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Calculating the Ramadan Timetable in High Latitude Cities Using Mecca’s Length of the Fast

Yesterday, I published an article on the option of using the length of the fasting day in Mecca or Medina when fasting Ramadan in northern locations where the fasting time can be unreasonably long. I discussed flaws in the argument of those who object to this method and the incompatibility of their thinking with the objective of Islamic Law. I also quoted well-known scholars who approved of this method.

In this article, I am going to give simple instructions on how to calculate the start and finish times of the fast everyday following the length of the fast in Mecca.

I) The Dawn Method

This method presumes that the Muslim would like to start their fast at dawn and end it in the afternoon.

1) Find out the time of the dawn (fajr) prayer in Mecca on that day. Let’s call it MDawn.

2) Find out the time of the sunset (maghrib) prayer in Mecca on that day. Let’s call it MSunset.

3) Calculate the length of fast on that day by subtracting MDawn from MSunset. Let’s call this MTime. So, MTime = MSunset – MDawn.

4) Find out the time of the dawn prayer in your city on that day. Let’s call it CDawn.

5) Now, add the length of the fasting time in Mecca to the time of the dawn prayer in your city and that would give you the time at which you can break your fast, which I will call CEnd. So: CEnd = CDawn + MTime.

You can apply this method to any day and city and develop the timetable for your fast in the city where you live.

I will now give a specific example on how to use this method. I will presume that we want to do these calculations for Birmingham, UK, where I live, for today, the 21st/July/2013:

1) The time of the prayer of dawn in Mecca is 4:27.

2) The time of the prayer of sunset in Mecca is 19:04.

3) The length of the fasting day: MTime = 19:04 – 4:27 = 14:37, i.e. 14 hours and 37 minutes.

4) The time of the prayer of dawn in Birmingham (CDawn) is 3:53.

5) The time to break the fast in Birmingham is therefore: CEnd = 3:53 + 14:37 = 18:30.

II) The Sunset Method

This method presumes that the Muslim would like to end their fast at sunset, which means they would start it sometime in the morning. Note that the first three steps are the same as in the Dawn method.

1) Find out the time of the dawn prayer in Mecca on that day. Let’s call it MDawn.

2) Find out the time of the sunset prayer in Mecca on that day. Let’s call it MSunset.

3) Calculate the length of fast on that day by subtracting MDawn from MSunset. Let’s call this MTime. So, MTime = MSunset – MDawn.

4) Find out the time of the sunset prayer in your city on that day. Let’s call it CSunset.

5) Now, subtract the length of the fasting time in Mecca from the time of the sunset prayer in your city and that would give you the time at which you can start your fast in the morning, which I will call CStart. So: CStart = CSunset – Mtime.

Let’s apply this method to our example above:

1) The time of the prayer of dawn in Mecca is 4:27.

2) The time of the prayer of sunset in Mecca is 19:04.

3) The length of the fasting day: MTime = 19:04 – 4:27 = 14:37.

4) The time of the prayer of sunset in Birmingham (CSunset) is 21:16.

5) The time to start the fast in Birmingham is therefore: CStart = 21:16 – 14:37 = 6:39.

There are many websites that you can use to find out the prayer times that you need for these calculations, such as IslamiCity and IslamicFinder. The former is more useful if you would like to produce a table for the whole month in one go. Note that different websites, software applications, and authorities produce timetables that often differ by several minutes, depending on the method of calculation used. Spreadsheet applications, such as Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc, can make the addition and subtraction much faster and reduce the possibility of errors.

For further illustration, I have prepared for download the calculations for the whole of Ramadan in both methods above for Birmingham, UK, and Stockholm, Sweden. I have also included the calculations needed for Mecca in both timetables.

The columns in yellow show the calculations for the Dawn method. The first (CDawn) is for the time of the dawn prayer, which is when the fast is started, and the second (CEnd) is for the time when the fast is broken.

