Posts Tagged ‘fajr’

Ramadan in the summer at high latitudes – by Sheikh Ahmad Kutty

April 15, 2014

Bismillah. An interesting fatwa published last Ramadan (July 2013). Parts of Ramadan will be in midsummer for the next few years, so this discussion will continue.

I’d add the following notes:

1) According to Ibn Kathir, in his Tafsir under 2:187, Tabari narrated from several Successors (Tabi’in) that fasting only becomes obligatory at sunrise. (In my view, this is based on, and a logical extension of, the difficulty of defining “dawn” precisely – when the sun appears, there is no argument!) Ibn Kathir adds that in his view, “No person of knowledge can remain stable on this view, since it contradicts the unequivocal text of the Qur’an.”

2) Does anyone have the text of Mustafa al-Zarqa’s fatwa cited below? As quoted, it says that fasting at high latitudes in the summer can follow clock timings from more temperate latitudes, ie to end fasting before local sunset.


Determining the Times of Fajr and Imsak
By Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, Senior Lecturer, The Islamic Institute of Toronto


(Since the day hours are excessively long, such rigidity when determining imsak can be viewed as only dampening one’s spirit about fasting.)

In light of the above incontrovertible evidence, it should be rather easy for us to conclude that relying on astronomical dawn to determine the time of imsak is unwarranted, and that we cannot go wrong if we consider the nautical dawn, if not the civil dawn, as the starting time of imsak and beginning of fajr. Furthermore, there is no basis for compelling people to start the imsak way before fajr, for, as it has been clearly demonstrated, the companions were in the habit of standing up for fajr soon after finishing their suhur.

Furthermore, it has been clearly demonstrated from the Sunnah and the practices of the pious generations that the time of imsak and fajr is not determined by minutes, seconds, or degrees, but by sufficient latitude, ease, and flexibility. Hence, there is no compelling reason for us to insist on the astronomical definition of dawn.

Still another point to note: When we consider the above statements and reports carefully, it is clear that their approach to the issue unravels another fundamental principle of jurisprudence. This has been often phrased as “That which is certain cannot be removed by doubts.” When we apply this principle to the issue at hand, since the night precedes dawn, that is a certainty, as such, it cannot be ruled out until we can clearly determine that the dawn has arrived.

Closely allied with the above is the importance of taking into account our own times and circumstances. No one can doubt we are living at a time where Muslims are showing increasing complacency and are slipping away from the practice of Islam. Moreover, since the day hours are excessively long, such rigidity when determiningimsak can be viewed as only dampening one’s spirit about fasting.

We saw all of the above leniency and latitude as pointed out above were demonstrated in standard time zones like those of Makkah and Madinah. So one might legitimately ask: By applying a far more stricter rule in calculating the time of imsak, are we trying to prove to be more pious than the Prophet’s companions and successors, and end up causing greater and greater hardship for people, who reside in less than standard time zones?

In this regard, therefore, let us recognize that the juristic traditions in all of the acceptable schools of jurisprudence have taken into account the circumstances of people and countries, for they knew too well that Shari`ah is based on tangible maqasid (higher purposes) and masalih (benefits). They also understood that the function of an `alim (scholar) is to render ease where there is difficulty. Long ago, Imam Sufyan Ath-Thawri said, “A true scholar is one who finds (based on sound principles) an easier way for people, because as far as making things difficult is concerned, one need not have any knowledge to do that!”

It is perhaps pertinent to mention here that, according to one of the great jurists of the Hanafi school of the twentieth century, the late Shaikh Mustafa Az-Zarqa, Muslims living in time zones where daylight hours are unusually long may base their times for imsak and iftar on the regular timetables followed in Makkah and Madinah.

If this is the inference of an eminent Hanafi jurist, coming as he is from a long lineage of authentic representatives of the Hanafi school, how can we be faulted for going by a time-table which calculates the Fajr in a slightly flexible manner?

As a final word, it would be wise to remind ourselves of the dire warning of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “There are among you those who simply drive people away from Islam.” (Bukhari and Muslim).

I pray to Allah to guide us to the straight path, make us instruments of guidance and gather us all under the banner of the seal of prophets and messengers.

Usama Hasan,

UK dawn (fajr) observation

September 10, 2012

Bismillah. From Usamah Ward:

Assalamu ‘alaikum.

September can be a good month for astronomical observations, it often has warm clear nights. Last year I spent a few good nights looking at the night sky with friends, but this year I thought I’d try to observe the start of dawn. Last Saturday morning (8 Sep 2012) was a perfect opportunity; there was no cloud within view (according to weather charts, the nearest cloud in the direction of dawn was over Scandinavia), and it was not cold.

I originally intended to drive to Walton-on-the-Naze, but that is a long way to go from London on my own; instead I drove to Leysdown-on-Sea. This is a good location I can reach in an hour, it is dark enough to see the Milky Way, it has a clear view of the north-east to east horizon over the sea, and due to its closeness has a strong relevance to London.I arrived early (3.30 AM), as it is important to allow one’s eyes to accustom to the dark. Dawn was to be expected in a direction between 050º and 060º, and was helpfully framed by The Plough to my left, and a brilliant Venus to my right which had already risen in the east and now cast a long reflection over the water.

The other advantage of arriving early was an opportunity to survey the night sky with my binoculars, with Orion above the horizon quite south of east, the waning moon shining brightly above and to the right of Venus, accompanied by Jupiter to its left, and the Pleiades somewhat above.

At the start of astronomical twilight (sun’s altitude at 18º, about 4.22 AM)) I could see no sign of dawn; indeed, I had to wait some 20 minutes. The appearance and spreading of the light of dawn I would have called for 4.45 AM, which is about the middle of astronomical twilight (15º), though some may have called it a few minutes earlier – as you’ll know, it’s not a precise moment by any means! I have to say that given the conditions I had thought I might see it a little earlier.

It is important to emphasise that this proves nothing; it is one person’s observation on one night. My attempt to photograph what I saw was, not surprisingly, a dismal failure, due the the limitations of my camera and my abilities!

However, the more we try to observe dawn, the more likely we will be able to devise meaningful timetables.For record, it is my view that:

1) Timetables that give ‘to the minute’ times for Fajr and Isha are inherently misleading, as all the evidence of science and people’s observations suggests the times vary considerably depending on atmospheric conditions. At best, they are a helpful average.

2) Angles determined by observations carried out at significantly different latitudes cannot be assumed to be valid for the UK.3) Much work needs to be done *by* Muslims in the UK *for* Muslims in the UK, partly to ensure we understand the Fiqh correctly, partly to grasp the latest scientific understanding of the phenomenon of dawn, but mostly to establish as much observational data as possible.

Usamah K Ward

Usama Hasan,