UNDER THE HEADING “Speaking after the two rak¢ahs [of Fajr Sunnah] [awaiting the the far\ |alâh] as opposed to laying down in rest and in [other activities of] rest…”
The Human Chain of Narration
¢Abdullâh ibn Yazîd narrated to us that Sâ¢îd ibn Abî Ayyûb narrated to us that he [Sâ¢îd ibn Abî Ayyûb] had said: “Abû Al-Aswad narrated to me, on the authority of ¢Urwah ibn Al-Zubayr, on the authority of ¢Âisha”:
The Text of the Hadith
The Prophet œ used to—after he prayed the two rak¢ahs of Sunnah—have conversation with me if I was awake. And if I was not awake, he would lie down [until the second call of prayer [iqâma] was made].
Rest and Revival between Sunnah and Fard Fajr Prayers
The fact that the Prophet œ would talk with ¢Âisha if she was awake between the sunnah and far\ |alawât of Fajr or lie down by ¢Âisha if she was not awake shows that it is not an obligation (wâjib) to lie down before the |alâh-prayer. The reason this is important is because in another ^adîth reported by Abû Dâwûd he reports that the Prophet œ instructed his Companions to lie down before the obligatory rak¢ahs of Fajr prayer.
This ^adîth in Bukhâri shows us that the instruction of the Prophet œ to the Companions to lie down before the obligatory rak¢ahs of Fajr prayer is something highly recommended (mandûb) but not obligatory (wâjib). The report in Bukhâri narrated by ¢Âisha proves that this instruction is highly recommended but not obligatory because the Prophet œ did not always lie down between the sunnah and far\ |alawât of Fajr himself.
Opinions on Resting Between Sunnah and Fard Fajr Prayers
As for the benefit of lying down before the obligatory two rak¢ahs of Fajr prayer, it is to give one a brief rest so that one will feel strong and active for the Dawn (Fajr) prayer. In this regard, Imâm Al-Shâfi¢i has said that the recommendation of re-energizing oneself before the two far\ rak¢ahs of Fajr ßalâh does not necessarily have to be accomplished by lying down, or by talking, one or the other, or even both. Rather, one can achieve this rest by any other light, refreshing activity such as a brisk walk.
Abû Hurairah, the Companion and celebrated ^adîth narrator, has specified that praying the two sunnah rak¢ahs for ßalât Al-Fajr in one’s residence, and then the walk to the masjid for the far\ |alâh is not a sufficient refreshment that would fulfill this sunnah.
Ibn ±azm, the Andalusian legal scholar of the <âhiri legal school, is extreme in saying that if one does not refresh himself before the far\ Fajr |alâh, one’s farḍ prayer is invalid. Ibn Ḥazm’s opinion is thus formed because he is a rigid literalist when it comes to the rules of Revealed Texts.
Criticism of Related Hadith
In addition, there are some narrations of this particular ^adîth in which the Prophet œ commands people to lie down after praying the two sunnah rak¢ahs for Fajr ßalâh, such as the one mentioned above in Abû Dawûd’s collection. Ibn Taymiyyah deemed weak (\a¢îf) the narration that contains this command because the narration that reports this Prophetic instruction has come to us only through the narrator ¢Abd Al-Wâ^id, and no one else followed him up on it. (It has been said that ¢Abd Al-Wâ^id’s memory was slightly weak.) The truth of the matter is that the narration of ¢Abd Al-Wâ^id is ranked at least ^asan (good), based on the judgment of this narration made by Ibn ±ajar. This command, however, is interpreted to be a recommendation, again, because the Prophet œ did not always adhere to this, as previously mentioned.
According to a weak (\a¢îf) narration on the authority of ¢Âisha, this act of resting between the two rak¢ahs of sunnah and the two far\ rak¢ahs of Fajr ßalâh (or between the paired rak¢ahs of ta^ajjud (the Night Vigil) salâh) is not sunnah. It is only that the Prophet œ desired to break his worship into intervals.
Observations on Understanding and Applying this Hadith
Further, the majority of scholars have deemed that this action of resting between the sunnah and far\ |alawât of Fajr is recommended in the home and not in the masjid, for no one has ever reported that the Prophet œ prayed the two rak¢ahs of sunnah for Fajr in the masjid and then lay down. Moreover, it is verified that the Companion Ibn ¢Umar would stop people from lying down before Fajr in the masjid.
Some other narrations indicate that the Prophet œ did not necessarily do one or the other—that is, lie down or talk to ¢Âisha before the Fajr ßalâh. He may have mixed between them, such as lying down and then, seeing that she was awake, talk to her while he was lying down. Or, he may have lain down for a brief respite and then sat up and talked to her. The fact that the Prophet œ sometimes did not lie down between the sunnah and far\ |alawât of Fajr does not affect the ruling that it is highly recommended. It simply shows that such lying down in this interval is not obligatory (far\). Let it also be noted that the Prophet œ used to lie down and sleep between the end of his Night Vigil (ta^ajjud) ßalawât and the beginning of Fajr ßalâh. ¢Âisha j reported that never did the end of the Night Vigil (ta^ajjud) ßalawât of the Prophet œ come, save that he was with her and sleeping.
As a note in this regard, on the authority of Anas: The Messenger of Allah œ [sometimes] used not to fast in a [given] month, until we thought he would not fast at all in that month. Also, he used to fast in a [given month] until we thought that he would not break his fast on any day of that month. Moreover, if you wished to see him during any part of a [given] night praying [his Night Vigil ßalawât], you would see him praying. Also, if you wished to see him on any part of a [given] night sleeping, you would see him sleeping. The meaning of this is to say that the Prophet œ fasted and refrained from fasting in months other than Rama\ân [without a regular pattern], and that he prayed his Night Vigil ßalawât in any given hour of the night and slept in any given hour [without a regular pattern].
And Allah knows best.