Dawn and Early Morning
(fajr, ṣubḥ, bukra, ghuduw, ḍuḥā)

Csaba Okvath and Muzaffar Iqbal

Dawn and early morning time is the duration between the appearance of the twilight on the horizon and the beginning of the appearnce of full light of the day. Two suras of the Qurʾān are entitled by one of the relevant terms for dawn and their first verses are oaths by dawn: Sūrat al-fajr (Q 89, Surah of Dawn), “wa-l-fajr –– by the dawn”, denoting the time of daybreak (Baghawī, Tafsīr), or as per Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688), the dawn prayer (Ibn ʿAbbās, Tanwīr; Thaʿālibī, Tafsīr, sub Q 89:1), and Sūrat al-ḍuḥā (Q 93, Sura of Morning or Sura of Forenoon), “wa-l-ḍuḥā –– by the morning  / by the forenoon ”, explained as the “first hours of the day, or the whole day; an oath made by ḍuḥā prayer” (Qushayrī, Tafsīr); others hold that this is the moment when the sun becomes brighter and reaches higher position on the sky, the time when the Creator spoke to Mūsā (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr). 

Qurʾānic Terms

The Qurʾān uses the following terms for Dawn and early morning hours:

  1. fajr (dawn, daybreak, morning twilight): derived from the sound triliteral root f-j-r, conveying the meaning of “to cleave, break up”; so fajr is the moment of splitting and opening up of a thing (shaqq al-shayʾ). The Arabic language differentiate between two fajrs: the “false dawn”, dhanab al-sirḥān, literally, the tail of the wolf and the true (ṣādiq) fajr that is intimately connected with the prescribed times for prayer and fasting (Fayrūzābādī, Baṣāʾir, baṣīra fī f-t-ʾ; w-f-j; f-j-r; f-j-w; f-ḥ-sh; f-kh-r). The false fajr or the false subḥal-fajr al-mustaṭīl (the oblong fajr), that is also called mustadiqq (thin, slender) is what resembles the tail of the wolf; it is the black thread (al-khayṭ al-aswad; cf. Q 2:187), a continuation of the night which is at the threshold of dissolving into dawn, a time when nothing is prohibited yet for the fasting believer.  When the light begins to spread on the horizon (fī-l-fulq), Arabs generally say “istaṭāra-l-fajr” (the dawn has begun), this moment (called mustaṭīr) is when the true and evident subḥ begins, it marks the beginning of the fast, along with its prohibitions for the fasting person (eating, drinking, sexual intercourse); this is the white thread (al-khayṭ al-abyaḍ) mentioned in Q 2:187 (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, rāʾ, faṣl al-ṭāʾ al-muhmala [stem: ṭāra]);
  2. ṣubḥ and iṣbāḥ: derived from the sound triliteral root ṣ-b-ḥ, the Fourth Form of the stem “aṣbaḥa - yuṣbiḥū - iṣbāḥan” means “to enter upon morning, to happen or to do something in the early morning hours” (Lisān, hāʾ, faṣl ṣād). The stem refers to a reddish color (al-ḥumratu), whence comes its reference to daybreak (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, kitāb al-ṣād, bāb al-ṣād, wal-bāʾ wa mā yuthallithuhumā). Ṣubḥ and ṣabāḥ both denote the beginning of the day, this is the moment when the horizon turns red by the lights of the rising sun (Rāghib, Mufradāt, kitāb al-ṣād, ṣ-b-ḥ). Abū-l-Faḍl Jamāl al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Mukarram Ibn Manẓūr (630-711/1233-ca.1312) makes it a synonym of fajr (Lisān, hāʾ, faṣl ṣād). The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said, “Pray the [dawn prayer] early in the ṣubḥ (aṣbiḥu bi-l-ṣubḥ), for indeed, reward is greater [for offering it early]” (Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, kitāb al-ṣalāt, bal-muḥāfaẓa ʿalā-l-waqt);
  3. bakara and its synonym ghadā, both denoting very early morning moments. The origin (aṣl) of bakara (from the root b-k-r) is the noun “bukra”; this is the beginning of nahār (Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub b-k-r). The stem refers to the beginning of something (awwal al-shayʾ wa badʾuhu). The other substantive “ibkār”, verbal noun of “abkara – yubkiru – to do something very early” is also in the sense of bukra (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, kitāb al-bāʾ, bāb al-bāʾ wa-l-qāf wa mā yuthallithuhumā fī-l-thulāthī; stem b-k-r). Exegetes define ibkār as “the period that is between daybreak (fajr) and ḍuḥā” (Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād; Wāḥidī, Wajīz, sub Q 3:41); or “what is between dawn prayer until ḍuḥā period” (Baghawī, Tafsīr);
  4. falaq (daybreak, dawn), derived from the sound triliteral stem of “falaqa – yafliqu -falqan”, in the sense of “to split cleave, to dispel the shadows of the night”. The verbal noun “falq” means splitting and cleaving (shaqq al-shayʾ) of something (Raghib, Mufradāt, sub f-l-q). Arabs say “falaqu-l-ṣubḥ” in the sense of “the morning [light] breaks forth”; they also use the expression “falaqa-Llāhu-l-fajra”, Allah made it visible (abdāhu) and apparent (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, qāf, faṣl al-fāʾ). The noun is generally applied to ṣubḥ for the shadows [of the night] disappear when it comes (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, kitāb al-fāʾ wa-l-lām wa mā yuthallithuhumā – stem f-l-q);
  5. Derivatives of the stem gh-d-w (ghadā – yaghdū – ghadwan, ghuduwwan - ghadwatan): the root coveys the meaning of “to go, to leave, to do early in the morning”; the substantives “ghuduww and ghadāt” mean early morning; in the Qurʾānic usage ghuduww is paired with al-āṣāl (late afternoon, evening; Q 7:205; 13:15; 24:36 [except Q 40:46]); while ghadāt is used with “ʿashiyy (Q 6:52; 18:28)” (Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub gh-d-ā); there exists a ghudwa form too, with the same meaning as ghadāt, synonym of bukra and it covers the period between dawn prayer until sunrise (Fīrūzābādī, Baṣāʾir, baṣīra fī gh-th-w; gh-d-r; gh-d-q; gh-d-w);
  6. Derivatives of the stem sh-r-q denote a particular a quality of the early morning hours; the first form “sharaqa – yashruqu – sharqan - shurūqan” conveys the meaning of “to rise (said of the sun), to shine and to radiate”, containing the idea of covering [the earth] with light and opening [for light] (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, shīn, bāb al-shīn wa-l-rāʾ wa mā yuthallithuhumā). Arabs say sharaqat al-shams (the sun has risen) when the first signs of its light appear over the horizon. This stem gives the substantive “mashriq – the place of the sun-rise; east (cf. Q 2:115, 142, 177, 258; 26:28; 55:17; 73:9)” (Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub sh-r-q). The Arabic language uses the expression “ashraqa-l-qawm” that is they entered the moments of shurūq (sunrise; another verb for this is “ṭalaʿa”; cf. Q 6:78 where sunrise is described as [raʾā] al-shamsa bāzighatan – [when he saw] the sun is rising); as it can be said “afjarū” – they entered the moments of fajr (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, qāf, faṣl al-shīn al-muʿjama).
  7. The noun ḍuḥā is used in the sense of “forenoon, the bright morning”, the continuous spreading of sunshine on earth (inbisāṭ al-shams) and when the day is brightly shining (Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub ḍ-ḥ-y).


  • The stem f-j-r appears twenty-four times: Form I verb, “fajara - yafjuru”, Form II “fajjara - yufajjiru”, Form V “tafajjara - yatafajjaru” and Form VII “infajara - yanfajiru” all convey the meaning of “motion, breaking forth and gushing forth”. To this group can be added the verbal noun of Form II “tafjīran” (Q 17:91; 76:6) both in the sense of “abundantly and copiously”, in both verses the noun is used in the linguistic construction of figura etymoligica (fa-tufajjiru….tafjīran and yufajjirūnahā tafjīran – when a verb with its verbal noun is repeated in the accusative case). Other forms of the stem (fājiran; al-fujjār, al-fajara), not related to this article, appear six times. The dawn-related term “al-fajr” appears six times in five verse (Q 2:187; 17:78, 2x; 24:58; 89:1; 97:5) (ʿAbdu-l-Bāqī, Muʿjam, sub f-j-r); all these forms imply a positive connotation and are closely related to religious practices. The definition of the time of dawn (Q 2:187); the Qurʾān of dawn witnessed (Q 17:78); the way of proper behavior and asking permission (Q 24:58) to enter when people are still wearing their sleeping clothes (Wāḥidī, Wajīz); as an oath (qasam) (Q 89:1), which is variously explained as separation of darkness from light, or the whole day, or the daybreak of every day, or the dawn prayer (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr;
  • The stem ṣ-b-ḥ appears forty-five times: once as the past tense of Form II “ṣabbaḥahum [bukratan; Q 54:38, see: bellow]” (ʿAbdu-l-Bāqī, Muʿjam, sub ṣ-b-ḥ); four times as the noun referring to an artificial source of light: miṣbāḥ / maṣābīh – lamps (Q 24:35, 2x; 41:12; 67:5). Once as the noun denoting the morning of the punished “ṣabāḥ” (Q 37:177); four time as “ṣubḥ - early morning” (Q 11:81, 2x; 74:34; 81:18); once as an adverb of time “ṣubḥan – at dawn” (Q 100:3); once as the noun denoting daybreak “iṣbāḥ” (Q 6:96) and five times (Q 15:66, 83; 37:137; 68:17, 21) as the plural active participle of the fourth stem in the oblique case “muṣbiḥīna – by early morning; in the morning” all these instances are connected to the idea of punishment at dawn;
  • The stem b-k-r occurs twelve times (ʿAbdu-l-Bāqī, Muʿjam, sub b-k-r): three times conveying the meaning “young - bikr and virgin - abkār” (Q 2:68; 56:36; 66:5); twice (Q 3:41; 40:55) as [bi]-l-ibkāri “early in the morning” – this usage is intimately connected to the glorification of Allah; six times (Q 19:11, 62; 25:5; 33:42; 48:9; 76:25) with the meaning of “in the morning - bukratan”. Once (Q 54:38), in an eloquent grammatical construction “ṣabbaḥahum bukratanthere came upon them”; both parts are related to morning, “ṣabbaḥa” means “to arrive, to happen in the morning” and bukratan is an adverb of time for “in the morning”; the verse describes moments of punishment (see below); twenty-eight times as the fourth stem “aṣbaḥa - yuṣbiḥu” in the sense of to become, to begin (ʿAbdu-l-Bāqī, Muʿjam, sub ṣ-b-ḥ).
  • The stem f-l-q appears four times: once (Q 26:63) as Form seven “fa-nfalaqa [infalaqa]” describing the scene when the sea split into separates parts for the Children of Isrāʾīl through the Divine inspiration sent to Mūsā, upon him peace, instructing him to hit it with his staff (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr); once (Q 113:1) as part of the genitive construction “bi-Rabbi-l-falaqithe Lord of the dawn / daybreak”; in this verse Allah Most High advises Believers to “Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of daybreak” that is ask for My [Allah’s] support so that I can protect you from their evil deeds (Rāzī, Tafsīr); twice (Q 6:95, 96) as the active participle of the simple verbal form “fāliq” in the sense of Cleaver, in both verses referring to the omnipotence of Allah Most High (Baghawī, Tafsīr);
  • The stem gh-d-w appears sixteen times (ʿAbdu-l-Bāqī, Muʿjam, sub gh-d-w): three times (Q 3:121; 68:22, 25) as the simple verbal form “ghadā”, referring to “doing or leaving in the early morning period”; four times (Q 12:12; 18:23; 31:34; 54:26) as noun in the indefinite accusative form “ghadan, used as an adverb of time – tomorrow;” once (Q 59:18) as noun with the preposition “li; li-ghadin – for tomorrow;” once (18:62) as ghadāʾ - morning meal; five times (Q 7:205; 13:15; 24:36; 34:12; 40:46) as the noun “ghuduww” , denoting “early morning”; while its synonym “bi-l-ghadāti – in the early morning” (Q 6:52; 18:28) represents moments of piety “those who invoke their Lord in [early morning hours]” (Q 6:52);
  • The stem sh-r-q appears seventeen times (ʿAbdu-l-Bāqī, Muʿjam, sub sh-r-q): the simple verbal form “ashraqat - shine” (Q 39:69) describes the eschatological scene when earth will shine with the light of the Lord, that is the domain (ʿaraṣāt) of the Resurrection (Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād) will be covered by His Justice (bi-ʿadli-Llāhi) and His decision with truth (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr); thirteen times it derived forms appear referring to one cardinal point – east, eastern “sharqiyyan; sharqiyya; al-mashriq, al-mashriqayn, mashāriq” (ʿAbdu-l-Bāqī, Muʿjam); once (Q 38:18) as the verbal noun of the fourth stem (al-ishrāq), in the sense of sunrise (shurūq al-shams) (Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād, sub Q 15:73); and twice (Q 15:73; 26:60) as the active participle of Form Four in the oblique case (mushriqīna) in the sense of “at sunrise”, when the first lights of the sunshine appear, this is called shurūq al-shams (Wāḥidī, Wajīz);
  • The stem ḍ-ḥ-y appears seven times (ʿAbdu-l-Bāqī, Muʿjam, sub ḍ-ḥ-w): once (Q 20:119) as Form I verb “wa lā taḍhāyou will not be exposed to the sun’s heat”, describing the state of Ādam, upon him peace, in Paradise, “where heat of the sun will never ever hurt you (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Wāḥidī, Wajīz); four times (Q 79:29, 46; 91:1; 93:1) in the sense of “brightness, daylight, shining morning”, as in Q 79:29, and He extracted its brightness (ḍuḥāhā)”; that is, made its light apparent with the help of the sun (Wāḥidī, Wajīz)—a “manifestation of all-embracing power of Allah Most High” (Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 79:28); twice (Q 7:98; 20:59) and an adverb of time (ḍuḥan), which describes the light of the day (ḍaḥwat al-nahār) that is, in fact, the light of the sun when it increases and climbs higher in the sky (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr, sub Q 7:98).

As a Marker of Divine Power and Omnipotence

Allah is “the Cleaver of the daybreak (fāliqu-l-iṣbāḥi) and He has made the night for rest, the sun and the moon to reckon by (ḥusbānan); that is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing” (Q 6:96). Fāliq in this verse is glossed as “khāliq—Creator” (Zajjāj, Maʿānī) or the One who splits the night by transforming it into daybreak (bi-l-fajr) and by giving it the light (Fayrūzābādī, Baṣāʾir, baṣīra fīf-k-h; f-l-ḥ; f-l-q). Abū-l-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Aḥmad al-Wāḥidī al-Naysābūrī (d. 468/1075) holds that He splits the vertical axis (ʿumūd al-ṣubḥ) of dawn from the darkness of the night, in the sense that He is its Creator and the one Who brings it into existence (Wajīz). Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Qurṭubī (d. 671/1273) says, “al-Fāliq is a qualifying adjective (naʿt) of the Name of Allah Most High; that is, He is Allah, your Lord, the Cleaver of daybreak. And it is said that the meaning is, He is the One who brings out dawn (ṣubḥ) and morning (ṣabāḥ), the first period of the day (awwal al-nahār) ” (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr; also see Q 74:34 and 81:18). The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, used this expression in his supplications: “Our Lord, O Allah (Allāhumma), You make the dawn break, You make the night a time of rest, appoint the sun and the moon to reckon by; relieve me of debt (iqḍi ʿannī al-dayn) and enrich me from poverty and let me enjoy my hearing and my sight and my strength in Your Path (fī sabīlika)” (Mālik, Muwaṭṭaʾ, al-Qurʾān, mā jāʾa fī-l-duʿāʾ).

Using the same active participle in the previous verse, a more direct reference to Divine power appears: “Verily, Allah is the Cleaver of the grain (al-ḥabb) and the date-stone (al-nawā).  He brings forth the living from the dead (yukhriju-l-ḥayya mina-l-mayyiti)” (Q 6:95). He splits the spike of the cereal plant (al-sunbula) and the dry kernel of the date-palm and He brings forth a verdant living plant – he is the Creator of these living plants (Baghawī, Tafsīr; cf. Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād). These verses are the signs and proofs of the existence of the Creator (wujūd al-Ṣāniʿ) proofs of the perfectness of His Knowledge, of His Wisdom and Infinite Power (Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 6:95).

