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All praises are due to Allah, the Lord of all things; and may His peace and blessings be upon the Muhammad, the final messenger to mankind.
The fatwa issued was as follows:
The beginning of summer occasions great confusion amongst many Muslims living in the UK, North America, Canada and some other European countries concerning the commencement of Isha, Maghrib and Fajr prayers. Muslims frequently enquire about the best time to pray Isha given that it starts very late. In this fatwa I will explain the different opinions of the scholars in dealing with this issue, and thereafter, I will discuss these opinions, their evidences, and any respective criticisms made against them. Finally, I will explain the best practical opinion taking into consideration the diversity of Muslims residing in the aforementioned countries as well as the abnormal situation they face.
b) The astronomical interpretation of the disappearance of twilight.While the vast majority of scholars believe that it is the disappearance of the redness of twilight that truly signifies its ‘disappearance’, Hanafi scholars believe that it is the disappearance of the whiteness. Concerning the second reason behind this disagreement, Muslim scholars differ on which astronomical interpretation should be adopted to determine the disappearance of twilight. The resolution of the ninth Muslim World League conference held in 1406 H (March, 1996) holds that 17 degrees is the correct interpretation for the disappearance of twilight. If we adopt this opinion (which in any case is the opinion of the majority of Muslim scholars as well as astronomers) then all countries located above 49 degrees latitude may well observe the phenomenon of persistent twilight until the break of dawn. If we adopt the other linguistic meaning and the second astronomical interpretation for the disappearance of twilight we allocate 15 degrees as the start of Isha time. According to this degree, twilight does disappear yet it disappears very late in places located roughly at 49 or 50 degrees, but it never disappears in countries which are located at 60+ degrees latitude. According to the opinion of the vast majority of scholars and astronomers, twilight does not disappear for a period of time during summer in many European countries since many of them are located above 49 degrees latitude.
- when the legislated indications of the commencement of Isha are to be observed, but very late; and,
- when the legislated indications for the commencement of Isha disappear completely.
- The end of Maghrib,
- The start of Isha, and
- The start of Fajr.
Start of Isha time
From the previous discussion we conclude that the aspects relevant to this discussion comprise two parts:
- The first part is when the legal sign is visible, but it starts extremely late, and,
- The second part is when the legal sign disappears altogether.
b) Because of the difficulty involved, Muslims estimate the time for Isha prayer at odds to its actual astronomical time. Let us call this option estimation, and
c) Because of the difficulty involved, Muslims combine Isha with Maghrib at the time of Maghrib. Let us call this option combination.
Discussion of the first opinion: praying on time
a) The Shari’ah intended to distribute the prayers over the day and night. This is why the Shari’ah considered time a vital condition for prayer. They supported their argument by the fact that the Shari’ah discourages people from combining unless there is a pressing need let alone the fact that many scholars prohibited the continuous practice of combining prayers over a long period of time in a manner that gives rise to a habitual action;
b) The estimation of Isha time is a valid approach since many scholars agree that Isha time starts after the end of the first seventh of the night according to an interpretation of some Shafi’i scholars, and,
c) The principle of estimation in essence is valid since it is mentioned in the famous hadith of the Dajjal during the last days when Allah extends the length of the days of his presence so that one day will be as long as one complete year, another day will be equal to a month in length, and the third day as long as a week, while others are normal days in length. The Companions asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about praying in these extended days. The reply of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was to command them to estimate the times of prayer. This hadith is reported in Sahih Muslim.
- Praying in congregation is compulsory upon every able male adult and it is of great significance in Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) desired to punish those who did not attend the congregational prayer and he did not excuse a blind person who hears the call for Salah from not attending it. Some scholars mentioned that attending prayer in congregation takes precedence over many conditions of Salah. For example the adult person who is sick and will pray in a sitting posture if he joins the congregation while he could pray in a standing posture if he prays alone should join the congregation;
- The times assigned for Isha in such countries are not definite as shown by the previous discussion. Actually it is a matter of ijtihad as we have just stated. In such cases courses of action that maintain unity or remove disagreements should take precedence over individual opinions; and
- The reason behind this conclusion is the fact that we cannot confirm that Isha during this period starts at a specific time which puts it within the area of ijtihad. So if it is a matter of ijtihad, one should pray in congregation even if it takes place at a time that does not match his ijtihad. This conclusion is supported by the fact that Islam aims to prevent fitnah between Muslims and block all roads leading to it.
Notes: this article has been reposted.