Ṣalāt al-Ḑuḥā: Debates about the Validity and Origin of a Peculiar Muslim Ritual Prayer

By Afzal Sumar – a researcher in Islamic studies with a particular focus on Shi’ism. He also translates Arabic religious texts into English. He studied both at the university and the seminary in the UK and in Syria.

Ṣalāt al-Ḑuḥā (the ritual prayer of forenoon) is a peculiar ritual prayer. The Shiʿa tradition rejects its validity and religiosity, judging it to be an innovation and as being impermissible to perform. This negative position, vis-à-vis the prayer, is patently reflected in the reports contained in the Shiʿa corpus of ḥadīth literature, transmitted from the Imāms from the Prophet’s family, and consequently reflected in the juristic opinions of Shiʿa scholars. Hence, Shiʿa scholars are unanimous on its prohibition as asserted by prominent Shiʿa scholars across the centuries, such as for example, al-Sharīf al-Murtuḍa (d. 436/1044) in his letters/treatises (al-Rasāʾil),1 Shaykh al-Ṭūsi (d. 460/1067) in his work of comparative inter-sectarian jurisprudence al-Khilāf fī al-Aḥkām,2 al-ʿAllāma al-Ḥilli (d. 726/1326) in his work titled Muntahā al-Maṭlab fī Taḥqīq al-Madh-hab3 as well as in his work of comparative inter-sectarian jurisprudence Tadhkirat al-Fuqahā,4 al-ʿAllāma al-Majlisi (d. 1110/1699) in his encyclopedic, multi-volume work Biḥār al-Anwār,5 and al-Muḥaddith al-Baḥrāni (d. 1186/1772) in his multi-volume work of demonstrative jurisprudence al-Ḥadāʾiq al-Nāḍirah.6  However, its position in the Sunni tradition is a little more complicated. This voluntary ritual prayer gets prominent mention in the books of ḥadīth and law of the Sunni tradition although its lay adherents are less cognizant of it and hardly perform it.7

According to the Ḥanafi, Shāfiʿi, and Ḥanbali legal traditions in Sunnism it is famously held to be a ritual prayer which is identified as a ‘sunnah’, meaning an act which the Prophet Muḥammad and the politico-religious leaders who succeeded him performed regularly.8 Consequently, it is concluded that to recite it regularly is recommended.9 This is while in the Māliki legal tradition it is identified as ‘mandūbah’, meaning an act that the Prophet bade in favour of but which he performed irregularly.10 Opinions that are different to the one above exist within the Sunni tradition regarding this prayer, and these are: (i) that it is recommended to recite it on an irregular basis (probably reflecting the Māliki position), which means it is not recommended to recite it regularly; (ii) it is recommended to recite it and to attend to it at home; (iii) it was legislated for a specific purpose such as for the sake of expressing gratitude and such like; (iv) that it is not recommended to perform it; and finally (v) that it is an innovation.11 Each of these opinions is based on an interpretation of the reports relevant to the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā, which means that these divergent opinions reflect the existence of divergent reports relevant to this prayer in the sources.12 A closer look at these opinions would show that they may be broadly classified into two major categories: (i) an inclination in favour of this prayer, and (ii) disinclination to it.

Its time is suggested to begin from when the sun rises high in the sky in the morning such that its shadow is the length of a spear, and to extend up until the sun passes the zenith, while it is said that the best time to say this prayer is when the first quarter of the day has passed.13 This means it pertains to the part of the morning when the sun shines brightly and its heat becomes severe,14 that is mid-morning or forenoon15 which is the meaning of the word ḍuḥā as it occurs in Q91:1 and Q20:59 although it may also mean ‘daylight’ as in Q79:29 and Q93:1-2 where it is contrasted with layl (night).16 It is even argued to refer to the first hour of daylight following sunrise as defined by Muqātil ibn Sulaymān (d. 150/767) in his Qurʾān commentary. This is in respect of Q79:46 where the word ḍuḥā occurs with ʿashiyy and where it is argued to occur as a contrast to ʿashiyy or al-ʿaṣr (evening or last hour of day).17 Hence, although the legal time specified for this prayer in Sunni legal texts is when the day is advanced and the sun has risen high in the sky and is shining brightly yet in terms of meaning that is but one perspective for the word, the other being that ḍuḥā is the early part of the day after sunrise when the sun is yet low.18 Indeed, the Sunni ḥadīth literature contains reports that suggest that in early Islam this prayer was recited by some in the early forenoon just as it was recited in the late forenoon. This is while the number of cycles it constitutes varies between a minimum of two and a potentially limitless maximum although the greatest number of cycles mentioned in the sources is sixteen cycles.19 The Prophet Muḥammad is depicted in Sunni ḥadīth sources as having said it in cycles of 2,20 4,21 6,22 and 823 as well as urging its recitation in 12 cycles.24

Reports in the Sunni corpus of ḥadīth literature regarding this ritual prayer, like the opinions regarding it, may be broadly divided into two groups: (i) those that encourage its recital, and (ii) those that don’t; however most of the reports that encourage its recital are generally unsound in terms of their chains of transmission, observes the famous Ḥanbali scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751/1350),25 and consequently fail to convincingly establish the validity and religiosity of this ritual prayer, while a substantial number of the few that have sound chains of transmission, along with others, are ambiguous regarding their intent for they have the potential to be interpreted differently. Consequently, these too fail to establish the unequivocal legality of this prayer.

Examples of Ambiguous Non-Imāmi Reports

Some examples of the reports in favour of this prayer but which may be interpreted differently are as follows:

(i) a report found in the Sunan of Abu Dāwūd, the Sunan of al-Tirmiẓi, and the Musnad of Ibn Ḥanbal, which report is in the form of a Ḥadīth Qudsi, has God encourage the worshipper to recite four cycles of prayer at the beginning of the day whereupon He would suffice him at the end of it. It is argued that the ritual prayer mentioned here is a reference to the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā; however a rebuttal to such an identification is that the report does not specify the prayer to be the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā, rather the said prayer could merely be a reference to the recitation of four cycles of voluntary prayer during the earlier part of the day and before noon in devotion to God. This is the time when people tend to get busy in their day to day businesses. Hence this report appears to encourage devoted Muslims to wrench their attention away from worldly affairs and for a brief period of time devote themselves to God’s remembrance and then to once again return to their businesses. Perhaps the identification of the time mentioned for the prayer in the report (beginning of the day) with the portion of the day identified as al-ḍuḥā has led to the misunderstanding that it is a reference to ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā.26

(ii) Another report recorded in the Musnad of Ibn Ḥanbal has the Prophet’s companion Abu Hurayrah (d. 61/681) relate that he had never seen the Prophet perform the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā save once,27 but it is argued in rebuttal to this report that the initial part of the report is categorically clear with respect to the negation of the prayer while the terminal part is ambiguous. This is because it is possible that the Prophet performed a ritual prayer during the forenoon (which is the time of day identified as al-ḍuḥā) but for a reason that was unknown to Abu Hurayrah since the report does not state that the Prophet made public his intention for the prayer or publicly specified the kind of prayer he was saying and conveyed that information to Abu Hurayrah. It could have been a prayer for the fulfillment of a need or for any other reason.28

(iii) A report in Kanz al-ʿUmmāl has the Prophet’s companion Anas ibn Mālik (d. 90/709) report that he saw the Prophet recite the glorification of al-ḍuḥā (subḥat al-ḍuḥā) during a journey, which consisted of eight cycles. When he finished, he said that he had recited the ritual prayer of fear and hope (ṣalāt al-raghbah wa al-rahbah) and that he had asked God for three wishes, who had agreed to grant him two, which were to save his community from drought and to save them from being overwhelmed by their enemy but denied him the third, which was to save his community from having anything obscure confuse them.29 It is argued in rebuttal to the significance of this report that the particular prayer said is not identified as ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā by the Prophet, rather it is identified by him with a distinctly different name although the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā is identified sometimes in the sources as the ṣalāt al-raghbah wa al-rahbah probably on account of such reports.30 But what comes across from the report is that the Prophet recited a prayer, very probably during the late morning period, which Anas interpreted to be the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā although the report itself does not specify the time when the prayer was said. However, more importantly, Muslim history demonstrates that God has not only denied the Prophet one wish (as claimed in the report) He has actually denied him all three since Muslims have been subjected to all three scourges mentioned in the report in the past and present!31

(iv) A similarly ambiguous report occurs in ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni’s (d. 211/827) work al-Muṣannaf where the narrator says that the Prophet used to say the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā but when he was asked about the prayer he replied that it was the ṣalāt al-raghbah wa al-rahbah.32 Again it appears to be a matter of probable misidentification on the part of the narrator who understood the prayer as the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā but the Prophet had said it with a different intention.

