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Topic initiated on Monday, October 25, 2004  -  12:21 AM Reply with quote



< red glow after sunset >

The Almighty Allah Subhana-Wata’ala states in Sura Al’Inshiqaq (84:16):

“Fala uqusimu bis Shafaq”

So I do call to witness the ruddy glow of sunset.

Sahih Muslim
Hadith 1275
Narrated byAbdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As

The Messenger of Allah (Sallalahu-alayhi-wasallam) said:
The time of Maghrib is as long as A’Shafaq has not ended

In Ahmad's Musnad it is related from Abu Ayyub al-Ansari that the Prophet (Sallalahu-alayhi-wasallam) said:
Perform Maghrib when the fasting person breaks his fast and when the stars are about to appear.

As Muslims we are constantly inspired, motivated and even coerced to perform certain Ibadah in specific timeslots. The performance of the said Ibadah within meticulously prescribed time – periods has always been an integral part of a Muslim’s devotional routine.

The performance of these forms of Ibadah consists not only in the execution of the act, but also of the implementation of that act in its prescribed time slot. If an act of the aforesaid Ibadah is not enacted within its prescribed time slot it would not be regarded as Ada (complete). If the said Ibadah is performed after its duly prescribed time it is Qada (delayed).

The Ibadah cannot under any circumstances be deliberately observed before its due time period – this results in a flagrant disobedience to Allah Subhana-Wata’ala’s Law and can be considered in the category of a sin. Such an enactment renders that particular Ibadah null and void and without any merit whatsoever.


The duration of twilight is geometrically dependent on latitude, season and elevation. Astronomers and time-keepers define three twilight periods: civil twilight, nautical twilight and astronomical twilight. When evening twilight ends, the night becomes officially dark until the beginning of morning twilight.
Civil twilight is the period from sunset when the solar disk has just left the horizon until the centre of the sun's disc is 6 degrees below the horizon.
Under clear skies, the civil twilight period can provide subtle sky beauty with its softly changing colours, particularly in the sky regions known as the twilight and anti-twilight arches. When the sun is on the horizon, the sky surrounding the solar disk takes on an orange-yellow glow. The colours in the red/yellow end of the spectrum dominate because the air has scattered out all the blue wave lengths from the sunlight.
As the orange-yellow sun sets, the sky above it glows a pale yellow with yellow-orange patches to either side of the solar disk and a topping blue-white arch — the twilight arch. As twilight progresses, this twilight arch becomes pink with yellow and orange below. The twilight arch is formed by sunlight scattered by the atmosphere and usually begins encircling the sun like an aureole. When the sun drops below the horizon red wave bands are scattered in the western sky, often producing a coppery or blood-red twilight arch.
As the twilight arch slowly flattens, the sky above darkens from blue grey to a deep blue, darkening as twilight approaches its end and it becomes officially dark.

A’Shafaq is that period when the coppery or blood-red twilight arch remains visible in the western sky.

The present day key source of information (ephemeris data) regarding the times of apparent eye-level sunrise and sunset is the United States Naval Observatory (USNO) based at the Pentagon in Washington.

USNO makes use of the Interactive Computer Ephemeris (ICE) software. ICE assumes the time of apparent eye-level sunset to be when the geometric direction to the centre of the sun is 50 arc minutes (50/60o) – the value coming from the average effect of atmospheric refraction at the horizon of 34 arc minutes plus the semi-diameter of the sun at 16 arc minutes.

The results of personally recorded 182 eye-level sunsets at the location of Green Point in Cape Town and at sea-level on comparison with USNO data, reflect a 2 minute difference in winter and a 3>4 minute difference in summer.

The USNO states that projected times of sunset can vary by minutes to the given tables.

As a result Muslims cannot utilise these sunset times to calculate the local period of Maghrib.

The apparent motion of the Sun along the plane of the ecliptic is not regular. This non-uniform motion is caused by two things:
The Earth's orbit is not circular but elliptical, and

The Earth's axis is tilted about 23 degrees from the ecliptic. Mean solar time assumes that the orbit is circular that there is no tilt and everything is like "clockwork". However this is not the case, so a sundial (which shows real solar time) differs from Mean time by the Equation of Time. Since clocks and watches use Mean solar time there will be an apparent error between the time your watch reads and the time your sundial reads.

Using the laws of physics to make precise long-term predictions is impossible, even in theory. Making long-term predictions to any degree of accuracy at all requires giving the initial conditions to infinite precision.

An initial measurement that does not utilize an infinite number of units will contain an inherent error, and protracted over a period of time this error becomes compounded.

Universal Time, on which the time-zones are established, is a time scale based on the rotation of the Earth. Because the rotation of the Earth is somewhat irregular, time cannot be kept this way with an accuracy better than 1: 108.
Moreover, the Earth slows down in its rotation, mainly because of tidal acceleration and the length of the day increases by about 1.7 ms/century.
For this reason, ephemeris time was introduced; which is a time scale based on the motion of the bodies of the solar system. This time scale is more stable than Universal Time, and comes close to the accuracy and stability of atomic time measured with atomic clocks (better than 1: 1012).
So Universal Time slowly lags behind ephemeris time, and the difference (delta time) accumulates.
It increases irregularly, and must be determined from regular observations.

Delta-T was 0 in the late 19th century when accurate ephemerides were matched with the clock time, which was based on the rotation of the Earth. It already had accumulated to + 32.18 seconds in 1958 when atomic time was introduced and to + 63.83 seconds in 2000.


Observe the period of A’Shafaq in your locality to determine the correct time-period of Maghrib and in which the fasting person can ‘break’ his/her fast.


Abdurrazak Ebrahim (Dr)

Cape Town

Posted - Monday, October 25, 2004  -  5:56 AM Reply with quote
Its a very good, useful & infermative post. I would suggest that these type of LONG posts should be posted as Articles in the Article section. I hope you will agree.

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