Isha And Fajr Prayer Times in the UK

Question: Please explain to me how we would pray Isha and Fajr during May, June and July. Since in these months the twilight does not disappear as the disappearance and the appearance of the twilight is one of the conditions for isha and fajr prayers?

Answer: Let us begin by looking at the times of Isha and Fajr. Fajr begins at dawn and the definition of dawn is that moment when the reflected and refracted rays from the sun begin to reach the Earth. Dawn occurs well before the sunrise and it begins as a vertical white streak of light that appears above the horizon in the East. As the sun approaches the horizon, the rays of the light change their direction and begin to spread over the horizon from North to South. This occurs when the sun is 18° below the horizon.
On 21st December sunrise is at 8:15am, and the twilight is at 6:06am (two hours 9 min) in Nottingham. On 18th April sunrise is at 6:00am and the twilight is at 3:42am (two hours 18 min) then as the sun approaches the horizon. This is the beginning of Fajr time and extends till sunrise. The refracted rays continue to increase with the result that the intensity of the light increases and the colour changes from white to pinkish and then to yellowish the sunrise follows this moment.
Isha time begins at dusk and this is the moment when diffused light is present on the western horizon after the Sunset the change of colour at dusk is in the reverse order of dawn i.e. after the sunset, the intensity of the light decreases until it’s yellowish and reddish on the horizon, followed by the appearance of whiteness on the horizon and this is when the sun is 18° below the horizon. It is thought that the last trace of light coming from the sun reaches the Earth when the sun is 18° below the horizon when we get darkness.
For example, in Nottingham on 21st December sunsets, 3:50pm and the twilight disappears at 5:59pm (2 hours 9 min) and on 18th April sunset is at 8:09pm and twilight is at 10:29pm (two hours 20 min). As you can see the dawn and dusk are pretty much equal in their length.
In countries that lie near the equator and below 48° latitude, the twilight can be observed throughout the year and poses no difficulty, here the day length does not vary considerably in summer and winter (for example in India, it varies from 1 hour 20 min to 1 hour 35 min in winter and summer respectively, Bihar e shariat by Maulana Amjad ali). However, during the summer, 21st March to 21st September between the Arctic Circle and latitude 48° North, there is a belt with no true night, twilight, extending from sunrise to sunset, the width of the belt with no true night is maximum i.e. from Arctic Circle to 48° North at Midsummer 21st June and minimum at it with equinoxes 21st March and 21st September.
The period of no true night for latitude 50° to 60° North extends from 21st April to 24th August. (Qasmi and muneer 1989). For Nottingham it begins on 16th May and lasts till 29th July – these are known as “Ayyam e Haraj” abnormal days or days of difficulty.
In light of this natural phenomena and the question that arises how to determine the time for Isha and Fajr, Maulana Yaqub Qasim, a traditional Muslim scholar and well versed in astronomy, writes “it should be understood that an absence of any guideline provided by the blessed Prophet (SAW) for these abnormal days. The principle adopted in light of the judgement of the followers of the early jurisprudence year and the latter jurists would be approximate and not absolute.”
1. Nearest Day (Aqrab al-Ayyam)
A method that is preferred by many Hanafi scholars to establish the time of Sahur and Fajr during the abnormal days, so for Nottingham the Sahur according to this method will be 1:15am and will remain so from 17th of May until 28th July . Since the last day on which twilight begins in the morning at 1:15am is 16th May. It is interesting to note that these jurists do not prescribe the nearest day as a method for Isha prayer. On 16th May the twilight disappears at 12:47am in the morning in Nottingham.
2. Nearest Latitude (Aqrab al-Ballad)
This method is the favourite amongst Shafi’i scholars. It means using the twilight times for Isha and Fajr from a nearby city that is located on latitude 48° degrees or below. Recently, the Muslim world league has recommended using 45°. The Sahur time from Lyon in France (45 .75 degrees) is 3:52am. The other time is of Paris in France which is 48.8° latitude north. It’s Sahur time is 3:34am.
3. Middle of the Night (Nisf al-Layl).
This method is the preferred method of the duellists of the latter days. According to them the period from sunset to sunrise is divided into two halves. The first half is considered to be night and the second half is the daybreak. Hence the time for Sahur will end at the mid point. For example, in Nottingham on 20th July sunset is at 9:19pm whilst sunrise is at 5:04am. Therefore, midpoint is 1:11am, and this is also the time of Sahur.
4. One Seventh of the Night (Sub al-Layl)
This method is ascribed to recent jurists and according to this, the period between sunset and sunrise was divided into seven equal parts. Isha time begins at the end of first seventh of the night and Sahur time ends at beginning of the last seven of the night. In Nottingham on 20th July the sunset is at 9:19pm and sunrise is at 5:04am. Therefore, one seventh is 1 hour and 7 minutes, so Isha will begin at 10:26pm and and Sahur/Fajr will be at 3:57am.
Isha and Fajr prayer times during the difficult days in the light of the Objectives of Shari’ah
“The Quranic verses and the prophetic statements, which stipulate that the jurisprudential laws of Islam are all oriented. This is to say that the ultimate goals of the entire regulatory teachings (al-ahkam al-shariyya) , intellectual wisdom (al-hikmah al-aqliyya) and moral values (al-akhlaq) of Islam are to maximise human interest (al-jalb al-maslaha) and second to prevent hardship on human life (dar al-mafsada). Muslims scholars of jurisprudence who wrote on the objectives of the Islamic shariah like Imam al-Shatibi and Ibn Ashu stated that on one side this shariah tries to foster human prosperity while on the other side, it aims to provide protection to humanity from all kinds of threats. Hence the Islamic shariah ultimately aims to protect human life either through alleviation of hardship (raf al-haraj) or realisation of human in interest (tahqiq al-maslahah).”
(Syed Zahir Idid; Foundations of Islamic anti-drug abuse education in American Journal of Islamic social sciences, volume 29, number two).
Facilitating and making things easy in the light of Quran and Sunnah
علَيَْهمِ وَيحَُرّم الطيّّباَ ت لهَمُ وَيُح ل المُْنْكرَِ عَنِ وَينَْهاَهُمْ باِلمْعَْرُو ف يأَمُْرُهُم ) النبي هذا صفة في تعالى وقال
157 الاعراف سورة ( علَيَْهمِْ كَانَتْ التّيِ وَالأغْلالَ إصِْرَهمُْ عَنْهُمْ وَيضَعَ الْخَبَآئثَِ
And Allah the Almighty in praising his beloved prophet said “he commands them Goodness and for bids that which is evil. He makes permissible that which is pure and makes forbidden that which is filthy and harmful and he removes from their necks the chains that strangle them (al-Araf:157)
مَن) الصيام اوجب لما فقال فصله المجمل العام وهذا ◌َ لله يُُّرِيد أخُرَ أيَاّم منّْ فعَدِةّ سفَرٍَ علَىََ أ و مَرِيض ا كَانَ
185 البقرة سورة ( العْسُْرَ بِكُمُ يُرِيد وَلا اليْسُْرَ بِكُمُ
This general point is further explained when he made fast compulsory the Almighty said”whoever is ill or travelling then let him fast in other days for God wants ease for you. He does not want difficulty for you (al-Baqara:185)
سورة ( علَيَْكمُْ نعِمْتَهَُ وَلِيُتِمّ لِيُطَهّرَكُمْ يُرِيد وَلَكَنِ حَرَجٍ منّْ علَيَْكمُ ليِجَْعلَ لله يُُرِيد مَا) التيمم ذكر لما وقال
6 المائدة
Similarly, when Allah gave the dispensation for tayammum. He explained the reason behind it as “God does not want to put you into difficulty. He just wants to purify you and to complete his blessings on you (al-Maeda:6)
78 الحج سورة ( حَرَجٍ منِْ الدّينِ فِي علَيَْكمْ جَعَلَ وَمَا اجْتبَاَكمُ هُوَ جهِاَدِه حَقّ لله فِِي وَجَاهِدوُا) وقال
and the Almighty Allah says “strive and struggle in the way of God as you ought to strive for. He has indeed chosen you and he has not made any difficulty for you in this religion( al-Hajj:78)
101 النساء سورة ( الصلّاةَ مِنَ تقَصْرُُو ا أنَ جنُاَحٌ علَيَْكمُْ فلَيَْسَ الأرْضِ فِي ضرََبْتمُْ وَإِذَا) وقال
“And when you travel on the land then there is no problem for you to shorten the prayer” (an-Nisa:101)
The five daily prayers are one of the most important responsibilities that a muslim must perform. However, when we are counting Allah Almighty has again given the dispensation as mentioned in the above verse
28 النساء ( ضعَِيف ا الإنِساَن وَخُلِقَ عَنْكُمْ يخُفَفّ أنَ لله يُُّرِيد )
Allah Almighty said “a lot wants to lighten things for you since man has been created weak and frail” (an-Nisa:28)
الإثم يحمل العادي و الباغي فإن (علَيَْه إِثْمَ فلَآ عاَدٍ وَلا بَاغٍ غيَْرَ اضْطرُّ فمَنَ )ِ :تعالى فقال
الحلال على قدرته مع المحرم يبغى الذي :الباغي نعرف و
الحاجة قدر يتجاوز الذي : والعادي
Here, our God tells us that “whoever breaks the divine limits without intention (under duress) of disobedience to the Lord that will not be considered as a sin.”
النظر أهل من فيه وكونوا الأمثال من فيه ما وتتبعوا لله كتاب التزموا : لله رحمه البصري الحسن قال
وإن الزيادة وسأله لله حمد فيه ما وافق فإن وجل عز لله كتاب على وعمله نفسه عرض عبدا لله رحم
. قريب من إليه ورجع ربه استعتب خالفه
Hassan Al-Basri (RA) said follow the book of God and obey all the commandments in it so you become people of insight, God bless the worshipper who does everything according to the book of God and agrees with what’s in it. Thanks God and asks for more and if he acts against it. He seeks repentance and returns to him from the.
