Is the British weather anti-Islamic? Prayer times, the ulama and application of the shari’a
In the absence of clear-cut guidance from the primary sources of the shari’a, how do Muslim scholars derive a workable religious praxis in changing circumstances and which authorities do they invoke in the process? This article explores possible answers to these questions by conducting a detailed analysis of a debate between two groups of Deobandi scholars in Britain over establishing the correct time for the commencement of morning (Fajr) and the onset of fasting for Ramadan. I argue that besides the primary sources, these Deobandi scholars invoke alternate forms of extra-scriptural authority such as the weight of precedence deriving from the akabir (elders) of the Deobandi tradition, as also their reliance on modern scientific knowledge. The article highlights the complex interplay of factors which determines the way that Muslims in Britain negotiate the practice of their religion in new sociocultural milieu and the way they attempt to incorporate these changes within the parameters of an established religious discourse.
KeywordsIslamic law Shari’a Prayers Ulama Deoband Science Muslims in Britain
A shorter draft of this paper was presented at the Exeter University Shari’a Project conference in April 2013. I would like to thank my colleague Dr. Robert Lang from the School of Astrophysics at Cardiff University for helping me to better understand some complicated scientific information. I would also like to extend my gratitude to my colleagues Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray and Professor David Waines and to my student Riyaz Timol (PhD candidate at Cardiff University) for reading drafts of this article and for their valuable suggestions.
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