Can doctors who work in the emergency service of hospitals postpone their prayers?

Details of the Question

- I am asking on behalf of a doctor friend of mine who is pregnant and working.
- She works as the only doctor in the emergency service. She cannot keep her wudu due to pregnancy. She does not want to postpone her prayers deliberately. It is a busy hospital and when she is the only doctor in the emergency service, she cannot leave her place to go to prayer fearing that she can cause the death of a person who needs instant intervention.
- What can she do so as not to miss prayers since she cannot keep her wudu due to pregnancy?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

She can combine the noon and afternoon prayers during the time period for the noon or afternoon prayer one after the other. She can perform the evening and night prayers like that too. (That is, she can combine them during the time period of the evening or night prayer) Thus, she can have a longer time period to perform those prayers.  (Prof. Dr. Hayrettin Karaman)

The evaluation of the Presidency of Religious Affairs regarding the issue is as follows:

It is fard for every Muslim that has the necessary conditions to perform regular prayers five times a day. It is fard to perform every daily prayer during the time period determined for it. As a matter of fact, the following is stated in the Quran:

“Regular prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times.” (Nisa, 4/103)

Therefore, it is necessary to perform prayers on time.

However, in case of a valid excuse, it is permissible to perform prayers by combining (jam’) them. As it is known, prayer is one of the most important deeds of worship we are ordered by our religion to perform. It is the second one of the five principles of Islam after kalima ash-shahadah. It is fard for every sane Muslim who has reached the age of puberty to perform prayers.   

It is one of the biggest sins to skip daily prayers and not to perform them on time and to postpone them – unless there is a legitimate excuse to postpone them.

A prayer cannot be skipped unless one oversleeps, forgets or becomes so ill as not to perform it even with the gesture of his head. The Prophet (pbuh) states the following:

“If one of you oversleeps or forgets and cannot perform a prayer, let him perform it when he remembers it.” (Bukhari, Mawaqit, 37; Muslim, Masajid, 314-316)

Being very busy, working to earn one’s living and family members, travelling, etc. cannot be regarded as legitimate excuses to postpone prayers.

The following is stated in the Quran:

“By men whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert from the Remembrance of Allah, nor from regular Prayer, nor from the practice of regular Charity: Their (only) fear is for the Day when hearts and eyes will be transformed (in a world wholly new).” (an-Nur, 24/37)

As for being very busy at work, if a Muslim works in his own workplace, his priority is his fard prayers. If he is a worker, his employer or the person responsible for the workplace needs to give the employees enough time to perform their daily fard prayers at least. However, it is more appropriate for the employee to ask permission to perform prayers from his employer, manager, etc. so as not to cause any disruption at work and in order to maintain the work discipline.      

The second alternative: It is combination of prayers (jam’), which is allowed by some Islamic scholars. “Jam’”, which means “combining two prayers”, is used for performing the noon and afternoon prayers together during the time period for the noon or afternoon prayer, and performing the evening and night prayers together during the time period for the evening or night prayer.

According to Hanafi madhhab, jam’ is in question only for hajjis. On the day of Arafah, the afternoon prayer is performed together with the noon prayer during the time of the noon prayer (jam’ at-taqdim).

On the same day, the evening prayer is delayed and performed together with the night prayer in Muzdalifa together (jam’ at-takhir). It is not permissible to perform prayers by combining them except in those two cases on the day of Arafah. (Qasani, Badaius-Sanai’, I, 127)

In cases of important excuses, a Hanafi person can combine his prayers by imitating other madhhabs. For example, in cases of necessity and obligation like a doctor’s being in an operation, it is permissible to perform the noon and afternoon prayers together, and the evening and night prayers together in the form of jam’ at-taqdim (early combination) or jam’ at-takhir (late combination).    

In other madhhabs, it is permissible to perform the noon and afternoon prayers together, and the evening and night prayers together in the form of jam’ at-taqdim or jam’ at-takhir due to some excuses like travelling, rain and storm (though there are some disagreements among them related to some cases). One of the evidences of this view is as follows: Ibn Abbas said, “When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was on the Expedition of Tabuk, he combined the noon and afternoon prayers and the evening and night prayers.” (Muslim, Salatul-Musafirin, 51, 52, 53)

Hanafis say that the combination mentioned in the hadith above and similar ones is jam’ as-suri (performing the noon prayer at the end of the time period for the noon prayer and performing the afternoon prayer at the beginning of the time period for the afternoon prayer one after the other). (al-Muwatta Riwayatu Muhammad b. Hasan, I, 306; Tahawi, Sharhu Maanil-Athar, I, 161; Ibn Rushd, Bidayatul-Mujtahid, I, 174)  

A person who combines prayers performs them one after the other and in their regular order; he does not perform the sunnah prayers between the two fard prayers; he does not become busy with anything else between the two fard prayers. The fards of the noon and afternoon prayers are performed during the time period for the noon or afternoon prayer, and the fards of the evening and night prayers are performed during the time period for the evening or night prayer one after the other and without any break.     

When the person mentioned in the question is very busy at work and when she has difficulty due to wudu, she can perform the prayers by combining them as it is explained above – without making it a habit in her normal life.

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