The status of the 4 Rak’ah before ‘Isha prayer
Based on article of shaykh Irshadul Haq Athari present in hi Maqalat vol 2 p 284.
In almost all main Hanafi books of Fiqh, it is told that it is Sunnah to pray 4 Rak’ah before ‘Isha prayer but there is no authentic Hadith to support this view.
Molana Muhammad Yusuf Binnori wrote in his “Ma’’arif As-Sunnan” v 4 p 115:
“I couldn’t find about the 4 (Rak’ah) before ‘Isha any Hadith in the books of Hadith despite intense research. It is mentioned in “Al-Kabeeri” the Hadith of Al-Bara ibn Azib attributed to “Sunnan Sa’eed ibn Mansoor”: “Whoever prays 4 Rak’ah before ‘Isha, it is as if he prayed the night prayer (Tahajada min laylatihi) and whoever prays them (4) after ‘Isha, they will be similar to those prayer in Laylatul Qadr” and this is a mistake because this narration of “Sunnan Sa’eed ibn Mansoor”, I saw it in many books and none of them have this rather there is in them: “Whoever prays 4 Rak’ah before Zuhr, it is as if he prayed the night prayer…”
After Al-Binnori attributed this narration of Sa’eed ibn Mansoor with right wording to “Fathul Qadeer” (1/315) “Nasb Ar-Rayah” (2/350), “Muntaqa Akhbar”, “Majma’ Zawaid” (2/221), “Kanz Al-‘Umal” (4/83) and wrote in “Ma’arif Sunnan” (4/115):
“It appears to be a mistake in writing or seeing (manuscript), and the author of “Al-Kabeeri” mostly quotes Ahadith from “Fath” of ibnul Hummam, as ibnul Hummam quotes mostly from “Nasb Ar-Rayah”, and we do not consider it as a mistake of Katib (meaning copist of Al-Kabeeri) as he took evidence from it to justify the saying of the author of Matn (text of book he is explaining): “and 4 before ‘Isha and four after””
Shaykh Irshadul Haq Athari explained that Allamah Ibraheem Halabi who explained “Muniyah Musali” in his “Al-Kabeeri” did not err in attributing this to “Sunnan Sa’eed ibn Mansoor” and it is a mistake from Allamah Yusuf Binnori to attribute this mistake to Allamah Halabi.
Allamah Halabi wrote in explanation of “and 4 before ‘Isha and four after:
“meaning if he wants he prays 2 Rakah, as for 2 Rak’ah it is because of two Hadith of Aishah and Umm Habibah quoted before, as for the 4 after, it is because of what is narrated by Al-Bara ibn Azib, he said: The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “Whoever prays 4 Rak’ah before Zuhr, it is as if he prayed the night prayer (Tahajada min laylatihi) and whoever prays them (4) after ‘Isha, they will be similar to those prayer in Laylatul Qadr”, It is narrate by Sa’eed ibn Mansoor in his “Sunnan”
Allamah Halabi further wrote in his “Ghuniyah Sharh Muniyah” p 385, which is also called “Sharh Al-Kabeer” or “Halabi Al-Kabeer”:
“As for the 4 before, there is no Hadith mentioning them specially but one can take evidence form the generality of what the Jam’ah narrated from the Hadith of Abdullah ibn Mughafal that he (saw) said: “There is a prayer between two Azan (meaning Azan and Iqamah)””
And what is strange is that Molana Taqi Uthmani in his “Dars Tirmizi” v 2 p 196-197 followed the mistake of Molana Binnori and did not check Allamah Halabi’s Sharh Miniyah. Molama Uthmani wrote:
“4 before Isha, to prove it, there is no Hadith in famous books of Hadith, and all Hanafi Fuqaha declared these 4 before Isha as Sunnah ghayr Rawatib with Iltizam, Kabeeri Sharh Muniyah Musali mentioned as evidence the Hadith: ““Whoever prays 4 Rak’ah before ‘Isha, it is as if he prayed the night prayer” and he attributed it to Simmam Sa’eed ibn Mansoor, but Allamah Binnori proved in his “Maarif Sunnan” that it is a mistake of the author of “Al-Kabeeri”, in fact the Hadith reads as: ““Whoever prays 4 Rak’ah before Zuhr, it is as if he prayed the night prayer””
While Allamah Halabi wrote in his “Al-Kabeeri” p 388: “It is not proven that he prayed them (4) so what about Muwazabah (continuously doing it)”
So attributing this to Allamah Halabi is a mistake from Al-Binnori and Taqi Uthmani, Halabi never mentioned any Hadith to prove that the Prophet (saw) prayed 4 before Isha.
