Muslims don't have to fast, says Algeria scholar
An Algerian Islamic scholar has sparked heated debate after claiming Muslims are not obliged to fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
Said Djabelkhir - an expert in Sufi Islam - made the controversial comments that have polarised Algerians during an interview on a local channel this week.
Djabelkhir argued that the Ramadan fast is not mandatory and that Muslims have the choice of donating food and money to the poor instead.
"Under normal circumstances, not all of the prophet's companions fasted… some Muslims fasted and others didn't. They did this and didn't criminalise each other," the scholar said.
"The Ramadan fast is not mandatory - it is a choice in Islam because it started like this as is documented in the Quran and Islamic law," he added.
Djabelkhir's comments have sparked anger in the country, with the scholar warning that he has received online death threats.
The channel that hosted the scholar - El-Bilad - took down a clip of the interview from its social media pages following the backlash.
Others have come to the defence of the scholar, with some agreeing with his interpretation or arguing that he is free to express his opinion.
Traditional Islamic belief is that able-bodied Muslims must abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset during the holy month.
Exceptions to this include the sick, elderly, travellers, pregnant and menstruating women and soldiers at war.
Earlier this month, a former Egyptian footballer triggered a similar debate after he tweeted that FIFA should ban players from fasting and play at the same time.
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