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"O you who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah, and be with the truthful." [Noble Quran 9:119]

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

When does a new day start as per the Glorious Quran?

As indicated in the Noble Quran, every new day starts at dawn.

This should not be confused with the citing of the new moon for the start of the new Islamic lunar month. The commencement of a new day and commencement of a new month are separate issues.

The first day of the new Islamic month can only be confirmed when the finest crescent appears on the sky after sunset. But this does not usher the start of a new day. It only announces to be ready for the new month. The first day of this new month begins from Fajr of the following day.

It's also important to keep in mind that citing the new moon at sunset by no means interferes with the existing and continuing 'day.' In other words, darkness or brightness of the atmosphere has no bearing on changing the date or status of the prevailing day until the arrival of dawn. For instance, people might consider that the night of Friday begins when the sun sets on Thursday. Or, some may consider, the night of Friday begins after midnight on Thursday. These are the widely accepted concepts. But both are logically incorrect. It's only darkness that begins after sunset and continues after midnight. But these are not the beginnings of a new day. This aspect has been elucidated in the Glorious Quran. The terms 'day' and 'night' simply refer to brightness and darkness of the surroundings, not to the status of the existing calendar day. Brightness and darkness do not infringe upon each other to alter this status.

"It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit." Chapter 36:40 - Surah Ya-Sin

Referring to Verse 97:5 of Surah Al-Qadr:

"(The night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn."

The above verse plainly illustrates that the new day begins at the "rising of the dawn."

With each new day beginning at dawn, the duration for Isha prayers is the longest of all the five prayers of a day. The time for Isha prayer starts approximately one hour and 15 minutes after Maghrib prayer (sunset) and extends approximately 30 minutes prior to Fajr of the following day. While it's advisable to offer Isha prayer prior to midnight before it gets too late when one may feel tired, the time for Isha prayer lasts almost throughout the night until about 30 minutes before Fajr, though the deadline for Isha prayer might vary slightly from person to person.

Tarawih prayers are required begin a day prior to fasting, soon after the finest crescent for the start of the new month is observed at sunset. More on this a little later. However, on the same basis one may ask, why doesn't fasting begin soon after citing the new crescent moon? The simple reason which may come to one's mind is that the new month cannot be confirmed before sunset and by that time much of the day has already passed. So, one can only begin fasting from dawn of the following day. But logically and most importantly, the reason is that the first day of the month of Ramadan starts from the following Fajr and not from sunset when the new moon is cited.

Now here's a confusion by our jurists that needs to be stated. Even though God Almighty has clearly elucidated the starting time of a new day, yet our Islamic lawmakers confuse it with the Western system of reading the clock. Again taking the example of verse 97:5 of Surah Al-Qadr, it is obvious that midnight is the continuation of the same calendar day/date until dawn. Yet when the date for a particular night is announced which requires staying awake and offering extra night prayers, our ulemas adhere to non-Muslim rules. For example, the 27th day of Ramadan is officially recognized as Leilatul Qadr. This is the "Night of Power" as stated in verses 97:2-3, which is when the revelation of the Glorious Quran began. On Leilatul Qadr we are obligated to worship extra hours at night, after offering the Isha prayer, until Fajr of the following day. Therefore, since the 27th day of Ramadan begins on the 27th, its night or darkness must also start after sunset of the same day until Fajr of the 28th. But instead, our ulemas observe the Night of Power for offering extra prayers (salaat al-leil) from the night of the 26th day after finishing the Isha prayer until the Fajr of the 27th day. Hence, according to this practice, we are actually keeping awake on the night of the 26th and not the 27th.

The practice of starting and finishing times of Tarawih prayers involves the same contradiction of logic by mixing up two different time systems. Tarawih prayers begin on the same evening as the new moon is cited, although the first of Ramadan starts the next day from Fajr. This indicates that Tarawih prayers are made to start from a period prior to the first day of Ramadan. Similarly, Tarawih prayers end as soon as the new moon for Shawal is cited at sunset even though that's a day for fasting, and the first day of Shawal begins from the following Fajr. According to Quranic principles this would indicate the omission of Tarawih prayer on the final evening of Ramadan by mixing it up with Shawal.