Why was Prophet Muhammad observing
Salat at only 3 times of the day?
By: A Muhammad
As per the Quranic command in 6:114, God decreed that the Quran should be the only source of religious law:
[6:114] Shall I seek other than God as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed?
Believers are commanded not to accept any other source (such as hadith) as a source of law besides the Quran. However the hadith and hadith studies can be used for either of the following aims:
1- It can be used for historic studies related to the time around the revelation of the Quran.
2- Hadith can also be used to reply to the hadith followers. Often when Quranic words are shown to the hadith followers they gloss over them and discard their content as if they have not heard the words! But since they cherish the hadith, the hadith can be used to answer them. This is not any different from debating with a Christian and trying to show him that Jesus is not the son of God. You would have a much better chance of making him listen if you quote for him his own Bible (which he believes) rather than quoting for him words from the Quran (which he does not believe).
All the hadith quoted in this research are from what is labelled by the hadith scholars as “sahih” (authentic). They are from the collections of Muslim and Bukhari. It must be stressed once again that these hadith are used only as a source of historic inquiry, and not as a source of religious legislation.
FIRST: The hadith about the Bedouins
Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 10, Number 538:
“Narrated 'Abdullah Al-Muzani: The Prophet said, "Do not be influenced by Bedouins regarding the name of your Maghrib prayer which is called 'Isha' by them.”
1- The Bedouins spoken of in this hadith were Muslims. If they were Jews or Christians they would be referred to as such. This is the case in all other hadith which speak about Jews or Christians. They are always referred to as “yahud” (Jews) and the “Nasara” (Christians) in those hadith. In addition, these Bedouins could not have been the idol worshippers who were worshipping stone idols at the time of Muhammad because they would not be observing a Salat called “Isha” in the first place, plus they would have also been referred to as “mushrekeen” (idol worshippers) in the hadith.
2- Since the “Isha” prayer is the last prayer observed by all Muslims (regardless of whether they do 3 or 5 Salat) then this hadith proves that there were some Muslims, at the time this hadith was written, who were observing less than 5 Salat per day. The explanation is as follows: If they called the "Maghrib" Salat as "Isha" they could not have also had a prayer to follow with the same name of "Isha", they could not have had two prayers with the same name! The only logical explanation is that they had only one Salat called "Isha" and no "Maghrib" Salat, or in other words they observed less than 5 Salat. This hadith above does not prove they were doing 3 Salat but it proves that these Muslims were observing less than 5 Salat per day, this is because they did not have a Salat called “Maghrib”.
3- The followers of hadith will maintain that this hadith, being included in the Bukhari collection, is a genuine hadith from the Prophet. On the other hand, the ones who reject the authenticity of all hadith will doubt that the Prophet ever uttered such words since there is no Salat called “Maghrib” in the Quran (the Quran contains only 3 names for Salat: Fajr, Wusta and Isha). The question is: if the Prophet never uttered such a hadith, would this hadith still have any value or significance? The answer is yes. This is one of the rare hadith which has significance even if it were not the genuine words of the Prophet. Let us assume that these words were not uttered by the Prophet but by whoever made up this hadith, the question still remains: would anyone make up this hadith unless there were in fact some Muslims, as early as the second century A.H. (when Bukhari wrote his hadith), who were observing less that 5 Salat per day? This group of Muslims were observing the “Isha” prayer in its correct timing and thus they did not have a “Maghrib” prayer. Therefore, with the absence of a Salat called “Maghrib” the number of Salat observed by these Muslims must have been less than 5 Salat per day.
SECOND : The Prophet combining Salat when on journey:
Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 20, Number 209:
“Narrated Salim's father: Narrated Ibn Abbas: Allah's Apostle used to offer the Zuhr and 'Asr prayers together on journeys and also used to offer the Maghrib and 'Isha' prayers together.”
1- Hadith 2 tells us that while on a journey the Prophet used to combine 2 prayers.
THIRD: The difference between combining 2 Salat, and between observing 2 Salat one after the other:
There is a very important difference between:
1- Combining 2 Salat into one salat
2- Observing one Salat after the other (in the case of a missed salat observed with the one after it).
The following 2 hadith demonstrate the difference:
Bukhai, Volume 1, Book 10, Number 572:
“Narrated Jabir: Umar came cursing the disbelievers (of Quraish) on the day of Al-Khandaq (the battle of Trench) and said, "I could not offer the 'Asr prayer till the sun had set. Then we went to Buthan and he offered the ('Asr) prayer after sunset, and then he offered the Maghrib prayer.”
Muslim, Book 4, Number 1522:
“Ibn 'Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed in Medina seven (rak'ahs) and eight (rak'ahs), i.e. (be combined) the noon and afternoon prayers (eight rak'ahs) and the sunset and 'Isha' prayers (seven rak'ahs).”
