Khaled Hanafy: Maghrib and Isha prayers to be combined as of May 18
Dr Khaled Hanafy, a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), explained that the signs of entering the time of Isha Prayer in Britain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France disappear astronomically from May 18 to August 7 of this year 2023. Accordingly, he issued a fatwa on combining Maghrib and Isha prayers in those countries, in a “Jama Taqdeem.”
Dr Hanafy added: “The issue of determining Isha’s time when the astronomical signs are no longer visible in Europe has received the attention of different jurists and astronomers. This issue I being studied continuously since 1978, as Muslims in Europe find great struggle in praying Isha during the summer season; since they live in a non-Islamic country and society that does not revolve around Islamic worship/prayers.”
He added to the matter: “Muslim parents in the diaspora also find it hard to raise their children to practise Islam when Maghrib prayer itself is very late in summer, around 9:30 PM. And many children sleep around 8:00 PM due to school and such!”
Dr Khaled Hanafy Pinpoint the Reasons Behind the Fatwa
The different interpretations for the determination of Isha Prayer time:
- The astronomical signs that help determine Isha Prayer time – which is the disappearance of the twilight, the soft glowing light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon -in Germany and Britain is no longer visible from 18 May until August 7. This, of course, differs from one area to another, which allowed for what is known in Islam as “ijtihad”, where different scholars look into this and declare their own interpretation.
- Many scholars believe that the solution to determining Isha Prayer time when it cannot be determined astronomically is to estimate it. However, the method for estimation differs from one to another, as some believe the time difference between Maghrib and Isha in Mecca should be the main indicator for the prayer. Others believe it should be estimated based on the nearest country with the possibility to determine the prayer based on the twilight. Still, the Council rejected all those interpretations, as they contradicted science and the main belief that religion shouldn’t be a hardship.
- Some mosques decided that Isha Prayer should be an hour or an hour and a half after Maghrib. However, this is solely based on the belief that there should be a break between the two prayers, which has no clear evidence.
Dr Khalid Hanafy’s opinion was to combine both Isha and Maghrib prayer from the time May 18 until August 7. The main reasoning was the hardship this would cause Muslims in Europe as well as the disappearance of the signs that mark the beginning of Isha Prayer time. This fatwa will be followed by mosques in Germany, Britain, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands.
The main reasons behind Dr Khalid Hanafy’s Fatwa:
First: Many Hadith confirm combining prayers in case of hardship is permissible, as mentioned by Ibn `Abbas [who] said: `The Prophet of God (S) prayed the zuhr and `asr prayers together and [he also offered] the maghrib and `isha’ prayers together even though there was neither any fear nor was he travelling.'”
The hadith shows that Islam allows for the combining of prayers in case of hardship not just in cases of travelling or fear.
This raised the question among many “The prophet (PBUH) combined Dhuhr and Asr once, how are we okay to combine for 3 straight months?”
Scholars answered that by saying: the prophet (PBUM) not combining the prayers multiple times or days does not affect the legitimacy of the fatwa since the reason for it is still present. In a sense if there was a reason for the action, the action still remains valid and legitimate.
Second: Quran reads: “Establish prayer at the decline of the sun [from its meridian] until the darkness of the night and [also] the Qur’an of dawn. Indeed, the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed.” [Al-Isra Ayat 78 (17:78)]
The majority of scholars agreed that this verse refers to all of the five prayers. Ibn Omar, Ibn Abbas Abu Burdah, and Al-Hassan said in this regard: “The sun passing its zenith refers to Dhuhr and Asr prayers, the dusk of the night refers to Maghrib and Isha prayers. As for the Quran recitation at dawn refers to Fajir prayer. This means mean that verse refers to all five prayers.”
“The sunnah later determined a specific time for each of the five prayers, including the Isha Prayer. However, if the signs mentioned in Sunnah that mark the timings of the prayer are no longer visible, the times mentioned in Quran should be followed to determine the prayer times. Meaning we should consider nightfall as the time for Maghrib and Isha prayer”
Aisha Bin Abu Baker, the mother of believers, said: Allah enjoined the prayer when He enjoined it, it was two Rakat only (in every prayer) both when in residence or on journey. Then the prayers offered on journey remained the same, but (the Rakat of) the prayers for non-travellers were increased.” [Sahih Muslim and Sahih al-Bukhari ]
With the above in mind, if travellers can go back to praying two rakat only, it means we also can go back to determining the prayer time by nightfall only due to the hardship faced otherwise.
Third: Combining prayers in case of heavy rain that can obstruct man from going to the mosque is permissible
In case of heavy rain or expected rain, it is permissible to combine Maghrib and Isha. this is due to hardship and to allow people to go pray Jamaa (together) in mosques. As such, it is permissible to combine Isha with Maghrib as otherwise it would be around midnight, causing struggle and obstructing many from performing prayer together at the mosque.
Fourth: The general role applies to all
Islam is a religion of ease. The Quran reads: “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” [Al-Baqarah Ayat 2, (2:185)].
Allah Almighty said that Islam is the religion of “instinct”, as mentioned in the Quran “So be steadfast in faith in all uprightness ˹O Prophet˺—the natural Way of Allah which He has instilled in ˹all˺ people. Let there be no change in this creation of Allah. That is the Straight Way, but most people do not know.” [Al-Rum Ayat 30, (30:30)]
Islam took into consideration the need for people to sleep when the Isha and Fajr prayers were determined with enough hours between them. Meaning that the prayer times align with the human instinct. It is that Allah Almighty does not want to render hardship or distress upon humans, but rather He wants ease and simplicity to be bestowed upon us.
Fifth: Combining Isha and Maghrib ensures people pray together at Mosques.
The mosques are almost devoid of worshipers at Isha and Maghrib prayers, except for those with no work commitments. Many even do not pray Isha due to feeling drowsy or sleeping early. Combining Isha and Maghrib would make it easier and would encourage many to pray at a mosque at once before going to sleep.
Sixth: Previous evidence
Many of the mosques who previously stated that Isha prayer will still be around midnight had closed its doors last summer due to the absence of worshippers who can pray together that late in the night. This shows that combining prayers will ease the hardship of the people.
so why do we reject such simplicity and render hardship and struggle upon ourselves?
the final verdict: Isha and Maghrib prayers will be combined from May 18 until August 7 in Britain, Germany, and France.
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