What is negligence in salah?

The Details of the Question

Can you please explain the hadith; “Know this well that there is no negligence during sleep; negligence is in question for those who do not perform salah until the time period for another prayer starts.” I always fall asleep and cannot get up for the morning (Fajr) prayer, is it not negligence?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

What is meant by neglecting a prayer is not performing a salah on time and missing it on purpose without any excuse such as sleep, forgetting or facing the enemy. But if a prayer is missed because of a legitimate reason; it is not a negligence but an excuse.

The hadith mentioned in the question is as follows:

“There is no negligence in sleep; negligence is only while one is awake. So, when one of you forgets a Salah, or sleeps through it, then let him perform it when he remembers it.” (Bukhari, Mawaqit, 35; Muslim, Masajid, 311; Abu Dawud, Salah, 11)

However, a Muslim who will go to sleep must take all material and spiritual measures to wake up on time so as not to miss the prayer.

As a matter of fact, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) “disapproved sleeping before the night salah (Isha) and chatting after the night salah (Isha)” (Bukhari, Mawaqit, 13, 23; Muslim, Masajid, 235-237)

So, our Prophet (SAW), wanted us to perform isha if it is time for it before going to bed, due to a concern of not being able to wake up, and to go to sleep early to have enough sleep so as not to have trouble about waking up for the morning (Fajr) salah.

In addition, our Prophet (SAW) used to lie on his right side when he wanted to sleep, put his cheek on his right hand and say, “O Allah, protect me from punishment on the Day of Resurrection, when you revive and bring your servants together!” (Musnad, 1/400; 4/281, 290, 300, 303)

So, in order to perform the morning prayer on time, biological and psychological measures should be taken; then, sleep should be started.        

If one thinks that he will not be able to wake despite doing so, he can ask his friends living there or in other places for help to awaken him.

As a matter of fact, our Prophet (pbuh) said to the Companions who wanted to take a break to sleep when they were very tired and sleepless on a journey, “I fear that you will fall asleep and not be able to wake up for the salah” and did not find it suitable. Thereupon, Bilal al-Habashi (RA) said, “I wake you up”. Then, the Prophet allowed them to sleep.

However, Bilal (RA) placed his back on his camel during his sentry; his eyes closed and he fell asleep too.  By the time of dawn, the Messenger of Allah (SAW) woke up and called “O Bilal! What happened to your promise?”  Bilal (RA) replied: “I have never fallen asleep like that before.” The Prophet (SAW) said, “Allah Almighty removes your souls and sends them back whenever He wishes. O Bilal! Call Adhan for salah!” Then, the Prophet (SAW) made wudu and stood up when the sun rose a bit and it became bright; then, he led people in salah. (Bukhari, Mawaqit 35, Tawhid 31; Muslim, Masajid 309-311)

So, in cases when there is a risk of missing prayer, it may be necessary to get support from others and sometimes it is mandatory to get this support.

Therefore, all biological - psychological, material - spiritual measures should be taken first; and then it becomes permissible go to sleep with the intention of waking up for the morning prayer.

A believer who cannot wake up for the prayer despite all these measures will not be a sinner; he/she performs a make-up salah after waking up. If this salah is the morning (Fajr) salah and if he makes it up after the dawn and sun gets bright and before the karahah (the sun’s highest point during a day) period of the midday (zur) prayer, he needs to perform make-up salah for the sunnah and the fard of the fajr he/she has missed. (see Abu Dawud, Salah 11)

In summary; there is no sin for anyone who misses his/her prayer due to a legitimate excuse such as sleep and forgetting. He/she makes it up after waking up or remembering.

However, skipping the time of a prayer by knowing and without a valid excuse is a big sin. This sin is not eliminated by just performing make-up salah for it; it is obligatory to make up all missed prayers as soon as possible; it is also mandatory to repent for the sin of skipping those prayers knowingly.  (See Ibn Abidin, Hashiyatu Raddil-Muhtar, 2/62)

As for sleeping without performing a prayer after the time period for that prayer starts, anyone who thinks that he will wake up by taking the necessary precautions can sleep without performing the prayer of that time after the time period has started.

However, if he fears that he might not wake up, it is not permissible for him to sleep after the time period for that prayer has started before performing the prayer of that time.

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