At exactly 6:15 PM on Saturday, the 15th of Ramadan, corresponding to the 9th of May, I took from our house’ 3rd floor snapshots of the beam of the Sun as it was about to hide down the horizon to allow the the night reign for some 12 hours later.
This means it wasn’t time yet to break the Ramadan fast on this very day for the faithfuls are advised to break the dayfast when the night has come or at nightfall:
وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْل
“Eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct from the black. Then fast to the night.” (Qur’an 2:187)
The time to begin fasting in the morning is when light is first seen (manifested by the white thread appearing at dawn.) The time to stop fasting is when it is “night (layl / ليل)”.
‘Night’ is the actual word used in the Qur’an, not ‘sunset’. ‘Night’ refers to the time when the sky becomes such that we would tell someone it is night time.
The verse reads atimmoo al-siyaam ilaa al-layl – اتموا الصيام الي الليل: “complete the fast to the night” literally, i.e. to fast “to the night”. Some erroneous translations read “until night” or “until nightfall” — both are incorrect, the correct translation is “to the night”.
The Qur’an is in a human language and uses human beings’ understanding of how they use the vocabularies in the language. Many Muslims break fasts when the sun is setting, but we don’t call that ‘night (ليل’) at all as it is still bright outside.
Neither at the time of the prophet, nor today. At such a time, the word ‘night / ليل’ is never used to describe that time of day.
When to break fast
And since time varies in different parts of the world, in Iligan, I decided to break our fast today at nightfall that is 6:22PM, when the Sun totally disappeared from the horizon and the night had come in our midst.
My family members took some fruit salad, bread and light foods as iftar, but I immediately ate heavy stuff like steam rice, fish, veggies and soup before I supped a cup of coffee with margarined bread. And immediately stood for Maghrib.
Masiding Noor Yahya