Importance of Prayer Time
The prayer time for each Salat is similar to the appointed time for Hajj. This statement signifies the importance of offering Salat on appointed times.
إِنَّ الصَّلاةَ كَانَتْ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ كِتَاباً مَوْقُوتاً
“Verily! Salat is enjoined on the believers at fixed hours.”
(Aayah 103, Surah An-Nisa).
Salat is enjoined at fixed hours. It is reported that Ibn Abbas (RA) said: The prayer has a fixed time, just as the case with Hajj (Ref. Tafsir by Imam Ibn Kathir).
So, what are these prayer times? Let us see?
A. The hadith about Jibril (AS) leading the Prophet (PBUH) in prayer
Ibn Abbas narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Jibril (AS) led me in (in Salat) twice at the House (the Kaaba). So he prayed Dhuhr the first time when the shadow was similar to (the length of) the strap of a sandal. Then he prayed Asr when everything was similar (to the length of) its shadow. He prayed Maghrib when the sun had set and the fasting person breaks fast. Then he prayed Isha when the twilight had vanished. He prayed Fajr when fajr (the dawn) began, and when eating is prohibited for the fasting person.
The second time he prayed Dhuhr when the shadow of everything was similar to (the length of) it, at the time of Asr the day before. Then he prayed Asr when the shadow of everything was about twice as long as it. He prayed Maghrib at the same time as he did the first time. Then he prayed Isha, the later one, when a third of the night had gone. He prayed Subh (Fajr) when the land glowed. Then Jibril (AS) turned towards me and said: O Muhammad (PBUH)! These are the times of the Prophets before you, and the time is what is between these two times.”
(Hadith No. 1393, Book of Salat, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 1; Hadith No. 149, Chapters on Salat, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 1).
Explanation of Hadith
This beautiful narration tells us many things.
- We learn that there are fixed time periods for each Salat and every Salat has to be offered during these prayer times. Jibril (AS) led our beloved Prophet (PBUH) two times to explain these time periods. The first time he offered prayers at the starting times of the time periods of each Salat, while on the next day he offered the prayers towards the end times of these time periods. We shall talk more specifically about the start and end periods of each Salat in discussion ahead, Insha’Allah.
- We also learn that these appointed hours for Salat were in place for all other Prophets (who came before Muhammad, PBUH) also.
As I said, we need to talk specifically about every prayer. That will help us understand the above mentioned hadith better.
B. Salat Al-Fajr
B.1. Start time for Salat Al-Fajr
The hadith mentioned in Section A is very clear about the prayer times of Salat Al-Fajr. The time of Fajr prayer starts when the dawn begins i.e. when the eating becomes prohibited for a fasting person. This is that time of the day when one can see a thin line of light starting to appear in the dark sky of night (known as Pau phatna in Urdu).
B.2. End time for Salat Al-Fajr
It was narrated from Abdullah bin Amr (RA) that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “The time for Zuhr is so long as Asr has not come. The time for Asr is so long as the sun has not turned yellow. The prayer time for Maghrib is so long as the twilight has not disappeared. The time for Isha is so long as half of the night has not passed. The time for Fajr is so long as the sun has not risen.”
(Hadith No. 1386 (612), Book of Masjids & Places of Prayer, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2).
This hadith tells us that the time for Fajr prayer ends when the sun starts rising.
C. Salat Dhuhr
C.1. Start time for Salat Dhuhr
The time for Dhuhr prayer starts after the noon sun passes the zenith. There are plenty of narrations in support of this. Let me mention one of those:
Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “Indeed for Salat there is a beginning and an end. The start time for the Dhuhr prayer is when the sun passes the zenith, and the end of its time is when the time for Asr enters. The beginning of the time for the Asr is when its time enters, and the end of its time is when the sun yellows (turns pale). Maghrib start when the sun has set, and the end of its time is when the twilight has vanished. The time of Isha starts, the later one, is when the horizon has vanished, and the end of its time is when the night is at its half. The beginning of the time for Fajr is when fajr (the dawn) begins, and its end is when sun rises.”
(Hadith No. 151, Chapters on Salat, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 1).
C.2. End time for Salat Dhuhr
The narrations mentioned in Section B.2 & Section C.1 tell us that end time for Dhuhr prayer (i.e. the time till when a person can pray Dhuhr) is until the time for Asr starts.
D. Salat Al-Asr
D.1. Start time for Salat Al-Asr
It was narrated by Ayesha (RA) that Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) prayed Asr when the sun was in her room and the shadow had not appeared on her wall.”
(Hadith No. 506, Book of the Times, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 1).
