Question # 270: Assalmualekum, what’s the ruling on delaying Salah? What if one’s busy with work?

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).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Delaying salah from its fixed times is considered a major sin and a sign of hypocrisy. Hence, it is not permissible for a Muslim to delay his prayers beyond the time when they are due without a legitimate excuse. Legitimate excuses which allow a Muslim to delay his prayers until the time for them is over, include sleeping and forgetting. Doing worldly work is not an excuse for not praying or for delaying a prayer until its time is over. Rather one of the characteristics of the sincere believers is that they do not let business or trade distract them from remembering Allah and establishing regular prayers. On the Day of Judgement, Allah may not ask us about our work, but He will surely ask us about our prayers. Hence, the planning of the daily activities should revolve around the five daily Salat and not the other way around. Also, we must not forget that the sole purpose of our creation is to worship Allah. In fact, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) threatens those who delay the prayers from their fixed time, of being thrown into a valley in Hell.

It is always better to hasten to perform the prayers when the time for them begins. As for delaying the prayer until the end of the time for that prayer, the relaxation is granted only in case of dhuhr (when it is very hot) and Isha based on authentic narrations. However, if delaying the prayer means that one will miss out on praying in congregation and will pray it alone at the end of its time, then it is haraam. As for combining prayers, there has to be legitimate excuse. Please Refer  Question # 255: Combining / Joining Two Prayers when not Traveling.

Longer Answer: Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “36. In houses (mosques) which Allah has ordered to be raised (to be cleaned, and to be honored), in them His Name is remembered [i.e. Adhaan, Iqaamah, Salaah (prayers), invocations, recitation of the Qir’an]. Therein glorify Him (Allah) in the mornings and in the afternoons or the evenings, 37. Men whom neither trade nor sale (business) diverts from the remembrance of Allah (with heart and tongue) nor from performing As-Salaah (Iqaamat-as-Salaah) nor from giving the Zakaah. They fear a Day when hearts and eyes will be overturned (out of the horror of the torment of the Day of Resurrection), 38. That Allah may reward them according to the best of their deeds, and add even more for them out of His Grace. And Allah provides without measure to whom He wills” (Soorah an-Noor, 24:36-38)

[The above has been interpreted by the mufassireen as follows:] Even though these men engaged in trade, buying and selling, that was no excuse and it did not distract them from giving precedence to “the remembrance of Allah (with heart and tongue) nor from performing As-Salaah (Iqaamat-as-Salaah) nor from giving the Zakaah.”  Rather they made obedience to Allah and worship of Him their ultimate goal and purpose, and whatever came between them and that goal, they rejected it.

Since giving up worldly interests is hard for most people, and earning and various kinds of trade are dear to them, and it is hard for them to give that up in most cases, and to give precedence to the rights of Allah, Allah mentions that which will motivate and encourage them, as He says: “They fear a Day when hearts and eyes will be overturned (out of the horror of the torment of the Day of Resurrection)” – because of the intensity of its horrors and suffering. Hence, they will fear that Day, so it become easier for them to strive for the Hereafter and give up that which distracts them from it.  (Tafseer al-Sa’di)

Indeed, the prayer is the most important pillar of Islam after the Shahaadah [the two testimonies of faith]. It is the prayer that distinguishes Islam from disbelief. Performing prayers is a sign of faith, and not performing it is a sign of disbelief and hypocrisy. Allah warned those who neglect it or give it up.  He (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Then, there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up the prayers [i.e. made their prayers to be lost, either by not offering them or by not offering them perfectly or by not offering them in their proper fixed times, etc.] and have followed lusts. So, they will be thrown in Hell, except those who repent…” (Soorah Maryam, 19:59-60)

Most interpreters of Qur’an believe that this verse is about those who delay the prayers from their fixed time.  Allah warned them of being thrown in a valley in Hell.

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) also says in the Qur’an: “So woe unto those performers of prayers (hypocrites), those who delay their prayer from their stated fixed times” (Soorah Al-Ma’un, 107:4-5). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The first thing a person will be held accountable for on the Day of Judgment is his prayers. If his prayers are correct (accepted) he/she will be successful, but if his/her prayers are not accepted, he/she will be a loser.” (Tirmidhi and others). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) also said: “Between a man and disbelief is abandoning the prayer (obligatory prayers).” (Muslim)

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has designated a specific time for each obligatory prayer, specifying the beginning and end of them. He says (what means): “And when you have completed the prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting, or [lying] on your sides. But when you become secure, re-establish [regular] prayer. Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times.” (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:103)

It is impermissible to delay performing the obligatory prayers without a legitimate excuse. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahmaan al-Sa’di said: “This means it is enjoined at its time, which indicates that it is obligatory and that it has a time (to be offered) and is not valid at any other time. These are the times that are well known among the Muslims, young and old, scholars and ignorant. They learned that from their Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) who said: “Pray as you have seen me praying.” The phrase “on the believers” indicates that prayer is the measure of faith, and the quality of person’s prayers corresponds with his level of faith.” (Tafseer al-Sa’di)

In fact, delaying salat from their fixed times is a sign of hypocrisy. In the life of a true believer working is not more important than prayers, to the extent of being a cause for delaying them. A Muslim is the one who lives and dies for the sake of Allah, and strives to save himself/herself from Hellfire. He/she should not have as a priority anything above the obedience of Allah and His Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). On the Day of Judgement, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) may not ask us about our work, but He will surely ask us about our prayers. So, one has to be very, very careful not to abandon the prayers or neglecting and delaying them from their fixed times. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).” (Soorah Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

Hence, in principle, work does not constitute a legitimate necessity that permits one to delay the prayer beyond its prescribed fixed time, as one may easily take part of the time of work in order to perform the prayer.

