Twilight debate stirred over length of fasting

Twilight debate stirred over length of fasting

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Twilight debate stirred over length of fasting

Muslims in Turkey may have been fasting 70 minutes longer due to a row on dawn. AA photo

A debate started when some religious figures claimed Turks are fasting 70 minutes more than the necessary time during the holy month of Ramadan due to miscalculations.

A debate has arisen between Turkey’s religious leaders and those who say Turkish observers of the holy month of Ramadan are fasting 70 minutes longer than they should, due to miscalculations of daylight time.

The Islamic foundation Süleymaniye Vakfı has claimed that Turkish Muslims have been fasting for 70 minutes longer than residents of other Islamic countries due to the Directorate of Religious Affairs’ use of the wrong degree in its calculations of prayer times. In response, the Religious Affairs Directorate issued a statement yesterday refuting these claims.

“The Turkish people may perform their prayers at the times announced by our directorate with peace of mind,” the statement read.

Turkey is the only country in the world addressing this religious argument on a scientific basis, said astronomer Dr. Sacit Özdemir, head of the astronomy team that works in collaboration with the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Özdemir and his team have been conducting a study since September 2011 at the request of the directorate.

“When the sun is at 18 degrees from the horizon, it is astronomically considered dawn. A position of 19 degrees has been accepted by religious circles, but this is what science says,” Özdemir said.

In other Islamic countries there has also been no systematic study to determine the correct starting and ending times for Ramadan fasting, Özdemir said. Professor Abdülaziz Bayındır, head of the Süleymaniye Foundation, however, accuses the directorate of misleading Muslims in Turkey about accurate twilight times.

“The statement issued by the Directorate of Religious Affairs is entirely a fiasco,” Bayındır said, speaking to the Daily News.

According to its statement, the directorate is being assisted by a scientific team to determine dawn times. Ankara University’s Astronomy and Space Sciences team is not qualified to comment on the issue, Bayındır said, because it is not a matter science.

Astronomical dawn is defined as the moment after which the sky is no longer completely dark, formally defined as the time at which the sun is 18 degrees above the horizon in the morning. But religious experts say the time of dawn should be predicated on the sun’s being 19 degrees above the horizon.