What It the Difference Between False and True Dawn?


Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

I have heard that there is a false fajr (al-fajr al-kaadhib) which does not prevent eating (if we fast) and a true fajr (al-fajr al-sadiq) which is when the prayer Fajr and fast begins.

1. Is it correct?

2. Can we see fajr in a big city?

3. What are the ways by which I can know the time of Fajr has begun if the sky is cloudy?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

1. Yes, this is correct and there are a number of prophetic traditions that distinguish between these two fajrs, such as:

(a) The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, “Do not let the call to prayer of Bilal prevent you from your pre-dawn meal (suhur), nor the vertical light on the horizon until it spreads horizontally.” [Muslim, Sahih (3:129-30) with slightly different wording; Abu Dawud, Sunan (3:144); al-Tirmidhi, Sunan (2:79)]

(b) The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “There are two fajrs: a fajr in which food is impermissible and prayer is permitted, and a fajr in which food is permissible and prayer is impermissible.” [Ibn Khuzayma, Sahih (3:116); al-Daraqutni, Sunan (2:165); al-Hakim, Mustadrak (2:456)]

(c) In other narrations, the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) described false dawn as resembling the “tale of a wolf.” [al-Daraqutni, Sunan (1:505, 3:115-16); al-Hakim, Mustadrak (2:11-12)]

As these traditions make clear, there is a false dawn and then a true dawn. Each of them was given a particular description. The first of these dawns is legally insignificant, while the second is the time when fajr actually enters.

2. This might prove difficult given light pollution and other visibility issues.

3. For most people, a reliable timetable should suffice.

[Ustadh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studies Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir.