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'Sunset' and 'Night' in Terms of Fasting (Q&A)
« on: July 17, 2013, 11:37:28 AM »
Original Comment by Joseph Islam on Facebook

The inherent meaning in 'gharaba' is to retire or to be departed. For example if I say, اُغْرُبْ عَنِّى I mean withdraw or depart from me in a manner that you are distant or out of my view. Hence, ghurub is when something is set or is hidden from view.

- And غَرَبَ and ↓ غرّب He, or it, became absent, or hidden. (K.) The former is said of a wild animal, meaning He retired from view, or hid himself, in his lurking-place. (A.) ―
- And غَرَبَتِ الشَّمْسُ, (S, Msb, TA,) aor. غَرُبَ , (Msb,) inf. n. غُرُوبٌ (S, Msb, TA) and مَغْرِبٌ [which is anomalous] and مُغَيْرِبَانٌ [which is more extr.], (TA,) The sun set: (S, Msb, TA:) and غَرَبَ النَّجْمُ The star set. (TA.) [1]

The Quran has also clearly cited the term 'ghurub' to denote sunset (20:130 and 50:39).

"...before the rising of the sun, and before its setting (Arabic: ghurubiha)"

...before the rising of the sun and before the setting (Arabic: ghurubiha)"

These are terms well known to the Quran and clearly distinguished from the instruction in verse 2:187 (Then complete the fast till 'the night' - Arabic: al-layl). As I'm sure many readers may appreciate, in most (if not all) other languages, 'night' and 'sunset' are two distinct periods.

Even today, one may respectfully ask any native Arabic speaking individual how to say 'sunset'. Note the response and then ask them how to say 'night'. Note the difference.

Just my humble comments

[1] LANE. E.W, Edward Lanes Lexicon, Williams and Norgate 1863; Librairie du Liban Beirut-Lebanon 1968, Volume 6, Page 2240

Response by Wakas

peace brother Joseph - you said "The Quran has also clearly cited the term 'ghurub' to denote sunset (20:130 and 50:39)." then went onto quote those verses but those verses didn't actually prove at what point of setting this term refers to. As I said in 18:86 "maghrib" is used yet it clearly states he found it setting (imperfect verb indicating an action incomplete/ongoing) not actually set, i.e. beneath the horizon.

Unless I'm missing something.

Response by Joseph Islam

Wa alaikum assalam

Indeed, in 18:86, my understanding is no different from brother Jason Wilson where 'maghriba' describes the setting place or westerly point / west or however one wants to construe Zulqarnain's perception of the sun setting given by the imperfect verb 'taghrubu'.

However, what I am respectfully sharing here is not Zulqarnain's perception of a 'setting' sun, but the fact that the Quran could have made use of clear unequivocal terms to denote 'sunset' in verse 2:187 if it wanted to. i.e. the point when the sun has set.

'Gurub' as a noun (not maghrib) and as I shared with the excerpts is a well-known, well established word and even more so when used with 'shams', clearly denotes sunset. I trust that you will find concordances, lexicons and Arabic speaking natives to agree.

As you know dear brother, the Quran did not intend to 'define' the Arabic language. It expected its primary audience to be familiar with the cradle of the language through which it spoke to them. Therefore, I would not feel the need for the Quran to provide evidence as to the meaning of 'gurub' in verses 50:39 and 20:130.

With respect as always,

Response by Wakas

w/salaam. Thanks for the reply brother Joseph - you said: "Therefore, I would not feel the need for the Quran to provide evidence as to the meaning of 'gurub' in verses 50:39 and 20:130." - and either would I. But I asked what I asked as you said it was clear from these verses when I personally didn't see what was so clear.

In any case, the underlying assumption in the argument "...the fact that the Quran could have made use of clear unequivocal terms to denote 'sunset' in verse 2:187 if it wanted to. i.e. the point when the sun has set. " - is that there is only one way to state something like this clearly.

In any case, from my Quran studies, layl begins when the sun is fully beneath the horizon, however if one were to wait a little longer when the sky above was darker and there was a faint white thread of light in the horizon then I do not see how this would be proven incorrect as per Quran. If one were to wait until pitch black night with no white thread in the horizon then I would consider this incorrect based on 36:37 which clearly states nahar is removed from layl, ergo, it must have nahar to remove from it to begin with. Equation:

layl - nahar = darkness

layl = darkness + nahar (i.e. a bit of both, and can only refer to twilight onwards but before pitch black night)

In my humble opinion of course. Each to their own.

