Upholding Al-Salah of the Quran

 

Al-Salah Instigated by Prophet Ibrahim [Abraham] peace be upon him.

Our Lord, make us devoted to You; make our descendants into a community devoted to You. Show us how to worship and accept our repentance, for You are the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful. (Quran 2:128 transl. A. Haleem). Al-Salah (As-Salah) was known and continued to be practiced by the existing monotheists after Prophet Ibrahim [pbuh] as can be inferred from the Quran. The Children of Israel being directed in the following verse:   And perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat, and Irka (i.e. bow down or submit yourselves with obedience to Allah) along with ArRakioon. (Quran 2:43, transl. Khan & Hilali). God instructs Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] to uphold Al-Salah 11:114, 17:78. and to revive Al-Salah with all its necessary aspects [found in the Quran] after some period of neglection by those who were supposed to uphold it. But they were succeeded by generations who neglected prayer and pursued their own desires, so they will meet with utter disillusionment (Quran 19:59, transl. Kasas)

We sent you, (Muhammad), a revelation that you should follow the tradition of Abraham, the upright one, who was not a pagan. (Quran 16:123; transl. Sarwar)

No doubt the early followers of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also adopted this renewed living practice of monotheists.  Say [O Prophet]: "If you love God, follow me, [and] God will love you and forgive you your sins; for God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace." (Quran: 3:31; transl. Asad)

And when We made the House* a place of return, a sanctuary for mankind: They took the Maqam of Ibrahim as a place of prayer. We contracted with Ibrahim and Isma´il: ´Purify My House for those who circle it, and those who stay there, and those who bow and who prostrate.’ (Quran 2:125; transl. Bewley)

 Take care to do your prayers, praying in the best way, and stand before God in devotion. (Quran 2:238; transl. A. Haleem)

 

The Five canonical Prayers of the Muslims.

Muslims have understood and adopted the directive “aqeemu Al-Salah” as five canonical Prayers at fixed periods during day and night, apparently since the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). If this is what Al-Salah constitutes then perhaps this is alluded to in the Quran: And be you steadfast in prayer at the two ends [two Sections[1]] of the day, and the (three) watches of the night. Verily, good things annul evil things. This is a reminder for the mindful. (Quran 11:114, transl. H.S. Aziz).

From the verse 11:114 it may be inferred that there is Al-Salah at five times per day and night. Two, during daytime (Trafayi l-nahaari) and three during night time (wazulafan mina layli). The word “Zulafan” [“approaches/proximities…” rendered above ‘(three) watches of the night’] being plural [ie. at least three]. The periods of the Salah are also alluded to in another verse: Be you steadfast in prayer from the declining of the sun until the dark of the night, and the recital of the Quran at dawn;[2] verily, the recital of the dawn is especially witnessed (or effective). (Quran 17:78, transl. H.S. Aziz). This verse along with verse 11:114 alludes to the periods of the of canonical Prayers [affirmed by the living practise] : during the declining of the sun - afternoon, mid-afternoon [i.e. “two sections of the day” 11:114], setting of the sun until ‘night twilight’ and the merging into dawn [“(three) watches of the night” 11:114].

Although, perhaps it is fair to say that these verses are not explicit in stating that there are five canonical Prayers, nor explicit in giving the specific periods. The wisdom of which may be that the establishment of al-Salah with its objective, overrides the number of prayers and their specific timings, perhaps making it more universally applicable.[3] If there are reasons that may prevent one’s duties or perform the rites then God grants some flexibility via concessions, waiving duties, or allowing alternate options often left to the discretion and ‘ijtihad’ of the performer whilst seeking the countenance of God -The Exalted.

God tasks no soul beyond its capacity. It shall have what it has earned and be subject to what it has perpetrated. “Our Lord, take us not to task if we forget or err! Our Lord, lay not upon us a burden like Thou laid upon those before us. Our Lord, impose not upon us that which we have not the strength to bear! And pardon us, forgive us, and have mercy upon us! Thou art our Master, so help us against the disbelieving people.” (Quran 2:286, transl. Quran Study)

 

God does not intend distress, difficulty rather he intends facility in the Islamic way of life.

