Question # 158: Three prayers are recited aloud; two prayers quietly; please guide.
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: There is no narration in the authentic Sunnah explaining the reason for reciting Qur’an audibly or silently in different prayers of the day. In fact, the part which Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) did not explain should not concern us, what concern us is how to fulfil our acts of worship because the literal meaning of the word ‘al-ibadah’ is obedience. In the same way, one can even question the number of rakah in each salah, timing of prayers, fasting timing, so on and so forth.
Although there are some scholars, who exerted an effort to give an explanation to this, none of these were discussed by Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). According to them, when praying at night, it is more likely to achieve the purpose of the Qur’an, where both heart and tongue are focused, because there are fewer distractions, one can understand what one recites, and offers the prayer properly, than at the time of Dhuhr and ‘Asr.
Nonetheless, we follow the example of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) as Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow” and the hadith “Pray as you have seen me praying”. Our focus should be that we pray properly at its proper time with Khushoo, in a way that it will be accepted by Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).
Long Answer: There is no narration in the authentic and established Sunnah explaining the reason for reciting Qur’an audibly or silently in different prayers of the day. The scholars of the Standing Committee was asked a similar question and they answered: “We do that following the example of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). We recite silently in the prayers in which he recited silently, and we recite out loud in the prayers in which he recited out loud, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow” (Soorah al-Ahzaab, 33:21) And the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Pray as you have seen me praying.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)” (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah)
According to Dr. Muhammad Salah: “…This is similar to asking why the number of rakah for maghrib is three, Dhuhr, Asr and Isha is four and Fajr is two… This is ibadah (worship) in which one who is worshipped order the worshippers whatever He wishes. Similarly, there are several other rulings with respect to acts of worship like timing of prayers, fasting timing, so on and so forth. The part which Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) did not explain does not concern us, what concern us – how to fulfil it because the literal meaning of the word ‘al-ibadah’ is obedience. Although there are some scholars, who exerted an effort to give an explanation, none of these were discussed by Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). What concerns us is how to pray properly at its proper time with Khushoo in a way that it will be accepted by Allah (سبحانه و تعالى)” (paraphrased – Ask Huda, Dr. Muhammad Salah, Video Lecture)
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz replied: “Allah knows best the reason why it is prescribed to recite out loud in those prayers. The most likely reason – and Allah knows best – is that at night and at the time of Fajr prayer, people are more likely to benefit from recitation that is done out loud, as there are less distractions around them than at the time of Dhuhr and ‘Asr.” (Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz)
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked: What is the reason for reciting out loud in Jumu’ah prayer? He replied: “The reason why it is recited out loud is – and Allah knows best – firstly so as to unite the people behind one imam, because if they are united behind one imam and listening attentively to him, that is a better form of unity than if each one of them were to recite to himself. In order to achieve this the people must all be gathered in one place, except in cases of necessity…” (Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen)
Ibn Kathir said: “…when praying at night, both the heart and the tongue are focused on the recitation, hence Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “is very hard and most potent and good for governing oneself, and most suitable for (understanding) the Word (of Allah)” (Soorah al-Muzzammil, 74:6) i.e., the mind will be more focused when reciting and will understand the words more than during the day, which is a time when people move about and there is a great deal of noise, and it is the time of seeking provision.”
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said in I’laam al-Muwaqqi’een: “With regard to the distinction between the nighttime prayers and the daytime prayers, in terms of reciting out loud and reciting silently, there is great wisdom in that, because the night is a time when voices and movements are stilled, and hearts are focused and have renewed energy. The day is the time when people are busy with their day-to-day occupations, and the night is the time when a person can focus with his heart on what he is saying with his tongue. Hence the Sunnah is to make the recitations in Fajr longer than in other prayers. The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to recite between sixty and one hundred verses in them, and Abu Bakr used to recite al-Baqarah in them, and ‘Umar used to recite al-Nahl, Hood, Bani Israa’eel, Yoonus and similar soorahs, because the heart is more free of distractions when it has just been wakened from sleep. If the first thing that a person hears is the word of Allah in which there is all goodness, then these words will come to his heart which is free from any distraction, and will thus have a great impact on him. As for the day, the opposite is the case, so Qur’an is recited silently unless there is a reason, such as the large gatherings on Eid and Jumu’ah (Friday), and when offering prayers for rain and the eclipse prayer. On those occasions it is better to recite out loud and that is more likely to achieve the objective and is more beneficial, and because this serves to convey the words of Allah when there is a large gathering.”
According to Shaykh ‘Abd-Allah ibn Jibreen (may Allah have mercy on him): “It was decreed that recitation in Zuhr and ‘Asr should be done silently because the time of these prayers is during the day, and at that time a person’s mind may be preoccupied with a lot of thoughts, as he is busy with his work or trade or manufacturing. If the recitation were to be done out loud, his mind would be distracted and he would not listen attentively to the imam’s recitation; he would not listen to it or devote his attention to it; rather other things would come to mind and distract him. So he was commanded to recite to himself so that his recitation will make him think and ponder. It is well known that if people pray in congregation for Zuhr or ‘Asr prayer, they should not recite out loud, because then they would distract one another. So both the imam and the one who is praying behind him are enjoined to recite silently. But with regard to the prayers that are offered during the night, in most cases people are free from distractions so the imam is enjoined to recite out loud, so that others may benefit from his recitation…”
(Most portion of the above reply is based on various answers by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.