The words [or terms] of the Sharee’ah are sanctified, and it is from perfection in knowledge that one seeks after the [sound meanings] which the Messenger [sallal laahu alayhi wasalam] intended by them, in order to affirm what he affirmed and negate the meanings he negated; for indeed it is obligated on us to believe and bear witness to everything he has stated and follow him in everything he has commanded.

As for the words [or terms] that are neither found in the Qur’am and [authentic] Sunnah, nor did the Salaf hold a consensus regarding whether they are negated or affirmed, then it is not incumbent on anyone to agree with the one who negates them or affirms them until its intended meaning is explained. So, if its intended meaning agrees with the [revelation, commands, prohibitions etc] conveyed by the Messenger, it is affirmed; but if its intended meaning is in opposition to the [revelation, commands, prohibitions etc] conveyed by the Messenger, it is rejected. [Ref 4]

What Is The Meaning of Fasting

Fasting in the Arabic Language means to abstain from something. In the Sharee’ah it means to refrain from eating, drinking and all that will break the fast [i.e. sexual intercourse etc] with the intention in one’s heart as an act of worship from Fajr to Maghrib. [5]

Question to Imaam Abdul Azeez Bin Baaz [rahimahullaah] Regarding Hunger Strike [or Death Fasts]

Question: We often hear about hunger strike that leads to death; what is Islaam’s ruling on this?

Answer: This does not have a basis [in Islaam]. This is something by way of which the enemies seek support for their filthy goals. This conduct does not have a basis [in Islaam] and it is not permissible if it leads to harm or death. This is what we believe regarding this affair. This [i.e. hunger strike] was adopted from the enemies of Islaam and we do not know of a basis for it. [Ref 6]

Question to Imaam Albaanee [rahimahullaah] Regarding Hunger Strike [Or Death Fasts]

Question to Shaikh Albaanee [rahimahullaah]: At present in relation to modern methods, they utilize it to draw people’s attention to a specific issue, such as a hunger strike, civil disobedience, refraining from work, standing still at particular hour as sign of mourning and the like, among other things that have been initiated. What is the Islamic ruling on such behavior?

Shaikh answer : I do not believe in the legitimacy of all this behaviour due to two reasons: Firstly, and that is the most most important thing, these methods are from the ways of nations that do not have a path prepared for them through the divine revelation, which if employed would lead to the desired goal. The Muslims are not like those people because we have the Sharee’ah which has not left out anything, except that if act upon it we’ll be happy in the world before the hereafter. Secondly, these methods, in addition to being a habit of the unbelievers, do not benefit and will never benefit the Muslims even if they remain throughout their lives, while they adhere to them and refrain from employing the divine legislated means that are stipulated by texts – which they hold as their belief – in their Sharee’ah. This is my answer to this question.

Questioner: May Allah reward you. Shaikh: And you. Questioner: We expand a little on hunger strike. Shaikh: Go on please. Questioner: I mean, in reality this includes destruction of the body which Allaah [Glorified and Exalted be He] gave to the human being, so now it means that hunger strike in particular, for whatever reason, includes destruction. Shaikh: Refraining from food and drink – undoubtedly – is two types, as it is considered one of the medical methods by which some people treat some of the diseases they are afflicted with. Of course, this type is not mentioned in your question. Questioner: Yes. Shaikh: Oh, so then the hunger strike intended in the question is the one that is pursued until a negative effect appears on the person’s body, so that the oppressors sympathize with him by releasing him or comfort him with something, or it what is similar. This type of refraining from food and drink enters into [intentional or wilful] self-starvation. All these means are not legislated in the Sharee’ah, together with the fact that it tantamount to exposing oneself to harm if not death [or destruction] [Ref 7]

[Ref 1: An Excerpt from ‘As-Sawaa’iq Al-Mursalah Alal Jahmiyyah Wal Mu’attilah’ – Vol 3. page 927. slightly paraphrased]

[Ref 2: Excerpt from ‘Mu’jam Al-Manaahee Lil Laf’dhiyyah’ page 34. slightly paraphrased. Publisher: Daar Al-Aasimah. 3rd edition 1996]

[Ref 3: Excerpt from Mu’jam Al-Manaahee Lil Lafdhiyyah’ page 10. slightly paraphrased. Publisher: Daar Al-Aasimah. 3rd edition 1996]

[Ref 4: Excerpt from ‘Al-Haqeeqatus Shar’iyyah Fee Tafseeril Qur’aan Al-A’dheem Was-Sunnatin Nabawiyyah’ page 17. slightly paraphrased]

[Ref 5: Al-Fiqh Al-Muyassar. Page 170]

[Ref6:]. slightly paraphrased

[Ref 7: An Excerpt from Silsilah Al-Hudaa Wan-Noor  0156]

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