What does Isha mean in Arabic

The compulsory ritual prayer

It is the duty of every adult Muslim who is in possession of his intellectual faculties, five times a day salad to perform. One gives salad usually with "prayer" again. It should be noted, however, that these terms do not coincide. Of course, Islam also knows the free prayer of the individual to God, the du'a. The compulsory ritual prayer, on the other hand, is a complex of actions and formulas prescribed in detail. For this prayer to be valid, various requirements must be observed, including compliance with the prescribed prayer times.

The times of prayer

Fixed times are not stipulated for performing the compulsory prayers, they only have to be performed within a given time frame. With the exception of the midday prayer, every prayer time begins with the end of the previous one, from which it also follows that, with the exception of the morning prayer, every prayer time ends with the beginning of the following. The prayer times are again divided into different sections. The very best time is the beginning of the relevant time frame (waqt al-fadhîla, the preferred time). It is followed by the second best time (waqt al ihtiyâr). The following third section is the only allowed time (waqt al-gawâz). It is followed by a period of time that is still allowed, but must be disapproved of because one has waited too long (waqt al-gawâz ma 'karâha). The conclusion then is that period of time which is so short that the beginning of a prayer can still fall within it, but not its end (waqt al-tahrîm, the forbidden time). It is also not allowed to place the prayer at the end of the prayer time in such a way that one can then - if necessary after a short break - continue with the following prayer. [1]

The evening prayer (maghrib)

Since the day begins at sunset, the first prayer time is that of the evening prayer (Arabic: maghrib, Turkish: akšam). In Muslim works, however, enumerations almost always begin with the midday prayer, as this is mentioned first in the Koran and in tradition. The time of the evening prayer begins shortly after the sun has completely set. All Muslim sources agree on this point. According to astronomical knowledge, the center of the sun must be about 50 arc minutes below the horizon (16 minutes for the radius of the sun and 34 minutes for the refraction). Slightly larger values ​​(up to 1½ degrees) are also given in Islamic sources. It should be emphasized that it is expressly forbidden to offer your prayers while the sun is on the horizon or at the zenith. The reason for this may be that any appearance of worshiping the sun should also be avoided.

The night prayer (° išâ ')

It is more difficult to determine the end of the evening prayer, which coincides with the beginning of the night prayer (Arabic: ° išâ ', Turkish: yatsi). In the Islamic sources there are sometimes very lyrical descriptions for the definition of all those points in time that are related to the twilight states, which are not easy to bring into concrete astronomical formulas. For the disappearance of dusk (šafaq), the beginning of the night prayer, it is often assumed that the sun must be 18 ° below the horizon. This corresponds exactly to the modern definition of the end of astronomical twilight.

The morning prayer (fajr)

The period for this prayer begins at dawn (Arabic: fajr, Turkish fecir), for which the value for the beginning of astronomical twilight is often used, i.e. the time when the sun after midnight again has a value of 18 ° below the horizon reached. The time frame ends with sunrise, i.e. when the center of the sun is still 50 arc minutes below the horizon. For the end of dusk as well as for the beginning of dawn, however, there are also numerous deviating views. The opinion was widespread that a depression of the sun of 17 ° is sufficient for the end of dusk, while the beginning of dawn should be set when the sun is 19 ° below the horizon. Some Islamic scholars also assume that the difference between the depression of the sun at the beginning of the night prayer and the beginning of the morning prayer should be at least three degrees, so that they come to values ​​of -16 degrees for the night prayer and of -20 degrees for the morning prayer . It is also reported that in the fasting month of Ramadan in some areas people are called to prayer 4 degrees before the beginning of dawn, in order to then determine the exact time of the prayer and the start of fasting by observing the sky. One reason for these differing ideas could be that the brightness in the sky does not only depend on the depression angle of the sun but also on other astronomical conditions, in particular on the moon phase. In the Ottoman Empire, a depression of 17 degrees was usually considered sufficient, but with the addition that those who want to fast should start 15 minutes in advance.

The beginning of the morning prayer is also the end of the night prayer. In areas beyond the 50th parallel, dusk and dawn merge in summer. In earlier times there were profound discussions about the related problems, as there were hardly any Muslims who lived in these zones at that time. Nowadays the pragmatic formula seems to have prevailed that Muslims who live in such "abnormal zones" should orientate themselves to the times applicable for the 45th parallel. [2]

The midday prayer (zuhr)

The midday prayer (Arabic: zuhr, Turkish: ögle) begins shortly after the time of the sun's culmination, i.e. the moment when the sun reaches its highest point. This moment of true noon, called Zawâl in Arabic, is defined as the moment when the center of the sun passes through the central meridian. This is regularly the case at 12:00 p.m. true local time (WOZ). In order to arrive at a constant time measure, the mean local time (MOZ), the equation of time (ZGL) must be taken into account. Since today the earth is divided into time zones, the difference between local time and zone time may have to be taken into account. The radius of the sun is about 16 minutes of arc. According to Islamic astronomers, the sun is said to have moved by half to a third of a degree from the meridian by the beginning of zuhr, although it is not always clear whether this refers to the center of the sun or the edge of the sun. Be that as it may, the time for the noon prayer would begin approx. 3 - 4 minutes after the sun has reached its highest point. This is also supported by other information, according to which this point in time has come when the shadow of a vertical rod begins to lengthen again or when, in the event that the sun is at its zenith, a shadow begins to emerge again. However, opinions differ greatly from what has just been presented. It is often said that the time of listening has come when the shadow of a vertical object is ¼ longer than its shadow at noon. In the main countries of Islam, this time is approximately 1 to 2 hours after noon. Another definition also applies to a time about 2 hours after noon, which says that the beginning of zuhr lies exactly in the middle between the true noon (zawâl) and the beginning of 'asr. The practice in Indonesia was obviously different again, where the call to prayer for noon prayer rang out about 15 to 30 minutes after true noon. To make the confusion complete: In colloquial language zuhr is commonly equated with noon, and not only with the true noon but also simply 12.00 o'clock zone time.

The afternoon prayer (° asr)

There is also no unanimous opinion when it comes to setting the time for the afternoon prayer (Arabic: ° asr, Turkish: ikindi). The most widespread belief is that it begins when the shadow of a vertical object is equal to the length of the shadow at noon plus the true length of this object. This is at least the opinion of the Shafiît, Malikite and Hanbali schools of law. The Hanifite school of law, on the other hand, teaches that only when the shadow of an object is twice the length of the object plus the length of the shadow at noon is the time of 'asr reached. In the Ottoman Empire, with its great expansion, all schools of law were of course represented, so that two values ​​for the afternoon prayer can usually be found in tables for prayer times, usually referred to as ° asr 1 and ° asr 2.

The Shiite prayer times

The Shia only knows three times of prayer, the evening prayer, the morning prayer and the midday prayer.

The division of the day

In earlier times the natural day and the natural night formed the basis for the further subdivision of time, that is, the time between the rising and setting of the sun was divided into twelve equal parts, as was the time of night. Depending on the season and the geographical location, day and night hours were of course unevenly long. These hours were called by the Greeks ωραι καιρικαι, in Latin they are called horae temporales or horae inaequales. The hours of equal length that are customary today are called ωραι ισομεριναι in Greek, and horae aequinoctiales in Latin. The unevenly long hours were common in the Islamic culture as well, as in pre-Islamic Arabia. They were very well suited for setting times that are based on shadow lengths. The noon prayer was assigned to the 6th hour, the afternoon prayer to the 9th hour.

The measurement of time with clocks, first with water clocks, later with mechanical clocks, however, then presupposed consistently long hours. The transition from temporal hours to equinoctial hours was fluid. The day began with sunset. The clocks therefore had to be reset every day. Since watches usually had to be wound every day anyway and no excessively high demands could be made on the accuracy, this was seen more as an advantage than a disadvantage. The dials of clocks are usually divided into 12 hours. The hours were therefore counted up to 12:59 p.m., then continued at 1 a.m. According to this, for example, in Istanbul at the time of the winter solstice it was noon at 7.29 a.m. (19:29 hours after sunset), at the time of the summer solstice it was at 4.31 a.m. In Ottoman calendars there are conversion tables from Turkish to "Frankish" time, e.g. B. at intervals of 5 to 5 days. In the Ottoman Empire this time division was common until the end of World War I. Eastern European time was only used earlier for rail and telegraph traffic, which is the zone time related to the 30th degree of longitude. [3]

Calculating the times of prayer

In principle, you do not need any special aids to determine the Islamic prayer times. Provided that the weather is appropriate, the respective times can be read in the sky. Sunrise and sunset are clear, the discoloration of the sky at the end of dusk and at the beginning of dawn are described in detail in the sources, and only a shadow-casting object is needed to determine the time of the noon and afternoon prayer. There were also really legal scholars who expressly refused to use any aids or calculations. The Islamic legal scholar al-Asbahi wrote in the 13th century that prayer times should not be determined by astronomical calculations or an astrolab, because "astronomers get their knowledge from Euclid and the Indians (Sindhind), and from Aristotle and other philosophers; and they were all unbelievers ". [4]

On the other hand, the Middle Ages were a heyday of natural sciences in the Islamic cultural field. Astronomy and mathematics experienced an unexpected boom. Numerous scientific works deal with the determination of time. The measuring methods were refined, extremely precise instruments were developed with which the prayer times could be precisely determined. The astronomers made large tables with the help of which one could determine the times of prayer for each day of the year and for any point in the world. Later, so-called "Ruzname's" enjoyed great popularity in the Ottoman Empire. These are "perpetual" calendars with tables for calculating calendar dates and tables with the times of prayer. Since the introduction of book printing in the Orient, the times of prayer can be found in the yearbooks, in tear-off calendars and especially in the newspaper during the fasting month of Ramadan. Some calculators for determining prayer times according to the old day division can be found on the prayer time calculator page.

Old-style prayer time calculator

The times of prayer in today's Islamic world

Just as the Islamic states and communities could not agree on common principles for their calendar, the Islamic countries have also found a wide variety of regulations for the times of prayer. There are a number of ways you can use the Internet to determine the times of prayer. Here is just a small selection:

With this calculator, the criteria of individual countries or institutions can be selected or your own criteria can be entered.

King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST) is an independent scientific organization of the Saudi Arabian Government, established in 1977 under the name of Saudi Arabian National Center for Science & Technology (SANCST) and later in 1985 renamed as' King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST) '. This is how the college of ar-Riyadh introduces itself, whose authorities not only define the calendar valid in this country but also the times of prayer. This calculator can therefore be considered official for Saudi Arabia.

The Office for Religious Affairs, which is located at the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic, is also putting a computer for determining prayer times online, which should provide binding data for Turkey.


to the bibliography

[1] The best German-language presentation on this is probably the work of Eilhard Wiedemann and Josef Frank, which draws on a large number of previously unpublished sources [Wiedemann - Frank (1926)].
[2] For example Hamidullah (1982)
[3] see Würschmidt (1917)
[4] quoted from King (1990b)