Isha and Fajr Salah in Anchorage, Alaska.
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
Anchorage is at a latitude of 61º N. As such, the city experiences abnormal timings in the summer months. In some instances, when the time of Isha sets in, there is no expiry time for Isha and no commencing time for Fajr. In other instances, Isha and Fajr do not set in.
The Principle of Isha Salah
According to the view of Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Ahmad (Rahimahumullah), the time of Isha commences at the disappearance of the shafaq al-abyadh (white twilight). According to Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad, the time of Isha commences at the disappearance of the shafaq al-ahmar (red twilight). In view of the abnormal times experienced in Anchorage, there is leeway to adopt the view of Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad (Rahimahumullah). Thus, the time of Isha would commence upon the disappearance of the shafaq al-ahmar (red twilight).
Important Clarification Regarding Twilights
You refer to civil twilight, nautical twilight, and astronomical twilight. The Fuqaha (jurists) refer to Shafaq Al-Ahmar and Shafaq Al-Abyadh. Shafaq Al-Ahmar, loosely translated as red twilight, refers to the redness in the sky after sunset. Shafaq Al-Abyadh, loosely translated as white twilight, refers to the whiteness in the sky after Shafaq Al-Ahmar. Civil twilight, astronomical twilight, and nautical twilight would fall in the category of one of the Shafaqs explained.
Method to Calculate Salah Timings
According to the information provided, Anchorage experiences three abnormal periods during the year. They are as follows:
1) ShafaqAbyadh remains throughout the night followed by sunrise,
2) Shafaq Ahmar remains throughout the night followed by sunrise, and
3) Civil twilight remains throughout the night followed by sunrise.
1) Shafaq Al-Abyadh Remains Throughout the Night
This occurs during two periods of the year, from the 19th of April to the 7th of May, and from the 6th of August to the 25th of August.
In these two periods, as Shafaq Al-Abyadh does not disappear, the expiry time of Isha and the commencing time of Fajr are unknown. Accordingly, there are two ways of determining the time for Isha and Fajr.
a) Aqrab Al-Ayyām (closest day) : In this method, the last day of the normal time of Isha and Fajr will be used to determine the end time of Isha and the commencing time of Fajr.
Practical Example: On the 18th of April, which was the last normal day, the end time of Isha was 5 hours and 41 minutes after sunset. Hence, this will be used as a base to calculate the end of Isha for the entire period of abnormality.
Note: There are days when using this method is not possible. For instance, on May 1st, sunset is at 22:04. If we assume that Isha ends 5 hours and 41 minutes after sunset, then the end time of Isha would be 03:45 AM. However, this will cause Isha and Fajr time to overlap, as the nautical twilight starts at 03:19 AM.
b) Nisf Al-Layl : In this method, the time between sunset and sunrise is divided into two parts. At the end of the first part, Isha will end. In such a situation, the procedure of nisf al-layl may be adopted which is discussed in the next point.
Practical Example: On May 1st, the time between sunset and sunrise is 7 hours and 51 minutes. Hence, Isha time would expire 3 hours and 55 minutes after sunset.
While both methods may be used at any point, we advise, as a matter of precaution, to adopt Aqrabul Al-Ayyām if it is possible to do so.
2) Shafaq Al-Ahmar Remains Throughout the Night
This also occurs on two instances during the year, from the 8th of May to the 7th of June, and the 5th of July to the 5th of August.
In these two periods, as Shafaq Al-Ahmar remains throughout the night, the expiry time of maghrib, the commencing time of Isha, the expiry time of Isha, and the commencing time of Fajr are all unknown. Accordingly, there are four methods for determining these times.
a) Aqrab Al-Ayyām: This method has been explained above.
b) Aqrab Al-Bilād: In this method, the salah timings will be implemented according to the salah timings of the closest city wherein the salah times are regular.
Method of Determining the Closest Neighbouring City: To determine the closest neighbouring city, we will look for a city with a lower latitude, while having the same longitude. In the case of Anchorage, the longitude is 149.009ºW. An altitude that experiences regular salah times is one that is below 48.5ºN. However, the coordinates, 48.5ºN 149.009ºW happens to be in the middle of the ocean. Hence, the closest city in that range would be Victoria, British Columbia, whose coordinates are 48.4284° N, 123.3656° W. Thus, the timings of Victoria may be used to determine the salah times for Anchorage.
Practical Example: On the 8th of May, the onset of Isha was 1 hour and 50 minutes after sunset. Hence, this may be set as the onset for the time of Isha. However, as the nights in Anchorage are much shorter than the nights in Victoria, it will not be possible to set the end of Isha, and the onset of Fajr based on this method. Hence, to determine the end of Isha, the method of Nisf Al-Layl can be used.
c) Nisf Al-Layl: For this method, the time between sunset and sunrise is divided into two parts. The first part will then be further divided into two. The first part will be for maghrib and the second part for Isha. The second part will be for Fajr.
Practical Example: On the 1st of June, the night lasts for 5 hours and 16 minutes. Hence, the night will be split into two periods of 2 hours and 38 minutes each. The first period will be further split into two period of 1 hour and 19 minutes. Thus, Maghrib will commence at 11: 20pm and will end at 12:38:59 AM, Isha will commence at 12:39 PM and will end at 1:57:59 AM, and Fajr will commence at 1:58 AM and will end at sunrise.
d) Sab’ Al-Layl: For this method, the time between sunset and sunrise is divided into seven parts. The first part is considered to be Maghrib time, the second five parts are considered to be Isha’ time, and the final part is considered to be the commencement for Fajr.
Practical Example: On May 15th, the night lasts for 6 hours and 32 minutes. Hence, the night will be split into seven intervals of 56 minutes. Accordingly, the time of Maghrib will commence at 10:41 PM and will end at 11:36:59 PM, the time of Isha will commence at 11:37 PM and will end at 4:16:59 AM, and the time of Fajr will commence at 04:17 AM and will end at sunrise.
The community may choose from any of these three methods as they deem suitable.
2) Civil Twilight Remains Throughout the Night
This occurs once during the year. From the 8th of June to the 5th of July.
In this period, the civil twilight remains in the sky throughout the night. As such, the ending time of maghrib, the commencing time of Isha, the ending time of Isha, and the commencing time of Fajr, are all unknown. Accordingly, the same methods listed in the second case of will be used in determining the Salah timings.
It is important to note that we did not list Sab’ Al-layl as an option in the first scenario, as the commencing time of Isha is known during that period. It will occur after the disappearance of the red twilight. Hence, it is not permissible to determine the onset of Isha based on estimation.
Similarly, we did not list Aqrab Al-Bilād as an option in the first scenario as it was not possible to practically implement this option. For instance, on April 19th, sunset in Victoria, British Columbia occurs at 08:10 PM, and Fajr occurs at 04:14 AM. Thus, the time between sunset and Fajr is 8 hours and 4 minutes. In Anchorage, sunset occurs at 09:32 PM. If we were to apply the timings of Victoria to Anchorage, Fajr time would set in 8 hours and 4 minutes after Sunset. This would be at 05:36 AM. However, nautical twilight in Anchorage begins at 04:27 AM. Thus, it is certain that by 04:27 AM, Fajr time has already set in as nautical twilight typically enters after Subh As-Sadiq (the commencement of Fajr). Hence, using the timings for Victoria would cause the time of Isha and Fajr to overlap. For this reason, we have omitted this option.[i]