In other narrations it is found that the prayer time of salat Asr begins when sun is still high and bright. However, the best way of finalizing the start of Asr is the length of shadow as mentioned in the hadith (in Section A) i.e. when the shadow of the thing is equal to it in size.
D.2. End time for Salat Al-Asr
Based on the hadith mentioned in Section A, the Asr time ends when the shadow of the things is double the size of that thing. In terms of indications from the sun, as mentioned in ahadith (in Section B.2 & Section C.1), the time for Asr prayer ends when the colour of the sun turns yellow i.e. when it starts paling.
E. Salat Al-Maghrib
E.1. Start time for Salat Al-Maghrib
As per the narration mentioned in Section A, the prayer time for Maghrib starts when the sun sets. This is that time when the fasting person breaks his/her fast.
E.2. End time for Salat Al-Maghrib
The narrations mentioned in Section B.2 & Section C.1 tell us that that time for Maghrib is there as long as the twilight does not disappear. Twilight is that dim light towards the end of the day when the sun had set and the brightness of the day is in the process of converting into the darkness of the night. The moment sky is fully dark and this dim light (the twilight) disappears, the time of Maghrib prayer ends.
F. Salat Al-Isha
F.1. Start time for Salat Al-Isha
Going back again to the hadith mentioned in Section A, we find that the prayer time for Isha starts after the twilight has vanished.
F.2. End time for Salat Al-Isha
The narrations mentioned in Section B.2 & Section C.1 tell us that the time of Isha prayer is up to half of the night i.e. up to the midnight (12 o’clock night).
G. About some nawafil prayers
There are two important nawafil prayers that I find worth mentioning in the context of their stipulated timings.
It was reported from Ibn Umar (RA) that Rasool-Allah (PBUH) said: “Make Witr the last prayer at the night.”
(Hadith No. 1438, Book of Witr, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 2; Hadith No. 998, Book of Witr, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 2).
It implies that the last prayer at night has to be Witr. However, the timings of last prayer may differ from person to person. It shall be clear after going through the following hadith:
Masruq said: I asked Syeda Aishah (RA), “When Rasool-Allah (PBUH) would pray the Witr?” She replied, “He would do all – he would pray at the beginning of the night, and the middle, and at the end. However, in the later part (of his life), he would pray closer to the time of dawn.”
(Hadith No. 1435, Book of Witr, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 2).
It should be clear that Witr are not a part of Salat Al-Isha. The prayer time for Witr starts after one has offered his/her Isha prayer, and it ends when the time for Fajr prayer comes.
The prayer time for Tahajjud prayer is anytime in night during the sleeping hours; the time ends when the time for Fajr starts.
Note: For more details about Witr & Tahajjud prayers, kindly refer to separate articles ‘Witr’ and ‘Qayaam-ul-Layl’; these are available at www.quranandhadith.com.
H. The Qaza (of a) prayer
We have seen so far that it is mandatory to offer the prayers during the appointed time periods of every (farz) Salat. But what if someone does not offer his/her Salat during the prescribed period? This section shall answer this question, Insha’Allah. Please note that the discussion under this section is specifically in the context of farz prayers.
Refer to following hadith:
It was told that Anas (RA) said: Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “Whoever forgets a prayer, let him pray it when he remembers it.”
(Hadith No. 614, Book of the Times, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 1).
Intentionally or unintentionally,
The prayer which is offered after the prescribed times is known as qaza prayer. The reasons of not offering the prayer on time may be two: either one has not offered it intentionally or he/she has missed it unintentionally. For all those Muslims who are of the view that whether you miss your prayer intentionally or unintentionally, you can offer it at other time (as mentioned in above referred to hadith), let me put it very blunt and clear: There is no qaza for the prayers that one misses intentionally. Not offering (farz) Salat intentionally is a sin and the only expiation of that sin is to do Taubah and pray Allah for His mercy.
Misses a prayer unintentionally
However, the case is different when someone misses a prayer unintentionally. Refer to following hadith:
Abu Qatadah (RA) narrated: The Prophet (PBUH) was once on a journey, and he sidetracked, so I went with him. He said, “Look”. I responded, “There is a rider; these are two riders; these are three riders….. until we became seven.” He said, “Guard our prayer for us (meaning the Fajr prayer).” But they fell into a deep sleep, and they were only awakened by the heat of the sun. So they stood up and continued for a short while, then they camped and performed Wudu.
Bilal (RA) called the Adhan and they prayed two raka’at (Sunnah) of Fajr, then prayed Fajr and continued to ride. They said to one another, “We have been careless in our prayers.” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “There is no carelessness in sleep, verily carelessness occurs only while one is awake. So if one of you unintentionally misses a prayer, let him pray it as soon as he remembers, and the next day at its time.”
