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Article by Dr. Tijani Samavi
The other point which is exploited to revile the Shi’ah with, being their performing salāt al-zuhr (noon prayers) and salāt al-‘asr (afternoon prayers) together, and so also salāt al-maghrib and al-‘ishā’.
While vilifying the Shi’ah (for the alleged defect), Ahl al-Sunnah, in contrast, assert their being adherent to preserving the salāt, complying to Allah’s words when saying: “Verily prayer is (imposed) upon the believers as (‘a) timed Ordinance.” (4:103)
Before issuing any judgement for or against them, we have to discuss the subject from all dimensions and aspects, reviewing what the two sects hold in its regard.
There is unanimous agreement among Ahl al-Sunnah concerning the permissibility of performing salāt al-zuhr and al-‘asr (noon and afternoon prayers) together at ‘Arafāt (Mount), which is called jam’ taqdim (precedent joining), and also the permissibility of performing maghrib and ‘isha’ prayers at the time of ‘isha’, the act called jam’ ta’khir (late joining). This act is unanimously concurred by all Muslims, including the Shi’ah and Sunnis, and rather all the Islamic communities, with no exception.
The disagreement between the Shi’ah and Ahl al-Sunnah lies in the permissibility of performing together the two obligatory prayers of zuhr and ‘asr, and also the maghrib and ‘isha’ prayers, throughout the whole days of the year during settlement, without the presence of excuse of travel.
The Hanafi school believes in its impermissibility even during travel, despite the existence of express texts permitting it (jam’) especially during trave, contradicting thus the unanimity of the Ummah: Shi’ah and Sunnah.
The Mālikis, Shāfi’is and Hanbalis concur on the permissibility of jam’ (performing together) between two obligatory salāts during travel, but disagree concerning its permissibility in the times of (public) panic (khawf), sickness, raining and mud (flood).
The Imāmiyyah Shi’ah unanimously concur on its absolute permissibility, without the excuses of travel or raining or panic, following in this respect the guide of Ahl al-Bayt Imams among the Pure Kindred (peace be upon them).
In this point, in particular, we should take an accusative and skeptical standpoint toward them, as whenever the Sunnis argue against the Shi’ah with a proof, they would rebut the argument with saying that the Ahl al-Bayt Imams have taught and explained to them all the unsolvable matters, boasting of following the example of Infallible Imams having full knowledge of the Qur’ān and (Prophetic) Sunnah!
I remember that the first time I performed salāt al-zuhr and salāt al-‘asr, was led by the Martyr Muhammad Bāqir al-Sadr (may God be pleased with him). I used to perform the noon and afternoon (‘asr) prayers separately, when being in the Holy City of Najaf, till the coming of that blessed day.
In that day, I went out with al-Sayyid Muhammad Bāqir al-Sadr from his house to the mosque where he used to lead the congregational prayers, before his imitators who welcomed me respectfully, leaving me a room just behind him. When the noon prayers expired and iqāmah was made for the ‘asr prayers, I had a presentiment to quit and leave them.
But I remained for two reasons, the first being the dignity of al-Sayyid al-Sadr and his profound solemnity in his prayer, that I wished to be prolongated. The second reason was my presence in that place, being the nearest worshipper to him, feeling as if a force majeure pulling me toward him.
As we finished performing the ‘asr prayers, people accumulated around him putting forth their questions before him, when I stayed behind him listening to the questions and their answers given by him, except for some undisclosed ones. Then he accompanied me home for lunch, where I found myself as honorary guest. I availed myself of the opportunity of that meeting, and asked him about performing two salāts together, thus:
— O master! Can the Muslim perform two obligatory prayers together in case of exigency?
He replied: He can do so in all cases with no necessity of presence of exigency.
I said: What is your proof for this?
He said: Since the Messenger of Allah (S) has performed two obligatory prayers in al-Madinah with no travel, fear, raining or exigency, but only for keeping us away from troubles. This fact, thanks to God, is confirmed and established for us through the pure Imams, and it is also established for you.
I said: I wonder how could it be established for us while I have never heard of it before, nor seen any Sunni applying it. Rather, on the contrary, the Sunnis believe in the invalidity of the salāt if performed even one minute before the adhān (call for prayer), so what about that performing prayers hours before (its time) with the noon prayers, or performing the ‘isha’ prayers together with the maghrib, the act we view to be indecent and invalid.
