Islam is characterized by leniency and ease. Allah says:
Allâh intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you.
He also says:
...and He has not laid upon you in religion any hardship
It is confirmed that whenever the Prophet (peace be upon him) was given an option between two things, he would select the easier of the two, as long as it was not sinful.
This is why Allah created the universal signs specifying the times of the different acts of worship, which are known to everyone; the general public and the specialists, the illiterate and the scholars. This is out of Allah's Mercy for people, to make things easy for them and to save them from wrongdoings. Among these signs related to determining the beginning and end of the Sawm every day, Allah says:
...and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your Saum (fast) till the nightfall.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained this matter by his words and deeds. It is related on the authority of 'Abdullah ibn Abu Awfa (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said:
"We were on a journey with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) during the month of Ramadan. When the sun had gone down he said, 'O so-and-so! Dismount and prepare a meal of parched barley for us.' He said, 'O Messenger of Allah! It is still daytime.' He (the Prophet) said, 'Dismount and prepare a meal of parched barley for us.' So he dismounted and prepared the meal of parched barley and gave it to him, (Part No. 6; Page No. 138) and the Prophet (peace be upon him) drank it. He then indicated with his hand saying, ‘When the sun has gone down from there and the night has appeared from there, then the fasting person should break their fast.’"
It is related on the authority of `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) who reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
"When the night has approached and the day has retreated, and the sun has gone down, a fasting person should break their fast."
It is related on the authority of
`Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) who reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
"The Adhan (call to Prayer) of Bilal should not stop anyone of you - or he said "anyone among you" - from eating their Suhur (pre-dawn meal before the Fast), for he calls the Adhan - or calls to prayer) - at night to return those among you who are praying Qiyam-ul-Layl (optional Prayer at night) and to waken those among you who are sleeping, and not to say that it is dawn or predawn.” Then he (peace be upon him) pointed with his fingers and raised them up (towards the sky) and then lowered them (towards the earth) to show this. Zuhayr gestured with his two index fingers, one of them on the other, and then turned them to the left and right.
He pointed the first time to show the false dawn and the second time to show the true dawn, which is the light that crosses the horizon from the east and goes towards the south and north. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said about the beginning and the end of the Sawm in Ramadan:
"Fast on sighting it (the new moon) and break your Sawm on sighting it (the new moon), but if it is clouded from you, then complete the number (of stipulated fasting days)."
(Part No. 6; Page No. 139) In another narration he said:
"Then perform the Sawm for thirty days."
It is obligatory to start to perform the Sawm upon sighting the crescent moon of Ramadan and to end the Sawm upon sighting the crescent moon of Shawwal, to make this easy for the nation, the scholars and the illiterate and the town dwellers and the Bedouin. This method may even be simpler for the illiterate and the Bedouins out of Allah's Mercy and Grace. This way there is no need to rely on astronomy or any knowledge of the stars.In connection with this, Allah says about the times of the five obligatory Salah:
Perform As-Salât (Iqamât-as-Salât) from mid-day till the darkness of the night (i.e. the Zuhr, ‘Asr, Maghrib, and ‘Ishâ’ prayers), and recite the Qur’ân in the early dawn (i.e. the morning prayer).
And He says:
And remember the Name of your Lord every morning and afternoon [i.e. offering of the Morning (Fajr), Zuhr, and ‘Asr prayers].
And during night, prostrate yourself to Him (i.e. the offering of Maghrib and ‘Ishâ’ prayers), and glorify Him a long night through (i.e. Tahajjud prayer).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also explained this matter by his words and deeds. It was confirmed on the authority of
`Abdullah ibn `Amr (may Allah be pleased with them) that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
"The time for the Zhuhr (Noon) Prayer is when the sun has past the meridian and a man's shadow is the same (length) as his height, (and it lasts) as long as the `Asr (Afternoon) Prayer has not become due. The time for the `Asr Prayer is as long as the sun has not become yellow (pale). The time for the Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer is as long as the twilight has not disappeared. The time for the `Isha' (Night) Prayer is until the middle of the night. The time of the Subh (Morning) Prayer is from the appearance of the dawn, until the sun has risen; but when the sun rises, refrain from offering the Salah, as it rises between the horns of the devil."
(Part No. 6; Page No. 140) It is related on the authority of
Sulayman ibn Buraydah from his father (may Allah be pleased with him) who reported that someone asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about the times of prayer and he said:
"Pray with us for these two (days)." When the sun had passed the meridian, he ordered
Bilal to call the Adhan, then he ordered him to pronounce the Iqamah (call to start the Prayer) for the Zhuhr Prayer. He ordered him to call the Iqamah for the `Asr Prayer when the sun was still high, white, and clear. Then he ordered him to call the Iqamah for the Maghrib Prayer when the sun had set. Then he ordered him to call the Iqamah for the `Isha' Prayer when the twilight had disappeared. Then he ordered him to call the Iqamah for the Fajr (Dawn) Prayer when the dawn had appeared. On the second day, he (peace be upon him) told him (Bilal) to delay the Zhuhr Prayer until the extreme heat had passed and he delayed it for a long while. He prayed the `Asr Prayer when the sun was high, delaying it beyond the time he had previously prayed it. He prayed the Maghrib Prayer before the twilight had disappeared, and he prayed the `Isha' Prayer when one third of the night had passed; and he prayed the Fajr Prayer when it was bright. Then he (peace be upon him) said, “Where is the person asking about the time of the Salah?” The man said, “It’s me, O Messenger of Allah!” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The times of your Salah are between what you have seen."
There are other Hadith that explain the times for offering Salah by words and deeds. The matter was not based on the movement of the stars or on the word of astronomers, out of Allah's Grace and Beneficence, and to save all the Mukallaf (person meeting the conditions to be held legally accountable for their actions) among His Servants from wrongdoing. (Part No. 6; Page No. 141) This means that the natural easy way of determining the times of Salah is to rely on the universal signs specified by the Islamic Shari`ah, as they are given to the general public, and are known by the educated and uneducated among the city dwellers and the Bedouin. Although calculating the times of Salah based on astronomy is an approximate method, it is not easy for every one.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.