In The Name Of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful


The Directory of Salat times provide the beginning times of all the Salats in key Muslim population centres within the UK. The times for Sunrise, Zohar, Asar and Sunset are based on computed times from the observatory as these are verified as correct by Scholars. As for the twilight prayers of Fajar and Isha which have tended to cause most differences between Scholars these are based on Mushahadah - actual naked eye observations. The Mushahadah was necessary for these two twilight prayers as the Royal Greenwich Observatory whilst being able to provide prayer times based on solar depression levels (degrees) it is unable to provide times for the actual phenomenon of Subha Sadiq, Shafaqe Abyadh and Shafaqe Ahmar as these depend on the brightness or darkness level in the sky rather than the level of the sun below the horizon which is what degrees measure.  Sky brightness can only be properly measured by carrying out naked eye observations.

This point is confirmed by world renowned scientist Professor Ilyas:

“…the situation of twilight phenomena is different from the sunset and sunrise phenomena because in the former case it is not the position of the sun…but the light of the evening sky we are primarily interested in…” (Astronomy of Islamic Times for the Twenty First Century)

Also the Royal Greenwich Observatory states:

“There is no precise definition of dawn. If it is interpreted as the time of “first light”, dawn corresponds to a depression between 18 and 12 degrees but it is not possible to be more precise”. (RGO Information Sheet no 7)

Fajar and Isha times in the UK have historically been the subject of dispute with different Masajid adopting different methods. The Ulama resolved during the late 1980’s to unite the Ummah by carrying out actual naked eye observations.

Although the book Fajar and Isha provides full background to the determination of Fajar and Isha times and the details of the Mushahadah (observations) carried out in Blackburn during 1987 and 1988, this note will shed further light on the context and justification of these times.

The Mushahadah was carried out diligently by a group of eminent Ulama on the outskirts of Blackburn Lancashire from September 1987 to September 1988 covering all the seasons. A meeting of the Ulama both during the Mushahadah and at the end were held when Ulama from all over the UK gathered at the Hall of Masjid Anisul Islam, Troy Street, Blackburn and adopted the times. It was agreed there that as Mushahadah was now carried out comprehensively and successfully in the UK it was incorrect to use times based on solar depression levels i.e. degrees.

The observations resulted in no single degree level emerging as the correct solar depression level for Subha Sadiq or Isha and the Ulama therefore agreed to prepare a chart for use by all the towns and cities in the UK based on the observations and not any given solar depression level. The chart provides the GAP between sunrise and the observed time of Subha Sadiq and the GAP between sunset and shafaq for Isha determination. These gaps expressed in hours and minutes are to be added to the times of sunrise and sunset of other cities and towns appropriately.

Faqihul Asar Hazrat Molana Asfraf Ali Thanvi RA’s Fiqah Books ``Imdadul Fatawa V1 P98,
and ``Bawadirun Nawadir``(P429 Urdoo) provided guidance on how to conduct Mushahadah and how to construct a timetable chart from the Mushahadah results.

The Fatawa from the Muftiyane Kiram of Indo-Pak were used to ensure shariah compliance and the written works of the Fuqahaa of Ahlussunnah Waljamaah were also used specifically of the scholars of Deoband & Barelvi Schools of Thought.

What the Ulama attempted to observe were:

·Shafaqe Abyadh (disappearance of whiteness in the sky for Isha)
·Shafaqe Ahmar (disappearance of the red afterglow for Isha)
·First Light (for Subha)
·Tabayyun (the spread of light across the horizon)

Although an attempt was made to carry out observations each and every single day of a full year there were undoubtedly times when observations were hampered by weather conditions etc. The missing days were therefore filled by the method of Aqrabul Yawm by joining up the nearest last day’s observation with that of the observation which followed. This entailed filling in missing days by adding or taking away minutes from the last observed date and the next so that the two sets of observations joined up.

