Why Do the Shias Combine Prayers?

Combining the Prayers

All Muslims agree that there are five mandatory prayers throughout the day and night. They also agree that these five daily prayers have specific times in which they must be performed, and that combining the prayers is, at least, sometimes permissible (saying the dhuhr (noon) prayer then immediately followed by the asr (afternoon) prayer, or saying the maghrib (post-sunset) prayer immediately followed by the isha (night) prayer).

The Maliki, Shafi΄i, and Hanbali schools of thought agree that combining of the prayers while traveling is permitted, but they do not allow combining of the prayers for other reasons. The Hanafi school of thought permits combining of the prayers only on the day of Arafat. Whereas the Imami Shi‘a school of thought, allows combining of the prayers in all cases—while traveling or not, for any other reason, during war and peace, while the weather is rainy or not, and so on. The real dispute is as to when the exact beginning and end of the prayer times are. Thus, the dispute must be referred to the Noble Qur’an and narrations of the Prophet Muhammad.

Three verses in the Noble Qur’an speak of the times for the prayers. Allah, the Exalted says,

“Perform the prayers from mid-day until the darkness of the night, and recite the Qur’an in the early dawn. Verily, the recitation of the Qur’an in the early dawn is ever-witnessed.”[1]

“Mid-day” refers to the shared time for the dhuhr and asr prayers, “the darkness of the night” refers to the shared time of the mahrib and isha prayers, and “early dawn” refers to the fajr (dawn) prayer. The Noble Qur’an clearly and simply states that there are three main times for the five daily prayers. Although the prayers are five, they fall into three main periods of time. The great Sunni scholar, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi understood this interpretation from this verse also.[2] Of course, the prayers must be done in order; the dhuhr prayer must be performed before the asr prayer, and the maghrib prayer must be performed before the isha prayer.

The Noble Qur’an also says,

“And perform the prayers at the two ends of the day, and in some hours of the night. Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds. That is a reminder for the mindful.”[3]

Muslim jurists and Qur’an commentators agree that this verse refers to the five compulsory prayers, as the Noble Qur’an states, it determines the timing of the prayers—the three main times; two of them at the “ends of the day” and the third in “some hours of the night.” The first, “ends of the day” is the time of the morning prayer, the second, “ends of the day” begins at noon and ends at sunset (making this the time for the dhuhr and asr prayers), and the “hours of the night” is the third main time in which the maghrib and isha prayers should be recited; these prayers extend from the beginning of the night until midnight.

A similar division of times is expressed in a third verse,

“So bear with patience (O Muhammad) all that they say, and glorify the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun, and before its setting, and during a part of the night, also glorify His praises, and so likewise after the prostrations.”[4]

As in the previous verse, the jurists and the commentators also agree that this verse refers to the times of the five mandatory prayers; in addition to dividing the time for the prayers into three segments: first, the time from dawn until sunrise which is the time for the dawn prayers (fajr); second, the time from noon until sunset, which is the time for the noon and afternoon prayers; and third, the “part of the night” which extends from after sunset until midnight, which is the time for the evening and night prayers.

Referring to the last part of the cited verse (50:39-40), “And so likewise after the prostration,” according to the commentators, refers either to the nawafil (recommended) prayers, or specifically to salat al-layl (the midnight prayer) which are among the highly recommended prayers.

Imam al-Bukhari and others report that the Prophet used to combine his prayers into three sections of time, “The Messenger of Allah observed the noon and afternoon prayers together and the sunset and night prayers together without being in a state of fear or while on a journey.”[5] Imam Muslim narrates the same hadith and adds that when the Prophet was asked by Ibn al-‘Abbas why he authorized combining the two prayers, the Prophet replied that he did not want to cause difficulty for his nation.[6] In the same book, Ibn al-‘Abbas himself narrates that they used to combine the two prayers during the time of the Prophet.[7]

Therefore, both the Noble Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet indicate clear authorization and permission to combine the two prayers without any particular reason. It also asserts that Allah the Merciful made His religion easy for the believers.

[1] Noble Qur’an, 17:78
[2] Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Tafsir, Vol. 5, 428
[3] Noble Qur’an,11:114
[4] Noble Qur’an, 50:39-40
[5] Sahih al-Bukhari, “Book on Times of Prayers” Hadith 510 and 529, “Book on Friday Prayer” Hadith 1103; Sahih Muslim, “Book on the Prayer of Travellers” Hadith 1146; al-Tirmidhi, “Book on Prayer” Hadith 172; al-Nisa’i, “Book on Timings” Hadith 585, 597-599; Abu Dawud, “Book on Prayer” Hadith 1024, 1025, and 1027; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 1:217, 221, 223, 251, 273, 283, 285, 346, 349, 351, 354, 360, and 366; Malik, “Book on Shortening the Prayer while Travelling” Hadith 300
[6] Sahih Muslim, “Book of the Prayers of Travellers” Ch. 6, Hadith 50-54
[7] Sahih Muslim, Ch. 6-8, Hadith 58-62

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