Some people ask why Shias pray Zohr-Asr prayers and Maghrib-Isha prayers together, while the majority of Muslims pray them separately and whereas the name of every prayer is different?
In reply to this question, we have to put forward our principles that in all our religious matters we follow what was exactly done by the Holy Prophet Hazrat Mohammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.).
In respect of our prayers, how to pray it, its timings, how to perform wuzu and all other preparations concerning prayers as well as other shariat rules (Ahkam) have been derived by us from the Holy Quran, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ahlul Bayt (a.s.).
Although all the Muslim sects claim that they follow the Noble Quran and the Sunnah, but mere claims without sufficient evidences does not prove any fact. With full confidence and sufficient proofs, we may say that the Sunnah, which we follow, is the real, original and pure authentic personage i.e. Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) who lived with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and knew each and everything about his sayings and his deeds.
The interpretation and understanding of the Holy Quran depends upon the traditions (ahaadees). Only authentic traditions can be considered in this regard. Obviously, we follow the real and pure sunnah in its entirety obtained through the Ahlul Bait (a.s.) and which is the only way to follow the Majestic Quran and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
How to offer prayers?
In all the details of his faith, worship, deeds and moral obligations, a true Muslim should follow the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). But because of the special significance of salaah, being the pillar of religion, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) laid extreme emphasis and ordered all Muslims to pray exactly as he was praying. In this regard following situations may arise:
A. All those things become obligatory (waajib) which were regularly observed and done by the Holy Prohet (s.a.w.a.) e.g. reciting Surah al-Hamd in the first two rak’ats of each prayer. No Muslim can deliberately leave this obligatory act.
B. Likewise any act, not done by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) would be prohibited (haraam) e.g. performing Zohr -Asr prayers together and Maghrib – Isha together would be prohibited if the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) never prayed as such.
C. At the same time, if the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was doing something sometimes, it means that particular thing is allowed and permissible (Jaaez) e.g. praying at Masjid or at home, reciting long surah or short one after Surah al-Hamd in the first two rak’ats. Praying Zohr and Asr together, or Maghrib and Isha together were offered by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) many times, simply and willingly and purposely without any extra-ordinary situation such as raining, travelling or war or Hajj etc.
We NEVER claim that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had always prayed all the said prayers together; otherwise, it would have been obligatory (waajib) to pray the same together. But since he (s.a.w.a.) had offered these prayers together many a times and without any extraordinary circumstances, it means that it is permissible. It also implies that it is Sunnat-e-Rasool (s.a.w.a.) to do so. Moreover, we do not believe that it is compulsory (waajib) to pray the said prayers together always because the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had prayed them sometimes separately.
We wonder how some Muslims claim that offering of these prayers together is prohibited (haraam), despite having authentic proofs that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) himself had been offering as such. Since the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was doing it, it clearly implies that it is sunnah, being his (s.a.w.a.) act. By believing and acting on this way, we are really following the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and implementing his sunnah, because we believe it compulsory and do not follow him in this regard but also in all the other matters of Shariah.
In this regard the main objection, raised by some of our Muslim brethren, is the matter of timings of all the prayers. So let us discuss about it first in the light of the Holy Quran.
Timings of Prayers in the Noble Quran
We would like to refer to the Holy Quran and see the prayer timings which were revealed for the Muslims by the Almighty Allah, Who says: “Keep up prayer from the declining of the sun till the darkness of the night and the morning recitation; surely the morning recitation is witnessed.” (Surah Bani Israel (17): Verse 78)
In this verse, Allah (s.w.t.) clearly gives the timings of prayers as follows:
1. Declining of Sun: The beginning time of Zohr and Asr prayers.
2. Darkness of the Night: The beginning of Maghrib and Isha prayers.
It is to be noted that the timings of Maghrib prayers and iftar of fasting differ between Shias who are the followers of real Islam through Ahlul Bait (a.s.) and other Muslims who mainly follow their four Imams, Abu Hanifah, Shaafei, Maalik or Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.
The Shias believe that the time of Maghrib starts after the redness of the sky in the west disappears, which is the reflection of sunlight when the sun is unseen. This proves that time of Maghrib prayers is the beginning of the night, which exactly is the time considered by the Shias.
3. The morning recitation: The time of the morning prayers. As per the traditions (ahaadees), the morning recitation is surely witnessed because the angels of Night and the angels of Day both witness the morning prayers.
Hence it is quite clear, according to this verse (17:78) that main timings for Namaz are three:
i. Zohr and Asr
ii. Maghrib and Isha.
