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The Five Daily Prayer Times

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

An explanation on the entrance and exit times of each of the daily salāt, the best times to pray them, and the wisdom behind these prayer times.

The Timings and The Wisdom Behind Them:

1. Ṣalāh al-Ẓuhr
2. Ṣalāh al-ʿAṣr
3. Ṣalāh al-Maghrib
4. Ṣalāh al-ʿIshāʾ
5. Ṣalāh al-Fajr
6. The Wisdom in the Prayer Timings


Ṣalāh al-Ẓuhr

The Start and End Time for Ṣalāh al-Ẓuhr

Al-Ḥajjawī said: “The time of Ẓuhr begins from the sun inclining away from its zenith.”

We begin the discussion of the timings of the prayers with the elucidation of the time for Ẓuhr. This is because Jibrīl began with it when he led the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in prayer.1 Also, because Allāh started with it when mentioning the timings of the prayers, He said:

أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ

“Perform al-ṣalāh (iqamat al-ṣalat) from mid-day.”
(Al-Isrāʾ, 17:78)

As it is the first of the daytime prayers occuring mid-day. Also, in beginning with it we are able to actualise Ṣalāh al-ʿAṣr being the middle ṣalāh [of the daytime prayers] numerically. Anyway, there is ease in addressing this subject regardless of whether we begin with Ẓuhr or Fajr, the most important aspect is that we are aware of the prayer timings.

Concerning his saying: “Its time extends until the afternoon shadow equals the actual size of an object, after the appearance of the afternoon shadow cast by the sun’s inclination from its zenith”: As the sun rises, the shadow cast by a sundial is in the westerly direction. The size of this shadow continually decreases as the sun continues to rise until it can no longer shrink. If, after reaching this point, the shadow then starts to increase—even by a hair—then this is referred to as afternoon. With it, the time of Ẓuhr begins.

In his saying: “After the appearance of the afternoon shadow”: That is, the shadow cast before the sun reaches its zenith does not count. Currently2, when the sun begins to incline towards the south there will undoubtedly be a shadow that is cast by the sundial in the northerly direction. This shadow has no meaning as far the ṣalāh is concerned. When the shadow begins to increase in size [after continually decreasing from sunrise], then this is the point where we should place a mark. Then, as the shadow continues to increase, eventually it will reach a point when the shadow is equal to the height of the sundial itself—this is the conclusion of the Ẓuhr period, and the beginning of the time for ʿAṣr. There is no difference between a large or small sundial. However, it is easier and more apparent to discern the shrinking and increasing of a shadow when it is larger.

As for determining the specific time of the beginning of afternoon by calculation of hours: Divide the time between sunrise and sunset into two halves. The time in the middle will be the beginning of the afternoon. For example, if sunrise is at six o’clock in the morning and sunset is at six o’clock in the evening, then afternoon will begin precisely at twelve o’clock.

Performing Ẓuhr at the Start of Its Prescribed Time

Al-Ḥajjawī said: “Praying it at its earliest time is better”, this is due to the following:

  1. The saying of the Most High:

    فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ

    “So hasten towards all that is good.”
    (Al-Baqarah, 2:148)

    That is, quicken your pace towards it. Ṣalāh is undoubtedly among the goodness being referred to here. Hastening towards it means to engage in it as soon as possible.

  2. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) encouraged establishing the ṣalāh at the very start of its time when Ibn Masʿūd (رضي الله عنه) asked him: “What action is most beloved to Allāh?”, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) replied: “Praying ṣalāh at its appointed time.”3 That is, as soon as its time arrives.Some of the scholars have also said: The meaning of ‘at its appointed time’ is praying the ṣalāh at the time wherein it is appropriate according to Islamic legislation regardless of whether it is performed at the beginning of its time or
    at the end. This statement is true. Although it is best to perform all prayers at the start of their respective times, unless there is evidence that proves that delaying it is better.
  3. This is more expeditious in fulfilment of one’s responsibility and obligation. For people do not know what may occur to them. One may be, at the start of the time for prayer, active and able-bodied, fully capable of performing acts of worship with ease. Then, he may become afflicted with sickness to where performing ṣalāh is rendered difficult. Or he may die. So praying at the start of the appointed time is more rapid in fulfilment of one’s duty. That which is quicker and more expeditious is more appropriate.

Hence, the blessings associated with praying at the start of the appointed time has been satisfactorily established—both from the passages (of the Qurʾān and Sunnah) as well as intellectually.

Performing Ẓuhr During Times of Extreme Heat

Al-Ḥajjawī said: “Except in extreme heat”. In extreme heat, it is better to delay the performance of the ṣalāh until the severity of the heat dissipates. This has been confirmed from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in his saying: “Should the heat become severe, then seek a cooler time for prayer. For, indeed, the severity of heat is from the diffused breath of Jahannam.”4 Also, because when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was travelling and the muʾadhin wanted to call the adhān, he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said to him: “Seek a cooler time.” Then, again, he went to perform the call and he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said again: “Seek a cooler time.” Then, again, he went to perform the call and he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Seek a cooler time.” He then called the adhān when the afternoon shadow was nearly equal to the size of the hills.5 That is, close to the time of Aṣr.

Some scholars also say: It should be delayed until a time when objects have a shadow that is sufficient to take shelter within. However, such a measure is not sufficiently distinctive. This is because a tall building would produce a shadow that is quite sufficient to take shelter under in a short time. And vice versa for shorter structures. Considering this, when will the people actually have sufficient shadow cover that would facilitate them walking within its confines?

The most correct opinion in this issue is that the people may delay its performance until close to the time of ʿAṣr. This would be considered the correct implementation of a cooler time being sought. As for the practice of waiting half an hour to an hour after the afternoon starts to pray, claiming: This represents the implementation of seeking a cooler time. In actuality, this is not seeking a cooler time! Rather, it is seeking a more severe and hot time as it is well-known that it is hottest about an hour after the sun begins its decline.

For example, if the sun begins its descent from its zenith in the summertime at twelve o’clock, and ʿAṣr is close to half past four, then seeking a cooler time is enacted by praying around four o’clock.

Delaying Ẓuhr in Extreme Heat For the One Praying By Himself

Al-Ḥajjawī said: “Even if one is praying by himself”. This point is highlighted due to the difference of opinion on this issue. As some scholars have said: Seeking a cooler time applies only to those praying in congregation. Others elaborate further saying: It only applies to a person whose dwelling is far to where he is harmed by travelling to perform the ṣalāh.

However, this represents a means of putting confines on that which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) stated in an encompassing fashion in his saying: “Should the heat become severe, then seek a cooler time for prayer.” This statement applies to everyone. As such, it is outside of our jurisdiction to restrict and confine that which the Legislator has allowed to be stated with generality. Furthermore, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) never elucidated the reason for this delay as being related to hardship or difficulties experienced by the one travelling to perform the ṣalāh. Rather, he merely said concerning it: “For, indeed, the severity of heat is from the diffused breath of Jahannam.” This applies to the one who prays in congregation, just as it applies to the one who prays by himself. This is also inclusive of women such they should also seek a cooler time and delay performing Ẓuhr during times of extreme heat.

Delaying Ẓuhr Due to Impending Inclement Weather

Al-Ḥajjawī said: “Or in the presence of cloudy overcast for the one who is praying in congregation.” That is, it is Sunnah to delay performing Ẓuhr in the circumstance of overcast skies for the one who prays in congregation—referring here to the congregation in the mosque. The reasoning for this is that it represents compassionate treatment of people such that they are able to pray Ẓuhr and ʿAṣr in a single outing. This is because, in the majority of cases, the presence of overcast indicates that rain is imminent. Considering this, it is inappropriate for us to inflict hardship on the people. Instead, we should wait and delay performing Ẓuhr until when ʿAṣr time approaches, the people may leave their houses a single time in which they pray Ẓuhr and ʿAṣr. This is the view of the composer and his reasoning.

However, this reasoning is flawed in two ways:

  1. It is contrary to the general evidence that proves the blessings associated with performing ṣalāh at the start of the time.
  2. There may be extensive cloud cover, the sky fully darkened as a result of it, without rain [or impending inclement weather].6

Therefore, the correct opinion is that this circumstance is not considered a valid exception. Rather, Ṣalāh al-Ẓuhr should be performed at the start of its time except in extreme heat. Any circumstance besides this, it is considered Sunnah to pray it as the start of its appointed time.7

Ṣalāh al-ʿAṣr

The Time for ʿAṣr in Relation to Ẓuhr

Immediately following the conclusion of the time for Ẓuhr is the entrance of ʿAṣr time. That is, there exists no middle period of time that divides the two. For if such a middle period existed, the two timings would not be considered consecutive. Also, there is no period of time that is shared between the two ṣalāhs. For if a period of time existed that was shared between the two, the time for ʿAṣr would start before the expiration of the time for Ẓuhr. Both of these opinions have been postulated by some of the scholars. They say: There is a middle period of time that divides the time of Ẓuhr from the time of ʿAṣr, although it is short. While others say: There is a period of time that is shared between the two, the length of which is equal to the time taken to perform four rakʿahs between Ẓuhr and ʿAṣr.

The correct opinion in this matter is that there is no shared period of time between them, nor are they divided from one another by a middle time. Rather, if the time for Ẓuhr expires, the time for ʿAṣr has begun.

The Start of ʿAṣr Time

The conclusion of the time for Ẓuhr and the beginning of ʿAṣr time is when the shadow of the sundial becomes equal to its height. Then, when the shadow of the sundial is equal to twice its height, the time for ʿAṣr has expired. Thus, the time for Ẓuhr begins from the appearance of the afternoon shadow and extends until the shadow cast by the sundial is equal to its height. ʿAṣr time extends [from that time] until the shadow cast is twice the sundial’s size.

