Computing Prayer Times
All Praise is due to Allah Who guided us to Islam and caused ritual prayer
(salah) to be the pillar of our faith. Allah the Exalted says, "Truly
the prayer is a scheduled injunction upon the believers." (Qur'an 4:103)
I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His
slave and messenger, may the mercy and peace of Allah be upon him, his
family, and his companions.
The importance of ritual prayer in Islam cannot be overemphasized.
While all other injunctions were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu
`alayhi wa sallam) on Earth, the prescribed prayers were enjoined on
his nation near the Farthest Lotus (sidrat-ul-muntaha), above the
Seventh Heaven, in proximity of the Throne of The Compassionate. Prayer
is the first of a person's actions for which he will be held accountable
on the Day of Resurrection. Prayer is also the mainstay of Islam. Therefore, whoever
establishes it establishes his religion and whoever dismantles it dismantles
his religion. Prayer is the covenant between the individual and Allah.
Whoever perfects his five daily prayers, Allah will assure him safety from torment.
He who neglects his prayers has no such assurance -- Allah may
torment him or forgive him. If there is one
issue about which a person must be zealous, it is the soundness of his prayer.
It is imperative that every adult Muslim studies and understands the requirements
and obligations of prayer, as well as those matters that invalidate it.
There are six requirements for prayer: intention; ritual cleanliness
(wudoo'); physical cleanliness of body, place, and clothing; facing
the qiblah; covering legal nakedness (`awrah); and ensuring
that the time for the prayer has arrived. For many Muslims in North America
this last requirement is an obscurity. After all, Islamic organizations
and mosques distribute prayer timetables, so why worry? The concern is
that some of these timetables have been produced by people with only a
rudimentary understanding of how to compute prayer times. I have even lived
in a community where one of the brothers who witnessed the formation of
the prayer timetable indicated that it was haphazardly thrown together.
Although this brother has little confidence in the timetable, it is used
throughout a city with over ten thousand Muslims. Offering a prayer before
its prescribed time renders the prayer invalid. Eating after Fajr or before
Maghrib while fasting invalidates the fast. The validity of two of the
five pillars of Islam rests on properly identifying the prayer times.
The main part of this document is the translation of a decree from the
Muslim World League regarding computing prayer times at extreme latitudes.
Although the decree's main focus is prayers at extreme latitudes, it starts
by describing prayer time computation for normal areas. Since the decree is
concerned with practical matters and is not a work of literature, I have
given intended meanings a higher priority over literalism or eloquence.
Some comments and notes follow the translation.
Translation of the Decree from the Muslim World League
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
"Hold on altogether to the rope that Allah extends to you and do
The Muslim World League
The Eighth Decree
Regarding Times for Prayers and Fasting at Extreme Latitudes
Administration of the Fiqh Council
All praise is due to Allah alone, and may mercy and peace be upon he
whom no prophet will postdate, our master and prophet, Muhammad, may the
mercy and peace of Allah be upon him, his family, and companions.
In its ninth session, the Fiqh Council deliberated in the Muslim World
League building in Makkah Al-Mukarramah between the dates of Saturday,
12 Rajab 1406 AH and Saturday, 19 Rajab 1406 AH regarding times for prayers
and fasting at extreme latitudes.
In conformance with the lenient spirit of Islamic Law and the findings
provided by the Council of Astronomers, the [Fiqh] Council decrees the
May mercy and peace be upon our master Muhammad and all of his family and
In order to avoid the confusion caused by multiple computational
methods, each prayer time is described in two ways: the astronomical
phenomenon specified in Islamic Law and the corresponding astronomical
calculation. The latter is expressed in terms of the position of the sun
above or below the horizon. Islamic scholars of prayer times determined the
Fajr corresponds to the first appearance of a white light that spreads
laterally across the horizon. This is referred to as true dawn and corresponds
to when the sun is 18 degrees below the eastern horizon.
Sunrise corresponds to the appearance of the highest point of the sun's
disk on the eastern horizon, which corresponds to when the sun is 5/6 of
a degree below the horizon.
Dhuhr corresponds to the sun passing its zenith - the highest point it will
reach that day. This corresponds to the shortest shadow of an object [for
Asr corresponds to the position of the sun such that the length of the
shadow of an object is equal to the length of the object plus the length
of the object's shadow when the sun is at its zenith. The corresponding
angle changes with respect to time and place.
Maghrib corresponds to the complete disappearance of the sun's disk below
the western horizon. This corresponds to the sun being 5/6 of a degree
below the horizon.
Isha corresponds to the disappearance of red twilight. This corresponds
to the sun being 17 degrees below the western horizon.
