The Fiqh of Priorities

September 1, 2009

It is a sunnah of our beloved Prophet (SAW) to shorten the dhuhr and asr prayers to two rakat instead of four during the time of Hajj. However, Uthman (the caliph at the time) thought the sunnah was to pray the full four rakat. Ibn Masood , who had personally seen the Prophet (SAW) shorten his prayers during Hajj, approached Uthman to tell him of the correct opinion. However, Uthman held firm to what he believed was correct and led the prayer in full. Ibn Masood prayed behind Uthman the full prayer.

Afterwards, a group of Muslims came to Ibn Masood and asked him why he prayed the full four rakat behind Uthman when he could have waited for the prayer to be over and then prayed the shortened prayer by himself. After all, Ibn Masood had personally seen the Prophet (SAW) shorten the prayer himself and knew it to be the correct opinion. Ibn Masood responded that to shorten the prayers during Hajj is a sunnah, however, to follow the imam is an obligation.

Here we are given a glimpse into the Fiqh of Priorities. We are to give precedence to that which is more important. So next time you want to become a fitnah in your community and raise a ruckus about whether the Taraweeh prayers should be eight or twenty rakat, ask yourself, “Is this what the companions of the Prophet (SAW) would do?” After all, the true sunnah here is to pray what the imam has prayed as Abu Dharr said the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Whoever prays qiyaam – i.e., Taraweeh – with the imam until he finishes, it will be recorded as if he spent the whole night in prayer” (Tirmidhi).

For a lecture on the Fiqh of Priorities, check out Yasir Fazaqa’s lecture available on AudioIslam here (it’s the 22nd lecture listed).

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