Combining Prayers: Bid’ah or Sunnah?

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One of the objections which the opponents of Shiaism raise is that the Shias combine their prayers which, is against the practice (Sunnah) of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny). They claim that by doing so, the Shias have brought about an innovation (Bid’ah) in Islamic Shariah. Although they agree that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) did combine his prayers but he did so only during emergencies like rain, war, etc.

Reply

Before commenting on the Shia practice of combining prayers and accusing them of innovation and deviation from the Prophetic practice, the opponents must carefully scan their own books. This will not only clear their prejudiced doubts, but also open their eyes that it is they themselves who have forsaken the Prophetic practice.

Let us look at a few such instances from some of the most reliable Ahle Tasannun books which prove that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) combined his prayers.

Saheeh Bukhari

Ibn Abbas narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) prayed seven units (Maghrib and Isha) together and eight units (Zuhr and Asr) together.

  • Book 9, Chapter on Time of Maghrib (prayers), H. 39

Saheeh Muslim

Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) observed (combined) in Madinah seven and eight i.e. the noon (Zuhr) and afternoon (Asr) prayers (total 8 units) and the sunset (Maghrib) and night (Isha) prayers (7 units).

  • Book 6, Chapter of Joining two prayers when not traveling, H. 66

Sunan Abi Dawood

Ibn Abbas narrates that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) combined the noon (Zuhr) and afternoon (Asr) prayers, and the sunset (Maghrib) and night (Isha) prayers at Madinah without any danger and rain. He was asked: What he (peace be upon him and his progeny) intended by it? Ibn Abbas replied:

أَرَادَ أَنْ لَا يُحْرِجَ أُمَّتَهُ

He intended that his community might not fall into hardship.

  • Book 4, Chapter of Combining between two prayers, H. 14

Sunan al-Nisaai

It was narrated from Ibn Abbas that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) used to pray in Madinah combining two prayers, joining Zuhr and Asr, and Maghrib and Isha when there was no fear nor rain. He was asked: Why? Ibn Abbas replied:

لِئَلَّا یَکُوْنَ عَلَی أُمَّتِهِ حَرَجٌ

“So that there would not be any hardship on his Ummah.”

  • Book 6, The Book of the Times (of Prayer), H. 609

Jaami’ al-Tirmidhi

Ibn Abbas said that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him and his progeny) combined the Zuhr and Asr (prayers) and the Maghrib and Isha (prayers) in Madinah without being in a state of fear nor due to rain. Ibn Abbas was asked: What he (peace be upon him and his progeny) intended by it? Ibn Abbas replied:

أَرَادَ أَنْ لاَ يُحْرِجَ أُمَّتَهُ

He intended that his community might not fall into hardship.

  • Book 2, Chapter of What has been related about combining two prayers while a resident,  H. 39

Conclusion

Allamah Noori in Sharh Sahih Muslim, Asqalani, Qastalani, Zakariyya al-Raazi, in their commentaries on Saheeh Bukhari, Zarqaani in his commentary on the Mawatta’ of Maalik and others have mentioned these traditions. After quoting traditions from Ibn Abbas, they acknowledged their authenticity and admitted that these traditions are proofs of the acceptability of combining two prayers.

By looking at the above traditions and references from books authentic near the Ahle Tasannun, it becomes aptly clear that combining the prayers was a general Prophetic practice (Sunnah) and was not restricted to special occasions like fear or rain. Shias follow this practice in their daily lives in accordance with the actions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and anyone who accuses them of innovation, carries the sin of false accusation on a Muslim and will have to answer for it on the Day of Judgement. Lastly, if the Islamic Shariah ensures that the Muslim Ummah does not go through hardship and still if someone is hell bent on reciting these prayers separately then common sense and wisdom says that such a person will only be considered a fool to choose hardship over ease.

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