Many of us wonder why the timetables kindly handed to us at Muslim convenience shops and the local Mosque during Ramadan give different times for one to begin the fast. Isha too, it would seem also suffers from this divergence.
Why are the salah times for Fajr and Isha so different?
Timetable variance is the product of a simple yet easily avoidable error relating to the angle by which the sun has to fall below the horizon for the sky to go dark.
A quick surf of the web shows how varied this is reported to be; the angle used most in timetables is either 15 or 18 degrees. Timetables using the 15 degree angle start fasting later that those using 18 degrees. While Isha time is earlier on the 15 degree timetables.
How important is this difference?
In the northern hemisphere (Europe, and N. America) the difference in three degrees translates to approximately 15 minutes in the winter and an hour and a half in the summer depending on how far north one lives.
How does this effect salah times?
If the 18 degree angle is correct, the time for fajr during the summer will have begun an hour and a half earlier than the time shown in a timetable using the 15 degree angle.
Isha too will be delayed that extra hour and a half to that shown in a 15 degree timetable. As a result some of us will be praying Fajr and Isha at incorrect times throughout the year.
So what can be done to fix this?
Simple, all that is required are two well meaning individuals to stand on a coast, on a clear day and record the time the sunlight disappears. Isha begins at this time.
In the morning, they should record the time the sunlight begins to appear across the horizon. Fajr starts at this time.
Why the coast, is my street not good enough?
On the coast, at sea level, the first and last lights on the horizon can be seen clearly. Areas inland that are flat and far from any street lighting are also good locations for sightings. Unfortunately, most inland areas suffer from light pollution and hilly ground which block the first and final light from the horizon.
How can I help?
If you are interested in helping, all you need to do is carry out one sighting on the coast/beach or a flat area far from any street lights. Send the location and times observed to the Blog through the Comments section. These will then be used in the database to find the angle of the sun.
Is there a limit to the number and location of sightings?
No, the more the better. It is however preferable for a minimum of two people to take part in each sighting.
Jurists point to a ruling in fiqh which states that the light of Fajr has to be bright enough so as to remove any doubt of its presence. This is because the Quranic Ayyah that mentions the time to begin fasting uses the Arabic terms Yatabayan lakum : appears distinct to you.
What does the light at Fajr look like?
There are two lights at Fajr. The first is called false Fajr. This is a rising column of light in the middle of the horizon. This begins to give way to the second light, the true Fajr, which rises parallel to the horizon a while later and is when Fajr starts.
What about the light at Isha?
There are two colours that can be seen after the sun has set, red and white. These can be seen in the video below.
The majority of scholars hold the view that Isha begins when the red light has disappeared. Others hold the view that the remaining white light has also to disappear. The time between them is relatively short. Both times would need to be recorded.
How are the results used? As sightings are posted to the blog, the angles are calculated and posted alongside the comments. Anyone can then use these results to find the correct times.
If you live in regions of the Northern Hemisphere, where the phenomena of persistent twilight occurs, the angle's value is particularly important for estimating salah times. For more information on this phenomena please visit the following site: constant-twilight.blogspot.com
If I can't help with a sighting myself, is there an alternative? Sure, if you know of an Islamic association, or a group of individuals going camping, we would be grateful if you would forward them the site's address.
All help will be greatly appreciated. We pray that all efforts will be recorded as a sadaqah jariya.
Please find the format for posting sightings in comments section below:
- Location Name/Address or Latitude/Longitude (Used to tack variations in Latitude)
- Time and date of sighting (Used to track any possible seasonal changes).
- Sighting for: Fajr / Isha.
- Contact email(s).