In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad (saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
It is not one aayah, but several aayahs that when read in combination gives guidance of the prayer timings. What we, as believers, need to determine is how did the Prophet of Allah (saws) understand and implement these commandments in his life and the lives of the believers. There is absolutely no doubt and the Ummah of Islam is unanimous that the Prophet (saws) led the congregation of the believers at the five different appointed prayer times of the day.
Many years after the death of the Prophet (saws), some unscrupulous people and leaders, just to break away from mainstream Islam and create divisions and differences in the Ummah, started to combine the prayers from five to three, and pray three on a regular basis. Even if you ask the people who combine and pray three times a day, they will confirm that at the time of the Messenger of Allah (saws), there were five prayers prayed in the Mosque at five different times!
The Quranic aayats regarding the timing of prayers are as follows:
Chapter 11, Surah Hud ayaat 114: Establish the Salat at the two ends of the day and in the early part of the night. (implies fajr, magrib and isha)
Chapter 2, Surah Baqarah ayaat 238:Take great care of your Prayers, especially of the middle Prayer and stand before Allah like devoted servants. (implies asr)
Chapter 17 Bani Israel ayaat 78:Establish the Salat from the declining of the sun to the darkness of the night and be particular about the recital of the Quran at dawn for the recital of the Quran at dawn is witnessed. (implies asr, magrib and fajr)
Chapter 30 Surah Rum ayat 17:So, glorify Allah in the evening and in the morning; praise is due to Him alone in the heavens and the earth: and (glorify Him) in the afternoon and at the declining of the day. (implies fajr, magrib, dhuhr and asr)
Chapter 50 Surah Qaf ayat 39:Therefore, O Prophet (saws), bear with patience whatever they say, and keep up glorifying your Lord with his praise, before sunrise and before sunset. And glorify Him again in the night and also when are free from prostrations. (implies fajr, dhuhr, asr, isha and tahajjud)
The prayer timings in the Quran are implied and thus if the above ayaats are read together, they clearly point towards the 5 obligatory fard prayers.
A point to note when reading and understanding the Quran is that we must see how the Prophet (saws) understood and implemented the aayaats. There is no doubt and even the Bohra scholars will have to agree that the Prophet (saws) and all his companions prayed 5 times in Medina and not three times as some factions of Islam pray today. There are many evidences in the traditions of the Prophet that he went for asr prayers and Isha prayers separately again to the Mosque everyday to lead the congregation. Prayer was such a thing that it happened 5 times a day in front of thousands of people and thousands of people witnessed the timings and related them in their narrations.
The Prophet (saws) did pray 3 times a day, but only when he was traveling and this too is very evident from his various traditions. In times of extreme rain, he did join sometimes the dhuhr/asr and also the magrib/isha prayers according to one tradition. But on a regular basis, he always led the congregation on the allotted 5 different times.
Praying 3-times a day regularly is an innovation which was added about 300 years after the Prophets (saws) death to make it easier for the followers of some sects. But the majority of muslims carried on the correct tradition of the Prophet (saws) and continued to pray 5 times a day. The choice is clearly between following the Prophet (saws) or an innovation.
It has been reported in an authentic narration that the Prophet of Allah (saws) said: Whoever introduces a bida (innovation) in this deen brought by me (saws), it will be rejected.
It has been reported by Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (r.a.) that the Prophet of Allah (saws) said: If anyone introduces an innovation (in religion), he will be responsible for it. If anyone introduces an innovation or gives shelter to a man who introduces an innovation (in religion), he is cursed by Allah, by His angels, and by all the people.
The other obvious thing to note here is that everybody agrees that there are five prayers and not three… fajr, dhuhr, asr, magrib and isha. For convenience, some mis-guided people have added dhuhr and asr and again magrib and isha, but the Prophet led prayers 5 times a day everyday in regular times in Medina and all scholars of every school of thought agree to this.
Ask a scholar of any sect who propagates three prayers a day to prove that the Prophet (saws) prayed 3 times instead of 5 times on a regular basis, and he will vouch that the Prophet (saws) and his companions prayed 5 different times a day in Medina as long as he was alive. We are not allowed in Islam to change or alter any of the commandments of Allah and His Messenger (saws), and thus it is a duty and an obligation that a true believer must pray the five prayers at their appointed times every day.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 4 Surah Nisaa verse 103:Indeed, the salaat is a prescribed duty that should be performed at the appointed times by the believers.