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The Philosophy of Prayer Timings
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Amar Ellahi Lone)


The timings stipulated for the Prayer are most appropriate for worship as well as for the acceptance of supplications. They are soothing for the psyche, in accordance with the timings of prayer of the celestial bodies and other elements of nature. If we ponder over the timings of Fajr, Chāsht, Zuhr, ‘Asr, Maghrib, ‘Ishā and Tahajjud, it becomes evident that each one has special importance with regard to the above mentioned factors.

Fajr, in particular, is the time of peace, tranquillity and mental relaxation. After a night long rest, when a person wakes up, he is fresh and contended. Prayer marks the start of a new beginning. Life demands a new vigour and this determination requires Divine guidance and providence.

At the Zuhr time, to a person of sharp intellect and a keen eye, a profound reality reveals itself and invites him to bow down: the sun, which was elevated to the level of the Divine in the past by fools, itself begins to bow down before the Lord and thus speaks through this celestial event that it is not the Creator but a creation and that it is not to be worshipped; it is but a worshipper itself.

The time of ‘Asr heralds a new reality: every high has a low. Nothing in the universe is above this law. Perpetuity is only for God – The Eternal –. Just like the day dawned, completed half of its cycle and came at the verge of dusk, similarly this world was created, would reach its zenith and one day would come to an end. This silent reminder at the time of ‘Asr presses a person to take heed to the Hereafter and bow down before the Lord for penance.

The door opens to a new world at the time of Maghrib. This transition is identical to the one that takes place at the time of death and man enters into a new world – The Hereafter. The Creator brings the sign of night after day and of the moon-light after the sun rays. The day declines and stars throng the sky. The noise subsides and the heat of the day cools down; a tired person feels anew in the still of the night. A moron and an unemotional person may not feel this great change, but a person of sharp intellect and discerning mind can feel this celestial change in the universe. It is not possible for such a person as realises this event to remain indifferent to the omnipotence of the Creator Who brings this change in the heavens. If he has even a few sparks of life in his heart, he will take heed and bow down before his Creator and Lord – the Creator whose power and strength enabled Him to enshroud the world with the blanket of the night in the flash of an eye.

Ishā’s time is the time of accountability. The darkness of the night swallows the last remains of movements and motion. Man seeks rest, abandoning everything else so as to revitalise himself for the next endeavour. This marks the most appropriate moment for a person that before going to bed he should prostrate himself before his Lord. For this may become his last resting period and he may never wake up in this world.

Tahajjud is the time of whispers and supplications. No other time of the day can be compared with this one because of its peaceful nature. In peace are the heaven and the earth at this time. Everyone sleeps. Probably Satan also slips into slumber. Only the Merciful Lord remains awake – the One Who never sleeps, or the most fortunate of people. If a person gets up and stands in the silvery shadow of stars, he will actually feel that the doors of heavens are open and the near sky is resounding with calls for peace and penance. The serene and sedate nature of this time are known to the worldly and the wise alike. Sleepers consider it to be the best of times for sleep, while the ones who remain awake think it to be the most desirable time to be awake. Both of them are right in their thinking, for the time which is best for sleep can be best for staying awake, as only the best of sacrifices is worthy in the eyes of the Lord. That is why the Almighty has specifically fixed this time for the prayer of the righteous. They get up from bed at this time to forsake sleep to beseech and invoke the blessings of Allah. Allah Himself descends to the lowest heaven to shower His mercy and to forgive all those who seek His mercy and forgiveness at this time.

These are the timings of the prayer. How evident it is that each of them is so meaningful and apt for worship and casts immense influence on a person.

(Translated from “Tadhkiya i Nafs” by Amar Ellahi Lone)

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