Permissibility of Combining Prayers if Needed
Combining prayers or “Jama'” under conditions other than those specified by Islamic scholars is a frequently discussed fiqh issue. There is a consensus among scholars regarding the conditions for Jama’, some of which may be applicable while others may not. It is worth noting that the applicability of these conditions may be affected by environmental and climate changes.
I often receive inquiries about combining prayers in specific circumstances, excluding cases of rain and travel. While these circumstances are not constant for those seeking clarification, they do recur frequently. Unfortunately, the responses we often receive are based on older conditions established by scholars, as if they were unchangeable. However, it is important to recognize that conditions and hardships in Islamic law are not static but vary across time, place, and different groups of people.
Extremist almost causes a disaster at an airport!
Among the incidents that have left an indelible mark on my memory, one stands out as a stark example of extremism that could have led to a disaster. During my university years, I used to visit mosques as a preacher and deliver religious lessons. On one occasion, I found myself in a village in the Giza governorate where I encountered an individual associated with an Islamic missionary group. He exhibited remarkable extremism and frequently objected to my discussions on matters of jurisprudence, sometimes in a polite manner that nonetheless revealed his superficial understanding and lack of knowledge.
Upon inquiring about him, I was informed that he held a rank in the army and worked in the airport control towers. If it were not for the mercy and compassion of his superior, he would have been discharged from service. In fact, he had the potential to become a senior commander. His role in the control towers involved assisting airplanes in landing on the correct platform upon receiving their arrival signals.
However, a concerning incident unfolded when the airport management received successive messages from a pilot, bypassing the chain of command and reaching higher management, stating that the pilot had been flying over the airport for several minutes without any response from the control tower. Upon further investigation, the airport management discovered that the responsible officer was absent. When confronted about the delayed response, he explained that he had been engaged in prayer, as he preferred to perform his salah or prayer on time.
His manager reproached him, asking, “Couldn’t you have waited to pray at another time instead of jeopardizing people’s lives?” The man, offended, retorted, “Which is more important, you or my prayers?”
Fortunately, the manager demonstrated mercy and recognized that while the officer’s behaviour was driven by excessive religious zeal, it was inappropriate in a workplace setting. Consequently, the manager provided him with documentation to apply for early retirement, expressing sympathy for him and his family.
This incident serves as one among numerous examples highlighting how some individuals misconstrue the rigid and inflexible nature of mercy within Islamic principles. Such misconceptions reflect religious ignorance and overlook Islam’s inherent mercy, tolerance, and the potential to alienate those who are less devout from engaging in prayer. It may even lead to a diminished commitment to prayer or its outright neglect, particularly for those who face challenges fulfilling their work obligations while adhering to the prescribed timings of obligatory prayers.”
Permissibility of Combining Prayers According to the Prophet Muhammad
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (salallahu alayhi wa sallam), addressed the issue of combining prayers with a spirit of ease and facilitation. His hadith on this matter is considered conclusive evidence, forming a fundamental aspect of the fatwa regarding the permissibility of combining prayers.
The hadith states: “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, combined the Dhuhr and Asr prayers, and the Maghrib and Isha prayers, in Madinah without any circumstance of fear or rain.” When Ibn Abbas was asked why the Prophet did so, he responded that the Prophet wished to alleviate hardship and difficulties for his ummah (nation).
By deliberately combining prayers in this manner, the Prophet, peace be upon him, did not impose any of the known conditions for Jama’, thereby allowing flexibility and ease in other important areas of life that may prove challenging for individuals. Perhaps he left the specific limitations in this matter to the individual conscience of Muslims.
While some have attempted to interpret the hadith differently, numerous imams have refuted such interpretations. Among them is Imam al-Ayni al-Hanafi, who stated: “Every interpretation they provided for this hadith is negated by Ibn Abbas’ statement: ‘He wanted to remove hardship and difficulties for his nation.'” In other words, the objective and intention behind the Prophet’s actions are clear: to alleviate hardship and difficulties for his ummah.”
