The Prayer Timings
Hereunder a selection of ahadith from the Ma’ariful Hadith by Mawlana Manzoor No’mani as translated by Muhammad Asif Kidwai under the title Meaning and Message of the Traditions. The lofty aims, ideals and advantages associated with Salah, and the unique joy and satisfaction one derive from it would require that it was enjoined upon them as an obligatory duty to devote most of the hours of the day and night, if not the whole lifetime, to its performance. But since Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom, has assigned many other duties, too, to mankind, only five daily prayers have been prescribed and their hours have been determined so judiciously that the purpose of Salah is fulfilled and the other obligations, also, do not suffer from negligence.
(1) It is related by Buraidah that: “(Once) someone enquired the Prophet, peace be upon him, about the hours of Salah and the Prophet told him to offer Salah with him on both the days (i.e. on that day and the next). Then, as soon as the sun declined (after midday) the Prophet ordered Bilal, and Bilal gave Adhan. Thereafter, he ordered Bilal and Bilal said Iqamah for Zuhr (and the Zuhr prayer was performed). Later, when the time for ‘Asr came the Prophet ordered Bilal and Bilal, first, gave the Adhan, and, then, said the Iqamah for ‘Asr, and the ‘Asr prayer was performed, and this Adhan and Iqamah took place at a time when the sun was quite high, clear and bright. Then, immediately after sunset, the Prophet ordered Bilal and Bilal said the Iqamah of Maghrib (and the service of Maghrib was celebrated). Then, after the twilight had disappeared, the Prophet ordered Bilal and Bilal gave the Iqamah of Isha’, and so Isha’ prayer was performed. Then, as soon as it was dawn and the night had ended, the Prophet ordered Bilal, and Bilal said the Iqamah of Fajr, and the Fajr prayer was done.
Afterwards, the next day, the Prophet ordered Bilal to establish Zuhr prayer when it had become cooler. So in compliance with the Prophet’s command, Bilal said the Iqamah of Zuhr when it had grown cooler and allowed the day to cool down in good measure (i.e. the Zuhr, on that day, was offered pretty late, when the its end time was nearing), and the ‘Asr prayer was performed at such a time though the sun was still bright, it was later than on the previous day, and the Prophet offered up the Maghrib prayer before the fading away of the twilight and Isha’ after one-third of the night had passed, and the salah of Fajr at the time of Isfar (i.e. when the light of day had spread). The Prophet, thereupon, enquired, ‘Where is the gentleman who wanted to know about the hours of Salah?’ ‘O Prophet, Here I am,’ replied the man. ‘The time for your prayers is between what you saw.’” [Muslim]
(2) It is related by Ali that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said to him, “There are three things which you should not defer (i.e., put off till a later time): (i) Salah, when the time for it comes; (ii) Funeral, when it is ready; and (iii) Woman without a husband, when a suitable match is found for her.” [Tirmidhi]
(3) It is related by Anas that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Whoever forgot (to offer Salah) or remained asleep (unintentionally) at its time, the atonement for it is that he offered it up immediately on remembering it or on waking up.” [Bukhari and Muslim]