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:
It is better for Muslims to observe Friday Prayer at its agreed upon time, i.e., after sun’s zenith until the time of `Asr Prayer. This is the most reliable view. However, if Muslims find it difficult to perform Friday Prayer at its due time for some urgent reasons, they can perform it before noon.
The majority of Muslim jurists agree that the time of Friday Prayer is the same time of Zhuhr Prayer, i.e., after the sun’s zenith for that day, and ends when an object’s shadow, minus the length of its shadow at the time of the sun’s zenith, equals the object’s height. Friday Prayer can be performed neither before nor after that specific period.
However, the Hanbali scholars maintain that it is permissible to perform Friday Prayer before its due time. Some of them say the Friday Prayer can be performed at the same time we perform `Eid Prayer, ten or fifteen minutes after sunrise and extends up till the end of Zhuhr.
Others say that the time of Friday Prayer starts from the hour that precedes sun’s zenith. So, if Zhuhr starts at 12 a.m., then the time mentioned above will be at 11 a.m. The view of the Hanbalites is supported by Prophetic Hadiths and by what is reported about the Prophet’s Companions in performing Friday Prayer.
In his book “Al-Mubd`i”, the author says that the due time of Friday Prayer is the same like that of `Eid Prayer. This is approved by Ahmad, Al-Qadi and his companions; `Abdullah ibn Saydan also narrated that he had been once led by Abu Bakr in Friday Prayer, and he noticed that Abu Bakr gave Friday sermon and performed Friday Prayer before mid-day.
Then that man was later on led by `Umar in Friday Prayer, and `Umar finished the sermon and the prayer after mid-day; he noticed the same thing when he performed Friday Prayer behind `Uthman. None refuted the behavior of any of the three Rightly-Guided Caliphs. This incident was reported by Ad-Daraqutni and Ahmad, who took it as evidence backing his view.
In his book “Al-Mughni”, Ibn Qudamah explains Al-Kharqi’s view saying that there is no wrong in performing Friday Prayer at the time mentioned above, i.e. before sun’s zenith. Al-Kharqi’s view implies that it is impermissible to perform Friday Prayer before that time, and it was reported that Ibn Mas`ud, Jabir, Sahid and Mu`awiah performed Friday Prayer at that time.
In short, Friday is a feast for Muslims, so it is treated exactly like the two `Eids, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah has made this day (Friday) a feast for Muslims.” When the `Eid happened to be on Friday, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “Today, there are two feasts for you (Muslims).”
Shedding more light on this issue, Prof. Khaled Muhammad Abdul-Kader, Professor of Shari`ah, Faculty of Imam Al-Awza`i, Beirut, adds,
Most Muslim scholars maintain that performing the Friday Prayer is obligatory (fard), and missing it is undoubtedly considered a sin.
Most of the Muslim scholars maintain that it is to be performed at noon and not before. Yet Ahmad, Ibn R’huya and `Ata’ maintain that it is permissible to perform it before noon as well.
In my opinion, there are many Hadiths that show that it’s permissible to perform Friday Prayer before and at noon; yet in Al-Mughni, Ibn Qudamah says it’s recommended to perform the Friday Prayer at noon, to avoid any argument.
I believe that Muslims living abroad and facing situations that may force them to advance the time of Friday Prayer a bit before noon are allowed to do so following the opinion of Ahmad and his followers, but Ibn `Abbas and Ash-Shawkani say that Friday Prayer should not be hastened too much before noon, for all the Hadiths and incidents cited by Ahmad to back his view show that the Prayer was performed after sermon, exactly at noon.
However, if there are no extraordinary circumstances, Friday Prayer must be performed at its exact time recommended by early righteous Muslims ancestors (Salaf). Imam Malik maintains that Friday sermon, not the Prayer itself, can be delivered before noon.
In conclusion, it is better for Muslims to observe Friday Prayer at its agreed upon time, i.e., after sun’s zenith until the time of `Asr Prayer. This is the most reliable view. Thus, Muslim scholars should try their best to follow the agreed-upon opinion rather than the controversial one.
However, if Muslims find it difficult to perform Friday Prayer at its due time for some urgent reasons, they can perform it before noon, according to the Hanbali school of jurisprudence, or even the time of `Eid Prayer. This is due to necessity, and as we know, necessity knows no law.
Allah Almighty knows best.