1- Hadith 3 tells us that Umar was unable to offer the Asr prayer in its prescribed time, so he offered it after sunset, and when he finished the (delayed) Asr prayer he observed the Maghrib prayer independently in its correct time. In other words he observed two independent prayers one after the other.
However, hadith 4 tells us that the Prophet did not pray one prayer after the other; he actually prayed only one prayer which combined the two mentioned prayers. This is confirmed by the fact that the Prophet observed a Salat consisting of 8 raka’s and 7 raka’s (the combined number of raka in the two prayers respectively).
2- It can be concluded from the above hadith that, on the day of travel, the Prophet observed the Salat at only 3 times during that day.
3- We know that the Prophet was given the Quran and commanded by God to follow the Quran and nothing else (5:48) Thus we must enquire here as to whether the Quran allows believers to combine prayers when they are on journey or under any other circumstances. The answer is no. In fact, and while on journey, God allows the believers to pray while riding or walking so as not to miss their Salat (2:239). The Quran gives a concession to shorten the prayer (not combine) at times of war when there is possible danger to the believers (4:101), but there is no concession anywhere in the Quran to combine 2 Salat.
4- In addition, the Quran states that the Salat is prescribed for clearly specified times of the day (4:103), and thus to perform the Salat outside its prescribed time would be in violation of the Quranic law.
5- As a result, we must ask: was the Prophet really combining 2 prayers (when there is no such concession in the Quran), or was he simply observing a total of 3 Salat at their correct timing?
6- Hadith 2 gives us yet another very significant observation. This hadith tells us that the Prophet observed one prayer as a combined “Zuhr and Asr” prayer, and also one prayer in place of “Maghrib and Isha”. Assuming the Prophet observed the “Fajr” Salat in its correct time, would mean that the Prophet observed the 3 Quranic Salat of “Fajr, Wusta and Isha” in their correct Quranic times.
7- Is it a coincidence to note that the “Fajr” Salat was never subject to being ‘combined’ in any of the hadith collections? The significance of this is paramount considering that the “Fajr” Salat is a lawful Salat given its name in the Quran while as the “Asr” and “Maghrib” Salat (which were subject to being combined) are not names found in the Quran.
FOURTH : The Prophet combining Salat at normal times:
(not travelling nor in danger)
Muslim, Book 4, Number 1515:
“Ibn 'Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed the noon and afternoon prayers together, and the sunset and Isha' prayers together without being in a state of fear or in a state of journey.”
1- Hadith 5 is of great significance. It tells us that the Prophet combined the Salat at normal times (to make them 3 Salat per day) even when there was no fear nor travel involved and thus no valid reason to do so. We have seen from hadith 3 and 4 the difference between observing a Salat after its normal time, and between combining 2 Salat.
2- The question posed in the previous section of why would the Prophet combine prayers at times of travel when there is no such concession in the Quran was significant. When we read hadith 5, which states that the Prophet combined those prayers at normal times (no travel nor fear), our previous question becomes even more significant; why did the Prophet do so?
FIFTH : Why was the Prophet combining Salat?
If the Prophet combined Salat at times when there was no apparent reason to do so, we must wonder why in fact he did?
Was it because he missed the time of one Salat?
We know that this could not be the reason since we have another hadith in which the Prophet says that whoever misses a Salat should observe it when it is remembered:
Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 10, Number 571:
“Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, "If anyone forgets a prayer he should pray that prayer when he remembers it. There is no expiation except to pray the same." Then he recited: "Establish prayer for My (i.e. Allah's) remembrance." (20.14).”
Note that hadith 6 instructs those who miss a Salat to observe it when it is remembered, this hadith does not say “combine” it with the next Salat.
The words ”There is no expiation except to pray the same" and particularly the words “the same” are indeed of extra significance in confirming that the same whole Salat must be observed (when remembered) in its entirety rather than combining it as part of another Salat, for then it would not be “the same”.
As a matter of fact, we learn from hadith 3 (above) that Umar did just that. He observed the Salat which he missed in its entirety and only when he completed the missed Salat did he observe the next one, he did not combine the two Salat.
So if the Prophet was not combining Salat because he missed a Salat, nor was he combining Salat because he was travelling, nor was he combining Salat because he was in any danger, why was he in fact combining Salat?
SIXTH : The Prophet explains why he combined Salat:
Muslim, Book 4, Number 1516:
“Ibn 'Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed the noon and afternoon prayers together in Medina without being in a state of fear or in a state of journey. (Abu Zubair said: I asked Sa'id [one of the narrators] why he did that. He said: I asked Ibn 'Abbas as you have asked me, and he replied that he [the Holy Prophet] wanted that no one among his Ummah should be put to [unnecessary] hardship.)”
1- Hadith 7 tells us that the Prophet combined Salat so as not to put his people under any unnecessary hardship! The implications of this hadith are immense. This hadith implies that according to the Prophet, any believer who observes five Salat in a day, and in normal times when there is no travelling nor fear, would actually be doing so under unnecessary hardship!
2- This would also imply that the Prophet amended God’s law and allowed the believers to combine Salat because he was more merciful to the believers than God is (not to mention the legality of having the authority to amend God’s law).
SEVENTH : Further set of hadith which raises further alarm:
Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 75, Number 405:
“Narrated 'Ali bin Abi Talib: We were in the company of the Prophet on the day (of the battle) of Al-Khandaq (the Trench). The Prophet said, "May Allah fill their (the infidels') graves and houses with fire, as they have kept us so busy that we could not offer the Wusta (middle) prayer till the sun had set; and that prayer was the 'Asr prayer."
Muslim, Book 004, Number 1316:
“Abu Yunus, the freed slave of 'A'isha said: 'A'isha ordered me to transcribe a copy of the Qur'an for her and said: When you reach this verse:" Guard the prayers and the middle prayer" (ii. 238), inform me; so when I reached it, I informed her and she gave me dictation (like this): Guard the prayers and the middle prayer and the Asr (afternoon) prayer, and stand up truly obedient to Allah. 'A'isha said: This is how I have heard from the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him).”
Muslim, Book 004, Number 1317:
“Al-Bara' b. 'Azib reported: This verse was revealed (in this way):" Guard the prayers and the 'Asr prayer." We recited it (in this very way) so long as Allah desired. Allah, then, abrogated it and it was revealed:" Guard the prayers, and the Wusta (middle) prayer." A person who was sitting with Shaqiq (one of the narrators in the chain of transmitters) said: Now it implies the 'Asr prayer. Upon this al-Bara' said: I have already informed you how this (verse) was revealed and how Allah abrogated it, and Allah knows best.
1- Hadith 8 tells us that the Prophet defined the ‘Wusta’ (Middle) prayer as the ‘Asr’ (Afternoon) prayer. However, hadith number 9 gives a contradictory statement! It tells us that the Prophet considered the ’Wusta’ prayer and the ‘Asr’ prayer to be two different prayers! Then hadith 10 gives an even more alarming statement. It says that the ‘Asr’ prayer was originally mentioned in the text of 2:238, but then God changed/abrogated that into being the ‘Wusta’ prayer. Or in other words God decreed a law then decided He got it wrong and amended it!
Needless to say, the words of God in the Quran have been perfected (11:1) and thus are not in need of amendment. The whole concept of Quranic Abrogation is a blatant and blasphemous lie against the Quran and against God. For full details please go to: Lie of Abrogation
2- These three hadith offering different versions and different definitions of the ‘Wusta’ and ‘Asr’ provide us with further evidence of the corruption that took place around the time when the five daily prayers became accepted. It is clear that these two prayers were just one prayer all the time in God’s book, and God always called it the ‘Wusta’ prayer. There is no prayer called ‘Asr’ in the Quran.
After reading all the above, the following issues become of great interest:
1- Why was the Prophet combining two Salat? Does the Prophet have the authority to combine two Salat when there is no such concession given in the Quran?
2- Additionally, why would the Prophet combine two Salat when there did not seem to be any reason for doing so (at times when there was no fear of any kind, nor any hardship from travel)?
3- Why would the Prophet say that in observing the five Salat during normal times there would be unnecessary hardship on the believers? Does the Prophet regard God’s law as excessively harsh?
4- Does the Prophet have the authority to amend God’s law of Salat in order to protect the believers from the harshness of God’s law?
5- The outcome of this research for those who uphold every hadith in the ‘sahih’ collections of Bukhari and Muslim to be authentic can only be resolved by choosing one of the following options:
a- The Quran states very clearly that the Prophet does not have the authority to alter God’s words or law, and that he is commanded to follow the Quran and nothing else (10:15, 66:1, 5:48). As a result, the above hadith would portray the Prophet as someone who was acting in violation of God’s commands when he changed the Salat laws and combined the Salat.
b- The Prophet was not combining Salat but he was in fact observing 3 Salat per day.
There is no third alternative.
Anyone with any degree of respect for the Prophet would conclude that he was never amending God’s law, nor was he advocating that God’s law causes unnecessary hardship. Consequently, the obvious explanation is that the Prophet was never combining two Salat, he was in fact observing the three Quranic Salat per day.
6- If on the other hand we regard these hadith to be fabricated and that they are total lies against the Prophet, then what significance would these hadith really have? These hadith would still have great significance! In the case of fabrication, the only rational explanation behind it would have been to provide a cover up for the innovation of the five Salat which would have been in practise at the time of the collection of hadith (2 centuries after Hijra).
7- The last three hadith confirm all the doubts connected to the issue of how the three Salat named in the Quran have been changed into five daily Salat.