Abû Mûsâ al-Ash`arî said that he heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say, regarding the hour on Friday: “It is between the time the Imam sits down until the time the prayer is over.” [Sahîh Muslim (853)]
This hadîth tells us that there is an “hour” on Friday where our supplications will be answered. It places this hour within the timeframe of the Jumu`ah prayer. There are other hadîth which place the hour at other times on Friday.
The most authentic of these is where Jâbir relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Friday is comprised of twelve hours. There is one in which a Muslim who asks Allah for something will have it granted to him. Seek it in the last hour after `Asr.” [Sunan Abî Dâwûd (1048), Sunan al-Nasâ’î (1389) and Mustadrak al-Hâkim(1032)]
Al-Hâkim says about it: “This hadîth is authentic on the condition of Muslim, but he did not narrate it.” Its line of transmission is also authenticated by al-Nawawî in al-Majmû`(4/471).
A similar hadîth was related by Anas that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Seek the anticipated hour of Friday after `Asr until sunset” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî (489)] Al-Tirmidhî comments:
This hadîth is strange in this narration, though this hadîth is narrated from Anas in other ways. One of its narrators is Muhammad b. Abî Humayd who is weak. It said that he is Abû Ibrâhîm al-Ansârî, whose hadîth are false. Some people of knowledge from among the Prophet’s Companions and others consider the anticipated hour to be from after `Asr until sunset. This is also the saying of Ahmad and Ishâq. Ahmad said: “Most of the hadîth about the hour in which we anticipate that our supplications will be answered place this hour after the `Asr prayer…” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî (2/260)]
This is the opinion preferred by Ahmad and many others. They regard the time between the `Asr and Maghrib prayers to be the broader timeframe in which we should seek out the special hour by invoking Allah in supplication.
Al-Nawawî, in his commentary on Sahîh Muslim (6/140-141), endorses the opinion supported by the first hadîth, the one related by Abû Mûsâ al-Ash`arî that the special time takes place during the Jumu`ah prayer. He does so in consideration of the fact that the hadîth which establishes this has the strongest chain of transmission.
He quotes Muslim as saying about this hadîth “It is the best and the most authentic of all the hadîth which discuss the preferred hour on Friday.”
Other scholars see that there is no contradiction between the two hadîth. They are of the opinion that the preferred hour for supplication on Friday is found within both these periods of time.
Ibn al-Qayyim expresses this opinion in Zâd al-Ma`âd (1/394), saying: “All the hadîth agree on this and the Prophet (peace be upon him) had encouraged his people to offer supplications and make solicitations to Allah within these two hours.”
This is also the opinion of Sheikh `Abd al-`Azîz b. Baz, as expressed in his book Majmû` al-Fatâwâ wal-Rasâ’il (12/401-402).
It is worth pointing out that the time in which supplications are more likely to be answered is not the entire interval of time mentioned in these hadîth, but the hour of response is some shorter duration of time within this larger time period. This point has been discussed by al-Qâdî `Iyâd and reiterated by al-Nawawî in Sharh Sahîh Muslim (6/140).
This is supported by the hadîth in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) made a motion with his hand to indicate a shorter period of time for this hour. [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (893) and Sahîh Muslim (852)]
In another narration, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “It is a brief hour.” [Sahîh Muslim (852)]
Therefore, this hour cannot be determined to be fifty minutes or some lesser defined period. It should be sought within the whole interval of time mentioned by the Prophet (peace be upon him). This is the same as what we are advised to in seeking Laylat al-Qadrin Ramadan, which is to be sought within the last ten days of Ramadan.
A person must persevere and hope that his supplication will coincide with this special hour in which Allah answers all supplications.
Imam al-Nawawî refers to this when he said: “The hour might be transferable. On some Fridays it might be at one time and on other Fridays at other times. This is just like the strongest opinion regarding Laylat al-Qadr.” [al-Majmû` (4/471)]
And Allah knows best.