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Adjusting to Fall-back time: A Professional Muslim Perspective

We’re getting closer to that time every year in the fall season when in the USA, and many other countries, the clock time is adjusted back by one hour (“fall-back”) from “Day Light Savings Time” (DST) to Standard Time (ST). For a busy practicing Muslim professional like me, this poses some challenges and requires several adjustments.  In this blog, I share what these challenges are, and approaches to how we tackle these challenges. 

Challenges caused by “fall-back”

In the USA, the DST lasts about 8 months — starts early March and ends early November. Most of this time coincides with longer days, warmer weather. As practicing Muslims, our lives revolve around routines and rhythms – most notably, obligatory prayers at specific times. As Muslim professionals, we adjust our busy professional lives around this routine of worship. I find it easier to marry the two during the DST season for a couple of reasons: 

  1. The days are longer, which means that I have more time between specific prayer (salah) times to complete my salah on time
  2. More importantly, because the clock advances by an hour during DST, during most of DST, Alhamdulillah, Asr and Maghrib prayer times (certainly in the Dallas area – my hometown — and in most of the USA) typically lie outside of the core or busy office hours (between 8am and 5pm), which makes it generally easier to offer them on time without work distractions.  

And we settle into this comfortable routine during DST. Even though prayers times shift during the course of the DST period, but the above hold generally true.  The “fall-back” in November disrupts this routine and is a double whammy in terms of impact: 

  1. The days are much shorter in winter which provides less interval between salah times. For example, in Dallas daytimes during DST last approximately 3-4 hours longer than in winter
  2. Salah times for Asr and Maghrib move to the core busy working hours of the day when my calendar is full of business meetings and represents a constant source of conflict. 

So what do we do? Alhamdulliah, where there is a will, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes the way easy. I will document some of the best practices that work for me. 

Approaches to deal with these challenges

Best practice 1: Start the work day as early as possible

Because of “fall-back”, Fajr prayer starts an hour earlier (in terms of clock time) than during DST, so that means we can get started with our workday earlier. I find that since Asr and Maghrib prayers follow in quick succession during the shorter days, it is difficult to plan “creative” or cognitive work between the two that requires uninterrupted focus. So starting earlier gives me that extra un-interrupted work time I need. In fact, it is a Sunnah of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to start work early in the morning, since that is a time for barakah (blessings)

Alhamdulillah, this is actually mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Since the nights are longer during winter, we get more time to sleep at night, so we can wake up refreshed, and get started earlier. Compare this to summer nights, where it is difficult to get even 5 hours (in the Dallas area – even less if you live further north) of continuous sleep (especially if I get up for Tahajjud prayers), which means that during DST, I am often groggy in the morning and often feel like taking a nap after Fajr prayer, which we know is not a Sunnah of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Best practice 2: The lunch-time break is perfect for Zuhr salah

Another good thing about the standard time is that typically Zuhr prayer falls during the typical lunch hours (between 12pm and 1 noon). This represents a great opportunity to take care of Zhur prayers while we get a break in the work routine. 

Best practice 3: Book your prayers well in advance in your meeting calendaring system! 

As professionals, we all use online calendaring systems (such as Google Calendar or Outlook) to schedule our business meetings. Especially due to COVID-19, we may be traveling less, but it appears that our calendars are now busier with more and more online meetings throughout the day, especially during the “busy” time slots between 8 am-12noon and 1 pm-5 pm. The afternoon time slots are when we have conflicts with Dhuhr, Asr and Maghrib prayers. 

We typically look at calendars to find “free/busy” time slots to book meetings. To avoid potential conflicts I go ahead and reserve time in my calendar (showing “busy” for others who want to schedule my time for meetings) for all my Zuhr, Asr and Maghrib prayers well in advance – specially the Asr prayers, since it is Sunnah to not delay Asr prayers, and it is easy to miss Asr prayer since it occurs in one of the busiest time of the work day.

I try to block off time for the Asr prayers at the earliest timeslot when the Asr time commences. For example in the Dallas area in early December, Asr time starts around 3:45pm (Hanafi calculation), so I try to book a recurring 15 to 30 min slot on my calendar starting at that time.  Of course, I adjust the start time on the calendar as the time for prayer shifts. Please refer to any prayer time calculator (such as this one) for precise prayer times in your area. 

Alhamdulillah, this really helps, as other people will try to schedule (most of) their meetings in non-busy/“available” time slots. In addition, this serves as a formal reminder to me take breaks from work for prayer. We’ve all had days when the day whizzed by so fast that Satan made us forget to pray.   

Best practice 4: Shift personal time to the evenings

We often do find time during the DST period to squeeze in personal time for recreation (or exercise) during the daylight hours. That becomes rather difficult during Standard Time period due to short days. By comparison, evenings and nights – outside of working hours — are longer, so that’s the best time to take care of personal activities. 

Is one better than the other from a Muslim professional’s perspective?

Given the adjustments that need to be made for the switch from DST to ST, I almost feel that we should just stick to DST all year. Matter of fact, strictly from the perspective of overlap prayer timings with work, I feel DST probably works better during the winter months and less so during the spring/summer/fall months. Many states in the USA are considering legislation to make this happen

However, regardless of what man-made time/clock system we follow, Allah, in His infinite mercy, will show us a way to adapt. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guide us, grant us his forgiveness and mercy and make it easy for all of us. 


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