Objective

Although there is consensus on the textual definition of fajr across Muslim denominations, there is wide variation in the implementation of the time of fajr across different communities. Our project aims to enable the harmonisation and unification of the time at which the fajr prayer is conducted (and the commencement of the fast), by providing accurate data, using specialist technology.

Introduction

Some communities approximate the time of fajr using different calculation methods; however, there is no consensus on a specific formula. Some communities base their timetables on local observations; however, these may be subject to observer bias and may not be reproducible. This results in a wide variation amongst different fajr timetables. We suggest that formulating a fajr timetable by either individual's observations alone, or calculations alone, will not achieve a unified prayer timetable.

Method

A specialist "all-night camera", designed for astrophysics research (with a 180° fish-eye lens with CCD detector capable of discerning low ambient light variance at the horizon), was mounted at a site within Birmingham. The camera was programmed to take photographs every minute of the sky, and all photographs spanning a calendar year have been published on the project website.

Analysis

A consensus panel was assembled, comprising of religious scholars, academics and researchers in this field, experienced observers, community leaders, and umbrella organisations. Members of the consensus panel individually assessed the images, and voted for the image they perceived to correspond most closely with the time of fajr. The results were analysed to produce an annual timetable.

Results

The OpenFajr research project has produced the largest body of published observational data in our latitude. The proposed annual fajr timetable is presented in this paper, and we propose the dissemination of this research paper to organisations and individuals for their critique, for them to consider the adoption of the proposed timetable.

Download the full research paper

Qur'an

Chapter Al-'Isra (17) Verse 78

Keep up prayer from the declining of the sun till the darkness of the night and the morning recitation; surely the morning recitation is witnessed.

Chapter Al-Baqarah (2) Verse 187

… and eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night at dawn

Hadith

Al-Jaami' No. 4278

Jabir ibn Abdullah (RA) narrated: The Messenger (SAW) said there are two fajrs. The fajr which looks like the tail of a wolf: at such a time fajr prayer is not allowed, but the food intake is not forbidden either. The [next] fajr that spreads horizontally in the sky marks the time when fajr prayer is permitted and food is forbidden.

Al-Bukhari Volume 1, Book 11, Number 595

'Abdullah bin Mas'ud narrated: The Prophet said, "The Adhan pronounced by Bilal should not stop you from taking Suhur, for he pronounces the Adhan at night, so that the one offering the late night prayer (Tahajjud) from among you might hurry up and the sleeping from among you might wake up. It does not mean that dawn or morning has started." Then He (the Prophet) pointed with his fingers and raised them up (towards the sky) and then lowered them (towards the earth) like this (Ibn Mas'ud imitated the gesture of the Prophet). Az-Zuhri gestured with his two index fingers which he put on each other and then stretched them to the right and left. These gestures illustrate the way real dawn appears. It spreads left and right horizontally. The dawn that appears in the high sky and lowers down is not the real dawn.

Wasaa'il Hadith Number 4944

In a letter from Imam Al-Jawad (Abu Ja'far Al-Thaani):
Fajr is the horizontal 'white thread' and it isn't the vertical whiteness, so don't pray in travel or otherwise until you verify it, for Allah hasn't left his creation in uncertainty in this affair and He has said: "Eat and drink until the white thread becomes clear from the black thread of morning". The white thread is the horizontal [one] and it is the one in which salaat becomes wajib.

Jurists' Views

The Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta' Fatwa No. 7373: Part No. 6; Page No. 144

Astronomical calculations are not consequential in determining the times of Salah (prayer), but what is crucial when determining the time for the Fajr Prayer is to take into account the appearance of a clear and distinct line of light along the eastern horizon. The time ends when the sun rises.

Ayatullah Sayyid Abulqasim al-Khui Laws of Prayers, Rule No. 749

Near about the call for dawn prayers a whiteness rises from the east, it is called the first dawn (Fajr). When this whiteness spreads, it is called the second dawn, this the time for dawn prayers commences. This time ends with sunrise.

Conclusion

Reviewing the primary sources and Jurists' views, false dawn is defined at the point when a vertical column of light is visible on the eastern horizon (note that this [zodiacal light] is only visible in the latitude of Birmingham prior to sunrise in the autumn); true dawn is when there is the first horizontal spread of light on the eastern horizon (which supersedes the vertical column of light [if present]). This is the time of fajr.