قال وسلم عليه لله صلى النبي عن عنه لله رضي هريرة أبي عن
منِْ وَشيَْء واَلر وحَةِ باِلْغَدْوَة وَاسْتعَيِنوُا وَأبَْشِرُوا وَقاَرِبوُا فسَدَدِّوُا غلَبَهَُ إِلَّا أحَدَ اٌلدِّينَ يُشاَد وَلنَْ يسُْرٌ الدِّينَ إنِ )َّ
“..غلبه إلا أحد الدين يشاد ولن يسر الدين إن” حديث يسر، الدين باب الإيمان، كتاب البخاري، صحيح
Abu Huraira (RA) said the messenger of God (SAW) said “surely the religion is easy . No one should make it difficult except him who is overwhelmed be straight bring people together give good news and seek help morning and evening.” Bukhari
عن الأدرع ابن عن الدين، في والتشدد والإفراط التنطع وذم من التحذير في كثيرة أحاديث وردت وقد
2)(باِلْمُغَالبََة الأْمَْر هَذَا تَنَالوُا لنَْ إِنَّكُمْ ) قال وسلم عليه لله صلى النبي )،
المتعمقون أي ( 3)(ثَلَاثًا قاَلهَاَ – المُْتنَطَعُِّون هلَكَ )َ وسلم عليه لله صلى لله رسول قال :قال لله عبد وعن
4)الغالون ).
The blessed messenger said “the extremists are ruined and he repeated this three times.”
كَانَ منَْ أهَْلكَ فإَنِمَّاَ الدِّينِ فِي وَالغْلُوَُّ وَإيَِّاكمُْ ) فقال الدين في الغلو عن وسلم عليه لله صلى النبي نهى ولهذا
فِي الغْلُوُُّ قبَْلكَمُْ
9)(الدِّينِ )؛
That is why the beloved Prophet (SAW) has forbidden extremism in religion. He (SAW) said, ”you must avoid extremism in the religion people before you were destroyed because of their extremist views in their religion.
When we look at the issue of prayer times during the days of difficulty or the abnormal period in the northern hemisphere and then the difficulties this poses to the muslim population living in these northern areas we can see that if we do not make it easy for the people to pray and to fast then we are in danger of losing many worshippers as well as causing severe difficulties too many of them. The difficulties that would be caused by following extreme times of 12:00pm for Isha and 1:11am for Sahur are evident as follows:
1. More than 50% of Muslims living in UK are under the age of 30. Most of them temporary labourers or are at school or college or university.
2. The number of diagnosed diabetics is 10% amongst the Muslims the number of undiagnosed is even higher.
3. The majority of Muslims are working-class that is they work in factories, transport and do other menial jobs. They work 8-10 hours per day.
A long fasting day exceeding 19 hours could pause serious difficulties. The question for scholars is which of the four methods prescribed by the Muslim jurists of the past would comply with Shari’ah’s regulations as well as make it easy for the Muslims to fast? I suggest that we should compare what these four methods offer is and then choose the one which is easiest for the majority. This would be taking up the offer of dispensation that the Shariah gives us and it would be in the interest of Muslims living in UK. Below I make a simple comparison of the four methods for 20th July in Nottingham
1. Nearest Day (Aqrab al-Ayyam)
The sahur will be 1:15am. On 16th May the twilight disappears at 12:47am in the morning in Nottingham. Therefore, the fast fasting day will be 20 hours long.
2. Nearest Latitude (Aqrab al-Ballad)
Here is a sample of the Sahur time from Lyon in France (45 .75 degrees). 3:52am and Isha will be at 11:32pm. Therefore, the fasting day will be 17 hours 20 min
The other time is of Paris in France which is 48.8° latitude north. It’s Sahur time is 3:34am. and Isha will be at 12:05pm. Therefore, the fasting day will be 17 hours 38 min.
3. Middle of the Night (Nisf al-Layl).
In Nottingham on 20th July, sunset is at 9:19pm whilst sunrise is at 5:04am. Therefore, midpoint is 1:11am. And this is also the time of Sahur. Therefore, the fasting day will be 20 hours.
4. One Seventh of the Night (Sub al-Layl)
In Nottingham on 20th July, sunset is at 9:19pm and sunrise is at 5:04am. Therefore, one seventh is 1 hour and 7 minutes, so Sahur will be at 3:57am. Therefore, the fasting day will be set 17 hours 22 min.
We notice that using nearest day and middle of the night will result in long fasting day exceeding 20 hours whilst if you were to use nearest latitude or one seventh of the night that would make the fasting day 17 hours and 20 min.
In the light of the above arguments. I plead to my revered, pious and extremely learned scholars that we take the easiest option since this is the Sunnah of the blessed Prophet (SAW), Aishah (RA), said “whenever the messenger (SAW) had a choice between two things he would always choose the easiest of the two.’ (Muslim)
Hence, by choosing the easiest option, we are clearly following the sunnah of the mercy for the entire universe (SAW).
And Allah knows the best