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The Rulings on Praying an Obligatory Prayer Before Its Appointed Time

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

An explanation on the supererogatory result of ṣalāh prayed before the appointed time due to human error after striving to determine the correct prayer time.

If, after striving to determine the time for (obligatory) prayer, it is clarified to a person that his prayer actually occurred before its proper time, then this prayer will be considered supererogatory. Otherwise, he would have fulfilled his compulsory responsibility. That is, despite having strived to determine the time for prayer, it is made evident to him that his takbīrat al-iḥrām1 was performed before the start of the time for the ṣalāh in question. In this circumstance, his ṣalāh is considered supererogatory and he is still deserving of reward for its performance.

The aforementioned statement is comprehensive of both scenarios:

  1. It is clarified to him that he performed the takbīrat al-iḥrām after the start of the time for the prayer he intended to perform.
  2. It is not clarified to him, so the performed ṣalāh fulfils his compulsory responsibility. This is because he has performed the act of worship as commanded. The invalidity of his act has not been clarified, so it is considered acceptable (i.e. excused).

Altogether there are five scenarios that describe the prayer performed by one who strives the determine its correct time:

  1. It is clarified to him that he performed it within its appointed time. This matter is clear in terms of his fulfilment of his obligation.
  2. It is clarified to him afterwards that his prayer occurred before the start of the time. Here, the prayer he performed is considered supererogatory.
  3. He is almost certain that his performance of the prayer occurred after the start of its appointed time. Here, he is also considered to have fulfilled his obligation.
  4. He is almost certain that the time for prayer has not begun. Here, it would be impermissible for him to pray with the intention of performing an obligatory prayer. This is because such an act would be considered mockery.
  5. He is doubtful regarding the time of prayer having begun. Here, he must also not begin praying.

[Q]: Why, in the second scenario mentioned (accidentally praying before the time), is his prayer considered supererogatory while he never intended it a supererogatory prayer? As the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Actions are judged only by their intentions.”

[A]: The performance of any obligatory ṣalāh is composed of two intentions. The first is that action is ṣalāh, and the second is that it is performed with the purpose of fulfilling an obligation. The intention relating to its fulfilment of an obligation is negated by clarification of its performance before its proper time. So, the intention of ṣalāh remains. In consideration of this, we mention the judicial rule mentioned by the jurists in their saying: “A performed ṣalāh shall change to supererogatory should its obligatory nature be negated. Like the one who prays after the time before it is made clear to him that he did not miss that ṣalah. Or like the one who prays a compulsory prayer before the start of its appointed time.”

For example, a person believes that he missed a ṣalāh whose time has concluded. So he prays it. Then, it is clarified to him that he had prayed it already. Here, his second ṣalāh is considered supererogatory.

An example of the obligatory ṣalāh performed before its time: A person prays Maghrib believing that sunset has occurred. Then, it is clarified to him that the sunset had not begun. Here, the ṣalāh he performed is considered supererogatory and he must repeat Maghrib after sunset.

[1] Translator note: Tabīrah al-iḥrām is the first takbīr of the ṣalāh.

Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 2:127-128
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: February 24, 2024
Edited: February 29, 2024

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