The preferable times for Salah
There are five obligatory prayers in a day. Each Salah must be offered during its proper time.
The Morning Prayer (SALAT-UL-FAJR): It can be performed at any time between the breaking of the dawn till just before sunrise.
The Noon Prayer (SALAT-UL-ZUHR) its time begins after the sun declines from its zenith until the length of the shadow becomes twice your height. (Mithlayn)
The Afternoon Prayer (SALAT-UL-ASR) its time begins soon after the time for Zuhr prayer ends and extends to just before sunset.
The Evening Prayer (SALAT-UL-MAGHRIB): its time begins just after sunset and extends to shafq abyadh when the whiteness in the horizon disappears.
The Night Prayer (SALAT-UL-ISHA) its time begins from the ending of the Maghrib Salah until dawn.
The Fajr prayer consists of two-rakaat sunnat muakkadah and two rakaat Fardh. Saaiduna Abu Hurairah Radiallahu Anhu narrates that the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam said; “Do not leave the two (sunnah) rakaat of Fajr, even if you are being attacked by a cavalry.” (Sunan Abi Dawud p.186 v.1)
The zuhr prayer consists of four-rakaat sunnat muakkadah, four rakaat Fardh, two-rakaat sunnat muakkadah and two rakaats Nafl as time and capacity allows.
Saaidah Aaisha Radiallahu Anha narrates that the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam would never leave the four rakaats before the Zuhr Salah and two rakaats before the Fajr Salah.” (Sahih Bukhari p.157 v.1)
Saaiduna Ali Radiallahu Anhu narrates that the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam used to read four rakaats before Zuhr and two rakaats after it. (Sunan Tirimizi p.57 v.1)
The Asr Prayer consists of four- rakaat Sunnat Ghair Muakkaadah and four rakaat Fardh.
The Maghrib prayer would be three rakaat Fardh, two rakaat Sunnat Muakadah and two rakaats Nafl as time and capacity allows.
The Isha prayer consists of four rakaats Sunnah Ghair Muakkadah, four rakaat Fardh, two rakaat Sunnat Muakkadah, two rakaats Nafl as time and capacity allows, three rakaats Witr and two rakaats nafl.
With regards to your question, one must read their prayers before their designated time. If one does not, then the prayer will become qadha. For example, if sunrise is at 6am then one has to read it before then, otherwise it will become qadhaa. (Raddul Muhtar p.12- p.18 v.2)
Below I have mentioned when exactly is the preferred time of the aforementioned salahs.
It is desirable to pray Fajr Salah when the light becomes clear. Saaiduna Rafi Bin Khadeej Radiallahu Anhu reports that the Prophet of Allah Sallallahu Alahi Wasalam said: Make the Fajr Salah at the shining of the dawn, as your reward will be greater. (Sunan Tirmizi p.40 v.1)
During very hot weather, Zuhr Salah should be slightly delayed until it is relatively cooler and not prayed immediately or as soon as the time has started. Saaiduna Abu Hurairah narrates that the Prophet of Allah said, “In very hot weather delay the Zuhr prayer till it becomes (a bit) cooler because the severity of heat is from the raging of Hell-fire…” (Sahih Bukhari p.76 v.1)
Asar Salah shouldn’t be delayed to such an extent that the times gets very close to sunset. If a person due to some pressing need hadn’t read his Asr that day, one will be allowed to read it until sunset. However, before sunset when the sun turns red and one can directly look at it, which is approximately 20 minutes before sunset, then it is Makruh to read in that time. As mentioned above if one hadn’t performed his Asr that day leeway exists, if not to delay it until the last 20 minutes will be Makruh Tahrimi. (Raddul Muhtar p.26 v.2)
Maghrib Salah should be prayed as soon as the time starts. Salamah Ibn Akwah said, “The Prophet of Allah used to do the Maghrib Salah immediately after the sun had set when its upper side would disappear. (Sunan Abi Dawud p.66 v.1)
The preferred time for Esha Salah is up to one third of the night. Saaiduna Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet of Allah said, “If it were not to be a hardship on the Ummah, I would have ordered them to delay the Esha Salah until a third or half of the night had passed. (Sunan Tirmizi p.42 v.1)
Only Allah Knows Best
Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham