A Case for Jama’a Bain us Salath for Countries of Northern and Southern Hemisphere
By Dr. Basheer A. Khan
Garden Grove , CA
Joining together two prayers like Zuhar and Asr, and Maghrib and Ishaa is called Jama’a Bain us Salath. This was practiced by Nabi SA during Hajj and is permitted by some scholars during a journey. In counties of northern and southern hemisphere like the Scandinavian countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, nights are short. This causes great hardship to the practicing Muslims in performing their Maghrib, Isha and Fajr prayers by disrupting their sleep. So also in winter times when days are short Zuhr and Asr prayer come in quick succession disrupting their work schedule. Permitting Jama’a Bainus Salath in these countries as a matter of routine will facilitate the Muslims living in this region to live their religious life without disrupting their work and family lives.
One of the central themes and objectives of religion is to awaken the consciousness of Allah. It is only by developing the genuine consciousness of Allah that man becomes thankful to Him for his various blessings, and feels a sense of responsibility toward Him and His other creations. That is why prayer is emphasized greatly in religion. Most of us ignore prayers considering it to be a useless ritual, or because of some inconveniences we encounter in its performance. We can’t do much about those who discount the importance of prayers as ritual unless they themselves indulge in it to experience how this ritual gradually translates into the reality of God consciousness. But we can, and we should always do, something to help those who give up prayers because of some inconveniences and difficulties encountered in its performance.
When Prophet SA went on the journey of Mera’aj (heavenly ascension) he brought the gift of five daily prayers (Salath) so that his followers could come closer to Allah through these prayers much the same way as he was closer to Him during this journey. That is why Salaath is called Mera’aj Ul Momineen, the zenith of a Muslims’ relationship with God. Verse 130 of Ch.20 prescribes the timing of Salath thus: Glorify and praise your Lord (in Salath) before sunrise (Fajr prayer), before sunset (Asar prayer), in the night (Isha), and at the ends in stages of the day (Zuhar after Zawal which is the end of the stage of ascent of the sun after mid day, and Maghrib after Ghuroob which is the end of the stage of descent of the sun). This and many other such verses which point to the approximate timing for the five daily prayers had some ambiguity about the exact timing. Therefore Jibrael AS ( Archangel Gabriel) showed to Prophet SA the time range between which each of these Salaath should be performed by praying with him at the beginning and the end time of each of these Salaath. (Tirmizi).
The command of Salaath appears several times in the Qur’an to highlight the good its performance brings on its performers, and to warn about the consequences of its neglect. Prayers stops one from shameful and evil deeds, asserts Qur’an (Ch. 29 V 45). Allah says that the main reason for the followers of previous prophets to go astray was abandonment of Salath, and indulgence in desires (V59 Ch.19). One crime that takes people to Jahannam (Hellfire) is their failure to pray (V43 Ch.74). Allah is not bothered about our prayers. We go into Hell fire not because of Allah’s anger at our neglect of prayers, but because of our failure to develop His consciousness through it. As a result we become imprudent in our actions causing immense misery to ourselves and the mankind which entitle us to this punishment. Such being the importance of Salaath, it is essential that we make its performance easy on the believers in the limits available to us in the book of Allah and in the Sunnah of Nabi SA.
Muslims have been performing their five daily prayers for the past fourteen hundred years in accordance with the Qur’anic verse quoted above and as shown by Jibrael AS. Now that Muslims have reached every nook and corner of the world, it is becoming difficult for millions of Muslims who live in the extreme northern and southern hemisphere to observe these prayer timings because of long days in summer and long nights in winter.
During my visit to Canada in the summer months, I found it very difficult to perform my Maghrib prayer around 9.30 PM, Isha around 12 AM and Fajar around 3.30 AM because of the disruption it caused to my sleep. I had gone there on vacation and did not have the rigors of a full time job, yet I found it hard on me to stick to the local prayer timing. It was not difficult for me to imagine the ordeal of the people living and working in such places in balancing their religious obligation of five daily prayers with their daily professional and family life. The problem is aggravated further for people living in these places when we insist on performing Fajr payer at the beginning of its time even though Prophet SA has permitted its performance within the limit of its end time. Muslims living in these areas should be allowed to benefit from the advantage of the latitude which Qur’an and Sunnah offers to them in delaying the Fajr Salaath as much as possible so that more people benefit from its performance.
With absolute knowledge of all places and all times, Allah Swt kept the timings of Salaath ambiguous and referred to it only vaguely to give certain flexibility to Muslims in fixing the time of obligatory prayers. Nabi SA by joining Zuhar and Asr Salath together, and Maghrib and Ishaa Salaath together (Jama Bainus Salath) during Hajj, showed the way as to how we can exercise this flexibility in the event of an exigency. While some of the schools of Fiqh have restricted Jama Bainus Salath to Hajj alone others permit it while on journey also. Fiqh E Ja’afariah has permitted it on a regular basis to make it easy on its followers to perform their five daily prayers. I found it helpful during my stay in north western Iran where the conditions are similar to those in Canada.
Allah Swt says that He has not kept any hardship in His religion (Ch 22 V 78). In one of the supplication Nabi SA used to say: Rab-bana La-Taj-al Museebathina Fi Deenina. Our Lord! Do not test us with difficulties in practice of our religion. It was in this spirit that Prophet SA was lenient on his companions in matter of religion. His advice to those in authority over affairs of the Muslims was: Make things easy and not difficult. Deen of Allah is easy and practicable for every time and every place. The difficulties we face in its practice are because of our farfetched interpretations of the word of Allah ignoring the spirit of its practice by Nabi SA. It is easy to defend and act upon the Deen (religion). The difficulty which Muslims are facing today is in defending our faulty interpretation and our wrong practices based on these interpretations in the name of religion.
One may argue that people become accustomed to and adjusted to the traditional prayer timing and there is no need for permitting Jama’a Bainus Salaath. But then Islam is not a religion of only the accustomed and seasoned Muslims. It is a religion for the entire mankind and therefore it has to be accommodative to the needs and problems of non-practicing and weak Muslims as well and make things easy for them.
One may also argue that those who can’t keep awake for Isha may sleep and wake up to perform it just before Fajr. But this helps only those who are accustomed to wake up for Tahaj-jud, and is not helpful to the majority of people who wake up near the end of Fajr time. Even though the better time to perform Witar Salath is just before Fajr, Nabi SA instructed his followers to perform Witar prayer before they went to sleep lest they missed it by failing to wake up to perform it just before Fajr. To suggest for Isha which is Fard prayer that which was discouraged by Nabi SA for Witar, which is Wajib, is not a wise course.
Based upon the foregoing situation and explanations, I urge the Islamic scholars to permit Jama Bainus Salath to Muslims living in the countries of northern and southern hemisphere in order to make the practice of religion a little easy.
While those who want to pray at the traditional timing that they were following back home, stick to these times in order to keep the tradition alive, others must be permitted by mosques to have their congregational Jama’a Bainus Salaath of Asr and Isha after the sunan of Zuhar and Maghrib. Let us make the practice of religion easy without changing it altogether for our convenience. Let us stick to the word of Qur’an and the spirit of Sunnah of Nabi SA which was to follow the easier options when one was available.