Response by Joseph Islam

Yes, indeed, as I shared in my article, a gradual movement into the night (layl) is certainly implied by the Quran and arguably the onset of night would not necessarily mean to imply total darkness.

Total darkness is described elsewhere in the Quran such as 'al-layli muzliman' (10:27) or 'ghasaq al-layl' (17:78). The Quran even makes use of the word ‘Isha’ to denote a period (12:16) which corresponds to the segment of the night when there is total darkness. Neither of these expressions or the like are used to describe the culmination of the fast.

Furthermore, the fact that 'night' (layl) is segmented into parts is clearly implied by many other verses of the Quran (11:81) as is the emergence of night as a gradual process which begins before total darkness but in my opinion not at sunset.

So like you I do not hold that the implication is total darkness.

However with regards your statement "- is that there is only one way to state something like this clearly.”, I would respectfully assert that I would always prefer to take ‘EXPLICIT’ references from the Quran over 'IMPLICIT' deductions.

So where one (or you) may respectfully assert that night begins from the point the sun sets, I would find the argument that there are EXPLICIT references of 'ghurub' in the Quran to imply sunset which were not used in 2:187 more cogent.

As I shared in my references, 'ghurub' as a noun is a well-known word attested by both literary sources and spoken Arabic to imply sunset or when something has departed. Please also see below.


In the end, of course dear brother Wakas, we are all ultimately responsible only for ourselves and must rely on the best evidence that we understand to have reached us.

With respect as always.

As-salam alaykum  :)

Response by Wakas

w/salaam brother Joseph - I recently read another point someone made, and it seems explicit and solid, I will quote them:

The night is DEFINED in the Quran as the period from sunset to sunrise, thus fasting ends as soon as the sun has set. Quranic words in Sura 91 provides conclusive proof as to the timing of the “Nahar” (day) and the “Layl” (night). The following words speak about the sun:

[91:1] By the sun and its brightness.
[91:2] And the moon that follows it.
[91:3] And the "nahar" (day) that reveals it.
[91:4] And the "layl" (night) that covers it.

These simple words give us an absolute definition of night and day, whenever the sun is revealed (i.e. it can be seen) it is “day” (91:3), and whenever the sun is covered (it cannot be seen) it is night (91:4).



Response by Joseph Islam

Dear brother Wakas,

As-salam alaykum

I have actually discussed this briefly in my article below

"By the Sun (shams) and its brightness (splendour, brilliance - duha) and the moon when it follows it and the day (nahar) when it displays it (sun's glory) and the night (Arabic: layl) when it covers / conceals it"

'Nahar' in the context of verse 91:4 would be a period that displays the sun (shams) and its brilliance / brightness (duha). Therefore, this is the point which constitutes (1) the visible sun and (2) its light.

The necessity of the latter 'light' is recognised by Arabic lexicons.

In other words, 'nahar' is simply NOT a period from sunrise as commonly understood in the vulgar conventional language. In its classical language, the Arabic 'nahar' signifies the period from the point of DAWN and also generally the period where there is a ‘spreading of the light’ for SIGHT and its ‘dispersion’.

This is also supported by the Quran.

"He who made for you the night to repose in it / rest, and the day (nahara), TO SEE / GIVING VISIBILITY (mubsiran)"

At sunset one can still see with clear visibility.

Dawn as you know occurs before 'SUNRISE' when the light from the sun starts to light up the sky even before the sun has risen. Hence why classically, many contrasted the 'whiteness' of the nahar with the 'blackness' of layl (night). This is also supported by verse 79:29, where night is the point when the 'duha' (brightness) is removed.

"...and darkened its night (wa-aghtasha al-laylaha) and brought out its brightness (duha))" (79:29).

Therefore, as with dawn, the point when 'nahar' is concealed is arguably when both the sun and its twilight, is completely concealed. If only the sun is concealed (ghurub), but its light is still clearly evident in the sky as in sunset, this is arguably not 'layl' (night).

In fact, I find these verses to actually provide evidence to disprove that 'sunset' is synonymous with 'night'.

Furthermore, the Quran clearly alludes to what 'layl' is in so many ways. For example, how many communities would we know that made 'sunset' as a time for their repose or sleep? (25:47)

In my humble view, 'Ghurub' has been clearly used by the Quran to indicate the point of 'sunset'. This term was not used to stipulate the culmination of the fast in verse 2:187. Personally, I find the need to argue for an 'implied interpretation' only secondary to 'explicit' statements of the Quran.

If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to start a thread on the QM Forum as always.

With respect as always

Response by Wakas:

w/salaam brother Joseph - as always thanks for the reply. We will have to agree to disagree on this one (although there is not that much difference in our view).