Hadiths on prayer

December 2020

According to the Quran and Tradition, prayer is always regarded as a duty and never a privilege. It is a task imposed on Muslims. Allah first imposed fifty prayers a day, but Muhammad on the advice of Moses begged the reduction until he returned triumphant with only five daily prayers on his list. Muslim daily prayer consists in worship rather than petition; very few Muslims admit that prayer has objective power as well as subjective.

Christ taught that true prayer is spiritual and not formal. In Matthew 6: 5-8 he exposes the perils of formality in prayer:“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before”

We list below some examples from the hadiths of various aspects associated with prayer in Islam

The introduction of five prayers in Islam

> “Narrated Abu Dhar: Then I passed by Abraham and he said, ‘Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious son.’ I asked Gabriel, ‘Who is he?’ Gabriel replied, ‘He is Abraham. The Prophet added, ‘Then Gabriel ascended with me to a place where I heard the creaking of the pens.” Ibn Hazm and Anas bin Malik said: The Prophet said, “Then Allah enjoined fifty prayers on my followers when I returned with this order of Allah, I passed by Moses who asked me, ‘What has Allah enjoined on your followers?’ I replied, ‘He has enjoined fifty prayers on them.’ Moses said, ‘Go back to your Lord (and appeal for reduction) for your followers will not be able to bear it.’ (So I went back to Allah and requested for reduction) and He reduced it to half. When I passed by Moses again and informed him about it, he said, ‘Go back to your Lord as your followers will not be able to bear it.’ So I returned to Allah and requested for further reduction and half of it was reduced. I again passed by Moses and he said to me: ‘Return to your Lord, for your followers will not be able to bear it. So I returned to Allah and He said, ‘These are five prayers and they are all (equal to) fifty (in reward) for My Word does not change.’ I returned to Moses and he told me to go back once again. I replied, ‘Now I feel shy of asking my Lord again.’ Then Gabriel took me till we ” reached Sidrat-il-Muntaha (Lote tree of; the utmost boundary) which was shrouded in colours, indescribable. Then I was admitted into Paradise where I found small (tents or) walls (made) of pearls and its earth was of musk.” (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 8, Number 345)

> “Narrated Ibn Abbas: Thy Prophet sent Muadh to Yemen and said, “Invite the people to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and I am Allah’s Apostle, and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in every day and night (in twenty-four hours), and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has made it obligatory for them to pay the Zakat from their property and it is to be taken from the wealthy among them and given to the poor.” (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23, Number 478)

Prostration and following the example of the prostration of Muhammad

Muslims state that prostration is the highest state of humility and submission before the Lord. He is the humble servant begging for mercy.

> “Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Masud : The Prophet recited Suratan-Najm (103) at Mecca and prostrated while reciting it and those who were with him did the same except an old man who took a handful of small stones or earth and lifted it to his forehead and said, “This is sufficient for me.” Later on, I saw him killed as a non-believer.” (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 19, Number 173)

>”Narrated Ibn ‘Umar. Whenever the Prophet recited the Sura which contained the prostration of recitation he used to prostrate and then, we, too, would prostrate and some of us did not find a place for prostration. (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 19, Number 185)

>”Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: The nearest a servant comes to his Lord is when he is prostrating himself, so make supplication (in this state).” (Muslim Book 4, Number 979)

> “Ma’dan b. Talha reported: I met Thauban, the freed slave. of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), and asked him to tell me about an act for which, if I do it, Allah will admit me to Paradise, or I asked about the act which was loved most by Allah. He gave no reply. I again asked and he gave no reply. I asked him for the third time, and he said: I asked Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) about that and he said: Make frequent prostrations before Allah, for you will not make one prostration without raising you a degree because of it, and removing a sin from you, because of it.” (Muslim Book 4, Number 989)

> “‘A’isha reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) used to begin prayer with takbir (saying Allih-o-Akbar) and the recitation:” Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe.” When he bowed he neither kept his head up nor bent it down, but kept it between these extremes; when he raised his head after bowing he did not prostrate himself till he had stood erect; when he raised his head after prostration he did not prostrate himself again till he sat up. At the end of every two rak’ahs he recited the tahiyya; and he used to place his left foot flat (on the ground) and raise up the right; he prohibited the devil’s way of sitting on the heels, and he forbade people to spread out their arms like a wild beast. And he used to finish the prayer with the taslim. (Muslim Book 4, Number 1005)

> “Maimuna reported: When the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) prostrated himself, if a lamb wanted to pass between his arms, it could pass. (Muslim Book 4, Number 1002)

The times of the ritual prayer

> “‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: The time of the noon prayer is when the sun passes the meridian and a man’s shadow is the same (length) as his height, (and it lasts) as long as the time for the afternoon prayer has not come; the time for the afternoon prayer is as long as the sun has not become pale; the time of the evening prayer is as long as the twilight has not ended; the time of the night prayer is up to the middle of the average night and the time of the morning prayer is from the appearance of dawn, as long as the sun has not risen; but when the sun rises, refrain from prayer for it rises between the horns of the devil. (Muslim Book 4, Number 1275)

> Buraida narrated on the authority of his father that a man came to the Prophet (may peace be upon him) and asked about the times of prayer. He said: You observe with us the prayer. He commanded Bilal, and he uttered the call to prayer in the darkness of night preceding daybreak and he said the morning prayer till dawn had appeared. He then commanded him (Bilal) to call for the noon prayer when the sun had declined from the zenith. He then commanded him (Bilal) to call for the afternoon prayer when the sun was high. He then commanded him for the evening prayer when the sun had set. He then commanded him for the night prayer when the twilight had disappeared. Then on the next day he commanded him (to call for prayer) when there was light in the morning. He then commanded him (to call) for the noon prayer when the extreme heat was no more. He then commanded him for the afternoon prayer when the sun was bright and clear and yellowness did not blend with it. He then commanded him to observe the sunset prayer. He then commanded him for the night prayer when a third part of the night bad passed or a bit less than that. Harami (the narrator of this hadith) was in doubt about that part of the mentioned hadith which concerned the portion of the night. When it was dawn, he (the Holy Prophet) said: Where is the inquirer (who inquired about the times of prayer and added): Between (these two extremes) is the time for prayer. (Muslim Book 4, Number 1279)

Ritual prayer observed by the angels

> “Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Angels take turns among you by night and by day, and they all assemble at the dawn and afternoon prayers. Those (of the angels) who spend the night among you, then, ascend, and their Lord asks them, though He is the best informed about them: How did you leave My servants? -they say: We left them while they were praying and we came to them while they were praying.” (Muslim Book 4, Number 1320)

Prayer is the duty of a thankful slave

> “Narrated Al-Mughira: The Prophet used to stand (in the prayer) or pray till both his feet or legs swelled. He was asked why (he offered such an unbearable prayer) and he said, “should I not be a thankful slave.” (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 21, Number 230)

The imposition of silence in prayer

> “Abdullah (b. Masu’d) reported: We used to greet the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) while he was engaged in prayer and he would respond to our greeting. But when we returned from the Negus we greeted him and he did not respond to us; so we said: Messenger of Allah. we used to greet you when you were engaged in prayer and you would respond to us. He replied: Prayer demands whole attention.” (Muslim Book 4, Number 1096)

> “Narrated Zaid bin Arqam: In the life-time of the Prophet we used to speak while praying, and one of us would tell his needs to his companions, till the verse, ‘Guard strictly your prayers (2.238) was revealed. After that we were ordered to remain silent while praying.” (Bukhari Volume 2, Book 22, Number 292)

The fate of those who would not attend prayer.

> “Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “No doubt, I intended to order somebody to pronounce the Iqama of the (compulsory congregational) prayer and then I would go to the houses of those who do not attend the prayer and burn their houses over them.” (Bukhari Volume 3, Book 41, Number 602)

The reduction in the length of the prayer

>”Narrated Abu Mas’ud Al-Ansari: A man came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! By Allah, I fail to attend the morning congregational prayer because so-and-so (i.e., Muadh bin Jabal) prolongs the prayer when he leads us for it.” I had never seen the Prophet more furious in giving advice than he was on that day. He then said, “O people! some of you make others dislike (good deeds, i.e. prayers etc). So whoever among you leads the people in prayer, he should shorten it because among them there are the old, the weak and the busy (needy having some jobs to do).” (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 89, Number 273)

Opportunity given to make missed prayer time up

> “Abu Huraira reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) saying: When the Iqama has been pronounced for prayer, do not go running to it, but go walking in tranquillity and pray what you are in time for, and complete what you have missed.” (Muslim Book 4, Number 1249)

Without reciting the Fatiha there is no merit in the prayer.

> “‘Ubada b. as-Samit reported from the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him ): He who does not recite Fatihat al-Kitab is not credited with having observed the prayer.” (Muslim Book 4, Number 771)

Avoiding lifting eyes to the sky when at prayer

> “Jabir b. Samura reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: The people who lift their eyes towards the sky in prayer should avoid it or they would lose their eyesight. One Muslim commentator says ‘ The object of prayer is to inculcate God-consciousness, this can be achieved if one is in communion with Allah and is at the same time aware of one’s surroundings and one’s own soul. This is possible if the mind is set on Allah and the eyes on Qibla, and one is conscious of where one stands and what one is doing. Lifting of one’s eyes towards the sky may help in elevation of the soul, but at the same time it severs man’s relations with the material world and dissolves the consciousness of his own being.'” (Muslim Book 4, Number 862)