And strive in Allah's way, as one ought to strive in His way. HE has chosen you [the pronoun is in plural] and has not laid upon you any severity in following the way of life approved by Him for you — the lifestyle of your forefather Abraham. HE named you as the Muslims before and in this (Qur'aan), so that the Messenger may be a witness over you, and you may be witnesses over mankind. Hence, pray to Allah regularly and properly, give charity and hold fast unto Him! HE is your Guardian. How excellent the Guardian, and how excellent the Supporter? (Quran 22:78, transl. Shafi)

The month of Ramadan is that wherein the Quran was sent down as guidance to mankind, as clear proofs of guidance, and as the Criterion. Let him among you who is present fast during that [month]. And whosoever is ill or on a journey, it is a number of other days. God desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you. [It is] so that you may complete the number and magnify God for having guided you, that haply you may give thanks. (Quran: 2:185; transl. Study Quran).

"Those who follow the Gentile messenger prophet whom they find written for them in the Torah and the Gospel; he orders them to kindness, and prohibits them from vice, and he makes lawful for them the good things, and he makes unlawful for them the evil things, and he removes their burden and the shackles that are upon them. So those who believe in him, and support him, and help him persevere, and follow the light that was sent down with him; these are the successful ones." (Quran 7:157, transl. Monotheist 2013).

 

Why are the specifics of the conventional Prayer format of the Muslims not found in the Quran?

The dogmatic ritualization of the Salah is no doubt a later invention and introduction into the deen-ul-Islam, after the demise of the Prophet (pbuh). A revelation from Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. A Book whereof the Verses are explained in detail; A Quran in Arabic for people who know. (Quran 4:2-3, transl. Khan & Hilali). Thus, whatever aspects deemed necessary to be known and practiced is taught within the Quran.

God never ordained such dogmas regarding the Salah[4]. The flexibility and wisdom of God – intended for Al-Salah should be embraced and appreciated by believers[5] – psychologically and spiritually, a far more superior way of worshiping and serving God - the Exalted and Supreme.

God addresses the believers to remember Him as He has taught (2:239) and that remembrance of God is greater than al-Salah (29:45). Thus, the upholder of al-Salah is not distracted by pedantic dogmatism. Instead one is focussed on the objectives of Al-Salah.

 

Please see related article:

Salah Beyond Ritual

 

And God knows best.

 


[1] The rendering “two sections” in the square brackets is not present in the official translation of H.S. Aziz. The reason for preferring this [two sections] rendering is that because the day time has more than ‘two ends’ [therefore two parts or sections makes more sense in the verse 11:114] of the day as per Quranic parlance. See Quran 20:130 …wa-aTraafa l-nahaari… (lit: and [during] parts of the day). aTraafa being plural. Tarafayi as in verse 11:114 is dual.

 

[2] Signifies the merging of the sun throughout the day and night. Where the day merges into the night and the night merges into the day.

 

[3] Such as in the Northern regions: Iceland, where there are long periods of persistent twilight. Thus, these implicit verses allow some flexibility in this matter. Furthermore, what may be of interest is that the directives [where the five timings of upholding Al-Salah by the course of the sun are alluded in the Quran] are singular, addressing the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in Arabia. Perhaps the implication is that the ‘five canonical prayers’ or Al-Salah naturally will not be aligning with the timings of the sun, in every time and space. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that there will be exceptions to the directive. God knows best.

 

[4] This is not to say, what some Muslims claim that there are no rituals, particularly related to Salah in the Quran and often reinterpret accordingly [albeit in some cases the reinterpretation seem plausible] but how does one reinterpret the following verse as other than a ritual: O you who believe, if you rise to hold the contact prayer, then wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet to the ankles; and if you have had intercourse, then you shall purify. And if you are ill, or traveling, or you have excreted faeces, or you have had sexual contact with the women, and you cannot not find water, then you shall select from the clean soil; you shall wipe your faces and your hands with it. God does not want to place any hardship on you, but He wants to cleanse you and to complete His blessings upon you that you may be thankful. (Quran 5:6, transl. Monotheist 2013] and see Quran 2:128.

 [5] The Messenger Muhammad (pbuh) was sent to remove the burdens and shackles of dogmatic religion imposed by the clergy. As in Rabbinic Judaism and Pauline Christianity, Islam too has been dogmatised by the clergy. "Those who follow the Gentile messenger prophet whom they find written for them in the Torah and the Gospel; he orders them to kindness, and prohibits them from vice, and he makes lawful for them the good things, and he makes unlawful for them the evil things, and he removes their burden and the shackles that are upon them. So those who believe in him, and support him, and help him persevere, and follow the light that was sent down with him; these are the successful ones." (7:157, transl. Monotheist 2013).