(v) Al-Bukhāri relates that Umm Hāni bint Abi Ṭālib (a sister of Imām ʿAli and therefore the Prophet’s cousin) reported that on the occasion of the conquest of Mecca the Prophet entered her house, had a bath, and said eight cycles of prayer. She relates that she had not seen a prayer lighter or easier than it although the Prophet accomplished the bowings and the prostrations.33 Various versions of this report in Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri identify the time when this incident took place as the time of forenoon (al-ḍuḥā).34 Hence this report is interpreted by some to denote that the prayer the Prophet said on this occasion was the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā.  However it is obvious that this prayer cannot be unambiguously identified as the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā since it is not manifestly identified as such by the Prophet in the report although in some reports Umm Hāni interprets it to be so;35 rather the greater possibility is that it was a prayer said by the Prophet in gratitude to God for the favour He had bestowed on him in the form of the conquest of his home city and that the misunderstanding was due to his coincidentally reciting this prayer at the time of forenoon.36

(vi) ʿĀʾisha (d. 58/678), the Prophet’s wife, is reported to have answered ʿAbdullah ibn Shaqīq when he asked her whether the Prophet used to perform the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā by saying that he did not save when he returned from a journey.37 Again it cannot be unambiguously concluded that this report is in favour of the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā since it appears to be an instance of the Prophet saying two cycles of prayer in gratitude for returning home safely from a journey. This is suggested in the report of Kaʿb ibn Mālik. He reports that the Messenger of God did not return from a journey but by day in the forenoon, and when he arrived, he would first go to the mosque, and having prayed two cycles of prayer would sit down in it.38 The same Kaʿb ibn Mālik is reported to have said that this was the Prophet’s norm whenever he returned from a journey and thus he did the same when he returned from the military campaign of al-Tabūk, which return occurred at forenoon (ḍuḥān).39

(vii) A report similar in significance is the one which relates that a man from the anṣār, described as being very fat and unable to participate in the congregational prayers with the Prophet at his mosque, invited the latter to his house for a meal. When the Prophet arrived at his house the host asked him to say a ritual prayer and the Prophet complied by reciting two cycles of prayer. When Anas ibn Mālik, who was present there, was asked whether the Prophet used to say the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā, answered that he had never seen him pray it save that day.40 Again this report is argued to be ambiguous with respect to the identity of the ritual prayer said since it is possible that the prayer, which the Prophet said at the request of his host, was in order to express his appreciation to him for hosting him, which he did by seeking God’s blessings for him in his house, and which he did by saying two cycles of prayer. This is similar to what he did when Anas ibn Mālik and his mother invited him for a meal at their house.

What may be seen as corroborating such an interpretation of this report is Anas’s categorical negation of the Prophet ever saying this ritual prayer, rather what probably happened was that the Prophet acceded to his host’s request to say a voluntary ritual prayer which coincidentally took place at forenoon. It appears that it is on the basis of such ad-hoc recitations of a voluntary ritual prayer by the Prophet on specific occasions, which coincidentally fell during the late morning period that led some Muslims to misinterpret such devotions as being the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā. Similarly interpreted would be the reports that describe the Prophet saying the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā when he received news of Abu Jahl (d. 2/624) having had been killed41 or when food and water were miraculously made available to him which allowed him to feed a whole army of Muslims.42 All these instances could be interpreted as instances when the Prophet said a voluntary ritual prayer of varying cycles as a token of gratitude and where the part of day when he recited the prayer coincided with forenoon. It is on the basis of such reports that the third opinion identified above was formulated.

An Ambiguous Imāmi Shiʿa Report!

Here it may be useful to cite an example of a similar kind of report from the Shiʿa corpus of ḥadīth literature. Shaykh al-Ṣadūq (d. 381/991) records in his work of ḥadīth titled Kitāb al-Tawḥīd from Imām al-Ṣādiq (d. 148/765) who related from his father that Imām ʿAli (d. 40/660) alighted from his mount at Ṣiffīn and said four cycles of prayer before noon or midday.43 Did the Imām say the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā?! This report appears very similar to the reports cited above where it is not clear if this prayer was the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā or some other voluntary prayer said coincidentally at forenoon since the Imām does not expressly specify his intention for the prayer or the type of prayer said. Al-ʿAllāma al-Majlisi suggests that this act of the Imām was either done in the context of dissimulation (al-taqiyyah) or for a purpose that was specifically related to the day in question such as it being a prayer said for the fulfillment of needs or a prayer of thanksgiving or other such purpose since, he writes, the unacceptability and innovative nature of the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā is established by means of multiple, independent, consecutively transmitted reports that have been transmitted across the generations (al-tawātur) which has produced a consensus among the Imāmis that a ritual prayer identified as ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā said at forenoon with the express intent that it is recommended to do so at that time is an innovation in religion.44

Indeed, the incident of Imām ʿAli alighting from his mount before noon and saying four cycles of voluntary prayer at Ṣiffīn cited above is actually part of a longer report in Kitāb al-Tawḥīd which helps identify the context and the most probable reason the Imām said these cycles of prayer before noon. It begins by relating that the Imām was taught a recital by al-Khiḍr in a dream which he saw a night before the battle of Badr. In this vision, the Imām asks al-Khiḍr to teach him something which would help him triumph over the enemy at Badr. He was thus taught a simple recital which the Prophet identified the next day as the greatest name of God. The recital was: O He, O He who there is no He but He’. The Imām consequently went on repeating this recital throughout the battle of Badr. The report continues that during the battle of Ṣiffīn the Imām likewise went on repeating this recital along with Q112 whilst pursuing his enemies. During that battle, one day ʿAmmār ibn Yāsir (d. 37/657), (who had obviously heard the Imām constantly repeat this recital) asked him its meaning and the Imām explained it to be ‘the greatest name of God, the pillar of divine unity, and as meaning that there is no God but He’. Thereafter the Imām continued his explanation further by reciting Q3:18 and Q59:22-24. (Both Qurʾānic verses repeat the same theme of divine unity as in the recital, and contain words similar to those in the recital. It thus seems that the Imām recited these verses to further emphasize the meaning of the formula he was taught and/or to give relevant Qurʾānic examples) and it is at that moment that he dismounted from his mount and said four cycles of prayer before noon.45 Hence it appears that the Imām either recited this ritual prayer in gratitude to God or in sincere, devoted submission to Him since the relevant formula and related Qurʾānic verses reiterate God’s unicity, and generate awe.

Examples of Non-Imāmi Reports with Unsound Chains of Transmission

Next are several examples of those reports that are in favour of this prayer but which are claimed to have been transmitted by means of chains that consist of unreliable transmitters which attest to their fabricated nature. In his most famous and voluminous work titled Zād al-Maʿād ʿalā Hady Khayr al-ʿIbād, which is a biography of the Prophet Muḥammad coupled with a discussion of issues that branch out from it such as issues related to theology, law, good manners, ḥadīth, language, grammar, etc,46 the Ḥanbali scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya wrote the following after analysing the reports on this prayer: ‘most of the reports in favour of this ritual prayer have chains of transmission that contain defects in them while some of them have truncated chains, and others are fabricated such that it is impermissible to use them as proof’.47 Some examples are as follows: (i) A report with a truncated chain from Anas ibn Mālik who relates the Prophet having said that whoever consistently recites the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā and does not leave it save due to illness would accompany the Prophet in a boat of light sailing in a sea of light. However, this report has been identified as one that was fabricated by Zakariyyah ibn Duwayd al-Kindi.48 (ii) Another report is by ʿUmar ibn Ṣubḥ who relates from ʿĀʾisha who said that the Messenger of God used to say the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā consisting of twelve cycles; however ʿUmar ibn Ṣubḥ is identified as the one who fabricated this report.49 (iii) Yet another report attributed to Abu Hurayrah has him say that whoever resolutely recites the sabḥat al-ḍuḥā shall have his sins forgiven even if they are as many as the lobsters in the sea or as much as the foam of the sea. However, it is one of the transmitters by the name ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Abān who is identified as the probable culprit in fabricating the report.50 Consequently, these fail to establish the legality and religiosity of this prayer.

Examples of Non-Imāmi Reports which Negate the Prayer

Next are several examples of reports that reject the validity of this prayer. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah writes in his work Zād al-Maʿād51 that these reports which clearly discourage the recitation of this prayer (meaning thereby that their contents are unambiguously specific regarding its negation) contradict those that encourage its recitation and that a group of scholars has preferred these to the former because they have sounder chains of transmission and because the Prophet’s companions acted in accordance to them.52 Some of these are as follows:

(i) Al-Bukhāri relates with a complete chain that when ʿAbdullah ibn ʿUmar (d. 74/693) was asked whether he recited the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā he replied in the negative, further negating that his father or his predecessor Abu Bakr recited it while with respect to the Prophet, he replied that he did not think he recited it,53 (ii) however Muslim records in his Ṣaḥiḥ from Ḥafṣ ibn ʿĀṣim who related that when he once fell sick and had ʿAbdullah ibn ʿUmar visit him, he asked him about reciting the sabḥat al-ḍuḥā during a journey whereupon ʿAbdullah ibn ʿUmar replied that he had accompanied the Prophet on a journey but had not seen him perform this prayer, and had he done so, he (ʿAbdullah ibn ʿUmar) would have accomplished it54 while (iii) ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni records in his work al-Muṣannaf that when ʿAbdullah ibn ʿUmar was asked why he was not seen to say the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā, he replied that it was because he had not seen the Prophet say it.55  This is while (iv) al-Bukhāri records that one day Mujāhid and ʿUrwah ibn Zubayr entered the Prophet’s mosque whereupon they found ʿAbdullah ibn ʿUmar seated near ʿĀʾisha’s chambers while the people were saying the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā in the mosque. They relate that when they asked him about the prayer he replied that it was an innovation!56

(v) Al-Bukhāri and Ibn Ḥanbal both record that ʿĀʾisha related that she did not see the Prophet recite the subḥat al-ḍuḥā although she herself recited it!57 This is while (vi) she is also reported to have related that she had not seen the Prophet recite the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā ever.58  (vii) Finally, Ibn Ḥanbal relates that once Abu Bakr (d. 13/634) saw some people reciting the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā whereupon he commented that they were saying a prayer which the Prophet had not said and nor had the generality of his companions.59 ʿAbdullah ibn Masʿūd (d. 32-3/652-4) also eschewed this ritual prayer, relates ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni in his work al-Muṣannaf,60 as did ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn ʿAwf (d. 32/652-53).61 Consequently, Ibn Qayyim inclined to the opinion that the ritual prayer identified as ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā was erroneously identified as such and was, in fact, a prayer performed coincidentally at the time of ḍuḥā for a specific purpose such as for the sake of gratitude or as a form of respect for a specific mosque, or a prayer said at the behest of a host who wanted to obtain the blessings of having the Prophet pray in his house, etc.62 Hence his opinion was the third one identified above.

Examples of Imāmi Shiʿa Reports Negating Ṣalāt al-Ḑuḥā

Next to be studied is a sample of reports from the Imāmi ḥadīth collections regarding this prayer.

(i) Shaykh al-Ṭūsi reports via his sound chain of transmission from Zurārah, Muḥammad ibn Muslim, and al-Fuḍayl, all of whom report that the two Imāms (al-Bāqir [d. 114/732] and al-Ṣādiq) related to them (in the context of their question about the voluntary prayer said in congregation during the nights of the month of Ramaḍān [the ṣalāt al-tarāwīḥ]) that the Prophet said the following after praising and extolling God: ‘O people, the voluntary prayer at night in the month of Ramaḍān said in congregation is an innovation, and the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā is an innovation. So do not gather together (for the voluntary prayers) at night in the month of Ramaḍān (in order to say it in congregation) nor say the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā for it is a sin. Hearken! Every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance leads to hell-fire’. He then added, ‘few deeds done in accordance with the sunnah are better than a lot of deeds done in accordance with innovation’.63

(ii) Shaykh al-Kulayni (d. 329/940-1) records in al-Kāfi from both Imāms al-Bāqir and al-Ṣādiq who related that the Messenger of God said: ‘the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā is an innovation’;64 while (iii) Shaykh al-Ṣadūq records a sound report from Imām al-Bāqir who said: ‘the Messenger of God did not say the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā ever’.65 (iv) Shaykh al-Ṣadūq records a report in his ʿUyūn Akhbār al-Riḍā which terminates at Rajāʾ ibn Abī al-Ḑaḥḥāk, the man sent forth to Medina by the Abbasid Caliph al-Maʿmūn (d. 218/833) so that he could bring Imam al-Riḍā (d. 203/818) to him in Khurāsān. Rajāʾ ibn Abī al-Ḑaḥḥāk describes in a lengthy but exquisite report the behavior and lifestyle of the Imām which he witnessed during the journey and says, inter-alia: ‘I did not see him say the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā, neither while journeying nor while halting at a place’.66

(v) Shaykh al-Ṣadūq records in his Man Lā Yaḥḍuruhu al-Faqīh that in the course of responding to ʿAbd al-Wāḥid ibn al-Mukhtār al-Anṣāri’s question regarding the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā Imām al-Bāqir related that Imām ʿAli passed by a man who was saying this prayer and so he inquired of him: ‘what is this prayer?’ The man asked in response ‘shall I abandon it, Commander of the faithful?’ Imām ʿAli replied ‘shall I be one to forbid a slave if he prays?’ (a reference to Q96:9-10).67

(vi) A similar report is recorded by Shaykh al-Kulayni via a truncated (marfūʿ) chain in al-Kāfi that Imām ʿAli passed by a man saying the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā in the mosque of al-Kūfa, so he touched (or lightly struck) his side with his whip and said ‘you have killed/pierced (meaning: disfigured or corrupted) the prayer of the penitents (ṣalāt al-awwābīn), may God kill you!’ So the man asked ‘shall I abandon it?’ The Imām recited Q96:9-10 in reply: ‘Have you seen the one who forbids a servant when he prays?’ Imām al-Ṣādiq said: ‘the rejection (of the prayer) by ʿAli suffices as prohibition’.68 The last two reports appear to both condemn the said prayer as well as to tolerate it; however, the statement of Imām al-Ṣādiq in the second report makes clear that the actual import of the report is to condemn the particular prayer being said. This is because striking someone or reprimanding him is sufficient to indicate disapproval and prohibition. Hence the latter part of Imām ʿAli’s speech in both reports, which suggests tolerance or acquiescence, is apparently a case of dissimulation writes al-Majlisi. This is because reports have been transmitted that the people at the time of Imām ʿAli would object to him and disagree with him when he would prohibit them the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā. They would make a rejoinder to him by reciting Q96:9-10 when he would attempt to stop them from the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā. Hence, since his interlocutor, writes al-Majlisi, was either not smart enough to sense his disapproval or was from those who would disagree with him (as manifested by the repeated question ‘shall I abandon it?’) made the Imām feel that it was useless to repeat his negation.69

(vi) Al-ʿAyyāshi (d. 320/932-933) records in his Qurʾān commentary from Asbagh ibn Nubātah (one of the most prominent companions of Imām ʿAli) who related: ‘we went out with ʿAli (to the mosque) where he sat in the middle of it (the mosque). (We observed) that the people were performing prayer in excess to what was required when the sun rose. Then I heard him say ‘they have killed (or disfigured/corrupted) the prayer of the penitents (ṣalāt al-awwābīn), may God kill them’. I asked ‘what have they killed?’ He replied ‘they have brought the prayer (of the penitents) forward (or have said it in advance)’. So I asked: ‘Prince of the Believers, what is the prayer of the penitents? He replied ‘two cycles’.70 Al-ʿAllāma al-Majlisi comments that what the Imām meant by them killing or corrupting the prayer of the penitents was that they had forfeited the prayer of the penitents which is (part of) the eight cycle voluntary prayer (nāfilah) preceding the obligatory noon prayer (al-ẓuhr). They had done that by bringing two cycles of the eight cycles (nāfilat al-ẓuhr) forward and recited it before its prescribed time as the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā. Thus they had forfeited the prayer of the penitents and innovated in its stead the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā, which in its least form constitutes of two cycles, thereby corrupting and killing the prayer of the penitents and the voluntary prayer preceding the obligatory noon prayer too.71 It appears that the voluntary prayer (nāfilah) preceding the obligatory noon prayer (al-ẓuhr) was sometimes confused with the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā. Thus Zurārah reports from Imām al-Bāqir who insisted: ‘the Messenger of God never ever said the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā, whereupon Zurārah asked the Imām: ‘but did you not inform me that he (the Messenger of God) used to say four cycles of prayer at the beginning of the day?’ The Imām replied: ‘yes, he used to render it part of the eight cycles of prayer (recited) after the sun passed the meridian’.72

The reports which portray Imām ʿAli dissuading the people from saying the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā are reminiscent of the report above which describes Abu Bakr negating the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā in addition to which these Imāmi reports are congruent with the third group of reports cited from Sunni sources above.