Molana Zafar ahmad Uthmani quoted the following quote from “Al-Kabeeri” in his “Ila As-Sunnan” v 7 p 16:
“As for the 4 (meaning before Salah Al-‘Isha), there is no Hadith mentioning them specially…”
So Molana Zafar Uthmani showed the true position of Allamah Halabi and quoted it while Molana Binnori erred in attributing a mistake to him and Molana Taqi Thmani followed him in this.
Allamah Binnori helplessness
Yusuf Al-Binnori requested Abul Wafa Al-Afghani to look for him in the book of Allamah Qasim ibn Qutlubaghah called “Al-Ikhtiyar Sharh Al-Mukhtar” that he did not have to see if he could find a narration justifying these 4 rakah before Isha but Abul Wafa Afghani replied that there is emptiness on the manuscript on this place as if Hafiz ibn Qutlubaghah did not find any hadith about it.
So Al-Binnori wrote v 4 p 116 of his “Maarif Sunnan”
“The Mutun (texts) of Hanafis are conform in mentioning the 4 Rakah before Isha, maybe there was evidence for it in the manuscript or lost books of our Imams, Allah knows best”
Shaykh Irshadul Haq athari replied to this doubt that ahadith might be lost in his book “Ahadith Hidayah”.
The strange explanation of Allamah Halabi
Allamah Halabi tried to explain that the Hadith of Abdullah ibn Mughafal stating that there is a prayer between 2 Azans can be taken as 4 Rakah between 2 Azan according to the understanding of Imam Abu Hanifah, he wrote in “Kabeeri” p 385:
“But if being 4 is according to the way of Abu Hanifah as it is better for him, so the word Salah is considered according to it (meaning being 4)”
But many narrations specify that the Prophet (saw) told to pray 2 rakah between 2 Azans.
Abdullah ibn Zubayr narrated this narration as in ibn Hibban, Daraqutni and others, see Nasb Rayah v 2 p 142 and As-Saheehah n 232:
“There is no obligatory prayer except that there is before it 2 rakah (Rak’atani)”
Also the narration of Abdullah ibn Mughafal in Abu Dawood v 1 p 494 with Awn ma’bood and in Nasb Rayah v 2 p 140 has wording:
“Pray before Maghrib two Rak’ah”
Molana Zafar Ahmad Uthmani to defend the view of Allamah Halabi had to resort to Qiyas to establish these 4 Rak’ah and he said in “I’la as-Sunnan” v 7 p 16:
“Yes Qiyas has no role in establishing the Sunnah and Abu Hanifah does not say it is Sunnah to pray 4 before Isha, rather it said about Istihbab (recommendation) of 4 in day and night prayer with one Tasleem, so it is possible to establish Istihbab and virtue with Qiyas”
But this defence is weak as Hanafi books say it is Sunnah Ghayr Muakadah and Sunnah is not established with Qiyas.
Then the verdict of Imam Abu Hanifah that it is better to pray Nafl prayer 4 rather than 2 and 2, is this ruling for night prayer based on Hadith or Qiyas? Imam Abu Hanifah’s 2 students Qadhi Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn Hasan Shaybani declare that the night prayer, it is better to pray it 2 by 2 based on the narration “The night prayer is Mathna Mathna”.
Allamah Abdul Hay Luknawi writes in his “Ta’liq Al-Mumajad” p 120 that it is established from the Prophet (saw) that he prayed 4 Rak’ah with one Tasleem but what is the daleel that it is better, and preference in such topics can only be established by the Prophet (saw) not by reason or analogy.
Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri also preferred the saying of the 2 companions according to the Hadith that it is better to pray the night prayer 2 by 2, and he wished he could find a narration of Imam Abu Hanifah according to the Hadith, saying in “Urf Ash-Shazi” p 197:
“I searched the books to find a narration from Abu Hanifah similar to that of the 2 companions but I could not find it despite lot of research, and if I was to find one, I would give precedence to it even if it was a Shaaz one”
He wrote in his Hashiyah Urf Ashazi p 197:
“The preference from point of view of Hadith in this topic is on the saying of 2 companions”
And Allamah Binnori wrote in his “Maarif Sunnan” v 4 p 121-122 that the wish of his teacher Allamah Kashmiri has been fulfilled as Nawawi mentioned in Sharh Al-Muhazab v 4 p 54 that the saying of Imam abu Hanifah that the night prayer is 2 by 2 as in the Hadith.
So there is no doubt that the correct and favoured opinion in Hanafi Fiqh is that it is preferred to pray the night prayer 2 Rakah according to the authentic Hadith, so even the prayer between 2 Azans should be 2 Rakah and not four.
Not only the narrations specify praying 2 Rakah between 2 Azans but it is also preferred view of Ahnaaf according to Hadith that Nafl prayer of night should be 2.
So there is no Hadith to declare 4 Rakah as Sunnah as mentioned in the books of Hanafi Fiqh.
May Allah send Salah and Salam on the Prophet (saw), his family and companions!!!