This is the first prayer of the day at dawn. Islamic tradition distinguishes two different times for dawn: when the first light appears at the horizon, rather vertical (like the “tail of a wolf” as tradition says), and then, after this first light disappears, when the light of the early day spreads horizontally across the horizon. The first dawn is called “Subh Kadhib” or “Fajr-al-Mustateel” and the second “Subh Sadiq” or “Fajr-al-Mustatir”. Fajr is to be prayed at the second dawn, Subh Sadiq. In earlier times we had Muslims who were experts in the field and capable of recognising true dawn by eye. In our time, with the advent of technology and issue with light pollution combined with lack of knowledge in this arena, it is more accurate to calculate using scientific instruments in observatories, interpreted by computers for our ease. Subh Sadiq comes in when a horizontal light is seen in the horizon. There are various accepted methods to calculate true dawn. According to the Hanafi ulema who had expertise, in the field it has been calculated in terms of degrees when the centre of the Sun is X degrees below the horizon. Various opinions have been offered; at Lancaster Islamic Society we have chosen to utilise the 15 degree opinion to calculate Fajr. You will be able to find these timings on various websites when calculated using ISNA or Ulema of France. A fatwa giving credence to this position can be found here
The midday prayer. Just as the sun declines after having reached its highest position in the sky (zenith). Dhuhr is prayed approximately five minutes after zenith.
Dhuhr has been defined in several ways in the fiqh literature:
- When the Sun begins to decline (Zawaal) after reaching its highest point in the sky.
- When the shadow of an indicator (a vertical stick) reaches its minimum length and starts to increase.
- When the Sun’s disk comes out of its zenith line, which is a line between the observer and the centre of the Sun when it is at the highest point.
The first and the second definitions are equivalent, as the shadow length has a direct correlation to the Sun’s elevation in the sky. By the third definition, It takes approximately 1 minute until Sun’s disk comes out of its zenith that should be taken into consideration for calculating Dhuhr.
The mid-afternoon prayer. Asr starts when Dhuhr ends. According to the Hanafi school, there are two opinions with regard to the ending time of the Dhuhr prayer. The first opinion is in accordance with the view of the majority of the scholars which is when the shadow of a thing is similar to its length, and the second opinion is when the shadow of an object is twice its length.
At Lancaster Islamic Society we have taken the latter view for Asr beginning time and as such Asr Prayer begins on the “second shadow” on our timetable.
The prayer at sunset. In Fiqh, Maghrib is termed as; Actual Sunset considering 3 things i.e. variation in refraction, area around the actual latitude and longitude considered, and any downward sloping ground towards sunset direction.
In general it is accepted as around 3 minutes after theoretical sunset.
On our timetable we have calculated Maghrib as; Sunset (Lancaster) + 4 mins which is a slightly cautious approach allowing for sunset to fully commence.
The night prayer at dusk. Just as for Fajr, Islamic tradition distinguishes two times of dusk, both called “Shafaq”. After sunset, the sky is first ablaze with a red colour. This is “Shafaq al Ahmar”. Later, the red colour disappears, leaving room for a whiteness of the sky. This is “Shafaq al Abyad”. The duration of these phases increase with altitude. The major schools of Islam fix the Isha prayer either at the disappearance of Shafaq al Ahmar or at the disappearance of Shafaq al Abyad. Both traditions are legitimate and, like for Asr, we leave the choice to the user. However, as for Fajr, adjustments are necessary for Isha at higher latitudes when Shafaq al Abyad almost never disappears in summer. In such cases we can either use a combination of Shafaq al Ahmar and Shafaq al Abyad called “Shafaq General” or use other methods that have the consensus of the Islamic community.
Isha, according to the Hanafi ulema who have expertise in the field, can be calculated in terms of degrees when the centre of the Sun is X degrees below the horizon. Various opinions have been offered; at Lancaster Islamic Society we have chosen to utilise the 15 degree opinion to calculate Isha, this works very well during the winter months. However, at higher latitudes where Fajr and Isha times are very close to each other, such as at latitudes between 55° and 60°, the rule of Sab’u Lail (1/7th of the night), is used because the other methods of calculation give times that become hardship (Haraj) for the public.
Therefore, during British Summer Time we have adopted the 1/7th rule as Isha for beginning time.
This has been permitted by Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanwi from India (Imadadul Fatawa, vol 2, p98, 12/12/1322 Hijri) and also by Allamah Shami in Durre Mukhtar. Mufti Shafi Usmani from Pakistan said: “This statement is presented via assumption, that in those countries where Subh Sadiq cannot be clearly distinguished (e.g. Northern Europe in the summer months) it is permissible to act upon this advice”.
A longer much more detailed explanation of this matter can be found here