The Timing of Salaat al-‘Asr – Analysis of the Different Views of Imam Abu Hanifa and his Students

Question: Asalaam alaikum. In the Hanafi Madh-hab it says the Mufta-bihi opinion is that ‘Asr enters around two shadow length but there is an opinion (within the Madh-hab) that says it is one shadow length.

I am confused because recently we got a new Imam he is Bengali and he told me that the two shadow length opinion is the weaker opinion and ‘Asr enters at one shadow length he said this is the mufta bihi opinion and Imam Abu Hanifah held this opinion a few days before he died.

Is this true? he told me only Hanafis from the Asian Sub-Continent ascribe to the two shadow length view whereas the Arab Hanafis ascribe to the one shadow opinion.

Which is the stronger view in the Madh-hab. I’m asking as I am very confused and unsure.

Answer (by Mufti Waseem Khan): 

Wa Alaikum As Salam,

With respect to the time Salaah Al-Asr enters (according to the Madh-hab of Imam Abu Hanifa), there are two famous opinions. One is that it enters at ‘two shadows’ length’, and the other is that of one shadow’s length. Both of these opinions have been accepted and, none of the great Hanafi Jurists from the former and latter times has considered the ‘two shadows’ length’ to be the weaker opinion. In fact, it is a very strong opinion and it is a saheeh (sound) one. It is also not evident that Imam Abu Hanifa (rahimahullah) held the opinion of ‘one shadow’s length’ before he died.

The difference of opinion held in this regard is as follows:-

Imam Abu Hanifa (rahimahullah) says, ‘the ending time for Dhuhr Salaah (upon which ‘Asr time begins) is when the shadow of anything becomes twice its size besides its original size at midday. While explaining this opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa (Rahmatullah Alayh) which is to be found in all the famous classical texts on the Hanafi Fiqh, the author of Al-Lubab (commentary of Mukhtasar Al Qudoori) writes, ‘This opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa is the Dhahir riwayah from the Imam (An Nihayah), and is also the riwayah of Imam Muhammad in Al-Asl. It is the Saheeh (sound/correct) opinion as mentioned in Al Yanabee, Al-Badaa’i, Al-Ghayah Al-Muniyah and Al-Muheet. Burhan Ash-Shari’ah Mahboobi has also preferred it. An Nasafi has relied upon this opinion. Sadr Ash-Shariah has agreed with/conformed to the opinion and has given preference to its proof. In Al-Ghayathia it is mentioned that it is the chosen/preferred opinion. The authors of the Mutoon (classical texts of Fiqh) have preferred it. The expounders of these texts have also agreed with it.  [Al-Lubab – Sharh Mukhtasar Al-Qudoori Vol.1 pg. 71 Qadeemi Kutub Khana Karachi Pakistan].

The author of Al-Lubab Fi-Sharh Al-Kitab has further written, ‘The author of Miraj Ad-Dirayah has explained its evidence (that is, the evidence of Imam Abu Hanifa in which he said ‘Asr enters when the shadow becomes twice its size besides the original) and stated, ‘To adopt that which is precautious in the chapter of worship is better, since it is agreed by all that (when the shadow is twice its size, then) it is ‘Asr time (all scholars agreed that this is a good and valid time for Asr Salaah). Therefore, it is better in the Deen, since at this time when a person performs ‘Asr Salaah it would be established with certainty that he has fulfilled his responsibility (by performing his ‘Asr Salaah). As for one’s performing ‘Asr Salaah after ‘one shadow’, this is not unanimously agreed upon, and all scholars have agreed that performing Salaah before its time is not permissible, while delaying it from its beginning time is permissible. [Al-Lubab – Sharh of Mukhtasar Al Qudoori Vol.1 pg.71 Qadeemi Kutub Khana Karachi Pakistan].

With respect to the other opinion, it is stated in the classical books of the Hanafi Fiqh, ’And Abu Yusuf and Muhammad have stated that the ending time for Dhuhr Salaah (upon which ‘Asr time enters) is when the shadow of anything becomes one of its size besides its original size at Midday’. While explaining this opinion, the great scholar, Shaikh Abdul Ghani Al-Ghunaimi Al-Maidani, the author of Al Lubab says, ‘This is also a narration from Imam Abu Hanifa. Imam Zufar and the three Imams, Imam Malik, Shafi and Ahmad have adopted this. Imam Tahawi from among the Hanafi Jurists has stated, ‘This is what we accept’. In Al-Burhan it is mentioned, ‘This is a clearer opinion’. In ‘Al-Faidh’ it is stated, ‘This is the practice of the people of the times and fatwa is given upon this’. After giving these references, the Shaikh has stated, ‘The best is that which has been mentioned in As-Siraj from Shaikh Al-Islam that precaution in this matter is that one should not delay Dhuhr Salaah until the shadow has become one of its size, and should not perform ‘Asr Salaah except when the shadow reaches twice of its size.

In this way, one will perform the two Salaah in their respective timings which have been agreed by all’. [Al-Lubab – Sharh of Mukhtasar Al Qudoori Vol.1 pg.72 Qadeemi Kutub Khana Karachi Pakistan].

From the above explanation, it shows that there are two well established opinions in the Hanafi Madh-hab regarding the entering time for the ‘Asr Salaah. One is that which Imam Abu Hanifa (Rahmatullah Alayh) has officially preferred/accepted and viewed as the correct verdict. The other is that of the two great students of Imam Abu Hanifa, namely Imams Abu Yusuf and Muhammad. Although, this is an opinion narrated from the Imam himself, it is not evident that he held on to it or adopted it as the correct verdict.

As for the Imam’s verdict of ‘two shadows’ length of an object’, this has been well accepted as Saheeh (sound/correct) by many great/leading Hanafi Fuqaha from the former and latter times. These were from among the most reliable and noteworthy scholars whose works have been accepted by the leading Hanafi jurists with great authority.

It has also been explained that Imam Abu Hanifa’s position (of two shadows’ length) is the Dhahir Riwayah, which is the strongest and most authentic narration in Hanafi Fiqh.

It is well known in the Usool of Hanafi Fiqh that the status of narrations that are known as Dhahir Ar-Riwayah is of the highest and strongest (as mentioned in Sharh Uqood Rasm Al-Mufti by Allama Shami).

The author of Al-Lubab has also explained that the authors of the classical Hanafi texts have all preferred the stance of Imam Abu Hanifa (rahimahullah), and the commentators of these texts have also agreed with this position.

As cited above, many great Hanafi jurists have given preference to the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa. In this regard, the great jurist Ash Shaikh, Al-Allama, Al-Faqih, Sirajudeen has also written in his famous ‘Fatawa As-Siraji’ah’, ‘And the time for ‘Asr comes in when the shadow of anything is twice besides the original size according to Imam Abu Hanifa. This is the chosen/preferred opinion’. [Al-Fatawa As-Siraji’ah by the great Jurist Sirajuddeen Abu Muhammad Ali bin Uthman bin Muhammad Al ‘Oushi Al Farghawi died 569 A.H pg. 57 Zam Zam Publishers Karachi Pakistan 2011].

The great Scholar, Allama Ibn Abideen Shami, while explaining the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa which states, ‘The time for Dhuhr is from Zawal until the shadow reaches twice its size’, writes, ‘This is the Dhahir Riwayah from the Imam- (Nihayah), and is Saheeh (sound/correct) – Badaa’i, Muheet and Yanabi’. It is the preferred opinion – Ghayathia, Imam Al-Mahboobi has chosen it. Imam An Nasafi and Sadr Ash-Shariah have relied upon it – Tasheeh Qasim. The authors of the classical/authoritative texts (of Hanafi Fiqh) have preferred it. The expounders and commentators of the Fiqh texts have agreed and approved of this position of Imam Sahib.

Hence, the statement of At-Tahawi (rahimahullah), in which he has stated, ‘and we have accepted the opinion of Imams Abu Yusuf and Muhammad’, does not give any proof that this is the official stance/verdict of the Madh-hab (of Imam Abu Hanifa). As for that which is written in ‘Al-Faidh’ that Fatawa is given upon the statement of Imams, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad with respect to (the time for) ‘Asr and ‘Isha, this is only with regards to ‘Isha [Raddul Muhtaar Ala Ad Dur Al Mukhtar Vol.1 pg. 359 H.M. Saeed Company Karachi Pakistan 1406 A.H].

Further, while responding to the statement of the author of Ad-Durr in which he says that the opinion of ‘One shadow’s length’ is clearer, on account of the explanation given by Jibra’eel (Alayhissalaam), and that this is the determined text (evidence) in this chapter, ‘Allama Ibn Abideen Shami writes, ‘In the statement of the author of Ad-Durr, the evidence is suitable (for the opinion of Imam Abu Yusuf and Muhammad). However, this does not show the weakness of the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa. In fact, his proofs are also strong’. [Raddul Muhtaar Ala Ad-Durr Al-Mukhtar Vol.1 pg.359 H.M Saeed Company Karachi Pakistan 1406 A.H].