Those who negate the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā admit that saying a voluntary ritual prayer is one of the best deeds of worship and a worshipper may say it at any time he wishes and any number of two cycle prayers he wishes. Thus he may increase his voluntary prayers or decrease them but the bone of contention is, they argue, saying a voluntary ritual prayer at forenoon with the specific intent that it is the ritual prayer of forenoon (ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā), and saying it in the manner specified for it whilst insisting that all of that is recommended. Such an attitude to it is akin to innovating devotions especially since there is no convincing proof that this ritual prayer was taught and established by the Prophet at God’s behest since specifying a devotional ritual is God’s prerogative alone and that of the Prophet’s when authorized as such by God.73

The Possible Origin and Subsequent Introduction of the Ṣalāt al-Ḑuḥā into the Muslim Faith

The origin of the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā is unclear. Imāmi reports place its origin with the Medinan anṣār. Thus when ʿAbd al-Wāḥid ibn al-Mukhtār al-Anṣāri asked Imām al-Bāqir (as) about the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā the Imām answered: ‘the first ones to say this prayer were your people. They were truly heedless and unaware (ghāfilīn) and used to perform it but the Messenger of God did not perform it.’74 Imām al-Bāqir said the following to a man from the anṣār who asked him about the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā: ‘the first ones to innovate this ritual prayer were your people, the anṣār. They heard the Messenger of God say: ‘a ritual prayer said in my mosque equals a thousand ritual prayers (said elsewhere)’. Consequently, they would come (to Medina) from their villages and estates at mid-morning (the time of al-ḍuḥā), enter the mosque and pray. News of this practice reached the Messenger of God who forbade them from it’.75

However, it is possible that the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā had pre-Islamic antecedents. A couple of reports recorded by ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni in his work al-Muṣannaf are available that suggest that the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā was a thanksgiving prayer said by the Bedouins76 and dwellers of the desert.77 It consisted of the acts of takbīr and sujūd.78 They would carry out this ritual when one of them completed a successful sale79 or at the end of their fairs.80 They would come to the mosque (in Mecca) and perform the ritual.81 This is while ʿAbdullah ibn ʿUmar, who was born in 610 CE in Mecca, is recorded by ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni to have said that he had not said the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā ever since he became a Muslim;82 all of which suggests it was a ritual well-known in Mecca before the Prophet’s migration to Medina. There is yet another piece of evidence, albeit highly contentious, which suggests that the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā had pre-Islamic roots. The earliest version of it can be found in al-Balādhūri’s (d. 278/891) Anṣāb al-Ashrāf on the authority of al-Wāqidi (d. 207/823)83 although al-Maqrīzi’s (d. 845/1442) biography of the Prophet, titled Imtaʿ al-Asmāʾ bi-Mā lil-Rasūl min al-Anbāʾ wa-al-Amwāl wa-al-Ḥafadah wa-al-Matāʿ84 has the most coherent version of it and is reproduced as follows: ‘The Prophet used to go out to the Kaʿbah at the beginning of the day and perform the ḍuḥā prayer. It was a prayer with which the Quraysh did not find any fault. When he afterwards prayed during the rest of the day, ʿAli and Zayd used to sit guard over him. When it was time for the ʿaṣr prayer the Prophet and his companions used to scatter in the ravines, one by one and in pairs; they used to pray the ḍuḥā and the ʿaṣr. Afterwards, the five prayers were enjoined on them. Before the hijrah, each prayer consisted of two cycles.’85

The observation has been made, regarding this report, that the probable reason the Meccan Quraysh tolerated the earlier prayer but not the later one was because it resembled the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā practiced by the Bedouins.86 Of course, this report which depicts the Prophet saying the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā goes contrary to the reports that deny him saying it and it may be argued that it therefore needs to be cast aside. But perhaps this report could be interpreted like the many ambiguous reports cited above. It may be argued that the period in time to which this report refers was one that belonged to the earliest part of the Prophet’s prophethood; a time period when the prayer times had not yet been specified although the ritual prayer had already been taught to him consisting of two cycles.87 This was also the period during which the Prophet concealed his affair from the majority of the people.88 He thus said his prayers whenever he liked and chose mid-morning as one of the times to say his prayer knowing well that his prayer ritual said at mid-morning would look like the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā to his adversaries who would consequently leave him alone, which would afford him the opportunity to say his devotions at the Kaʿbah; however the same was not possible for prayers said during the rest of the day such as in the evenings since it is suggested that the prayer ritual the Prophet said in the evenings had no similar looking ritual among the Arabs, rather his evening prayer may have seemed to them like the Jewish minḥah and therefore alien.89 Thus it was in the manner of dissimulation that he said one of his prayers at around mid-morning. This may be the same reason why many of the early Muslims who may not have converted to the faith at that point in time (and which was a very fluid period in terms of conversions) erroneously identified this particular prayer of the Prophet as the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā. A closely similar report, which however does not identify the ritual prayer said by the Prophet as the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā, is one that is related by the author of one of the earliest biographies of the Prophet, Ibn Isḥāq (d. 151/768). It has ʿAfīf, a trading associate of ʿAbbās ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib narrate that he once visited the latter during the period of pilgrimage and while he was with the latter, a man, a young boy, and a woman (subsequently identified as the Prophet, ʿAli, and Khadījah respectively) came to the Kaʿbah and prayed.90

Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabari (d. 310/923) records a report from ʿAfīf; a report which is basically the same as that of Ibn Isḥāq’s but which has an important detail to it.91 It has ʿAfīf say that: ‘During the Jāhiliyyah I came to Mecca and stayed with al-ʿAbbas ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib. When the sun came up and rose into the sky, while I was looking at the Kaʿbah a young man came up and gazed at the sky. Then he turned to face the Kaʿbah and stood facing it. Soon afterwards a youth came and stood on his right, and soon after that a woman came and stood behind them. The young man bowed, and the youth and woman bowed; then the young man stood erect, followed by the youth and the woman, and then the young man prostrated himself, and they did so with him….’92 This report places the incident at the time when the sun is high in the sky, that is mid-morning or forenoon – al-ḍuḥā. Ibn Isḥāq, al-Ṭabari (from Ibn Isḥāq) and Shaykh al-Ṭabarsi (d. 548/1153) all mention yet another report or rather perhaps a variant of the first one which has this event taking place at Minā.93 As for the latter report that locates the incident at Minā, it may suggest the Prophet taking advantage of dissimulation since a number of rituals pertaining to the Ḥajj were carried out by the Quraysh at the time of al-ḍuḥā such as the slaughtering of the animals, the throwing of the pebbles at the three pillars, and the ifāḍah from Muzdalifa to Minā94 even though the report itself does not mention the time of day when the prayer was said. As for the report which locates the incident at the Kaʿbah, it also suggests dissimulation and a point in time when the five daily ritual prayers had not yet been established, which is the more probable assumption since both Ibn Isḥāq and Shaykh al-Ṭabarsi include these reports during the earliest phase of the Prophet’s Meccan career while the variant of this report recorded by Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 413/1022) in his Kitāb al-Irshād has ʿAfīf provide an additional piece of detail which verifies the early point in time that this incident occurred. He says that the incident took place ‘before the affair of the Prophet became known to the public’95 while the variant of al-Ṭabari (cited above) expressly states the point in time to be the pre-Islamic period known as the Jāhiliyyah.

