Islamic rulings on praying early or delay within its proper time

Praise be to Allah,


Abi Amr Ashaibani (Sa’ad ibn Iyaas) said: “It has been reported to me by the owner of this house (and he pointed at the house of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud) said, “I asked the Prophet, (PBUH) which deed or actions are most beloved by Allah. He replied, ‘Prayer at its proper time.’, ‘Then what?’ I asked. He said, ‘Then kindness to parents.’ ……….” [i]



Important Points Derived from the Hadeeth:


  1. Salaah on time, parent’s rights are after the existence of EMAAN. The essence of all deeds is emaan. Without it its fruits have no value.


  1. This question is really a question about the physical deeds or bodily acts of obedience and this is understood by the answers. It is not about acts of obedience of the heart like emaan, love of and fear of Allah, etc.


  1. Actions are not of one degree in terms of preference. There are different levels determined by how close or beloved they are to Allah and the benefits achieved. The question was asked in order to give preference to these deeds. It is from one of Shaitans’ traps that he tries to get the worshipper involved in the deeds less beloved to Allah and to divert him from the more reward-able actions in Islam – (according to Ibn al-Qayyim).


  1. Deeds are preferable and have higher status over others – specifically the love of Allah of one thing over another.


  1. Affirmation and confirmation of “al-Mohabbat” for Allah. Al Asmaa wa Sifaat are only based on the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. This Hadeeth confirms “love” for Allah.


  1. It is virtuous to ask regarding knowledge to learn especially for the important things. We have gained great benefit from this question.


  1. We may leave off asking regarding something due to e.g. respect for the person, irritating him, making the scholar sit for a long time, etc.


Extra Point:


The Prophet (PBUH) was asked about the superiority of deeds several times. He answered with an appropriate answer for each occasion. The Islamic deen is a deen, which deals with the reality of the circumstances of the people in ruling and regulations therefore the superiority of some deeds, is based on this. For everyone, there is a deed beneficial to him.


Deliberately Praying before or late than the appointed time


If a man purposely prayed before the time, then his prayer is not acceptable with [occurrence of] a sin in addition to this. As for the one who forgot or was unaware, then his prayer is not acceptable but there is no sin.


If a man purposely delayed the prayer beyond its time without reason and then prayed out of its time- such as someone who prays Fajr after sunrise purposely, indeed the prayer as such will not be accepted from him even if he prays it one thousand times. The evidence for this is the statement of Allah:


And when you have completed the prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting, or [lying] on your sides. But when you become secure, re-establish [regular] prayer. Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times. [Translation Al Nisa :103][ii]


Shaykh Uthaymeen says[iii],

‘It is prescribed to advance some of them, and it is prescribed to delay some of them. For example, it is prescribed to delay the Isha prayer until a third of the night has passed. For this reason, if a woman was in the house and she asked: which is better for me, to perform the Isha prayer when the adhan for Isha is called, or to delay it until a third of the night has passed? We would say: it is better to delay it until a third of the night has passed. The prophet (PBUH) delayed Isha’s prayer once until the people said, “Oh Messenger of Allah! The women and children have slept.” He then came out and performed the prayer and said:

“Were it not that it would be too difficult for my Ummah, I would have commanded them to delay the ‘Isha’.”[iv]

The remainder of the prayer should be performed at the beginning of the time unless there is some reason to delay them.

Narrated Abu Al-Minhal:

Abu Barza said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) used to offer the Fajr (prayer) when one could recognize the person sitting by him (after the prayer) and he used to recite between 60 to 100 Ayat (verses) of the Qur’an. He used to offer the Zuhr prayer as soon as the sun declined (at noon) and the `Asr at a time when a man might go and return from the farthest place in Medina and find the sun still hot. (The sub-narrator forgot what was said about the Maghrib). He did not mind delaying the `Isha prayer to one-third of the night or the middle of the night.”[v]


If the heat becomes intense, then it is better to delay the Zuhr prayer until its temperature is lower, i.e., until it is close to the Asr prayer.


Narrated Abu Dhar Al-Ghifar:

We were with the Prophet (ﷺ) on a journey and the Mu’adh-dhin (call maker for the prayer) wanted to pronounce the Adhan (call) for the Zuhr prayer. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Let it become cooler.” He again (after a while) wanted to pronounce the Adhan but the Prophet (ﷺ) said to him, “Let it become cooler till we see the shadows of hillocks.” The Prophet (ﷺ) added, “The severity of heat is from the raging of the Hell-fire, and in very hot weather pray (Zuhr) when it becomes cooler.”[vi]


Praying individually early or delay to pray with the congregation 


Ibn Daqeeq al-Eid, said, “when a person is presented with two options, one of them being to pray invidually at the beginin of the time and other being to delay praying so that he may pray with the congregation, which is better? The most correct opinion in my view is that the delaying until one prays in congregation is better and the hadith proves this due to his saying,


‘Narrated Jabir bin `Abdullah: The Prophet (ﷺ) used to pray the Zuhr at midday, and the `Asr at a time when the sun was still bright, the Maghrib after sunset (at its stated time) and the `Isha at a variable time. Whenever he saw the people assembled (for `Isha’ prayer) he would pray earlier and if the people delayed, he would delay the prayer. And they or the Prophet (ﷺ) used to offer the Fajr Prayers when it still dark’[vii].


Therefore, he delayed praying in the congregation despite having the ability to pray early. The congregational prayer is more important also because of the severe threat of leaving the congregational prayer and the encouragement towards performing it being clearly stated in the authentic Ahadith[viii].


As for the virtue of praying at the beginning of the time, Al Hakim, ibn khuzaimah and others record the hadith of ibn Masud in which the prophet (PBUH) was asked, “ What action is best?” and he replied,


‘Prayer at the beginning of its time.”

But this hadith is disputed regarding its authenticity. One of the narrators in the chain about whom Ad Daruqutinee said, “I do not think that he preserved this properly because he grew old and his memory failed him. Imam an- Nawawi said that this narration is weak[ix]. However, Shaikh Albani has declared this hadith Hasan[x].


Similar hadith is also recorded in Abu Dawood, at Tirmidhi and al Hakim, who said it was Saheeh. The hadith of Umm Farwah that Prophet (PBUH) said,


“The best of actions is the prayer prayed at the beginning of its time.”[xi]


Allah knows best.


[i] Saheeh Bukhaaree, Volume 8, Book 73, Hadeeth Number 1; Saheeh Muslim, Volume 1, Book 1, Hadeeth Number 153.

[ii] The Prophet’s Prayer Described, Shaykh Mohammad Salih Al-Uthaymeen, Translated by Abu Muadh Taqweem Asalm, Page 74

[iii] Fatwa Arkaan-ul-Islam Islamic Verdicts on the Pillars of Islam. Vol 2 by the Honourable Shaikh Uthaymeen. Page 432

[iv] Grade: Sahih (Darussalam) Reference : Sunan Ibn Majah 690

[v] Reference : Sahih al-Bukhari 541

[vi] Reference : Sahih al-Bukhari 539

[vii] Reference : Sahih al-Bukhari 560

[viii] Ihkaam al-Ahkaam (1/134) by Ibn ad Daqeeq Al-Eid. Quoted in Congregational Prayer by Dr Saalih Ibn Ghanim al-Sadlaan, Translated by Abu Rumaysah 106

[ix] Al majmoo Sharh al- Muhadhdhab 93/53).

[x] Mohammad Naseeruddin Albani Saheeh al targheeb wa al-tarheeb. Quoted in Congregational Prayer by Dr Saalih Ibn Ghanim al-Sadlaan, Translated by Abu Rumaysah 108

[xi] Grade: Sahih (Darussalam) Reference : Jami` at-Tirmidhi 170

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