Why must the afternoon namaz be whispered?

Muslim woman praying namaz
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There are two namaz prayers – the lunchtime one ‘dhur’ and the afternoon one ‘asr’ – which must be whispered. Where does this rule come from?

In this particular case the rule originates in the following of the Prophet’s example, who, on the invitation of the angel Jibril, made a nighttime journey to Jerusalem (isra) and was afterwards exalted to Heaven (miraj). Angel Jibril passed on the commandment to the Prophet to do five daily namaz prayers and taught him how this must be done.

Back from the miraj, the Prophet began reading aloud the prayers he received in the commandment, however, the idol-worshippers heard them and started teasing the Prophet and humiliating him. Even more so, they started ridiculing the words he was saying, make up their own verses and add them to the words of God, which was an extreme kind of blasphemy, a bafflement for the people and a source of confusion for them, since they could not tell which part of what was said was from God and which one from Satan. At that same time the surah Isra was granted to the Pophet and with him to all the faithful Muslims: “Say, ‘Call upon Allah or call upon the Most Merciful. Whichever name you call – to Him belong the best names.’ And do not recite too loudly in your prayer or too quietly but seek between that an intermediate way.” (17:110)

The Messenger of Allah followed this instruction forthwith and began saying the lunchtime namaz ‘dhur’ and the afternoon namaz ‘asr’ (the ones that would normally be said in crowded places and could be easily overheard by strangers) in whispers. This way the idol-worshippers could not overhear him and could no longer make fun of his prayer and vilify the Name of the One God with their filthy speeches. Yet in the evenings and in the mornings, when the Prophet and his followers were alone in their homes and nobody could see or hear them, they would say the remaining prayers (the morning ‘fajr’ said before dawn, the evening ‘maghrib’ said after sunset, and the nighttime ‘isha’ said after dusk) aloud.

Saying the daytime prayers in a whisper is a very wise commandment of Allah for it also fosters in Muslims modesty and bashfulness, the qualities of character much pleasing to the Lord. Allah likes bashful people and He will make sure this quality of theirs receives a prize. “Allah is Bashful and conceals faults, He likes bashfulness and concealment of faults.” (Sunan an-Nasai, 406) “Bashfulness is from faith, and faith is in Paradise. Obscenity is from rudeness, and rudeness is in the Fire.” (Sunan at-Tirmidhi, 2009).

One exception to the rule is the Friday prayer Jumuah-namaz and the festive prayers. They both became obligatory (fard) after the migration of the Prophet and the Muslim community to Medina (Hijra, 622). Jumuah became obligatory one week after the Hijra and festive prayers were made such in the 2nd year of Hijra. The Muslim community felt themselves in safety and freedom in Medina and did not have to fear the mockery of the idol-worshippers, therefore they could say the new prayers aloud while preserving the old rule intact at the same time.