Answered by Shaykh Rami Nsour
Question: My question is regarding dividing the night into portions for worship.We find a description of Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam’ s prayer in ahadith and Prophet Dawood Alaihi Salam ‘s prayer. So, when do we start the night, at Maghrib when the new islamic date begins, or at Isha or from the time, we go to sleep. Please guide me as i have always found different answers.
Answer: The night begins at Maghrib. In Sura al-Baqara, Allah (the Majestic) says, “And complete the fast until the night” (Quran 2:187). In the Tafsir of the Jalalayn, it states, “Until the entering of it [the night] when sun sets” [Tafsir al Jalalayn]. The day begins at the true dawn (al fajr al sadiq) as opposed to the false dawn (al fajr al kadhib) [Tafsir al Jalalayn]. Thus, night is from complete sunset until the true dawn and this is what one would use to calculate the various portions of the night such as the first third, the middle of the night, the last third and the last sixth.
As an example, if maghrib was at 6 p.m. and fajr was at 6 a.m., then the first third of the night would be 10 p.m., the middle of the night would be 12 midnight, the last third would be 2 a.m. and the last sixth would begin at 4 a.m.