In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 238
In the past few ayaat we have been studying the commands about divorce and rights of women, the topic suddenly changes to prayers. It is because he who fears Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will not commit injustice. He who cannot fulfill the Rights of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala how can he honor the rights of people?
“Maintain with care the (obligatory) prayers and (in particular) the middle prayer and stand before Allah, devoutly obedient.” [al-Baqarah 2: 238]
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands that the prayer should be performed properly and on time. It is reported in the Two Saheehs that Ibn Mas’oud radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “I asked the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “Which deed is the dearest (to Allah)?” He replied,
الصَّلَاةُ عَلى وَقْتِها
“To offer the prayers at their fixed times.” I asked, “What is the next (in goodness)?” He replied,
الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ الله
“To participate in Jihad [striving] 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 salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam told me these words, and had I asked more, he would have told me more.”
The Middle Prayer
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala 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’een also held this view.
The Proof that the ‘Asr Prayer is the Middle Prayer
Imam Ahmad reported that ‘Ali radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrated that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said during the battle of Al-Ahzab (the Confederates):
شَغَلُونَا عَنِ الصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَى، صَلَاةِ الْعَصْرِ، مَلَأَ اللهُ قُلُوبَهُم وَبُيُوتَهم نَارًا
“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 hadeeth.]
Imam Ahmad also reported that Samurah ibn Jundub said that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
صَلَاةُ الْوسْطَى صَلَاةُ الْعَصْر
“The Middle prayer is the ‘Asr prayer.”
In another narration, Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam mentioned,
حَـفِظُواْ عَلَى الصَّلَوَتِ والصَّلَوةِ الْوُسْطَى
“Guard strictly (five obligatory) prayers especially the Middle Salah,”
and stated that it is the ‘Asr prayer.
These texts emphasize that the ‘Asr prayer is the Middle prayer.
Why is there such emphasis on the ‘Asr Prayer?
Emphasizing the necessity of preserving ‘Asr prayer, Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
مَنْ فَاتَتْهُ صَلَاةُ الْعَصْرِ فَكَأَنَّمَا وُتِرَ أَهْلَهُ وَمَالَه
“Whoever misses the ‘Asr prayer will be like who has lost his family and money.”
It is reported in the Saheeh that Buraydah ibn Al-Husayb said that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
بَكِّرُوا بِالصَّلَاةِ فِي يَوْمِ الْغَيْمِ، فَإِنَّهُ مَنْ تَرَكَ صَلَاةَ الْعَصْرِ، فَقَدْ حَبِطَ عَمَلُه
“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
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “stand before Allah, devoutly obedient,” meaning with humility. One is also not allowed to speak during the prayer, as speaking contradicts the nature of the prayer. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam refused to answer Ibn Mas’oud when he greeted him while he was praying and said afterwards:
إِنَّ فِي الصَّلَاةِ لَشُغْلًا
“The prayer makes one sufficiently busy.” It means busy with various actions of the body, tongue and heart involved during the prayer.
Muslim reported that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to Mu’awiyah ibn Hakam As-Sulami when he spoke during the prayer,
إِنَّ هذِهِ الصَّلَاةَ لَا يَصْلُحُ فِيهَا شَيْءٌ مِنْ كَلَامِ النَّاسِ، إنَّمَا هِي التَّسْبِيحُ وَالتَّكْبِيرُ وَذِكْرُ الله
“The ordinary speech people indulge in is not appropriate during the prayer. The prayer involves only Tasbeeh [praising Allah], Takbeer [saying Allahu Akbar] and remembering Allah.”
Remember that all obligatory prayers are important and all of them should be performed at their appointed time with proper ablution and khushu [fear of Allah]. However, ‘Asr prayer is the most important. It is because at this time, the day is coming to an end and people are busy in wrapping up their tasks. In hastening to finish off their tasks early, they often miss or delay the ‘Asr prayer. For example, when the office day comes to an end, people rush to reach their homes. They delay the prayer that they will offer it upon reaching their destination, but they get stuck in traffic. Wouldn’t it have been better had they performed their prayer before leaving?
How many cases we have heard where people left their office and died on the way? What if they had delayed their prayer? They died while missing an obligatory prayer? If the Athan [call to prayer] has been given then the prayer becomes due.
Earlier people used to talk during the prayer, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then revealed this ayah and prohibited speaking during prayer. He also said stand as qaniteen meaning like those who fear Him. One should not fidget, run their fingers through their hair, or fix their clothes during prayer. One should reach the prayer mat with preparation – after fixing their hair and clothing. One should also not raise their gaze or look at other people while in prayer. The gaze should be on the prayer mat in qiyam and on one’s index finger during jalsa [sitting position].
If we were truly concentrating on our prayer we would not be distracted by what is happening around us or by the whisperings of Shaytan. Whenever you feel daydreaming in prayer, recite tawuz [seeking protection from Allah against Shaytan] and spit on your left side.
Obligatory prayers are not accepted without qiyam the only exceptions are for the old and disabled.
If we are commanded to stand in prayer while being devoutly obedient, it also means that we should let others perform their prayer. There should be no disturbance or noise near them. Some people keep the television on while another person is offering prayer in the same room. Some people talk in loud voice while the Qur’an is being recited or someone is praying.
It is because we have forgotten the etiquette of prayer that our prayers are not accepted. If we are offering prayers as they should be, with proper cleanliness and concentration at their appointed time, there is no reason why they will not be accepted.
We should read the book, The Prophet’s Prayer and learn the proper way of praying. We should not pray how our parents taught us but how the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam prayed and taught his Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum.
DOWNLOAD PDF: Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 238