Time of Asr Salaat according to Hanafi Madh-hab, Part One

ASR TIME

The present discussion is on the question of Asr time. When does it begin? According to the Ahnaaf [followers of the Hanafi madh-hab], Asr time commences at Mithlain, i.e. when the length of the shadow of an object has reached twice the length of the object plus Fay-e-Zawaal. If, for example, the length of the shadow of a meter stick at Zawaal is 10 centimetres, then Asr time will begin when the length of the shadow is two metres and 10 centimetres. According to the deviant Salafis, Asr time commences at one Mithl, i.e. when the shadow equals one length of the object plus Fay-e-Zawaal. This is also the viewpoint of the other Math- habs.

The purpose of our booklet is not to refute the validity of the viewpoints of the other Math-habs. There is no dispute with them. However, the criticism and baseless charges directed against the Hanafi Math-hab by the Salafis have necessitated a response to show that the Hanafi view is based on the Hadith in the same way as the other Math-habs claim that their views are structured on the Hadith. Since the Salafis and other Ghair Muqallideen of their ilk, in obedience to desire and opinion, have embarked on spreading confusion in the Ummah on masaail which have been resolved many centuries ago, the need for this response and refutation developed.

Insha’Allah, this discussion will debunk their baseless claim that the Hanafi Fuqaha have employed logic in conflict with the Sunnah to formulate the rules of the Shariah. It is their allegation that the Ahnaaf resort to opinion and interpretation inspite of the existence of clear Hadith proofs to the contrary.

At the very outset we should say that on the issue of the beginning of Asr time, the Salafis have no Hadith which categorically asserts the Mithl view. They have resorted to interpretation of the Ahaadith in order to arrive at their opinion of Mithl. They simply lack even a single Hadith which clearly states the Mithl view. Thus, their charge of logic directed to the Ahnaaf rebounds on themselves and their opinion. It will, therefore, be correct for us to say that the Salafis have no Hadith evidence for their Mithl opinion. Let us now examine the basis and proofs of the two viewpoints on this question.

THE HADITH OF THE IMAAMATE OF JIBRAEEL (alayhis salaam)

The only Hadith which the Ghair Muqallideen present to substantiate their view of Mithl, i.e. Asr begins after the shadow has reached one length, is the Hadith which explains the times when Jibraeel (alayhis salaam) led Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) in Salaat. The Hadith is as follows:

Ibn Abbaas (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: Jibraeel led me (i.e. became the Imaam) in Salaat by the Bait twice. On the first of the two occasions he performed Zuhr when the shadow was the length of a shoelace (i.e. very early) Then he performed Asr when the shadow of every object was equal to one mithl (once its length). Thereafter he per- formed Maghrib…On the second occasion he performed Zuhr when the shadow of every thing was its mithl (one length) which was the Asr time of the day be- fore. Then he performed Asr when the shadow was mith- lain (twice the length of the object). (Tirmizi)

This Hadith constitutes the strongest proof for the one Mithl view. Our argument in refutation of the Ghair Muqallideen’s view pertaining to this particular Hadith is as follows:

(a) When it suits their desires, the Ghair Muqallideen conveniently overlook their own principles of deduction and formulation of rules. They always demand unambiguous/categoric (Sareeh) Ahaadith of the Saheeh class from their adversaries for the masaail. However, when they fail to discover any such Ahaadith to bolster their claims, they have no hesitation in accepting narrations of lesser degree of strength than Saheeh and even narrations of ambiguous and contradictory meanings.

This particular Hadith which is their strongest daleel (proof) is of the Hasan category. Ahaadith of this category are valid as basis by the Ahnaaf. But it devolves on Salafis who are so vociferous in their demand for Saheeh and Sareeh Ahaadith to produce such narrations. Presentation of narrations of a lesser category than Saheeh is improper for them.

(b) Although this Hadith mentions that on the first of the two occasions Asr was performed at one Mithl, it is ambiguous in view of the contradiction of Zuhr having been performed also at one Mithl on the second occasion. In terms of the principle: ‘When the proofs are contradictory, they are discarded.’, this Hadith should not be tendered as proof for Asr time. The contradiction has constrained the operation of this principle.

While the Hadith should not be used to substantiate the one Mithl view on account of the contradiction, a suitable interpretation has to be offered to avoid dismissing the Hadith which is of an authentic class albeit not of the Saheeh category. The best and most logical answer for the ostensible contradiction is that the performance of Zuhr at one Mithl on the second occasion abrogates the Asr time of the previous day when Asr was performed at one Mithl. On the basis of the interpretation of abrogation, the contradiction is eliminated and the Asr view of Mithlain (twice the length of the object) is upheld, in fact categorically confirmed by the following statement appearing in this very same Hadith:

“Then he performed Asr when the shadow was mithlain.”

(c) The other contradiction apparent here is that the Hadith clearly states that on the second occasion Zuhr was performed “at the time of Asr of the day before”. Zuhr may not be performed during Asr time. It has to be performed in its own time. Inspite of this, Hadhrat Jibraeel (alayhis salaam) led Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) in Zuhr salaat at a time which was Asr time the day before. This is further confirmation of the abrogation of the Asr time of the previous day. While one Mithl was the Asr time yesterday, today it was abrogated practically by performing Zuhr Salaat in the same time, i.e. the time when it was Asr the day before.

(d) The following Hadith in Saheeh Muslim goes against the grain of the Salafis and rejects the one Mithl view for Asr: “Abdullah Bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates: “Verily, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

‘The time of Zuhr is when the sun has past the zenith; and (at that time) the shadow of a man was as his length, and it lasts until the time of Asr has not set in.'”

This Hadith categorically states that Zuhr time was at one Mithl. It is quite obvious that Asr cannot therefore also be at one Mithl. This Hadith also confirms the view of abrogation, namely, that Asr which was performed at one Mithl on the first occasion of Jibraeel’s imamate was abrogated when he performed Zuhr at one Mithl on the next day.

(e) Since the Salafis and Ghair Muqallideen in general rely so heavily on this particular Hadith, they should act in accord with it in entirely, not selectively. The Hadith states with clarity that on the second day Zuhr was performed at the time when Asr was performed the previous day. But this is not the math-hab of the Salafis. They discard this section of the Hadith inspite of it being after the practice of the first day. The Asr time of the previous time became the Zuhr time of the next day. But this is not the view of the Salafis inspite of the clarity of the Hadith on this aspect. Thus, this Hadith goes contrary to the view held by the Salafis.

The Ghair Muqallideen have attempted to overcome this difficulty by arguing that Asr was performed after one mithl on the first day and Zuhr before one mithl on the second day. This argument is devoid of substance because:

(i) The Hadith in question states with clarity that Asr was performed on the first day at one Mithl, not after one Mithl.

(ii) The Hadith likewise states explicitly that Zuhr on the second day was performed at one Mithl, not before one Mithl.

(iii) The Hadith is very clear in mentioning that Zuhr was performed on the second day “at the time of Asr of the previous day.”

(iv) The Hadith of Abdullah Bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) also confirms that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) stated that the time of Zuhr is after Zawaal, and that was a time when the shadow was one Mithl.

(v) The Hadith of Jaabir (radhiyallahu anhu) in Nasai states that Zuhr was performed when the shadow was one Mithl. This Hadith relates to the very same episode of the imamate of Jibraeel (alayhis salaam). The relevant words are:

“Then he (Jibraeel) came the next day when the shadow of a man was its mithl. He then said: ‘Stand up, O Muhammad! And perform Salaat.’ Then he performed Zuhr.”

It should be noted that on the second day Hadhrat Jibraeel (alayhis salaam) arrived only when the shadow was one mithl. Thus the Zuhr Salaat which he commanded Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to perform was after one mithl, not before one mithl. This portion of the Hadith confirms the viewpoint of the Ahnaaf that after one Mithl it is still Zuhr time.

THE HADITH OF ABDULLAH IBN UMAR (radhiyallahu anhu)

Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrated that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“The time of Zuhr is when the sun has passed the meridian and the shadow of a man is his length, until Asr has not set in.” (Saheeh Muslim)

This Hadith explicitly mentions that Zuhr time begins after Zawaal and when the shadow is one mithl. It is mentioned with clarity that Zuhr is during one mithl.

THE HADITH OF THE HUJRAH

Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) narrates: Verily, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) performed Asr while the sun was in her hujrah (room) while the shadow had not yet become apparent (on the walls).

This Hadith ostensibly indicates that Asr was performed very early before Mithlain . The rationale for the one mithl view in this narration is that if the shadow had already attained two lengths (mithlain), it would have been visible on the walls of the very small room.

The door of the hujrah faced west where the sun sets . There was no roof at the entrance of the hujrah. This allowed the sun to shine inside the room. Different explanations are given regarding the phenomenon of the shadow in this situation. Imaam Tahaawi (rahmatullah alayh) said:

There is no indication that (the Salaat) was performed early…In fact, this narration indicates delay, not early performance…

Whatever merit the Salafis may discern in this Hadith for their view, the ambiguity of the narration constrains them to resort to interpretation. The narration is not a categoric proof for the one mithl view.

THE HADITH OF THE SUBURBS

Anas Ibn Maalik (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates: Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) would perform Asr while the sun was high and bright. A man would go to the outlying suburbs and reach there while the sun was still high . Some of the suburbs were about four miles from Madinah. (Bukhaari)

The argument is that the arrival of a person in the suburbs would have to be before mithlain because the sun would be quite high by the time he reached.

This line of argument is extremely flimsy and cannot be presented as incontrovertible proof for the one mithl view, especially when this view is in conflict with other Ahaadith (already discussed) which explicitly mention one Mithl for Zuhr and Mithlain for Asr. Furthermore, the Hadith has to be interpreted to conform to the one mithl view. It is not an explicit statement which substantiates the Salafi viewpoint.

This Hadith is not proof for the mithl view because it is quite possible to reach the outlying suburbs while the sun was still high after having performed Asr at Mithlain. Furthermore, the words, “Was- shamsumu rtiafah” (the sun was high) means that the person would arrive quite some time prior to sunset. The sun being high in this context means, well before sunset. It does not mean before mithlain . While the sun was ‘high’, it was not at a height before mithlain On the contrary it was close to setting. This is more reasonable since it would take approximately 1 hour 40 minutes to walk the 4 miles (7.2 kilometers). If the walk was commenced after Asr at Mithlainthe person would arrive while the sun was still quite high above the western horizon prior to sunset. There is no evidence in this Hadith that Asr was performed at one mithl.