(Hadith No. 437, Book of Salat, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 1).
Explanation of Hadith
This narration tells us many things. Let me point them down:
- Qaza can only be offered for those prayers which one has missed unintentionally.
- The reasons for unintentionally missing a prayer may be many. Missing a prayer due to sleeping through its prescribed time period is also a case of missing the prayer unintentionally and a qaza prayer can be offered for that.
- Qaza should be prayed as soon as the person remembers about the missed prayer. This is the view of majority of the scholars. Another view is that the qaza should be offered the next day when the time for that particular prayer comes. Both views are correct and can be followed. However, I personally favour offering the missed Salat as soon as one remembers it.
Delaying Farz Prayers
This in no way allows anyone of us to make it a habit of delaying our farz prayers beyond the prescribed times. Some people have a habit of offering Fajr prayer well after the sun has risen, owing to waking up late from the sleep, as a normal routine affair. This is pure carelessness. Similarly, it can’t be that one prayer can be offeredin lieu of all the prayers (the concept of qaza-e-umri) one has missed through his/her life.This is absurd.
These wrong acts have taken a strong foothold among the Muslims at present; it is a worry indeed. I reiterate: Not offering a Salat at its prescribed time, intentionally, is a big sin; there is no expiation of intentionally missed Salat except Taubah and seeking Allah’s mercy. Qaza can (should) be offered only for Salat which is missed unintentionally.
I. The prohibited times
There are some time periods when it is not allowed to offer any Salat. These are mentioned in following hadith:
Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA): Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) forbade the offering of two Salat:
1. After Fajr prayer till the sun rises.
2. After Asr prayer till the sun sets.
(Hadith No. 588, Book of Times of As-Salat, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1).
It should be kept in mind that we do not offer any type of Salat (qaza, nawafil etc.) during these two periods.
J. Combining two prayers
It was told that Ibn Umar (RA) said, “If Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) was in a hurry to travel or some emergency arose, he would combine Maghrib & Isha (prayers).”
(Hadith No. 600, Book of the Times, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 1).
Explanation of Hadith
It is very clear that in exceptional cases like travel, rain, sickness etc., the Prophet (PBUH) used to combine two prayers (sometimes he would combine Dhuhr & Asr, at other times he would combine Maghrib & Isha). Examples can be cited from the combined prayers offered by the Prophet and his companions during some battles. Combined prayers are also followed during Hajj.
Some are of the view that these prayers may be combined at times other than emergencies also. There is a hadith that supports this view as well. Please have a look:
It was narrated from Ibn Abbas (RA) that the Prophet (PBUH) used to pray in Al-Madinah combining two prayers: joining Zuhr & Asr, and Maghrib & Isha, when there was no fear nor rain. It was said to him, “Why?” He said, “So that there would not be any hardship on his Ummah.”
(Hadith No. 603, Book of the Times, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 1).
Explanation of Hadith
Therefore, no one can deny that combining two prayers is an established act of our Prophet’s (PBUH) Sunnah. We should note that the Prophet (PBUH) did so in order that his Ummah does not face any hardship after him, thereby meaning that it is also one of the manners of offering Salat. However, these examples may be adopted only once in a while; it is not recommended to make it a routine practice because it is only one-off times that our beloved Prophet (PBUH) combined two prayers under normal circumstances. Otherwise he would do so when in a state of emergency.
Moreover, it should be kept in mind that under normal circumstances, if someone offers combined prayers, they should be offered in such a manner that both the prayers are offered within their stipulated times and none of the rulings of Qur’an and Sunnah are contradicted. For example in case of combining Dhuhr & Asr, one should delay Zuhr till the last times of Dhuhr and bring forward Asr forward towards the early times of Asr. Then offer Dhuhr; by the time Dhuhr is completed, the time for Asr starts and then it can be offered right away. In this way, all requirements of Qur’an and Sunnah about Salat timings are observed.
It was told that Abdullah bin Masood (RA) said: I asked Allah’s Messenger (PBUH), “Which action is most beloved to Allah?” He said, “Establishing prayer on time, honouring one’s parents and Jihad in the cause of Allah.”
(Hadith No. 612, Book of the Times, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 1).
This narration tells us the importance of establishing prayers on prescribed times.
Do not be misguided by people who bring forward justifications about performing Salat whenever one wants, or offering one time qaza for all the prayers missed all through the life. It can’t be such. The times are fixed; we cannot deviate from these timings. Whatever are the exceptions, they have to be followed in exactly the same manner and spirit as were followed by our Prophet (PBUH) and his companions.
Let us make sure that we establish our Salat on time, honestly.