The merits of As-Suhoor (pre-dawn food):
The following Ahaadeeth have been reported in relation to the merits of Suhoor:
1) Anas bin Maalik (ra) said that the Prophet (saw) said:
"Make Suhoor because verily in As-Suhoor is Barakah (blessing)".
Al-Bukhaari (1923), Muslim, An-Nasaa’i, At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Maajah and Ad-Daarami.
2) Abdullah ibn Al-Haarith said that one of the companions of the Prophet (saw) said:
"I entered the abode of the Prophet (saw) and he was having Suhoor and he said: Verily it is a Barakah that Allah has bestowed upon you (all) so do not neglect it".
An-Nasaa’i (2162) and Ahmad.
3) Al-Miqdaam Bin Ma’dy said that the Prophet (saw) said:
"You should take the meal of Suhoor because verily it is the blessed meal (al-Mubaarak)".
Ahmad (17324), An-Nasaa’i and its chain is Saheeh. It was reported in Al-Mu’jam al-Awsat of At-Tabaraani (505) on the authority of Ibn Abbaas (ra) that he said: "Umar ibn Al-Khattaab called for me and invited me for As-Suhoor and he said: Verily the Messnegr of Allah (saw) called this the blessed meal". Its sanad (chain) is Jayyid (good).
4) Ibn Umar (ra) said that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
"Verily Allah (swt) and His Angels pray on those who take Suhoor".
Ibn Hibbaan (3468) and its chain is hasan. Abu Na’eem and at-Tabaraani recorded it in Al-Mu’jam al-Awsat. Ahmad narrated it from Sa’eed Al-Khudri (ra).
5) Abu Hurairah (ra) said that the Prophet (saw) said:
"How good (blessed) is taking the Suhoor with Tamr (dates)".
Ibn Hibbaan (3475), Abu Daawud and Al-Bayhaqi. Al-Bazzaar (978) narrated it from Jaabir (ra) with slightly different wording.
6) Abdullah ibn ‘Amru (ra) said that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
"Make Suhoor even if it just with a sip/gulp of water".
Ibn Hibbaan (3476) and its sanad is hasan. Abd-ur-Razzaq also narrated it from a group of the Sahaabah (rah). Ibn Abi Shaibah reported it from a man from amongst the Sahaabah using another Arabic word for sip.
7) ‘Amru bin al-‘Aas (ra) said that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
"The difference between our fasting and that of the people of the book is the taking of As-Suhoor".
Muslim (2550), Abu Daawud, An-Nasaa’i, At-Tirmidhi, Ahmad and Ad-Daarami with slightly different wordings.
So the Suhoor is a blessing that Allah (swt) has bestowed upon us and when we take it Allah (swt) and His Angels pray upon us. It is recommended to take the Suhoor with Rutub (fresh dates), then Tamr (drier daters) and the blessing is also attained just from a sip of water. It is also what seperates our fast from that of the people of the book. If there was no benefit from taking the Suhoor except the prayers of Allah (swt) and the angels then that would be sufficient. Imam Ahmad has narrated a Hadeeth that mentions all of the merits of Suhoor together on the authority of Sa’eed Al-Khudry (ra) who said that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
"The food of Suhoor is Barakah so don’t leave it and even if one of you only has a sip of water for verily Allah (swt) and His Angels make prayers upon those who take their Suhoor".
The Saa’im will therefore endeavour his utmost to take the food of Suhoor so that he can obtain these benefits.
The Hukm (ruling) of As-Suhoor:
An-Nawawi and Ibn ul-Mundhir state that the Suhoor is Mustahabb (recommended) by Ijmaa (consensus) and not obligatory. Al-Bukhaari said: ‘The chapter of the blessing of Suhoor without obligation: This is because the Prophet (saw) and his companions would continue without mentioning the Suhoor’. In Al-Mughni of Ibn Qudaamah says: ‘In relation to it being recommended he does not know of any difference in the issue’. This is the truth and the evidences which discuss its merits indicate that it is recommended.
The timing of As-Suhoor:
It is the opinion of the four Imaams and the other great Ulamaa that the Suhoor lasts until the beginning of Fajr or it is said until the Mu’adhdhin calls the call to prayer. This view is also attributed to Umar ibn Al-Khattaab and Ibn Abbaas (rah). It was reported from Al-‘Aamash and Ishaq the permission to eat and drink until the sun has risen but Imaam An-Nawawi has doubts in this reporting.
The Ulamaa have also put forward that the one who is eating, drinking or even engaged in sexual relations can continue until the beginning of Fajr. If he has doubt that Fajr has arrived then he can continue until he is sure that Fajr has begun. This is due to the saying of Allah azza wa jalla, “Until you ascertain the white thread from...” Ibn ul-Mundhir mentioned in Al-Ishraaf that Abu Bar As-Siddeeq, Abdullah ibn Umar and Ibn Abbaas all permitted this. This is also reported to be the view of ‘Ataa, Al-Awzaa’i, the people of Ra’i, Ahmad and Abu Thawr.
Maalik is alone in his view that it is haraam, the eating at the time of doubt and obliges Qadaa upon it. The correct view which is held by the Ulamaa and Imaams is that eating, drinking and sexual relations are permitted until the beginning of Fajr has been fully verified and Maalik’s view is therefore incorrect. This is due to the following evidences.
1) Allah (swt) says: “...and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your Saum (fast) till the nightfall...” (187 Surah Al-Baqarah)
2) Sahl Ibn Sa’d (ra) said:
" “...eat and drink until the white thread appears to you distinct from the black thread” was revealed and ‘min al-Fajr’ (of fajr) had not yet been revealed so men when they wanted to fast would tie a white and black thread around their legs until they could see the difference. When ‘min al-Fajr’ was revealed they realised that the night and day was intended by the meaning.
Al-Bukhaari (1917), Muslim, An-Nasaa’i, Al-Bayhaqi and Ibn ul-Mundhir.
3) ‘Adi bin Haatim (ra) said:
"When the ayah “the white thread appears to you distinct from the black thread” was revealed 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 and told him the whole story. He explained to me, "That verse means the darkness of the night and the whiteness of the dawn."
Al-Bukhaari (1916), Abu Daawud, Ibn Hibbaan and At-Tabaraani in Al-Mu’jam Al-Kabeer. Al-Bukhaari (4510) also narrated from ‘Adi the following wording:
"I asked: O Allah's Apostle! What is the meaning of the white thread distinct from the black thread? Are these two threads?" He said, "You are not intelligent if you watch the two threads." He then added, "No, it is the darkness of the night and the whiteness of the day". Also from Al-Bukhaari (4509) from ‘Adi: "...Then your pillow is too wide/spacious if the white thread (of dawn) and the black thread (of the night) are underneath your pillow! ".
4) Abu ‘Atiyah said:
"I said to ‘Aa’isha (ra): Amongst us are two men from the companions of the Prophet (saw). One of them hastens the Iftaar and delays the Suhoor and the other delays the Iftaar and hastens the Suhoor. She asked: Who is that hastens the Iftaar and delays the Suhoor? I replied: Abdullah ibn Mas’ood. She said: And this how the Messenger of Allah (saw) use to do it".
An-Nasaa’i (2158) and Ahmad.
5) ‘Aa’isha (ra) said:
"Bilaal was making the Adhaan in the night and the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: Eat and drink until the son of Ibn Umm Maktoom makes the Adhaan again and he didn’t make the Adhaan again until the coming of Fajr...".
Al-Bukhaari (1919/1918), Muslim, An-Nasaa’i, Ahmad, Ibn Hibbaan and Ibn Khuzaimah. Muslim narrated this hadeeth from Ibn Mas’ood and Ibn Umar also. Ahmad also narrated it from Ibn Umar and Al-Bazzaar from Anas bin Maalik. At-Tabaraani narrated it from Sahl bin Sa’d.
6) Abu Hurairah (ra) said that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
"If any of you hear the call (to prayer) and he has a vessel (bowl) in his hand, then let him not put it down until he has fulfilled his needs from it".
Abu Daawud (2350), Ahmad, Ad-Daaraqutni. Al-Hakim verified it as Saheeh and Adh-Dhahabi concurred.
7) ‘Amru bin Maymoon said:
"The companions of the Prophet (rah) were the hastiest at breaking their fasts and the slowest at finishing As-Suhoor".
Al-Bayhaqi (238/4), At-Tabaraani in the book al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer and Ibn Abi Shaybah. Al-Haithami said its people (narrators) are trustworthy.
8) Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (ra) said that the Prophet (saw) said:
" The Adhaan pronounced by Bilaal should not stop you from taking Suhoor, for he pronounces the Adhaan 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`ood imitated the gesture of the Prophet). Az−Zuhair 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)".
Al-Bukhaari (621), Muslim and Ahmad.
9) Ibn Abbaas (ra) said that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
"We the Prophets have been commanded to speed up the Iftaar and to delay the Suhoor, and to put our Imaan as a characteristic of our Salaah".
Abu Daawud At-Tayaalissy (2654), At-Tabaraani in Al-Mu’jam al-Awsat. Al-Haithami said its narrators were trustworthy and Ibn Hibbaan also verified it as saheeh. We have already mentioned this Hadeeth in the section concerning when the Saa’im should make Iftaar.
10) ‘Ataa said that Ibn Abbaas (ra) said:
"Allah (swt) has made Halaal for you drinking in what you have doubted until you have no doubt"
Abd-ur-Razzaq (7367) and Al-Bayhaqi with a saheeh chain.
11) Saalim bin ‘Ubaidillah said:
"I was in the room of Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq. He parayed that night what he had wanted to pray and then said: Go out and see if Fajr has come? He (saalim) said: So I went out and returned saying: White has risen in the sky. So he prayed what he wanted to pray and then said: Go out and see if Fajr has come? So I went out and then returned saying: There is red in the sky so he said: Come here and bring me my Suhoor".
Ad-Daaraqutni (166/2) and he said that the Isnaad is saheeh. He also narrated a similar version.
12) Zirr said:
"We asked Hudhaifah: What time did you make Suhoor with the Messenger of Allah (saw)? It was the day except the sun had not yet risen".
An-Nasaa’i (2152), Ibn Maajah, Ahmad, At-Tahaawi and Abd-ur-Razzaq. Ibn Hajar verified it as Saheeh.
13) Samrah bin Jundub (ra) said: That the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
" The Adhan of Bilal may not mislead you with regard to your food at the commencement of the fast, nor the vertical (streaks) of whiteness in the horizon (for it is an indication of false dawn). You should stop eating (food) till (the whiteness) spreads like it. Hammad narrated it and with the gesture of his band he explained, the horizontal position (of the streaks of light)".
Muslim (2546), Abu Daawud, An-Nasaa’i, At-Tirmidhi and Ahmad.
14) Anas (ra) said:
"Zaid bin Thaabit (ra) told him that they had Suhoor with the Prophet (saw) and then performed the Salaah. I asked: How long was between the two? He said: Around fifty or sixty (meaning ayaat)".
Al-Bukhaari (575), Muslim, An-Nasaa’i, At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Maajah, Ahmad and ad-Daarami.
15) On the authority of Abu Dharr (ra) that the Prophet (saw) said to Bilaal:
"Bilaal you make the Adhaan when the morning is shining in the sky. That isn’t the time of morning though. The morning is like this lying across. He then called for his (saw) Suhoor and ate. He (saw) would say: My Ummah will remain well as long as delays the Suhoor and hastens the Iftaar".
