How Can I Know the Time for Fajr in a Country Where There Is No Real Darkness?
Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Question: Assalamu alaykum
I have a question about Fajr and Isha timings in Poland. Here in Poland from May to August there is no real darkness. Only Astronomical Twilight till Nautical Twilight appears in the morning. Some mosques uses 15 some 17 and some 18 degrees. Which one is the correct one according to the Hanafi school?
Answer: Wa ‘alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh
I pray you are well.
A practical approach
The simplest approach is to pick a local mosque and then pray, and initiate your fast according to its timetable. You should, however, try to stick to one so you are not praying fajr at a time one day, and then eating at that time the next, and so on. Treat it as you would treat any other position upon which the ulema have differed: practice one unless there is undue difficulty, in which case you should consult a reliable local scholar.
Differences within the school
This issue has been the subject of a much discussion amongst scholars from all four legal schools for a millennium. The essential discussion revolves around the question of does the prayer time for salat al-ʿisha exist in places which are found on at latitude of 48.5 and above during the summer months when there is a persistent twilight, or not? This, in turn, affects the question of when the fast, and the time for salat al-Fajr should begin.
In the Hanafi school there are two positions on this: the former states that the time of ʿIsha does not exist, and the latter states that it does, but the sign the Shari’a has given us to indicate its entrance – the disappearance of the twilight – is missing. Both positions have the support of major figures in the Hanafi school.
The latter position, however, has been very convincingly argued by leading Hanafi scholars such as al-Kamal b. al-Humam in his book Fatḥ al-Qadir, and more recently by Harun al-Marjani. al-Marjani was a 19th century Russian Hanafi who lived in Qazan, which is on a latitude of 55, and had to deal with this very issue. In his seminal work, Nazurat al-Haqq, he convincingly shows the superiority of Ibn al-Humam’s position, and concludes that in the absence of the usual sign to indicate the entrance of Isha and Fajr, the time to pray Isha and to begin fasting must be calculated. This is also the position of other scholars, and of the Shafi’i school.
Seeing as the precise means of calculation is not mentioned in the primary texts of the religion, this issue becomes a matter of ijtihad, which means that qualified scholars must attempt to come to a conclusion based on their understandings of the religion. There are a number of valid positions and methods of calculations which have been put forward, and each is assessed by scholars on the grounds of the strength of its legal reasoning.
There is a point in mid-May where the twilights does not disappear. It stays from maghrib until sunrise. Usually, it disappears, and we know that isha time has started. When the dawn light appears we know that fajr time has started. When it stays from sunset to sunrise we calculate when it would have disappeared and appeared to know the payer times
Here in the UK, some of the more commonly used means of calculation of when the fast should begin are:
1. Aqrab al Ayyam is the position which calculates using the last time it did actually disappear and appear.
2. Tansif al-Layl, which is when the time between is divided half; the first half being allocated for Maghrib and Isha, and the latter half for Fajr.
These two positions are considered by many leading scholars to be the most precautios in religion; they are also quite practical seeing as they allow people to start their fast and pray fajr in the region of 1-2 pm, based of the location, and then get a block of uninterrupted sleep. There are, however, other valid approaches. Similarly, there are also a number of positions to determine the start of Isha.
A good resource which details the intricacies of this issue is the work Shedding Light On the Dawn by Dr Asim Yusuf. Even a quick look at this work shows the great effort scholars put into reaching legal rulings, and that their conclusions are not arbitrary.
(Ref: Durr al-Mukhtar; Radd al-Muhtar, Nazurat al-Haqq, Fath al-Mulhim, Shedding Light of the Dawn).
May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time.
Over the following eighteen months he studied a traditional curriculum, studying with scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.
In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years, in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.
His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.
When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul-Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.