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1. Question: I have questions about Zuhr and Maghrib times. (a)Does Zuhr time begin at noon? (b)Is Maghrib time defined by the astronomical calculation of sunset, which is when the sun's disk just goes below horizon. I see that there is enough light on the horizon at calculated sunset time? (Sep 21,1997)

Answer: (a)According to Shari'ah, Zuhr time does not begin at noon. Noon is Zawaal time. Zawaal is when the sun is at its highest altitude during its journey from sunrise to sunset. At this time, any prayer should not be performed. 5 to 10 minutes after Zawaal should be allowed for the beginning of Zuhr.

(b) Maghrib time according to Shari'ah is when the sun goes below horizon such that no portion of the sun is visible. This means that when the sun's disk completely goes below horizon (as visible to an observer) Maghrib time starts. Shari'ah does not require any magnitudes of darkness. In this respect, the astronomical calculations of sunset is exactly same as Shari'ah requirement, that the top of sun's disk completely vanishes below horizon. At that point, there is enough light on the horizon, but that light should not be the concern for Muslims.

Now, I agree with some peoples observation of the sun still barely visible at calculated time of sunset, and I am not talking about enough light on the horizon. There are 3 reasons for this barely visible sun at Maghrib time. One is the sloping downward ground in west direction, while the calculations are made assuming level ground, the other is the calculations are made at one point given by longitude and latitude, and the observer in most cases is not at that point, and the third is the refraction of light through atmosphere whose density keeps on changing and that changes angle of refraction. These effects are taken into consideration, if 3 minutes are added to sunset time for beginning of Maghrib time.

2. Question: How do I know the the beginning and ending times of every parayer. The schedules I get give the beginning of prayer times but not the ending, after which Salat is QAZA. Also I want to know the Zawaal timing. (Karachi, Sep 22,1997)

Answer: According to Hanafi Fiqh, Fajr ending time is 5 to 10 minutes before sunrise. Zuhr time begins approximately 5 minutes after Zawaal. Zuhr ends at Asr time. Asr ends 5 to 10 minutes before Maghrib. Maghrib ends at Isha. Isha ends at Midnight.

3. Question: I am a bit confused with the timings of Asr. Shafei Asr time is one hour before us (Hanafi). Due to this I get confused with the Zuhr time. Can I also say the Zuhr prayer after Shafei Asr time. Also people say that Maghrib time is just for 20 to 30 minutes. Is that correct? (Karachi, Sep 22,1997)

Answer: I appreciate your thirst for knowledge. Asr times according to Imam Abu-Hanifa starts at twice the shadow, and Zuhr time continues till that time. According to Shah Waliullah Dehlvi (a famous scholar born in India in the 18th century) who made research (in Hadith & Fiqh) and came to conclusion that "Between the shadow of one time length and two times length, i.e. between Asr(Shafei) and Asr(Hanafi) is the time permissible for both Zuhr and Asr, and in that time Zuhr would not be considered Qaza, and Asr would be considered acceptable also. But you indicated that you are Hanafi, and as Hanafi, you should not make a practice to pray Zuhr in Shafei time of Asr. May Allah bless you, and keep the spirit of Eeman in your heart alive and ever-increasing.

According to Imam Abu-Hanifa, Maghrib time continues till the beginning of Isha time. However, it is very much stressed that Maghrib should not be delayed after sunset, and should be prayed as soon as possible preferably within 15 to 20 minutes of sunset. It is considered Makrooh to delay Maghrib prayer without any legitimate justification. If due to unavoidable circumstances, you are delayed for Maghrib, it will not be Qaza until the beginning of Isha time.

4. Question: With reference to your web page about Prayer Schedule, is there any information on how the 15° reference is derived for Fajr and Isha?

We have made some observation in the sky of Eastern Australia and observed the time for the white thread of dawn at about 13° to 14°. (Oct 2,1997)

Answer: We, in North America (USA & Canada), use the angle of depression as 15°, both for Isha and Fajr. This has been verified by actual observations in various places (See next question). It has also been endorsed by Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

5. Question: I would like to know what is the angle of depression for Isha and Fajr used in North America, Canada and Britain. Currently Singapore is using 18° for Isha and 20° for Fajr. And I suspect so is Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. (Oct 19,1997)

Answer: Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) endorses 15° angle of depression, both for Fajr & Isha. This is based on actual observation collected in England, Pakistan, USA, Caribbean Islands, and Australia. After collecting the actual observation for Subh-e-Sadiq (for Fajr), and disappearance of Shafaq (for Isha), I have made calculations to find the corresponding angle of depression for each observation of the phenomenon, and found that the angle comes out to be closer to 13.5° to 14°. Keeping a little factor of safety, it makes sense to keep on using 15° not only in North America, but also anywhere in the world.

6. Question: I guess you must be an authoritative person in North America concerning Islamic Astronomy. Alhamdulillah. Can you please tell me your opinion on using 18° depression for Isha and 20° for Fajr for countries near the Equator? (Oct 19,1997)

Answer: 15° is the best approximation for both Fajr and Isha for all latitudes up to 45°. This has been adopted after verification from many locations on the globe by actual observation for the Subhe-Sadiq. Latitudes higher than that need special considerations, where the sun does not go below 15°, so something else has to be adopted for calculations about Fajr and Isha. For this, I have been using 1/7th of the night rule as suggested by Islamic scholars in the first three centuries after the Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi wa sallam).

7. Question: How about the method employed by Saudi Arabia for Isha' which, to my knowledge, is 1-1/2 hour after Maghrib all year long? Isn't that disregarding the change in sun's declination? (Oct 19,1997)

Answer: For latitudes close to Equator, like where Saudi Arabia is, 1-1/2 hours is a very good approximation and also practical, and the variation of twilight time (due to sun's angle of depression) is small in different seasons.

8. Question: What is the definition of sunset in Islam? Is it the time when the solar disc touches the horizon or is the time when the solar disc has completely disappeared below the horizon? And do you know approximately how much time is elapsed between the two positions.(Nov 18,1997)

Answer: The sunset for Islamic purposes is the same as astronomical definition of sunset, and that is when an observer is looking at the horizon, the sun just vanishes below horizon, or in other words, the sun's disk just went completely below horizon. From the time, the bottom of the sun's disk's starts touching the horizon, to the time, when it completely vanishes below horizon, it takes about 2.5 to 3 minutes. Further explanation about the Maghrib time is given on my Prayers web page.

9. Question: I just discovered your site while browsing. You say that Fajr is calculated for sun being 15° below horizon. I have seen schedules calculated at 18°. Are you aware of that? If yes can you tell me why you chose 15°? One person I asked who goes for 18° said that people do not know and just follow blindly, and that everywhere in the world it is 18°. according to him some person started this issue, which then became common because people do not question the authenticity. I will appreciate your quick response to this. (Dec 21,1997)

Answer: The fact is just the reverse, that people have been blindly following 18° without any basis. The basis is Qur'an and Sunnah, and nowhere it says 18°. What Sunnah refers to is Subh-e-Sadiq, which is a phenomenon that can be observed as described in Sunnah, and has been observed by several independent groups of Muslims in different locations of the world at different times, in order to establish where was the sun at their observed time of Subh-e-Sadiq. It was observed to be about 13.5° to 14°. So I, as well as ISNA have a scientific basis depending upon actual observation, that is closest to Sunnah, and have adopted 15° considering a little bit factor of safety. People who claim to have seen the use of 18°, have actually seen the time table that uses the rule of 1 hour & 30 minutes before sunrise for Fajr, and 1 hour & 30 minutes after sunset for Isha. This does not agree with the observed phenomenon of Subh-e-Sadiq or disappearance of Shafaq.

Most places in the world do not follow 18°. What they follow is 1 hr and 30 minute rule, both for Fajr & Isha. This 1 hour & 30 minute when checked out for sun's position, it comes out about 18° only at latitudes near equator. At high latitudes it varies quite a bit from 12° to 18°.

10. Question: It seems impractical to find the time for Asr based on object's length plus shadow at Zawaal time for Shafei, or twice the object's length plus shadow at Zawaal time for Hanafi. How, an individual is supposed to know what is the shadow at Zawaal time. It appears to me that both Shafei and Hanafi Fiqh are not practical for this.

Answer: We in the 20th century may feel so much difficulty in knowing the shadow at Zawaal, but the Muslims in early centuries of Islam did not have any such difficulty. That's why, no one ever posed this question in early centuries objecting the Fiqh positions. Those early Muslims knew the time telling by sun's shadows, star's positions and moon phases. However, in the 20th century, we do not have time to observe skies during day or night as much as our ancestors did, but we have the technology to get much of that type of information from our computers, astronomical knowledge, and mathematics. Let us use the tools available in the times we are living in, and not object Fiqh positions.

11. Question: The terms 'zawwal time' and 'noon time' have been used interchangeably in your web site regarding the prayer timings. I think the term 'noon' generally refers to 12:00pm while the zawwal time keeps on shifting all year round. Could you please tell me what time have you used in your calculations? (New Jersey, August 18,1998)

Answer: The term "Noon" is loosely used for 12:00Noon, but the "Noon" in geography and astronomy means the time when the sun from sunrise to sunset has completed its half journey, which can also be expressed as the sun's highest point in its journey. This time is different every day. Zawaal is a phase defined in Islam when the sun has past its highest point, which if defined astronomically, comes out to be 5 minutes after "Noon" time (it has a little factor of safety built-in, because at Zawwal, any prayer is Haraam).

12. Question: At polar regions day and night are several months long, so how do Muslims fast and pray in those regions?

Answer: The answer is simpler than what you may think. Polar regions like Norway, Finland, and Alaska have area where the sun stays below horizon for several months in winter, and stays above horizon for several months in summer. However, there comes a time in every day when the sun is at its highset point (Noon) and at lowest point (Midnight). At temperate latitudes, the highest point is visible but lowest point is below horizon. But at higher latitudes (Polar region, like Norway, Finland, and Alaska) they occur below horizon in winter (meaning several months long night), and above horizon in summer when the sun never sets for several months. But we can calculate those two points and determine Prayer times around those two known times every day. Having determined the prayer times, the fasting time is already set.

13. Question: I was very surprised to see a wide difference in timing for Fajr & Isha calculated by assumptions of various organizations compared to ISNA's. Can you explain?

Answer: The variation you may see is not an alarming variation. Remember, in the times of Prophet (SAV), there were no watches. Much more variations were in practice, even to the extent that Sahaabah (RA) prayed Fajr in Ghalas (darkness of night mixed with light) or Isfaar (when the light has spread conspicuously). This variation was more than half an hour. Qur'an mentions Fajr time as when you can differentiate a black thread from a white thread. Some Sahabi (RA) was observed to physically take two threads and trying to see them; the Prophet (SAV) clarified to him (RA) that this is not the intent of Shari'ah. It is when the very faint light of morning begins to spread horizontally in the darkness of night. This phenomenon is not very strictly quantifiable. Similarly, for Isha the Hadith mentioned disappearance of Shafaq. Shafaq is not a phenomenon that can be strictly quantified.

Muslims started calculating Prayer times after the invention of clocks and watches, in the 19th century. The signs mentioned in Qur'an and Hadith for Fajr and Isha have been recently observed by organized groups of Muslims in various parts of the world (England, Pakistan, USA, Caribbean Islands, South Africa, and Australia). Those observations revealed to us that Fajr time starts when the sun is 13.5° to 14° below horizon. The variation you saw is due to calculations done at for Fajr/Isha when the sun is below horizon at 15°/15° (ISNA), 18°/17° (World Islamic League), 18°/18° (Karachi), 19°/17° (Umm al-Qura), and 19.5°/90 minutes (Egypt). The variation you see is much smaller than those observed during the Prophet's times. Do not let this difference bother you. Any of them or all of them are OK. Muslims in the spirit of being conservative have chosen larger values than observed 13.5° or 14°.

Remember, there cannot be any variation in Maghrib time, but Fajr and Isha times are not that precisely defined by Qur'an and Hadith. Allah (SWT) has given us great relief in Fajr and Isha times. This should be considered as a blessing not a burden.

14. Question: We will be travelling from Chicago to Zurich on 19 December 2000, Flight leaves at 1645 CST and arrives Zurich at 0745 zurich time. During this fligt, when (according to CST) we can eat sehri to continue our fast. (Manzhar Alam - Dec 12, 2000)

Answer: This is not an easy problem. We have a moving target and want to calculate Subh-e-Sadiq!

Approximate calculations are as follows: Your journey is 9 hour long. You have to travel from 88W longitude to 8E longitude (total of 96 longitude). End of Sehri time locally anywhere on your journey would be around 5:30am. You will have covered around [(29:30-16:45)/(31:45-16:45)]= 85% of your journey to be at local time of 5:30am. Time of travel by the clock will be about (0.85 x 9.0 hrs.) 7.6 hours. Your clock will be reading 0:30am. This would be end of your Sehri time (in local place). So, the answer you are looking for is 0:30am in your watch of Chicago time. This is rough calculation, so watch yourself an hour before, what does the darkness outside look like (are you seeing any streaks of light or complete darkness). Then judge yourself, is it still too dark. If yes, wait a little more. If not, stop eating around that time.

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