Five Prayers or Three Prayers
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

There are some Muslims who pray three times a day. I was surprised to find this out and would be grateful if you could shed light on this.


Answer: Islam is the guidance which the Almighty has sent down for mankind through His Prophets. The Prophet Muhammad (sws) is the last of these Prophets. Consequently, it is now he alone who in this world is the sole source of this religion. It is only through him that man can receive guidance and until the Day of Judgement it is only he who, through his words, deeds or tacit approval, has the authority to declare something as part of Islam. The Qur’ān says:

It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from amongst themselves who rehearses upon them His verses and purifies them and for this he instructs them in law and in wisdom. (62:2)

This religion has been given to the Ummah by the Prophet (sws) through the consensus of his companions and through their perpetual practice and perpetual recitation in two forms:


1. The Qur’ān 

2. The Sunnah


While every one knows what the Qur’ān is, by Sunnah is meant those practices of the Prophet Abraham (sws) to which the Prophet (sws) gave religious sanction among his followers after reviving and reforming them and after making certain additions to them. The Qur’ān has directed the Prophet (sws) to obey this Abrahamic tradition in the following words:

Then We revealed to you to follow the ways of Abraham, who was true in faith and was not among the polytheists. (16:123)

According to this established Sunnah, there are five prayers1 that are obligatory upon the Muslims and anyone who says that there are three prayers is going against this established Sunnah. The onus of proof lies upon him. The only case in which the prayers become three is an exception and not, in any case, a rule. In case of any compulsion like a journey, illness or some other genuine plea (of which the person himself is the best judge) the Zuhr and ‘Asr prayers can be combined at either time and Maghrib and ‘Ishā can be combined at either time. This, as I said, is an exception and not a general ruling.





1. The Prophets before Muhammad (sws) were also required to pray five times. Consequently, in a Hadīth in which the Prophet (sws) has been taught to pray five times by Gabriel, it is said that Gabriel visited the Prophet (sws) on two consecutive days and taught him the starting and ending times of each of the five prayers. When he was about to leave on the second day, this what he is reported to have said:

O Muhammad! it is in these five times that the Prophets before you also prayed. (Abū Dā’ud, Kitābu’l-Salāh)

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