Date : 03-02-2013

Question :

What is the ruling on performing the Fajr prayer at the time of Isfar (When the dawn breaks and lights) since in some Muslim countries, such as Turkey, Fajr is prayed half an hour before sunrise. Is this permissible?

The Answer :

All perfect praise be to Allah The Lord of the Worlds and may His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

All scholars have agreed that Fajr prayer is valid if performed before sunrise, because the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: "…..and the time of the Morning Prayer is from the appearance of dawn, as long as the sun has not risen' {Related by Muslim}.

However, they disagreed on the best time to perform it. Should it be offered at the time when the truthful dawn breaks or after that when the darkness starts disappearing? In some Muslim countries, Fajr prayer is pushed back because they follow the Hanafie school of thought which considers the time of Isfar (When the dawn breaks and lights) as the best time to offer it. However, the majority of the Muslim scholars consider the break of dawn as the best time. It was stated in the Shafie book {Al-Hidayah), "It is recommended to offer Fajr prayer at the time of Al-Isfar based on the following Hadith: Rafi bin Khadlj said: I heard Allah's Messenger saying: 'Perform Fajr at AI-Isfar, for indeed its reward is greater." {Related by Tirmithi}"

Accordingly, followers of the Hanafie school pray Fajr at a point after which remains time, before the time of Fajr ends, that suffices for purifying from a major or a minor impurity, praying and reciting from fifty to sixty verses in addition to Surat Al-Fatihah. As for the majority of the scholars, the best time for Fajr prayer is the time of Al-Ghalas (Darkness mixed with whiteness before the time of Al-Isfar). I.e. praying upon the break of dawn, and they have produced many an evidence in support of this view: Al-Imam An-Nawawi (May Allah have mercy on him) said: "Our fellow scholars have based their opinion on the verse which reads," Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers…" {Al-Baqarah, 238}.

According to this verse, performing the Fajr prayer upon the break of dawn is part of guarding the habit of prayer. Moreover, Allah, The Almighty, Said: " Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord..." {Al-Imran, 133}. Narrated `Aisha: "The believing women covered with their veiling sheets used to attend the Fajr prayer with Allah's Apostle, and after finishing the prayer they would return to their home and nobody could recognize them because of darkness."{Agreed upon}. " And he used to like to delay 'Isha', which you call Al-'Atamah, and he did not like to sleep before it nor talk after it. And he used to finish the Al-Ghadah (Fajr) prayer when a man could recognize his neighbor, and he used to recite (in it) between sixty and one hundred verses." {Agreed upon}.

Narrated `Aisha: Allah's Messenger (PBUH) used to offer the Fajr prayer when it was still dark. Narrated Sahl bin Sa`d: "I used to take the "Suhur" meal with my family and hasten so as to catch the Fajr (morning prayer) with Allah's Messenger (PBUH)." {Agreed upon}. As for the Hadith in which Rafi bin Khadlj said: "I heard Allah's Messenger saying: 'Perform Fajr at AI-Isfar, for indeed its reward is greater." {Related by Tirmithi}, there are two explanations:

First: Isfar means the moment the dawn breaks.

Second: When the people were commanded to preform Fajr prayer at Al-Isfar, they performed it before the break of dawn, then re-performed it in its time when the dawn broke to receive the greater reward." {Al-Majmou`, 3/51}.

Finally, the Hanafis and the majority of the scholars had their own evidence and none maybe denied that when it comes to matters of dispute. Therefore, following the position of any is permissible, Insha`allah. However, we, Iftaa` Department, opt for the view of the majority which states that the best time to offer Fajr prayer is upon the break of dawn, and not before it. And Allah knows best.