Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
Our local masjid decided to set the prayer time according to the opinion that ‘Asr begins after one shadow’s length. However, we have a considerable number of people who follow the Hanafi School. Can we keep the beginning of ‘Asr as per the Shafi‘i opinion but delay the congregational prayer in the masjid to accommodate Hanafis to pray in congregation as well?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah guide every dimension of our lives to that which pleases Him.
It is permissible and advisable to delay the congregational prayer as per your description so that you may accommodate everyone, and Allah knows best.
The general rule is that it is best to pray the obligatory prayers at the beginning of their times. There are about forty exceptions to this rule, [Sha’rawani, Hashiya]
Among them is when one is certain of obtaining a group-prayer later during the valid prayer time, even if it means delaying the prayer to the very end of the time such that only enough time remains to perform the prayer.
The optimum way to tackle the situation, however, is to pray the obligatory prayer at the first of its time at home and then repeat it with the group in the mosque when they pray. If one wants to confine oneself to one prayer, one just delays the prayer and prays it with the group. [Ibn Hajar, Tuhfa; Sha’rawani, Hashiya]
Following a School of Law
Allah says: “Ask those who recall if you know not.” [Quran, 16:43]
By consensus of all scholars (ijma), this verse is evidence of someone who does not know a ruling in Sacred Law or the evidence to follow someone who does. Virtually all scholars of fundamentals of Islamic law have made this verse their principal evidence that the ordinary person (non-mujtahid) must follow the scholar who is an authoritative interpreter of the religious law of Islam (mujtahid). [Buti, La Madhhabiyya]
Following the “strongest position” on any matter is not a very accurate description of how the Schools of Thought work. Each of the four recognized schools of Sunni Islam is the strongest, based on its unique methodology in interpreting the Sacred Law from the Qur’an, Sunna, and other sources from the teachings of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace).
Even if one should base the strength of a particular school purely on the authenticity of the Prophetic narrations it relies on, then that requires a level of scholarly expertise beyond the reach of non-scholars and would inevitably still result in different views like the different Schools of Thought. We, therefore, advise you to follow the School of Thought that is most accessible to you based on your region and what the majority of scholars there teach.
According to the Shafi’i School: The time for the noon prayer (zuhr) begins after the sun’s zenith (highest point) for that day and ends when an object’s shadow, minus the length of its shadow at the time of the sun’s zenith, equals the object’s height.
The time for the midafternoon prayer (‘asr) begins at the end of the noon prayer’s time and ends at sunset, though when an object’s shadow (minus the length of its shadow at the sun’s zenith) is twice as long as the object’s height, the preferred time is over and the merely permissible time remains. [Keller, Reliance of the Traveler]
Read the Call-to-Prayer
The Sunna is to recite the Call-to-Prayer when the time for the prayer begins because that was the usual practice of the mu’adhdhins of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). Though not optimal, there is nothing wrong with delaying the prayer beyond the beginning of its time and delaying the Call-to-Prayer accordingly.
The Call-to-Prayer should be given when the time for it begins, although it is acceptable to do it until the time for the prayer ends. [Ramli, Sharh Asna Al-Matalib]
I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.