The word “hour” (sa’ah) has been mentioned in the Book of Allah, the sunnah of His Messenger (peace be upon him), he speech of the Prophets’ companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) and the great scholars after them. However, it does not bear the meaning of the modern usage of an hour which is equal to 60 minutes, since the hour was not known to be of this length in their times. The clock in its present form did not exist in their era, and hence neither was the day divided into 24 hours, nor was the hour divided into minutes.

On the contrary, the “hour” in most cases (of its classical usage) means “a part of the day or night.” This period may be long or short, based on the context and what it is used to mean. For example, it has been used to mean “The Day of Judgment.” Sometimes it can mean two things in the same context, as in the Verse of the Qur’an: “And on the Day that the Hour will be established, the Mujrimoon (criminals, disbelievers, polytheists, sinners, etc.) will swear that they stayed not but an hour” [Surah Al-Rum 31:55] Here the first instance of the word means “the Day of Judgment” and the second means “a period of day.” Sheikh ‘Abdul Rahman Al-Si’di, may Allah have Mercy on him, said: “Allah is informing us about the Day of Judgment and the quickness with which it will come. He is telling us that when the hour will be established, “the Mujrimoon will swear” by Allah that they “stayed not” in the world but “an hour”. They will say this as the excuse they will put forward (in their defense), hoping that it might help them, and because they will regard the term of the world to be short.” [Tafsir Al-Si’di, page 65] And it might also be used to mean “the present time”. Al-Fairuzabadi, may Allah have Mercy on him, said: “Sa’ah (Hour): One of the divisions of the day or night; the present time; the Day of Judgment or the time when it will occur. Plurals: sa’aat or sa’.” [Al-Qamus Al-Muhit, page 944]

Secondly, Based on the discussion above, it is clear that the “hour” mentioned in the hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) about the hour of Friday and other hadiths is: a period of time, which might be short or long, based on the context of the hadith. Hence, the “hour” in which prayers and supplications are answered on Friday is short, while the “hour” of each night in which prayers are answered is longer than that. The texts and comprehension of the hadiths also bear this fact:

a.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) talked about Friday and said, “There is an hour (opportune time) on Friday and if a Muslim gets it while praying and asks something from Allah, then Allah will definitely meet his demand.” And he (the Prophet) pointed out the shortness of that time with his hands. [sahih al-Bukhari (no. 893) and Sahih Muslim (no. 852)] Imam Muslim’s narration has the extra words: “and it is a light hour.” Shaykh Muhammad ‘Allan Al-Siddiqui, may Allah have Mercy on him, said: “pointed out the shortness of that time with his hands” i.e. he explained that it is a short while, thin and light. Imam Muslim added “it is a light hour.” [Dalil Al-Falihin li turuq Riyadh Al-Salihin (8/479)]

b.

Jabir Bin ‘Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “There is an hour during the night in which no Muslim individual will ask Allah for good in this world and the next without His giving it to him; and that applies to every night.” [Sahih Muslim (no. 757)] Shaykh Muhammad ‘Allan Al-Siddiqui, may Allah have Mercy on him, said: “In any case, this points to the fact that its time is long, unlike the hour in which supplications are answered on Friday. This is further supported by the fact that: he alluded to the shortness of the hour of Friday with the statement of the Companion: “he” i.e. the Prophet (peace be upon him) “pointed out the shortness of that time with his hands, and he said nothing like that about the hour which is in the night.” [Dalil Al-Falihin li turuq Riyadh Al-Salihin (8/479)] This is the way to know whether the word “hour” means a short or long period pf time. In the verse of Surah Al-Rum [31:55], it means a period spanning (several) years. In some statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions, it means a very short time, e.g. “he remained quiet for an hour”, “he remained an hour” etc. Thirdly, Daytime has been divided into 12 hours in the hadith of Jabir Bin ‘Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him and his father). He narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “ Friday is divided into twelve hours. Amongst them there is an hour in which a Muslim does not ask Allah for anything but He gives it to him. So seek it in the last hour after the afternoon (‘asr) prayer.” [Abu Dawud (no. 1048), Nasaii (no. 1389), and authenticated by Al-Albani in Sahih Abi Dawud] The hadith means: the daytime of Friday – from Fajr till Maghrib – is divided into 12 parts. The hour in which supplications (du’a) are answered is one of these parts. Al-Hafidh Ibn Rajab, may Allah have Mercy on him, said: “Apparently, the hadith is proof that the daytime of Friday has been divided into 12 hours, whether the daytime is short or long. Hence, it does not mean the well known hours which divide the day and night into 24 hours, because this (the number of these 24 hours within daytime) varies with the duration of daytime.” [Fath Al-Bari (5/356) by Ibn Rajab].

