The Four Rak’ats before the Isha prayer: An assessment of its legitimacy

In some of the books of Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) there is a mention of the performance of four rak’ats of Salah before the actual obligatory (Fard) four rak’ats of the Isha Salah. This specific number of rak’ats of Salah before the Isha has been designated as being a Sunna ghayr mu’akkada (a non-insisted Sunna) by some jurists (Fuqaha). Hence, it is not a practice that was consistently performed on a regular basis by the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), but at intermittent occasions. Some works also mention this specific number to be mustahab (praiseworthy) to perform.

Some recent scholars and more so laymen have held the assumption that there is no known evidence from the Hadith literature to support the basis for performing these four rak’ats before the Isha Salah.  In the following detailed monograph by Dr. Abul Hasan Hussain Ahmed, this claim has been shown to lack complete validity and veracity, and contrary to such claims a number of proofs have been brought forth and analysed in a balanced and scholarly manner.

At times the digital images from rare Arabic manuscripts have also been displayed to supplement the case that these four rak’ats do have a basis in the Shari’a, and whosoever wishes to perform them is free of blame and has the supporting evidence to do so.

The monograph mentioned and analysed the following narrations:

  1. Al-Barā ibnʿĀzib (ra)  related that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: Whoever prays four rak’ats before Isha, it is as though he performed Tahajjud (late night prayer) that night, and whoever prays after the Isha it equates to the like of them on Laylat ul-Qadr. “ (Sunan of Imam Saʿīd ibn Manṣūr)
  2. Abdullah ibn ʿĀmr ibn al ʿĀs (ra) said: “Four Rak’ats before the Isha (evening prayer) will be equivalent to four Rak’ats on the night of revelation (Laylat ul-Qadr)” [Kitāb al-Du’afā of Imam Abu Ja’far al-Uqayli]
  3. In some manuscripts of the Musannaf of Imam Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shayba the following narration has been recorded:  Abūl Ahwas transmitted to us from Atā ibn al-Sā’ib from Maysara and Zādhān, who said: Ali (ibn Abi Tālib) would pray from the voluntary prayers: Four (rak’ats) before Zuhr and two (rak’ats) after it, two (rak’ats) after Maghrib,  four (rak’ats) before Isha
    and two (rak’ats) before Fajr.”
  4. Imām Abdullah ibn Mahmūd al-Mawsilī recorded the following in his al-Ikhtiyār li-ta’līl al-Mukhtār: “From ‘Ā’isha (ra):  He (the Prophet), peace and blessings be upon him, would pray four rak’ats before Isha and then he would pray four after it, and then lie down (to rest).”
  5. The following narration has been attributed to the Tabi’i (student of some Sahaba) Saʿīd ibn Jubayr by Imām Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi (d. 294 AH) in his work known as Qiyām al-Layl as per the Mukhtasar edition: “And from Saʿīd ibn Jubayr, may Allah have mercy upon him: ‘They would consider it praiseworthy (to perform) four rak’ats before Isha (evening prayer).’”

The full work may be downloaded by clickingHERE

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