Q. With reference to the following statement “Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) is of the opinion that Asr time begins when the shadow of an object becomes twice its length.” Can you direct me to the ahadith which supports this statement?
A. The traditions that support the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa on this issue are:-
(1) Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that the Prophet (s.a.s) said, ‘In very hot weather, delay the Zuhr Prayer till it becomes cooler, because the severity of the heat is from the raging of Hell fire’ (Bukhari).
This tradition shows that with respect to Zuhr Salaah, one is required to delay it until the place becomes cooler. It therefore means that on a hot day (in hot weather) one will not be able to perform salaah at the earliest time of Zuhr, since it is extremely hot at that time. Instead, he is asked to wait until the place becomes cooler. Most of the time a little coolness is experienced at a time when the shadow of an object is equal to the object itself (i.e. one of its length). Hence, this brings about the situation where Salaah Az Zuhr is being performed at a time when the shadow of an object is only one of its length. If this be the case, then how can Salaah Al Asr begin at that time when the time is still allowed for Zuhr Salaah, It necessarily means that Asr must be performed after the time of Zuhr has come to an end. This understanding is clearly established from the following hadith:-
(2) Zaid ibn Wahb said, ‘I heard Abu Zarr (RA) saying, ‘We were with the Prophet (s.a.s) on a journey (it was time for Zuhr pray) and the mu’azzin stood up to give the azan. Upon this, the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘let it cool down’. Then, after a while, the Muazzin stood up again to give the Azan and the Prophet (SAS) said ‘Let it cool down’. This happened two or three times, until we saw the shadows of the hills. Then the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘The extreme heat is from the raging of Hell-fire. When the heat is intense, delay the Salaah until it becomes cool’. (Bukhari)
Here, the Prophet (SAS) did not only order them to delay the Salaah of Zuhr, but he also did it himself. According to the narrator, the delayal of Zuhr Salaah went until the shadow of the hills became apparent which they saw. So here, it is evident that when Zuhr Salaah was performed at a time when the shadow of an object appeared, then it means that Asr had to be performed afterwards and could not begin at the same time. It is for this reason, that out of extreme caution, Imam Abu Hanifa held the view that performing Asr at a time when the shadow of an object is one of its length (size) is in reality performing it in a doubtful time, since it is evident that Zuhr Salaah was performed by the Prophet (SAS) when the shadows of the hills began to appear. This cautious view was not held simply on an opinion, instead, Imam Abu Hanifa looked at the clear cut traditions which are as follows:-
(3) Ali bin Shaiban (RA) said ‘We visited the Prophet (SAS) at Madina and found that he used to delay the Asr prayer until the sun was clear and white’. (Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah). Having quoted this tradition in his book, Hafiz Badrudeen Aini, the famous Comentator of Saheeh Al Bukhari, writes, ‘This hadith indicates to the fact that the Prophet (SAS) used to perform the Asr Salaah when the shadow of an abject became twice its original size (i.e. size of the object). Umdatul Qaari- Sharh of Saheeh Al Bukhari Vol. 5 pg.33.
(4) Jabir (RA) says, ‘The Prophet (SAS) performed the Salaah of Asr with us at a time when the shadow of a thing became twice its size (length)’ (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaiba).
(5) Another hadith which gives support to the view of Imam Abu Hanifa is that which has been recorded by Imam Bukhari which states:-
Salim Ibn Abdullah narrated, ‘My father said, ‘I heard Allah’s Messenger’ saying, ‘The period of your stay as compared to the previous nations is like the period equal to the time between the Asr prayer and sunset. The people of the Tawrah were given the Tawrah and they acted upon it till midday, then they were exhausted and were given one qirat of gold each. Then the people of the Injeel were given the Injeel and they acted upon it till the Asr Salaah, then they were exhausted and they were given one qirat each. And then we were given the Quran and we acted upon it till sunset and we were given two qirats each. On that the people of both scriptures said, ‘O our lord, you have given them two qirats and given us one qirat, though we have worked more than them’. Allah said, ‘Have I usurped some of your rights?’ They said ‘No’. Allah said ‘That is my blessing, I bestow it upon whomsoever I wish’. (Sahih Al Bukhari). This hadith indicated that the time between Asr and Magrib is less than the time between Zuhr and Asr. This was clearly identified by the Prophet (SAS) when he said that ‘we were given the Quran to act upon between Asr and sunset and for this Allah blessed us with two qirats each. It was upon this, those who worked from Zuhr until Asr complained by saying that they worked for a longer period than us but got a lesser wage. It clearly shows that the time between Asr and sunset is shorter than the time between Zuhr and Asr. If we accept the opinion that Asr begins when the shadow of an object is one of its size, then it will result in a state where the time between Zuhr and Asr is shorter that the time between Asr and sunset, which is opposing to the facts established in the hadith. However, if the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa is adopted which states that Asr begins when the shadow of an object is twice its size, then it will be clearly seen that the time between Asr and sunset is shorter than the time between Zuhr and Asr.
Imam Muhammad has also stated in his Muwatta that the delayal of Asr Salaah in our (Ahnafs) opinion is the best, when the light of the sun is white and it is clear.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan