"The sun rises between the two horns of the devil." What does this hadith mean?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Abdullah Ibnu Amr Ibnil-As narrates: "The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

"The time of the noon prayer is when the sun passes its peak and a man's shadow is the same length as his height. It lasts up to the time when the time period for the afternoon prayer starts. The time period for the afternoon prayer ends when the sun becomes pale. The time period for the evening prayer ends when the twilight disappears. The time period for the night prayer is up to the middle of the average night. The time period for the morning prayer starts from the appearance of dawn and ends when the sun rises. As soon as the sun rises, stop performing prayers because it rises between the two horns of the devil." [Muslim, Masajid 173, (612); Abu Dawud, Salah 2, (396); Nasai, Mawaqit 15, (l, 260).]

According to what Ahmad b. Hanbal narrates from Bazzar and what Tabarani narrates from Samura b. Jundub, the Prophet (pbuh) said,

“Do not perform prayers when the sun rises and when it sets. For, the sun rises between the two horns of the devil and sets between the two horns of the devil." (Haythami, Majmauz-Zawaid, 2/255)

The following statements exist in another narration:

“The Messenger of Allah ordered us to perform prayers any time of the day and night but he ordered us to avoid performing prayers when the sun rose and set. He stated the following to explain the reason:

Satan sets and rises with sun when the sun sets and rises with it.” (Haythami, Majmauz-Zawaid, 2/256)


Ibn Hajar makes the following explanation related to the phrase "the two horns of the devil" mentioned in the hadith:

"The two horns of the devil (Satan) means the two sides of his head. The following is stated: Satan stands in the same line as the place where the sun rises; when the sun rises, the two sides of the head of the devil remain in the middle so that those who worship the sun prostrate before him when they prostrate before the sun. The same thing is in question when it sets. Thus, the rising of the sun between the two horns of the devil is according to a person who watches the sun when it rises. If he watched the devil, he would see the devil standing before the sun."

After stating that the two sides of the head of the devil is meant by the two horns – as it is stated in the explanation of Ibn Hajar -, Ibnul-Athir uses the word “qila” (it was stated) and explains that the sub-meanings of the word were considered: The word "qarn (horn)" also means power/strength in Arabic. That is, when the sun rises, the devil takes action, attacks and gets position to help the sun.''

Ibnul-Athir also attracts attention to the fact that the phrase the two horns in the hadith is also understood as two eras. 

"The following is stated: "Between two eras means ‘two ummahs from the previous and future ones’. They are a simile for those who prostrate before the sun when it rises: It looks as if Satan organized this heresy. When a sun-worshipper prostrates before the sun, it is as if Satan is next to the sun.''

We can add the following to the explanations of the scholars above: The religion of Islam determined the deadline for the performance of the morning prayer as the time of sunrise. In that case, it is necessary for a believer to get up before the sunrise to perform the fard morning prayer for his Lord. The prayer performed when the sun rises is not valid. If the sun rises when a prayer that is started before the sunrise continues, that prayer becomes invalid; it has to be performed again as qada later.    The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) mentions this issue, which has a very important place in the religion of Islam, by establishing a connection with Satan so that it will be remembered by believers better. As a matter of fact, many issues rejected by the religion were expressed to be makruh or haram by being connected to Satan. There are several examples of this method in the Quran like the verse prohibiting alcoholic drinks, gambling and idols. (al-Maida, 5/90-93)

In that case, there is no need for resorting to some cosmographical and material interpretations, which Ibn Hajar mentions and rejects related to the hadith. 

When we consider “the aspect of the prayers the hypocrites perform hastily”, it is possible to understand that statement as follows:

To delay the morning prayer, to get up just before the sun rises and to perform it hastily, to delay the afternoon prayer and to try to perform it hastily when the sun is about to set is like performing prayers on the shoulders of Satan metaphorically. Thus, the sun’s rising and setting between the horns of Satan aims to indicate its sly suggestions at those times.    

To sum up, scholars interpreted such narrations in two ways:

a. According to those who interpret it in its literal sense, unbelievers worship the sun when it rises and sets. At those times, Satan tries to rise to the level of the sun with its horns and imagines (also makes his followers imagine) that people prostrate before him too.  

b. According to those who interpret it in its metaphorical sense, those expressions in the hadith mean that the domination of Satan over people is at the peak at those times. That Satan makes some people delay the morning and afternoon prayers, which are the most virtuous prayers, and make them perform those prayers hastily indicates his peak in terms of deceiving people. (see Nawawi, al-Minhaj/Sharhu Sahihi Muslim, 5/123-124)

The aim of the hadith is clear: To enable the believers to get up early, to gain the consciousness of time, the habit of doing things based on a plan and on time, to act based on time, to discipline themselves, and to make them understand that things done after their prescribed times will not be of any good; it is possible to list, see and show many more benefits and uses of it in terms of the individuals and the community, health and economy, related to the world and the hereafter. (Prof. Dr. İbrahim Canan, Kütüb-i Sitte Şerhi)

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