Other than by observation, neither the Qur'an nor hadith stipulate a method for calculating the time of fajr. In many locations, certain formulae match the observation of fajr closely: some communities adopt a fixed-time before sunrise; others a fixed angle of depression of the sun; others by a apportioning the night (typically into seven, with fajr one-seventh the night prior to sunrise); others by apportioning the length of day (similarly to above); and some a hybrid of these, which is typically adopted in areas of higher latitude (in northern or southern countries), where the sun often does not decline beneath the typical angles. There is no consensus on any of these methods.

It cannot be assumed that a universal calculation can determine the point of fajr, in all locations and at all latitudes, in all seasons. Therefore, this project aims to determine the point of fajr primarily using observation, with the aid of a specialist camera.

Review the data

All images can be viewed by clicking on the button. Each day is labelled either 'Clear View', 'Partial View', or 'Obstructed View', depending on the weather conditions.

Each photograph is seen as a circle: the centre of the circle is the sky directly vertical above the camera; the outside of the circle is view of the horizon in all directions. The first arc of light across the edge of the circle demonstrates the first horizontal light on the eastern horizon.

View Data
You may wish to download the images to view them with greater clarity

Proposed fajr timetable

View/download the 2017 fajr timetable
View full calendar in your internet browser:
click here
iCal link:
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Add to your Google Calendar:
click on the calendar above
ICS calendar file:
click to download

Endorsements

  • I appreciate your commendable efforts for scientific research about calculating Fajr time in Birmingham UK throughout the year.
    I read your paper on this subject and agree that your research and methodology are sound based on observations agreeing with the Shari'ah requirement for Fajr.
    Your calculated times for Fajr throughout the year very closely agree with Moonsighting.com research of 30 years for high latitudes with similar margin of errors.
    Remember, moonsighting.com research is general for all high latitudes, while your efforts are for Birmingham only. So the margin of errors may not be the same. However, both methodologies confirm that any fixed degree of sun's depression is not the correct way of calculating Fajr times, and there is a reasonable agreement of times calculated by your research and moonsighting.com research.
    Shari'ah does not require 100% mathematical accuracy for Fajr and Isha times. Reasonable Margin of error is not only acceptable, but is very practical.

    Dr Khalid Shaukat
    Founder of moonsighting.com. Author of "Fajr and Isha" (2012)
  • The classical books of Muslim law assert that the Fajr prayer time commences at dawn with the time for true dawn beginning once the false dawn disappears, and the light starts spreading on the eastern horizon. However both dawns remain unclear in Britain during most of the year due to adverse weather conditions, with the added complication of the western twilight merging with the light of dawn during the summer solstice months.
    Over the years a number of opinions regarding the correct commencement of Fajr prayer time in Britain have been put forward. All of these opinions are justified by valid proofs while at the same time they are refutable by valid criticism.
    With prayer and fasting playing a central role in the lives of all Muslims, the implications of the diverse opinions are not only confined to academic discussions but play out in the everyday life of ordinary Muslims all over Britain.
    In this backdrop it is refreshing to come across the Open Fajr project where a group of Muslim professionals have got together and using available technology have come up with a credible proposal for ending the uncertainty of the commencement of Fajr Prayer Time in Britain.
    Having studied the Open Fajr research paper it is my opinion that this is the way forward and the team with the concensus panel should go ahead and working with Mosques in other cities of Britain should set up observation cameras for gathering further data that I have no doubt will support the data collected in Birmingham.

    Jaffer Dharamsi
    Member of Islamic Crescent Observer Project (ICOP). Member of Islamic Crescent Observation UK (ICOUK). Author of "Determining the times of fajr" (2009)
  • We welcome and value this research, as a means by which all mosques in Birmingham can unite on the time of fajr.

    Muhammad Ali
    Administrator, Birmingham Central Mosque
  • Important note:
    [The OpenFajr team] have made a lot of effort, in particular [to find] the start time of fajr and the end time, for the entire year.
    All present [at the conference held in Birmingham Central Mosque on 07/05/2016 to discuss the OpenFajr research] have appreciated and praised their work. May Allah give them ability to continue searching using technology to find out more, within Islamic principles.

    Mufti Gul Rahman
    Founder, Jama'a Ahlus Sunnah UK
  • I highly appreciate the OpenFajr research project, and hope it will provide a solid basis for the unity of masajid in Birmingham based on accurate knowledge.

