Source: Peshawar Nights
Nawab: Why do the Shias combine the prayers of Zuhr and Asr and Maghrib and Isha? This is not in keeping with the practice of the holy Prophet.
Well-Wisher: In the first place, among your own learned men, there is much difference of opinion concerning this issue. Secondly, you say that we go against the practice of the Prophet. Here you are mistaken since the holy Prophet used to offer these prayers in both ways, sometimes separately and sometimes together. Nawab Sahib, turning to his learned men, asked them if it was true that the Prophet offered the prayers in both ways.
Hafiz: He did, but only when he was on a journey or when there was some other hindrance, like rain. Otherwise, when he was at home, he always offered his prayers separately.
Well-Wisher: It is recorded in your own hadith that the Prophet used to offer prayers separately as well as combined at home and without any obstruction. Many hadith confirm this fact. Muslim Bin Hajjaj in his Sahih, in the Chapter “Jam’a Baina’s-salatain fi’l-Hazar,” says that Ibn Abbas said: “The Prophet used to say Zuhr and Asr as well as Maghrib and Isha prayers jointly without being constrained to do so, or when he was at home.” Again Ibn Abbas narrated: “We said eight rak’ats of Zuhr and Asr and later seven rak’ats of Maghrib and Isha prayers jointly with the holy Prophet.” The same hadith has been related by Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal in his Musnad, Part 1, Page 221. Similarly, Imam Muslim quotes a number of hadith concerning this issue. He quotes Abdullah Bin Shaqiq as having said that one day Abdullah Bin Abbas was reading an address after the Asr prayers until the sun set and the stars were visible. People cried, “Prayers, Prayers,” but Ibn Abbas paid no heed to them. Then one of the Bani Tamimi shouted “Prayers, Prayers.” Ibn Abbas then said: “You remind me of the Sunna, but I myself have seen the Holy Prophet combine Zuhr and Asr as well as Maghrib and Isha prayers.” Abdullah bin Shaqiq said that he felt uncertainty about these words and went to Abu Huraira to ask him about it. He verified what Ibn Abbas had said. Through another chain of narrators, Abdullah bin Shaqiq has narrated from Aqil that once Abdullah bin Abbas spoke to the people from the pulpit. He remained there so long that darkness fell. When someone shouted thrice, “Prayer, Prayer, Prayer,” Abdullah Bin Abbas became annoyed and said: “Woe be to you. You dare remind me of prayer, even though during the Holy Prophet’s days we used to combine Zuhr with Asr as well as Maghrib with Isha prayers.” Zarqani in Sharhe Mawatta’ of Imam Malik, Part I, in the Chapter of “Jama’a Baina’s-Salatain,” p. 263, states, “Nisa’i related through Amru Bin Haram from Abi Sha’atha that Ibn Abbas said his Zuhr and Asr prayers as well as Maghrib and Isha prayers jointly in Basra without any time lag or action between them. He said that the Holy Prophet offered his prayers in the same way.” Also Muslim in Sahih and Malik in Mawatta’, Chapter “Jam’a Baina’s-salatain” and Imam Hanbal in Musnad quotes Ibn Abbas through Sa’id Bin Jabir that the Holy Prophet offered his Zuhr and Asr prayers together in Medina without being constrained to do so by fear or bad weather. Abu Zubair said he asked Abu Sa’id why the Prophet combined the two prayers. Sa’id said that he too asked Ibn Abbas thesame question. Ibn Abbas replied that he combined the two prayers so that his followers might not be put to undue hardship and suffering. Also, in many other hadith, Ibn Abbas is related to have said that the Holy Prophet of Islam combined Zuhr and Asr as well as Maghrib and Isha prayers without being constrained to do so. These hadith in your Sahih and in many other authentic books prove the permissibility of the combination of the two prayers, both at home and during travel.
Hafiz: There is no such quotation of hadith in Sahih Bukhari.
Well-Wisher: Because all the authors of Sahih, like Muslim, Nisa’i, Ahmad Bin Hanbal, and exponents of the Sahihain, of Muslim, Mubhari, and other great Sunni scholars have quoted these things, this is sufficient for us to win our point. But in fact, Bukhari, too, has recorded these hadith in his Sahih, but he has deceitfully put them away from their proper place, the section concerning the combination of two prayers. If you go through the Chapters “Bab-e-Ta’akhiru’z-zuhr li’l-Asr Min Kitabe Mawaqitu’s-salat” and “Bab-e-Dhikru’l-Isha wa’l-Atma” and “Bab-e-Waqtu’l-Maghrib,” you will find all these hadith there. Recording these hadith under the heading, “Permission and Authorization to Combine Two Prayers” proves that it is the common belief of learned men of the two sects. The authenticity of these hadith has already been acknowledged in the books of Sahih. Accordingly, Allama Nuri in Sharhe Sahih Muslim, Asqalani, Qastalani, Zakariyya-e-Razi, in the commentaries that they have written on Sahih Bukhari, Zarqani in his commentary on the Mawatta’ of Malik, and others related these hadith. After quoting the hadith of Ibn Abbas, they acknowledged their authenticity and admitted that these hadith are proofs of the acceptability of combining two prayers.
Nawab: How is it possible that these hadith have been put into practice since the time of the Holy Prophet, but learned men have adopted a different path?
Well-Wisher: This situation is not confined to this topic alone. You will see many such examples later. In this matter, Sunni scholars of jurisprudence, apparently without much serious thought, or for other reasons which I do not understand, have given unintelligible explanations contradicting these hadith. For instance, they say that perhaps these hadith refer to situations involving fear, danger, rains, or winds. Some of your older scholars, like Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i, and some other jurists of Medina gave the same explanation. This, despite the fact that the hadith of Ibn Abbas clearly says that the two prayers were offered without the constraint of fear or the possibility of rainfall.
Others have suggested that perhaps the sky was overcast, and those offering prayers did not know the time. Perhaps, when they finished their Zuhr prayers, the clouds dispersed, and they saw that it was time for Asr prayers. So they had to offer Zuhr and Asr prayers together. I don’t think a more unlikely explanation could be found. Perhaps these interpreters did not care to think that the person offering prayers was the Holy Prophet of Islam. Clouds did not mean to him what they might to others. He understood all causes and effects. Apart from the fact that this explanation is unconvincing, the combining of Maghrib and Isha prayers rejects their explanation. At that time clouds have no relevance to this question.
As we said: the hadith of Ibn Abbas clearly states that his address continued so long that the audience repeatedly cried, ” prayers, prayers.” They reminded him that the stars had appeared and that it was time for prayers. But he purposely delayed the Maghrib prayer so that he might offer both Maghrib and Isha prayers together. Abu Huraira also verified this action, saying that the Prophet also acted in the same manner. Such spurious explanations, in light of clear guidance, are regrettable. Your own learned men reject them. Sheikhu’l-Islam Ansari, in his Tuhfatu’l-Bari fi Sharhe Sahihu’l-Bukhari in the Chapter “Salatu’z-zuhr ma’l-Asr wa’l-Maghrib ma’al Isha,” page 292, Part II, and similarly, Allama Qastalani, on page 293, Part II of Irshadu’s-Sari fi Sharhe Sahihu’l-Bukhari, as well as other exponents of Sahih Bukhari admit that this kind of explanation is against the obvious meaning of the hadith and that to insist that every ritual prayer be offered separately is a groundless requirement.
Nawab: Then how did this controversy arise so that the two sects of Muslims are after the blood of each other and condemn each other’s actions?
Well-Wisher: You say that the two sects of Muslims are inimical to each other, but I disagree. We Shias do not look down upon any of the learned men or common people of our brothers, the Sunnis. We regret that propaganda of the Kharijis, the Nasibis, and the Umayyads have affected the hearts of some people. Unfortunately, some Sunnis regard their Shia brothers, who are one with them as regards the Qibla (Ka’ba), the Holy Book (Qur’an), and the Prophet, as Rafizis (dissenters), idolaters, and infidels.
As for your question regarding how this difference originated, perhaps we can discuss this in later meetings. Concerning the saying of prayers separately or together, Sunni legal scholars have recorded hadith which permit the offering of Zuhr with Asr, and Maghrib with Isha prayers as a matter of ease, comfort, or safety. I do not know why some do not consider it permissible to offer the two prayers together in the absence of any obstruction. Some authorities, like Abu Hanifa and his adherents, forbid it under any circumstances, whether there is any obstruction or not, or whether the prayers are said during travel or at home. The Shafi’ites, Malikites, and Hanbalites, with all of their differences in essential and non-essential tenets, have permitted the combining of the prayers during a lawful journey. But the Shia ulema, in obedience to the Holy Imam and the progeny of the Holy Prophet, have unconditionally permitted the offering of prayers together.
Of course the offering of prayers at the time specified for each ritual prayer is preferable to praying in one interval, as has been clearly stated in expository books dealing with problems of religious performance written by Shia ulema. Since people are often busy with their own affairs and have their own cares and anxieties, they fear they might miss their prayers. Hence, for their own convenience and to avoid hardship and suffering, the Shias say their two prayers in one interval, whether early or late, during the appointed time. Now I think this much is sufficient to enlighten our Sunni brothers who look at us with indignation. Perhaps we can return to our discussions about the fundamentals, after which the questions concerning practice will be solved.
Source: Peshawar Nights