Saturday, June 11, 2011

LESSON 5: “How I Perform Salaat”

LESSON 5: “How I Perform Salaat”

1)      The reasons for salaat:

REASON 1: Glorify Him (17:110-111)

REASON 2: Remember Him ()

REASON 3: Avoid indecency (29:45)

Thus if one satisfies these functions following the details in the Qur’an, one will inshaAllah be fine.

What is not in the Qur’an is not obligatory, because Allah orders what He desires (5:1) and does not run out of words (18:109).

Takbir and “raff-al-yadain” are not anti-Qur’anic innovations as long as they are not held as obligatory.

2)      “Pray as you have seen me praying”:

Reported in Bukhari, this alleged saying was addressed to non-Muslims who had stayed with the Prophet, and were leaving.

This was not an order for Muslims to hold a ritualised standard of salaat.

The non-Muslims were also instructed to enjoin salaat and good deeds on their families.

They did not have Qur’ans of their own, and so Prophet Muhammad was at most telling them to make their salaat as per the Qur’an and not like the idolaters (8:35). A standardised view of salaat is only useful in congregation, and even according to ahadith Imams should be followed in whatever manner they pray.

If we can perform salaat on horseback (when necessary) (2:239), there is no reason why we must perform a standardised ritual.  

( says that we should call on Allah secretly. As a religious matter, it is no-one’s business how we pray.)

The salaat of Sunni and Shia sects comes from a stitch-work of ahadith, and it still does not provide a watertight “structure”.

For example a Hanafi mullah was unsure whether one could walk during salaat.

2:239 answers him and confirms that Allah taught Muslims salaat. No warner was sent to the Prophet’s people before (32:3) and the Qur’an is a detailed explanatnion of all things (12:111), therefore the method detailed in the Qur’an is the true method.

If it were not taught in the Qur’an, the Message could not be from Allah (2:159, 12:111).

3)      Preparation:

Make sure that you are in a fit state to know what you are saying ().

Perform ablution (5:6), cleaning yourself if dirty. Hygiene is always preferable (2:222).

Though one would have to remove footwear for ablution anyway, it is worth emphasising that removal of footwear is advised ().

Nevertheless, one should be nicely dressed () because clothes are to hide our shame ().

Mosques (places of worship) are for Allah (72:18), and thus no other names or images should decorate the walls.

They should also be clean and well-maintained.

The qiblah is important (2:145) and we are instructed to face it wherever we may be (2:144, 2:149).

There is no more appropriate time to face the qiblah than when one is remembering and holding one’s communion with Allah.

One may also face it during halal slaughter (since it is a dedication/devotion requiring mercy).

When standing, one should keep one’s head upright ().

4)      Positions:

Stand (2:238, , 3:113, 4:102, 4:142, 25:64, 39:9).

Bow and prostrate (, , 4:102, 9:112, 25:64).

The placement of hands on the knees whilst bowing is natural if one bows low enough.

One should prostrate with the forehead touching the ground (28:49).

The order of standing, bowing and prostrating is indicated ().

We know that this refers to salaat since the “alternative” is presented in .

5)      Core details:

When one is standing up and ready, he/she should begin to recite verses of the Qur’an (3:113, , 29:45, 73:20).

Recitation should be in a moderate tone (17:110).

One should seek refuge from Iblis/evil (16:98), and reciting Sura 114 fulfils this.

Sura 1 is oft-repeated, so it is important and I recite it next (15:87).

One may continue reciting verses, and if one does not recall much than simply glorifying Him may serve (17:110-111).

There is no strict specification of all that we say in prayer (17:110).
After this, one should bow whilst glorifying Him (e.g. , 17:111, 56:96, Sura 112).

Prostration is next, and the devotee should continue to glorify Allah (e.g. 17:107-109, 50:40, 87:1).

Multiple prostrations may be performed (17:107-109). The Shahada should be offered (39:54).

IMPORTANT: Salaat is entirely for the remembrance, glorification and praise of Allah alone (6:162).

Mention of other names should wait until supplication (dua).

6)      Rakats and length:

The Qur’an does not mention rakats, but they would be useful if one remembered little of it.

They lengthen the salaat so that one can remain in contact with Allah, although one could simply recite one long passage.

25:64 indicates that we can prostrate and stand as we deem fit.

I pray seven rakats since there are seven heavens (at least) between the devotee and Allah.

I may also change rakats each time I recite from a different Sura.

It is of no concern as long as the purpose of salaat is sincerely fulfilled (4:142, 107:5).

Quite clearly the longer we pray (whilst appropriate), the better.

7)      Salaat in congregation:

Believers (men and women) are invited to a particular location once a week on every Juma (Friday) (62:9).

If all people cannot fit in the same mosque, appropriate measures should be arranged.

The congregation occurs at a busy time of day (62:9-11) and thus it will be held at the earliest appropriate time ().

The event should be announced by a call (62:9).

A designated person (man or woman) will stand at the front of the group and lead the prayer via recitation and action.

The other worshippers will follow the actions and listen to the recitation (4:102, 7:204, 17:111).

If pre-arranged, devotees may repeat or respond to certain phrases (17:108).

8)      Times for salaat:

Fajr, maghrib and isha prayers are mandated in 11:114.

The zuhr prayer is specified in 17:78 and implied in 24:58 (one would change clothes and clean for ablution).

The asr prayer is mentioned in 2:238 (equidistant between the other prayers).

20:130 and 39:17-18 provide confirmation of these prayer times.

For the complete reasoning, see below:


“And keep up prayer in two parts of the day and in the first hours of the night; surely good deeds take away evil deeds; this is a reminder to the mindful.”

Qur’an 11:114

The above lists three prayers. The word “wa” (and) helps us to understand it as three prayers: there is the night prayer and two other prayers.

“O you who believe! let those whom your right hands possess and those of you who have not attained to puberty ask permission of you three times; before the morning prayer, and when you put off your clothes at midday in summer, and after the prayer of the nightfall; these are three times of privacy for you; neither is it a sin for you nor for them besides these, some of you must go round about (waiting) upon others; thus does Allah make clear to you the communications, and Allah is Knowing, Wise.”

Qur’an 24:58

This describes the dawn and night prayers. In this same verse we are told that is a time for changing clothes, listed in the context of two other prayers. Changing clothes implies ablution (although I won't say it states it specifically) and besides people would change their clothes before fajr prayer (i.e. Allah (SWT) states that we should enter masjids well-dressed) such that there is no reason why people could not change their clothes before the prayer (the clothes might get dirty as people get sweaty etc.). The fact that it is a time of privacy makes it clear that it is a time for remembrance (associated strongly with salaat throughout the Qur’an). The “congregational” prayer is an exception, where we are expected to congregate (read on for more information regarding that prayer). There is also at least one prayer during the day, and the below ayah provides additional proof to 62:9-10:

“In houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted and that His name may be remembered in them; there glorify Him in the mornings and the evenings, Men whom neither merchandise nor selling diverts from the remembrance of Allah and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of poor-rate; they fear a day in which the hearts and eyes shall turn about.”

Qur’an 24:36-37

“Bear then patiently what they say, and glorify your Lord by the praising of Him before the rising of the sun and before its setting, and during hours of the night do also glorify (Him) and during the ends of the day, that you may be well pleased.”
Qur’an 20:130

There is the dawn prayer (“before the rising of the sun”) and the night prayer (“during parts of the night”). The afternoon prayer is implied (“before its setting”), and the sunset prayer (“during the ends of the day”).

“Therefore glory be to Allah when you enter upon the time of the evening and when you enter upon the time of the morning. And to Him belongs praise in the heavens and the earth, and at nightfall and when you are at .”

Qur’an 30:17-18

The above mentions three prayers (dawn, sunset and nightfall) plus .

“Attend constantly to prayers and to the middle prayer and stand up truly obedient to Allah.”

