Juma-namaz during Summertime

All praises are due to Allah, the Lord of all things; and may His peace and blessings be upon Muhammad, the final messenger to mankind.

My previous fatwa on the issue of prayer times for ‘Ishā and Fajr during summer is in accordance with the decree of the Islamic Fiqh Council. I also believe that if there is a difference between my fatwa and the one issued by the Council then the latter should be endorsed and implemented. The relevant selection of the Council’s decree from the second decree of the 19th assembly in Makkah al-Mukarramah held on 8/11/2007 concerning prayer times for countries situated between latitudes of 48 and 66 degrees North and South is as follows:

To clarify this decree further in order to answer the specific problematic scenario put forward to the Council, the Council views the previous decree instructing the use of referring (to other regions) for reference, for countries with latitudes between 48 and 66 degrees North and South, to be specifically for the case where astronomical signs for the times are non-existent. As for the case where the signs of prayer times do occur but the disappearance of twilight, indicating the start of ‘Ishā, is very late, the Council views it as being obligatory to pray ‘Ishā in its legally specified time. However, whoever experiences difficulty in waiting to pray it in its time, like students, office-workers and labourers during the days of their work, they can combine prayers in accordance with the textual evidences relating to the removal of burdens from the Ummah. One example of this is the narration of Ibn ‘Abbās, and others, may Allah be pleased with them, “The Messenger of Allah combined Zhuhr and ‘Asr, and Maghrib and ‘Ishā in Madīna without (cause of) fear or rain”. Ibn ‘Abbās was questioned about this to which he replied, ‘He wanted to not burden his Ummah’. The condition for this though is that the practice of combining should not be the norm for all people in that country for this whole duration because this will in effect change the concession of combining into a permanent and intended obligatory action from the onset. The Council also views the adoption of approximating and distributing the times in such a situation all the more (appropriate).’

 

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Summer ‘Ishā & Fajr Prayer Times

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All praises are due to Allah, the Lord of all things; and may His peace and blessings be upon Muhammad, the final messenger to mankind.

My previous fatwa on the issue of prayer times for ‘Ishā and Fajr during summer is in accordance with the decree of the Islamic Fiqh Council. I also believe that if there is a difference between my fatwa and the one issued by the Council then the latter should be endorsed and implemented. The relevant selection of the Council’s decree from the second decree of the 19th assembly in Makkah al-Mukarramah held on 8/11/2007 concerning prayer times for countries situated between latitudes of 48 and 66 degrees North and South is as follows:


 

‘To clarify this decree further in order to answer the specific problematic scenario put forward to the Council, the Council views the previous decree instructing the use of referring (to other regions) for reference, for countries with latitudes between 48 and 66 degrees North and South, to be specifically for the case where astronomical signs for the times are non-existent. As for the case where the signs of prayer times do occur but the disappearance of twilight, indicating the start of ‘Ishā, is very late, the Council views it as being obligatory to pray ‘Ishā in its legally specified time. However, whoever experiences difficulty in waiting to pray it in its time, like students, office-workers and labourers during the days of their work, they can combine prayers in accordance with the textual evidences relating to the removal of burdens from the Ummah. One example of this is the narration of Ibn ‘Abbās, and others, may Allah be pleased with them, “The Messenger of Allah combined Zhuhr and ‘Asr, and Maghrib and ‘Ishā in Madīna without (cause of) fear or rain”. Ibn ‘Abbās was questioned about this to which he replied, ‘He wanted to not burden his Ummah’. The condition for this though is that the practice of combining should not be the norm for all people in that country for this whole duration because this will in effect change the concession of combining into a permanent and intended obligatory action from the onset. The Council also views the adoption of approximating and distributing the times in such a situation all the more (appropriate).’

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The fatwa issued was as follows:

The beginning of summer brings great confusion amongst many Muslims living in the UK, North America, Canada and some other European countries concerning the commencement of ‘Ishā, Maghrib and Fajr prayers. Muslims frequently enquire about the best time to pray ‘Ishā 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.

Firstly, it is essential to state that ‘Ishā time commences once twilight disappears. This is based on many prophetic traditions such as the statement narrated in Sahīh Muslim by ‘Abdullāh Ibn ‘Amr that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “…and the time for Maghrib continues until the twilight does disappear”. Both Muslim and non-Muslim astronomers disagree on the time twilight disappears especially in areas of extreme latitude such as Canada and many European countries. England has a latitude of between 50 to 60 degrees. Some believe that the twilight never disappears for a certain period of time during the summer while others believe that it does disappear, but extremely late.

This disagreement is a result of different opinions concerning two main factors:

  1. The linguistic interpretation of the disappearance of twilight; and,
  2. 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 ‘Ishā time. According to this value, 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.

The above discussion is far from sufficient in uniting the opinions of the scholars since the difference discussed above is deeply rooted in the four acceptable official schools of thought as well as astronomical interpretation. Moreover, the wide diversity of Muslims residing in the UK and Europe, their juristic schools of thought, and the absence of any Muslim leadership for Muslims to follow makes it almost impossible to agree on specific criteria for the timings of prayer. In any case, it is almost universally accepted that twilight either does not disappear or persists until very late into the night before disappearing in many European countries. In other words, there are two aspects to this period of confusion or hardship:

  1. When the legislated indications of the commencement of ‘Ishā are to be observed, but very late; and,
  2. When the legislated indications for the commencement of ‘Ishā disappear completely.

Hence, irrespective of the disagreement amongst scholars and astronomers, there will be places which observe only one aspect while there will be definitely some other countries observing both aspects mentioned above. The issue is further confounded when on the one hand, some followers of some schools of thought believe that they are observing the first aspect only, while on the other hand, followers of other schools of thought in the very same locality, may believe that they are facing both situations. Now, regardless of whether we follow 17, 19, or 15 degrees as being the start of ‘Ishā, a comprehensive explanation and solution should be presented taking in consideration the diversity of understanding found amongst the Muslims.

The problem of the absence of the legislated signs indicating the start of ‘Ishā, or the very late start, leads to difficulty in understanding the correct position concerning three related issues:

  1. The end of Maghrib;
  2. The start of ‘Ishā; and
  3. The start of Fajr.

Let us first discuss the start of ‘Ishā time since it is the main matter of concern here.

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