Salam Dr, please explain the ruling of dismissing of prayer in dangerous situations such as during an earthquake. Are there any special rewards for someone that continues with his prayer regardless of the situation?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
In the issue of dismissing a prayer that is being performed, Islamic scholars have divided it into two categories; whether it is an obligatory prayer (fardhu) or sunnah prayer. The factor of why the prayer is dismissed is also discussed in this ruling.
Dismissing Obligatory Prayer (Fardhu)
Fundamentally, all Islamic scholars hold the opinion of it is prohibited to dismiss obligatory prayer without any reasons (that is allowed by Islamic law). They referred to the verse:
وَلا تُبْطِلُوا أَعْمَالَكُمْ
“…and do not invalidate your deeds.”
Surah Muhammad (33)
According to this verse, it is prohibited for someone to dismiss or invalidate their deeds, whether by doing something that can invalidate all of his good deeds which is renouncing Islam (murtad) or doing a type of worship like fasting or praying and purposely invalidating or dismissing the worship without any reasonable reason that is accepted by Islamic law.
However, there are exceptions, which are invalidating a prayer because of an illness or harm. For example, when someone is performing an obligatory prayer, if he sees a snake or a scorpion in front of him, there’s hadith evidence that asked the person to kill it. This hadith is from Abu Hurairah RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
اقْتُلُوا الأَسْوَدَيْنِ فِي الصَّلاَةِ الْحَيَّةَ وَالْعَقْرَبَ
“Kill two black things even in prayer; which are snake and scorpion.”
Sunan Abu Daud (921)
Imam Syams al-Haq Al-Azhim al-Abaadi Rahimullah when commenting on this hadith quoted the words of Imam al-Khattabi Rahimullah, he said: “This hadith contains dilalah (guidance) on the permissibility of minor actions in prayer. And muwalat (two successive actions in prayer does not ruin the prayer)”. Refer ‘Aun al-Ma’bud Syarah Sunan Abi Daud, Al-Azhim Abaadi.
In the hadith we stated above, there is also guidance in it where it is permissible to dismiss the prayer to kill wild animals that is dangerous towards us. The way to do this is, someone that is performing the prayer dismisses the prayer to kill the wild animal then, starts the obligatory prayer again.
The same goes in other situations that can cause harm to someone that is performing prayer such as fire, earthquake, a wild animal, extreme stomach ache and other similar situations. This is in accordance with Islamic legal maxim from the Prophet PBUH’s hadith:
لاَ ضَرَرَ وَلاَ ضِرَارَ
“There should neither be harm nor reciprocating in harming.”
Sunan Ibn Majah (2341)
In the discussion of muwazanah (pros and cons) between maslahah and mafsadah, Imam al-‘Izz Ibn Abd Al-Salam said regarding the issue of dismissing of prayer: The process is prioritising of saving someone that is drowning from performing of prayer. This is due to the fact that saving the life of a human that is ma’sum (protecting its life and property) is preferable in Allah’s eyes than performing of prayer. And to bring together these two maslahah he can first save the drowning victim then replace (qada’) the prayer that he had left earlier. See Qawaid Al-Ihkam, Izzuddin Ibn Abd Al-Salam (1/95).
Dismissing Sunnah Prayer
As for sunnah prayers, fundamentally it is better to not dismiss them without any reason. However, in mazhab Imam Al-Syafi’e, there’s a facilitation for someone to dismiss his sunnah prayer without any reasons. This is based on the hadith from Ummu Hani’ R.Anha, the Prophet PBUH said:
الصَّائِمُ الْمُتَطَوِّعُ أَمِينُ نَفْسِهِ إِنْ شَاءَ صَامَ وَإِنْ شَاءَ أَفْطَرَ
“Whoever does sunnah fasting is the trustee for himself. If he wants he can continue his fast or break his fast.”
Sunan Al-Tarmizi (732)
The hadith shows the facilitation that is given to someone that does sunnah fasting the he can either continue his fast or break his fast. Thus, sunnah prayer is deduced (qiyas) to be the same as this issue and is said that it can be dismissed without any reasons, but it is preferable to continue the prayer rather than dismissing it.
Choosing ‘Azimah to Continue with the Prayer Regardless of an Earthquake
In in this issue, there is a discussion that is known as ‘azimah. It brings to the meaning of holding the original ruling and not taking the rukhsah (facilitation) that has been given according to Islamic law.
In the issue of continuing the prayer when there is an earthquake, it is also considered as ‘azimah as stated by the fuqaha. Even though there is a facilitation and permission to dismiss the prayer, if he chooses to continue with his prayer, his act is permitted.
Dr Abd al-Karim Zaidan Rahimullah said: It may be better or preferable to hold to ‘azimah eventhough with it is the permissibility of taking the rukhsah (permitted facilitation). An example of this is: It is permitted to utter the words of kufur (with faith still intact in the heart) when coerced to do so, and if he refuses, he will be killed, or his bones will be broken. However, it is preferable to hold the choice of ‘azimah (which is refusing to utter the words of kufur). For this act will bring splendour to the religion, causes grief in the enemy’s heart and weakened their soul as well as strengthening the belief in the believer’s heart.
This is according to a narration about two Muslim men that were captured by the followers of Musailamah al-Kazzab, then Musailimah asked one of the men: “What is your opinion on Muhammad?” The man answered: “He is the messenger of Allah”. Musailimah asked: “What is your opinion on me?” The man answered: “You too,”. The man was left without being harmed. Then Musailimah went to the other man and asked: “What is your opinion on Muhammad?” The man answered: “He is the messenger of Allah”. Musailimah asked: “What is your opinion on me?” The man answered: “I am mute and deaf,”. Musailimah repeated the question three times and the man repeated the same answer, then Musailimah killed him. When their story reached the Prophet PBUH he said: “The first man has taken rukhsah (facilitation) while the second man defended the truth, congratulations to him.” Refer Al-Wajiz Fi Usul Al-Fiqh, Dr. Abdul Karim Zaidan (pg. 53).
Coming back to the issue of an earthquake, there is a narration similar in meaning with what the companions and salaf did. One example is an incident that happened to ‘Abbad bin Bishr RA where when he was praying an arrow is thrown at him and it penetrates the left bone of his arm. He pulled it out and continue his prayer. Refer Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyyah, Syeikh Raghib Al-Sarjani (8/35).
The same goes to an incident that happened to a great Islamic figure from the tabi’in, Urwah bin Al-Zubair when one day his foot is penetrated by iron. Medical experts at the time diagnosed that his foot needs to be amputated. Then Urwah told the doctors: “If you really have to do it, then do it (amputate it) while I’m praying.” See Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah, Ibn Kathir (9/120).
These stories show how engrossed and wholehearted the salafussoleh are when praying. Hence, even when shot with an arrow and amputated, it didn’t affect them in the slightest and couldn’t move them from their prayer.
In conclusion, we specify the ruling on dismissing of prayer in three parts as follows:
First: Dismissing or invalidating prayer without any reason is prohibited.
Second: Dismissing obligatory prayer if there’s illness or danger that is permitted by Islamic law then it is permitted.
Third: Dismissing sunnah prayer without any reason is permitted but it is preferable to continue the prayer.
Then, in answering the question, we state that it is permitted to dismiss or invalidate the prayer in case of an earthquake. This is to prevent any harm to the person and protecting a greater maqasid in Islamic law in terms of protecting life. Hence, when there is an earthquake, the person should dismiss his prayer and replace it back (qada’) when it is safe or continue his prayer implementing the ruling of ‘azimah and will still be given rewards from Allah SWT.
Lastly, may Allah give us the true understanding in practising our religion. Ameen.