Did the worship of prayer (salah) exist before Miraj (ascension)?

The Details of the Question

- We know that the five daily prayers were rendered fard during the Miraj miracle. Was there a prayer that the Prophet or the Companions performed before that?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It would be appropriate to deal with the issue from two viewpoints:

1. The worship of prayer before the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was given the duty of prophethood

There are different opinions about whether the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) performed a certain prayer before he was given the duty of prophethood or not. (1)

There are some scholars who state that the Prophet did not perform any prayers before the prophethood. (2)

However, we know that he performed some deeds of worship of Hanif religion before though it was not fard for him.

For example, the following statement exists in a narration from Hz. Aisha about what the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did before he was given the duty of prophethood: “Loneliness was made lovable for him. He performed tahannuth during the nights he stayed in the Hira cave.” (3)

There are different opinions about the word “tahannuth” mentioned in the hadith. Zuhri states that it means worship (4) but hadith commentators state that it means avoiding sins. (5)

Acting upon the explanation of Ibn Hisham regarding tahannuth, some scholars (6) state that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) worshipped according to the religion of Hz. Ibrahim (Abraham). (7) There are also those who say it means meditating on the Creator, thinking by being alone and worshipping. (8)

However, it is possible that both of them are meant because both the worship of prayer and other deeds of worship are included in the concept of worship.

The fact that the effects of the religion of oneness conveyed by Hz. Ibrahim continued and some of its deeds of worship survived in the Arab society in the pre-Islamic Hejaz region though their forms and nature changed, and that people such as Abu Dharr al-Ghifari and Zayd b. Amr b. Nufayl, who followed this religion and were called Hanif, prayed by turning toward the Kaaba (9) support the view that “he may have performed prayers according to Hanif religion”.

As it is stated in the verses of the Quran, Hz. Ibrahim attached special importance to prayer and prayed to Allah so that his descendants would be those who performed prayers. It can be said that the Prophet (pbuh), as a descendant of Hz. Ibrahim, prayed like Hanifs and performed prayers though we do not know its nature before his prophethood in Hira or in the suitable places he found

2. The worship of prayer after the Prophet Muhammad was given the duty of prophethood and before Miraj

Before the five daily prayers were rendered fard, the Prophet (pbuh) used to perform prayers as two rak'ahs. (10)

There are different views stating that there was one prayer a day in the beginning and then it was increased to two times a day or there were two prayers a day from the beginning. There are narrations that when there was only one prayer a day, two rak'ahs were performed before the sunset, and that two rak'ahs were added before the sunrise afterwards, making it two daily prayers.

According to those narrations, daily prayers continued as two rak'ahs two times a day until five daily prayers were rendered fard on the Night of Miraj. (11)

There are evidences in the Quran related to the two times of prayer. (12)

There are narrations that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) performed prayers at home, at the foot of the deserted mountains, at noon time in the courtyard of the Kaaba when there were very few people around and performed the evening prayer with Hz. Ali in the valleys outside Makkah. (13)

When the first Muslims could not find a secret place in Makkah, they went out of the city and performed prayers in deserted places and sometimes in the house of the Companion named Arqam, which they transformed into a small mosque. (14)

The worshipping performed by the Prophet (pbuh) and his small number of people who believed in him in the courtyard of the Kaaba were met with hostility and they were forbidden to read the Quran there. The following is stated in a narration with a sound chain of narrators from Ibn Masud: “We could not perform prayers in the courtyard of the Kaaba until Hz. Umar became a Muslim.” (15)

Migration to Abyssinia took place in the sixth year of prophethood and Hz. Umar also became a Muslim at that time. During the two-year public call to Islam before the migration to Abyssinia and the limited invitation period that lasted for about three years, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) performed prayers until late at night in his home with his small number of people.

Thus, while prayer consisted of two rak'ahs performed in the morning and evening in the early years of Islam, (16) it was rendered fard five times after Miraj. Of these prayers, which were two rak'ahs, the noon, afternoon and night prayers were increased to four rak'ahs each. (17)

Although some Islamic scholars say that there was no fard prayer before Miraj, they state that the Prophet (pbuh) was ordered to perform midnight prayer (tahajjud).

They show the verse “O thou folded in garments! Stand (to prayer)...” (18) as evidence for it

Standing at night, that is, getting up can have comprehensive meanings depending on the purpose. As it is understood from the expressions such as “and recite the Qur'an in slow, measured rhythmic tones”, “And thy Lord do thou magnify” and “Turn toward your Lord” coming after that command that the purpose is to stand up for prayer. Tafsir scholars state that it means “get up for prayer”, which can be explained in two ways:

The first one is “stand up for prayer” and the other is that the term “qiyam (standing)” means prayer. Therefore, the phrase “qiyam al-layl” is used in the sense of “tahajjud prayer”.

We understand from those verses that midnight prayer (tahajjud) was fard for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He performed prayers at night based on that command; and the Companions performed long night prayers with him every night as in the month of Ramadan. The obligatory duty of tahajjud prayer for the ummah was abolished with the verse “Thy Lord doth know that thou standest forth (to prayer)” at the end of the chapter. (20)  It is understood that the order “And pray in the small watches of the morning: (it would be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for thee” (21) was in effect for the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).

There are different views as to whether the Prophet (pbuh) started to perform tahajjud prayer or the two daily prayers (morning and evening) first.

Abu Ishaq al-Harbi states that morning and night prayers were made obligatory first. Some fiqh scholars like Imam Shafi, on the other hand, state that tahajjud prayer was rendered fard in the beginning and that its obligation was abrogated after the following verse was sent down: “Thy Lord doth know that thou standest forth (to prayer) nigh two-thirds of the night, or half the night, or a third of the night, and so doth a party of those with thee.” (22) According to them, it was fard to get up at part of the night. (23)

When five daily prayers were rendered fard, the obligation of tahajjud prayer was abrogated. (24)

According to a narration from Hz. Aisha, tahajjud prayer was rendered fard in the middle of the first year of the prophethood with the first part of the chapter of al-Muzzammil. However, the obligation of tahajjud prayer was abrogated about one or one and a half years later with the last verse of the same chapter and it was rendered nafilah. (25)


1) Fahri Kamili, İslâm Fıkhında Namaz İbadeti, Bursa Uludağ Üniversitesi Yüksek Lisans Tezi, Bursa 2006, p. 48.
2) Abu Nasr Tajuddin Abdulwahhab b. Ali b. Abdilkafi as-Subki, Jam'ul-Jawami', (with Bannai annotations), Beirut: Darul-Fikr, 1982, II, 325.
3) Bukhari, “Bad’ul-Wahy,” 3; Muslim, “Iman,” 252; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, VI, 233.
4) Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Fathul-Bari bi Sharhi Sahihil- Bukhari, Thq. Abdulaziz b. Baz, Darul- Fikr, Beirut, 1993, I, 34.
5) Asqalani, Fathul-Bari, 1/34.
6) Kamili, Namaz İbadeti, p. 38
7) Abu Muhammad Abdulmalik b. Hisham, as-Siyratun-Nabawiyya, Thq. Mustafa as-Saqa, Ibrahim al-Anbari, Abdulhafiz ash-Shalabi, Damascus: Daru Ibn Kathir, 2005, p. 215; Yiğit, Namazın Tarihçesi, p. 24
8) Yazır, Hak Dini, XIII,5424; Ibn Ashur, at-Tahir, II,172; İbrahim Efendioğlu, Müdrec, DİA, İstanbul, 2006, XXXI,474.
9) Ibn Habib, Abu Jafar Muhammad, al-Muhabbar, Darul-Fikril-Jadida, l361, pp. 171-172; Muslim, “Fadailus-Sahaba,” hadith no: 6309.
10) Malik, Muwatta’, “Qasrus-Salat,” 8; Ibn Hanbal, VI, 272; Bukhari, “Salah,” 1.
11) Yiğit, İsmâil, “Siyer Kaynaklarına Göre Seferîlik”, Tartışmalı İlmi Toplantılar Dizisi, Seferîlik ve Hükümleri, İstanbul: Ensar Neşriyat, 1997, p.71; TDV, İlmihal I,219-220.
12) al-Mu’min 40/55; Taha 20/130.
13) Mehmet Aydın, Hıristiyanlık, DİA, İstanbul 1998, XVII, 351.
14) Ibn Hisham, as-Siratun-Nabawiyya, (Tah. Mustafa as-Saqa et al.), Cairo, nd., I, 244
15) Balcı, Hz. Peygamber ve Namaz, p. 45.
16) Osman Şahin, İslâm Hukukunda Seferîlik ve Hükümleri, Samsun, 2009, p. 238
17) Ahmad b. Yahya al-Balazuri, Ansabul-Ashraf, (Tah. Muhammad Humaydullah), Egypt: Darul-Maarif, 1959, I, 257, 271; Mustafa Asım Köksal, İslâm Tarihi, Şamil Yay., İstanbul, 1987, VIII, 98.
18) al-Muddaththir 1/5; al-Muzzammil 73/1,2; al-Isra 17/79.
19) al-Muzzammil 73/20.
20) Abu Bakr, Ahmad b. Ali ar-Razi al-Jassas, Ahkamul-Quran, Beirut: Daru Ihyait-Turathil-Arabi, 1405, V,367
21) al-Isra 17/79.
22) al-Muzzammil 73/20
23) Mehmet Emin Çiftçi, Hz. Peygamber’in Kıldığı Nafile Namazlarla İlgili Rivâyetlerin Tahlili, Harran Üniversitesi Yüksek Lisans Tezi, Şanlıurfa, 2002, p. 2.
24) Canan, Kütüb-i Sitte, VIII, 230.
25) Abu Bakr Ahmad b. Husayn b. Ali al-Bayhaqi, as-Sunanul-kubra, Beirut: Darul-Fikr, nd., III, 30.
- Ali YÜKSEK, Namaz İbadetinin Tarihi Süreci, MANAS Sosyal Araştırmalar Dergisi 2018, Volume: 7 Issue: 2.
- Metin YİGiT, Bir İbadet Biçimi Olarak Namazın Tarihçesi, Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı Dini Yayınlar Genel Müdürlüğü Volume: 47 • Issue: 1 • January - February - March 2011.

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