Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally
Question: Assalam alaykum,
What is the wisdom behind reciting aloud in some prayers?
Answer: Assalam alaykum,
I pray that you are well.
The ruling on reciting aloud or silently, for the regular obligatory prayers, is tied to the time of day when it is performed. Those performed at night (Maghrib, Isha, Fajr) are recited aloud; those performed during the day (Dhuhr, ‘Asr) are recited silently.
If these prayers were to be performed out of their time, say, Maghrib is delayed until the daytime hours of the following day, or Dhuhr until the night hours—they would be performed silently and aloud, respectively. That is because they then follow the ruling of the time in which they are performed.
A similar ruling applies to the two units of prayer following the performance of the tawaf (circumambulating the Kaʿba); when it is performed during the night, its recitation is aloud. When during the day, it is performed silently.
This indicates that the ruling has to do with the time performed, and not the prayers themselves.
Beyond this, because there is no textual evidence, it is not certain to us why night prayers are to be performed aloud, and daytime prayers are generally silent.
Scholars have attempted to glean some wisdom from this state of affairs. Some say that during the night prayers, people were thought to be better positioned to benefit from, perform and listen to recitation aloud, because of the lack of noise in their immediate surroundings because people tended to not be working at that time, reserving their work for the daytime hours. A person reciting aloud during these times might struggle to hear himself, not to mention those praying with him.
Others have mentioned a related idea, and that is that because the daytime is the period in which most people are occupied with their work and errands, it is more appropriate for them to be recite by themselves, such that they can focus on their prayer and not think about what they have to accomplish in the day. If they had to listen to the recitation of someone else, it might be easier for their minds to wander. In the night, such a concern would not exist as the time for work has ended, so he is psychologically prepared to listen and think about the recitation of the imam.
Shabramallisi, in his gloss on Ramli’s commentary on Nawawi’s Minhaj, has a slightly different take on this. He says that nights are when people are alone or with others privately, and when good conversation is had. In this time, one recites aloud, delighting in the open conversation with their Lord. In the daytime, this is not possible, as everyone is mingling about and engaged in work; a person thus does the opposite, seeking solace in private conversation with their Lord.
The aforementioned does not take into account the daytime congregations for Friday prayer and the two Eid prayers; in such cases, the social nature of the grand congregations calls for prayers to be recited aloud.
God knows best.
[Shaykh] Shuaib Ally
Shaykh Shuaib Ally is a scholar who has recently returned to Toronto after completing his studies overseas. He started his studies by completing his MA in Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto in 2008. He went on to study in a number of Islamic disciplines privately with scholars in Saudi Arabia, including Tafsir, Qur’anic Sciences, Shafi’i law, Usul, Hadith, Hadith Methodology, Grammar and Balagha. Shaykh Shuaib currently resides in Toronto.