Question # 465: Many people argue that the predicted time for sunset as found in various websites and newspapers cannot be relied upon for breaking the fast. Two of the reasons they put forward are that many people live in top floors (like 5th or 6th) of their buildings and they do not live in the center of the city whereas the predicted time for sunset is meant for people who are at ground level and live in the center of the city. Does this mean that those of us who live in 5th or 6th floors and are about 11 km away from the center of the city should add a minute or two to the predicted time of sunset for breaking their fast? (I live in Bangladesh by the way.)
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
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First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: The Islamic teaching attaches the time of breaking the fast to the disappearance of the disc of the sun; therefore, each person has his own ruling, according to the place where he is at the moment of sunset. So, a person who lives in a high tower should not break his fast, even if the sun has set for those who are at ground level until it disappears from the horizon as he sees it. For example, the Department of Issuing Fatwas and Islamic Affairs in Dubai has determined that the residents of Burj Khalifa, (160-storeys high tower), are required to delay breaking the fast in Ramadan, i.e., those residing on floor 150 and above should wait for three minutes after the time for the adhan of Maghrib and those residing on 80-150 floors are required to wait for two minutes to break their fasts, while those residing on floors lower than 80 may break their fasts according to the time of the adhan for Maghrib in the mosques (i.e., people at the ground level).
Long Answer: Islam has given a very clear sign for the end of the fast, which is the setting of the sun beyond the horizon. Once the sun has set, it is permissible for the fasting person to break his fast, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “then complete your Saum (fast) till the nightfall” (Soorah al-Baqarah 2:187)
The night begins when the sun sets… the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “When the night comes from here (meaning from the east) and the day departs from here (meaning from the west), and the sun sets, then it is time for the fasting person to break his fast.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
An-Nawawi said: The fast ends and is completed with the setting of the sun, according to the consensus of the Muslims. (Majmoo‘ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab)
Sunset [occurs] when the entire disc of the sun disappears below the horizon. There is no significance attached to the redness that remains on the horizon. When the entire disc has disappeared, it becomes permissible to break the fast.
Al-Haafiz Ibn Rajab (may Allah have mercy on him) said: This hadith indicates that that the mere disappearance of the disc ushers in the time for Maghrib prayer, and the time for the fasting person to end his fast. This is the matter of consensus among the scholars, as was reported by Ibn al-Mundhir and others… Our companions, and the Shafi‘is and others, said: There is no significance attached to the deep redness that remains in the sky after the disc of the sun has set and disappeared from view. (Fath al-Bari)
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: “Once the disc of the sun has set, at that point the fasting person breaks his fast, as the time during which it has been prohibited to eat and drink has now ended. The deep redness that remains on the horizon does not have any impact on any of the rulings. (Sharh ‘Umdat al-Fiqh)
Secondly: it is well-known that the setting of the sun varies from one place to another, and from one city to another. Likewise, it may vary in a single location depending on whether one is in a low or high place.
As Islamic teaching has connected the time of breaking the fast to the disappearance of the disc of the sun, each person has his own ruling, according to the place where he is at the moment of sunset. So, he should not break his fast until the sun has set relative to the place in which he is, whether it has set in another place or not. So, a person who lives in a high tower should not break his fast, even if the sun has set for those who are at ground level until it disappears from the horizon as he sees it.
Fakhr ad-Deen ar-Raazi said: It was narrated that Abu Moosa ad-Dareer al-Faqeeh, the author of al-Mukhtasar, came to Alexandria and was asked about one who climbs up the minaret of Alexandria and sees the sun a long time after it has set for the people in the city; is it permissible for him to break his fast? He said: No, but it is permissible for the people in the city because each of them is required to follow the teachings in relation to his own situation. (Tabyeen al-Haqaa’iq)
Ibn ‘Aabideen said: It says in al-Fayd: One who is in a high place, such as the minaret of Alexandria, should not break his fast so long as the sun has not yet set from where he is looking, but the people of the city may break the fast if the sun has set before that from where they are. The same applies with regard to dawn in the case of Fajr prayer and sahoor. (Haashiyat Ibn ‘Aabideen)
Muhammad Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri said: In the books of fiqh it is reported that there were two men, one of whom was at the top of a minaret and could see the sun, and the other was at ground level and the sun had set from where he was looking. It is valid for the latter to break the fast, but not the former. (Fayd al-Qadeer)
In Fataawa al-Lajnah ad-Daa’imah it says: Each fasting person is subject to the ruling on the place in which he is, whether he is at ground level or in an airplane in the sky.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: People who are on mountain tops or in valleys or high buildings, each of them has his own ruling. The one for whom the sun has set is permitted to break the fast, but the one for whom it has not set is not permitted to do so. (ash-Sharh al-Mumti‘)
And he said: If the mu’adhdhin gives the call to prayer but you are in a high place and can still see the sun, then you should not break the fast. (al-Liqa’ ash-Shahri)
The same applies to passengers on board a plane: they should not break the fast until the sun has set from where they are looking.
The scholars of the Standing Committee said: If a fasting person is on board a plane and he can see from his watch or cell phone that a nearby country has now broken the fast, but he can see the sun because of the altitude of the plane, then he does not have the right to break his fast, because [of the ayah 2:187]. And this has not been fulfilled in his case, so long as he can still see the sun. (Fataawa al-Lajnah ad-Daa’imah)
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen was asked: In the month of Ramadan, we may be on a journey and we fast during the journey, then night comes when we are still in the air. Should we break the fast when we see the disc of the sun disappear from in front of us, or should we break the fast according to the timetable of the people of the city over which we are flying? He replied: Break the fast when you see that the sun has set, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “When the night comes from here and the sun sets, then it is time for the fasting person to break his fast.” (Majmoo‘ Fataawa wa Rasaa’il al-‘Uthaymeen)
To sum up, those who live in high buildings should pay attention to the differences in time between sunset at ground level and in the place where they are.
The Department of Issuing Fatwas and Islamic Affairs in Dubai has explained that the residents of Burj Khalifa, which is 160-storeys high, are required to delay breaking the fast in the month of Ramadan, and those residents who live on floors 80 to 150 are required to break the fast two minutes after the time of the adhan for Maghrib prayer.
For those residents who live on floor 150 and above, the time for the adhan of Maghrib and ‘Isha’ prayers is three minutes later.
For those residents who live on floors lower than the 80th floor, they may break their fast according to the time of the adhan for Maghrib in the mosques.
(The above answer is based on the answer provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on similar topics)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.