DIFFERENCE IN FASTING TIMES
(a brief explanation of why many Ramadan timetables may be inaccurate)
Why is there a difference in the starting times for fasting?
The time for Fajr prayer is from the first light of true dawn (Subh Sadiq) until the sun rises. Fasting starts from the start of Fajr time, i.e when the first light of true dawn appears. This means that it is from the time when the first rays of light from the sun appear in the horizon.
How did the Muslims calculate this historically?
In the earlier days Muslims would witness the time and make a judgement. About a thousand years ago, Muslims scientists like Al Biruni and Ibn Al Haytham calculated that the time at which the first rays of light are visible is when the sun is about 18 degrees below the horizon. Therefore for the last thousand years, the prayer times have been calculated by using the formula of about 18 degrees (and still is by almost all of the Muslim world).
Has there always been a difference?
No, the difference has recently arisen because of the global geographical location of the United Kingdom within the Northern hemisphere of the Earth. During the summer months, we undergo a period of persistent twilight which complicates issues.
What is persistent twilight?
This is when the light from the sun does not actually disappear from the night sky which therefore means that Esha and Fajr are very close together. This has caused some people to look for a new method of determining prayer times to circumvent the issue.
We will be suffering from persistent twilight up until 21 July after which the times will return to normal
Has technology made this issue easier to solve?
Technology gave us the formula of 18 degrees, but that formula is based upon actual observations. The only advantage technologically is the ability to use optical aids, and to avoid light pollution.
How were the ‘new times’ derived?
The new timings that many organisations have adopted are loosely based upon actual witnessing by individuals and some scholars from Blackburn. These times were then modified and adjusted to circumvent the phenomenon of persistent twilight.
Is there a problem with the new timings?
Quite simply put, there does not seem to be any witnessing of the times, but rather they are based on mathematical formulae and there is no basis in Shari’ah to make up times based upon convenience. Furthermore, additional observations made nearer to London, without light pollution have indicated that 18 degrees is indeed the correct formula. Therefore there seems to be little evidence to change.
Some have also argued that due to the hardship of the longer day, short timings should be accepted. However, fasting is for Allah, and is done according to Allah’s instructions. We have not been given the option to change the times for Fajr in order to make things convenient, or reduce the time of the fast to a fraction of the day.
Does it make a difference which times I follow?
It can make a great difference, in that potentially, the fasting may not be accepted by Allah. We pray that Allah accepts the fasting of all who fast for His sake, but have to warn that people should really understand how the times they are following were derived.
Which times should I follow?
In Islam we have a principle which advises us to err on the side of caution. Thus it is better to be safe than sorry. We would strongly advise all Muslims to remember their duty to Allah and follow the command of Allah diligently.
We therefore recommend following the timings based on 18 degrees which have been universally accepted and adopted by the scholars for over a 1000 years and still by most of the world.
We pray that Allah accepts our fasting.