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When to Stop Eating: Determining Times of Fajr and Imsak

The following essay is an attempt to clarify the issue of al-fajr al-sadiq (the true dawn) and the cut-off point for suhur (the pre-dawn meal), in light of the Qur’an, the authentic traditions, and the sound practices of the companions, their successors, and the venerable imams and scholars.

The Spirit of Ease in Shari`ah

Let me state from the outset that Shari`ah is all about ease and the removal of hardship for people in order to facilitate things for them.

Shari`ah, as it has been articulated by eminent jurists, has the sole objective of catering to the welfare of people in both worlds.

Consequently, practicality, balance, ease, and removal of hardship are all valid principles that have always been used as the criteria for providing rulings for people, according to changing times and circumstances.

The Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah have reiterated this principle throughout. Allah says,

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{Allah intends to bring for you ease; and He does not wish to make things hard upon you.} (Al-Baqarah 2:185) and

{He did not appoint for you any hardship in this religion: the way of your ancestor Ibrahim} (Al-Hajj 22:78).

Additionally, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is known to have said:

I have been sent to teach the simple, natural way (of Ibrahim).[1];

This religion is easy and simple to follow; whoever wrestle with it (i.e., makes it hard overburden himself with difficult duties) will end up defeated.” (An-Nasa’i);

Make things easy for people; do not make things hard for them. Give them glad tidings, and don’t turn them away from religion (by making it hard on them)” (Bukhari).

`A’ishah, the beloved wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), tells us about the Prophet, when left to choose between two viable options, he would always choose the easier of the two, as long as it was not sinful; for if it had been sinful, he would be the farthest from it. (Bukhari, Muslim and others).

This spirit of ease, comfort, and removal of hardship, was the basis for how the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions practiced and applied Islamic principles.

While stressing ease and comfort, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also warned against rigidity and hair-splitting in religion. In this regard, he is reported to have said:

Woe to those who are rigid.” (Muslim);

Abstain from what I had forbidden, and fulfill the duties I had enjoined as best as you can (shunning rigidity) for the nations before you perished because of their excessive questioning and  disagreeing with their Prophets.” (Muslim)

[1] Cf. Ibn Hajar, Kashf As-Sitr, #37

Read in next page about meaning and time of Fajr.

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