Analysis of Imam Ashhab’s Opinion on Combining Prayers
Ashhab ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz (140AH – 204AH) was a famous Egyptian jurist and companion of Imam Malik. Some have claimed that he was of the view that combining between two prayers without a valid Shar‘i excuse is permissible. This view contradicts the Mashhur position in the Maliki school. However, has that opinion been established from Ashhab? Below we will analyse the view of Ashhab:
Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (d. 386 H), the famous author of the Risalah, quotes Ashhab as follows:
“[Ashhab said:] The non-traveller also has a dispensation to do that [i.e. join Ẓuhr and ‘Asr/ Maghrib and ‘Isha’], although it is better not to. He has this licence because he is praying in one of the two times that Jibril stipulated. When the shadow becomes the same length (as a standing object), this is the end time of Ẓuhr and the start time of ‘Asr…This is also the case with Maghrib and ‘Isha’. The disappearance of the twilight is a common time for both of them…The Prophet ﷺ joined at the end of one time and the start of the other time. That is, to complete Ẓuhr when the shadow is the same length (as a standing object), or to start it when the shadow is the same length; and then to stand and pray ‘Asr after it. Or to complete Maghrib when the twilight has disappeared or to begin it at that time; and then offer ‘Isha’ thereafter.” (Nawādir, 1:263)
According to the well-known view in the Maliki school, Ẓuhr and ‘Asr have a shared time. That is, when the shadow of a standing object becomes equal to its length, the time of ‘Asr enters. However, the time of Ẓuhr does not end immediately at the start of ‘Asr, but there is a small window of time when they can both be prayed. This is based on the hadith in which Jibril led the Prophet ﷺ in prayer. In this hadith, it states that he led him in Ẓuhr on the second day when the shadow of a standing object was the same length; and this is despite the fact that he led him in ‘Asr on the first day at the very same time. Based on this, according to the well-known position in the Maliki madhhab, there is a shared time between Ẓuhr and ‘Asr. This is also the case with Maghrib and ‘Isha’: there is a small window of time when they can both be prayed just after the twilight disappears. Ashhab, who upholds this opinion, says Ẓuhr and ‘Asr can be combined even without a valid excuse, but only by praying each within their own respective times.
Ashhab’s comment: “because he is praying in one of the two times that Jibrīl stipulated” means that he is praying Ẓuhr at the time that Jibril prayed on the second day i.e. in the common time of Ẓuhr and ‘Asr. His subsequent explanation shows that he believes each of the two prayers are prayed in their own times.
Ibn Yunus (d. 451), a great mujtahid in the Maliki school, also quotes Ashhab saying the exact same thing. (al-Jāmi‘ li Masā’il al-Mudawwana, pp. 712-13) Al-Baji (d. 494) in his commentary of Muwaṭṭa’ narrates this position of Ashhab also, stating the same. (al-Muntaqā, 2:235, 236)
Qaḍi ‘Iyaḍ (d. 544 H) in his commentary on Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim says:
“All the ‘ulama’ have opined that it is not permissible to combine between two prayers without an excuse, except for a fringe group amongst them from the early Muslims, like Ibn Sirin, and from our [Maliki] authorities, Ashhab. They permitted it for a need and excuse as long as it is not made a habit. ‘Abdul Malik said something similar for Ẓuhr and ‘Asr. Their proof for this is the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas, and the statement: ‘He did not want to cause inconvenience to his ummah.” He (‘Abdul Malik) interpreted that to mean delaying the first prayer until the end of its time and bringing the second to the start of its time, as interpreted by Abu l-Sha‘tha and ‘Amr ibn Dinar in Book of Muslim. Ashhab also explained the hadith in the same way. He said: ‘Because he prayed at the second of the two times that Jibrīl prayed’…Once this is so, there is no disagreement.” (Ikmāl al-Mu‘lim, 3:36)
Qaḍi ‘Iyaḍ makes it clear that there is no disagreement, since Ashhab did not say it is permissible to perform these prayers outside of their own times. They are each performed in their respective times but with an apparent combining (Jam’ Ṣūrī). Also note: the above references are quoting Ashhab’s words directly, explicitly showing he meant apparent combining.
It becomes very clear from the above that Ashhab did not advocate a real combining (Jam’ Haqīqī). Moreover, some Maliki authorities quote Ashhab as sharing the view of the Hanafis: that apart from Hajj, there is never a real combining, only apparent combining. The author of Manāhij al-Taḥṣīl says:
“The disputed scenario (of joining prayers) is a traveller combining outside of ‘Arafa and Muzdalifa. Malik and al-Shafi‘i said it is permissible to combine in general. Abu Hanifa and his followers said it is impermissible. Ashhab amongst the students of Malik agreed with him.” (Manāhij al-Taḥṣīl, 1:419)
Hence, the position of Ashhab cannot be used to claim there is an opinion of actual combining in the Maliki madhhab, even if some later scholars may have misunderstood his opinion to mean this. From the clear quotes from him above, no room remains for interpretation. Those who wish to respond, should address the clear reference to apparent combining found in Ashhab’s statement and also Qaḍi ‘Iyaḍ’s comment that based on Ashhab’s own explanation, no disagreement really exists.