TIME OF FAJR AND THE END OF SEHRI IN THE MONTH OF RAMADAN
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The Fajr prayer is the first prayer of the day and is performed by Muslims at the beginning of dawn. The time for Fajr prayers remains active up until the point of sunrise. There is a considerable time gap from the onset of dawn till sunrise and the two are not synonymous.
Dawn is usually understood as the actual moment at which the sun starts to lighten the sky whilst remaining well below the horizon (Diagram 1). As dawn continues, a distinctive colour in the form of a thin thread is visible on the horizon. The sky starts to lighten up until the point of sunrise when the suns light fully breaks and sunrise is fully observed (Diagram 2)
Illustrations - Joseph Islam
Scientists usually divide the period of dawn into three distinct areas.
Muslims usually make use of the scientific 'Astronomical Dawn' as the time for 'Fajr' when the sun is typically 18 degrees below the horizon. However, Astronomical Dawn is very difficult to discern and in most cases, the casual observer would still perceive the sky as fully dark.
True dawn therefore should be a point which is readily observable by the casual observer. Nautical dawn is usually the light which is often first discernible and is also therefore referred to as 'first light'. However this is seldom used by Muslim calculations for the purposes of Fajr.
The clear distinction of the end of the night for the casual observer is a key requirement for the purposes of establishing the time of Fajr. This is also the point at which 'Sehri' ceases during the month of Ramadan and 'Fasting' begins.
It is also unfortunate to note that despite the Quran's clear, unequivocal statement with regards the period for the end Sehri, which remains active up until the time of Fajr, one often notes in Muslim calendars that the time of Sehri usually ends 10 minutes before the time of Fajr. There is absolutely no warrant for this common practice other than pure reliance on Islamic Secondary Sources for support. This practice remains a concept clearly negated by the Quranic directive in verse 2:187 above.
Not only is the time of Fajr usually commenced early when the dark sky is still indiscernible to the casual observer from visible dawn, but despite the clear Quranic verse, the time for the end of Sehri does not usually correspond with the time of Fajr. In practice, Sehri usually ends before the Fajr call for prayer. The Quran remains absolutely unambiguous in its statement that the time of 'Sehri' remains up until the point of dawn.
(1) Fasting is Prescribed Until Night Not Sunset
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