How Can I Pray on Time With My Very Busy Job and Very Long Hours?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Ustadh Faraz A. Khan

Question: I am a night shift nurse. I do twelve hour shifts, 5 nights a week (up to eight shifts in a row) for two different hospitals. When I get off I must commute home right away to help get the kids dressed, fed, and off to school so that my wife can get ready for her job and be there by 0800. She gets home at 1630-45 to get the kids supper while I get ready to work. I sleep all day- from about 0800 to 1630. My unit floors are too busy to break at the proper times for prayer. Ok, you see my question yet? I sleep hard. All day. Waking up several times during the day is not the safest way for me to care for my patients all night. I become groggy and unfocused. I need some practical solutions for my salat difficulties.

Answer: I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.

May Allah ease your affairs and grant you success in all your endeavors. I pray the following is of benefit.

The Prayer: Our Appointment with the Divine

The prayer (salat) is our connection (sila) with Allah Most High. It is the most important practice in our faith, and it gives meaning to our worldly endeavors, which are empty and meaningless without the prayer.

One of the most salient features of the prayer is that it be performed in its proper time, as to delay a prayer past its time without a valid excuse is a major sin.

Allah Most High states in the Qur’an: “Verily the prayer has been enjoined on believers as an obligation in fixed, appointed times.” (4:103)

In addition, the very first chapter of Imam Malik’s renowned hadith collection, the Muwatta’, is “The Book of the Prayer Times.” According to the commentator Imam Zurqani, Imam Malik placed it at the beginning before the chapters on purification since the prayer time is the very basis of the prayer being obligatory. Once the time enters, then purification becomes obligatory, so the time is of utmost importance. [Zurqani, Sharh al-Muwatta’]

And within that chapter, Imam Malik relates a beautiful hadith in which our Master Umar (Allah be well pleased with him) wrote to his governors:

“Verily, the most important of your affairs in my estimation is the prayer. So whoever learns it properly and vigilantly performs it within its appointed times has preserved his very religion. And whoever fails to perform it on time, he will be even more careless with everything else.” [Muwatta’]

This is very telling insight on the part of our Master Umar, who saw that if one is neglectful of the prayer with respect to performing it on time, such a person will be even more neglectful with his other tasks, whether relating to this life or the next. The prayer grounds our affairs and provides stability whereby all our endeavors will fall into place and be successful, inshaAllah.

And recall that our Master Umar is the one about whom our Messenger (Allah bless him and send him peace) said, “Had there been a prophet after me, it would have been Umar.” [Tirmidhi, Ahmad]

Some Practical Tips for Your Schedule

(a) When you are at work, take a break to pray. Everyone at work can take bathroom breaks. When it is time to pray, simply take a bathroom break, make wudu, and quickly perform the prayer.

If things are very busy, then omit the sunna prayers and just do the obligatory prayers (fard and wajib), e.g., the 3 rakats of maghrib; the 4 rakats of isha and the 3 rakats of witr, without the 2-rakat sunna prayers. For fajr, however, do both the sunna and obligatory prayers.

Also, you can wear khuffs [or thick socks that fulfill the conditions for wiping], and wipe over them instead of washing your feet. This will save time in wudu.

(b) When you are at home in the day, get your rest in the morning and then wake up towards the end of the time of zuhr, before it ends. Pray zuhr on time, and then wait until asr comes in. As soon as it enters, pray asr as well. Then if you want, go back to bed until it’s time for work.

I know it is difficult, but try your best. This is spiritual struggle (mujahada) for the sake of Allah alone. He loves to see us put our full effort to serve him, especially with the prayer. You will find immense blessings (baraka) in your life, inshaAllah. Be patient and steadfast, and show Allah you love Him. In return, you get nothing short of His love, and eternal bliss.

As the poet said, “My friend, roll up your sleeves! And never forget death, for doing so is clear misguidance.”

Do your best. I pray Allah makes it easy for you to establish your prayer, and that you find its fruits in both abodes. Amin.

And Allah alone provides success.


Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani