Dubai - August 16, 2010 - The moon in its first quarter phase begins to set as it appears close to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, August 16, 2010. Neap tide, when the tide-generating forces of the sun and moon oppose each other they produce the smallest difference between high and low tide, which occurs during the first and third quarter phase of the moon. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National) STOCK
People who live on the upper floors of the Burj Khalifa must wait a little longer to break their fast because it takes them longer to see the sun set. Jeff Topping / The National

Fatwa means late iftar on top Burj Khalifa floors

DUBAI // Muslims who live high up in the Burj Khalifa will have to wait a little longer than everyone else to break their fast during Ramadan, according to a new religious edict.
In a fatwa released over the weekend, the Grand Mufti of Dubai called upon Muslims living in skyscrapers, particularly those in the world's tallest tower, to adjust their fasting and prayer times according to what floor they call home.
Dr Ahmed Al Haddad, who is also the head of the Ifta centre at the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department, said the Burj Khalifa, at more than 828 metres tall with 160 storeys, must be divided into three different times for iftar, or the breaking of the fast. He said the three segments are based on when the actual sun set is "visible" to a tenant.
"Regardless of where you are, you need to pay attention to the actual sun set," Dr Al Haddad said. "You are not to break your fast until the sun sets, and you can actually see that sun set."
Those living on the lower floors of the Burj Khalifa, 80 and below, are to break their fast at the same time as everyone else - when the call for Maghreb prayers at sunset is broadcast across the Dubai mosques on TV, or can be heard from the nearest mosque in the neighbourhood.
For those living on floors between 80 and 150, starting at about 414 metres high, the iftar time is delayed two minutes after the muezzin calls for Maghreb prayer. These residents are also to start praying the following Esha prayer two minutes after the call for that prayer, and two minutes before the call for Fajr prayers at dawn.
For those living on floor 150 and above, or from 800 metres and above, residents must delay their iftar by three minutes, as well as their Esha prayer. The rule applies to Fajr prayers also, which are to begin three minutes earlier than the call for prayers.
These rules should also be a guide during Suhoor time, when Muslims stay up at night to pray, and when they eat their last meals before they start their Imsak, withholding, and begin their fast with sun rise.
The ruling is based on the basic premise that the higher you are, the longer it takes for you to see the sun set because your field of vision is farther the higher you go.
The religious edict also applies to locations even higher up than any built structures.
"Even if you are on a plane, you should break the fast according to when the actual sun sets over the area you are flying," said Dr Al Haddad. "You shouldn't break it if the sun is shining brightly where you are and hasn't set."
Mohammed Badr, who lives on the 61st floor of the Burj Khalifa, said he was "surprised" that elevation made a difference.
"It would never cross my mind that where someone lives in a high-rise building would make a difference in fasting," said the 37-year-old from Egypt.
Since he lives below the 80th floor, he will break his fast with everyone else.
"The last two minutes before breaking a fast are tough, so I do feel bad for those living higher up," he said.
Other fatwas released this Ramadan include allowing women to use pills that delay menstruation for the duration of Ramadan so they can fast the entire month without having to make up for missing days.
"As long as there is no hazardous effect on the body itself, women are allowed to use this pill to help them fast the whole month without interruptions," said the fatwa.
Women are exempted from fasting on the days they menstruate, but then they have to make up for those days after Ramadan.
Another fatwa ruled in previous Ramadans reiterated that using specialised nicotine patches is allowed for fasting smokers, as it doesn't break a fast.
Both these fatwas mention the importance of "the intention" behind any decision taken during Ramadan.
Besides fasting-related rulings, there are rulings related to charity, with the latest reminding Muslims of their "duty" to help other Muslim nations that may be struggling, with Somalia named specifically. The ruling encourages donations through trusted agencies, like the Red Crescent.
The religious edicts are issued through the official Ifta or Fatwa centres in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, in response to people's questions about what is permissible under Sharia law. The questions are either submitted online, via text or over the phone.

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