Comparing the Duration of Time for the Performance of Ẓuhr with That of ʿAṣr

Considering this, the duration of time for the performance of Ẓuhr is much longer than for ʿAṣr. This is because shadow progression towards the end of the day occurs more rapidly—as the sun approaches sunset the shadows cast by it progress quicker. The difference between these two timings is close to a third. The duration of time for the performance of Ẓuhr is long when compared to the optional time for the performance of ʿAṣr. However, in extenuating circumstances, ʿAṣr time may be extended until sunset. In this way, its duration may also be considered long.

Let us examine this matter using the modern-day Western timings, where timings for the ṣalāhs on the longest day of the year are as follows: The adhān for Ẓuhr is called at 1.20 pm, and the adhān for ʿAṣr is sounded at 5:40 pm. The difference between these two times is nearly three and half hours. Then, from 5:40 pm until sunset is another three hours and twenty-five minutes. Herego, the duration of time for Ẓuhr is longer than ʿAṣr even if we were to supplement the ʿAṣr duration with its extenuating period [i.e. until sunset].8

Extending the Time for the ʿAṣr Prayer Until the Entrance of Maghrib in Extenuating Circumstances

The extenuation period in which ʿAṣr may be performed is until sunset. That is, in extenuating circumstances, its time may be extended until sunset. The evidence that supports specifying its optional time as being from the time the shadow of an object is equal to its height [and extending until the shadow itstwice the size of an object] is the long ḥadīth of Jābir (رضي الله عنه) in which he relates the story of Jibrīl.9

However, the correct stance in this issue is derived from the ḥadīth of ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ (رضي الله عنه) who narrated that the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “The time for ʿAṣr remains as long as the sun has not yellowed.”10 That is, as long the sun does not appear yellow. The time in which this occurs is usually after the time when the shadow of an object is equal to twice its height. This increase in duration is acceptable, as this ḥadīth is in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim and is among the statements made by the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم).

We can answer the ḥadīth of Jibrīl by saying that he started leading the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in ʿAṣr prayer when the shadow of every object was equal to twice its size. By the time he had concluded the prayer, the sun would have yellowed. This is especially true for the days of winter wherein the time for ʿAṣr is brief.

Also, regardless of whether this commensuration between both pieces of evidence is correct or incorrect, we are still obligated to adopt the increase in duration that has been related here. This is because adopting the extended duration represents incorporation of both the deficient and extended times. Comparatively, adoption of the shorter duration represents invalidation of the extended one. Considering this, we say: The [optional] time for ʿAsr extends until the yellowing of the sun.

As for its time being extended until sunset [in extenuating circumstances], its evidence is the saying of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم): “Whoever performs a rakʿah of ʿAṣr before the sun has set, has attained ʿAṣr time.”11 This passage explicitly proves that its time may be extended until sunset. However, we interpret this as referring to extenuating circumstances only. This interpretation is meant as a way of commensurating between this ḥadīth and the other narrations that specify its time as being extended until the yellowing of the sun.

[Q]: Why do we not adopt this ḥadīth only? It represents an extension in the duration related in the ḥadīth of ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ (رضي الله عنه) and other, similar narrations. Extensions should always be adopted because they incorporate any durations that are shorter, while the opposite is untrue.

[A]: The Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) set the timing for ṣalāh al-ʿAṣr in the hadīth of Abdullāh ibn ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ (رضي الله عنه) saying: “as long as the sun has not yellowed.” So we commensurate between the two ḥadīths by saying “as long as the sun has not yellowed” refers to the optional period and “before the sun has set” as referring to extenuating circumstances.

[Q]: What is the meaning of a period for extenuating circumstances?

[A]: Any extenuating situation in which a person is compelled to delay its performance later than its optional time. For example, a person delays ʿAṣr due to his engagement in an incumbent activity that could only be done at that time. Like if he suffered an injury and is subsequently occupied with bandaging and splinting the wound. He may have been able to pray before the yellowing of the sun, although with difficulty. Thus, if he delays its performance and prays just before Maghrib, then he has prayed within the time and is not sinful. This is because this is the period of extenuating circumstances. So, if a person is compelled due to an emergency situation to delay his ṣalāh to this extenuating period, then there is nothing wrong with this. His performance of the ṣalāh at this time will be considered, with regards to him, Adāʾ [valid performance rather Qaḍāʾ or delayed performance].

Praying ʿAṣr at the Start of its Time

It is sunnah to perform it as soon as possible at the beginning of its time. This is due to the following:

  1. General pieces of evidence that encourage immediacy in engagement with all acts of righteousness. For example, the saying of the Most High:

    فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ

    “So hasten towards all that is good.”
    (Al-Baqarah, 2:148)

  2. Praying any ṣalāh at the start of its respective time is better as confirmed [in the Sunnah].12
  3. It has been confirmed on the authority of Abū Barzah al-Aslamī (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to pray ʿAṣr while the sun was still high. To the extent that they would return to their homes afterwards in the far reaches of Madīnah and the sun was still clear, white, its rays scorching in heat.13 14 15

Ṣalāh al-Maghrib

After the [extenuating] time of ʿAṣr, without any middle or shared period of time, is the time of Maghrib, which begins from sunset and extends until the disappearance of redness. Our saying “disappearance of redness” means the disappearance of the redness in the sky. If this redness completely disappears, then the time for Maghrib has concluded and the time for ʿIshāʾ has begun. This period of time differs in accordance with seasons—sometimes it is prolonged and other times it is reduced. However, it is known by observation. Whenever one is able to see the complete disappearance of redness in the horizon, this is evidence that Maghrib has expired. This time will vary between an hour and fifteen minutes up to an hour and thirty-three minutes after sunset.16

It is considered sunnah to pray Maghrib as soon as possible because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to pray it as soon as the sun had set.17 That is, he used to pray it as soon as its time had arrived. This immediacy does not mean that its iqāmah should be called immediately following the adhān. This is because he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Pray before Maghrib (i.e. sunnah)” thrice and upon saying it the third time, he said: “For the one who wills.”18 Also, when the adhān for Maghrib was called, the companions (رضي الله عنهم) would stand and pray. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saw them doing so and did not forbid them.19 This proves that the meaning of immediacy in this context is that a person endeavours to pray the ṣālāh as soon as the time arrives but delays the actual performance of the prayer by the amount of time required for one to perform wuḍūʾ and pray two rakʿāhs.

The exception to the sunnah of immediacy with regards to Maghrib is the night of Jamʿ [for the pilgrims] which is among the names of Muzdalifah. It was named Jamʿ [to gather in Arabic] due to it being the place of gathering for the pilgrims on the night of ʿĪd, as the people of Quraysh used to do. As for ʿArafah, the people never used to gather there in the pre-Islamic era, but they would stop in Muzdalifah. This applies to the one who intends to go to Muzdalifah as a pilgrim, in a state of iḥrām. That is, the pilgrim who leaves ʿArafah [to go to Muzdalifah] should not pray Maghrib in ʿArafah before leaving, nor should he pray while on the way to Muzdalifah. He should delay the prayer until he arrives in Muzdalifah. The evidence of this is that when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), while travelling to Muzdalifah, stopped and urinated in a place called ‘al-Shiʿb’, Usāmah ibn Zayd (رضي الله عنه)—who was riding behind him on his mount—said to him: “Al-Ṣalāh O Messenger of Allāh!” He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) replied: “Al-Ṣalāh is in front of us”20, and he did not pray. Instead, he delayed its performance until he arrived in Muzdalifah.

[Q]: If I am delayed while on the way and I fear that the time for ʿIshāʾ21 will expire, what should I do?

[A]: If one fears that the time for that ṣalāh will expire, it is obligatory to stop travelling and pray. If he is unable to stop, then he should pray even while on his mode of transport.22

Ṣalāh al-ʿIshāʾ

The First and Second Breaking of the Dawn

After the conclusion of the time for Ṣalāh al-Maghrib is the time for ʿIshāʾ. Its time, according to the composer [al-Ḥajjawī], extends until the the second breaking of the dawn, that takes the form of a traversing white [in the sky]. According to this opinion, the period for the performance of Ṣalāh al-ʿIshāʾ is the longest, relative to any other prayer. This is because its time period extends from the conclusion of Maghrib time until the second breaking of the dawn.

The second breaking of the dawn has been interpreted by the composer in his saying “the appearance of a traversing white colour” that is in the horizon extending from north to south.

Also, in his saying “until the second breaking of the dawn”, there is an indication that there is another dawn that precedes it. This is the case, as the first dawn appears before the second by approximately half an hour, or three quarters of an hour, or around this duration. The scholars have mentioned that there are three differences between it and the second dawn:

  1. The first dawn stretches forth from east to west, while the second one extends from north to south.
  2. The first dawn is followed closely by darkness. That is, the light associated with it is only seen for a very short time before the return of darkness. While there is no darkness after the second dawn. Rather, it only increases in light and illumination once it appears.
  3. The second dawn appears in attachment to the horizon—there is no dark area that separates it from the line of the horizon. The first dawn appears separated from the horizon by darkness.

Also, the first dawn never acts as an indication for any Islamically legislated rulings. It does not signify the beginning of one’s fast, nor the time for the Ṣalāh al-Fajr. Rather, all these rulings are issued in association with the second dawn.

The Start and End of ʿIshāʾ Time

The evidence for the beginning of ʿIshāʾ time is the ḥadīth of ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAmr ibn al-ʿAṣ23 (رضي الله عنه) and the ḥadīth of Jibrīl24. Both ḥadīths prove that the time for Ṣalāh al-ʿIshāʾ begins from the disappearance of the evening glow.

The evidence that the conclusion of its time occurs at [the second dawn] is his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saying: “There is no neglect in sleep. Rather, neglect applies to the one who delays the ṣalāh until the time for the next ṣalāh arrives.”25 In consideration of this, they say: This is evidence that the time periods of the ṣalāhs are consecutive—occurring one after another with no middle period. Based on this, the time for ʿIshāʾ should extend until the time for Fajr [as it is the ṣalāh performed after it].

However, there is no evidence to support this stance. This is because his (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saying: “Rather, neglect applies to the one who delays the ṣalāh until the time for the next ṣalāh arrives”, that is: for those ṣalāhs whose timings occur consecutively. For example, this ḥadīth does not apply to the relationship in timings between Ṣalāh al-Fajr and Ẓuhr according to scholarly consensus. This is because, according to scholarly consensus, the time for Ṣalāh al-Fajr does not extend until the time of Ẓuhr. So, if this ḥadīth does not represent a valid form of evidence, we must return to the other pieces of evidence that pertain to this issue. The other pieces of evidence do not prove that ʿIshāʾ time extends until the breaking of the dawn. Rather, the ḥadīths of ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ (رضي الله عنه) and the ḥadīth of Jibrīl together prove that the time for ʿIshāʾ extends until midnight.

This is evidenced in the Sunnah. In addition, it is also most apparent from the Qurʾān. As Allāh—the Exalted in Might—said in the Qurʾān:

أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ إِلَىٰ غَسَقِ اللَّيْلِ وَقُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِكَانَ مَشْهُودًا

“Perform al-ṣalāh (Iqāmat-al-ṣalāh) from mid-day till the darkness of the night (i.e. the Ẓuhr, ʿAṣr, Maghrib, and ʿIshāʾ prayers), and recite the Qurʾān in the early dawn (i.e. the morning prayer). Verily, the recitation of the Qurʾān in the early dawn is ever witnessed (attended by the angels in charge of mankind of the day and the night).”
(Al-Isrāʾ, 17:78)

“From mid-day” that is, because of mid-day. The letter ‘ل’ is used here to denote that entering of each respective time stipulates the obligation of performing that ṣalāh. Time, here, is a reason for its occurrence. For this reason, the jurists have said: ‘Time acts as an indication that stipulates the obligation of performing ṣalāh, just as praying within the appropriate time is a prerequisite for the soundness and correctness of the ṣalāh itself.

“Darkness of the night” here refers to the middle of the night. This is because that is the time wherein the darkness of the night is most severe and intense—as the sun is in the middle of the horizon on the other side of the earth.

Therefore, from mid-day or more specifically the time in which the sun begins its inclination from its zenith until midnight is referred to as a single period of time by Allāh [in the verse]. The reason for this is that the timings of the prayers performed during this period are all consecutive, occurring one after the other with no middle period. That is, Ẓuhr is immediately followed by ʿAṣr, then immediately Maghrib, then immediately ʿIshāʾ. Herego, what occurs after the latest prayer [here ʿIshāʾ] which is the end limit of the period being addressed should be considered external [i.e., Fajr]. It is because of this that, in the verse, a separation is present in His saying “and recite the Qurʾān in the early dawn (i.e. the morning prayer)”. This separation denotes Fajr as an individual prayer [whose time is disconnected from the others]. Thus, this verse proves that the five daily prayers consist of four whose timings are consecutive [Ẓuhr to ʿIshāʾ] and one that is separate [Fajr]. In consideration of this fact, the correct stance in this issue is that the time for ʿIshāʾ extends until the mid-night.

[Q]: What is meant by ‘mid-night’ here? Is it measured from the time of sunset until sunrise? Or is it from sunset until Fajr time?

[A]: Linguistically, both periods mentioned are referred to as night. In al-Qāmūs, the writer defines the word ‘night’ saying: “From sunset until the appearance of true [or second] dawn or sunrise.”

From a judicial standpoint, it is most apparent that the night ends with the breaking of the dawn. Based on this, we say: The night that is halved for the purpose of determining Ṣalāh al-ʿIshāʾ should be measured from the time of sunset until the breaking of the dawn. Half of this period represents the conclusion of the time for ʿIshāʾ. After midnight [as defined here] is not a period for the performance of any obligatory prayers. Rather, it is only for the performance of supererogatory prayers and tahajjud.

The Best Time For the Performance of ʿIshāʾ

If feasible, delaying the performance of ʿIshāʾ until a third of the night has elapsed is better. If there is difficulty in delaying its performance, then it may be expedited by performing it at the start of its time. The evidence of this is the ḥadīth of Abū Barzah al-Aslamī (رضي الله عنه): “The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to favour the delaying of ʿIshāʾ”26 Also, the ḥadīth of Jābir (رضي الله عنه): “If he saw them [the companions] gather, he would expedite its performance. If he saw them slowing their movement, he would delay it.” It also has been authentically narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) delayed its performance one night until a sizable proportion of the night had elapsed. To the extent that ʿUmar (رضي الله عنه) stood and said: “O Messenger of Allāh! The woman and children have fallen asleep.” He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) then came out, his hair dripping with water, saying: “Indeed, it is its proper time. Except I desire not to cause difficulty for my ummah.”27 These are all clear proofs that delaying its performance until a third of the night has elapsed is better with the provision that there is ease. If one intends to lead a people, then it is better for him to pay due care and attention to their circumstances. If they are able to gather at the start of the time, then pray at that time. If they are able to delay, then delay its performance. As narrated in the aforementioned ḥadīth of Jābir (رضي الله عنه). Otherwise, if the congregation consists of people that are not concerned or distressed by expediting the performance of the ṣalāh or delaying it, then it is better to delay its performance. This is also inclusive of the womenfolk who pray in their homes. It is better for them to delay its performance if they are able to do so.

[Q]: Is it better for one to prioritise delaying the performance of ʿIshāʾ or praying it with the congregation?

[A]: Praying with the congregation is better because praying in congregation is obligatory. As for delaying its performance, this is recommended and there is no comparison between that which is obligatory and recommended.

Also, it is most apparent from the words of the composer [al-Ḥajjawī] that delaying the performance of ʿIshāʾ until after midnight is permissible as he has not explicitly referred to it as an extenuation period. However, others have stated that after mid-night is considered an extenuating time period. That is, it is impermissible for one to perform ʿIshāʾ after midnight except in extenuating circumstances. As aforementioned, the correct position in this issue is that ʿIshāʾ time ends at the midpoint of the night.28

Ṣalāh al-Fajr

The Time Span of Fajr Relative to Maghrib (Sunrise and Sunset)

The time of Fajr begins from the second breaking of the dawn until sunrise. The span of this period will differ according to the season. In some seasons, it will be an hour and a half and in others it will be an hour and fifteen minutes29, just as the time period for Maghrib differs according to season. Shaykh al-Islām (Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله) said: “Whoever thinks that the time span for Fajr is the same as the time span for Maghrib is mistaken, absolutely incorrect.” That is, some people think the span of time from the break of dawn until sunrise is always an hour and a half. Just as they also surmise the span between sunset and the complete disappearance of the evening glow to be an hour and a half, regardless of whether it is winter or summer. Shaykh al-Islām says: This is a mistake, completely incorrect, as the time span between the break of dawn and sunrise in the winter season is prolonged due to the ascending water vapour which then causes the rays of the sun to be reflected earlier, prolonging the time span for Fajr. While the opposite occurs in the summer. Also, if the time span for Fajr is prolonged, the period for Maghrib will shorten and vice versa. In any case, these are the meteorological manifestations that allow us to be acquainted with the reality of what has already been postulated by Shaykh al-Islām (رحمه الله).

The Start and Conclusion of Fajr Time

If one was to base their actions completely on observation, in the absence of clocks, for example if you are in an empty, desolate place devoid of lights or dust that prevent your vision, then observing whiteness in the sky extending from north to south indicates the breaking of the dawn and that the time for ṣalāh has begun. Before this whiteness is plainly evident, do not pray Fajr.

As for the conclusion of the time occurring at sunrise, the evidence of this is the ḥadīth of ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ (رضي الله عنه) as narrated by Muslim and others.30

After sunrise until the sun’s inclination from its zenith is a time that is completely devoid of any obligatory prayer. Likewise, there is no obligatory prayer that is performed from the middle of the night [halfway between Maghrib and Fajr] midnight until the breaking of the dawn, according to the correct opinion.31

The Best Time to Pray Fajr

Praying Ṣalāh al-Fajr as soon as possible, at the very start of its time, is better. The evidence of this is the following:

  1. From the Qurʾān, the saying of the Most High:

    فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ

    “So hasten towards all that is good.”
    (Al-Baqarah, 2:148)

    وَسَارِعُوا إِلَىٰ مَغْفِرَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ

    “And march forth in the way (which leads to) forgiveness from your Lord.”
    (Āli-Imrān, 3:133)

    سَابِقُوا إِلَىٰ مَغْفِرَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ

    “Race one with another in hastening towards Forgiveness from your Lord (Allāh).”
    (Al-Ḥadīd, 57:21)

    These verses are actualised by performing acts of obedience as soon as possible.

  2. From the Sunnah: The Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) used to pray Fajr while the darkness of the latter part of the night was still present32, and would finish praying it and leave his place of prayer when a man would be able to recognise his sitting companion. He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would recite in it between sixty to one hundred verses.33 The recitation of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was slow and measured, he would stop at every verse, just as his rukūʿ and ujūd and the rest of the actions of the ṣalāh were all measured. This proves that he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would pray Fajr at its earliest time.
  3. Examining the issue logically: Praying at the start of the time is better. This is because a person is ignorant of what will occur to him in the future. The time may begin while one is in a state of health, free of any afflictions, fulfilling all of the prerequisites of ṣalāh, then he is subjected to that which prevents him from its performance, or prevents him from performing it with excellence due to him being afflicted with a sickness for example. Death may also reach him, or he may be physically unable to pray or other than this. So logically he should pray it as soon as its time begins.

As for those who have adopted the opinion that Fajr should be delayed, they evidence this view with the ḥadīth: “Seek the glow or shine of dawn when praying Fajr, for it is greater in your attainment of reward.”34 This ḥadīth—if authentic—should be interpreted to mean: do not be hasty in praying it, rather wait until the glow of dawn is plainly evident, and its appearance is fully confirmed. In this way, we are able to commensurate between the guidance of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in his practice which he would never abandon of performing Fajr while the darkness of the latter part of the night was still present, and the contents of this ḥadīth.35

The Wisdom in the Prayer Timings

[Q]: What is the wisdom behind specifying particular times for performing ṣalāh?

[A]: As for Fajr, the appearance of dawn following the complete and absolute darkness of the night is from among the signs of Allāh—the Exalted in Might—for which He is deserving of gratitude, His greatness fully recognised in relation to. For following the pitch-black, encompassing, darkness of the night with this brilliant, shining, radiance is a feat that could only be accomplished by Allāh. As the Most High says:

قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِن جَعَلَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمُ اللَّيْلَ سَرْمَدًا إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ مَنْ إِلَٰهٌ غَيْرُ اللَّهِ يَأْتِيكُم بِضِيَاءٍ

“Say (O Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم): “Tell me! If Allāh made night continuous for you till the Day of Resurrection, who is an ilāh (a god) besides Allāh who could bring you light?”
(Al-Qaṣaṣ, 28:71)

As for Ẓuhr, the movement of the sun from the east to the west represents another of Allāh’s—the Exalted in Might—signs. For there is no being that is able to bring the sun from this direction to the other save for Allāh—the Exalted in Might.36

As for ʿAṣr, the wisdom in the specification of its time is inapparent to us. Although we fully recognise and acknowledge the fact that there is profound, meaningful, and perfect wisdom in it.37

As for Maghrib, the wisdom in its time is like the wisdom in the time for Ṣalāh al-Fajr. This is that the night is from among the greatest signs of Allāh—the Exalted in Might—for which He is deserving of gratitude, His greatness fully recognised. Similarly, we likewise say with regards to ʿIshāʾ: As the disappearance of the evening glow, and the complete dissolution of the effects of sunlight is also from Allāh’s great signs that prove His completely encompassing ability and wisdom.

Endnotes:
[1] Authentic: narrated by Abū Dāwūd: 393 and al-Tirmidhī: 149. Graded authentic by al-Nawawī in al-Majmūʿ 3:23.
[2] Translator note: Presumably, the current season as this would result in variation in the lengths of the shadows cast by the sundial.
[3] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 527 and Muslim: 85.
[4] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 536 and Muslim: 615.
[5] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 629 and Muslim: 616.
[6] See: The Islamic Legislation Concerning Joining Prayers Due to Hardship.
[7] Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 2:100-106.
[8] Translator note: The times mentioned here have been substituted for the prayer times typical of the northern hemisphere in summer. Despite this, the point being made still stands.
[9] Authentic: narrated by al-Tirmidhī: 149. Of relevance to the current discussion is the statement in this ḥadīth: “Jibrīl led me in prayer next to the House [of Allāh] twice…Then, he [Jibrīl] prayed ʿAṣr when the shadow of every object was equal to its size…Then he [Jibrīl] prayed ʿAṣr when the shadow of every object was equal to twice its size.” The two timings mentioned here are meant to denote the start and end time of each ṣalāh. Graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī. See Sunan al-Tirmidhī edited by Aḥmad Shākir.
[10] Authentic: narrated by Muslim: 612.
[11] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 579 and Muslim: 608.
[12] Referencing the ḥadīth of Umm Farwah (رضي الله عنها) who said: “Which action is most beloved to Allāh?” He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) replied: “ṣalāh at the start of its time.” Narrated by Abū Dāwūd: 426 and graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī. See Sunan Abī Dāwūd edited by Muhyī al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Hamīd. 
[13] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 547 and Muslim: 647.
[14]Regarding the actions of some masājid, may Allāh guide them, of delaying ʿAṣr intentionally:
Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn was asked:
[Q]: I am a young man who lives in Yemen. My city performs all the prayers at their appropriate times except for ʿAṣr. They pray approximately an hour after the surrounding cities. Is this permissible or not?
[A]: It is obligatory for you to perform all the prayers at their proper times. It was authentically narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said that the time for ʿAṣr is until the yellowing of the sun. Thus, it is impermissible for you to delay the praying of ʿAṣr until the yellowing of the sun except due to a valid excuse. If you have a valid excuse, then you would have prayed it as long as you pray a rakʿah of it before sunset. Considering this, these people should watch the sun and as long as they pray it before the yellowing of the sun, there is nothing wrong with that as they would have prayed it within its time. If they delay it until the sun has yellowed, then this is ḥarām for them.
See Fatāwá Nur ʿalá al-Darb 5:2
Shaykh Bin Bāz was also asked concerning a person who delays ʿAṣr until the yellowing of the sun due to sleep. He said:
[A]: Your ṣalāh is correct but you must repent to Allāh. This is because it is impermissible to delay praying ʿAṣr until the yellowing of the sun. You must perform ʿAṣr before the yellowing of the sun..
See Fatāwá Nūr ʿalá al-Darb Lī ibn Bāz 7:26
[15] Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 2:106-110
[16] Translator’s note: This time will vary based on geographical position. Those areas farthest from the equator will see more noticeable variance in both prayer times and lengths. Typically Maghirb will be shorter in the winter and longer in the summer. Likewise, Fajr will be longer in the winter and shorter in the summer. The noble author’s statement should not be understood literally but anecdotally therefore.
[17] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 560 and Muslim: 646.
[18] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 1183.
[19] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 503 and Muslim: 837.
[20] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 139.
[21] Translator note: ʿIshāʾ time is stated here because the time for Maghrib and ʿIshāʾ is combined for the pilgrim intending to combine between Maghrib and ʿIshāʾ. So the true conclusion of the time for prayer is the end of ʿIshāʾ time for this person.
[22] Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 2: 110-112
[23] Referencing part of the ḥadīth: “And the time for ṣālāh al-Maghrib is upon the setting of the sun, as long as the evening glow has not disappeared. And the time for ṣalāh al-ʿIshāʾ is until midnight.” Authentic: Narrated by Muslim: 612.
[24] Referencing part of the ḥadīth: “Jibrīl led me in ṣalāh beside the House of Allāh twice..He [Jibrīl] led me in ʿIshāʾ when the evening glow had disappeared…He led me in ʿIshāʾ when a third of the night had elapsed.” The timings mentioned in this ḥadīth are meant to denote the beginning and end of the time period for each ṣalāh. Authentic: narrated by Abū Dāwūd and graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī. See Sunan Abī Dāwūd edited by Muḥī al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd.
[25] Authentic: narrated by Muslim: 681.
[26] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 522.
[27] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 566 and Muslim: 638.
[28] Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 2: 110-117.
[29] This time will vary based on geographical position. Those areas farthest from the equator will see more noticeable variance in both prayer times and lengths. Typically Maghirb will be shorter in the winter and longer in the summer. Likewise, Fajr will be longer in the winter and shorter in the summer. The noble author’s statement should not be understood literally but anecdotally therefore.
[30] Referencing part of the ḥadīth: “If you pray Fajr, then its time extends until the appearance of the first visible part of the rising sun.” Authentic: narrated by Muslim: 612.
[31] Referencing the opinion that the time of ʿIshāʾ extends until Fajr.
[32] Authentic: narrated by Bukhārī: 560 and Muslim: 646.
[33] Authentic: narrated by Bukhārī: 547 and Muslim: 647.
[34] Authentic: narrated by Abu Dāwūd: 424, al-Tirmidhī: 154, and al-Nasāʾī: 547-8. Graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī in al-Taʿlīqāt al-Ḥisān: 1488 and Irwāʾ al-Ghalīl 1: 281.
[35] Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 2:117-119.
[36] Reference is made here to the verse:

أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِي حَاجَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي رَبِّهِ أَنْ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ الْمُلْكَ إِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّيَ الَّذِي يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ قَالَ أَنَا أُحْيِي وَأُمِيتُ ۖ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْتِي بِالشَّمْسِ مِنَ الْمَشْرِقِ فَأْتِ بِهَا مِنَ
الْمَغْرِبِ فَبُهِتَ الَّذِي كَفَرَ ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ

Have you not looked at him who disputed with Ibrāhīm (Abraham) about his Lord (Allāh), because Allāh had given him the kingdom? When Ibrāhīm (Abraham) said (to him): “My Lord (Allāh) is He Who gives life and causes death.” He said, “I give life and cause death.” Ibrāhīm (Abraham) said, “Verily! Allāh causes the sun to rise from the east; then cause it to rise from the west.” So the disbeliever was utterly defeated. And Allāh guides not the people, who are ẓalimūn (wrong-doers).
(Al-Baqarah, 2:258)

And Allāh knows best.
[37] The wisdom in the time for ʿAṣr—and Allāh knows best—may be taken from the ḥadīth of Abū Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه): “Angels of the night and of the day take turns with one another in accompanying [the ones who pray or the believers among] you. They gather with one another at the time for Ṣalāh al-Fajr and Ṣalāh al-ʿAṣr. Then, the ones who had spent the night with you ascend. He (Allāh) asks them, while He is more knowledgeable than them: “In what state did you leave my servants?” They reply: “We left them praying, just as they were praying when we came to them.” Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 530. Ibn Ḥajar said: “The wisdom behind asking them this question is seeking a testimony of goodness from the angels for the children of Ādam, giving them the opportunity to testify with regards to them that which shows their compassion for them. Also, to show them the wisdom in the creation of humankind, as opposed to the original saying of the angels: “Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, – while we glorify You with praises and thanks (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners) and sanctify You.” He (Allāh) said: “I know that which you do not know.” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 30) Here, according to your very own testimony, there exists among them those who are like yourselves in engaging in praising and thanking Allāh..It has also been narrated that one’s sustenance is proportioned after the morning prayer and his actions are raised at the end of the day [Aṣr time]. As such, the one who is in a state of obedience at these times will find blessings in both his sustenance and actions. And Allāh knows best.” See Fatḥ al-Bārī 2:37.
[38] Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 2: 119-120.

Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: December 28, 2023
Edited: December 28, 2023

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