The columns in green show the calculations for the Sunset method. The first is for the time of the Sunset prayer (CSunset), which is when the fast is ended, and the second (CStart) is for the time when the fast is started.

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8 thoughts on “Calculating the Ramadan Timetable in High Latitude Cities Using Mecca’s Length of the Fast

  1. Assalam o Alaikum. I need to know if we use this method to calculate the length of fasts for high latitudes, it seems fine but how about the prayer timmings? Shall we have to follow the prayer timmings of the city where we live during fasting or the prayer timmings of the Mekkah?

  2. I mean we have to offer prayer also during fasting. So, which prayer time to follow! the city where we live or Mecca’s prayer time.

  3. Salam brother Rizwan,

    The reason for having such a method for calculating the length of the fasting day does not apply in the case of the prayer. There is a clear need for some people to have a shorter fasting day than their the places where they live would other have. There is no such need for performing the prayer. In other words, if the person breaks their fast, using this method, before the sunset of where they live, they must still do the sunset prayer at sunset. I hope I understood your question.

    Ramadan mubarak.

    Louay

  4. Salaam:

    Regarding the method of computing length of daily fasting period in abnormal zones that you presented, one problem is the case for places inside the Arctic (or Antarctic) region where there is a persistent daytime or nighttime. There is difficulty of defining the start of dawn or the time of sunset — data that enters the computation.

    In Inuvik, Canada, or Tromso, Norway, the Muslims there are observing Ramadhan fast but their days are continuous daylight during the whole month, with neither sunset nor sunrise.

    I think a more practical system is to use the Makkah times in their entirety. Take the exact times for all five prayers, including Suhur and Iftar, in Makkah and convert their correspondence in these abnormal zones, always mindful of the time zone difference between Makkah and the local zone. The Dajjal hadith is used as the dalil in this respect.

  5. Salam brother Abu Ammar and thank you for your comment. There are two points to consider here:

    1) When a compromise method has to be find, as in this case, one has to also determine the parameters that should govern such a compromise. For instance, if one would like to make the fasting as close as possible to how it is performed in moderate latitudes, i.e. from dawn to sunset, then there is the method I have discussed. One may choose to either start at dawn and calculate the end of stop at sunset and calculate backward the start. But if one says that they would only like to have the same length of the fasting day as Mecca, then the method you describe can be used. The point is that the chosen method would be determined by the nature of the flexibility one would like to have. 

    2) Who the compromise method is designed for is. For instance, it is unlikely that the millions of Muslims would want to fast in a particular way simply so that the method can be used by a very small minority in above a particular latitude. After all, the timings of Mecca are not universal for Muslims everywhere anyway. Of course, where there is a continuous day or night, then the method I explained does not work. In this case, a method like the one you mention can be used. 

    I am not quite sure which Dajjal hadith you are referring to, by I do not think the anti-Christ versions of hadiths, which predate Islam, are historical.

     

  6. Salaam Br, Louay, Thank you for this insight which I have been struggling with for the last 39 years. In 1977 the World Muslim Council met in S.Arabia and there and then had decided that Countries that have these LONG hours for fasting, could follow Makka timing. I think it was a GREAT initiative and should have been advertised. Does not matter the lattitude number, Sometimes Cities in lower lattitudes (as they had determined a specific lattitude but Washington and Toronto did not fall under that number, yet having LONG fast hours). Makkah time is tolerable by everyone, it varies between 12 – 14.5 hours and never under or above those ranges. Unfortunately it was not advertised and no one was following them until last year (I was doing those timings myself as my father was at that time employed in Saudi and I knew and believed in those timings). I am very happy that everyone is agreeing now (of course you will always have the die-hard ones who will follow the Quranic times of suhoor and iftar so I wish them good luck). Thank you for your thoughts.

  7. I think it is now high time and very necessary that Muslims Think Tankers with the coordination of Ulam A E Din to debate the matter of long fasting, otherwise the new generation will not accept the concept of fasting and will run away from Islam.

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