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Isha Prayer in British Summer

May 16, 2014

DISCLAIMER: This reminder was originally delivered in Arabic on Friday, 16 May 2014. Any meanings lost in translation are not to be attributed to the speaker as reminders are translated by volunteers. The mosque has no official translator and volunteers often have no formal qualifications to translate on the day. Please forgive any errors as they are from our human weakness and any right guidance is from God.

All praise is due to Allah, and Allah’s peace and blessings be upon His final Messenger, his pure family, his noble companions, and all those who follow them with righteousness until the Day of Judgment.

Today’s khutbah is a clarification rather than a reminder. The problem that requires clarification is an issue that creates many questions every year but also from any newcomers to the northern European countries. This issue can be very simply explained, in the British summer - the last time (to distinguish the sign) of Maghreb, the whole time of Isha and the beginning time of Fajr all disappear - so the sign for Isha prayer disappears for almost three months:

  • As for the beginning time of Fajr prayer, the last date when this can distinguished is in the middle of May at 1.24am, but after that it cannot be distinguished exactly. Therefore whoever prays Fajr after 1.30am then he would have prayed Fajr in its starting time. Delaying the congregational prayer (until much later) is from the Islamic ritual and character for the sake of establishing the prayer at the mosque.
  • As for the starting time of Maghreb prayer, there is no problem because the starting time remains distinguishable at the time of sunset.
  • The time for Isha legally begins at the moment that the Shafaq = reddish post-sunset afterglow (“twilight”) disappears and is followed by the darkness of the night. There comes a time of the year in the summer in Britain and some European countries when the starting time of Isha is delayed until midnight. This creates hardship. Then it disappears all together at later time, i.e. the twilight (Shafaq) remains in the horizon without disappearing until it mixes with the whiteness of the morning.

This issue was not mentioned among the companions, their followers or the early major scholars but only by some late jurists when they were asked about the occurrence of such an issue in the Slavic/European countries. You must know that although the starting of the time is a reason for the prayer to become obligatory and a condition for its acceptance, the Isha prayer cannot be dropped even if there is no sign to distinguish its real starting time. This is because Allah (SWT) prescribed five daily prayers upon every accountable Muslim. Otherwise, the two most popular opinions regarding when Isha should be prayed are:

  1. To estimate a time for Isha.
  2. To make a Rukhsah (concession) to pray it at the time of Maghrib.

The scholars who shared the first opinion said that - for the days when the disappearance time cannot be distinguished for Isha - people should estimate a time by reference to three alternative times:

(a) The disappearance of the red Twilight in the nearest country or
(b) Starting from the last time (of the night) when it was possible to distinguish the time of its disappearance or
(c) To fix the time from sunset to the time of its disappearance (of the last night) when it was possible to distinguish the time of its disappearance.

Those scholars who estimated a time for Isha between Maghreb and Fajr argued over what was reported from the Hadith of An-Nawwas ibn Sam’an in a long Hadith about the appearance of Dajjal at the end of time:

We said: ‘Allah’s Messenger, how long would he stay on the earth?’ He (pbuh) said, “For forty days, one day like a year and one day like a month and one day like a week and the rest of the days would be like your days”. We said, ‘Allah’s Messenger, would one day’s prayer suffice for the prayers of the day equal to one year?’ Thereupon he (pbuh) said, “No, but you must make an estimate of time (and then observe prayer)”

This Hadith is evidence for the validity of estimating for prayers at time when the length of day and night is unusual. It is a proof to estimate the prayer time by hours - not by day and night - in countries where the day or the night can last for 24 hours or more (albeit this is not our case for our discussion of what happens here).

Those who choose the opinion of estimating all end-up praying Isha whilst the red Twilight has not disappeared. This means that to estimate is like combining the prayers - even if there is a time interval between Maghreb and Isha. In addition to that, estimating for Isha prayer brings nothing but hardship to people. For example, if we assume that the (earliest) estimated time of Isha is 11pm - and the twilight remains until after midnight when it mixes with the whiteness of the morning - that person only went through the hardship of staying up till late in order to pray Isha whilst the Twilight had still not disappeared!

With regards to the second opinion - that of combining between Maghreb and Isha to push away this hardship from people - whether students, professionals, housewives or children - this opinion is shared by sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al-Judai’, the legal adviser of our mosque for the past 16 years.

At an international conference, that included Muslim scholars and astronomers, held in the Islamic Cultural Centre in London in 1404 Hijri, corresponding to 1984 (in the Gregorian calendar) – resolutions were made, which stated: the Muslims who find it difficult to wait for the time of Isha prayer can combine between Isha and Maghreb, but this does not make it obligatory for everyone. Another conference was held at the Islamic Centre in Brussels sponsored by the Muslim World League; among the decisions were: for countries where the red twilight does not disappear or lasts until very late - to the point of reaching Fajr time – as this causes a great difficulty for Muslims, they have the Rukhsah (concession) of combining between Isha and Maghreb at the time of Maghreb prayer.

The opinion of The European Council for Fatwa and Research is: that it is permitted to combine between Isha and Maghreb in Europe during Summer when Isha enters around midnight, or the signs of Isha disappear totally, so that Muslims do not face difficulty which was lifted from upon them by virtue of the Holy Quran

He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty Quran - Al-Haj (22:78)

This permission is also due to the practice of the Prophet (pbuh) which is mentioned in the Hadith of Ibn Abbas.

There is no disagreement upon this tradition from the Hadith of Ibn Abbas to combine between the prayers of a common time (like Dhuhr/Asr and Maghreb/Isha) for removing hardship from people. That is why the prophet (pbuh) combined – while not travelling - between prayers as Imam Muslim reported that Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) combined the Asr prayer with the Dhuhr prayer and the Isha prayer with the Maghreb prayer in Medina without being in a state of danger or rainfall. Saeed Ibn Jubair said, ‘I said to Ibn Abbas, ‘What prompted him to do that?’ He said, ‘So that his Ummah should not be put to (unnecessary) hardship’. This hadith indicates that the reason for combining between prayers was not because of common known causes like travel, fear or rainfall, but combining was to push away the hardship due to a difficulty of praying a certain prayer on time - so he can combine between prayers because of that difficulty. The opinion of a group of scholars is that it is allowed for a person to combine between prayers for a difficulty as long as he doesn't take that as a habit and therefore violate the original rule of praying the prayer on its specific time. There is no doubt that abandoning the self-desire and seeking that which satisfies Allah (SWT) is a measure to control that.

So if the legislation allows the combining between prayers at the time of one of them, even if there is a clear time for both of them and without the need for necessity. This indicates that when, in our case- the time of one of the prayers is indistinguishable from the time of another prayer, that makes the time of Maghreb also a time of Isha (allowed) and also because of a necessity as the real time of Isha cannot be distinguished.

Some might object by saying: the combining period lasts for three months which might cause people to neglect praying each prayer on its time. The answer for that is this:

  1. This combining is for a reason - the reason is the disappearance of the Isha prayer’s time in the first place. So it is impossible to say that people have neglected praying Isha on its time! (A concern not to neglect praying each prayer on its time) might be valid if there is a time for Isha and yet the people keep combining between the prayers without a reason.
  2. You should also know that the Rukhsah (“concession”) lasts as long as it's cause lasts because the Prophet (pbuh) used to keep combining between prayers as long as he was travelling until he went back to Madina. So -likewise - if it keeps raining for months then the people can follow the concession (Rukhsah) of combining between prayers. Likewise - a woman who remains in either her pregnancy or suckling periods can also follow the concession of breaking her fast in Ramadan and that is the case for every concession as long as its cause is valid.

All of these juristic opinions are ijtihad (personal reasoning) because of the absence of a clear text that can separate between them in (their relative strength or validity). To criticize others in issues that are open for personal reasoning of scholars is not acceptable. People should choose from the jurists’ opinion that which suits their situation. (We have referred to some many juristic opinions, of which some have made it a concession) to push away their hardship and apply the general rule “He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty” [Hajj 22:78]

Link to European Council for Fatwa and Research statement:

Link to statement by Sheikh Al-Judai: