Is it sunnah to wait for a while between the sunnah and the fard of the morning (fajr) prayer and to meditate on death?

Details of the Question
I have heard that it is sunnah to lie on one’s right side for about ten or fifteen minutes and meditate on death after performing the sunnah prayer of the morning (fajr) prayer; is it true?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

According to Imam Shafii, it ismustahab to lie on one’s right side for about ten or fifteen minutes and meditate on death after performing the sunnah prayer of the morning (fajr) prayer but it is not mustahab according to Imam Abu Hanifa.

Those who regard it mustahab and want to do it should do it at home and private places. It is not appropriate to do it in mosques.

A hadith regarding the issue is as follows:

"When one of you performs two rak’ahs before the morning prayer, he should lie on his right side for a while." (Tirmidhi, Mawaqit 194; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 2/415)

This hadith is the evidence for Zahiri scholars who say, "It is wajib to lie down on one’s right side after the two-rak’ah sunnah of the morning prayer."

According to the representatives of this madhhab, it is not permissible to perform the fard of the morning prayer before lying on the right side after performing the sunnah prayer. There is no difference between abandoning it by forgetting or deliberately. 

However, According to the majority of scholars and with the indication of Hz. Aisha, the statement "he should lie on his right side" in the hadith indicates that it is mustahab. For, it is understood from the following hadith reported by Hz. Aisha that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sometimes lay after the sunnah of the morning prayer and sometimes he did not lie:

“After performing the tahajjud prayer, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would talk to me if I happened to be awake; if I were asleep, he would awaken me and lie down until the muezzin came and informed him that it was time for the morning prayer. After that, he would perform a short two-rak’ah prayer and go out for the prayer.” (Bukhari, Tahajjud 26; Muslim, Musafirin 133)

If it were wajib to lie down after the two-rak’ah sunnah of the morning prayer, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would have never abandoned it. After reporting that hadith, Bayhaqi states the following: "What is meant by this hadith is to state that it is mubah (permissible) to lie down after the sunnah of the morning prayer."

Imam Shafii holds the view that it is mustahab to lie down afterthe sunnah of the morning prayer.

Ayni, a Hanafi scholar, reports the view of Hanafi madhhab regarding the issue through the following sentences in the notes ash-Shami wrote on Durrul-Mukhtar in the Explanation of Bukhari:

"Acting upon this hadith, Shafiis say that it is Sunnah to lie down between the sunnah and the fard of the morning prayer but it is not so according to our scholars. No Hanafi scholar says that it is sunnah to lie down between the sunnah and the fard of the morning prayer.

Furthermore, I saw a narration in Imam Muhammad's Muwatta that Ibn Umar said for a person who lay down after the sunnah of the morning prayer in order to separate the fard and the sunnah, "Is there anything more virtuous than salutation (salam) for separatingthe fard and the sunnah?" Imam Muham­mad ends his views regarding the issue as follows:

"We accept the statement of Ibn Umar as evidence. This is also the view of Abu Hanifa. Consequently, I want to say that this lying down by the Messenger of Allah is only for relaxation, not for imposing a decree. If we accept that the Messenger of Allah ordered it and imposed a decree, this decree is valid only at home. One can act in accordance with this order at home but he cannot in mosques and similar places."

Hafiz Munawi reached the following conclusion by approaching the issue that there is wisdom and something good for people in every deed of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

"The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was full of divine enlightenment at dawn, when prosperity and manifestations are abundant; if he had appeared before his ummah suddenly, nobody could have put up with his spiritual state; therefore, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not appear before his ummah suddenly; he went to mosque after lying down a bit or talking to his family.” (Badhlul-Majhud, 6/382)

On the other hand, when all of the hadiths related to the issue are evaluated together, it will be seen that there is no contradiction among them. For, with those hadiths and practices, the Prophet might have wanted to indicate that it is permissible to act either way by lying down a bit sometimes before and sometimes after the sunnah of the morning prayer.

We will end the answer to this question by a hadith stating that it is more virtuous to perform the fard of the morning prayer in congregation than the other prayers:

"There are no prayers that munafiqs (hypocrites) find harder than the morning (fajr) and night (isha) prayers. If they knew the virtues and rewards of performing those two prayers in congregation, they would have joined them by coming to the mosque crawling and creeping." (Tajrid Sarih Translation, II/416)

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