Praise be to Allaah.
Identifying the middle prayer which is mentioned in the verse
(interpretation of the meaning): “Guard strictly (five obligatory)
As‑Salawaat (the prayers) especially the middle Salaah (i.e. the best
prayer). And stand before Allaah with obedience [and do not speak to others
during the Salaah (prayers)]” [al-Baqarah 2:238] is one of the matters
concerning which there is a difference of opinion among the scholars, and
concerning which there are approximately 20 opinions, as listed by al-Haafiz
Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) in Fath al-Baari (8/197).
Al-Haafiz ‘Abd al-Mu’min al-Dimyaati (may Allah have mercy on him) wrote a
book concerning that entitled Kashf al-Mughatta fi Tabyeen al-Salaat
al-Wusta. The strongest of these opinions are two:
That it is Fajr prayer
This is the view of Abu Umaamah, Anas, Jaabir,
Abu’l-‘Aaliyah, ‘Ubaydah ibn ‘Umayr, ‘Ata’, ‘Ikrimah, Mujaahid and others,
and it is one of the two views of Ibn ‘Umar and Ibn ‘Abbaas.
It is also the view of Maalik and of al-Shaafa’i as stated in
al-Umm. End quote from Fath al-Baari (8/196).
That it is ‘Asr prayer
This is the view of most of the scholars, and it is the
correct and reliable view, because of the evidence to that effect in the
Qur’aan and the Sunnah.
This is the view of 'Ali ibn Abi Taalib. Al-Tirmidhi and
al-Nasaa’i narrated that Zurr ibn Hubaysh said: We said to ‘Ubaydah: Ask
‘Ali about the middle prayer. He asked him and he said: We used to think
that that was Fajr, until I heard the Messenger of Allah (blessings and
peace of Allah be upon him) say on the day of al-Ahzaab: “They distracted us
from the middle prayer, ‘Asr prayer.” This report states that it is ‘Asr in
the words of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). The
argument for it being Fajr is strong, but the correct view is that it is
This is the view of Ibn Mas’ood and Abu Hurayrah, and it is
the correct view according to the madhhab of Abu Haneefah; it is also the
view of Ahmad and the view which most of the Shaafa’is adopted because of
the soundness of the hadeeth.
Al-Tirmidhi said: It is the view of most of the scholars
among the Sahaabah.
Al-Mawardi said: This is the view of the majority of the
Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr said: It is the view of most of scholars of
Among the Maalikis, this is the view of Ibn Habeeb, Ibn
al-‘Arabi and Ibn ‘Atiyyah. End quote from Fath al-Baari, 8/196.
Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
What is indicated by the saheeh hadeeths is that it is ‘Asr,
and this is the favoured view. End quote.
Al-Haafiz al-Dimyaati mentioned some of the particular
virtues that are unique to ‘Asr prayer:
The Messenger of Allah
(blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) emphasised the calamity of
missing it and described it as loss of family and wealth, when he said:
“Whoever misses ‘Asr prayer, it is as if he has lost his family and his
The good deeds of the one who
misses it are lost.
It was dearer to them than
their own selves and their parents, children, families and wealth.
It was the first prayer at the
time of which the fear prayer was prescribed.
It was the first prayer in
which the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) turned to face
The Prophet (blessings and
peace of Allah be upon him) said: “A man tries to sell an item after ‘Asr by
swearing an oath by Allah…”. So Allaah showed the seriousness of an oath
sworn after ‘Asr prayer.
Sulaymaan (blessings and peace
of Allah be upon him) destroyed a large number of horses because inspecting
them distracted him from ‘Asr prayer until the sun set.
Allaah says (interpretation of
the meaning): “By Al‑‘Asr (the time). 2. Verily,
man is in loss…” [al-‘Asr 103:1-2]
It was the middle prayer to be
made obligatory, because the first prayer to be made obligatory was Fajr and
the last was ‘Isha’, so it was the middle prayer in being made obligatory.
End quote. Kashf al-Mughta, p. 126-132
With regard to the question about the beginning of the day,
and whether it is during the night or the day, the answer is that the night
comes before the day. So when the sun sets, the night belonging to the
following day has begun. Hence when the new moon of Ramadan is sighted, the
people pray Taraweeh that night because that night is part of Ramadan, and
when they see the new moon of Eid, they do not pray Taraweeh because that is
part of Shawwaal.
But that does not imply that Fajr is the middle prayer,
because what is meant by middle here is the best, not the one that is in the
middle between two things.
See: al-Tahreer wa’l-Tanweer, 15/253; Tafseer
Soorat al-Baqarah by Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 2/178.
And Allaah knows best.