Part II: Prayer (As-Salat)

Chapter 08

Five Daily Prayers

Times and Rakaahs

I-Timings of Prayers

         There are five prayers which Allah has made obligatory on a Muslim, to be performed on every day. They are to be performed on fixed times. The Qur’an says: Surely, prayer (Salat) is obligatory for the believers (to be performed) at fixed times (4: An-Nisa:103). However, it would be appropriate to present some of the verses of the Qur’an and Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) relevant to prayer timings before we discuss this subject.

Verses of the Qur’an: Very useful direct and indirect hints to prayer timings have been made by the Qur’an in its following verses:

1)            And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and in some hours of the night……. (11:114). There is clear hint here to Fajr, Maghrib and Isha prayers.

2)            Establish prayer from the decline of the sun till the darkness of night (i.e. Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha prayers) and recite the Qur’an at down (i.e. Fajr Prayer)……. (17:78)

3)            ………and glorify the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun (i.e. Fajr prayer) and before its setting (Asr and Zuhr prayers), and glorify Him during some of the hours of the night (Maghrib and Isha prayers) as well as at both ends of the day…….. (20:130).

4)            So glorify Allah when you enter the evening (i.e. perform the Maghrib and Isha prayers) and when you enter the morning (i.e. perform Fajr prayer). And all praise is for Him in the heavens and the earth; and glorify Him in the afternoon (i.e. Asr prayer), and when the sun begins to decline (i.e. Zuhr prayer) – (30:17-18)

Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): Following Ahadith provide names and the times of the prayers as well as times when prayers are forbidden:

1)            Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Gabriel led my prayer twice near the Ka’abah. He prayed Zuhr with me when the sun declined a little and it became like the length of a shoe-lace, and he prayed Asr with me when the shade of everything became like itself, and he prayed Maghrib with me when the fasting man broke his fast, and he prayed Isha with me when the red-hue disappeared, and he prayed Fajr with me when food and drink became unlawful for a fasting man. When there came the following day, he prayed Zuhr with me when his shade was like his length, and he prayed Asr with me when his shade was double his length, and he prayed Maghrib with me when the fasting man broke his fast, and he prayed Isha with me at one-third part of the night, and he prayed Fajr with me when there was clear morning. Afterwards he looked at me and said: O Muhammad! This was the time of the Prophets before you, and the times are what is between these two times.  – (Abu Daud, Tirmizi)

2)            Aqbah bin Aamer reported that the Apostle of Allah used to forbid us from performing prayer at three times: when the sun is rising till it clearly rises; when the sun is at noon (at its climax or highest point) till it starts declining; and when the sun is setting till it clearly sets. – (Muslim)

         Thus the names of the five daily prayers are Fajr, Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha. These names to them have been given perhaps in view of the times on which they are performed. Their times are as follows:

1-            Fajr Prayer (morning or early morning prayer): It is offered between the break of dawn and the sunrise. In modern age, its time according to watch starts approximately from one hour and thirty minutes before sunrise and ends at sunrise. However, it is recommended that it should be performed in its early time as it carries more reward.

2-            Zuhr Prayer (early afternoon prayer): Its time begins after the sun passes its zenith (highest point) and lasts until the late afternoon. In other words, its time is between the declining of the sun till the beginning of the time of Asr prayer. According to watch you can say that its time is normally between 12:30 pm and 3:00pm. According to a tradition reported by Anis, the Prophet used to offer this prayer in its early time in winter and in its late time in summer.

3-            Asr (late afternoon) Prayer: Its time begins from the end of the time of Zuhr prayer and lasts till sunset. In these days you can say that its time starts approximately two hours before sunset and ends at sunset. According to Abu Hurairah, the Apostle of Allah said: Whoever finds one Raka’ah of Asr prayer before setting of the sun, he found Asr prayer (Bukhari, Muslim). In other words, if a believer starts saying Asr prayer and completes one Raka’ah (unit) of it before sunset, he should complete the whole prayer as it would be valid.

4-            Maghrib (the sunset) Prayer: Its time begins immediately after the sun has set and it ends when the twilight (the red glow in the sky) has disappeared. Thus the time of this prayer is between the sunset and one or one and half our after sunset. However, this prayer should be offered in its early time and should not be unnecessarily delayed.

5-            Isha (the night) Prayer: Its time begins after the expiry of the time of Maghrib prayer (i.e. from one and half hour after sunset) and it lasts until the middle of the night. However, it can be offered till break of the dawn in case one is prevented to offer it before midnight due to some justification.

Forbidden Times of Prayers

         As stated in Hadith No. 2 above, the Prophet prohibited performing of every type of prayer at the following three times:

1)            When the sun is rising till it rises.

2)            When the sun is at its Zenith (at climax) till it begins to decline.

3)            When the sun is setting till it sets.

         No prayer (may it be obligatory or optional or additional) must be performed at the above three times. However, if one starts performing Fajr prayer and completes one raka'ah of it before sun starts rising, it may be completed even if sun is rising. Similarly, if one starts praying Asr before sunset and finds its one Raka’ah, one must complete this prayer even if sun is setting. Moreover if one forgets or sleeps and thus fails to offer any obligatory prayer in its right time, he can offer it on these times when he remembers or wakes up from sleep.

         According to some jurists, funeral prayer can be offered if dead body is brought at these forbidden times because it cannot be delayed.

         It is undesirable, though not forbidden, to offer Nafl (Voluntary) prayer at the following times:

1)            After the Fajr prayer till the sun has risen.

2)            After the Asr prayer and before the Maghrib prayer.

3)            When the Imam has risen from his seat to deliver Khutbah of Eid or Friday Prayer.

4)            When a Fard (compulsory) congregational prayer is about to begin.

         It is also undesirable, though not forbidden, to offer a prayer when one is feeling need of passing urine or stool or releasing wind or when one is extremely hungry and food is ready.

Determination of prayer times at various places

         In the countries or places where the night and day consists of 24 hours, prayer times will be determined in accordance with the above mentioned rules even if day is longer or night is longer. But where due to short duration of night and day than 24 hours or due to any other reason it is difficult to distinguish between times of Zuhr and Asr Prayers or between Maghrib and Isha Prayers, the two prayers in each case be combined and offered together.

         However in those countries or places where a day and night exceeds 24 hours, prayer times will be fixed according to watch taking the times of prayers as applicable at Makah and Madinah. But where the duration of a day or a night is extraordinarily longer than 24 hours as of 6 months at poles, there the times of five daily prayers will be determined supposing each duration of 24 hours as one day and night.

II – Raka’ahs or Units of Prayers

         Each prayer comprises certain number of fixed Raka’ahs. A Rakat is a single unit comprising standing, bowing, prostrations and sitting. Some of these Raka’ahs (units) are Fard (Compulsory), some are Sunat (usually offered by the Prophet in addition to Fard Raka’ahs), and some are Nafl (recommended by the Prophet as optional). Now we briefly present the Raka’ahs (Units) of the five daily prayers as follows:

1- Fajr Prayer: Sunat Muakkadah (Strongly recommended) 2 + Fard 2 = Total 4.

         The sunat Raka’ahs of Fajr have been strongly emphasized to be performed. These according to the Prophet, are better than the world and everything therein (Muslim, Ahmad). According to Hadhrat Ayesha the Prophet observed such regularity in offering them as he never observed in the offering of any other voluntary Raka’at.

2- Zuhr Prayer: Sunat Muakkadah 4 + Fard 4 + Sunat Muakkadah 2 + Nafl 2 = Total 12.

         According to Ahadith, Sunat Muakaddah of this prayer must be offered by every believer as they carry a lot of merit. According to Hadhrat Umme Habibah, the Prophet said that whoever offers Sunat Raka’ahs of Zuhr prayer regularly, Allah forbade fire to touch his flesh (Ahmad, Tirmizi, Abu Daud).

3- Asr Prayer: Fard 4. However some people offer four Sunat Raka’at before Fard Raka’ahs. According to Abdullah bin Umar, the Prophet said: Allah may show His mercy to the believer who offers these four Raka’ahs before Fard Raka’ah of Asr. According to Ali, the Prophet used to offer 4 or 2 Raka’ah before Asr prayer.

4- Maghrib Prayer: Fard 3 + Sunat Muakkadah 2 + Nafl 2 = Total 7. Some people offer two Raka’at Nafl before Fard Raka’at. Two sunat Raka’at of this prayer are also strongly recommended and so they carry a lot of merit.

5- Isha Prayer: Sunat 4 + Fard 4 + Sunat Muakkadah 2 + Nafl 2 = Total 12. Then Witr Prayer of 3 Raka’at is followed by Nafl Raka’at 2. About Witr prayer which is an independent prayer, we would write later on.

         Ibn Umar reported that Allah’s messenger said: Make Witr as the last prayer of your night prayer. – (Mishkat)

Importance of Sunat and Nafl Raka’ahs

         If we analyse the Raka’ahs as stated above of the five daily prayers, the following situation emerges:

         Fard Raka’at of these prayers are 2+4+4+3+4 = Total 17. These are to be offered in any case. If you offer them, you discharge your obligation regarding observance of Five Daily Prayers.

         Sunat Muakkadah of these prayers are 2+6+2+2=12. These Raka’ahs carry lot of rewards and have been strongly stressed by the Prophet. Hadhrat Umme Habibah reported that the Prophet said: Whoso offers these twelve Raka’at, Allah builds a house for him in Paradise (Muslim, Tirmizi).

         The Sunat and Nafl Raka’ahs together are called voluntary or supererogatory prayers. Following are the merits as well as rules of these prayers:

1)            It is better to offer them at one’s house since Allah bestows His blessings on it. The Prophet is reported to have said: Offer Sunat and Nawafil in your houses and do not make them graves.

2)            Six Raka’at Nawafil (also called salatul awwabeen)may be offered after Maghrib prayer (but before Isha). According to Ammar bin Yasir, the Prophet said: Whoever offers these six Raka’at after Maghrib, Allah remits all his sins although they may be equal to the foam in the sea (Tibrani).

3)            Prophet Muhammad said to a companion who desired prophet’s company in the Hereafter: “Then help me by increasing your number of prostrations”. It means he should increase his Nawafil.

4)            Voluntary prayers increase your virtuous deeds and elevate your status with God. According to the Prophet, voluntary prayers make up for the shortcomings in the compulsory prayers. In case of some shortcoming in the prayer of a believer, Allah would ask the angels on Day of Judgment: Has this man got some supererogatory prayer? If he has, make up the deficiency by it.

            Therefore, a believer must perform these voluntary Raka’ahs of all the Prayers as well as the other Nafl prayers.


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