    Dr Mohammed Khalid
    Head of Education, UK Islamic Mission
  • Excellent effort without any personal gain. This is a milestone for the unity of the Muslim community. It will give us a further opportunity to take this work further.

    Makhdoom Ahmad Chishti
    Chairperson, Social Unity Foundation of Innovation Trust
  • I wholeheartedly appreciate the sincere effort of the team on the important issue of fajr time for Muslims living in Birmingham. Unfortunately, Muslims of this city are divided on this issue, and many are confused about the accuracy of suhur time to start their fasting on time. I hope and pray that this remarkable research will unite Muslims of this city. May Allah reward everyone who contributed to this noble task. I request the OpenFajr team to continue their research on this issue.

    Maulana Muhammad Sarfraz Madni
    Trustee and Member of Management, Birmingham Central Mosque
  • The OpenFajr team in my view did a fantastic job in researching the fajr start time. I hope and pray that all the Muslim community in Birmingham follow the presentation and findings presented by them.
    I thank you for all your effort, and may Allah bless you for your hard work done.

    Imam Mohammed Imtiaz
    Imam and Trustee, Birmingham Central Mosque
  • Masha'Allah, the team has done a great job, which in my 45 years in Birmingham, nobody could do or achieve. It's a great hard work, my du'aa is that Allah SWT will reward you insha'Allah. No words can express the achievement. Barak-Allah fikum.

    Haji Shafique Begg
    Co-Founder, Hall Green Masjid
  • I congratulate the team to the efforts they have done. These efforts would be blessed by Allah Ta'ala.
    Observation is the base commentary of the Quranic aayah.

    Imam Mohammad Talha Bukhari
    Imam and Islamic Scholar, Birmingham Central Mosque
  • Fantastic show mash Allah it was an honour to meet you, very educational subhanAllah. May Allah reward you all for your efforts and time Ameen.
    Listen to the interview with Unity FM

    Husna Wahid
    Unity FM
  • Mashallah you have done a fabulous project. May Allah Almighty reward you for this in this World and hereafter. It was needed for a long time but Mashallah you have started.We should extend this project to other cities. I would be more than happy to support you in Nottingham. I fully endorse your timetable.

    Imam Zia Khan
    Imam, Nottingham
  • The importance of the diligence and timing of our prayers cannot be underestimated. And beyond that too is the goal of all Muslims unifying on this issue.
    Through dialogue, progressive and open hearts, Muslims can come together, unified, in harmony, with strong community cohesion.
    Our aspirations for our Ummah, is that our community speaks with one voice; we look within and identify strengths and build upon them together; and see opportunities for improvement and work on them together.
    Now, as we close our eyes, we can imagine a goal being actualised: it is dark, the city is quiet, and the air is crisp. At the same time, throughout the city, the call to the fajr prayer resonates and reverberates throughout mosques, houses and hearts. The collective energy and strength of the Muslim Ummah will enable us to strive.
    Read the full artice

    The Muslim Vibe
  • Mosques join chorus of approval over time for dawn prayers

    Hundreds of mosques have come together to find a high-tech solution to a problem that has faced Muslims for centuries — how to work out the exact time of dawn.
    In a project set to be replicated nationwide, mosques in Birmingham used astronomy cameras and crowdsourcing to work out when Muslims should mark “fajr”, the first prayers of the day at first light.
    The break of dawn, around two hours before sunrise, differs across the country, but even neighbouring mosques currently vary by up to 45 minutes in marking morning prayers. This is due to the use of different formulae to calculate the time at which the first rays of sunlight spill over the horizon in their area.
    The problem has finally been solved in Birmingham, where around 150,000 Muslims from diverse Islamic denominations now adhere to a synchronised local timetable thanks to a high-tech project that asked worshippers to analyse 25,000 photographs of the pre-dawn sky taken over a year.
    Read the full artice

    Kaya Burgess, Religious Affairs Correspondent
    The Times Newspaper
  • Muslims believe that taking time out to pray is one of the essential pillars of their faith. They pray 5 times per day, and the first prayer is usually at first light; yet the timing of that prayer can vary depending on the person's interpretation.
    But now, in Birmingham, a camera designed for astrophysics research has helped to bring 150,000 Muslims together at exactly the same time, every morning for dawn prayers.
    Listen to the interview (slide to 12:33 into the programme)

    BBC Radio 4 "Sunday"
    Aired 27th November 2016

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