Prayer in Polar Areas
Questions are often asked about the timing of prayers in remote areas, where prayers’ time is blurred. In these areas prayer time is determined on the basis of analogy with clear prayers time at the nearest place.
Prayer in Polar Areas
· Long days in polar areas and their effect on prayers.
· Prayers when times overlap.
· Prayer times in polar areas.
In some areas, particularly remote ones, when the night is very short the exact timing for prayer and fasting may be blurred. Questions are often asked about the timing of prayers in these areas throughout the year or at specific periods.
The European Council for Research and Fatwa endorses Resolution 6 of the ninth session of the Islamic Fiqh Council held on 121-19 Rajab 1406 AH, which states that this question is open to scholarly discretion, as it is not ruled by a definitive religious statement. The scope of scholarly discretion is wide open. The resolution says: Certain areas between latitudes 45–48 degrees north and south have clear marks for prayer times throughout the day (24 hours). People living in these areas are required to observe these clear times.
The areas between latitudes 48–66 degrees go through annual periods when the marks for prayer are lost, with the timing for 'Isha and Fajr prayers overlapping. In these areas the times for these two prayers should be determined on the basis of analogy with the times of these prayers at the nearest place where prayer times are clearly marked. The areas beyond latitude 66 degrees should estimate prayer times on the basis of the times at the parallel places at latitude 45 degrees. 
In its session of 14 Rabi' II 1402 AH, corresponding to 4 February 1982, the Islamic Fiqh Council adopted a decision based on Decision 61 by the Supreme Committee of Scholars in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, dated 12 Rabi' II 1398 AH. The decision states that the times of prayers go through two seasons. The first is when the prayer times are clearly marked during night and day, and the second is when prayer times overlap. In the first season, people should observe the prayer times as defined by the hadīths that define these times. In the second season, when the times overlap, the times of 'Isha and Fajr prayers and the start of the fasting day should be estimated according to the last period when the two twilights are clearly distinguished.
In its nineteenth session, held on 22–26 Shawwal 1428 AH, the Islamic Fiqh Council reiterated its earlier decision that the areas between latitudes 48–66 degrees should estimate their prayer time on the basis of the times during the season when the relevant marks are clearly visible. However, in this new decision, the Council added the following: ‘When the prayer time is very late, people who find it hard to wait in order to offer their prayers at the correct time, such as students, employees and labourers on their working days, may combine prayers, offering Maghrib and 'Isha prayers together. This may be done on the basis of the religious statements that require the removal of hardship.The decision cites the texts mentioning combining prayers as evidence in support of combining prayers by students and workers, and during the period when the marks for prayer times are lost.
The late Shaikh Muhammad Rasheed Rida expressed a different view on prayer and fasting in areas where the night and day are too long or too short. He said that people in these areas may estimate the times for prayers on the basis of analogy with what the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained. He mentioned that scholars have different views on whether the estimation should be based on the times in Makkah and Madinah, or in the nearest areas where the marks of prayer times are visible.
The fatwa given by al-Azhar says that the estimation of prayer times in the areas where the days and nights are too long or too short should be based on the times of Makkah and Madinah or the nearest areas with visible marks.
The late Shaikh Mahmood Shaltoot, the Grand Shaikh of al-Azhar, said in his Fatwa: ‘The people in these areas should estimate their days, nights and months according to the times at the nearest areas with reasonable times, i.e. according to the nearest countries where the times are clearly marked and where the night and day accommodate the obligations of fasting and prayer in a way that achieves the benefits of the obligations without placing much hardship on people.
The hadīth that speaks of the Impostor, i.e. al-Dajjal, includes:
We asked: “Messenger of God, how long will he stay on earth?” He said: “Forty days: one day is as long as a year, and one as long as a month, and one as long as a week ...” We asked: “Messenger of God, how about that day which is as long as a year? Will it be sufficient for us to offer the prayers of one day?” He said: “No. Estimate suitable times
Related by Muslim, Kitab al-Malahim, hadith No. 2,137
· Decisions by the European Council for Fatwa and Research.
· Decisions by the Islamic Fiqh Council, the Muslim World League.
· Research by the Committee of Leading Scholars in Saudi Arabia, Dar al-Qasim, Riyadh, 1421 AH, 2001.
· Fatawa by the Permanent Committee for Research and Fatwa.
· Muhammad Rasheed Rida, Fatawa, Beirut.
· Jad al-Haq Ali Jad al-Haq, Al-Fatawa al-Islamiyyah, vol. 3, p. 82.
· Fatawa al-Azhar wa Dar al-Ifta fi 100 [Am, Fatwa No. 1,139, dated 9 Rabi' I 1402 AH, 3 January 1998.
· Mahmood Shaltoot, Al-Fatawa.
- Decisions of the European Council for Research and Fatwa, No. 2/12.
- Decisions of the Fiqh Assemblly, Decision 3, p. 91 onwards.
- See: Papers of the Committee of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia, vol. 4, p. 459. Also, The Rulings of the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Fatwa, vol. 6, Fatwa No. 2,769
- See: S. al-Munajjid (ed.), Fatawa al-Shaikh Muhammad Rasheed Rida, vol. 6, pp. 2,576 onwards. See also, J. A. Jad al-Haq, Al-Fatawa al-Islamiyyah, vol. 3, pp. 82 onwards.
- See: Fatawa al-Azhar wa Dar al-Ifta’ fi 100 [Am, Fatwa No. 1,139, dated 9/3/1402 AH, 3 January 1982, and Fatwa No. 3,316 dated 29/11/1404 AH, 27 August 1984, and Fatwa No.15, in Dhul-Hijjah 1353 AH, March 1935.
- M. Shaltoot, Al-Fatawa, p. 144 onwards.