What are the best times to pray?

What are the best times to pray?

Allah chose specific times for Salah (prayer), however Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) showed us the best practice as well as wisdom and flexibility in following these times. He was not rigid in his practice, as many people are today. Instead he led the jama’, but adjusted the time for salah making it practical and accommodated the conditions. It teaches us important lessons about both leadership and what is the best time to perform salah.

The example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) demonstrates that he adapted his practice to suit the needs of the community, showing compassion and ease without compromising obedience to Allah’s commands. When we collect some of the narrations together, we see a fuller picture emerge and how to choose the best time to pray.


The prophetic practice was to delay praying Fajr in congregation. The majority of mosques do not pray Fajr a few minutes after the adhan. They delay it by 20 to 30 minutes across the Muslim world to allow people to wake up, do wudu, come from their house etc. This is within the limits of salah time, and the spirit of the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who would sometimes delay the Isha prayer if people had not yet gathered in the mosque.

When the musallis would arrive at the masjid to pray it was so dark that the could barely see one another. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would prolong his recitation and consequently finish when there was some light.

Rafi’ bin Khadij (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

‘Offer the morning prayer at dawn for it’s greater for your rewards.’

Abu Musa’s (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

‘The Prophet (peace be upon him) did pray Fajr when the dawn started, when Fajr breaks and people cannot recognise one another, who are sitting next to each other.’

Abu Barza Al-Aslami (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

‘The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to pray the Dhuhr prayer, which you (people) call the first one at midday when the sun had just declined. The Asr prayer at a time when after the prayer, a man could go to the house at the furthest end of Al-Madinah and arrive while the sun was still hot. (I forgot about the Maghrib prayer). And the Prophet (peace be upon him) loved to delay the Isha, which you call Al-Atama (complete darkness) and he disliked sleeping before it and conversation after it. After the Fajr prayer he used to leave when a man could recognise the one sitting beside him and he used to recite between 60 to 100 verses of the Quran in the Fajr prayer.’ [Agreed upon]

Scholars have combined these narrations to understand when the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed. Firstly we see that he used to recite 60 to 100 ayahs at Fajr, more than in any other salah. This is the sunnah, which I observed our Shuyukh and teachers (may Allah have mercy on them) following. They would prolong the Fajr salah, reciting between 50-60 verses, depending on their length ayahs. If these verses were lengthy, they would recite less verses and if they were short they would recite 60 verses in total. The Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed 30-50 verses in every rakah, so by the time he finished the salah, with his soothing, calm, and unrushed recitation, though the sun would still be far from rising, the light was breaking in the sky. In this way, we can reconcile the narrations without any contradiction.

On Jumuah, as reported in Sahih Bukhari, he used to recite Surat al-Sajdah in the first rakah and Surat al-Insaan in the second rakah.


Abdullah bin Abbas mentioned that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

Jibril twice led me in prayer at the House (i.e. the Kaaba). He prayed the noon prayer with me when the sun had passed the meridian to the extent of the thong of a sandal, he prayed the afternoon prayer with me when every things shadow was as long as itself, he prayed the sunset prayer wit me at the time when one who has been fasting breaks his fast, he prayed the night prayer wit me when the twilight had ended.

The time of Dhuhr is when the sun passes the meridian. So the sun rises when it hits the middle, it’s not yet time for Dhuhr; this is zawal time. Zawal time literally in Arabic zawal means when the sun starts coming down from Dhuhr time, from the middle of the sky when it starts coming down towards the magrib, so this is when Dhuhr starts – when it hits the middle and starts coming down – this is where Dhuhr starts. So the time of Dhuhr is when the sun passes the meridian and starts going in the other direction. The other indication is when you see your shadow is exactly the same length as your length, this is time for Dhuhr.

Severe heat

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that:

‘When it is hot delay Dhuhr prayer till it cools down for the intensity of heat is from the exhalation of hell.’

We have a metaphor here, as Dhuhr time in the desert was so hot, it was like the fiery exhalation of hell. That is why it’s recommended to wait until it cools down. This is Abu Hurayrah’s narration elaborating on what Abu Barza mentioned in his narration.

Therefore the recommended time for Dhuhr is to delay the salah when it’s very hot. Wait until it cools down then people can attend the jamaah and pray with ease, rather than discomfort. He did not give options for people to miss the salah but options within the limits of the time of salah.

When it is unbearably hot, the heat of jahannam rather than suffer, the imam of the mosques should say as it is very hot, they will call the adhan on time but start the jamaah after 40 minutes or half an hour so it can cool down. Unless, as we have air conditioning, which we have even in the Haram apart from being around the Kaaba and in Madinah. Then there is no point to delay it because there is no need. The hot weather has been countered by the air conditioning.