Allah (s.w.t.) says: “And keep up prayer in the two parts of the day and in the first hours of the night; surely good deeds take away evil deeds this is a reminder to the mindful.” (Surah Hud (11): Verse 114)
In this verse, the timings of prayers are again given clearly as three main times, which are as follows:-
First and Second: The parts of the day, which means morning, which is the starting part of the day, and afternoon which is the other part of the day, when timings of Zohr and Asr prayers start.
Third: The beginning of the night, which is the time of Maghrib and Isha prayers.
It is then very clear that timing of prayers in the Holy Quran, are three main items for five prayers.
First: From afternoon unto before sunset: for Zohr prayers followed by Asr prayers.
Second: From real sunset when night starts being the time for Maghrib and
Third: Morning Prayers
Prayer Timings of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
All Muslims believe in the principle of combining timings of Zohr and Asr, and Maghrib and Isha, but the non-Shias claim that this combining is allowed in certain circumstances such as rainy climate, travelling specially while in pilgrimage (Arafat) or illness, or war, while Shias give strong evidences that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was combining these prayers without these aforementioned restrictions. The important books of traditions viz. al-Kaafi, al-Faqeeh, al-Istibsaar, and al-Tahzeeb, contain numerous traditions from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) that he (s.a.w.a.) used to pray Zohr and Asr, and Maghrib and Isha combined in ordinary and normal days too. But we will not refer to these books because they are Shia books and we want to prove the fact for non-Shia Muslims. Rather, we will prove it from their own books which are considered by them as the main sources of Shariat after the Holy Quran.
First Tradition: – In Saheeh Muslim – which is considered by Sunnis, along with Saheeh Bukhari, amongst the most authentic document after the Holy Quran – in the Chapter, of (combining the two prayers)
Ibn Abbas reports, “The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) prayed Zohr and Asr together in Medina without any cause for fear and without travelling.” Ibn Abbas was asked: Why the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) did that? He replied: “He did not want anybody from his Ummah to face difficulty.”
Second Tradition: In Saheeh Bukhari – which is the top-most book among the Ahle Tasannun – The Chapter of delaying Zohr prayers till Asr, from the part of Narmaz timing.
Ibn Abbas informs that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) prayed in Medina seven Rakaat and Eight Rakat (means Maghrib and Isha seven and Zohr and Asr eight).
Third Tradition: – In Saheeh Bukhari from Ibn Abbas that the Prophet prayed Zohr and Asr together and Maghrib and Isha together, without any cause for fear or travelling.
Ibn Abbas was asked why, He replied: The Prophet (s.a.w.a.) did not want to cause difficulty far his Ummah.
Fourth Tradition: – Al-Tabaraani from Abdullah lbn Masoud said that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) prayed Zohr and Asr together and Maghrib and Isha together, and when he was asked why he (s.a.w.a.) prayed together, he (s.a.w.a.) retorted: – I did this to not put my Ummah in difficulty. This tradition is mentioned in Sharh Al Mawattaa by Al-Zargani, Vol. 1 page 263.
Fifth Tradition: – Abdulla Ibn Umar was asked: Why the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was praying Zohr and Asr together and Maghrib and Isha together without travelling and without cause for fear?
Abdulla Ibn Umar replied: – He did that not to put his Ummah in difficulty. This tradition is mentioned in the famous book Kanz al-Ummaal, Vol. 4 page 242.
Sixth Tradition: – In Saheeh Muslim that Ibn Abbas said: – We used to pray two prayers together in the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
It is worth mentioning that Muslim in his Saheeh has dedicated an exclusive chapter for combining two prayers without travel in which he has recorded more than ten authentic traditions proving that the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was praying together without any restrictions.
The reason of combining the two prayers is clearly mentioned in the traditions; that is, not to place the Muslims in difficulty, because separating Zohr from Asr, and Maghrib from Isha, causes sometimes hardships and difficulty, specially, for working and busy people. The difficulty may cause in leaving prayers, as we see that many who cannot easily pray five separate times because it is not practical for them, conveniently abandon their prayers.
Some important benefits in combining the two prayers is a facility and bounty and gift from Allah Taala to the believers, because He knows that this is the practical way to pray, for many persons and in different circumstances. Nobody has the right to close this gate of mercy, which was opened by Allah and practiced many times by the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) himself.
Apart from the aforementioned benefit, there are other advantages too. A man complained to Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.) that he was rich and became poor. Imam (a.s.) admonished him, “Combine the two prayers; then you will see what you like.”
From all these evidences from the Holy Quran and authentic traditions, it is clearly proved that praying Zohr and Asr, and Maghrib and Isha together is the real Sunnah and way of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Those who deny this fact are in reality denying the real Sunnah, and objecting to an act performed by the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The practitioners of real Islam, who are called Shia, follow the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in words as well as deeds.
Courtesy: Hujjatul Islam Agha Sayed Mohammed Al- Musawi