Answered by: Imam Abdul-Malik Sheikh
Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah
How did Muslims pray before prayer was made obligatory?
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Assalamualaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakaatuh
The scholars agree that the five times daily prayers became obligatory on the night of Al-Isra and Al-Mi’raj which took place before the Hijra to Madinah. However, there are narrations that indicate that prayer was obligatory on the Muslims prior to the Hijra such as the well-known hadith of Abu Sufyan’s meeting with Heraclius.
When Abu Sufyan was asked by Heraclius:
“What does he (Muhammad) order you to do?”
Abu Sufyan replied: “He tells us to worship Allah and Allah alone and not to worship anything along with Him, and to renounce all that our ancestors had said. He orders us to offer Salah, to speak the truth, to be chaste and to keep good relations with our kin.”
Imam Badr al-Din al-‘Ayni states that in this narration there is an indication that Salah was obligatory before the Hijrah because Abu Sufyan did not meet the prophet after the Hijrah until the time when he met with Heraclius. (1)
The obligation and number of Rak’ah is made clear in the following hadith narrated by our mother A’ishah (ra) who said:
“Prayer was enjoined with two rak‘ahs, then when the Prophet (s) migrated, it was enjoined with four rak‘ahs, but prayer whilst travelling remained as it had originally been.” (2)
There is a differences of opinion with regards to the timings of the prayer before the Hijra. Some of the scholars are of the opinion that prayer was two rak‘ahs in the morning and two rak‘ahs in the afternoon. A detailed discussion on this can be found in Awjaz al-Masalik of Imām Zakariyyah al-Kandahlwi (rh). (3)
Only Allah knows best
Written by Imam Abdul-Malik Sheikh
Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham
Umdat al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari of Imam Al-Ayni, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, Vol 4 p. 39
Bukhari & Muslim
Awjaz al Masalik Ila Muwatta’i Malik, Dar al-Qalam, Damascus, vol.3, p.165
This answer was collected from DarulIftaBirmingham.co.uk, which is run under the supervision of Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah from the United Kingdom.