A simple example to illustrate this is shown:

Day 1 observed time 2.15am
Day 5 observed time 2.23am

Missing days 2 to 4 filled in as shown:

Day 2 2.17am
Day 32.19am
Day 42.21am

The times were primarily based on Shafaqe Abyadh for Isha according to the qawl of Imam Abu Hanifah RA but due to haraj we moved towards Shafaqe Ahmar in summer. Subha Sadiq times were mainly based on First Light but again for summer we phased our times to Tabayyun (the spreading of light along the horizon) as is permitted by Shariah.

Considerable research was carried out in recent years to test out the scientific validity of the observations and the details are contained within the book Fajar and Isha. Manuscripts of the book were sent before publication to many eminent scientists among them Professor Ilyas, Dr Brad Schaeffer, Dr Omar Afzal, Khalid Shaukat (, Dr Robert Massey (HMNAO), Dr Bell (RGO), Dr Caldwell (Fort Davis) etc and their advice and comments were found to be very helpful.

I would like to reproduce 2 of the responses here. The first one is from Dr Robert Massey of Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office (HMNAO):

“As far as I can tell your quotes from different HMNAO documents and technical notes are accurate. However neither the RGO nor HMNAO have ever sought to determine how phenomena such as the appearance of twilight and the visibility of the new crescent moon should be used for religious purposes. Our role has solely been to disseminate this information for use by the Islamic and other communities. One point I did notice was your reference to “dawn” and “dusk”. These are not clearly defined so are not included in the data provided by HMNAO”.

From the Mushahadah we found that the results equated anywhere between 12 and 16 degrees throughout the year. The reason why this is the case is explained in the Fajar and Isha book eg due to seasons etc.

The second response is from Dr Schaeffer (world leader on twilight) which is interesting:

“I have read your chapter on the prayer times associated with twilight. I can comment on the astronomical aspects of the first visibility of the dawn. I am glad that your notes provide the definition of the time intended and the distinction with the zodiacal light is specified. I have for years made systematic observations of the times of the first visibility of dawn light. My database is extensive under a variety of conditions. This is one aspect of my extensive program of naked eye observations. In addition I have made a vast number of measures of the twilight sky brightness under all condition and directions. Also I have published several papers on the transfer and scattering of light in the atmosphere with a model including up to double scattering. As such I can claim to be a world expert on the issue. My universal observational conclusion is that the dawn light is never seen when the sun has a geocentric altitude for its center of greater than 18 degrees. I can account for the occasional adoption of larger values as only to allow for some “safety factor”. The onset of twilight is rather sharp in time so this 18 degree limit is pretty accurate. This strong conclusion of mine (and of other astronomers) is valid for dark and clear skies. For non-optimal conditions the altitude of the sun at first dawn can be significantly higher. The value can be 17 degrees or 15 degrees and once I got a value of around 13 degrees”.

Dr Schaeffer’s conclusion about 18 degrees being the upper limit and one which is observed in optimal conditions probably explains why tropical counties have adopted this solar depression level. It also explains why the Mushahadah carried out in the UK has fluctuated from 12 to 16 degrees i.e. because conditions in the UK are not as optimal as in countries with warmer climates.

On the use of 18 degrees Dr Ilyas in his book “Astronomy of Islamic Times for the Twenty First Century” has said:

“Unfortunately Latiff has argued for a fixed 18 degrees/18degrees case for all over the globe- no less and no more. This, it seems may not be the true situation either as there seems to be some room for geographical variability and perhaps 18 degrees serves as a good upper limit only”

The US Naval Observatory states about Astronomical Twilight (12 to 18 degrees):

“For a considerable interval after the beginning of morning and before the end of evening twilight, sky illumination is so feint that it is practically imperceptible”.

