What is the reason for the following hadith: “Do not abandon the sunnah of the morning prayer even if horsemen chase you.”?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"The sunnah prayers performed before fard prayers prevent Satan’s desire, tricks and delusions." Satan feels disappointed and says, "This man has never missed the prayers that are not fard. Will he ever miss a fard prayer?" Therefore, it is important to start with the sunnah in the morning since it will disappoint Satan.

The sunnahs of that kind are stated as follows in a hadith:

"Whoever is regular with twelve rak'ahs of sunnah prayers in addition to fard prayers every day, Allah will build a house for him in Paradise. They are the following prayers: Four rak'ahs before the morning prayer, four rak’ahs before the noon prayer, two rak'ahs after the noon prayer, two rak'ahs after the evening prayer and two rak'ahs after the night prayer." (Tirmidhi, Salah, 189; Nasai, Qiyamul-Layl, 66; Ibn Majah, Iqamah, 100)

However, the Prophet (pbuh) gave more importance to the sunnah of the morning prayer and wanted us not to abandon it. As a matter of fact, as it is mentioned in the question, he said,

“Do not abandon the sunnah of the morning prayer even if enemy horsemen chase you." (Abu Dawud, 2/301, no: 1258; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 2/405)

Thus, he indicates that it is necessary to perform this sunnah even under hard circumstances.

This hadith has been understood in two different ways:

1. "If the cavalry troop you belong to wants to make you proceed when it is time to attack enemy, do not abandon the sunnah of the morning prayer even if it can cause you to lose your troop and remain alone in the desert."

2. "Do not abandon the sunnah of the morning prayer even if enemy horsemen chase you in order to kill you."

Scholars like Dahlawi and Husayn b. Muhsin al-Ansari preferred the second meaning and said the purpose of the hadith was to state that the sunnah of the morning prayer could not be abandoned even under hard circumstances like being attacked by enemy. (Ayni, Binaya, 2/527)

Hafiz Munawi preferred the second view in the explanation of al-Jamius-Saghir and explained the hadith as follows:

"Do not abandon the sunnah of the morning prayer even if enemy horsemen chase you. Perform the sunnah of the morning prayer whether you are on foot or riding an animal, by turning toward the qiblah or toward another direction, even if by gesture. This expression in the hadith shows the importance of the two-rak’ah sunnah of the morning prayer and it encourages Muslims to perform it under any circumstances, whether they are in fear or in security, whether they are travelers or residents." (Faydul-Qadir, 6/393)

Acting upon the warning against abandoning the sunnah of the morning prayer even in such dangerous and severe situations, some scholars state the sunnah of the morning prayer is wajib. Hasan al-Basri also holds this view.

However, the great majority of the scholars state that this hadith cannot be an evidence since there are narrators that are criticized like Abdurrahman b. Ishaq al-Madani and Abdu Rabbih b. Saylan in the chain of the narrators and even if it is accepted that it is an evidence, the hadith cannot be considered in its literal sense and that it means only encouraging people to perform the sunnah of the morning prayer. (see Sunan Abu Dawud Translation and Explanation, Şamil Yayınları: 4/506-507)

Due to the hadith above and similar ones mentioning the importance of the sunnah of the morning prayer, when the morning prayer cannot be performed on time but it is performed before the noon prayer on the same day, the sunnah prayer of it is performed along with its fard prayer though only fards of the other daily prayers are performed as qada when they are missed.

In addition, when iqamah is called, a sunnah prayer is not performed but a person who hopes that he will catch up with the imam before he salutes performs the sunnah of the morning prayer first and follows the imam after that.

However, if the time is limited and if a person fears that he cannot perform the fard of the morning prayer before the sun rises, he needs to abandon the sunnah and perform the fard prayer only.

From this point of view, the two-rak’ah sunnah prayer performed before the fard of the morning prayer is the strongest sunnah among sunnah prayers. As a matter of fact, the following is stated in another hadith:    

"The two-rak’ah sunnah of the morning prayer is better than the world and everything in it." (Muslim, Musafirin, 96, 97; Tirmidhi, Salah, 190)

Thus, the Prophet attracted attention, with a nice expression, to the fact that no worldly thing can be an excuse to abandon the sunnah of the morning prayer.

Let us end the issue with a narration from Hz. Aisha:

"The Prophet did not perform any supererogatory (nafilah) prayer as regularly as he performed the two-rak’ah sunnah of the morning prayer." (Bukhari, Tahajjud, 27; Muslim, Musafirin, 94)

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