Similarly, while discussing the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa (rahimahullah) and that of his two famous students, the great Hanafi jurist, Ash-Shaikh Zainuddeen Ibn Nujaim (Alayhi Rahmah) writes, ‘The best opinion is that of Imam Abu Hanifa’. In Al-Bada’I, it is stated that this is what is mentioned in Asl and that it is correct opinion. And in An-Nihayah, it is mentioned that this is the Dhahir Riwayah from Imam Abu Hanifa’. In this way, Allama Ibn Nujaim mentioned all the other references given before in Al-Lubab and Raddul Muhtaar, showing that many of the great jurists have adopted, preferred and accepted the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa as the official stance of the Hanafi Madh-hab in this regard. [Al-Bahr Ar-Raiq – Sharh Kanz Ad-Daqaa’iq Vol.1 pg. 245 Maktaba Rasheediya Queta Pakistan].

Allama Ibn Nujaim has also explained that the official Madh-hab of Imam Abu Hanifa in this matter is that of the verdict of the Imam himself regarding the entering time of ‘Asr Salaah (as being when the shadow of anything becomes twice its size besides the original size at midday). [Ibid.].

On account of the differences in this mas’alah, the great jurists like Allama Ibn Nujaim and Ibn Abideen Shami have mentioned the approach one should take in this matter. They have stated, ‘Shaikh Al-Islam has stated that precaution (in this mas’alah) is that one should not delay Dhuhr Salaah until the shadow of anything reaches one of its size besides the original size at midday, and one should not perform Asr Salaah except when the shadow of an object reaches twice of its size. In this way one will perform both Salaah in their respective timings which have been agreed by all scholars. [Raddul Muhtaar Ala Ad-Durr Al-Mukhtar Vol.1 pg. 359 H.M. Saeed Company Karachi Pakistan 1406 A.H.; Al-Bahr Ar-Ra’iq Vol.1 pg. 245 Maktaba Rasheediya Queta Pakistan].

The great Hanafi jurist, Imam Burhan al-Deen (died 551 A.H) has narrated the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa which states, ‘The time of ‘Asr does not enter until the shadow of a thing becomes twice its size’ and then states, ‘Abul Hasan (Alayhi Rahmah) states, ‘This narration is the Most Correct one’ [Al-Muheet Al-Burhani Vol.2 pg. 6 Idaratul Quran wal Uloom Al Islamiya Karachi Pakistan 2004].

From all these narrations and explanations of the great scholars and jurists of the Hanafi Fiqh (who did not belong to the Asian Sub-Continent) it can be clearly seen that the well-established position in the Hanafi Madh-hab is that ‘Asr enters when the shadow of a thing is twice its size besides the size at midday. This is the verdict of Imam Abu Hanifa (Alayhi Rahmah). It is the Dhahir riwayah, the most correct opinion and the one that has been preferred and agreed upon by the most reliable and authoritative Hanafi jurists of the early centuries until today.

None of the jurists has stated that Imam Abu Hanifa’s opinion is weak, nor has anyone from among them stated that he adopted the opinion of his two students before he died.

With respect to which is the Mufta bihi opinion, the great scholars have ruled that Imam Abu Hanifa’s opinion of ‘two shadows’ length’ is the Mufta bihi opinion. In this regard, the jurist and scholar of Islam, Faqihul Ummah Mufti Mahmood Hasan Gangohi (rahimahullah) writes. ‘The preferred opinion and the Mufta bihi statement/verdict is that the time for Asr starts when the shadow of an object is twice its size besides the original size at midday’. [Fatawa Mahmoodiya Vol.5 pg. 338 Idarah Al-Farooq Karachi Pakistan 2009].

Similarly, the great jurist expert and scholar Mufti Sayyid Abdur Raheem Lajpuri (rahimahullah) writes, ‘The Mufta bihi opinion and that which Fatawa is given upon is that ‘Asr enters when the shadow of something is twice its size besides the original size at midday’. [Fatawa Raheemiya Vol.4 pg. 77 Darul Ishaa’at Karachi Pakistan 2009].

And Allah Knows Best

Darul Uloom Trinidad & Tobago
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Also Read: Refuting La-Madhabi’s Regarding the Timing of Salaat al ‘Asr

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