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Surprisingly, this can be a controversial topic depending on what you were taught growing up.

The debate between 3 prayers or 5 is brought up and leads to lengthy debates.

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Here’s what the YouTube comments section on one of the videos look like.

We will explore both sides of the arguments and provide a concluding answer to which side we believe has more validity regarding praying salah five times a day.

Verses From the Quran Regarding the daily Prayers:

In total there are around 67 verses in the Quran about Salat. Here’s a list of the common Quranic verses that are often referenced in debates as these one’s are specifically the commandments of Allah which prescribe the daily prayers as being mandatory.

Surah Ar-Rum:

17. فَسُبْحَـٰنَ ٱللَّهِ حِينَ تُمْسُونَ وَحِينَ تُصْبِحُونَ

Fa Subhaanal laahi heena tumsoona wa heena tusbihoon
So exalted is Allah when you reach the evening and when you reach the morning.

18. وَلَهُ ٱلْحَمْدُ فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَ‌ٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَعَشِيًّۭا وَحِينَ تُظْهِرُونَ

Wa lahul hamdu fis samaawaati wal ardi wa ‘ashiyyanw wa heena tuzhiroon
And to Him is [due all] praise throughout the heavens and the earth. And [exalted is He] at night and when you are at noon.

Surah Hud:

114. وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ طَرَفَىِ ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفًا مِّنَ ٱلَّيْلِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱلْحَسَنَـٰتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ ۚ ذَ‌ٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّ‌ٰكِرِينَ

Wa aqimis Salaata tarafayin nahaari wa zulafam minal layl; innal hasanaati yuzhibnas saiyi aat; zaalika zikraa liz zaakireen
And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember.

Surah Baqarah:

238. حَٰفِظُوا۟ عَلَى ٱلصَّلَوَٰتِ وَٱلصَّلَوٰةِ ٱلْوُسْطَىٰ وَقُومُوا۟ لِلَّهِ قَٰنِتِينَ

Haafizoo ‘alas salawaati was Salaatil Wustaa wa qoomoo lillaahi qaaniteen
Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer and stand before Allah, devoutly obedient.

Surah An-Nur:

58. يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لِيَسْتَـْٔذِنكُمُ ٱلَّذِينَ مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُكُمْ وَٱلَّذِينَ لَمْ يَبْلُغُوا۟ ٱلْحُلُمَ مِنكُمْ ثَلَـٰثَ مَرَّ‌ٰتٍۢ ۚ مِّن قَبْلِ صَلَوٰةِ ٱلْفَجْرِ وَحِينَ تَضَعُونَ ثِيَابَكُم مِّنَ ٱلظَّهِيرَةِ وَمِنۢ بَعْدِ صَلَوٰةِ ٱلْعِشَآءِ ۚ ثَلَـٰثُ عَوْرَ‌ٰتٍۢ لَّكُمْ ۚ لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَا عَلَيْهِمْ جُنَاحٌۢ بَعْدَهُنَّ ۚ طَوَّ‌ٰفُونَ عَلَيْكُم بَعْضُكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍۢ ۚ كَذَ‌ٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمُ ٱلْءَايَـٰتِ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌۭ

Yaaa aiyuhal lazeena aamanoo li yastaazinkumul lazeena malakat aimaanukum wallazeena lam yablughul huluma minkum salaasa marraat; min qabli Salaatil Fajri wa heena tada’oona siyaa bakum minaz zaheerati wa mim ba’di Salaatil Ishaaa’; salaasu ‘awraatil lakum; laisa ‘alaikum wa laa ‘alaihim junaahum ba’dahunn; tawwaafoona ‘alaikum ba’dukum ‘alaa ba’d; kazaalika yubaiyinul laahu lakumul aayaat wallaahu ‘Aleemun Hakeem
O you who have believed, let those whom your right hands possess and those who have not [yet] reached puberty among you ask permission of you [before entering] at three times: before the dawn prayer and when you put aside your clothing [for rest] at noon and after the night prayer. [These are] three times of privacy for you. There is no blame upon you nor upon them beyond these [periods], for they continually circulate among you – some of you, among others. Thus does Allah make clear to you the verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise.

Surah Ta-Ha:

130. فَٱصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ ٱلشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ غُرُوبِهَا ۖ وَمِنْ ءَانَآئِ ٱلَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْ وَأَطْرَافَ ٱلنَّهَارِ لَعَلَّكَ تَرْضَىٰ

Fasbir ‘alaa maa yaqooloona wa sabbih bihamdi Rabbika qabla tuloo’ish shamsi wa qabla ghuroobihaa wa min aanaaa’il laili fasabbih wa atraafan nahaari la ‘allaka tardaa
So be patient over what they say and exalt [ Allah ] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting; and during periods of the night [exalt Him] and at the ends of the day, that you may be satisfied.

Is it 3 or 5 Prayers According to Quran?

In the Quran, there’s is no direct naming of the five prayers. It does not say pray Fajr, Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha salah. 