Examples of cases of combining prayers
The following cases of combining prayers are provided as examples, and each Muslim can assess their situation in light of these criteria. It is important not to confine individuals solely to the examples mentioned. If someone has a job that prevents them from leaving to perform the two obligatory prayers at their appointed times, for instance, a doctor who is in the operating room for extended hours with lives at stake, or an obstetrician or doctors working in intensive care handling critical cases, they may combine the prayers. This applies to any occupation where a person is required to continue working for a period that makes it impractical to offer each obligatory prayer on time. They can combine the prayers, whether by delaying the earlier prayer (Jama Takhir) or advancing the later prayer (Jama Taqdim).
The same applies to individuals working in fields such as cooking or engaging in physically demanding labor, where leaving the work area is not feasible. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, in his broader understanding of jurisprudence, allowed for the combining of prayers without travel in cases of urgency, such as illness or work.”
The Hanbalis have quoted Imam Ahmad as saying, “This is a concession I grant to the sick and nursing mothers.” Imam Ahmad permitted the combination of prayers for nursing mothers, even though the typical conditions for Jama’ do not apply to them. It has been observed that nursing mothers face hardship in separating the prayers due to the prevailing situation where their garments are prone to impurity (najasah). Therefore, the inconvenience of repeatedly washing or removing their garments for every prayer is taken into consideration.
Ibn Hanbal saw that breastfeeding women to are allowed to combine prayers due to the impracticality of changing clothes, which presents a distinct hardship. It is important to note that this situation differs from the hardship faced by individuals engaged in physically demanding labour or occupations that require prolonged continuous presence. Similar considerations may also apply to other circumstances and occasions, such as a student taking an exam or attending lengthy study sessions or lectures on the night before an exam.
The issue of Maghrib and Isha prayers during the European summer poses a challenge for Muslims. On one hand, the signs for the Isha prayer disappear within certain European countries. On the other hand, there is the proximity of the Isha prayer to Fajr, and individuals have work obligations following Fajr. Unfortunately, work schedules in Europe do not accommodate prayer timings, regardless of whether one is Muslim or not. Consequently, it becomes difficult for Muslims to wake up for the Isha prayer.
The European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), after a discussion on the matter, issued the following fatwa: “It is permissible to combine the two prayers in Europe in the summer period when the time for Isha prayer is delayed until midnight, or its signs are completely absent, in order to ward off the hardship already lifted from the umma by the text of the Qur’an. It is also permissible in those countries in the winter season between Duhr and Asr, due to the shortness of the day and the difficulty of performing each prayer on time for employees, except with hardship and difficulty, and the Council warns that the Muslim should not resort to combining prayers without need, and that they do not make a habit of it.
Some individuals who object to combining prayers during busy or recurring circumstances argue that it is a practice rooted in Shiite jurisprudence and their customs. However, it should be noted that scholars who acknowledge the permissibility of combining prayers for individuals facing personal conditions or work hardships do not limit it to a specific sect. Rather, prayers can be combined whenever a valid reason is present. It is important to clarify that we do not reject any valid jurisprudential opinion.
While it is possible that Shiites hold such views, this argument should only be used in a scholarly debate or as a form of protest. However, it should not be applied when issuing fatwas to individuals who face difficulties and challenges in their lives. Furthermore, we have a prophetic text of the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, that is universally accepted in terms of its authenticity and serves as a relevant guideline for the matter at hand.
It is important to acknowledge that there have been numerous acceptable and robust jurisprudential opinions from which we have benefited, including those derived from Shiite jurisprudence. In Egypt, for example, a significant portion of the law of wills is derived from the Shiite school of thought, particularly concerning obligatory wills, among other matters. While it is beyond the scope of this discussion to delve into all the details, what truly matters is the presence of authentic texts and evidence, irrespective of the specific denomination that issues fatwas on a given matter. Our worship of Allah is based on using the correct evidence, regardless of its source.
Source: Al-Jazeera Mubasher
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