Another verse demonstrates this infinite power: “Indeed, We subjected the mountains [to praise] with him [Dāwūd], exalting [Allah] in the afternoon (bi-l-ʿashiyy) and [after] sunrise (ishrāq)” (Q 38:18). Here, Allah Most High gives a magnificent proof (al-burhān al-bāhir) and presents a miracle (al-muʿjiza), by forcing the mountains to exalt Him (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr). The verse is similar to “O mountains, glorify (awwibī) Allah with him. And you birds [also]!” (Q 34:10), that is when Dāwūd, upon him peace, praised Allah, the mountains and the birds repeated the praise with him (Wāḥidī, Wajīz). The verse contains the blessings of Allah bestowed upon Dāwūd, like Prophethood, kingdom, strong army and beautiful voice – when he glorified Allah, the unshakable (al-rāsiyāt), deaf and towering (al-shāmikhāt) mountains glorified with him (Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr).

As a time of remembrance and worship

Dawn marks the beginning of the fast, one of the five Pillars of Islam. It begins when the white thread (al-khayṭ al-abyaḍ) has become distinct from the black thread (al-khayṭ al-aswad) (Q 2:187); that is when the whiteness and brightness of fajr has separated from the blackness of the night, called thread by the Qurʾān in both cases, for it appears as a stretched out thread on the lower horizon (Baghawī, Tafsīr). When fajr has begun, it becomes prohibited for the fasting person to have sexual intercourse, to eat or to drink until sunset; it is avoiding these three things (al-imsāk ʿan hādhihi-l-ashyāʾ al-thalātha) that one performs the lawfully prescribed fasting (al-ṣawm al-sharʿī) (Jaṣṣāṣ, Aḥkām).

Exalting and glorifying Allah Most High is recommended at dawn (Q 3:41; 7:205; 19:11; 24:36 33:42; 40:55; 48:9); this means to pray at dawn (bukratan) and early morning (ghudwatan), as well as in the evening (Baghawī, Tafsīr, sub Q 19:11). About the excellence of tasbīḥ, the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said, “And he who says “Exalted is Allah (subḥāna-Llāhi) and to Him belong all praises (wa bi-ḥamdihi)” one hundred times a day, his sins will be obliterated (ḥuṭṭat khaṭāyāhu) even if they are equal to the extent of the foam of the ocean” (Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ, kitāb al-daʿawāt, bāb faḍl al-tasbīḥ). It is transmitted from Ibn ʿAbbās and Sufyān that they hold “every tasbīḥ in the Qurʾān is prayer (ṣalāt)”; it is also said, tasbīḥ is an absolute remembrance (al-dhikr al-muṭlaq) be it in prayer or not (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 76:25). Another verse prescribes tasbīḥ as, “So glorify Allah (fa-subḥāna-Llāhi) when you reach the evening (ḥīna tumsūna) and when you reach the morning (wa ḥīna tuṣbiḥūna)” (Q 30:17). This speech is addressed to the Believers, commanding them to perform the true worship and urges them to perform the prayers at their proper times. Ibn ʿAbbās adds that this verse contains three prayers; when your reach the evening means maghrib and ʿishāʾ prayers, and when you reach the morning means the dawn prayer (ṣalāt al-fajr); and the adverb ʿashiyyan (when the day begins to decline), in the next verse, the expression “ʿashiyyan – in the afternoon” refers to ʿaṣr prayer, and the phrase when you are at noon is an allusion to ẓuhr prayer (Qurtubī, Tafsīr, sub Q 30:17-18).

The Qurʾān advises Believers to “Mention the Name of your Lord [in prayer] every morning (bukratan) and evening (wa aṣīlan)” (Q 76:25), in the morning by offering the dawn prayer, and during the night prostrate yourself before Him and bow in worship to Him (wa-sjud lahu) in the maghrib and ʿishāʾ prayers and then exalt His praises in the rest of the night, which is a voluntary act of obedience (Baghawī, Tafsīr).

The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, was commanded not to accede the request of the wealthy disbelievers who demanded some of his poor companions to be sent away, “And do not send away those who invoke the Lord (yadʿūna Rabbahum) in the mornings (bi-l-ghadāti) and evenings (wa-l-ʿashiyyi) seeking His Countenance [literally: His Face]” (Q 6:52; cf. Q 18:28). The invocation mentioned in this verse (yadʿūna, al-duʿāʾ) can either be the strict observation of the five daily prayers in congregation, or remembrance [of Allah, al-dhikr] and recitation of the Qurʾān. Duʿāʾ is meant in the morning and in the evening, so that the Believers can begin his day by invoking Allah and seeking His Divine guidance (raghbatan fī-l-tawfīq) and to finish the same day by invoking Allah, seeking [His] forgiveness (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr).

Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyā b. Sharaf al-Nawawī (631-676/1234-1277) dedicated one special chapter to the adhkār of the dawn and morning; one example will suffice “Allāhumma Bika aṣbaḥnā wa Bika amsaynā wa Bika naḥyā wa Bika namūtu wa ilayka-l-nushūr – O Allah, our Lord, With Your Power we reach the morning, and with Your Power we reach the evening, and with Your Power we live, and we die. And to You will we all return” (Nawawī, Riyāḍ al-ṣāliḥīn, kitāb al-adhkār, bāb al-dhikr ʿinda-l-ṣabāḥ wa-l-masāʾ; Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, awwal kitāb al-adab, bāb mā yaqūlu idhā aṣbaḥa).

Excellence of prayer at dawn

And the Qurʾān of Dawn (wa qurʾāna-l-fajri)

Q 17:78 explicitly emphasizes the pivotal importance and outstanding nature of the dawn prayer: “And the Qurʾān of dawn (wa qurʾāna-l-fajri), indeed the Qurʾān of dawn is ever witnessed.” By the consensus of the exegetes, the expression “Qurʾān of dawn” is an implicit reference to the dawn prayer (Baghawī, Tafsīr; Wāḥidī, Wajīz). Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm b. Muḥammad b. al-Sirrī al-Zajjāj (d. 311/923) gives a more detailed explanation: “This phrase contains a very delicate and important benefit (fāʾida) which states that there is no prayer only by performing recitation (qirāʾa); for His Words “offer the prayer – aqimi-ṣ-ṣalāta [Q 17:78] and [offer] the Qurʾān of dawn” implies a direct order to believers to recite; thus, in this way, the prayer is called Qurʾān (reading / recitation). Consequently, there is no prayer without recitation. Exegetes adds that angels of the night (commissioned with recording the deeds of the night) are present and listen to the recitation of the dawn prayer, along with angels of the day” (Maʿānī). Manṣūr b. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Samʿānī al-Tamīmī al-Marwazī (d. 489/1095) says that the qurʾān al-fajr is also called ṣalāt al-ghadāt [another term form dawn prayer]. And this prayer became known as qurʾān (recitation) for recitation in this prayer is more and longer (than in other prayers) and in both of its cycles recitation is obligatory (farīḍa)—and the “Qurʾān of dawn” is witnessed by the angel of the night and the day; for angels of the night and of the day meet at the time of dawn prayer. Angels of the day descend to the earth and they find people performing the dawn prayer and angels of the night witness it before ascending to the heavens; they and see the believers preforming the dawn prayer. When the imam finishes the prayer, angels of the night ascend and say, ‘O our Lord, we left Your slaves and they were praying’; the other group of angels say, ‘Our Lord, we reached Your slaves and they were praying’ (Baḥr).

Fakhr al-Dīn Muḥammad b. ʿUmar al-Rāzī (543-606/1148-1209) explicates the profound beauty of the dawn prayer and the wondrous spiritual openings at that time:

When someone is about to offer the dawn prayer at the beginning of its prescribed time, there is still darkness [on the horizon of] the world. If the recitation is long at this time, the world gradually transforms from darkness into light (yanqalibu-l-ʿālam min al-ẓulma ilā-l-ḍawʾ). Darkness is a synonym of death and non-existence (al-ʿadam), while light represents life and existence (wujūd); so this way, when man awakens from his sleep, it is as if he were transferred from death to life and from non-existence to existence; and in addition to this, during his prayer, he witnesses the total transition of this world from darkness into light—from death to life, from immobility (al-sukūn) to motion (al-ḥaraka), and from non-existence to existence. This is a wondrous situation (ḥāla ʿajība), for intellects (al-ʿuqūl) and spirits (al-arwāḥ) realize that only the Creator is able to perform these transformations and changes (al-taqlīb wa-l-taḥwīl wa-l-tabdīl)—He Who disposes the affairs with infinite wisdom (bi-l-ḥikmat al-bāligha) and with unlimited power (wa-l-quwwat al-ghayr al-mutanāhiya). During these moments, intellect is enlightened (yastanīr) by the light of this knowledge. At these moments, the doors of spiritual perception (abwāb al-mukāshafāt al-ruḥāniyya) open for the spirit and the intellect; thus prayer--which is in fact a manifestation of the acts of the limbs (ʿibārat ʿan aʿmāl al-jawāriḥ)--becomes the witness of these sacred divine perceptions; this is why, anyone who has a sound desire (dhawq salīm) and a sincere innate disposition (ṭabʿ mustaqīm), wakes up from his sleep and offers the dawn prayer at the beginning of its time and experiences the different phases of the world, like transition from darkness to light, from motionlessness to motion, that person will find in his heart tranquility (rawḥ) and ease (rāḥa) and a lot more in the light of knowledge and by the strength of certainty (wa quwwati-l-yaqīn) (Tafsīr).

In Q 11:114, the believers are urged to establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. The majority of exegetes consider the phrase two ends of the day to be an indirect reference to the dawn (fajr) and the sunset prayers (al-maghrib), and at the approach of the night as the late night prayer (al-ʿishāʾ) (Māwardī, Nukat; Wāḥidī, Wajīz). A minority opinion holds that the first referent of the two ends is the midday prayer (al-ẓuhr) and the second is either the evening prayer (al-ṣalāt al-maghrib), as per Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688), or the midday prayer (al-ṣalāt al-ʿaṣr), as per a report transmitted from Qatāda (Dhahabī, Siyar, Juzʾ 5, No. 132) (Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād). Manṣūr b. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Samʿānī al-Tamīmī al-Marwazī (d. 489/1095) mentions a report from the eminent Follower (tābiʿī) Mujāhid b. Jabr (d. ca.104/722), who interpreted the verse to cover all five daily prayers: “the two ends of the day mean the dawn, noon, and midday prayers (al-ṣubḥ, al-ẓuhr and al-ʿaṣr) prayers, and the phrase at the approach of the night covers the evening and the night prayers (al-maghrib and al-ʿishāʾ) (Tafsīr). Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Qurṭubī (600-671/1204-1273), while agreeing with this opinion, says that Qurʾān, in this context, is intimately connected with the prayer; this explanation was preferred by al-Farrāʾ (d. 207/ 822); whereas the linguists of al-Baṣra hold that it is used as an incentive and motivation (ʿalā-l-ighrāʾ) so it means, “your duty is (fa-ʿalayka) the Qurʾān of dawn” (Tafsīr).

Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī (d. 44/664, Dhahabī, Siyar, Juzʾ 2, No. 82), who was praised by the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, for his excellent recitation of the Qurʾān, narrates: The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: “He who prays al-bardayn [dual oblique case of bard; they are called in this way, because they are at the two ends of the day, when heat calms down; see: Nawawī, Sharḥ Muslim] (fajr and ʿaṣr prayers) will enter Paradise” (Muslim, kitāb al-masājid wa maʿāḍiʿ al-ṣalāt, bāb faḍl ṣalātay al-ṣubḥ wa-l-ʿaṣr wa-l-muḥāfaẓa ʿalayhā). Abū Hurayra (d. 57/681), narrates that the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace said: “a prayer performed in congregation (ṣalāt al-jamīʿ) is twenty-five times better and superior in reward to a prayer offered by a single person. The angels of the night and the angels of the day are assembled at the time of dawn prayer” (Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ, kitāb tafsīr al-Qurʾān, bāb qawluhu taʿālā: inna-l-qurʾāna-l-fajri kāna mashhūdan). The Prophet also said, “He who offers the dawn prayer is in the protection of Allah (fī dhimmati-Llāh)” (Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ, kitāb al-masājid wa maʿāḍiʿ al-ṣalāt, bāb faḍl ṣalāt al-ʿishāʾ wa-l-ṣubḥ fī jamāʿa). The dawn prayer is also a marker for the hypocrites, as the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: “No prayer is heavier for the hypocrites than the dawn and night prayers (fajr and ʿishāʾ); and if they but knew what is in them [in reward], they would have attended them even if [they had to come] crawling (wa law habwan)” (Bukhārī, kital-adhān, bāb faḍl al-ʿishāʾ fī-l-jamāʿa).

