May the Peace and Blessings of Allah Azza wa Jal, our Lord Glorified and Praised be He, be upon our beloved Prophet, his Family, and Companions.
The Middle Prayer.
حَـفِظُواْ عَلَى الصَّلَوَتِ والصَّلَوةِ الْوُسْطَى وَقُومُواْ لِلَّهِ قَـنِتِينَ
(238. Guard strictly (five obligatory) As-Salawat (the prayers) especially the Middle Salah.And stand before Allah with obedience.)
فَإنْ خِفْتُمْ فَرِجَالاً أَوْ رُكْبَانًا فَإِذَآ أَمِنتُمْ فَاذْكُرُواْ اللَّهَ كَمَا عَلَّمَكُم مَّا لَمْ تَكُونُواْ تَعْلَمُونَ
(239. And if you fear (an enemy), (perform Salah) on foot or riding. And when you are in safety, then remember Allah (pray) in the manner He has taught you, which you knew not (before).)
Surah 2 Al Baqarah Verse 238-239
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Allah commands that the prayer should be performed properly and on time. It is reported in the Two Sahihs that Ibn Mas`ud said, “I asked the Prophet , `Which deed is the dearest (to Allah)’ He replied:
(To offer the prayers at their fixed times.) I asked, `What is the next (in goodness)’ He replied:
(To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah’s cause.)” I again asked, `What is the next (in goodness)’ He replied:
(To be good and dutiful to your parents.) `Abdullah then added, “The Prophet told me these words, and had I asked more, the Prophet would have told me more.”
The Middle Prayer.
Furthermore, Allah has specifically mentioned the Middle prayer, which is the `Asr prayer according to the majority of the scholars among the Companions, as At-Tirmidhi and Al-Baghawi have stated. Al-Qadi Al-Mawardi added that the majority of the scholars of the Tabi`in also held this view. Al-Hafiz Abu `Umar bin `Abdul-Barr said that this is also the opinion of the majority of the scholars of the Athar (i.e., the Hadith and the statements of the Salaf). In addition, Abu Muhammad bin `Atiyah said that this is the Tafsir (of the Middle prayer) of the majority of scholars. Al-Hafiz Abu Muhammad `Abdul-Mu’min bin Khalaf Ad-Dumyati stated in his book on the Middle prayer that it is the `Asr prayer and mentioned that this is the Tafsir of `Umar, `Ali, Ibn Mas`ud, Abu Ayyub, `Abdullah bin `Amr, Samurah bin Jundub, Abu Hurayrah, Abu Sa`id, Hafsah, Umm Habibah, Umm Salamah, Ibn `Abbas and `A’ishah. This is also the Tafsir of `Ubaydah, Ibrahim An-Nakha`i, Razin, Zirr bin Hubaysh, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Ibn Sirin, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Kalbi, Muqatil, `Ubayd bin Abu Maryam, and others.
The Proof that the `Asr Prayer is the Middle Prayer.
Imam Ahmad reported that `Ali narrated that Allah’s Messenger said during the battle of Al-Ahzab (the Confederates):
(They (the disbelievers) busied us from performing the Middle prayer, the `Asr prayer, may Allah fill their hearts and houses with fire.)
He performed the `Asr prayer between Maghrib and `Isha’. Muslim and An-Nasa’i recorded this Hadith. In addition, the Two Shaykhs, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi An-Nasa’i and several other collectors of the Sunan recorded this Hadith using different chains of narrators to `Ali. The Hadith about the battle of Al-Ahzab, when the Mushriks prevented Allah’s Messenger and his Companions from performing the `Asr prayer, has been narrated by several other Companions. We only mentioned the narrations that stated that the Middle prayer is the `Asr prayer. Furthermore, Muslim reported similar wordings for this Hadith from Ibn Mas`ud and Al-Bara’ bin `Azib.
In addition, Imam Ahmad reported that Samurah bin Jundub said that Allah’s Messenger said:
(The Middle prayer is the `Asr prayer.)
In another narration, Allah’s Messenger mentioned:
(Guard strictly (five obligatory) As-Salawat (the prayers) especially the Middle Salah) and stated that it is the `Asr prayer. In another narration, Allah’s Messenger said:
(It is the `Asr prayer.) and Ibn Ja`far mentioned that the Prophet was then being asked about the Middle prayer. At-Tirmidhi reported this Hadith and said, “Hasan, Sahih.” In addition, Abu Hatim bin Hibban reported in his Sahih that `Abdullah said that Allah’s Messenger said:
(The Middle prayer is the `Asr prayer.)
At-Tirmidhi reported that Ibn Mas`ud narrated that Allah’s Messenger said:
(The `Asr prayer is the Middle prayer.)
At-Tirmidhi then stated that this Hadith is of a Hasan, Sahih type. Muslim reported the Hadith in his Sahih and his wordings are:
(They (disbelievers) busied us from performing the Middle prayer, the `Asr prayer.)
These texts emphasize the fact (that the `Asr prayer is the Middle prayer). What further proves this fact is that, in an authentic Hadith, Allah’s Messenger emphasized the necessity of preserving the `Asr prayer, when he said, as Ibn `Umar narrated:
(Whoever misses the `Asr prayer will be like who has lost his family and money.)
It is reported in the Sahih that Buraydah bin Al-Husayb said that the Prophet said:
(On a cloudy day, perform the (`Asr) prayer early, for whoever misses the `Asr prayer, will have his (good) deeds annulled.)
The Prohibition of speaking during the Prayer.
(And stand before Allah with obedience.) meaning, with humbleness and humility before Him (i.e., during the prayer). This command indicates that it is not allowed to speak during the prayer, as speaking contradicts the nature of the prayer. This is why the Prophet refused to answer Ibn Mas`ud when he greeted him while he was praying and said afterwards:
(The prayer makes one sufficiently busy.) (i.e., by the various actions of the body, tongue and heart involved during the prayer.)
Muslim reported that the Prophet said to Mu`awiyah bin Hakam As-Sulami when he spoke during the prayer:
(The ordinary speech people indulge in is not appropriate during the prayer. The prayer involves only Tasbih (praising Allah), Takbir (saying Allahu Akbar, i.e., Allah is the Most Great) and remembering Allah.)
(And stand before Allah with obedience.) we were ordered to refrain from speaking.” The Group (i. e., the Hadith collections), except Ibn Majah, reported this
The Fear Prayer.
(And if you fear (an enemy), (perform Salah) on foot or riding. And when you are in safety, then remember Allah (pray) in the manner He has taught you, which you knew not (before).)
After Allah commanded His servants to perform the prayer perfectly and emphasized this commandment, He mentioned the situation where the person might not be able to perform the prayer perfectly, during battle and combat. Allah said:
(And if you fear (an enemy), perform Salah on foot or riding.) meaning, pray in the appropriate manner under these circumstances, whether on foot or riding and whether facing the Qiblah or otherwise. Imam Malik reported that Nafi` related that Ibn `Umar used to describe the Fear prayer when he was asked about it and would then add, “If there is intense fear, pray on foot, riding, facing the Qiblah and otherwise.” Nafi` commented, “I think that he related that to the Prophet .” Al-Bukhari and Muslim reported the Hadith.
Muslim, Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Ibn Jarir reported that Ibn `Abbas said, “Allah has ordained the prayer by the words of your Prophet : four (Rak`ah) while residing, two Rak`ah while traveling and one Rak`ah during times of fear.” This is also the view of Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, and others.
In addition, Al-Bukhari has entitled a Chapter: `Prayer while confronting the Forts and facing the Enemy’. Al-Awza`i said, “If the victory seems near and the Muslims are unable to perform the prayer (in the normal manner), they should pray by nodding each by himself. If they are unable to nod, they should delay the prayer until fighting is finished. When they feel safe, they should pray two Rak`ah. If they are unable, they should then pray one Rak`ah that includes two prostrations. If they are unable, then Takbir alone does not suffice, so they should delay the prayer until they are safe.” This is the same view that Makhul held. Anas bin Malik said, “I participated in the attack on the fort of Tastar, when the light of dawn started to become clear. Suddenly, the fighting raged and the Muslims were unable to pray until the light of day spread. We then prayed (the Dawn prayer) with Abu Musa and we became victorious. I would not have been pleased if I were to gain in the life of this world and whatever is in it instead of that prayer.” This is the wording of Al-Bukhari.
Imam Ahmad reported that Zayd bin Arqam said, “One used to address his friend about various affairs during the prayer. Then when this Ayah was revealed:
Prayer during the Times of Peace is performed normally.
(And when you are in safety, then remember Allah (pray)) meaning, `Perform the prayer as I have commanded you by completing its bowing, prostration, standing, sitting, and with the required attention (in the heart) and supplication.’ Allah said:
(in the manner He has taught you, which you knew not (before).) meaning, just as He has endowed you, guided you and taught you about what benefits you in this life and the Hereafter, so thank and remember Him. Similarly, Allah said after He mentioned the prayer of Fear,
(…but when you are free from danger, perform As-Salah. Verily, As-Salah (the prayer) is enjoined on the believers at fixed hours.) (4:103)
We will mention the Hadiths about the prayer of Fear and its description in Surat An-Nisa’ while mentioning Allah’s statement:
(When you (O Messenger Muhammad ) are among them, and lead them in As-Salah (the prayer).) (4:102)