UNDER THE HEADING “Speaking after the two rakʿahs [of Fajr Sunnah] [awaiting the the farḍ ṣalâh] as opposed to laying down in rest and in [other activities of] rest…”
The Human Chain of Narration
ʿAbdullâh ibn Yazîd narrated to us that Sâʿîd ibn Abî Ayyûb narrated to us that he [Sâʿîd ibn Abî Ayyûb] had said: “Abû Al-Aswad narrated to me, on the authority of ʿUrwah ibn Al-Zubayr, on the authority of ʿÂisha”:
The Text of the Hadith
The Prophet ﷺ used to—after he prayed the two rakʿahs 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 ﷺ would talk with ʿÂisha if she was awake between the sunnah and farḍ ṣalawât of Fajr or lie down by ʿÂisha if she was not awake shows that it is not an obligation (wâjib) to lie down before the ṣalâh-prayer. The reason this is important is because in another ḥadîth reported by Abû Dâwûd he reports that the Prophet ﷺ instructed his Companions to lie down before the obligatory rakʿahs of Fajr prayer.
This ḥadîth in Bukhâri shows us that the instruction of the Prophet ﷺ to the Companions to lie down before the obligatory rakʿahs of Fajr prayer is something highly recommended (mandûb) but not obligatory (wâjib). The report in Bukhâri narrated by ʿÂisha proves that this instruction is highly recommended but not obligatory because the Prophet ﷺ did not always lie down between the sunnah and farḍ ṣalawât of Fajr himself.
Opinions on Resting Between Sunnah and Fard Fajr Prayers
As for the benefit of lying down before the obligatory two rakʿahs 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-Shâfiʿi has said that the recommendation of re-energizing oneself before the two farḍ rakʿahs of Fajr Ṣalâh 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 ḥadîth narrator, has specified that praying the two sunnah rakʿahs for Ṣalât Al-Fajr in one’s residence, and then the walk to the masjid for the farḍ ṣalâh is not a sufficient refreshment that would fulfill this sunnah.
Ibn Ḥazm, the Andalusian legal scholar of the <âhiri legal school, is extreme in saying that if one does not refresh himself before the farḍ Fajr ṣalâh, 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 ḥadîth in which the Prophet ﷺ commands people to lie down after praying the two sunnah rakʿahs for Fajr Ṣalâh, such as the one mentioned above in Abû Dawûd’s collection. Ibn Taymiyyah deemed weak (ḍaʿîf) the narration that contains this command because the narration that reports this Prophetic instruction has come to us only through the narrator ʿAbd Al-Wâ ḥid, and no one else followed him up on it. (It has been said that ʿAbd Al-Wâ ḥid’s memory was slightly weak.) The truth of the matter is that the narration of ʿAbd Al-Wâ ḥid is ranked at least ḥasan (good), based on the judgment of this narration made by Ibn Ḥajar. This command, however, is interpreted to be a recommendation, again, because the Prophet ﷺ did not always adhere to this, as previously mentioned.
According to a weak (ḍaʿîf) narration on the authority of ʿÂisha, this act of resting between the two rakʿahs of sunnah and the two farḍ rakʿahs of Fajr Ṣalâh (or between the paired rakʿahs of ta ḥajjud (the Night Vigil) salâh) is not sunnah. It is only that the Prophet ﷺ 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 farḍ ṣalawât of Fajr is recommended in the home and not in the masjid, for no one has ever reported that the Prophet ﷺ prayed the two rakʿahs of sunnah for Fajr in the masjid and then lay down. Moreover, it is verified that the Companion Ibn ʿUmar would stop people from lying down before Fajr in the masjid.
Some other narrations indicate that the Prophet ﷺ did not necessarily do one or the other—that is, lie down or talk to ʿÂisha before the Fajr Ṣalâh. 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 ﷺ sometimes did not lie down between the sunnah and farḍ ṣalawât 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 (farḍ). Let it also be noted that the Prophet ﷺ used to lie down and sleep between the end of his Night Vigil (ta ḥajjud) Ṣalawât and the beginning of Fajr Ṣalâh. ʿÂisha j reported that never did the end of the Night Vigil (ta ḥajjud) Ṣalawât of the Prophet ﷺ come, save that he was with her and sleeping.
As a note in this regard, on the authority of Anas: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ [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 Ṣalawât], 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 ﷺ fasted and refrained from fasting in months other than Ramaḍân [without a regular pattern], and that he prayed his Night Vigil Ṣalawât in any given hour of the night and slept in any given hour [without a regular pattern].
And Allah knows best.