Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalam alaykum.
Would I be sinful to miss the Dhuhr prayer due to unforseen circumstances after delaying it to its later time despite having the opportunity to pray it in its earleir time?
Answer: Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah,
The basis is that the obligatory (fard) prayer needs to be performed with all of its conditions and integrals.
However, in the unlikely event that you are driving and are unable to stop due to being stuck in slow moving traffic on a highway, for instance, the prayer would remain binding upon you. As such, you would pray with head movements in the direction of travel, if unable to face the qibla. Note that you should avoid major movements, contrary to those which would be deemed slight, such as checking your mirrors.
This is in the case of absolute necessity given that (1) there is nowhere reasonably possible to legally stop, and (2) it is due to an unforeseen circumstance. Not praying is not an option, nor is missing the prayer altogether, as is understood from the words of the jurists. Moreover, some contemporary scholars advise that prayers prayed whilst seated in a vehicle should be made up later.
If travelling, another option would have been to combine prayers, namely, by praying one prayer at the end of its time and the other at its start. Otherwise, you could have actually combined by following a position from another school, ensuring to fulfil all of its required conditions and integrals of both the purification and prayer.
In general, the proper thing to do is to always plan where and how you are going to pray, and then take all reasonable means to ensure that it happens. Then, if something occurs, a torrential downpour in muddy terrain, for example, you would respond in the aforementioned manner as this is what the Lawgiver expects from you. Allah Most High says, “Prayer is obligatory for the believers at prescribed times.” [4.103]
[Shurunbulali, Ghunyat Dhawi al-Ahkam; Tahtawi, Hashiyat al-Tahtawi ‘ala Maraqi al-Falah; Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar]
Please also see: Can a Hanafi Follow the Shafi’i Opinion on Joining Prayers When Traveling? and: Is My Prayer Valid if I Finish Praying Outside its Respective Prayer Time? and: When Can Someone Pray Sitting in a Car?
And Allah Most High alone knows best.
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Tabraze Azam was born and raised in Ipswich, England, a quiet town close to the east coast of England. His journey for seeking sacred knowledge began when he privately memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown at the age of 16. He also had his first experience in leading the tarawih (nightly-Ramadan) prayers at his local mosque. Year after year he would continue this unique return to reciting the entire Quran in one blessed month both in his homeland, the UK, and also in the blessed lands of Shaam, where he now lives, studies and teaches.