Nowhere in the Quran does it say this explicitly.

The disagreement between the two sides of 3 prayers or 5 are due to different interpretation of the ayats presented above.

From Surah Nur it says “before the dawn prayer and when you put aside your clothing [for rest] at noon and after the night prayer.” Some Shiites would read this and interpret 3 daily prayers. But the Sunni’s would argue no, that’s not what the ayah is referring to as it is just referring to three distinct time periods. 

Dawn – Fajr
Noon – Zuhr and Asr
Night – Maghrib and Isha

In Surah Baqarah it says guard your middle prayer. This really has no impact to determining how many daily prayers we should offer. In both cases Asr is the median or the middle prayer. We should be in agreement of the importance of Asr.

The ayah in Surah Rum and Surah Hud again only give reference to morning, evening and night. This is used by both sides to mean only offering three prayers one at each interval or the Sunni take the meaning offering two salat in the evening and two salat at night.

Hadith Which Mention the daily prayers:

We now shift our focus towards the hadith.

There are hadiths which commonly cite how the Prophet used to pray three salats. But these are often mentioned under conditions where he would be travelling and shortened the prayers. The Prophet would pray Fajr as usual, would pray once in the evening, and once more at night. 

This can be perceived as three prayers, but what he was actually doing according in hadith of Sahih Muslim is that he intended to combine two prayers on a journey, he delayed the noon prayer till came the early time of the afternoon prayer, and then combined the two.

In the Sahih hadith of Ibn Majah. It was narrated from Mu’adh bin Jabal that the Prophet (ﷺ) combined the Zuhr and ‘Asr, and the Maghrib and ‘Isha’ when traveling during the campaign of Tabuk.

From the hadith there are many references to the five separate salah.

It was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “When you pray Fajr, its time is until the first part of the sun appears. When you pray Zuhr, its time is until ‘Asr comes. When you pray ‘Asr, its time is until the sun turns yellow. When you pray Maghrib, its time is until the twilight has disappeared. When you pray ‘Isha, its time is until half of the night has passed.”

Conclusion:

When just looking at the Qu’ran with no hadith the issue is a difficult one to draw a single conclusion. However, when coupled with the hadith of Prophet Muhammad the interpretation of the Qur’an becomes clearer.

The Qur’an has many rules but it does not contain all the minutiae or details. This is why the Allah tells us in the Qur’an “Believe in Allah and His Messenger and the light which He sent down.” (64:8) He says, “We sent you as a witness and a bringer of good news and a warner so that they might believe in Allah and His Messenger.” (48:8-9) He says, “Believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet.” (7:158)

Belief in the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad is therefore a necessary obligation for every individual.

In the Tafheem ul Quran (with regards to Surah Nuh ayat 17-18) it says,

Thus, the Quran at different places has pointed to the five Prayer times at which the Muslims all over the world offer their Prayers. But, obviously, no one by merely reading these verses could have determined the Prayer times unless the divinely appointed teacher of the Quran, the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself had given guidance to these by his word and deed.

Let us pause a while here and consider the boldness of the deniers of Hadith. They make fun of “offering the Prayer”, and say that the Prayer that the Muslims offer today is not at all the thing prescribed by the Quran. They assert that the Quranic injunction to establish the Salat does not mean the offering of the Prayer but establishing the Nizami Rububiyat (Order of Providence). Ask them: “What is that order of providence which can either be established before the rising of the sun or after the declining of the sun till the early hours of the night”? And what is that order of providence which is required to be established especially on Fridays? “O believers when you hear the call to the Friday Prayer, hasten to the remembrance of Allah” (Surah Al- Juma: Ayat 9). And what is that special kind of the order of providence for establishing which one has first to wash his face and the hands up to the elbows and the feet up to the ankles and rub his head with wet hands, otherwise he will not establish it? (“O believers, when you stand up to offer the Salat, you must wash your faces and your hands and arms up to the elbows, and rub your heads with wet hands (Surah Al-Maidah: Ayat 6).

We turn to the hadith often as it gives us the complete details to follow for Jummah and Wudu which would not be entirely clear just from the verses of the Quran. We should similarly follow the Sunnah of the Prophet regarding the prayers. 

It is true, there is Sahih hadith in Muslim he offered three prayers in Medina when he was not travelling and not in fear. 

Ibn ‘Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed the noon and afternoon prayers together in Medina without being in a state of fear or in a state of journey. (Abu Zubair said: I asked Sa’id [one of the narrators] why he did that. He said: I asked Ibn ‘Abbas as you have asked me, and he replied that he [the Holy Prophet] wanted that no one among his Ummah should be put to [unnecessary] hardship.) 

But there are more accounts of prayers be prayed separately. If we also remember that those who pray salat are spending time in remembrance of Allah and not wrong-doing. Praying the salat together leaves more idle time and one thing the Bible has correct is, “idle time is the devils playground”. For this reason it is better for you to pray salat separate. 

Let me know your thoughts below, are you in agreement of the 5 prayers or 3?