The meaning of the ‘old’ prayer time, the approaches and their limitation

The meaning of the ‘old’ prayer time here means any prayer time for the Northern area of the globe (beyond 45 degree) calculated based on combination between local time and approximated time. Many of them somehow claimed that the schedule was calculated based on local time, which is of course misleading. Why?

Because there must be a period of time during the year, which experience no perfect night. At that night, we could see the red-cloud on the sky, whether at the western horizon for the first half of the night, or at the eastern horizon for the last half of the night. Of course for mountainous areas and cloudy night sky, the beginning and the end of these period can be little bit difficult to observe. The consequence is we cannot determine the end of Maghrib, the beginning and end of Isha and the beginning of Subh/Fajr. All of those three prayer times are blending together. In such situation, of course it is impossible to calculate prayer times based on ‘local’ time of the sun circulation.

For the period with no perfect night, we call it as extreme period. During the period, many of the old prayer times then apply an approximate prayer times. Some of the old prayer schedule apply 1.5 hours fixed time difference between Subh/Fajr and sunrise, and also between Maghrib and Isha. Others apply fraction of the nights, e.g. 1/7 or 1/5 or 1/3 of the night is intended for the duration of Maghrib and Subh/Fajr.

According to the Islamic Law, these old prayer times approaches during the extreme period can be categorized as valid and legitimate. However there are left at least several problems as follow.

  1. The above approaches are ok for prayer time only. But, absolutely not for fasting. All of those approaches produce very long fasting duration for several days (to several months) throughout the year. Very long here could be more than 18 hours, which is beyond the endurance limit of normal person while maintaining normal activities. It is not Islamic fasting if you are fasting for long duration such that become very weak and then the only thing you able to do is laying down (or sleep) at home!
  2. Another problem is for some Northern most areas, including Trondheim, the sunrise and sunset at the vicinity of summer’s peak are so close each other, such that there is no approximated method (whether fraction of the nights rule or 1.5 hours fixed time rule) could able to handle it. Therefore for these days, they simply left it as blanks.
  3. It is noted that fasting is one of main ibadah, which should be applied to all Muslims, no matter whether men or women, young or old, and strong or weak. Moreover the Muslims have obligation to educate and train their children to fasting. Is there any one to think that all of those issues can be performed well when the duration of fasting is very long as such?

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