Saturday, April 20, 2013

Q&A: Timings of Salah (prayer) by Sheikh Ata’ Abu Rashta

The following is the translation of an Arabic Q&A from the website of the noble jurist and mufassir Sheikh `Ata’ Ibn Khalil Abu Rashta (Allah preserve him).


I am among the Shabab from Finland with a question regarding timings for Iftar in our region where even if the sun goes down, it is not ‘dark as night’ rather it remains like the twilight which appears shortly after the sunset. Please note that I live in a remote area of northern Finland which is about 800 km away from its capital Helsinki and there is hardly any group of Muslim.

So, how can we ascertain the time of fasting at dawn? Since the time of what appears to be sunset is about 11.00 PM, while the time of Fajr is difficult to ascertain due to the absence of what is generally considered to be ‘night’. So is it correct for us to delay our Ramadan fasts to a later date?? Also does the absence of a determined time of fasting (Imsak) affect the correctness of fasting, since the fasting begins (when you can distinguish the white thread from the black thread at dawn), or it is proper for me to rely on the timings determined in the capital Helsinki??


The timings are the reasons for prayer and fasting, the command becomes effective when the reason exists and ceases when the reason is absent. That is why the reason is primarily called: “Al Sabab (the cause) while in terminology it is every principled visible attribute which is considered proper evidence for the command to be effective and not for legislating the command.” i.e. the reasons have been set by the legislator so that the addressee of the command (المكلف) can understand the command of the legislator. Thus when the reason is present, the command will be effective; and when it is absent, the command also will be non-existent.

Thus prayer or fasting are not permitted on the timings of a region other than your region, be it the Fajr prayer or the Dhuhr etc…similarly the timings of fasting (Imsak) or of breaking the fast are not permitted on the timings of the Helsinki masjid in the capital while you are residing the north of Finland 800 km away.

Dear Brother, it appears that your problem is the timing of sunset and Fajr (dawn) for the purpose of fasting and breaking of fast; this issue is as follows:

Since the timing of sunset is known, the fasting person shall break his fast on sunset even if the horizon is like that of twilight; this is because the Azaan of Maghreb is at the time of sunset. In a narration by Muslim, a person who came to ask the Prophet (saw) about the timing of salah, the Prophet (saw) said:

«...ثمَّ أَمَرَهُ فَأَقَامَ بِالْمَغْرِبِ حِينَ وَقَعَتِ الشَّمْسُ»
He then commanded him for the evening prayer, when the sun had set.

« ثُمَّ أَمَرَهُ بِالْمَغْرِبِ حِينَ وَجَبَتِ الشَّمْسُ...»
He then commanded him for the evening prayer, when the sun had set.

i.e. when the sun had set, and this is the time of breaking of fast and not when the twilight disappears which is the time for Isha prayer as mentioned in the above hadith:

« ثُمَّ أَمَرَهُ فَأَقَامَ الْعِشَاءَ حِينَ غَابَ الشَّفَقُ...»
He then commanded him and the night prayer was pronounced when the twilight had disappeared.

« ثُمَّ أَمَرَهُ بِالْعِشَاءِ حِينَ وَقَعَ الشَّفَقُ...»
He then commanded him and the night prayer was pronounced when the twilight had disappeared.

i.e. when the twilight glow has disappeared. Thus the presence of twilight glow does not affect the breaking of fast. For some scholars, the twilight is the red glow after the sunset; while for some other scholars, it is the whiteness that follows the red glow after sunset. Thus the disappearance of the twilight glow, which is the time of Isha prayer, is the disappearance of the red glow, or the disappearance of the white glow after the red one. Ibn al Atheer says: “The two extremes of twilight lie upon the red glow visible in the West after the sunset, or upon the remaining white glow on the Western horizon after the stated red glow. The first is position atken by Imam Shaf’ee, while Imam Abu Haneefa has taken the latter position.”

As for Fajr when the fasting has to begin, it is the Azaan and prayer of al Fajr. In the referred hadith by Muslim, the Prophet (saw) said:

« فَأَقَامَ الْفَجْرَ حِينَ انْشَقَّ الْفَجْرُ...»
and he observed the dawn prayer when there was clear daylight.

« فَأَمَرَ بِلَالًا فَأَذَّنَ بِغَلَسٍ، فَصَلَّى الصُّبْحَ حِينَ طَلَعَ الْفَجْرُ...»
He commanded Bilal, and he uttered the call to prayer in the darkness of night preceding daybreak and he said the morning prayer till dawn had appeared…

While in the hadith narrated in Tirmidhi, when Jibreel led the Prophet (saw) in Fajr, it is narrated:

«ثُمَّ صَلَّى الفَجْرَ حِينَ بَرَقَ الفَجْرُ، وَحَرُمَ الطَّعَامُ عَلَى الصَّائِمِ...».
He then performed Fajr salah when dawn broke and the fasting person was prohibited from eating…

Ibn Atheer says: ‘Ghalas’ is the darkness of night when mixed with the morning light.

The Fajr here is the Fajr Sadiq when the darkness of night changes towards whiteness even if there is partial darkness as is the case in your region. When this darkness changes towards whiteness and visibly spreads over the horizon, you must begin the fast and pray fajr. This is different from the Fajr Kathib which is when the darkness changes to white but appears rising up towards the sky but does not spread across. At this time, fajr is not to be performed because it is still part of night and one may eat and drink…i.e. this is not when one has to necessarily begin his fast.

The whiteness that is mixed with the darkness of night at the time of Fajr Sadiq does not mean that one can see everything, rather if one observes the eastern horizon he finds that the ‘partial’ darkness has begun to disperse, i.e. the darkness has begun to spread across right and left on the horizon as different from a little earlier.

Ibn Hajar in Fatah al Bari, explaining the hadith narrated by Muslim on the authority of Abdullah ibn Masood(Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (saw) said:

"The Adhan of Bilal should not restrain anyone among you from eating Sahur (last meal before daybreak during the month of Ramadan) for he announces Adhan (or he calls) at (the fag end of) the night to return those who stand for prayer among you, and to awaken those who are sleeping among you. And he said: The dawn is not like it, as one says (and he lifted his hand) till he (dispersed his fingers) and said: It is like this. And Zuhair (r.a) said: With his index fingers over one another and extended it towards his right and his left.

Ibn Hajar, explaning this hadith said:
“Morning follows the sleep, so it is appropriate to turn those people who are awake to prepare themselves and understand the virtue and preference of early period, and Allah knows the best…”. By saying that “he raised his fingers”, it is meant that he indicated…His saying: “he lifted his fingers and dispersed them”, …it means that he gathered his fingers and then dispersed them to indicate the Fajr Sadeq because it rises visibly and spreads over the horizon horizontally towards right and left as distinct from Fajr Katheb which the Arabs refer to as the tail of the wolf which appears high in the sky and then dilutes or reduces, this is what is indicated by saying he raised his hands up and brought it down..” which is visible across the width horizontally.

In Conclusion: Since there is no reliably determined timings for fasting in your region, you act as follows:

·        Break your fast when the sun sets…
·        And when whiteness which appears horizontally and is more than the ‘partial’ darkness, which you know is the condition in your region during the nights, i.e. when you can see a visible change towards whiteness horizontally across right and left in the eastern side, this is the Fajer Sadeq. So you start the fast and pray Fajr…
·        So you spend all possible efforts in this matter and take the help of your brothers who live near you, seek their advice, and start your fast and break your fast accordingly. Take precautions for starting and breaking the fast, and Allah (swt) is oft forgiving and merciful, He (swt) said:

وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ﴾ [الحج: 78]
“and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship,” [TMA al-Hajj:78].

It is narrated in Bayhaqee in his Sunan al Kubra:

«إِنَّ هَذَا الدِّينَ مَتِينٌ، فَأَوْغِلْ فِيهِ بِرِفْقٍ».
"Definitely this religion is strong, so go deeply into it with softness/kindness."

May Allah (swt) accept the Salah and fasting from you and us and all Muslims, Allah be with you.

10th Ramadan, 1432 A.H
10th August, 2011 C.E

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