Dawn or fajr (Arabic: فجر) or al-Subh al-Sadiq (Arabic: الصبح الصادق, the true morning) or al-fajr al-Sadiq (Arabic: الفجر الصادق, the true dawn) is the minutes after the night when a bright light is spread on the horizon. Fajr is the beginning of the time of morning prayer and is the best time for performing it. Some Islamic practical rulings such as: fasting are related to this time of a day.
At dawn two halos are seen in the eastern sky, one is called al-fajr al-Kadhib (the false dawn) and the other is called al-fajr al-Sadiq (the true dawn). Al-Fajr al-Kadhib is a light which appears in the length of the sky and instead of spreading on the horizon, extends vertically. Al-Fajr al-Sadiq, which occurs some minutes later, expands and covers all the sky.
In the Qur'an, al-fajr al-Sadiq is mentioned as “al-khayt al-abyad” (الخیط الأبيض, white thread) after which eating and drinking is forbidden in fasting and the fajr prayer's time is started. The time between al-fajr al-Sadiq and the sunrise is called Bayn al-Tulu'ayn (بین الطلوعین, between the two rises).
The original meaning of the word “fajr” (فجر) is splitting of something and appearance of another thing, for instance splitting of the dark and emergence of the light or splitting of a mountain and gushing out of a fountain. However, the word is used to mean dawn or the early light in the morning. There are two kind of fajr: al-fajr al-Sadiq and al-fajr al-Kadhib.
Al-Fajr al-Kadhib (the false dawn) or the zodiacal light is a time when the night is over and for the first time after the end of the night a bright light appears in the east on the horizon. This light appears vertically. In that moment, although the night has ended, the time of Salat al-Subh has not come yet.
The cause of this phenomenon is a faint reflection of the sunlight by the atmospherical haze, which is seen as dim cone of light along the ecliptic zone during the sunrise. The brightness of Fajar Kadhib is so low that it is only seen in rural areas and dark regions and one cannot discern it in big cities. The best region for experiencing the phenomenon is equatorial regions. This light is also seen during the sunset.
Al-Fajr al-Sadiq, which occurs minutes after al-fajr al-Kadhib, is when a white light spread over the horizon. This moment is the beginning of al-fajr al-Sadiq and the time of fajr prayer. As the brightness of al-fajr al-Sadiq increases gradually the stars disappear in its light. With the first ray of sunshine the time of Salat al-Subh ends.
Al-Fajr al-Sadiq is also called: al-Fajr al-Thani (الفجر الثانی), Mu'tarad (مُعترَض) and Mustatir (مستطیر).
Differences between Al-Fajr al-Sadiq and Al-Fajr al-Kadhib
There are differences between al-Fajr al-Sadiq and al-Fajr al-Kadhib:
- Al-Fajr al-Kadhib is away from the horizon while al-Fajr al-Sadiq is on the horizon.
- Al-Fajr al-Kadhib is vertical while the other is horizontal.
- Al-Fajr al-Kadhib is bright at the beginning, but fade away gradually, while Al-fajr al-Sadiq starts with a weak light which grows stronger over the time.
Determining the time of al-fajr al-Sadiq is a sensory issue and the real time of it can only be found by several observations.
Explaining the rulings about Sawm, the Holy Qur'an (2:187) mentioned visibility of al-Khayt al-Abyad (white thread) as the time of beginning the Sawm. “And eat and drink until the white thread becomes manifest to you from the dark thread at the crack of dawn”[Note 1]. According to a Hadith narrated by Ali b. Mahziyar from Imam al-Jawad (a) it means al-fajr al-Sadiq.
Fajr in moonlit nights
In this context, moonlit nights (Layali al-Muqmira) are the nights that the moon is almost full and its lights dominates the light of fajr (approximately from 12th to 19th of each lunar month). Due to the brightness of the horizon the spread light of fajr appears with a delay of about 20 minutes, when the moonlight is no longer prevents the light of fajr.
According to the fatwa of Imam Khomeini and Sayyid Ahmad Khwansari, in these nights one should wait for performing fajr prayer until the spread of light is visible on the horizon. Most of Marja's do not have such a Fatwa.
The time between the fajr and the sunrise is called “Bayn al-Tulu'ayn” (بین الطلوعین; between the two rises. rise of fajr and sunrise). It is one the most important and meritorious times in a day. There are many Hadiths narrated from the infallible Imams (a) concerning the significant merits of staying awake and worshiping in this time.
Rulings about Fajr
- According to majority of Faqihs, the jurisprudential day starts with al-fajr al-Sadiq and the night finishes by it. Thus, al-fajr al-Sadiq is the end of the time for performing night prayer (the recommended prayer of the night) and the beginning of the time for fajr prayer. Likewise, one who wants to fast must restrain from doing the acts that invalid the fast from fajr.
- The time for performing Ghusl al-Jum'a (ritual bathing on Friday) begins from fajr of Friday.
- If performing Salat al-Jum'a is al-Wajib al-Ta'yini (obligatory without choice), traveling after fajr on Friday is Makruh (disliked) and after midday (adhan) is Haram (prohibited).
- The time of Nafilat al-Subh (recommended prayer of morning) begins after finishing night prayer; however, it is recommended to postpone Nafilat al-Subh until the first fajr (al-fajr al-Kadhib).
- According to majority of Faqihs, staying knowingly in the state of Janaba until the fajr in the month of Ramadan is Haram and cause invalidity of fasting and also compulsion of Qada and Kaffara (Compensation) for that day.
- Sleeping, having sexual intercourse and doing business is Makruh (disliked) from fajr to sunrise.
- وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ (Q 2:187)
- The material for this article is mainly taken from طلوع فجر in Farsi Wikishia.