No doubt neglecting prayers or other obligations for work is among the major sins. So, one should repent from that as soon as possible. Allah says: ” Except those on the Right, (i.e. the pious true believers of Islamic Monotheism); In Gardens (Paradise) they will ask one another, About Al-Mujrimun (polytheists, criminals, disbelievers, etc.), (And they will say to them): “What has caused you to enter Hell?” They will say: “We were not of those who used to offer their Salat (prayers).” (Soorah Al-Muddaththir 74:39-43)

So, neglecting prayers by delaying performing them until their fixed times expire is a major sin. Al Qurtubi said: ‘There is no disagreement over this.’  Umar Ibn Al Khattab (رضي الله عنه) said: “Those who neglect prayer are more neglectful of other duties.” So, anyone who happened to neglect some prayers by delaying them should repent to Allah sincerely.  Some scholars believe that anyone who gives up performing one obligatory prayer, not because of forgetfulness, just deliberately, he becomes Kafir.  This opinion is the one chosen by Abdullah Ibn Al Majishun and Ibn Hazm. So, this is a dangerous matter.  Indeed, one should not feel satisfied with delaying prayers and performing them later on.  So, one must beware of that. Now if the person fails to pray a given Salah in its fixed time without any excuse, he should make it up as soon as possible.  This is the opinion of the majority of scholars.

“[The only] legitimate shar’iah excuses, such as those who are sick or are travelling, to combine Dhuhr and ‘Asr at the time of either of them, and to combine Maghrib and ‘Isha’ at the time of either of them. This was narrated in the sahih Sunnah of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). It is also permissible to join prayers when there is heavy rain or mud, which cause difficulty for people.” (Fataawa Muhimmah tata’allaq bil-Salaah by Shaykh Ibn Baaz). Please refer Question # 255: Combining / Joining Two Prayers when not Traveling

[In fact,] with regard to delaying prayer, this may refer to two things:

  1. Delaying prayer until the time for that prayer is over. [this is explained above in greater detail]
  2. Delaying the prayer until the end of the time for that prayer.

(See al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah)

[As for 2. above,] it is permissible to offer a prayer at the end of its time, because of the hadith narrated by Muslim from Abu Moosa al-Ash’ari, that someone came to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and asked him about the times of prayer… and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) explained to him the beginning and end of the time for each prayer, and said, “The time is between these two.” However, it is better to hasten to perform the prayers when the time for them begins, because of the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim from ‘Abd-Allah ibn Mas’ood (رضي الله عنه) who said: I asked the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم), “Which deed is most beloved to Allah?” He said: “Prayer offered on time.” He said, “Then what?” He said, “Honoring one’s parents.” He said: “Then what?” He said, “Jihad for the sake of Allah.”

It is better to do the prayer at the beginning of its time, except for ‘Isha’ prayer and dhuhr prayer (when it is very hot); in these cases it is better to do them at the end of their allotted times, as mentioned in the following ahadith: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) delayed one night until they said, “O Messenger of Allah, the women and children have fallen asleep,” so he went out and led them in prayer, and said, “This would be its time, were that not too difficult for my ummah” (Sunan an-Nasa’i, graded sahih) In another hadith with respect to dhuhr salah, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “When it is intensely hot, then wait until it cools down before you pray, for intense heat is from the breeze of Hell.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

But if delaying the prayer means that one will miss out on praying in congregation and will pray it alone at the end of its time, then it is haraam because it means not praying in congregation, so long as one does not have an excuse for not praying in congregation.

“The one who sleeps is excused at the time when he is sleeping, but when he wakes up it becomes obligatory for him to perform the prayer after he has woken up. It was narrated that Anas ibn Maalik (رضي الله عنه) said: The Prophet of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever forgets a prayer or sleeps and misses it, the expiation for that is to pray it when he remembers it.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim) This hadith indicates that the one who sleeps is not accountable during the time of his sleep, and there is consensus on this point.

The apparent meaning of the hadith is that there is no negligence in sleep if a person sleeps before the time for prayer begins or after that but before the time becomes too short. And it was said that if a person deliberately goes to sleep before the time becomes too short and he takes that as a means of not praying because he thinks it most likely that he will not wake up until the time for the prayer is over, then he is sinning. But the apparent meaning is that there is no sin on him because of sleeping, because he did that at a time when it was permissible to do it, so he is included in this hadith. But if he did it deliberately in order to miss the prayer, then there is no doubt that he is sinning thereby.” (Nayl al-Awtaar)

(The above reply is based on various answers provided by the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs and 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.

Wassalaam