Al-Sayyid Muhammad Bāqir al-Sadr realized my perplexity and wonder. He whispered in the ear of someone of the attendants, who hurriedly went and brought him two books, which I recognized to be Sahih al-Bukhāri and Sahih-Muslim. Al-Sayyid al-Sadr asked that knowledge-seeker to make me acquainted with the traditions related to performing two prayers together. I myself read in Sahih al-Bukhāri (the traditions showing) how the Prophet (S) performed together the zuhr and ‘asr prayers and maghrib and ‘isha’ prayers. In Sahih Muslim I came across a full chapter on al-jam’ bayna al-salātayn (performing two prayers together) at time of presence (hadar) other than times of fear or raining or travel.
I could not hide my wonder and astonishment, while being doubtful that al-Bukhāri and Muslim with them might be falsified, deciding privately to review these two books in Tunisia.
After that proof, al-Sayyid al-Sadr sought to know my opinion.
I said: You are quite right, and what you say is the very truth. I would like to put forth another question.
He said: Please do.
I said: Is it permissible to perform together the four salawāt (prayers), as practised by a lot of people who perform the prayers of zuhr, ‘asr, maghrib and ‘isha’ together out of (due) time (qadā’) when returning home at night?
He said: This is impermissible.
I said: You yourself said before that the Messenger of Allah (S) used to perform the prayers separately and altogether, the practice through which we recognized the due times (mawāqit), approved by Allah the Glorified.
He said: There is a common time for the two faridahs (obligatory prayers) of zuhr and ‘asr, that starts from the meridian till sunset. And also for the prayers of maghrib and ‘isha’, that starts from sunset till the midnight. While the morning prayer has one time beginning from breaking of dawn till sunrise. Whoever contradicts these fixed times, has in fact contradicted the Holy verse:
“Verily prayer is (imposed) upon the believers as (‘a) timed Ordinance.” (4:103).
So we cannot, for instance, perform the morning prayer before dawn-breaking, nor after sunrise. Also it is impermissible to perform the zuhr and ‘asr prayers before the meridian or after sunset. And further we are not allowed to perform the maghrib and ‘isha’ prayers before sunset or after midnight.
I then thanked al-Sayyid Muhammad Bāqir al-Sadr. And though I was content with all his words, but I never performed two ordinances together after departing him, till my return to Tunisia, where I engaged myself deliberately in investigation and research till being enlightened.
This was my story with Martyr al-Sadr (may God’s mercy be upon him), concerning the performing together of two obligatory prayers, intending from citing them that my brothers, among the Sunnis may realize, first, the morality of the ‘ulamā’ who humbled themselves to deserve the epithet of being the inheritors of the prophets in respect of knowledge and ethics. Second, to show how we be unaware of what our Sihāh contain, while reviling the others on some matters in whose veracity we verily believe, and which are stated in our Sihāh.
In his Musnad, Al-‘Imām Ahmad ibn Hanbal reported from Ibn ‘Abbās that he said:
The Messenger of Allah (S) performed seven and eight (rak’ahs) altogether (i.e. maghrib with ‘isha’, and zuhr with ‘asr prayers) at al-Madinah while being resident not traveller.
In al-Muwatta’, Al-‘Imām Mālik reported that Ibn ‘Abbās said:
The Messenger of Allah (S) performed the zuhr with ‘asr prayers, and maghrib with ‘isha’ prayers together, without presence of fear or travelling. The same tradition is reported also by al-‘Imām Muslim, in his Sahih, under the bāb “al-jam’ bayna al-salātayn fi al-hadar”.
Muslim also reported from Ibn ‘Abbās that he said:
The Messenger performed together zuhr with ‘asr prayers, and maghrib with ‘isha’ prayers at al-Madinah, with no fear or travel. He (Muslim) said: I asked Ibn ‘Abbās: Why did he do so? He replied: So that he would never cause any problem for his Ummah.
The fact indicating that this Prophetic Sunnah was widely known among the Sahābah, and practised by them,can be sought in the tradition reported by Muslim too in his Sahih, under the same bāb, by saying:
Ibn ‘Abbās addressed us in a sermon after the ‘asr (afternoon), and continued till sunset and appearance of the stars, when people started calling: al-salāt, al-salāt. There at a man from Banu Tamim, while perpetually exclaiming: al-salāt, al-salāt., came toward him. Ibn ‘Abbās said to him: O son of no mother! Do you teach me the Sunnah? Then he said: I have seen the Messenger of Allah (S) performing together the zuhr with ‘asr and maghrib with ‘isha’ prayers. In another narration, Ibn ‘Abbās said to the man: O motherless man, do you teach us the prayers, and we used to perform two prayers together during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (upon whom be God’s peace and benediction).
In his Sahih, under the bāb “waqt al-maghrib”, al-‘Imām al-Bukhāri said:
Adam informed us saying, Shu’bah told us and said, ‘Amr ibn Dinar said: I heard Jābir ibn Zayd, quoting Ibn ‘Abbās who said: The Prophet, upon whom be God’s peace and benediction, performed seven (rak’ahs) together and eight together (meaning maghrib with ‘isha’ and zuhr with ‘asr prayers).
Also, in his Sahih, under the bāb ‘”waqt al-‘asr”, al-Bukhāri is reported to have said:
I heard Abu Imamah saying: We performed with ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz the zuhr prayer, after which we went out and entered upon Anas ibn Mālik whom we found performing the ‘asr prayer. I said: What is that prayer you performed? He said: It is the ‘asr prayer, and it is the prayer of the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be God’s peace and benediction, which we used to perform with him.
Despite the plainness of these traditions, still there are some who exploit this point to revile the Shi’ah with. It has once upon a time occurred in Tunisia, when the prayers leader (imām) in the City of Qafsah, stood up for reviling and defaming us in the midst of the worshippers, saying: Have you noticed the religion they brought … after performing the zuhr prayer they rise up and perform the ‘asr. It is a new religion other than the Din of Muhammad the Messenger of Allah. These people contradict the Qur’ān which says: “Verily prayer is (imposed) upon the believers as (‘a) timed Ordinance.” He spared nothing but reviled with it those who were enlightened and guided.
One of the enlightened, who was a highly learned youth, came toward me and cited to me so sadly and bitterly what the leader (of prayer) said. So I handed him both Sahih al-Bukhāri and Sahih Muslim, asking him to show the imam the (traditions proving the) veracity of jam’ (performing two prayers together), which being of the Prophet’s Sunnah.
As I never intended to debate with him; since I did this before by that which is better but he responded with reviling and slander, and baseless charges. However, my friend never stopped praying behind him and when the prayers finished, the imam sat as usual to give the lessons.
Then my friend advanced to him and put forth the inquiry about performing two faridahs together. He replied: It is one of the Shi’ah’s hearsays. My friend said to him: But it is recorded in Sahih al-Bukhāri and Sahih Muslim, with giving them to him.
On reading the bāb al-jam’ bayna al-salātayn”, he was shocked by the truth, before all the worshippers, attending his classes. So he immediately closed the books, and returned them to me saying: This (sunnah) belongs in particular to the Messenger of Allah, and when you become an apostle of Allah you can apply it. After that this friend said to me: I realized then that this man was no more than a bigoted illiterate (jāhil), making an oath not to pray behind him any more (being led by him).
Thereafter, I asked my friend to go back to him to let him be acquainted with the fact that Ibn ‘Abbās used to perform that salāt (two prayers together) besides Anas ibn Mālik and many a Companion, so why does he intend to distinguish the Messenger of Allah to perform it alone? Haven’t we had a good example in the Messenger of Allah? But my friend begged me to excuse him of this task, saying: No need for this, since I am sure that he will never be convinced even when the Messenger of Allah (S) himself comes to him.
All praise belongs to Allah, that a large number of the youths, after recognizing this reality, (the performing together of two prayers), resumed their (performance of) prayers after discarding it.
That was because they were suffering from missing the performing of the prayers in their due times, in a way they used to resort to perform the four prayers altogether at night, the act causing them troubles and their hearts being fed up. But they realized then the wisdom that lies behind performing two prayers together, as all employees, students and common people would, through this sunnah, be able to perform the daily prayers in their due times with restful hearts. Only then they realized the true meaning of the Messenger’s expression: “…. so that I never create any trouble for my Ummah.”