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The five daily prayers are an integral part of a Muslim’s life. In order to fulfill our religious obligation, it is important for all Muslims to
know the timings of all the daily prayers.
Praying Fajr, Zuhr and Maghrib prayers in the right time is not a problem in Nigeria, Asr & Isha are the two prayers that are mostly prayed before time in certain periods of the year.Zuhr & Maghrib are prayed on time because the times of “noon” and “sunset” are well defined.
The difficulty arises in determining the time for fajr (dawn) prayer. How do we define fajr in a scientific way? Moreover, how can we explain the difference between “false” dawn and
“true” dawn? I ll try to explains
how to determine Zawal (solar noon),
shadow length for Asr and disappearance of
Shafaq (redness after sunset).
Time for the five prayers (Fajr,Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha) are based on astronomical position of the sun. Prayers are determined using length of the shadow & start or end of twilight (light in sky when the sun is below horizon) during the course of the day.
Therefore, prayer times are not the same every day and also not the same in different locations, depending on observers’ longitude and latitude. Sun’s rays are important for the calculation of prayer times.
Allah Almighty ordains as follows:

هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ الشَّمْسَ ضِيَآءً وَالْقَمَرَ نُوراً وَقَدَّرَهُ مَنَازِلَ لِتَعْلَمُوا عَدَدَ السّنِينَ وَالْحِسَابَ مَا خَلَقَ اللّهُ ذَلِكَ إِلاَّ بِالْحَقِّ يُفَصِّلُ الاَيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ”
“It is He Who made the sun to be a source of light and the moon to be a reflector of light, and He who measured out stages for it that you might know the count of years
and the calculation.”(Yunus/ Jonah 10:5)
The movement of sun’s rays is completed on a 360 °
circle every day. Since the earth rotates from the west towards the east, we perceive as if the sun moves from the east towards the west.Daily time windows are
determined in accordance with the movement.
Fajr Dawn-Prayer
Fajr begins at subh-saadiq (true dawn )or morning
twilight when the morning light appears across the full
width of the sky. All Islamic scholars agree on this point.
At pre-dawn, some whiteness appears at the edge of the eastern horizon like a column,this is called subh-kaadhib (false dawn).This whiteness fades after some
time and then comes another whiteness ...
(lateral whiteness) spreads towards the right
and left (full width) through the edge of the eastern sky.
This is called subh saadiq (also known as true or second
or morning twilight) at this very time Fajr begins.
It is generally agreed that the Fajr prayer time
Is when the altitude of the Sun's center is 18 ° below the horizon Globally the beginning time of Fajr is pre-determine by leading Islamic organizations such as :
Egyptian General Authority of Survey at 19.5°,
Umm Al-Qura of Saudi Arabia 19°, University Of Islamic Sciences, Karachi
Muslim World League 18° & several Islamic organizations in the west use 15°.
The higher number (19.5°) corresponds with early Fajr and the lower number corresponds with late Fajr (15°). Fasting commences at
Subh Sadiq (true dawn) this is also the commencing time
for Fajr prayer.
Zuhr (Mid-Day Prayer)
Outside the salat tropic,during sunrise and sun set, the
angle that the sun rays make with the observer is 0°.When the
sun reaches the zenith point it is perpendicular to the meridian that is assumed to pass through that point.
At this moment the sun rays attain the highest angle of the day and
the shadows reach their lowest length. This is called zawal
shadow. As the sun moves towards the west from the zenith, the time
for Zuhr prayer begins.
From this moment onwards, the sun
continuously loses its angle & moves towards the western
horizon.Zuhr begins at Zawwal, when sun crosses the meridan (when sun reaches its highest point - nearest to zenith) and begins to
decline.Zuhr ends when Asr time begins.
It is important to note that, when the sun reaches its highest point for the day at zawal, a shadow appears for objects everyday apart from two days in
a year when the sun is directly above the head.
These days are not the same in different locations
because of difference in coordinates.
The Earth rotates on its own axis which is tilted at 23.5 ° angle to the flat plane of our solar system.The tilt of the axis is the reason the Sun
moves north to south and back during the year, this
movement also affects the length of a shadow at midday.
The Earth rotates on its own axis which is tilted at 23.5 ° angle to the flat plane of our solar system. The tilt of the axis is the reason the Sun
moves north to south and back during the year, this
movement also affects the length of a shadow at midday.
Asr (Afternoon-Prayer)
When the sun reaches about half way of the arch it follows from the zenith to the western horizon,the time for asr prayer begins. At this instance,when we subtract the zawal shadow length from the length of shadow,we find the real length of the object.
For instance, if the zawal shadow length of a one
meter high object was 30 cm, it would become 130 cm at this
The beginning time of ‘Asr has two acceptable juristic opinions
(1) When the shadow of an object becomes its length (plus
the length of its shadow at the mid-point.
(2) When the shadow of an object becomes twice its length
plus the addition to the shadow at the mid-point.
‘Asr ends as the sun begins to set.
Maghrib (After-sunset Prayer)
The sun continues its movement until it sets, the
time for Magrib is immediately after sunset.
Magrib begins when the sun completely sets beneath the horizon,
some Islamic
organizations delay Maghrib 3 to 5 minute from
the local sunset for safety margin. Magrib lasts
until 'Isha (till fading of twilight or complete
Isha (Night-Prayer)
Isha time begins when Shafaq (twilight) has disappeared from
the western horizon.
All Islamic scholars agree on this point. Two different
interpretations are expressed in describing the word shafaq in
the books of hadith.
These are commonly referred to as
Shafaq Ahmar (red twilight)and Shafaq Abyad (white
twilight). Both these phenomena occur one after the other
and represent two distinct levels of illumination in the
western sky.
Shafaq Ahmar occurs before Shafaq Abyadh.
1. Shafaq Ahmar: under clear-sky, this is when the redness in
the western sky totally disappears. (Shafaq Ahmar – occurs
roughly when the sun is about 15 degrees below the horizon) .
2. Shafaq Abyadh: under clear sky, when western
sky begins to darkens into one colour and when
almost darkness occurs or there is no trace of light
left in the sky (Shafaq Abyad–occurs roughly when
the sun is 18 ° below the horizon).
It is generally estimated when the sun approaches
17.5° to 18° below the horizon. As a matter of
convenience most Islamic prayer tables use ‘Isha
timing when complete darkness (shafaq Abyadh)
It is worth noting that Islamic scholars of Hanafi
School of jurisprudence strictly fix ‘Isha after Shafaq
Globally the beginning of Isha time (based on Shafaq Abyadh complete darkness) is fixed by
leading Islamic organizations, such as, Umm Al-Qura
of Saudi Arabia - 90 minutes after sunset which
approximately about 20° throughout the year,
University of Islamic Sciences, Karachi 18°, Egyptian General Authority of Survey 17.5°, and Muslim World League 17° and several Islamic groups in the west use 15°, Timing committee , Timing chapter
and Astro Qiblah calendars in Nigeria use 65 minutes after sunset.
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