Punishment at dawn

Several nations and disobedient sinners suffered devastating punishment at dawn: the people of Lūṭ received their punishment at dawn (muṣbiḥīn, Q 15:66; 15:83), that is when the time of dawn arrives (Wāḥidī, Wajīz, Baghawī, Tafsīr; sub Q 15:66) or when the first light of dawn appears (ṭulūʿ al-ṣubḥ) (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr; cf. Rāzī, Tafsīr)—the moment of the appearance of the first light of the sun (buzūgh al-shams) (Rāzī, Tafsīr), for, indeed, their appointed time is the morning” (Q 11:81); And verily, an abiding torment seized them in the morning (ṣabbaḥahum)” (Q 54:38). This punishment is characterized as abiding for it afflicted them when the sun was rising and it will last until the day of Resurrection (Makkī, Hidāya) and it will accompany them to the punishment of the Hereafter (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr).

Prophet Mūsā, upon him peace, was divinely inspired to leave Egypt by night (Q 26:52) and the army of Firʿawn pursued them at sunrise (Q 26:60); the army caught up with the Children of Israʾīl at dawn when the sun appeared on the horizon (shurūq al-shams) (Baghawī, Tafsīr), which became the time of their destruction (Q 26:66). Similarly, the people of the garden (cf. Q 68:17-33) received their punishment at dawn. They left their homes to harvest the orchards, but did not say ‘if Allah wills’, (Wāḥidī, Wajīz, sub Q 68:17), and hence they were visited by a night visitor (ṭāʾif) (Q 68:19), which was in fact fire that turned their orchard into ashes (Wāḥidī, Wajīz; Rāzī, Tafsīr), the fire was divine punishment for their unacceptable behavior (Baghawī, Tafsīr). By the early morning hours, the orchard was a black and desolate place (ka-l-ṣarīm), like the dark pitched sinister night (Ibn al-Jawzī, Zād; Baghawī, Tafsīr sub Q 68:20). Such is the punishment [of this world], but the punishment of the Hereafter is greater, if only they knew (Q 68:33). This is the way and method how Allah deals with those who transgress the prescribed boundaries and disobeys His commands (Baghawī, Tafsīr). Al-Qurṭubī holds that this verse also served as a reminder and threat to the people of Makka, depicted by the severe punishment of this world and the loss of wealth—when the polytheists were marching toward Badr and they swore to kill Prophet Muḥammad (Tafsīr). Another reference to the dawn calamity is found in Q 37:177, But when it shall descend in their court, evil shall then be the morning (fa-sāʾa ṣabāḥ) for those who had been warned.  Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Ismāʿīl b. Ibrāhīm b. al-Mughīra al-Juʿfī al-Bukhārī (194-256/810-870) explains that this refers to Khaybar: “The Messenger of Allah, upon him blessings and peace, reached Khaybar at night and it was his practice that, whenever he reached the enemy at night, he never attacked them till it was morning. When it was morning, the Jews came out with their spades and baskets, and when they saw him [Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace], they said, ‘Muḥammad and his army.’ The Messenger of Allah, upon him blessings and peace, said, ‘Khaybar is destroyed (kharibat Khaybaru), for whenever we approach a [hostile] nation [to fight], then evil will be the morning for those who have been warned’ (Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ, Kitāb al-maghāzī, bāb ghazwat Khaybar).

Time for Raids

Dawn and early morning hours are also singled out as appropriate times for raids and attacks; the locus classicus for this is “fa-l-mughīrāti ṣubḥan – by those who launch raids at dawn” (Q 100:3); it is transmitted from Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688) and accepted by the majority of exegetes, that when an armed force decides to launch an attack, they march out late at night (saraw laylan) and surprise the enemy in the early moments of dawn (wa yaʾtūna-l-ʿaduwwa ṣubḥan), because that time is time of inattentiveness for most people (waqt ghaflat al-nās) (Qurṭubī, Tafsīr). Fakhr al-Dīn Muḥammad b. ʿUmar al-Rāzī (543-606/1148-1209) explains that historically they launched attacks at dawn, for during the night, they were covered by complete darkness and they could not see anything while during daylight hours people are prepared for self-defense (al-mudāfaʿa) and counter-attack (al-muḥāraba), but at dawn most people are heedless and not prepared for any action (Tafsīr, sub Q 100:3). A specific instance of Prophetic use of that time for a battle is mentioned in Q 3:121: And when your went forth at dawn from your household to assign the believers their positions for the battle, and Allah is All-hearing, All-knowing.


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See also

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