The confusion as to whether this incident occurred during pre-Islam or after the inception of the faith but before the affair of the Prophet became public knowledge reinforces the very early period in time to which the incident hearkens since the latter phase succeeded the former and it is very possible for a person to consider or confuse them as one. Thus the Prophet’s prayer at the Kaʿbah at that point in time during the day was most probably due to a purposely conscious decision on his part, knowing that his prayer would go unnoticed (since it would resemble a ritual with which the Quraysh would have no objection). This is despite the fact that al-Ṭabari places these events after the event of al-miʿrāj during which the five daily prayers were legislated, and this is because all the ‘ʿAfīf reports’ of which there appear to be atleast three variants clearly state that at that point in time there were only three Muslims on the face of the earth while one variant of the report by al-Ṭabari states, as observed above, that it took place during the pre-Islamic period.

The fact that the Muslim prayer ritual attracted the wrath of the disbelievers and therefore required dissimulation, which required the Muslims to say it secretly, is well attested in the sources, (in addition to the reports that say the Prophet hid his affair for atleast three years in fear).96 The early historical sources provide reports in this regards such as the report in Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq’s early biography of the Prophet Muḥammad, which reads: A traditionist mentioned that when the time for prayer occurred the apostle used to go out to the glens of Mecca accompanied by ʿAli, who went unbeknown to his father, his uncles, and the rest of his people. There they used to pray the ritual prayer and return at nightfall. This went on as long as God intended that it should, until one day Abu Ṭālib came upon them while they were praying, and said to the apostle, ‘O nephew, what is this religion which I see you practicing?’ He replied, ‘O uncle, this is the religion of God, His angels, His apostles, and the religion of our father Abraham….’97

This report appears to refer to the prayer(s) said during the rest of the day and indicates the fear of persecution and the need for dissimulation. Ibn Isḥāq also records that when the Prophet’s companions prayed they would go out to the glens so that their people would not see them praying and thus once when Saʿd ibn Abi Waqqās was with a number of the Prophet’s companions in one of the glens of Mecca, a band of polytheists came upon them while they were praying and rudely interrupted them. They blamed them for what they were doing until they came to blows, and it was on that occasion that Saʿd smote a polytheist with the jaw-bone of a camel and wounded him. This was the first blood to be shed in Islam.98 And when the Prophet did say his prayers openly rather than in hiding he was subjected to painful persecution. Al-Yaʿqūbi (d. 284/897) records the following episode in his work of history; an event that occurred when the Prophet had begun to preach openly and had begun to censure the Quraysh openly. He writes:  ‘Those who ridiculed him were al-ʿĀṣ ibn Wāʾil al-Sahmī, al-Ḥārith b. Qays ibn ʿAdī al-Sahmī, al-Aswad ibn al-Muṭṭalib ibn Asad, al-Walīd ibn al-Mughīra al- Makhzūmī, and al-Aswad ibn ʿAbd Yaghūth al-Zuhrī. They would set their young boys and slaves on him to treat him in ways disagreeable to him. Once they slaughtered a camel at a place called al-Ḥazwarah while the Messenger of God was standing in prayer. Al-Ḥazwarah means a small hill or a rough place and it is also identified as the market place of Mecca. They commanded a slave boy of theirs to carry the contents of the womb and stomach and put them before his shoulders while he was prostrating in prayer’.99

An alternative explanation for the Prophet’s prayer at the Kaʿbah, identified as the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā in the report above, could be that it was the prayer said after performing the circumambulation of the Kaʿbah, wrongly identified as the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā. This comes across in a report attributed to ʿAbdullah ibn Masʿūd, one of the earliest converts to the Muslim faith and a known companion of the Prophet. He relates that he first heard of the Prophet when he visited his paternal uncles in Mecca. Thus they referred him to the Prophet’s paternal uncle al-ʿAbbās ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib whom he found seated at the well of Zamzam. Whilst he was with him he saw a man, a young boy, and a woman (subsequently identified as the Prophet, ʿAli, and Khadījah respectively) arrive at the Kaʿbah, proceed to the Black Stone, and touch it reverently. Then they circled the Kaʿbah seven times on completion of which they touched the corner of the Kaʿbah and said a ritual prayer consisting of takbīr, qunūt, rukūʿ, and sujūd. He says that he found what he saw to be novel100 probably alluding to some of the constituents of the ritual prayer since the Quraysh used to practice the rite of circling the Kaʿbah at the time of ḍuḥā and in the evening which included touching the Black Stone.101 This may also suggest the Prophet taking advantage of dissimulation.

Anyhow, the details above would suggest that the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā, consisting of the takbīr and sujūd, was well-known to the Quraysh of Mecca and that it belonged to the pre-Islamic times although it is not clear how widely practiced it was by the Quraysh, if at all, since in the Qurʾān the ṣalāt of the Meccan polytheists is described as clapping and whistling around the Kaʿbah (Q8:35). It is not clear if this verse literally describes some kind of ritual practiced by the Meccans in the vicinity of the Kaʿbah or if it is an attempt at a derisive denigration of their beliefs and rites.

It appears that the pre-Islamic ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā was then imported into the Muslim faith. Thus a report says that the first Muslim to say it was a companion by the name of Dhu al-Zawāʾid or Abu al-Zawāʾid who belonged to the tribe of al-Juhayna102 which was a tribe that lived in the environs of Medina (formerly Yathrib). In this way, the Imāmi reports, which attribute the innovation of this prayer in the Muslim faith to the anṣār would now make sense since it may be held that these reports are referring to the stage in its evolution which pertains to how it was subsequently introduced into the Muslim faith.

Did the Earliest Meccan Muslims Pray Twice a Day before the Establishment of the Five Daily Prayers?

It may be pointed out here that the report from Imtaʿ al-Asmāʾ appears to suggest that prior to the specification of the five daily prayers the Muslims prayed twice a day, which was during mid-morning and then in the late evening, and the prayer consisted of two cycles each. Although there is no disagreement that the Muslim prayer ritual originally consisted of two cycles each in Mecca while the additional cycles were added after the migration to Medina, and although there is a general consensus that the five obligatory daily ritual prayers were legislated during the miʿrāj in Mecca yet it is not clear if the five obligatory daily ritual prayers were preceded by a phase when the Muslims prayed two obligatory daily ritual prayers a day although there is again no doubt that the earliest Muslims said ritual prayers before its legislation in the form of five obligatory daily ritual prayers. Nevertheless, if such a phase in the development of the ritual prayer is envisaged then the Qurʾānic evidence appears to incline to two ritual prayers a day said at dawn (al-fajr) and evening (ʿaṣr) rather than mid-morning (al-ḍuḥā) and evening (ʿaṣr) such as in the following Qurʾānic verses, all of which belong to Meccan sūras: Q50:39-40; Q7:205; Q20:130-132; Q11:114; Q6:52; Q40:55; Q18:28; Q52:48-49.

Q50 is tentatively considered the 34th sūra in chronological descent.103 Q50:39-40 asks the Prophet to be patient in the face of what the disbelievers say, and to sing the praises of his Lord (sabbiḥ bi ḥamdi rabbika) before the rising of the sun and before its setting (qabla ṭulūʿ al-shamsi wa qabla ghurūbiha), and to glorify God in the night (wa min al-layl fasabiḥhu) and after the prostrations (wa adbar al-sujūd). Q7 is tentatively the 39th sūra in chronological descent.104 It asks the Prophet in Q7:205 to ‘remember your Lord (wa udhkur rabbaka) within yourself humbly and fearing (fī nafsika taḍarruʿan wa khīfatan) and in a voice not loud (dūna al-jahri min al-qawl) in the early morning and the evening (bil guduwwi wa al-āṣāl) and be not of the heedless ones’. The term guduww is the time between the break of dawn and the rising of the sun105 or put differently, the time period when the dawn ritual prayer needs to be said106 while the term āṣāl pertains to the time before sunset.107 Q20 is tentatively considered to be the 45th sūra in chronological descent.108 Q20:130-132 asks the Prophet to be patient in face of verbal assaults, to glorify the Lord by praising Him before sunrise and before sunset (wa sabbiḥ bi ḥamdi rabbika qabla ṭulūʿ al-shams wa qabla ghurūbiha), and to glorify God during the hours of the night and during the extremities of the day (wa min ānā al-layli fa sabbiḥ wa aṭrāf al-nahār). Q11 is tentatively the 52nd sūra in terms of chronological descent.109 Q11:114-115 asks the Prophet to ‘keep up prayer at the two ends of daytime and in the first hours of the night….’ (aqim al-ṣalāt ṭarafay al-nahār wa zulafan min al-layl) since good deeds expunge evil deeds. These further ask him to be patient for God surely rewards the good-doers. Although there is disagreement among the early scholars regarding the identity of the prayers to be said at the two ends of daytime – ṭarafay al-nahār – with some interpreting it to mean the dawn, evening, and night prayers,110 and others interpreting it to mean the dawn and afternoon prayers111 while still others interpreting it to refer to the five daily ritual prayers112 yet the verse is not understood to refer to a mid-morning ritual prayer. Q6 is tentatively considered to be the 55th sūra in chronological descent.113 In Q6:52 there appears mention of ‘those who call upon their Lord in the morning and evening’ (yadʿūna rabbahum bi al-ghadāti wa al-ʿashiyy). The word al-ghadāh means the time period between the break of dawn and the rising of the sun114 or the time period when the darkness of night turns into dawn and dawn turns into daylight as the sun rises115 but it may also mean the time after sunrise116 while al-ʿashiyy refers to the time when darkness begins, heralding night time;117 it also means evening and darkness.118 The fact that the term al-ghadāh is juxtaposed with al-ʿashiyy would make one incline to interpreting al-ghadāh as dawn. Q40 is tentatively the 60th sūra in chronological descent.119

