Attending Juma, Praying and Fasting While Training to be a Firefighter
Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan
Question: I have just recently started a 10 months long fire fighter course that I enrolled the 1st of november. I enrolled this education through the swedish employment department and it’s a project that is being funded by the ESF (European Social Fond). This education is supposed to give me the qualifications necessary to apply for a job as a fire fighter as soon as I’m finished with it. I must of course look for this job myself after I’ve finished my studies. What is noteworthy as well is that this programme is supposed to bring up a variety in the security sector, it is supposed to encourage people with different ethnic backgrounds, religion, etc to enroll on this education and this project is supposed to encourage a working place for everybody. I have basically 2 issues that I want to bring up.
I have spoken to the main instructor about the issue of my prayers and the friday prayer. He says it’s OK for me to perform my prayers. But I get bad vibes from him, as if he does not really find any pleasure in making my life easier. I perform my prayers during the breaks.
When I mention the friday prayer to him, he quickly points out that the schedule is very intense and that there won’t be any time left for me to attend juma. We transfer alot between different departments around the entire region of southern Sweden. I then wonder, what should I do about juma? Let’s say, for instance, that I’m performing a drill on an trainingfield and I am fully equipped with my firefighter gear and I’m supposed to practice how to extinguish fire. Do I have to go to juma? It is physically possible but the situation demands me to stay in this place and to finish my drill.
Other fridays we might have lectures and that makes the entire situation easier. But the problem is that I only have a 1 hour lunch break between 12.00 to 13.00. I can use this break to attend juma. But the problem is that they do not accept any late arrivals and if I attend juma I will always be 10-20 mins late if I attend juma.
(1) Am I still obliged to attend juma even though my teacher does not permit this action?
(2) Let’s assume that I start working as a firefighter and we run our to extinguish a fire or to help someone who has been a victim of a accident, and we are there for 3 hours which results into me missing the asr and maghrib prayer. I pray these prayers in my qadah, but is this disliked and what are your views on this?
You probably know that the firefighter profession is very physically demanding. We constantly work out and work alot with our bodies and with our tools when we do our drills. Ramadan will occur in the same period as when I have my 2 last months of this education. I will probably enroll the practical part then. This means that i will follow a firefighter team on a firefighting department and I will study their schedule. Workout, drills,smoke diving etc. I think it is impossible to fast during this time since I have to eat and drink steadily. I don’t think it’s OK to break your fast right before a drill because you have to, the body won’t be able to handle this and you put yourself and others in a risk. The only solution would be to be absent during that month but then I will probably not pass the course. That would have been a sour apple to bite, to just quit after 9 months when I only have approximately 1 month left. I will of course speak to the managers about this to see if they an find a solution for this. If they do not have a solution, then I guess that i must drop out now already?
(3) When I get employed as a firefighter, we will work 7-8 “dayshifts” (24/7 shifts) every month. During that time we are supposed to be prepared to pull out for any kind of accident or drill. You are supposed to drink and eat correctly during these shifts.. If these hours fall in during ramadan, I cannot fast. Is it OK to fast them in qadah if I do not succeed in taking a vacation during this period or if I fail to change my working schedule with my colleagues?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health states.
Before addressing your friend’s specific questions, I would like to advise him to definitely not drop out of his course because of the issues he brings up. The Sacred Law is applicable to all situations, and what he is doing is very noble. It is a true struggle that is of great merit and reward according to Islam, especially if coupled with a sincere intention to serve Allah and help His creation.
The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said, “All of creation are the dependents of Allah, so the most beloved of creation to Allah are those who provide the most benefit to His dependents.” [Tabarani, Mu`jam Kabir]
The Friday Prayer
Regarding the Friday prayer, the default ruling is of course that it is mandatory to attend, unless there is an actual emergency, in which case one is excused from attending. So your friend must try his best to make any necessary arrangements with his instructor and team so as to attend the Friday prayer.
Having said that, if due to the nature of the training program your friend is unable to attend, then considering his situation he would be excused. In that case, he must pray zuhr instead.
Delaying the Prayer
If your friend is actually on the job putting out a fire or dealing with any other emergency — whether directly or as part of the team doing so — and the situation is such that were he to stop and pray, it could be detrimental to the effort and endanger someone’s life or property, then he is not only excused from praying on time, but it is in fact mandatory to delay the prayer so as to fully deal with the emergency.
If, however, he is able to pray on time such that it is not detrimental to the effort of dealing with the emergency, then he must of course pray on time.
Missing Fasts in Ramadan
The criteria for being excused from fasting during Ramadan due to a fear of harm — to oneself (such as sickness or the like) or to another — is that the fear be a “legitimate” fear recognized by the Sacred Law, namely, a fear based on one of the following:
(a) Past experience;
(b) An obvious sign of potential harm, “obvious” meaning no two persons would disagree; or,
(c) An opinion of an expert, to confirm that the fear is legitimate. Such an expert must appreciate the significance of Ramadan in Islam for his opinion to bear weight.
[Tahtawi/Shurunbulali, Hashiyat Maraqi l’Falah; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
And Allah knows best.
Faraz A. Khan
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani