Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Regular Prayer

My Lord! Make me one who establishes regular prayer, and also (raise such) among my offspring, O Our Lord! And accept my prayer.
O Our Lord! Cover (Us) with Your forgiveness: me, my parents, and (all) believers, on the day that the reckoning will be established! (14:40-41)

One of the first du'aat I learned to make in my salah was one from the Qur'an, a du'a of Ibraheem. In it, Ibraheem asks Allah to make him someone who establishes prayer--although the translation I learned inserted the word "regular," i.e., "establishes regular prayer." This du'a reminds me, at the end of every salah, the important of salah, of establishing it and praying it regularly.

On just about every prayer timetable I've seen, part of an ayah is listed somewhere on the page. One translation of the part of the ayah, 4:103, is "Verily, the prayer is enjoined on the believers at fixed hours." The idea is to remind whoever reads that prayer table about the importance of praying regularly at the appropriate times.

Now a person can view the idea of regular prayer as either a burden, or a blessing. I have a hunch most non-Muslims, and plenty of Muslims, probably see it as a burden. And undoubtedly Shaytan would rather us see it as a burden, so he can easily distract us from it, urge us to procrastinate it, and eventually even convince us to abandon it altogether. May Allah protect the believers from his whispers.

There are benefits in having the prayers spread throughout the day. It gives you a spiritual retreat at key points during the day, to help you break up the day and refresh you. And the times of the salah are intricately connected with ideal daily behavior.

We learn the prayer times from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, who learned them from the Angel Jibreel over two days. According to Ibn Abbas, the Angel Jibreel visited the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ at the beginning of the each of the prayer times on the first day to lead him in prayer, and on the second day led him in prayer at the end of the prayer times, except for maghrib prayer. The times have been further specified by Abdullah bin 'Amr bin al-'As, based on the sun and sky, and scholars have differed slightly in their opinions as to the exact timing.

What's clear however is that the prayers are based on the timing of the sun, indicating that our days should follow a similar schedule. It also keeps us Muslims aware of the motion of the sun throughout the day, as it crosses the sky, and throughout the year as the time it takes to traverse the sky changes. In this way the timings of prayers keeps you alert, and it keeps you from forming a lazy habit or tradition when it comes to the prayer--your schedule will have to be flexible somewhat throughout the year. The beginning and end times for each prayer vary between some schools of thought, though not drastically so and not without evidence.

The first prayer of a waking day is fajr, and there is unanimous agreement regarding its start and end times. It begins at the time of the "second dawn" or "true dawn." While the sun is at one particular angle below the horizon, there will appear the "first dawn" known as the "false dawn," when the light spreads vertically. That is not the start of fajr time, which actually comes later, when the sun is high enough for the dawn light to spread laterally across the horizon. It ends when the sun rises. This means that our day should begin before the sun comes up. There's also a special blessing in the fajr time before the sun rises. While our minds and bodies are refreshed, it can be a very productive time of day before the worries and business of the day start to clog our minds.

The start time of dhuhr is also unanimously agreed upon--that it is when the sun declines from its zenith. Geographically, unless a person is at the equator he will have a small amount of shadow, even when the sun is at its zenith, but the zenith is when the shadow has reached its minimum size. There are two opinions about the end time of dhuhr, though they all agree that dhuhr ends at the time when asr begins. The first opinion, the Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali opinion, is that dhuhr ends when the length of an object's shadow is equal to its height (plus the "extra shadow" just mentioned.) The second opinion, the Hanafi opinion, is that dhuhr ends when the length of an object's shadow is twice its height (plus the "extra shadow.") This is based on a hadith that dhuhr is to be delayed on hot days until the day begins to cool off.

The start time of asr is agreed by all to be the end time of dhuhr, and the same differences just mentioned apply. There is also agreement as to the end time of asr, that it be when the sun has completely set. Scholars also agree that it is better to pray asr earlier (than later) as long as its in the specified time. Hanafi scholars prefer it to be delayed as long as the sun hasn't started to change color.

By unanimous agreement, maghrib time begins when the sun has set, though there are basically three opinions regarding its end time. The first is the Maliki and new Shafi'i opinion, that basically the time for maghrib ends once enough time has passed to actually make wudhu, adhan, iqama, and pray five raka'at (3 for fard, 2 for sunnah.) In other words, maghrib needs to be prayed right away with no "extended time." The Hanbali and old Shafi'i opinion is that maghrib needs to be prayed by the time the red twilight has faded, while the Hanafi opinion is that it may be prayed until the white twilight has faded. But they all pretty much agree that it's best to pray maghrib at the beginning of its time.

When it comes to isha, there is unanimous agreement that it begins when the twilight has faded, but there are the same differing opinions about which twilight that means. The Maliki and Shafi'i opinions, for which there is no extended time, also say isha starts after the twilight has faded. When the sun sets, the first twilight is the red twilight, followed by the white twilight, followed by the blue twilight, just as a point of reference. There are two opinions about the end time of isha. The first is the Hanafi opinion, which allows for isha to be prayed up until the time for fajr arrives. The Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali opinions are that isha may be prayed until the end of the first half, or first third of the night. This is calculated as the time between the beginning of isha and the beginning of fajr, then split into thirds or halves and added to the time isha begins.

The salah itself is an organizational tool, to help you structure your life. Sometimes people (you know who you are) will say that time is money. But no, time is life. Whenever a day passes, part of you goes with it. Following the salah forces you to begin your working day with fajr time--you shouldn't go to bed after salat al-fajr. You also see that there is time to take a break, for dhuhr, a good time to eat lunch, and maybe take a nap. Asr time, when the day starts to draw to a close, is the time to stop working and see to your family. Eat dinner and prepare for bed, these are things to do in the evenings.

Even the prohibited times of prayer reminds us of the appropriate structure for the day, so we don't turn into monks and try to pray the entire day--there are times that we should spend doing other things as well. But the larger point of regular prayer is to prevent other things, our life in this dunya, from stunting our relationship with Allah.

7 comments:

The Dynamic Hamza 21 said...

"Time Is Life"

I heard shaykh Hamza Yusuf say that in lecture years ago and never forgot it. It's so true. The older one gets time seems to speed up.

Zaeneb said...

Correction regarding the rulings of prayer times for Maliki, they are different than Hanafi, and I don't know about the others. Maliki divides prayer times into mukhtar and duroori times. Mukhtar is the window of time that one prays (without a late penalty). The duroori time is an extension of that window, only under certain conditions.

To not go on into detail, the Asr time for Maliki and Shafi, is earlier than the Hanafi time.
In fact, the end of the Mukhtar (elective) time for Asr is the beginning of the Hanafi time for Asr. Therefore, if you are a Maliki and you prayed at the Hanafi time, your prayer would be late.

The end of Maliki Mukhtar for Isha is either the first third or half of the night, both are valid scholarly opinions.

The Maliki elective time of Fajr is from the first true light of dawn until the dawn's light has completely pervaded the location and faces are discernible. The false dawn is described as a single beam of light as witnessed only in places such as the desert, and the true dawn which spreads horizontally with many beams.

Jazaki'Allah Khairan

The Dynamic Hamza 21 said...

@ Zaeneb

She cleary stated that Maliki & Hanafis times for Asr are different in the post.

I don't about other countries but in the US the difference between Maliki & Hanafi times for Asr is about 45 minutes to hour.

And for most of the time of year the time frame to perform Asr is two to four hours. So you statement about -- "if you are a Maliki and you prayed at the Hanafi time, your prayer would be late."-- doesn't apply for us the in US.

Right now in my city in California Asr for Malikis begin around 3:50 to 4:10 pm and the start for Hanafis would be after 4:45 and sunset doesn't take place until 6:30. Based upon you statement Asr's timeframe for Malikis would only be hour and then there would be over an hour and half before sunset when salat couldn't take place.

Which would go against the established practice of Asr ending just before sunset not nearly two hours before sunset as you suggested.

(Subh--->[sunrise]-->[Noon]->Dhur--->Asr--->[sunset]->Maghrib--->Isha)



As far as "late penalty" I'm not aware of Allah penalizing someone for performing salat within it's allowed time frame. I haven't heard this before.

To my understanding the duroori is the "necessary" timeframe to perform salat within it's allowed timeframe.Any Salat performed within duroori is not late,just later than usual.

And Allah Knows Best

Zaeneb said...

The start time of asr is agreed by all to be the end time of dhuhr, and the same differences just mentioned apply. There is also agreement as to the end time of asr, that it be when the sun has completely set. Scholars also agree that it is better to pray asr earlier (than later) as long as its in the specified time. Hanafi scholars prefer it to be delayed as long as the sun hasn't started to change color.

No- the end of the elective time for Asr is at the time of yellowing.
For both the Dhuhr and Asr, the duroori time (absolutely necessary time) ends at sunset. This does not mean that one is unconditionally allowed to pray dhuhr or asr just before sunset. Similarly the duroori time for Isha is up until Fajr. Malikis are supposed to pray within the elective times unless they meet certain conditions.

Amy said...

JAK for the comments. Zaenab, thanks for the clarifications about the Maliki opinion on the matter.

I stand by what Hamza said though; what I was saying was that all four schools agree that the time for asr begins when the permitted time for dhuhr ends. But they disagree on when that time actually is (i.e., dhuhr ending, vs., asr beginning.)

Also, I find it odd to be impermissible to pray 'asr prayer in the time up until sunset, though I know the other schools certainly discourage it. But since evidence exists that asr may be prayed until sunset, I just find your statement about the Maliki opinion to be odd. Although, I haven't studied Maliki fiqh to know their reasoning for it.

At the same time, for the most part what I said remains true, because there are cases, according to you, when the Maliki opinion deems it permissible to pray asr until sunset without it considered to be a make-up/late/missed prayer.

Zaeneb said...

It would be more accurate to state the prayer times according to the shadow of an object (position of the sun) as this is the way that prayer times are determined in all schools. Given this, in the Maliki school the beginning of Asr is when the shadow reaches one length of the body. However, in the Hanafi school, Asr doesn't begin until the shadow is two lengths of the body which is when Asr ends in the Maliki school. Just because there are conditions for extending prayer times such as traveling in Maliki, we would not include this as the regular prayer interval. Furthermore, it is sinful to pray outside of the regular prayer time without a valid excuse. Therefore, we wouldn't advise anyone to delay Asr beyond its elective time. I think that Hamza Yusuf will be publishing a translation on Maliki fiqh which explains the rulings related to prayer in that school.

Amy said...

Salaam Zaeneb,

I did state the prayer times according to shadow:

There are two opinions about the end time of dhuhr, though they all agree that dhuhr ends at the time when asr begins. The first opinion, the Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali opinion, is that dhuhr ends when the length of an object's shadow is equal to its height (plus the "extra shadow" just mentioned.) The second opinion, the Hanafi opinion, is that dhuhr ends when the length of an object's shadow is twice its height (plus the "extra shadow.") This is based on a hadith that dhuhr is to be delayed on hot days until the day begins to cool off.

The only point on which we disagree is the ending time for asr, which according to you in the Maliki opinion is shortly after the starting time and well before sunset, although not in all cases.

That's a little bit confusing, but I still stand by what I said before, which was not at all intended to clarify any particular fiqh opinion. In each school, the ending time of dhuhr and starting time of asr is determined using the shadow criteria. For the Shafi'is, Malikis, and Hanbalis, both occur exactly the same time, one shadow length; and in Hanafi opinion, both occur at the same time, which is the twice-shadow length.

And obviously if people want to learn Maliki fiqh they won't come to me. I don't intend to misrepresent it, however, so I appreciate your comments. But since "an appropriate excuse" is enough to extend the prayer time, I stand by the statement that the prayer time lasts until sunset, unless you want me to say "except in Maliki fiqh without an appropriate excuse."