My Lord! Increase me in knowledge

Archive for May 2011

Ever wondered why sometimes, in one prayer calendar you find asr prayer time is later than the other? Specially in the west, where people rely mostly on prayer calendar for timings, you find people often confused between the two asr prayer times.  It is because of the difference in the opinions of schools of thought. Most school of thoughts (maliki, shafi’, hanbali’) agree that asr time starts when the shadow of an object is equal to itself. But hanafi school of thought says that it should be prayed when the shadow of an object is twice its height. There are hadiths that prove both opinions are valid. I personally support the first view because i find more evidence in the hadith supporting it. I however respect the other view too.

 But lets keep the school of thought aside and go directly to the prophet’s hadith. Instead of blindly following an opinion, lets go to the source – hadith, because that is where all the imams of different schools of thought have taken from and adviced us to take from too.

Abu Dawood Book 2, Number 0393:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas:

The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: Gabriel (peace_be_upon_him) led me in prayer at the House (i.e. the Ka’bah). He prayed the noon prayer with me when the sun had passed the meridian to the extent of the thong of a sandal; he prayed the afternoon prayer with me when the shadow of everything was as long as itself; he prayed the sunset prayer with me when one who is fasting breaks the fast; he prayed the night prayer with me when the twilight had ended; and he prayed the dawn prayer with me when food and drink become forbidden to one who is keeping the fast.

On the following day he prayed the noon prayer (zuhr) with me when his shadow was as long as himself; he prayed the afternoon prayer(asr) with me when his shadow was twice as long as himself; he prayed the sunset prayer at the time when one who is fasting breaks the fast; he prayed the night prayer with me when about the third of the night had passed; and he prayed the dawn prayer with me when there was a fair amount of light.

Then turning to me he said: Muhammad, this is the time observed by the prophets before you, and the time is anywhere between two times.

This hadith clearly tells us that the prophet prayed asr at both times.  On first day he prayed when his shadow was equal to himself and second day when his shadow was twice as his height. This proves that both times are valid. According to my understanding, this is for our convenience and to show us the flexibility in our religion. There are reports where prophet delayed prayer because it was too hot. And reports where he combined both prayers and prayed when zuhr time was ending and asr was starting.

Ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) combined the prayers as he set on a journey in the expedition to Tabuk. He combined the noon prayer with the afternoon prayer and the sunset prayer with the ‘Isha’ prayer. Sa’id (one of the rawis) said to Ibn ‘Abbas: What prompted him to do this? He said: He wanted that his Ummah should not be put to (unnecessary) hardship.

There is a short time frame (usually 30 – 40 mins) when the shadow moves from once the height to twice the height. One view is that zuhr time ends by then. But some scholars have said during this time, it will not be late to pray zuhr as well as not early to pray asr. It is the ending of zuhr and starting of asr. So, this is a time shared between zuhr and asr prayer.

About strictly sticking to one school of thought?

Saying that you should only stick to one school of thought and not follow the other is baseless. By doing this, you are giving the opinions of a certain imam priority over the words of prophet. People who dont pray behind others following a different school of thought are splitting up the muslims. These Imams respected each other and even prayed behind each other. Although these four imams were blessed with tremendous knowledge, they were no prophets or angels. They were humans who could make mistakes. Don’t blindly follow them. We are followers of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and should strive to learn his way, instead of blindly following  a certain imam who came years after. Why have we stopped going to the source? (Quran and hadith) and started relying on what we hear from people around? Before labeling yourself hanafi or shafei and dividing up yourselves, just think what the prophet was? And ask yourselves if there would be any difference in Islam if these four Imams never came?

Last week, i went to montreal for a few days to explore the city. The main difference that i saw apart from the primary language which is french there, was lots of old historic buildings (montreal is relatively old city with lots of history). Going from Toronto, another major change i felt was very less number of asians there. The only minorty was french speaking arabs, haitians, latinos.

The place where i lived was quite busy area sort of like downtown. There was a mosque at about 10mins walking distance which used to close after isha. I used to go there often. One night, I thought of going there for isha prayer and for some reason I thought I was late and the mosque would have been closed. So I went out but started walking in another direction because I thought the mosque would be closed. After sometime, I felt regretful for missing the prayer so I just thought of going to the masjid and I thought what If they didn’t close it? I will atleast pray myself. The whole area where I lived and the area around the mosque had a lot of bars. Since it was a weekend, that streets were very busy, with noise, drunk and weird people. Walking through all that crap to get to masjid was like walking through hell to reach paradise. As I reached the masjid, to my surprise, I found the people bowing in prayer. The prayer was still going on and I was not late! The happiness and peace of mind I felt there, I can’t describe in words. I was thinking about contrast between what was outside the mosque and what was inside, and how I had given up hope of catching the prayer but God made it happen. I rushed to make ablution and joined the prayer. After the prayer, I left the masjid again going through all the mess but with a smile on my face realizing how lucky I was to be among a few handful people who prayed.

I learnt that if your intentions are right, God, by his mercy can guide you make you do good even in the most contrary situations. And if your intentions are bad, then you could be in the holiest place and still be misguided.

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