Q40:55 asks that God’s praises be sung (wa sabbiḥ bi ḥamdi rabbika) in the evening and at dawn (bi al-ʿashiyyi w al-ibkār). The term al-ibkār is suggested to be a synonym of al-ghudwah/al-ghadāh and therefore refers to the time when the dawn ritual prayer needs to be said.120 Muqātil ibn Sulaymān, the early Qurʾān commentator, explains Q40:55 saying: ‘it means “… and pray due to the command of your Lord, at the time of al-ghadāh, meaning the ritual prayer of al-ghadāh, and the ritual prayer of al-ʿaṣr”.’121 Q18 is tentatively the 69th sūra in chronological descent.122 Q18:28 asks the Prophet to be patient along with those who call upon their Lord at dawn (al-ghadāti) and evening (alladhīna yadʿūna rabbahum bi al-ghadāti wa al-ʿashiyy) desiring God’s goodwill. Finally, there is Q52 which is tentatively considered the 76th sūra to descend in chronological terms.123 In Q52:48-49 the Prophet is urged to ‘…sing the praise of your Lord when you rise; And in the night, give Him glory too, and at the setting of the stars’ (wa sabbiḥ bi-ḥamdi rabbika ḥīna taqūmu, wa min al-layl fa-sabiḥ-hu wa idbār al-nujūm).

Thus none of these verses mention devotions to be made at forenoon or mid-morning (ḍuḥan), rather the Qurʾānic verses speak of a devotional ritual that is pre-sunrise, pre-sunset, and at night. This conclusion was also upheld by the Shāfiʿi jurist and close disciple of Imām al-Shāfiʿi (d. 204/820), namely Ismāʿil ibn Yaḥyā al-Muzani (d. 264/878) based on the Qurʾānic verses. He, therefore, rejects that the ṣalāt al-ḍuḥā was ever one of two daily ritual prayers in early Islam124 as did Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalāni (d. 852/1449), the well-known Shāfiʿi scholar and commentator of Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri who identifies the ritual prayers before they were made obligatory to be two prayers a day; one before sunrise and the other before sunset125 as did Ibn Kathīr (d. 774/1373) who adds to these the night prayer.126 Nevertheless, the ‘Afif’ reports and the report by al-Maqrīzi, if truly sound, mean that the prayer the Prophet said at mid-morning (if he truly did so) was a voluntary prayer in addition to the dawn (al-fajr) and evening (ʿaṣr) prayers said during the day at that period of his ministry if indeed such a phase occurred. But such a phase in the evolution of the Muslim ritual prayer appears unlikely since the verses cited above are very probably a reference to the continual, permanent, and enduring remembrance of God, that is, a reference to voluntary devotions rather than a reference to the morning and evening ritual prayers. The reason for that is that the five daily prayers are said to have been prescribed during the event of the miʿrāj. Although the point in time when this event occurred is disputed its occurrence is not and it may well be that it occurred several times with its first occurrence taking place very early during the Prophet’s ministry. Now Sūra al-Najm, which is tentatively rendered the 23rd sūra in terms of chronological descent in Mecca and believed to relate the event of the miʿrāj, which is when the five daily ritual prayers were legislated, predates all the sūras cited above in chronological descent. Consequently, if the five daily ritual prayers were already legislated by the time these verses were revealed, then they cannot be understood as a reference to the morning and evening prayers but rather to the general, continuous remembrance of God. Further, similar expressions appear in Medinan verses too127 and it is unanimously agreed that the five daily prayers were legislated before the migration to Medina. Thus it is more appropriate that this is a reference to continuous on-going praise and glorification. Hence Zurārah asks Imām al-Bāqir (as) regarding Q20:132 (already cited above) and the Imām replied: ‘it means voluntary devotions during the day’.128 It may be possible that these two timings have been emphasized because in these two timings a person is free and in the best mood and state to worship God since in the morning he has not yet started his daily activities while in the evening he has completed that day’s activities and is therefore free. Consequently al-Shaykh Nāṣir Makārim (b. 1927) cautions that the Qurʾānic verses which mention the timings of prayers must not be taken as literal historical indicators for the development of the prayer times since various verses mention varying number of prayers such as Q2:238 which instructs in favour of keeping to the ritual prayers but then emphasizes one particular prayer which is the middle prayer (al-ṣalāt al-wusṭā). This is understood to refer to the ẓuhr ritual prayer. In other cases, he writes, a verse may mention three ritual prayers such as in Q11:114 which is understood to refer to the dawn (al-fajr), sunset (al-maghrib), and night (al-ʿishā) ritual prayers. Yet in other verses, all five daily ritual prayers are mentioned in a concise manner such as Q17:78-79. This, he writes, is the Qurʾānic norm. It tends to give a general outline or general principles like so many other legal regulations while the details are then conveyed in the practices and teachings of the Prophet and the Imāms from his progeny. This is unless it is argued that the earliest verse which alludes to the miʿrāj is Q17:1 which is held to be the 50th sūra in terms of chronological descent.129 Certainly, Q17 is famous for being the sūra which delineates the daily prayer timings and this occurs in Q17:78-79. Reports from the Imāms confirm these two verses’ significance to the daily prayer timings.130 Q17:78 asks the Prophet to ‘keep up prayer (aqim al-ṣalāt) from the declining of the sun (li dulūk al-shams) till the darkness of the night (ilā ghasq al-layl), and the morning recitation (wa qurʾān al-fajr),’ reiterating that the morning recitation is witnessed, while Q17:79 asks the Prophet to engage in voluntary worship during a part of the night, beyond what is incumbent….’ In such a case the verses Q50:39-40; Q7:205; and Q20:130-132, all of which mention dawn, evening, and night times would be held to pre-date Q17 and all of them explicitly mention dawn but not forenoon/midday.

Nevertheless, these three verses which predate Q17 very probably refer to continuous remembrance of God which would include the ritual prayer since the instruction of remembering God, morning and evening, continues to recur in Meccan verses revealed subsequent to Q17 such as Q11:114; Q6:52; Q40:55; Q18:28; Q52:48-49 as well as in Medinan verses such as Q33:42; Q3:41; Q76:25; Q48:9; Q24:36. Why would this instruction recur, if indeed it is a reference to morning and evening prayers, subsequent to the legislation of the five daily prayers unless it is generally a reference to continuous remembrance of God?

Thus what probably transpired in the period of time before the ordainment of the five daily prayers is what is reported by Shaykh al-Ṭabarsi in his biography of the Prophet Muḥammad titled Iʿlām al-Warāʾ bi Aʿlām al-Huda, which he does from ʿAli ibn Ibrāhīm al-Qummi (fl: second half of the 3rd/9th and beginning of 4th/10th century). The report says: ‘When the Prophet attained his fortieth year, Gabriel commanded him to perform the prayers and taught him their rites, except their prescribed times. The Messenger of God used to pray two cycles every time he prayed.’131

Footnotes

  1. Rasāʾil al-Sharīf al-Murtuḍa vol 1, pg 221 cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 132
  2. Al-Khilāf vol 1, pg 543  cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 132
  3. Muntahā al-Maṭlab vol 1, pg 196 cited in al-Biḥār vol 80, pg 158
  4. Tadhkirat al-Fuqahā vol 2, pg 278
  5. Al-Biḥār vol 80, pg 158
  6. Al-Ḥadāʾiq al-Nāḍirah vol 6, pg 77 cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 132
  7. Al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 123
  8. Al-Sharḥ al-Kabīr ʿalā al-Mughnī vol 1, pg 775, al-Fiqh ʿalā Madhāhib al-Arbaʿa vol 1, pg 332, Fiqh al-Sunnah vol 1, pg 185, Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 116-119, Nayl al-Awṭār vol 3, pg 62, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 123
  9. Al-Sharḥ al-Kabīr ʿalā al-Mughnī vol 1, pg 775, al-Fiqh ʿalā Madhāhib al-Arbaʿa vol 1, pg 332, Fiqh al-Sunnah vol 1, pg 185, Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 116-119, Nayl al-Awṭār vol 3, pg 62, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 123
  10. Al-Sharḥ al-Kabīr ʿalā al-Mughnī vol 1, pg 775, al-Fiqh ʿalā Madhāhib al-Arbaʿa vol 1, pg 332, Fiqh al-Sunnah vol 1, pg 185, Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 116-119, Nayl al-Awṭār vol 3, pg 62, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 123
  11. Al-Sharḥ al-Kabīr ʿalā al-Mughnī vol 1, pg 775, al-Fiqh ʿalā Madhāhib al-Arbaʿa vol 1, pg 332, Fiqh al-Sunnah vol 1, pg 185, Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 116-119, Nayl al-Awṭār vol 3, pg 62, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 123
  12. For a study which demonstrates the bases of each of these opinions, see Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s Zād al-Maʿād ʿalā Hady Khayr al-ʿIbād vol 3, pg 330-348, and Uri Rubin’s Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 40-53
  13. Al-Sharḥ al-Kabīr ʿalā al-Mughnī vol 1, pg 775, al-Fiqh ʿalā Madhāhib al-Arbaʿa vol 1, pg 332, Fiqh al-Sunnah vol 1, pg 185, Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 116-119, Nayl al-Awṭār vol 3, pg 62, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 124
  14. Al-Sharḥ al-Kabīr ʿalā al-Mughnī vol 1, pg 775, al-Fiqh ʿalā Madhāhib al-Arbaʿa vol 1, pg 332, Fiqh al-Sunnah vol 1, pg 185, Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 116-119, Nayl al-Awṭār vol 3, pg 62, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 124
  15. Arabic-English Dictionary of Qurʾānic Usage pg 547
  16. Arabic-English Dictionary of Qurʾānic Usage pg 547; Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 41
  17. Cited in Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 41, see footnote 7
  18. Lane’s Lexicon pg 1773
  19. Al-Sharḥ al-Kabīr ʿalā al-Mughnī vol 1, pg 775, al-Fiqh ʿalā Madhāhib al-Arbaʿa vol 1, pg 332, Fiqh al-Sunnah vol 1, pg 185, Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 116-119, Nayl al-Awṭār vol 3, pg 62, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 123
  20. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 74; 77; 78
  21. Ibid vol 3, pg 74
  22. Ibid
  23. Ibid vol 3, pg 74; 76; 77
  24. Ibid vol 3, pg 75
  25. Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 119 cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 127
  26. Al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah pg 125
  27. Musnad Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal vol 2, pg 446, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah pg 126
  28. Al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah pg 126
  29. Kanz al-ʿUmmāl vol 11, pg 174, Fiqh al-Sunnah, vol 1, pg 185, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah pg 127
  30. Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 49
  31. Al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah pg 127
  32. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 75
  33. Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri vol 2, pg 73, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 130
  34. Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri Volume 1, Book 8, Number 353; Volume 2, Book 20, Number 207; Volume 4, Book 53, Number 396 accessed from: https://www.sahih-bukhari.com/Pages/results.php
  35. Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri Volume 2, Book 20, Number 207; Volume 2, Book 21, Number 272 accessed from https://www.sahih-bukhari.com/Pages/results.php
  36. Al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 130-131; Tadhkirat al-Fuqahā vol 2, pg 279. A variant of this report, which closely resembles the above, is also reported in Shiʿa sources. It has Muʿāwiyah ibn Wahb, a companion of the Imāms al-Ṣādiq and al-Kādhim narrate (without giving details of his authorities): ‘on the day of the conquest of Mecca, a black tent made of (animal) hair was pitched for (or over) the Messenger of God at al-Abṭaḥ. Then he poured water over himself from a bowl/utensil in which traces of dough could be seen. Thereafter he searched for the qiblah (and this was) at forenoon and said eight cycles of prayer which he did not say before or after that day (see Mirʾāt al-ʿUqūl vol 15, pg 415). The report has been interpreted as above, that is, that it was apparently a prayer said by the Prophet in gratitude to God for the success granted to him in conquering Mecca. The terminating statement that he did not say such a prayer before or after that day is understood to augment the viability of such an interpretation (see Mirʾāt al-ʿUqūl vol 15, pg 415-416; al-Ḥadāʾiq al-Nāḍirah vol 6, pg 79).
  37. Tadhkirat al-Fuqahā vol 2, pg 278 citing from Sunan al-Bayhaqi vol 3, pg 50
  38. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 78; https://sunnah.com/muslim/6/89; https://sunnah.com/bukhari/56/293
  39. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 77
  40. Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri Volume 2, Book 21, Number 275; Volume 1, Book 11, Number 639 accessed from https://www.sahih-bukhari.com/Pages/results.php
  41. Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 44
  42. Ibid, pg 45
  43. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd pg 89, cited in Biḥār al-Anwār vol 80, pg 155-156
  44. Biḥār al-Anwār vol 80, pg 155-156
  45. Kitāb al-Tawḥīd pg 89
  46. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya: His Life and Works, pg 57-58
  47. Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 119 cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 127
  48. Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 119-125, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 127-129
  49. Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 119-125, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 127-129
  50. Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 119-125, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 127-129
  51. Vol 1, pg 117 cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 129-130
  52. Zād al-Maʿād vol 1, pg 117 cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 129
  53. Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri vol 2, pg 73, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 130
  54. Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim vol 5, pg 199, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 131
  55. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 81
  56. Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri vol 3, pg 3, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 131
  57. Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhāri vol 2, pg 73 and Musnad Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal vol 6, pg 259, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 130
  58. Muṣannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah vol 2, pg 406, Sunan al-Bayhaqi vol 3, pg 50 cited in Tadhkirat al-Fuqahā vol 2, pg 278
  59. Musnad Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal vol 5, pg 45, cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 131
  60. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 80
  61. Ibid vol 3, pg 81
  62. Zād al-Maʿād volume 1, pg 346 https://islamhouse.com/ar/books/35239/
  63. Man Lā Yaḥḍuruhu al-Faqīh vol 2, pg 132, al-TahdhĪb vol 3, pg 69-70, al-Istibṣār vol 1, pg 467-468, al-Wasāʾil vol 2, pg 192 cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 133; Tadhkirat al-Fuqahā vol 2, pg 279
  64. Al-Kāfi vol 3, pg 453
  65. Cited in Wasāʾil al-Shiʿa vol 4, pg 100
  66. Cited in Wasāʾil al-Shiʿa vol 4, pg 101
  67. Man Lā Yaḥḍuruhu al-Faqīh vol 1 pg 357, Hadith no. 1566; Tafsīr Kanz al-Daqāʾiq vol 14, pg 348; Tafsīr Nūr al-Thaqalayn vol 5 pg 610
  68. Al-Kāfi vol 3, pg 452 cited in Biḥār vol 80, pg 157
  69. Biḥār al-Anwār vol 80, pg 157
  70. Tafsīr al-ʿAyyāshi vol 2, pg 285, cited in Biḥār vol 80, pg 156
  71. Biḥār al-Anwār vol 80, pg 156
  72. Wasāʾil al-Shiʿah vol 3, pg 74
  73. Al-Ḥadāʾiq al-Nāḍirah vol 6, pg 80-81
  74. Man Lā Yaḥḍuruhu al-Faqīh vol 1 pg 357, Hadith no. 1566; Tafsīr Kanz al-Daqāʾiq vol 14, pg 348; Tafsīr Nūr al-Thaqalayn vol 5 pg 610
  75. Man Lā Yaḥḍuruhu al-Faqīh vol 1 pg 566; Mustadrak al-Wasāʾil vol 3, pg 70; Biḥār al-Anwār vol 80, pg 159; Daʿāʾim al-Islām vol 1, pg 214 cited in al-Bidʿah wa Āthāruha al-Mūbiqah, pg 133
  76. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 79; Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 43-44
  77. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 80; Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 43-44
  78. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 80; Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 43-44
  79. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 80; Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 43-44
  80. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 79; Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 43-44
  81. Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 43-44
  82. Al-Muṣannaf of ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanʿāni vol 3, pg 81
  83. Anṣāb al-Ashrāf vol 1, pg 117; Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 40
  84. Vol 1, pg 33-34 as well as cited in Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam pg 40-41
  85. Imtaʿ al-Asmāʾ vol 1, pg 33-34; Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam pg 41
  86. Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 41-44
  87. Shaykh al-Ṭabarsi writes: ʿAli ibn Ibrāhīm al-Qummi, one of our most respected traditionists relates in his book that when the Prophet was thirty seven years of age, a person used to come to him in his dreams, addressing him as follows: ‘O Messenger of God!’, but he used to ignore this. After a long time had passed, and as he was among the hills tending the sheep of his uncle Abu Ṭālib, he saw and heard a person addressing him: ‘O Messenger of God!’ He asked: ‘Who are you?’ ‘I am Gabriel’, the person answered; ‘God has sent me to you so that He may take you for a messenger.’ The Messenger of God told Khadījah of what happened. Khadījah had already been informed of the account of the Jew and Bahīra, and what Muhammad’s mother Āminah had recounted. Thus, she answered: ‘O Muhammad, I do hope that it is true!’ The Prophet used to hide all this, until one day Gabriel came to him with heavenly water and said: ‘O Muḥammad, rise and perform your ablutions for prayers!’ Gabriel taught him the ablutions – washing the face and the two hands from the elbows down, rubbing the head and the two feet to the two heels. He also taught him prostration (sujūd) and bowing (rukūʿ). When the Prophet attained his fortieth year, Gabriel commanded him to perform the prayers and taught him their rites, except their prescribed timings. The Messenger of God used to pray two cycles of prayer every time he prayed (Iʿlām al-Warāʾ bi Aʿlām al-Hudā vol 1, pg 102). For references of the very early teaching of a 2 cycle ritual prayer, see The Life of Muḥammad: A Translation of Ibn Isḥāq’s Sirat Rasūlillah, pg 112-115, 118; Taʾrīkh al-Rusul wa al-Mulūk, vol 2, pg 311-312; Kitāb al-Irshād: The Book of Guidance into the Lives of the Twelve Imāms, pg 18-19; al-Kāfi vol 3, pg 487; al-Kāfi vol 3, pg 272; al-Kāfi vol 3, pg 273; Wasāʾil al-Shiʿa vol 4, pg 46; al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah bi riwāyāti ahl al-bayt vol 1 pg 251-252.
  88. Kamāl al-Dīn pg 189, 344;  Kitāb al-Ghaybah of Shaykh al-Ṭūsi pg 332-333, 218; Biḥār al-Anwār vol 18, pg 188; The Life of Muḥammad: A Translation of Ibn Isḥāq’s Sirat Rasūlillah, pg 117; The Works of Ibn Wāḍiḥ al-Yaʿqūbi vol 3, pg 617; The History of al-Ṭabari VI – Muḥammad at Mecca, pg 88; al-Istīʿāb fī Maʿrifat al-aṣḥāb vol 1, pg 35; Tafsīr al-Qummi vol 1, pg 378
  89. Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 54
  90. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasulillah, pg 113; Taʾrīkh al-Rusul wa al-Mulūk, vol 2, pg 311-312
  91. Indeed, al-Ṭabari records three versions of ʿAfīf’s reports, two of which are the same as the versions found in Ibn Isḥāq’s work while the third is the one cited in the text above.
  92. Taʾrīkh al-Rusul wa al-Mulūk, vol 2, pg 311-312
  93. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasulillah, pg 113; Taʾrīkh al-Rusul wa al-Mulūk, vol 2, pg 311-312; Beacons of Light: Muhammad the Prophet and Fatima the Radiant: A Partial translation of Iʿlām al-Warāʾ bi Aʿlām al-Hudāʾ, pg 59
  94. Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 42
  95. Kitāb al-Irshād: The Book of Guidance, pg 18
  96. Kamāl al-Dīn pg 189, 344;  Kitāb al-Ghaybah of Shaykh al-Ṭūsi pg 332-333, 218; Biḥār al-Anwār vol 18, pg 188; The Life of Muḥammad: A Translation of Ibn Isḥāq’s Sirat Rasūlillah, pg 117; The Works of Ibn Wāḍiḥ al-Yaʿqūbi vol 3, pg 617; The History of al-Ṭabari VI – Muḥammad at Mecca, pg 88; al-Istīʿāb fī Maʿrifat al-aṣḥāb vol 1, pg 35; Tafsīr al-Qummi vol 1, pg 378
  97. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasulillah, pg 114
  98. Ibid, pg 118
  99. The Works of Ibn Wāḍiḥ al-Yaʿqūbi vol 3, pg 618
  100. Tārīkh Dimashq vol 3, pg 265; Sharḥ Nahj al-Balāghah vol 13, pg 225; Shawāhid al-Tanzīl vol 2, pg 302 cited in al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah bi riwāyāti ahl al-bayt vol 1 pg 150-151
  101. Morning and Evening Prayers in Early Islam, pg 42
  102. Ibid, pg 43
  103. Qurʾānic Sciences, pg 280
  104. Ibid
  105. Arabic-English Dictionary of Qurʾānic Usage, pg 660
  106. Lane’s Lexicon, pg 2234
  107. Arabic-English Dictionary of Qurʾānic Usage, pg 30
  108. Qurʾānic Sciences, pg 280
  109. Ibid
  110. Al-Burhān fī Tafsīr al-Qurʾān  vol 3, pg 138
  111. Tafsīr al-Qurʾān (Ibn Kathīr) vol 4, pg 304, cited in S. Aerts, ‘Ascension, Descension, and the Prayer-Times in the Sīra and the Ḥadīth: Notes on Dating and Chronology’, Der Islam, volume 94, no. 2, 2017, pg 387
  112. Al-Tibyān fī Tafsīr al-Qurʾān vol 6, pg 79; Majmaʿ al-Bayān fī Tafsīr al-Qurʾān vol 5, pg 306; S. Aerts, ‘Ascension, Descension, and the Prayer-Times in the Sīra and the Ḥadīth: Notes on Dating and Chronology’, Der Islam, volume 94, no. 2, 2017, pg 386
  113. Qurʾānic Sciences, pg 280
  114. Lane’s Lexicon, pg 2235; al-Taḥqīq fī Kalimāt al-Qurʾān al-Karīm vol 7, pg 200
  115. Al-Taḥqīq fī Kalimāt al-Qurʾān al-Karīm vol 7, pg 200
  116. Lane’s Lexicon, pg 2234-2235
  117. Al-Taḥqīq fī Kalimāt al-Qurʾān al-Karīm vol 7, pg 200
  118. Arabic-English Dictionary of Qurʾānic Usage, pg 623
  119. Qurʾānic Sciences, pg 280
  120. Lane’s Lexicon, pg 239; 241
  121. Tafsīr Muqātil ibn Sulaymān vol 3, pg 717
  122. Qurʾānic Sciences, pg 281
  123. Ibid
  124. Tārīkh al-Ṣalāti fi al-Islām, pg 29
  125. Cited in al-Rahīq al-Makhtūm pg 67
  126. Tafsīr al-Qurʾān (Ibn Kathīr) vol 4, pg 304, cited in S. Aerts, ‘Ascension, Descension, and the Prayer-Times in the Sīra and the Ḥadīth: Notes on Dating and Chronology’, Der Islam, volume 94, no. 2, 2017, pg 387
  127. Q33:42; Q3:41; Q76:25; Q48:9; Q24:36
  128. Tafsīr Kanz al-Gharāʾib wa Baḥr al-Gharāʾib vol 8, pg 374
  129. Qurʾānic Sciences, pg 280
  130. Wasāʾil al-Shiʿa vol 3, pg 115; al-Burhān fī Tafsīr al-Qurʾān vol 3, pg 564; Nūr al-Thaqalayn vol 3, pg 205
  131. Beacons of Light: Muhammad the Prophet and Fatima the Radiant: A Partial translation of Iʿlām al-Warāʾ bi Aʿlām al-Hudāʾ, pg 57

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