The obligatory nature of Salah:Dear brother, we talked in previous lectures about Al-Adhan (The call to prayers) and other related issues. Today, we would start talking about Salah. There are three requisites for Salah: Islam, puberty and sanity. Nevertheless, children should be taught how to pray when they are 7 years old, and they should be punished upon missing Salah when they are 10 years old. The punishment, according to scholars, should not be severe lest child will hate Salah.
When Salah should be offered and when should it be performed? What makes us obliged to offer Salah? It is an obligation when its time arrives, and the best definite time for Fard (obligation) to be offered is the beginning of its time. However, this definite time is extended and Salah can be offered after half an hour of its time, given the dearest deeds to Allah is to offer Salah early after the beginning of its time, and whoever delays offering Salah, the benediction of his life p will be lifted.
The times of Salah:The definite time of Salah is extended, and the five times of the five daily prayers are as follows: Al-Fajr: It starts when the second (true) dawn starts (which is the white line that spreads horizontally along the horizon right and left. In fact, there are two dawns: the true dawn and the false one (al-Fajr al-Kaadhib) which starts 25-40 minutes before the entrance of the true dawn till sunrise.
Concerning Zuhr Salah, it is from midday, after the sun passes its highest until the length of the shadow of an object becomes twice the size of the object. You might hear that there are the first Asr and the second Asr, and scholars have not come to a conclusion of defining its start, so the first starts when the length of shadow of the object is exactly as the size of the object, whereas the second Asr is when the length of the shadow of an object becomes twice the size of the object, and between these two times Muslim can pray neither Zuhr nor Asr, but before the first one he offers Zuhr, and after the length of the shadow becomes twice the size of the object he offers Asr.
As for Asr, it starts from the time when the length of the shadow of an object becomes as the size or twice the size of the object, but it is better to be offered after it is twice the size until the sun sets. Regarding Maghrib, it starts from sunset until the fading of twilight, at which Ishaa' time starts. This does not mean that when you see the fading of twilight you offer Ishaa' right away, for you live in an Islamic country, and there is a system, calendar, Adhan and Masajid, and if you go against the congregation of Muslims, you will be seriously accused of having something wrong with your faith. Hence, you do not pray Ishaa' by observing the twilight, but rather you do so upon hearing Adhan Al-Ishaa'.
However, when you are in the desert, where there is no Masjid or Adhan, you can offer Ishaa' since you know when it starts, but when you are in the city, there are so many ways to inform you of the arrival of Ishaa' time like the calendar, the Adhan of the Masjid and other means. Furthermore, if you are in Europe for example, and there is no Masjid or Adhan in a deprived area, you should know that the set of the red twilight is the time of Ishaa' prayer. As for Ishaa' and Witr time, it starts from the setting of the red twilight until the dawn breaks. Witr should not be prayed before Ishaa', but rather it is prayed after it. Hence, you should perform Salah in order (Ishaa' first then Witr).
According to Abu Hanifah, there is no excuse for combining two prayers during the time of one of them, save at Arafat, provided the head Imam combines them while being in a state of Ihram (a sacred state which a Muslim must enter in order to perform the major pilgrimage (Hajj)). As for Imam Ash-Shafi'i, it is permissible to combine two prayers during the time of one them in necessities and in travel, whether Jame' Taqdeem (Early Combination) or Jame' Ta'kheer (Late Combination).
It is recommended that Fajr (Dawn) prayer is performed when it is the time of Isfar (The word "Isfar" is derived from "Asfar" and "Safr", i.e. to appear, which means when the faces of people are clear), so that when you look at a brother of yours you will know him upon entering the Masjid because of light, but you will not recognize him when you look at him in the dark. Thus, waiting for half an hour after the dawn breaks, makes people know each other, and it is out of Sunnah to pray Fajr after a while in order for people to recognize one another. All Masajid apply this Sunnah leaving half an hour between Adhan Al-Fajr and Fajr Salah.
If you are on travel and you enter the Masjid after Fajr Adhan, you can offer Fajr Salah right after the Adhan. Also, if you are travelling and you reach Hums (a city in Syria) during Fajr Adhan, and you are in dire need of time, you can offer Fajr Salah along with the Adhan. However, if you are in your own neighborhood, and you want to offer Fajr in Masjid (in congregation prayer), you should not pray till half an hour of Adhan Al-Fajr passes.
As for Zuhr Salah in hot summer, it is out of Sunnah to offer it half an hour after the Adhan, and it is called "Al-Ibrad", so that people will avoid walking under the hot sun, whereas in winter it is recommended to offer Zuhr 15 minutes after Adhan. Yet, if it is a cloudy day, it is offered 30 minutes after Adhan just in case.
It is permissible to offer Asr a bit late, but this must be before the color of the sun is changed. In other words, as long as the sun is white, it is fine to offer Asr, but it is not recommended to postpone it till the color of the sun becomes orange. Like Zuhr, Asr should be offered promptly in cloudy days just in case. As for Maghrib, it is out of Sunnah to offer it right after Adhan and Iqamah, because its time is very short, but in cloudy days, it is recommended to wait a bit later to make sure that the sun sets.
Times when the obligatory Salah and Wajibat should be offered:Based on what I have mentioned so far, the times of prayers are well-known because of Adhan. Postponing Ishaa' till after midnight is dislikeable, but Witr can be offered 5 minutes before Fajr prayer, and this must be done only if man is sure that he will wake up before Fajr, but if he is not sure, it is better to offer Witr right after Ishaa' prayer.
There are three times during which missed Fara'id should not be offered. For instance, if you are about to miss Asr while the sun is setting, you should pray Asr, but no previously missed Asr prayer should be offer at this time. I would like now to ask you, what are these times? One of them is when the sun clearly starts to rise until it is fully risen to the height of two spears above the horizon (then Salah can be offered after that), when the sun is directly overhead at midday until it passes its zenith, and when the sun starts to set until it is fully set.
Salah is dislikeable to be offered during these three times save the obligation prayer (though it is not recommended), like postponing Asr until 5 minutes before sunset. In this case you should offer it, because it is Fard, but one should not offer previously missed prayers during these times, and though it is dislikable, one should offer Sujood (prostration) when an Ayah of Sujood is reauthord.
Burying the dead in these times is not dislikable, but Janazah Salah (it is the Islamic funeral prayer; a part of the Islamic funeral ritual. The prayer is performed in congregation to seek pardon for the deceased and all dead Muslims) is dislikeable to be offered during these times, and any other Nafl (supererogatory prayer) Salah is Makrooh Tahriman (strictly abominable) to be offered during these three times like Tahiyyat al-masjid "greeting Al-Masjid."
When it is dislikeable to offer Sunnah?It is dislikeable to offer any Sunnah Salah after the dawn breaks (other than Fajr Sunnah). Also it is dislikeable to offer any Sunnah Salah after Asr prayer, before Maghrib prayer, when the Khatib (is a person who delivers the sermon, during the Friday prayer and Eid prayers.) of Friday prayer comes out and climbs the Minbar (pulpit), and in this case no Salah or chat should take place till he finishes his Salah, and during Iqamah (it is the second and final Call to Prayer and is uttered immediately before the beginning of the obligatory prayer) except when you reach the Masjid during Iqamah of Fajr Salah and you intend to offer Fajr Sunnah prayer, for these two Rak'aat are better than the worldly life and everything in it. Hence, you can offer the two Rak'aat of Fajr Sunnah while the Mu'adhen is offering Iqamah.
It is dislikeable to offer Salah if a dish you like is served and you long to eat it, so in this case you should eat first, and then offer Salah. Similarly, it is dislikeable to offer Salah if you are absent-minded, like the case of the father who is preoccupied with a letter his son sent him, and he is eager to know if it is a notification of wiring money to him or not, or if it is the result of tests and he is eager to know if his son succeeded or failed. In these cases we advise him to open the letter and read it, and then offer Salah. Likewise, if someone buys a device, and he wants to know how it works, we recommend that he opens it, reads the instructions of using it and then offers Salah. Hence, finish with whatever distracts your mind and nullifies your Khushoo' (your submission to Allah), then offer Salah. We will talk in details about Salah insha' Allah (if Allah wills) in the coming lectures.