Qur’an 2:238

This is the “fifth” prayer, in between the other four. It is when the sun is midway down (equidistant from the rest). Also, “salawaat” (the plural noun used in this ayah), must mean at least three prayers (plus/and the salaatulwustaa (the middle prayer)). Some people claim that a “middle prayer” would make no sense since why would it say attend constantly to prayers AND the middle prayer (since the “middle prayer” is already included in “the prayers”)? Notice in many Qur’anic ayat that the use of the word “and” does not mean there is a complete separateness (e.g. with “the wisdom” (42:17), “the reminder” () and “the balance” (42:17)). Furthermore, there is nothing to suggest that “salawaat” in 2:238 does not simply mean three of the prayers (e.g. 11:114) PLUS the middle prayer, or that the Qur’an was not simply reminding us of the “middle prayer” since it is not mentioned by name elsewhere. See the ayah 33:7 for very strong proof of this (since the same problem could be raised regarding the mentioning of Prophets). Regardless of what “salaatulwustaa” refers to, opponents of the five-prayer perspective must confront the same perceived problem.

Now moving on, it could be argued that “glorification” is not salaat, but then all the periods of glorification correspond to salaat times (e.g. dawn and night). Observe -26 below which corresponds to 11:114:

“And glorify the name of your Lord morning and evening. And during part of the night adore Him, and give glory to Him [a] long [part of the] night.”

See also 73:20 for further correspondence between night-long glorification and salaat.

Furthermore, in 20:130 Muhammad (SAW) is being told to patiently glorify Allah (SWT) at the specific times. In 20:132 he is instructed to pass this onto other believers (e.g. his family):

“And enjoin prayer on your family, and steadily adhere to it; We do not ask you for subsistence; We do give you subsistence, and the (good) end is for guarding (against evil).”

Qur’an 20:132

The below ayah suggests remembrance is only different under certain circumstances:

“Then when you have finished the prayer, remember Allah standing and sitting and reclining; but when you are secure (from danger) keep up prayer; surely prayer is a timed ordinance for the believers.”

Qur’an 4:103

Notice that the salaat is at fixed times.

The “congregational prayer” is during daytime:

O you who believe! when the call is made for prayer on the day of congregation, then hasten to the remembrance of Allah and leave off trading; that is better for you, if you know. But when the prayer is ended, then disperse abroad in the land and seek of Allah’s grace, and remember Allah much, that you may be successful.”

Qur’an 62:9-10

This supports the and middle prayers. Note here that the remembrance of Allah (SWT) is specified as prayer. Peruse :

“He said: My Lord! appoint a sign for me. Said He: Your sign is that you should not speak to men for three days except by signs; and remember your Lord much and glorify Him in the evening and the morning.”

Qur’an 3:41

“Surely I am Allah, there is no god but I, therefore serve Me and keep up prayer for My remembrance.”

Qur’an 20:14

“Recite that which has been revealed to you of the Book and keep up prayer; surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil, and certainly the remembrance of Allah is the greatest, and Allah knows what you do.”

Qur’an 29:45

“And withhold yourself with those who call on their Lord morning and evening desiring His goodwill, and let not your eyes pass from them, desiring the beauties of this world's life; and do not follow him whose heart We have made unmindful to Our remembrance, and he follows his low desires and his case is one in which due bounds are exceeded.”

Qur’an 18:28

Note also that regarding the congregational prayer, it would be at since this is a specific time allocated as a time for glorification. It could be at but is more appropriate to this ayah because people have more opportunity to go abroad and conduct business whilst a society devoted to Allah (SWT) would opt for the earlier time of congregation and not the latter.

Besides, a salaat-time at is indicated:

“Keep up prayer from the declining of the sun till the darkness of the night and the morning recitation; surely the morning recitation is witnessed.”

Qur’an 17:78

Since four prayers have been established, the middle prayer implies that there are five. However, there is sufficient evidence to associate glorification with remembrance (as additional proof):

“In houses which Allah has permitted to be exalted and that His name may be remembered in them; there glorify Him in the mornings and the evenings, Men whom neither merchandise nor selling diverts from the remembrance of Allah and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of poor-rate; they fear a day in which the hearts and eyes shall turn about.”

Qur’an 24:36-37

“Do you not see that Allah is He Whom do glorify all those who are in the heavens and the earth, and the (very) birds with expanded wings? He knows the prayer of each one and its glorification, and Allah is Cognizant of what they do.”

Qur’an 24:41

Some people claim that the “and” in 24:41 implies that salaat and glorification are separate. Notice in many Qur’anic ayat that the use of the word “and” does not mean there is a complete separateness (e.g. with “the wisdom” (42:17), “the reminder” () and “the balance” (42:17)). The fact they are mentioned like this provides support for the view that they are the same. Besides, they are certainly the same in 17:107-108:

Say: Believe in it or believe not; surely those who are given the knowledge before it fall down on their faces, making obeisance when it is recited to them. And they say: GLORY BE TO OUR LORD! most surely the promise of our Lord was to be fulfilled.”

“Therefore celebrate the praise of your Lord, and be of those who prostrate.”

Qur’an 15:98

“And glorify Him in the night and after the prostrations.”

Qur’an 50:40

Perhaps glorification is a separate pillar, but in light of the above it seems (to me) unlikely and illogical. Also consider that the Arabic word for “prayer” is “dua”, meaning that “salaat” does not actually mean “prayer” (see ayat 9:103, 33:56, 70:22, 74:43, 75:31-32, 107:4 and many others to understand that the word “salaat” can imply many things). A more accurate word may be “devotion”, or “turning towards” and glorification is most certainly devotion or “turning towards” (meaning that one should perform wudu before commencing the “prayers”/glorifications at the prayer/glorification times specified in the Qur’an).

Finally, there is evidence in 17:78 that there are prayers between and nightfall:

“Keep up prayer from the declining of the sun ‘til the darkness of the night and the morning recitation; surely the morning recitation is witnessed.”

This describes keeping up prayers (together a pillar of Islam) from through to the darkness of the night (we cannot go further through the day than night). This includes the isha prayer as per 11:114. The remaining prayer (dawn) is therefore mentioned afterwards. If you want to say that this prayer means praying from when the sun touches the horizon to when it has disappeared, then this several minute (?) time-frame overlaps with a time-frame already specified in 20:130 (i.e. “before the setting of the sun”). You can say that this is in fact the “middle prayer”, but then there is at least one prayer during the day (24:36-37). This will then lead to the formulation of another asr prayer which can only be the one “before the setting of the sun” in 50:39 (since the setting of the sun means the disappearance of the sun). Thus 17:78 refers to the declining of the sun from its zenith ().

Note that the Qur’an often refers to all the prayers as one single pillar (e.g. 2:3).

It is true that we are told to remember Allah (SWT) “standing, sitting and lying on our sides” (3:191), but surely that is in between the prayers since if we forget Allah (SWT) then we will forget to pray (i.e. we remember Him on a conscious level (between salaat) and an active level (salaat)).

“Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain! GLORY BE TO THEE; save us then from the chastisement of the fire…”

Qur’an 3:191

This conforms to 50:40 in which we are instructed to glorify Him after prostrations. To my understanding, the remembrance itself is kept up (re-established) via prayer. Also active “remembering” always (to my knowledge) involves a recital or imploring:

“And remember your Lord within yourself humbly and fearing and in a voice not loud in the morning and the evening and be not of the heedless ones.”

Qur’an 7:205

This is strong evidence linking glorification and remembrance to salaat. Be not unmindful of prayer (107:5).

62:10 also establishes remembrance as a means to be successful, and hence it is an active function maintained by prayer.

Furthermore, 50:39-40 provides evidence that glorification is intertwined with salaat:

“Therefore be patient of what they say, and sing the praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before the setting. And glorify Him in the night and after the prayers.”

Qur’an 50:39-40

In short, glorification is to be continued in between and after the specific times mentioned (i.e. salaat times). However, one should perform wudu before the obligatory glorifications defined by specific times.


We can compare this to the traditional times and find that we are identical. There is no restriction on praying and remembering Allah (SWT) beyond this.

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