When the sun begins to decline from its zenith, Bilal makes the call for the noon prayer. The Prophet wakes up from his siesta and repeats after Bilal everything he says. Then he performs his ablution and makes four units of voluntary prayer at his home. He says about this time of day:
“This is an hour when the gates of heaven are opened, and I love to have good deeds ascending at this time to my credit.”
He waits at his home for the prayer. His children or grandchildren might be with him at this time, like his grandsons al-Hasan and al-Husayn, his granddaughter Umamah or his daughter Fatimah. He plays with the children until Bilal calls to him to come out and lead the prayer.
Then he kisses his wife, comes out of his house and enters to mosque, carrying one of his grandchildren in his arms. The Companions stand up when they see him and line up for prayer.
The Prophet stands ahead of the congregation and puts his grandson down beside him. He commences the prayer and the congregation follows him. He prostrates for a very long time. Since the congregation is in prostration, they do not know what is going on. Shidad ibn al-Had glances up to see the Prophet’s grandson climbing on his back while he is in prostration.
When the prayer is over, someone asks him:
“You made a very long prostration during the prayer. We were suspecting that something had happened or that maybe you were receiving revelation.”
He says: “It was nothing like that. It was just that my child here was climbing on my back and I did not want to disrupt him until he was finished.” (An-Nasa’i)
Sometimes, he prays holding his granddaughter Umamah in his arms. When he bows, he puts her down. When he stands, he picks her up again.
It is the Prophet’s habit to offer the noon prayer at the early part of its timeframe. He recites around thirty verses of the Quran in each of the first two units of prayer, though he makes the first unit longer than the second. He makes the final two units half as long as that.
Sometimes he prolongs the noon prayer. On those occasions, a person might go to the outskirts of town to complete a chore at the time the Prophet starts the prayer, come back home and perform ablutions, and then get to the mosque and join the prayer while the Prophet is still offering the first unit.
The Prophet recites quietly in the noon prayer, but the people can see his beard moving with the words of the Quran, and sometimes they can hear a verse or two. Afterwards the Prophet returns home and offers two units of voluntary prayer that are associated with the noon prayer. Then he goes out again to be with his companions. Sometimes the Prophet sits with the companions until the time of the late afternoon prayer, especially if there are visitors from outside of Madinah present, like the delegation from `Abd Qays.
On other days, Prophet Muhammad goes out to address the community’s needs and resolve their problems. For example, news reached him one day that the people of Quba’ had fallen into strife. The people there were fighting among themselves, even to the point of hurling stones at each other.
The Prophet offered the noon prayer in Madinah, then turned to his Companions and said:
“Let us go together and make peace between them.”
He then turned to Bilal and said:
“If I am not back in time for the late afternoon prayer, tell Abu Bakr to lead the people in prayer.”
Bilal made the call for the late afternoon prayer when its time came in. The Prophet had not yet returned, so Bilal approached Abu Bakr and said:
“Allah’s Messenger has been delayed and it is now time for prayer. Will you lead the people in prayer?”
Abu Bakr replied:
“Yes, if that is what you want.”
Bilal then made the second call to convene the prayer and Abu Bakr began leading the people. While the congregation was standing in prayer, the Prophet returned and walked among the ranks of worshippers until he arrived at a place where he could stand in the row. When the people saw him, they began clapping their hands to notify Abu Bakr that the Prophet had returned. Abu Bakr did not notice. The people began clapping more audibly until Abu Bakr looked and saw the Prophet.
Abu Bakr began moving backward to join the congregation and make way for the Prophet to take the lead. However, the Prophet motioned for him to stay where he was. Abu Bakr then raised his hands to the heavens and praised God for this honor, but he still moved back until he joined the ranks of worshippers. The Prophet then moved forward and led the people for the remainder of the prayer. Afterwards, he turned to the congregation and said:
“O people, why do you begin clapping to draw the imam’s attention to some problem with the prayer? Clapping is for women. If you want to draw the imam’s attention to something during the prayer, say “Glory be to Allah”, for anyone who hears this will definitely take heed. O Abu Bakr, what prevented you from leading the people in prayer when I indicated to you to continue doing so?”
Abu Bakr answered:
“It is improper for the son of Abu Quhafah to lead prayer while Allah’s Messenger is present among the congregation.”
Another example of the Prophet’s attending to the community’s needs was when he went to a neighborhood in the northern part of town to meet the daughters of the deceased Sa’d ibn Al-Rabi` to divide up his estate among them. They were the first women in Islam to inherit wealth from their father.
The Prophet had gone out to them in the late morning. They prepared a lunch of meat and bread for him and he ate along with the people of the area. Then he performed ablutions and led the people in the noon prayer. Then he continued with dividing the estate among the daughters until close to the time of the late afternoon prayer.
Then they partook of the leftovers from lunch, after which he led them in prayer. No one had to refresh their ablutions from the time of the noon prayer.
By Sheikh Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Turayri