It is sufficient to add two [clock] minutes to the times of: Dhuhr, Asr,
Maghrib, and Isha, and to subtract two minutes from the times of Fajr and
Extreme latitudes fall into three categories:
Region 1 is anywhere between latitudes of 45 to 48 degrees north or south.
Whether drawn-out or shortened, all necessary astronomical phenomena occur
within a 24 hour period in this region.
Region 2 is anywhere between latitudes of 48 to 66 degrees north or south.
Some astronomical phenomena are non-existent during some days of the year
in this region, such as the lingering of twilight through the start of
Isha and the adjacency of the end of Maghrib time with the start of Fajr.
Region 3 is anywhere between the latitude of 66 north or south and the
corresponding pole. The necessary astronomical phenomena are non-existent
for large parts of the year.
The ruling regarding Region 1 is that its inhabitants must abide by the
legally prescribed times for prayers and fast between the appearance of
true dawn and sunset. This is in accordance with Islamic legal texts regarding
prayer and fasting.
The ruling regarding Region 2 is that the times for Isha and Fajr should
be determined by using the corresponding percentages for these prayers
at the latitude of 45 degrees. For example, if Isha starts after one third
of the night has passed at the latitude of 45 degrees, then relative to
the length of the night at the desired location, Isha also starts after
one third of it has passed. The same applies to Fajr.
The ruling regarding Region 3 is that the times for all prayers should
be computed according to their analogues at a latitude of 45 degrees. The
24 hours in a day in this region should be divided up into the same proportions
as it is at 45 degrees. For example, if the length of the night at 45 degrees
is eight hours, the sun sets at 8:00 pm, and Isha is at 11:00 pm, then
the equivalent should hold for the desired location. If, for example, Fajr
is at 2:00 am, then it is the same at the desired location. Fasting should
start from this time until the proportioned Maghrib.
This conclusion is based on the analogous situation mentioned in the
hadeeth pertaining to the Dajjal (False Christ),
We said, "Oh Messenger of Allah, how long will he remain on
earth?" He said, "Forty days: a day like a year, then a day like a month,
then a day like a week..." We said, "Oh Messenger of Allah, in the day
that is like a year, will the prayer of a day be sufficient?" He said,
"No, proportion out the time."
Allah is the Possessor of correctness.
(It was narrated by Abu Dawood in the chapter on massacres.)
Dr. Abdullah Umar Naseef
Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah ibn Baz
President of the Fiqh Council
Dr. Talal Umar Bafaqeeh
Reporter of the Islamic Fiqh Council
From the Council of Astronomers:
Muhammad ibn Jubayr
Abdullah Aal Abdurrahman Al-Bassam
Salih ibn Foozan ibn Abdullah Al-Foozan
Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Subayyil
Mustafa Ahmad Al-Zarqa'
[Handwritten note:] I opine that the extremes of day and night for
different seasons in Hejaz or the entire Arabian Peninsula form a basis
for measurement of prayer times at extreme latitudes.
Muhammad Mahmood Al-Sawwaf
Salih ibn Uthaymayn
Muhammad Rasheed Kabbani
Muhammad Al-Shathili Al-Nayfir
Abu Bakr Joomy
Dr. Ahmad Fahmy Abu Sinnah
Muhammad Al-Habeeb ibn Al-Khojah
Dr. Bakr Abu Zayd
Muhammad Salim ibn Abdulwadood
Abu Al-Hasan Ali Al-Hasani Al-Nadawi
The following were absent from this session: his excellency Sheikh Abdulquddoos
Al-Hashimi, his highness Marshal Mahmood Sheet Khattab, his excellency
Sheikh Hasanayn Muhammad Makhloof, and his excellency Sheikh Mabrook Masood
Prof. Dr. Mohammad Hawari
Notes and Examples
Allah the Exalted knows best and is Most Wise.
Computing Prayer Times / Moustafa Elqabbany / email@example.com
/ Jumada I 1419
The decree translated above is the result of a meeting between members
of the Muslim World League's Fiqh Council and a committee of astronomers.
The astronomers were headed by Dr. Mohammad Hawari, who has researched
the methods of prayer computation for the past twenty-five years and feels that
the methods outlined above are the only ones that are consistent with fiqhi
principles and astronomical phenomena. The results of his research
are soon to be published, in sha' Allah. For his contact information,
Prayer times provided by astronomical calculations are only approximations.
During a calculation, the minutes of a prayer time might be rounded up
or down depending on the fraction that follows them. It is unwise to start
or terminate praying or fasting at precisely the scheduled time. While
the decree suggests a two-minute margin of safety, an additional few minutes
would provide some insurance.
A prayer offered before its prescribed time does not count whereas a prayer
offered, for example, ten minutes after the start of its time is valid.