Sheikh ‘Abdul Muhsin Al-‘Abbad, may Allah protect him, made a detailed explanation of the hadith: “Twelve hours: It proves that daytime is 12 hours long. It is known that in Shari’ah (Islamic Law) the daytime starts from dawn (daybreak) to sunset, not from sunrise to sunset. Hence, fasting a day starts from dawn to sunset. Night too is divided into 12 hours. However, these hours are not fixed and constant across the days. They increase and decrease in their duration as the length of the daytime varies. This means: the time from dawn to sunset is divided into 12 parts. Each of the 12 parts is called an “hour” mentioned in this hadith. These hours are not fixed (in duration) in all days of the year. This is in contrast to what the people have become used to today, i.e. dividing the day and night into 24 (equal) hours. However, by this division sometimes the day becomes 9 hours long and the night 15 hours, while it becomes the opposite at other times of the year. In any case, the whole day is of 24 hours in this division, such that the day and night are not 12 hours each; instead the number of hours in the day and night depend on the length of time (of daytime and nighttime). On the other hand, this hadith says that “daytime is divided into twelve hours”, whether it is in winters or summers, whether daytime is long or short. Hence, the day is divided into 12 hours all year round, while the hour itself increases or decreases (in duration). Distributing the hours over the daytime and nighttime varies the length of these hours around the year. Hence, the length of an hour in summers, when daytime is longer, is more than the hour in winters, when daytime is shorter. Arabs (even before the advent of Islam) used to count the day as 12 hours, and similarly a night of 12 hours as well. Al-Tha’alabi mentioned in his book Fiqh Al-Lughah (page 468) the hours of the day and night and the individual names given to these hours. However, these names prove that the Arabs used to count a day which begins from sunrise and ends at sunset, while the Shari’ah (Islamic Law) consider the day to start from dawn. That is why we mentioned earlier the great comprehension (fiqh) that Imam Abu Dawud was blessed with, that he said when mentioning the bath (ghusl) taken on Friday: If a person has to do the obligatory bath after sexual intercourse (or wet dream, ejaculation etc.) and he takes the bath after dawn on Friday, then he does not have to do a separate bath for Friday prayers, since the day starts from dawn. Based on this, the hour in which the supplications (du’a) are answered, is the last part from the 12 parts of daytime. It is longer in summers, and shorter in winters, depending on the distribution of total (12) hours.” [Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud (cassette no. 89), (6/244-245, according to the shamilah software.)]

As far as the hadith: “Any person who takes a bath on Friday like the bath of Janaba and then goes for the prayer (in the first hour i.e. early), it is as if he had sacrificed a camel (in Allah’s cause); and whoever goes in the second hour it is as if he had sacrificed a cow; and whoever goes in the third hour, then it is as if he had sacrificed a horned ram; and if one goes in the fourth hour, then it is as if he had sacrificed a hen; and whoever goes in the fifth hour then it is as if he had offered an egg. When the Imam comes out (i.e. starts delivering the sermon), the angels present themselves to listen to the sermon,” [Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim] is concerned: the time from sunrise to when the sun has just passed its highest point (i.e. mid-day) is divided into five parts. Each part is called an “hour”, which might be more or less than 60 minutes, according to the length of the day, as explained earlier.

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Translated for Islam-QA

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