Updated: Sep 7, 2019
In the name of Allāh, all praise belongs to Him, and may commendation and salutation be bestowed upon the Messenger of Allāh.
Prayer is quite integral to spiritual development within Islam. Prayer is considered to be the most robust bond that the servant has with the Lord. In fact, the concept of establishing an independently direct relationship with our Lord is so instrumental to the daily life of the Muslim that prayer is a pillar of the faith itself, and, relative to obligatory prayer, must be fulfilled within certain windows of time.
Certainly the prayer has been prescribed upon the people of faith within prescribed periods of time.
(Soorah an-Nisaa :103)
One such prayer is the Jumu‘ah Prayer [id est Friday Prayer], upheld on Fridays, as Friday marks the Sabbath. An appropriate selection, our Lord initiated the creation on a Friday, our father, Ādam, was created on a Friday, and the Last Day will, subsequently, be on a Friday. Yet, when during a given Friday is the prescribed window of the Jumu‘ah Prayer?
Whilst it is widely understood throughout contemporary orthodoxy that the time of Jumu‘ah Prayer spans from the movement of the sun to the west of the zenith until the entrance of the ‘Aṣr Prayer [id est the Afternoon Prayer], or, quite simply, that the time of the Jumu‘ah Prayer is synonymous and simultaneous to the time of the Ẓuhr Prayer [id est the Noon Prayer], scholasticism would suggest this to not be the only acceptable practice amongst the ancient Muslims.
As evidence of the former view is well known, we will briefly and constructively take a glance at the latter. Throughout this discussion, we will make the presumption that the reader is familiar with both the entrance and exit of the legislative times of prayer in accordance with scripture.
Let us begin.
On the authority of Abū Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, the Messenger of Allah, may salutation be bestowed upon him, has stated, “Whoever performs a ritual bath on a Friday, the ritual bath of intercourse, and thereafter departs, then it is as though he has sacrificed a camel. Whoever departs during the second hour, it is as though he has sacrificed a cow. Whoever departs during the third hour, it is as though he has sacrificed a horned ram. Whoever departs during the fourth hour, it is as though he has sacrificed a chicken. Whoever departs during the fifth hour, it is as though he has sacrificed an egg. So once the Imām has entered, the angels listen attentively to the remembrance.”
(Collected by al-Bukhārī [no. 830] [2/410] in the Book of Jumu‘ah, Chapter: The Virtue of Jumu‘ah, and Muslim [no. 850] [2/582] in the Book of Jumu‘ah, Chapter: Fragrance and Teeth Cleansing on Friday)
The Prophet, may salutation be bestowed upon him, explains that the entrance of the Imam is after the fifth hour, and the intent by hour here is the standard time keeping system; by way of the indication that the usage of the definite article [id est the] coupled with the word hour infers the standard hour usage. If this is the case, the entrance of the Imām is before the zenith since the zenith would not occur until the sixth hour. Hitherto, this Ḥadīth is evidence toward the permissibility of praying before the zenith. (Sharḥ az-Zurkashī [2/170])
As further fortification, al-Qurṭubī, within his exegesis of the Qur’ān, understands the reference of an hour here to be the typical twelve  hour timing system, inclusive of the increase and decrease of daylight hours. (Tafsīr al-Qurṭubī [18/105])
In addition, the onset of the first hour within this Ḥadīth is the onset of Fajr [id est the break of dawn]. This is what is apparent within both the Ḥanbalī and Shāfi‘ī Schools of Jurisprudence. (Fatḥ al-Bārī of Ibn Rajab [5/354])
In utility of mere simple addition, one would quickly realize that the fifth hour mentioned within the Ḥadīth actually occurs before the time of the zenith when we consider that the first hour begins with the onset of Fajr [id est the break of dawn].
Within the Ḥanbalī School of Jurisprudence, the official view of the school is the permissibility of the Friday Prayer before the zenith. (al-Furū‘ of Ibn Mufliḥ [2/96], ar-Rawḍ al-Murbi‘ [2/434]) All this being stated, there are numerous Muslims from the ancients who held this view preceding the Ḥanbalī School of Jurisprudence.
From the Companions: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthmān, ‘Alī, Ibn Mas‘ūd, Jābir, Sa‘īd, Mu‘āwiyah, and others, may Allah be pleased with them.
From the Successors: Muhammad bin ‘Amr, Mujāhid, ‘Atā’, ‘Abdullāh bin Saydān, ‘Abdullah bin Salamah, and others, may Allah bestow mercy upon their souls. (al-Mughnī [2/210], Muṣannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah [1/444])
Let us take a glance at some of the narrations that pertain to them.
Mālik bin Abī ‘Āmir reports, “I used to see the mat of ‘Uqayl bin Abī Ṭālib on Friday toward the western wall of the Masjid, and once the shade would envelop the western wall, ‘Umar would exit.”
(Collected by Mālik [no. 12] [1/40] in the Book of Prayer, Chapter: The Time of Jumu‘ah. The narration is sound.)
Ibn Ḥazm has stated, may Allah bestow mercy upon him, “This Ḥadīth proves the prayer was before the zenith since if the shade was casted toward the west it must have been before the zenith. It is only after the zenith that shade is casted toward the east.” (al-Maḥallā of Ibn Ḥazm [3/244])
Ibn Abī Ṣalīṭ reports, “We used to pray Jumu‘ah with ‘Uthmān, and we would depart before a wall would cast a shadow.” (al-Maḥallā of Ibn Ḥazm [3/245])
Abī Razīn reports, “We would pray Jumu‘ah with ‘Alī, and sometimes we would find a shadow and sometimes we would not.” (Collected by ‘Abdur Razzāq [no. 5216] [3/176], and Muṣannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah [no. 5144] [1/445])
Herein is lucid evidence that ‘Alī, may Allah be pleased with him, at times, would pray before the zenith and, at times, after the zenith.
‘Abdullāh bin Saydān as-Sulamī reports, “I witnessed Jumu‘ah with Abu Bakr aṣ-Ṣiddīq. His sermon and prayer would complete before the middle of the day. We then witnessed Jumu‘ah with ‘Umar. His sermon and prayer would complete at the middle of the day. Thereafter, we witnessed Jumu‘ah with ‘Uthmān. His prayer and sermon would complete at the zenith of the day, and I neither saw anyone to find fault with nor disparage this.” (Muṣannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah [no. 5132] [1/444]. The narration is sound.)
This narration clearly illustrates that Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthmān, may Allah be pleased with them, would prayer Jumu‘ah before the zenith, as their act shows the permissibility of this act. Moreover, this narration elucidates the regularity of this act during that era.
‘Abdullāh bin Salamah reports, “We prayed Jumu‘ah with ‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ūd during the forenoon [id est Ḍuhā], and he said, ‘I was fearful of you all enduring the heat.’” (Muṣannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah [no. 5134] [1/445]. The narration is fair.)
We hope there is a sufficiency within the aforementioned, and success lies with Allāh.