Wa Alaykum as-salam,
I will start by quoting some ahadith which you seem to have missed
you might have missed this Hadith which is in Sahih al-Bukhari and also in Sunan abi Dawod:
Abu Ma’mar said: We asked Khabbab: Did the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)
recite (the Quran) in the noon and afternoon prayers? He replied: Yes.
We then asked: How did you know this? He said: By the shaking of his
beard, may peace be upon him.
This Hadith indicates clearly that the prayer was silent (siry).
The Hadith you mentioned maybe a lesson as we know that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to show his sahaba how to do the ahkam for example the main rule on how to pray is: "Pray as you have seen me praying" taken from a hadith like: (Here quoted from al adab -al mufrad)
Abu Sulayman Malik ibn al-Huwayrith said, "We came to the Prophet, may
Allah bless him and grant him peace, being young men of a similar age.
We spent twenty nights with him. He thought that we desired our own
people and he asked us about those of our family we had left behind,
and we told him. He was merciful and kind, and said, 'Go back to your
family. Instruct and command them. Pray as you have seen me praying.
When it is time for the prayer, then let one of you give the adhan and
let the oldest of you lead the payer.;:
Analysis of the hadith you quoted
As the narrator only said that they might here some verse and they know that each prayer without reading a fatiha is invalid! They were expecting him to read al-fatiha! But the narrator didn't mention a name of a sura or the verse as it was usual to jahr prayers! Further more the statement:
... "at times a verse or so was audible to us"
shows that this was not on regular basis. Further in most narration related to dhohr and 'asr you might find a statement saying "the amount or length of" which means that the sahabah rather estimated a a surah by its length or the duration for recitation. Which strengthen my following conclusion:
I would say that the Messenger taught them the limits for what is regarded as siry prayer as we now know: siry for a man is to read for himself up to let the next (close) few people to him listen. For a woman the higher limit is the lower limit for a man.
Also note that the prayer is an act of worship which includes action the best way to explain and to describe these action is by doing it, and the regular way of how the prophet () was performing his prayers shows that he remained reciting in silent voice (or mode) during all (regular):
- daily sunnah or nafl prayers (with a few exceptions),
- Dhohr and 'Asr,
- the last rak'a of al-Maghrib and
- the last two raka's of al-'Isha'.
While he only performed al-Fajr or Sobh prayer, and the two first raka's of al-Maghrib and 'Isha', the Night prayer (qiyam), Taraweeh, and in Ramadan Witr or (Shaf' and witr) in normal (loud) voice (or mode).
Beside this come prayers such as Jumu' and occasional prayer such as 'Id and the prayer for asking for rain and for eclipses etc..
And he asked as to pray as it was reported to as and the sahabah () saw him pray. As his prayer is the correct tafsir of verse 17:110.
As when it comes to jahr prayer that means prayers you can read in them -partly- in loud voice the narrators could name some suwar (suras): For example: (some of the examples in al-Muwata' show what Abu Bakr, Omar, 'Othman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them used to read))
Surat at-Tur (52) (See for example in al-Buakhari and Muslim)
Surat al-Mursalat (77) (see al-Muwata' and Sahih al-Bukhari)
a statement saying only short suwar (suras) (See in al-Muwata' here and here)
An other quoting verse (3:8) (See in al-Muwata')
Surat at-Tyn (95) (See in al-Muwata')
Surat Buruj(85) and At-Tariq (86) (Musnad Imam Ahmad - check for example the introduction for each of these surahs in tafsir ibn Kathir-)
Surat Al-Shams (91),Al-A’la (87),Al-Lail (92)] or Al-‘Alaq (96) (Sunan ibn Majah)
- In a-sobh (farz of al fajr) prayer
surat al-Baqara (2) in two raka'at (See in al-Muwata')
surat al Hajj (22) and surat yusuf (12) (See in al-Muwata')
the ten first suarah's of the qur'an (See in al-Muwata')
I lately found some ahadith quoting what the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon) him recited in dhur prayer for example in Sahih Muslim and Jami' at-Tirmidhi, but this isn't a real contradiction to what I explained earlier, as you may find out when reading the next paragraph:
Now lets take a look at
the verse from Surat al-Isra' (17:110).
Surat al-Isra' is a mekkan surah. This means it was revealed in mekka.
According to tafsir al-Qurtubi there are 5 different Narrations about the reason for it's revelation!
According to ibn 'Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) (Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim): It was revealed in Mekka because the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) used to pry aloud in congregation with his sahaba, and once the kufar used to hear him they harmed them or insult the Quran. Therefore Allah asked him not to read loudly, so that the kufar can't hear him, and not to murmur so that his sahaba couldn't hear him and try to find a middle way.
According to Um al Mu'minyn 'Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) (can be found in Sahih Muslim) the Verse is talking about Dua'
According to ibn Siryn some A'rab used to say the Tashahhud loudly and as we know the Tashahhud should be murmured according to a narration from Abullah ibn Mas'ud (May Allah be pleased with him)
Again according ibn Siryn (at-Tabari): Abu Bakr used to read with low voice (murmuring) while 'Omar used to recite aloud, therefore they have been asked to do it in the middle-way (and i think there was a hadith about this for the sobh/fajr prayer)
Again according ibn 'Abass (May Allah be plesed with him) saying do not recite aloud the day (fard) prayers and do not murmur the night prayers! As for nafl/sunna prayers there's no rule you could pray with low or high voice as the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to do both!
a 6. Narration from al Hassan is comparing the loud and low recitation to adulation or flattery
All these 6 meanings go ahead with the way we used to pray: Daytime fard with low voice (or silently) and nighttime fard some kind of loudly voice (at least partly).
And Allah knows best