When should you take your suhoor meal? Till dawn or the adhaan?
Volume 3, Book 31, Number 142:
Narrated ‘Aisha (radiallaahu `anhaa):
Bilal (radiallaahu `anhu) used to pronounce the Adhan at night, so Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam)? said, “Carry on taking your meals (eat and drink) till Ibn Um Maktum [Bilal] pronounces the Adhan, for he does not pronounce it till it is dawn.
Volume 3, Book 31, Number 143:
Narrated Sahl bin Sad (radiallaahu `anhu):
I used to take my Suhur meals with my family and then hurry up for presenting myself for the (Fajr) prayer with Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam).
Volume 3, Book 31, Number 144:
Narrated Anas (radiallaahu `anhu):
Zaid bin Thabit (radiallaahu `anhu) said, “We took the Suhur with the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam). Then he stood for the prayer.” I asked, “What was the interval between the Suhur and the Adhan?” He replied, “The interval was sufficient to recite fifty verses of the Quran.”
The ruling is that you “eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night).” [al-Baqarah 2:187]
Translation: eat and drink till dawn starts. Whether the adhaan starts before it or after is irrelevant; you just have to look for the dawn.
Also, it’s better to delay the suhoor meal till dawn. Imam Ahmad recorded Abu Dharr saying that Allah’s Messenger said:
«لَا تَزَالُ أُمَّتِي بِخَيْرٍ مَا عَجَّلُوا الْإِفْطَارَ وَأَخَّرُوا السُّحُور»
My Ummah will always retain goodness as long as they hasten in breaking the fast and delay the Suhur.
أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ الصِّيَامِ الرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَائِكُمْ ۚ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌ لَّهُنَّ ۗ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ ۖ فَالْآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۚ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا الصِّيَامَ إِلَى اللَّيْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَاكِفُونَ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ آيَاتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ
“It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the sunset. And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. These are the limits [set by] Allah , so do not approach them. Thus does Allah make clear His ordinances to the people that they may become righteous.” [2: 187]
Ibn Kathir says in his tafsir:
These Ayat contain a relief from Allah for the Muslims by ending the practice that was observed in the early years of Islam. At that time, Muslims were allowed to eat, drink and have sexual intercourse only until the `Isha’ (Night) prayer, unless one sleeps before the `Isha’ prayer. Those who slept before `Isha’ or offered the `Isha’ prayer, were not allowed to drink, eat or sexual intercourse sex until the next night. The Muslims found that to be difficult for them.
Volume 3, Book 31, Number 139:
It was the custom among the companions of Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) that if any of them was fasting and the food was presented (for breaking his fast), but he slept before eating, he would not eat that night and the following day till sunset.
Qais bin Sirma-al-Ansari (radiallaahu `anhu) was fasting and came to his wife at the time of Iftar (breaking one’s fast) and asked her whether she had anything to eat. She replied, “No, but I would go and bring some for you.” He used to do hard work during the day, so he was overwhelmed by sleep and slept. When his wife came and saw him, she said, “Disappointment for you.” When it was midday on the following day, he fainted and the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) was informed about the whole matter and the following verses were revealed: “You are permitted To go to your wives (for sexual relation) At the night of fasting.” So, they were overjoyed by it. And then Allah also revealed: “And eat and drink Until the white thread Of dawn appears to you Distinct from the black thread (of the night).” (2.187)
Volume 3, Book 31, Number 140:
Narrated ‘Adi bin Hatim (radiallaahu `anhu):
When the above verses were revealed: ‘Until the white thread appears to you, distinct from the black thread,’ I took two (hair) strings, one black and the other white, and kept them under my pillow and went on looking at them throughout the night but could not make anything out of it. So, the next morning I went to Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) and told him the whole story. He explained to me, “That verse means the darkness of the night and the whiteness of the dawn.”
Volume 3, Book 31, Number 141:
Narrated Sahl bin Saud (radiallaahu `anhu):
When the following verses were revealed: ‘Eat and drink until the white thread appears to you, distinct from the black thread’ and of dawn was not revealed, some people who intended to fast, tied black and white threads to their legs and went on eating till they differentiated between the two. Allah then revealed the words, ‘of dawn’, and it became clear that meant night and day.
I’ve always found this incident regarding `Adi bin Hatim (radiallaahu `anhu) very cute! It goes to say how some of us are quite literal in understanding things. Not that we’re to be blamed. :P
On the other hand, there’s an important lesson in it for us: the companions weren’t always correct in their interpretation of Quranic ayaat or Ahadith. We’ll always find differences of opinions among companions, and when we do, we should go for the most correct and favored opinion. And just because a companion reached an incorrect conclusion doesn’t mean he was less intelligent or had weak imaan, na`oodhu billah! It only proves that they were human beings like us, but far better than us. If we were there, we would’ve made fun of `Adi (radiallaahu `anhu). But we don’t find any reports of companions or the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) laughing at him or making him feel bad about what he did. Such were the chosen people. <3
Anas bin Malik said, “The Prophet (p.b.u.h) and Zaid bin Thabit took their Suhur together. When they finished it, the Prophet stood for the (Fajr) prayer and offered it.” We asked Anas, “What was the interval between their finishing the Suhur and the starting of the morning prayer?” Anas replied, “It was equal to the time taken by a person in reciting fifty verses of the Quran.”
So about 8-10 minutes, they waited for Fajr. Maybe they finished their suhoor early and it wasn’t time for Fajr yet. Or maybe they were preparing for Salah (doing wudu), or making du`a, or just having a conversation. Could be anything.
Point is, they waited for Fajr after suhoor.
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar:
Allah’s Apostle said, “Bilal pronounces the Adhan at night, so keep on eating and drinking (Suhur) till Ibn Um Maktum pronounces the Adhan.”
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud:
The Prophet said, “The Adhan pronounced by Bilal should not stop you from taking Suhur, for he pronounces the Adhan at night, so that the one offering the late night prayer (Tahajjud) from among you might hurry up and the sleeping from among you might wake up. It does not mean that dawn or morning has started.” Then he (the Prophet) pointed with his fingers and raised them up (towards the sky) and then lowered them (towards the earth) like this (Ibn Mas’ud imitated the gesture of the Prophet). Az-Zuhri gestured with his two index fingers which he put on each other and then stretched them to the right and left. These gestures illustrate the way real dawn appears. It spreads left and right horizontally. The dawn that appears in the high sky and lowers down is not the real dawn) .
The Prophet said, “Bilal pronounces the Adhan at night, so eat and drink (Suhur) till Ibn Um Maktum pronounces the Adhan.”
There used to be two Adhaans in Prophet (SAW)’s time. One by Bilal (RA) [before fajr/dawn] and one by Ibn Umm Maktum [for Fajr salah]. The one before fajr (not the prayer, the time i.e. dawn) was pronounced in order to wake people up or inform them of suhoor time. So if anyone wanted to pray tahajjud, they could and if they wanted to eat suhoor, they could. :)
Nowadays, some masajid (mosques) do pronounce Adhaan at tahajjud time. Don’t mix it up with Fajr Adhaan. :)
Hadith no. 460 is a repeat. Read it here: Debt and Ihsaan.
Ibn ‘Umar said, “While the Prophet was on the pulpit, a man asked him how to offer the night prayers. He replied, ‘Pray two Rakat at a time and then two and then two and so on, and if you are afraid of the dawn (the approach of the time of the Fajr prayer) pray one Rak’a and that will be the witr for all the Rakat which you have offered.” Ibn ‘Umar said, “The last Rakat of the night prayer should be odd for the Prophet ordered it to be so.
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:
A man came to the Prophet while he was delivering the sermon and asked him how to offer the night prayers. The Prophet replied, ‘Pray two Rakat at a time and then two and then two and so on and if you are afraid of dawn (the approach of the time of the Fajr prayer) pray one Rak’a and that will be the with for all the Rakat which you have prayed.” Narrated ‘Ubaidullah bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar: A man called the Prophet while he was in the mosque.
So it’s easy. 2 rak’aat at a time. And when you’re done, finish up with a witr (single rak’at).
Ibn Hajar says:
There was no specific time in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would perform his late night Prayer; but he used to do whatever was easiest for him.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) said, “Our Lord, the Blessed, the Superior, comes every night down on the nearest Heaven to us when the last third of the night remains, saying: “Is there anyone to invoke Me, so that I may respond to invocation? Is there anyone to ask Me, so that I may grant him his request? Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him?”
`Amr ibn `Absah claimed that he heard Muhammad saying:
The closest that a servant comes to his Lord is during the middle of the latter portion of the night. If you can be among those who remember Allah the Exalted One at that time, then do so.—At-Tirmidhi