By Sheikh Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Turayri
When the call for the late afternoon prayer, `Asr, was given, Prophet Muhammad salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam waited for the people to gather at the mosque. He encouraged them to offer four units of voluntary prayer beforehand, saying,
“May Allah have mercy on those who observe four units before the `Asr prayer.”
Once everyone was gathered at the mosque, he entered. He led the prayer in the early part of its time frame while the sun was still reasonably high in the sky. Anas tells us, “No one was more punctual than Allah’s Messenger in offering the `Asr prayer.”
With His Companions
The Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam stood in recitation about half as long as he did for the Dhuhr prayer. Afterward, he turned to his Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum. Sometimes he liked speaking to them. Once he said, “I do not know whether or not I should speak to you about something or remain silent.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, if it is something good, then please speak to us about it. If it is otherwise, then Allah and His Messenger know best.”
So he said, “Whenever a Muslim purifies himself and does so thoroughly as prescribed, then offers these five daily prayers, those prayers will be an atonement for the sins that occur between them.”
This is similar to what he said on another occasion at this time:
“If any of you performs ablutions carefully and then says: ‘I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His servant and messenger’, then the eight gates of Heaven will be open to him and he can enter through any one he likes. If any Muslim performs ablution in an excellent manner and then offers two units of prayer with a fully devoted heart and countenance, then Paradise has become his due.”
At this time of day, he spoke briefly, unlike the long speeches he gave after the Dhuhr prayer. The people were tired at that time and needed to complete their day’s work and prepare dinner.
With His Household
After prayer, the Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam returned home to his family. He spent some time with each of his households and showed them affection, but did not engage in any intimacy until he arrived at the home of the wife whose turn it is for him to spend the night.
Sometimes, his entire family gathered at that house, especially on winter days when the afternoon was too short for him to visit each of his households in turn.
The Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam always offered two units of voluntary prayer at home when he came back from leading the `Asr prayer at the mosque. He did this in spite of the fact that he has prohibited his followers from offering voluntary prayers at this time. He started doing so back on the day when the delegation from the tribe of `Abd Qays came to declare their acceptance of Islam. His attending to them prevented him from offering the two units of voluntary prayer he always offered after Dhuhr, so he made those two units up after `Asr. It is the Prophet’s personal practice that once he offered a prayer, he made it a habit.
Therefore, he persisted thereafter in offering two units of prayer after returning home from `Asr. `Aisha said, “I swear by Him who took up his soul, he never left off observing two units after `Asr until the day he returned to Allah.”
The late afternoon was the informal time that he spent socializing at home and engaging in familiar and affectionate talk with his wives. This did not mean that their conversations were superficial, or without substance. On some occasions, their discussions could take a serious turn.
For instance, on one occasion when he was at `Aisha’s home, she asked him, “Did you ever face a day more severe and intense than the Battle of Uhud?” He replied,
“Yes. I was subjected to worse things by your countrymen. The worst I suffered from them was on the day of `Aqabah when I went to Ta’if to present Islam to Ibn `Abd Yalil ibn `Abd Kulal. He did not respond to me as I had hoped, and I had to flee from Ta’if in pain and distress. I did not recover until I arrived at Qarn Al-Tha`alib.
There, I raised my head and saw a cloud which had cast its shadow over me. I saw in it the angel Jibreel who called to me and said: “Indeed, Allah, the Exalted, heard what your people said to you and the response they made to you. And He has sent you the angel in charge of the mountains so you can command him to do to them what you wish.”
Then the angel of the mountains called to me, greeted me and said: “O Muhammad, Allah listened to what your people said to you. I am the angel of the mountains, and my Lord has sent me to you so that you may give me your command. If you wish, I will bring together the two mountains that stand opposite each other at the extremities of Makkah to crush them in between.”
But I said, “No. I hope that Allah will raise from among their descendants people who will worship Allah alone, and not ascribe to Him any partners in worship.”
We can see in Aisha’s question the deep concern she had for her husband’s feelings. This is why she asked him about the worst and severest day of his life.
We can also see in the Prophet’s account of that day the great favor that Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala had shown him. This is because the Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam lived to see the day that the people of Ta’if embraced Islam, just as he had hoped.
Occasionally, after the `Asr prayer, some of his Companions will ask him to attend to something with them. He complied with such requests. Once, a man from the clan of Banu Salamah said to him, “We wish to slaughter a food camel that we have, and we would like you to be present.”
This was a big occasion for the man since meat was scarce in the Prophet’s day and age. The Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam accepted his request and went with him, taking along some of his Companions. They went where the man kept the camel and it was slaughtered and sectioned. Then some of the meat was cooked so they could eat together before sunset.
This showed us how gracious the Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam was. It was a hot summer day and the clan of Banu Salamah lived on the outskirts of Madinah to the north, at the farthest location from the mosque.
There was no reason to doubt that he went all the way walking, simply to make their happy occasion more joyful by his presence. They would not have talked to their neighbors about how they slaughtered a camel and had a feast, but instead how they had the Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam as their guest who slaughtered the camel for them and shared their meal. The people of Banu Salamah would talk about it for a long time.
The Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam always hastened to share in the people’s happiness and make their occasions even happier. He was deeply loved by his companions.
Originally published at onislam.net