Wa `alaykum as-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- There are two opinions regarding the issue raised in the question. The first one states that Muslims who face such a difficulty in the West can wait one hour after performing Maghrib and then perform Isha prayer.
2- The other opinion states that those Muslims can combine both Magrib and Isha if they are driven by the same necessity.
3- Thus, you can choose the opinion that best suits your case, keeping in mind that Islam is the religion of easiness.
Answering your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a Senior Lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states,
The time for Isha, as has been stated clearly in the authentic traditions, starts as soon as the red rays of sun disappear from the horizon, and night creeps in.
It is all well known that the time for Maghrib starts as soon as the sun sets. Unlike other prayers such as Zhur and Asr, there is not much gap between Maghrib and Isha. Stated differently, the time for Isha starts as soon as Maghrib’s time expires.
Based on the above evidence, Imams such as Shafi`i concluded that the time of Maghrib lasts only as much as one can perform ablution well and pray five rak`ahs of Prayer comfortably. This can be estimated conservatively as not more than half-hour. Accordingly, based on this, one is allowed to pray Isha half an hour after Maghrib.
From what has been stated above, it is reasonable to deduce that one is allowed to pray Isha one hour after Maghrib without incurring sin, especially if he/she has to go bed early in summer when Maghrib’s time is somehow late or in such places where there is no much gap between Isha and Fajr.
Students and people who are in dire need of going to bed early because of their studies or job situations can readily make use of this relaxed rule. So are those who are elderly, sick and weak who may be experiencing hardship in putting off their fixed time for sleep.
Having said this, we must add: if a person does not experience any of the time constraints described above, and has the leisure of delaying Isha, it is preferable for him/her to delay Isha for some time- although not later than midnight -as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “If it would not have been hard on my Ummah, I would have ordered them to delay Isha Prayer.” (Ibn Majah)
The prominent Azharite scholar Sheikh `Abdul-Majeed Subh, adds,
One can, as long as he is driven by necessity, pray Maghrib, then wait for one hour and perform Isha afterwards. This ruling is special to Muslims living in the West who find it very difficult to stay awake for Isha prayer.
Based on the aforementioned, Muslims are required to perform prayer at their appointed times. However, the case of Muslims living in the West may necessitate them to get up early in the morning to reach their work on time. With this, they find it difficult to stay up late to perform Isha at its appointed time. If we force people to perform Isha at its appointed time, then we are ordering them to do something beyond their capability.
It stands to reason that Islam is the religion of easiness. It tends to remove hardship from its followers. Thus, Muslims living in the West who face such difficulty may be allowed to combine both Maghrib and Isha together. However, the issue of necessity is left to the conscience of those Muslims, and Allah will reward each according to his intention.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.