Eid al-Fitr and Its Prayer Time
22 June 2017

Because Ramadan started on different days throughout the Arab world this year, Eid al-Fitr will also start on different days across several Arab countries. Since Arab and Islamic countries did not start fasting on the same day, the sighting of the new crescent of Shawwal will vary. Precise astronomical calculations disclose that the new crescent of Shawwal will be born on Saturday, 24 June at 4:31 (EET), which will correspond with  29 Ramadan in Egypt. The moon will set 20 minutes after sunset on 24 June—which is quite a brief period of time—making it possible to spot the new moon through a telescope. Thus, Saturday, 24 June 2017 will be the last day of Ramadan 1438 AH and Sunday, 25 June 2017 will be the first day of Eid al-Fitr (1st of Shawwal 1438 AH).

The Muslim communities’ main concern is the Eid prayer time, which is set in accordance with the calculations of the Egyptian Survey Authority (ESA) and is determined by calculating the time between sunrise and the makrûh (unfavorable) prayer time. Scholars have estimated that the aforementioned time amounts to an average of 10 minutes (or when the sun has risen about two meters above the horizon). In order for us to understand the canonical (in terms of fiqh) and astronomical explanation of said estimation, we must be aware that the timing of sunrise differs across all Egyptian governorates and differs among the various capital cities worldwide. As a result, Eid prayer time varies around the world.

The main factors put into consideration when calculating prayer time are the longitude and latitude of the location, the difference between the location’s time zone and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and the local ecliptic coordinates that are related to the zodiac and the day, month, and calendar year. These factors are used to carry out a specific equation to determine the mean longitude of the Sun, which then enables us to determine the degree of the solar declination angel and convert it into a time estimate (hour, minutes, and seconds). The resulting time estimate will be the time of this year’s Eid al-Fitr prayer.

Calculations show that this year’s Eid prayer is going to take place at different intervals after sunrise depending on the exact time of sunrise in each governorate. Eid al-Fitr prayer times (EET) across different Egyptian governorates are stated in the following table:

Governorate Eid Prayer Time
Cairo 6:18
Alexandria 6:20
Marsa Matrouh 6:33
Port Said  6:13
Sharm el Sheikh 6:13
Suez  6:15
Luxor 6:24
Aswan 6:25
Ismailia 6:12
Al Fayoum  6:27
El Monofeya 6:21

As noted, there are only slight time variances as there are no significant difference in the longitudes of the aforementioned governorates. The most noticeable variations are going to occur in the governorates to the east and west of Cairo’s longitude. As stated in the table, the variance increases to 13 minutes in Marsa Matrouh and can decrease to seven minutes, as is the case in Sharm el Sheikh and Port Said, or to eight minutes, as is the case is in Ismailia.

Dr. Omar Fikry
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Planetarium Science Center (PSC)

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