The majority of Muslim jurists agree that the time of Friday Prayer is the same time of Zhuhr Prayer—that is, after the sun has passed its zenith (i.e., passes the highest part of the sky, and starts to descend towards the west)—and ends when the shadow of everything is equal in length to the object itself plus the length of the shadow of the object at the time of the zenith. Friday Prayer cannot be performed either before or after that specific period. However, the Hanbali scholars maintain that it is permissible to perform Friday Prayer before zawal, that is, before the sun has reached its zenith.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “The question of whether Jumu`ah can be performed before zawal or not has been a contentious issue among scholars in the past, the reason for this being the divergent reports we have received from the Companions regarding the precise manner in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) performed Jumu`ah.
While the majority of scholars are of the opinion that the time of Jumu`ah begins only after zawal (that is, the time of Zhuhr), we find no explicit statement to that effect from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), while we do have such statements concerning the timings of other prescribed Prayers; hence the differences of opinion among the Companions and later scholars in regards to the permissibility of praying Jumu`ah before zawal.
We read in a hadith reported on the authority of Salamah ibn Al-Akwa` (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said, “We used to pray Jumu`ah (during the Prophet’s time), and then while walking home we could hardly see any shade from the walls protecting us from the sun’s heat” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Based on this and similar reports in the sources, Imam Ahmad and Ishaq ibn Rahawayhi are of the opinion that Jumu`ah can be performed before zawal. Some of the followers of Imam Ahmad have gone as far as saying that the time of Jumu`ah is the time of `Eid Prayer. Imam Malik, however, mediates between the two extreme views and states that while the khutbah (sermon) can be given before the time of zawal, salah itself should take place only after zawal.
Upon further inquiry into the sources, we find hadiths that seem to indicate that there had been some latitude in the time of Jumu`ah in the early years and that praying Jumu`ah after zawal was not always considered the accepted norm. For instance, `Abdullah ibn Shayban reports, “I prayed Jumu`ah behind Abu Bakr; his entire khutbah and salah finished before midday. Then I attended the same under `Umar, and his khutbah and salah lasted until I could say that it was almost midday. Then, again, I attended Jumu`ah under `Uthman and his khutbah and salah lasted until I could say that the sun had actually declined, and yet no one had ever found fault with the action of anyone of them!”
The above report seems to support the view that Jumu`ah can be performed before zawal. This is further strengthened by reports about the Prophet’s Companions such as Ibn Mas`ud, Jabir, Sa`id, as well as Mu`awiyah, stating that they all prayed Jumu`ah before zawal
In light of the above, we can safely conclude that there is nothing wrong in praying Jumu`ah before Zhuhr time, especially in cases where people are under pressure to do so because of circumstances they have no control over. If, however, they have a choice, then it would be much preferable for them to accept the ruling of Imam Malik that allows for delivering the khutbah before zawal, and ensuring that the Prayer occurs after zawal. It seems that Imam Malik offered this ruling with a view to reconcile the divergent reports on this issue.
May Allah help us to see the truth as truth and follow it, and may He help us see error as error and help us to shun it. Ameen.”