So if you don’t have air conditioning, the Sunnah is to meet with the community, and discuss and agree the delaying of the salah for half an hour after the adhan. At that time the ceiling of his mosque, was made from the leaves of palm trees.

You can see the spirit is about practicality, rahma, ease and facilitation. It’s not about having to do it even if you’re about to die. It’s about leniency within the boundaries. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was offering people options which unfortunately we can’t see from some people who pretend that they are representing the Sunnah but in fact they are making everything difficult. They don’t offer the options; it is just ‘my way or the highway’ as far as they are concerned, which is not the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him).


When is Asr? The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned that the time of Asr is as long as the sun has not become yellow during its setting. Maghrib obviously is when the sun disappears.

There are many narrations in the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Burayda (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the time of Asr is:

‘When the sun is white and clear.’

And another narration by Abu Musa al Ashari (may Allah be pleased with him) regarding the time of Asr prayer:

‘While the sun is high.’

There are differences in the Shafi’i and Hanafi School over the time of Asr. These are based on different narrations. The Shafi’i and Hanbali schools adopted some narrations and the Hanafi school adopted other narrations. What is the difference? It is the variation of colours of the sun and the variation of the length of the shadow. So when Asr starts is a question mark between different schools. Does Asr start when the length of the shadow is twice as much or it’s less than that? In the Hanafi School it is twice as much and there are some narrations that supports although you might read it in the footnote in the English translation of the book, which we are using that there are no narrations that supports this. This is not true, there are narrations that support this, authentic narrations. So be careful not to buy into this comment because it’s not an accurate comment.

This is why you see in different mosques, if they were not Hanafi, they pray Asr an hour or 40 minutes  earlier than the Hanafi timing. There’s no big deal. If you see somebody is praying before the shadow length is double, don’t make a fuss because there are some authentic narrations that support that. And if you see somebody waiting for the shadow to be twice as much, don’t make a fuss as well because there are authentic narrations on that. We simply need to accommodate these differences and understand that these are valid differences.

These are the practicalities and the recommendations, but the obligation of praying on time as soon as the adhan is called, is best unless it is Isha, or if there are reasons to delay it such as the heat at Dhuhr time.


When you see the sun has disappeared then it’s Maghrib time. As long as the twilight has not disappeared it’s still Maghrib time. It means Isha is when twilight.

Maghrib in particular should be prayed as soon as possible once Maghrib begins. However if you were unable to perform it early it is still valid until Isha begins.


As long as the twilight has not disappeared it’s still Maghrib time. Isha is when twilight disappears.

Jabir Ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) mentioned that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to pray Isha when he saw people gathered in the mosque, sometimes he would pray at the beginning of the time, if they came early. However if they were a bit late, then he will delay the salah, the Prophet (peace be upon him).

He knew his community. The Prophet (peace be upon him) could see if some people were missing. If not everyone was there, he would delay the salah until everyone was there and he would pray in congregation with them.

Look at this merciful approach of the Prophet (peace be upon him). I am not saying that we should wait for everybody to come 100% but nevertheless look at the bigger picture. He didn’t rebuke them for not coming on time; he showed them leniency and this is what Allah described in the Quran beautifully:

By the mercy of Allah you were easy going with them [3:159], very merciful, very soft, the Prophet (peace be upon him). Had you been harsh and stonehearted then people would have dispersed from around you [3:159]

Allah said to him in the Quran, that he was a rahma, as he himself stated

‘I am but a gifted mercy to you.’

Accordinlgy when he saw people gathered he would pray at the beginning of salah time; if they were late then he would delay it, the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Is the time for Isha until midnight or Fajr?

You can pray after midnight until Fajr as there are narrations that say that salah is valid until the second salah comes except for Fajr prayer. Fajr prayer ends when the sun rises, after that Farj becomes qada (missed). Apart from Fajr all the other prayers can be prayed until the time of the next salah starts. Of course if you can pray close to the start of the time, it’s better in merit, except for Isha, which is best postponed.

Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated:

So the Prophet (peace be upon him) delayed (the Isha prayer) one night till a great part of the night passed, then he went out and offered the prayer, and said, ‘This is the proper time for it; were it not that I would impose a burden on my followers.’ [Muslim]

Had he not wanted to burden his Ummah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would have asked his followers to delay Isha until a third of the night had passed. Though the prayer can be prayed anytime after Maghrib until Fajr the recommended time is when it is very late. However he was keen on making things easy for the Ummah, rather than hard.

Therefore if you can delay Isha it is better but if you can pray it jama’ even though it is earlier than praying by yourself, don’t miss the reward of praying with the jama’.

Based on the Sunday Hadith classes delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim March 2024

Transcribed by Rose Roslan


Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.