The following is taken and understood from the above Ahaadeeth:
1) The noble Ayah mentioned in band 1 uses the wording: ‘until it appears distinct’. This wording negates Maalik’s view that the food of Suhoor ends when you suspect (have doubt) that it has ended. Appears distinct is the opposite to appearing distinct (clear) and the Hadeeth from Sahl bin Sa’d (2) and that of ‘Adi bin Haatim (3) explain this Ayah. They explain that the one who is making Suhoor continues to take it the dark of the night has dissipated and the white of day has taken its place. At this point there remains no doubt so consuming of the food and drink ceases.
2) The Sunnah of the Prophet dictates that the one taking his Suhoor should delay it until it is close to the time of Fajr i.e. delaying it until fifteen minutes or so before fajr so that he can finish eating and drinking what he requires. He therefore leaves enough time for himself to take his Suhoor before the adhaan of fajr and he doesn’t take his Suhoor an hour or hours before the Adhaan of Fajr. This is what a lot of people do in our current time. They take Suhoor and take more Suhoor (i.e. they eat and eat) until they get tired or feel sleepy before midnight or a little after making food their main aim so they eat and then sleep. This action which is widespread in our current time is in opposition to the Sunnah and verily we have in the Messenger of Allah (saw) the best example and he delayed the Suhoor as is seen in Hadeeth 4 and also in 9.
3) Bilaal (ra) used to make the Adhaan when there was light shining in the highest part of the horizon at the time of the deceitful fajr (not the real fajr). Or he would do it when the white (horizontal) line appeared towards the top of the sky at the time when Ibn Umm Maktoom would make the Adhaan when the white would rise up and spread filling the two sides of the horizon, i.e. it would appear in the left and right not just shining at the top and this Al-Fajr As-Saadiq (the true fajr). The guidance of the Prophet (saw) is that we continue to eat until the Adhaan of Ibn Umm Maktoom, i.e. until the Adhaan of Salaat-ul-Fajr is made by him and not before. Now we make two Adhaans: We do not pray at the first but at the second. The first is like the Adhaan of Bilaal and this does not prevent us from taking the Suhoor and it is only the second Adhaan that prevents us which is like the Adhaan of Ibn Umm Maktoom. The difference between these two Adhaans at present is ten minutes and Suhoor can be taken in the ten minutes between these two Adhaans. This is the best time to take the Iftaar as indicated by the Ahaadeeth 5, 8, 13 and 15. There is no problem however if you complete your Suhoor before this by some minutes as indicated in hadeeth 14.
4) And now I say to the one who is afraid of delaying his Suhoor: If he hears the second Adhaan and he has in his hand some food or drink then he should eat it and drink it. This is because the adhaan does not mean the cut off limit for the eating and drinking and this is even if the Adhaan is hastened out of precaution and this has been indicated in hadeeth number 6.
5) The Sahaabah (rah) used to delay the Suhoor, holding firm to the recommended and seeking the (best) reward. It is not known of them that they would eat their Suhoor in the middle of the night or after it by an hour or two like the people do currently. This delay of the Sahaabah (rah) was
Due to their acting upon the guidance of the noble Prophet (saw). The Aathaar (reports) 7, 10, 11 indicate this even if the Athar in 11contains a little bit of exaggeration in relation to the delay of Suhoor. As for the delaying of Suhoor being Mandoob, then this is due to the evidences mentioned firstly and the statement of the Messenger of Allah (saw) mentioned in 15 secondly which states: ‘My Ummah will remain well as long as delays the Suhoor and hastens the Iftaar’.
6) The Hadeeth 12 is all that remains to be discussed. It seems to me that this Hadeeth is what Al-‘Aamash and Ishaq relied upon for their opinion that the Suhoor can last until the sun has risen. It is true that this text is not decisive in this meaning. The one who looks in detail see that it is harmonious and compatible with all the other Ahaadeeth within this issue and not in contradiction with them. It says: ‘It was day except that the sun had not yet risen’ and we have said previously that the preceding Ahaadeeth indicate the legislative continuation of food and drink until the appearance of the light of the day. This is found in 3: ‘That is only the black of night and the white of day’. So this hadeeth is in complete harmony with this hadeeth and does not contradict any others.