Please take note that many scholars and others make the mistake of attributing Astronomical Twilight to 18 degrees but this is not correct. Astronomical Twilight is not 18 degrees but defined by astronomers as the range between 12 and 18 degrees. During this period of 12 and 18 degrees the sky condition is dark for all intents and purposes with sky brightness being so feint that the brightness cannot be easily detected with the naked eye. Some Scholars have therefore argued for Fajar and Isha time to be based on 12 degrees. Others for reasons of safety have adopted 15 degrees. The advocates of 18 degrees tend to go by the upper limit advocated by scientists but when observations have been carried out over the globe naked eye observations of twilight at 18 degrees have been rather rare.

It is interesting what Dr Omar Afzal, Khalid Shaukat and A Imam in their research have concluded:

1.Brightness decreases after sunset almost linearly until the sun reaches 11 degrees whereupon it is slowly lost against the natural illumination of the night sky.
2.Instrumental measurements show that at 13.5 degrees the ‘limiting night value’ is reached i.e. darkness equals that of night.
3.The change in illumination from 13 to 18 degrees is so negligible that, without instruments that were only available from the 1940’s, the change would not make any appreciable difference to the naked eye

Observations have been carried out all over the world and these have tended to range from 12 to 18 degrees. A team in Chicago USA found in 1985 that Subha Sadiq fell between 13 and 15 degrees. Whilst other observations in the USA resulted in 12 degrees. In Eastern Australia observations equated to 13/14 degrees. In Pakistan Mufti Ludhianvi’s famous observations have yielded 15 degrees. Full year observations carried out in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan and Syria led by Sheikh Fauzan (a friend and associate of Dr Ilyas) resulted in Sheikh Fauzan concluding that the 18/19 degrees used in these countries are incorrect and that Subha Sadiq is about 20-30 minutes later possibly equating to about 14/15 degrees. This too was found to be the case in Jordan where Sheikh Albani RA found that timetables were incorrect by about 20 minutes and that the 18 degrees being used was probably the time of Subha Kadhib and not Subha Sadiq.

“I have seen that myself many times in my house, in the Hamlaan mountains to the South East of Amman, and that enables me to confirm what some of those who are keen that the Muslims worship should be correct have said, that the Adhaan of Fajr in some Arab countries is given 20-30 minutes before the time of true dawn” (Al Silsilah Al Saheehah, 5/25)

The timetables we have provided for UK towns and cities based on Mushahadah were adopted by way of a decision of the Ulama in Blackburn at its final meeting 0n 2nd January 1989 and it is advised that the Muslims place their full trust in the decision of the Ulama and adopt these times for their locality. At 2 key meetings of the Ulama the following was agreed:

1.To adopt timetables in accordance with the Mushahadah carried out in Blackburn adapting them to other localities by the gap between sunrise and observed subha sadiq time and the gap between sunset and observed Isha time
2.Fill gaps in observations by the Mushahadah times of it`s Aqrab days (nearest last observed day and next observed day) 
3.Akrabul Yawm be used for the beginning of Fajar for those days where the whiteness of Isha merged with the light of morning
4.For May and June, Fajar beginning time be set at the recorded time of Tabayyun with the observed time of First Light phased into the observed time of Tabayyun
5.Due to Haraj in summer months, as permitted by the Sahibayn (Imams Mohammad and Abu Yusuf) Isha time be phased in from Shafaqe Abyadh observed time to Shafaqe Ahmar (red afterglow) and to phase out after summer back to Shafaqe Abyadh (disappearance of whiteness).

Please note that Dr.Khalid Shaukat has assisted in computing times for the UK towns and cities to whom we are grateful. Brother Khalid it needs to be pointed out did not use any other method other than the mushahadah to compute Fajar and Isha times as some people have tried to show in order to cast doubt on these times. Brother Khalid has sent this email to confirm this:

One thing I want to clear for all is that if you see me saying that observations were collected from other parts of the world, that does not mean that I used those observation for UK.  What I meant was that the formulae (function of latitude and seasons) that I derived after collecting observations from different parts of the world showed "amazing accuracy" when I compared it with the observations from Blackburn. Khalid Shaukat