Erring on the side of slightly delaying a prayer is safer than starting
it slightly early.
In terms of fasting, it is better to err on the side of slightly hastening
the calculated time for Fajr and slightly delaying the time for Maghrib.
Prayer times change slightly from year to year. However, they do form a
cycle as per leap years. The prayer times for a given year should be within
a few minutes of those for any other year. Thus, when using a perpetual calendar (as
opposed to one computed for a specific year), margins of safety should be
In general, it is best to offer prayers at their earliest possible times.
When fasting, it is best to delay the pre-dawn meal and hasten breaking the
fast. Unless there is a fiqhi reason to do otherwise, one should only
depart from this practice if he fears invalidating his prayer or fast.
Therefore, one should not use unrealistically large margins of safety.
Once the middle of the night has passed, the sun slowly approaches the
eastern horizon. Thus, using a value smaller than 18 degrees will yield
later times for Fajr since the sun will be closer to the horizon.
By similar reasoning, using a value smaller than 17 degrees will yield
earlier times for Isha.
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) endorses the view that both
Fajr and Isha start when the sun is 15 degrees below the horizon. The Council
of Astronomers who provided guidance for this decree feels that 15 degrees
does not reflect reality. Allah knows best.
Many prayer timetables compute Isha as being 1.5 hours after Maghrib. While
this is true in Mecca and some other areas, it is not a universal ruling.
The time for Asr according to the Hanafi school is when the shadow of an
object is twice the length of the object plus the length of its
shadow when the sun is at its zenith.
Many schedules provide the time for the sun's zenith and label it as Dhuhr.
Praying while the sun is at its zenith is not permissible. Dhuhr begins
when the sun has passed its zenith, at least two minutes
As an example of Region 2, Fort McMurray, Canada, is at (latitude) 56.65
degrees north, (longitude) 111.22 degrees west, and time zone GMT -7 hr. To
compute the Fajr and Isha times for June 22, 1998, one first computes the
times for sunrise (4:33 am) and Maghrib (10:21 pm). Since sunrise is 6
hours and 12 minutes after Maghrib, this is the length of the night at Fort
McMurray. (Note: Technically,
the calculation should use the times for Maghrib on June 22 and sunrise
on June 23. However, using June 22 for both times makes programming this
algorithm easier. At worst, it should only make a few minutes of difference
and margins of safety should be used anyhow, as above.) One then computes
the times for Fajr (3:05 am), sunrise (5:38 am), Maghrib (9:15 pm), and Isha
(11:35 pm) at a reference point with the same longitude but with a latitude of
45 degrees north. The length of the night at the reference location is 8 hours
and 23 minutes. Isha is 2 hours and 20 minutes after Maghrib, which corresponds
to 27.83% of the night. Fajr is 5 hours and 50 minutes after Maghrib, which
corresponds to 69.58% of the night. 27.83% of the night at Fort McMurray equals
1 hour and 44 minutes, so Isha is at 12:05 am. Similarly, Fajr is at 2:40 am.
Regarding Region 3, Dr. Hawari opines that further research is needed.
He manually computes prayer times for these areas but suggests that it
is premature to derive a fixed formula for such calculations.
Dr. Kamal Abdali wrote a program called 'praytimer' that computes prayer
times. Waleed Muhanna improved the program's interface, error checking,
and other usability features. The program can be found at http://www.cob.ohio-state.edu/~wmuhanna/IslamicTimer.html.
The program only allows a user to specify a single angle of solar depression,
which is used to compute both Isha and Fajr. The default value is 18 degrees,
which conforms to the Muslim World League's value for Fajr but produces
values for Isha that are slightly later (which is not a problem). The problem
is that the program does not produce reasonable values for areas in Region
2 unless one uses a smaller solar depression angle. As mentioned above,
ISNA endorses the use of 15 degrees while the Council of Astronomers rejects
this. Dr. Abdali's program also allows one to specify the Hanafi or majority
school for Asr. Unfortunately, the program mistakenly labels the sun's
point of zenith as Dhuhr time. I have modified Dr. Abdali's program so
that it accepts two different solar depression angles (for Fajr and Isha)
and works in accordance with the above decree for places in Region 2. However,
I have not changed the default behaviour of the program, so it is necessary
to read the new documentation in order to achieve compatibility with the
above decree. See http://www.reocities.com/Athens/8383/prayertimes.html.
To request a prayer timetable for your location, E-mail me your city and
country. If you live in Region 3 or if you have detailed astronomical
Prof. Dr. Mohammad Hawari
From North America, dial: 011-49-241-889060.
Islamic Center Aachen
Prof.-Pirlet-Str. 20 52074 AACHEN