Islamic scholars and NHS leaders are urging Muslims not to let fasting over Ramadan stop them getting a Covid jab.
During Ramadan many Muslims abstain from food and drink in daylight hours.
Islamic teaching says Muslims should refrain “from anything entering the body” between sunrise and sunset.
But Qari Asim, an imam in Leeds, said that because the vaccine goes into the muscle rather than the bloodstream and is not nutritious, it does not amount to breaking the fast.
“The majority of the Islamic scholars are of the view that taking the vaccine during Ramadan will not invalidate the fast,” Mr Asim, who chairs the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, told the BBC.
He said his message to the Muslim community was: “If you are eligible for the vaccine and have received your invite, you need to ask yourself: do you take the vaccine which has proven to be effective or do you risk catching Covid, which can make you quite ill, and you may potentially miss the whole of Ramadan and possibly end up in hospital?”
Some NHS vaccine sites in Nottingham and Brighton are extending their opening hours so Muslims can come after they have broken their fast.
But Dr Farzana Hussain, a senior GP from The Surgery Project in east London, said there was no need to avoid daylight hours.
“We know that a lot of Muslims are a bit concerned about having their Covid vaccination during Ramadan. Many people believe that having an injection actually breaks the fast,” she said. “But it doesn’t at all because it’s not considered nutrition.”
She added: “The Quran says saving your life is the most important thing: ‘To save one life is to save the whole of humanity.’ It’s a responsibility of a practising Muslim to take their vaccine.”
Some mosques are being used as vaccination centres in an effort to boost take up among minority communities.
Polling from Ipsos Mori suggests a dramatic increase in ethnic minority Britons who say they have had, or are likely to have, the vaccine – from 77% in January to 92% in March.Birmingham mosque opens doors as vaccination centre
Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Monday evening after the sighting of the Moon over Mecca, is traditionally marked by regular communal prayers in mosques and shared meals – or Iftars – to break the fast after sunset.
Although communal worship is allowed across the UK, social distancing must be enforced and different households cannot mix indoors.
The British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) has issued guidance for mosques during Ramadan. They recommend keeping Taraweeh – the main evening prayers – short, increasing ventilation, and say imams should wear “properly fitted double masks to protect congregants”.
Dr Shehla Imtiaz-UmerDr Shehla Imtiaz-Umer urged people to get vaccinated to protect future Ramadans
Dr Shehla Imtiaz-Umer, a GP in Derby and representative of the BIMA, told the BBC: “We’ve seen a lot of devastation in our communities because of the Covid pandemic and we want to try and make sure that our future Ramadans are not affected to this extent.
“Unfortunately it’s been affected last year and this year. But if we carry on taking our vaccines and making sure that we’re all protected, we can ensure that next Ramadan we do return to some normality.”
Here’s what Islamic scholars say.
“There is no nutritious vitamin or food substance in any vaccine, including the Covid-19 vaccine. Injecting such a thing into the body does not break the fast,” Idris Bozkurt, a top official of the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), told Anadolu Agency.
During Ramadan, Muslims cannot eat, drink or have sexual intercourse from the outbreak of dawn to dusk.
Prof. Dr. Ahmet Yaman, who teaches at the Faculty of Theology at Necmettin Erbakan University, explained the Islamic perspective on fasting and vaccination.
Yaman quoted one of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings, which reads: “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”
In light of the Prophet’s words, Yaman said that Islam places a particular emphasis on the take up of measures that prevent contagious diseases.
Yaman invoked another of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings, “Get treated; because Allah has also created a cure for every sickness”.
Yaman said that the vaccines created for Covid-19 should be seen in the context of the Hadiths (the Prophet’s sayings).
Those who decide not to have it, he said, are violating the rights of the entire society and humanity, too.
“Vaccines and other injections do not break the fast,” Yaman said. “Fasting can only be broken by eating and drinking and sexual intercourse. Covid-19 vaccine does not break the fast because it does not mean food or vitamin intake from outside”.
Oman’s nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive currently underway, many of those who will be fasting during the day have wondered whether being administered the vaccine will lead to their fasts considered broken.
“After reviewing the documentation concerning these vaccines – namely the Oxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech injections – the conclusion is that they will have no effect on a person’s fasting,” said Sheikh Dr. Kahlan Al Kharusi, the Assistant Grand Mufti.nullADVERTISINGnull
“This is because a person who receives the AstraZeneca injection is given a 0.5ml dose, while a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine is of 0.3ml.
“Regardless of the contents of the vaccine, this is a very small amount,” he added. “There is a ruling under Islamic Sharia that pardons people who take vaccines such as this or any other, because it involves injecting medicines into the muscle in very small amounts.”