By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
9 June 2016
In yesterday’s post we explained and demonstrated that although it is compulsory to prayer 5 salaah every day, that there are only 3 compulsory times to pray it.
We also noted that it was Prophetic practise to pray these 5 salaahs at 5 different times, BUT at the same time it was also Prophetic practise to pray these 5 salaahs at 3 times of the day.
Thus, if one chooses to pray one’s salaah at 5 different times OR at 3 different times of the day (as defined) – EITHER WAY one is still following the Quranic injunctions and the Prophetic Sunnah.
In other words, BOTH methods are considered to be Sunnah.
In a narration it is recorded that when the Prophet (sawa) was asked why he prayed the Thur and Asr prayers together and the Magrieb and Isha prayers together even though there was no regular excuse like heavy rain, illness, travel, etc. – he is reported to have replied that it is because Almighty Allah intends to make it easy for his servants.
In other words it’s a blessing from Allah to do this and one should not deny the blessings of Allah.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF THE TIME OF MAGRIEB?
Many people should be aware by now that Shia break their fast a few minutes later than their Sunni brothers (in general) and possibly wonder what the reason for this is.
And the answer is that it all boils down to how we define when magrieb starts.
On this point it should be noted that there are differences among ulama in general on this issue and that it is not confined to a School of Thought.
From a Quranic perspective we see that the period that we have to fast is defined as being between 2 specific times in Surah Baqarah Verse 187 as follows :
وَكُلُواْ وَاشْرَبُواْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّواْ الصِّيَامَ إِلَى الَّليْلِ
“Eat and drink until the white thread (of dawn) becomes manifest unto you from the black thread (of night) at the dawn-break, then complete the fast till nightfall”
The first part of this verse gives the definition of Fajr time while the second part says that the fast should last until “nightfall” (layl).
We actually find that the Quran never uses the word “sunset” but refers to “nightfall” (layl).
Another example of this is Surah Israa Verse 78 (which was referred to in the previous post) which says:
أَقِمِ الصَّلاَةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ إِلَي غَسَقِ اللَّيْلِ
“Establish salaah at the declining of the sun until the darkness of the night (layl)”
Then through reference to other verses in the Quran, we identify what is “layl” or “darkness of the night.”
So Surah An’am Verse 76 says:
فَلَمَّا جَنَّ عَلَيْهِ اللَّيْلُ رَأَى كَوْكَبًا
“So when the night overshadowed him, he saw a star”
This verse gives the idea that “night” is related to that time when the “stars” appear, which means “night” is when it has become completely dark.
There are a group of Muslims who call themselves “Ahlul Quran” as they primarily rely on determining their Shar’i rulings from Quranic verses and give very little preference to ahadith. So scholars among this group define magrieb (based on the above mentioned verses) to be the time when it is completely dark and they thus break their fast much later.
HOW IS “NIGHT” DEFINED?
With this background, the critical question that must now be answered is “how is the term “night” defined as we are required to fast until “nightfall”?
One possibility is that “night” is considered to have set it when it’s completely dark (as referred to above).
A second possibility is that night is considered to have set in when the “face” of the sun disappears over the horizon. Most Sunni Scholars use this possibility to set the time of Magrieb.
However, most Shia scholars say that the disappearance of “face” of the sun over the horizon is not sufficient for establishing that “night” has set in. This is because even though the “face” of the sun has disappeared, the reflection of the sun is still there (and it still appears to be “light” outside).
Thus Imam Saadiq (a.s) says that we should ensure that the redness in Eastern horizon has disappeared to be sure magrieb has set in.
Thus most Shia ulama say when the “redness” in Eastern horizon disappears, then we sure night has started.
From a practical perspective, this occurs approximately 15 minutes after the face of the sun has disappeared over the horizon.
Thus Shia are seen to break their fast from that point onward – i.e. approximately 15 minutes later.