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Offline Reader Questions

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Does Salat mean prayer?
« on: November 13, 2011, 01:19:58 AM »
Salamun Alaikum,

Thank you so much for taking time to write a reply to me :), I was really looking forward to your reply! I am very grateful to you for your suggestions, now I know how to start!

On a different note, have you, by any chance, read this book named 'Mental Bondage in the name of God' by Aidid Safar?

His views are quite different from the rest of the people who hold Quran to be the only source of guidance. For example he says Salah doesn't mean ritual prayer, it means 'commitment' and aqamatis salah means upholding the commitments'. He says salah cannot mean ritual prayer because while there are many verses the meaning of salah as a prayer fits well, there are some other verses in the Quran where salah as a ritual prayer doesn't make any sense at all. I checked the verses in my Quran and those verses really didn't make any sense at all.

He also says Sawm is not 'fasting' but 'self discipline'. And that Zakah doesn't mean poor-due, it means to purify or purification. I checked it through the concordance and it's pretty strange that in some verses the root word of zakah is translated as purification or to purify or pure and in some verses it is translated as poor-due or poor-rate.

Even in the case of the root word of Salah, the meanings constantly shuffle from prayer to blessings to honor and support etc. I checked out all the derivatives of the root word of Salah used in Quran and the words have been translated differently. Why is this so?

I don't know what to think, but most of the arguments in his book make sense and are very logical.

What do you think??

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Does Salat mean prayer?
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2011, 01:21:56 AM »
Salamun Alaikum,

Thank you for your email.

Albeit I have not read the book, I am very conversant with the particular theological understanding  that you have kindly shared in your email below. Part of my discussions with a portion of my readership is with those that align themselves to such an understanding. My approach with the Quran has always humbly endeavoured to remain consistent with the Arabic, classical and modern scholarship and my ardent study of the Quran. If I were to be sincere with you and of course candid, I have to confess that I have not come across as much lax use of 'interpretative licence' as I have done with those that align themselves to school of thought that you have shared.

However, they are my brothers and sisters in faith, and I continue to engage in the best way that I can as it is only for our Lord to judge, not us. Of course there are common areas where scripture seems to keep us united. However, when it comes to rituals and where God has suspended his laws, all relevant verses are translated in a way which is unrecognisable when compared to the actual Arabic Quran. However, I attempt to give the best arguments I can from scripture. You will note that many of my prayer related articles tacitly deal with this particular theological thinking and why I cannot concur with it.

What seems to be at the heart of the problem is the fact that as prayer form is not defined by the Quran, it is then abandoned altogether and all prayer related verses are reinterpreted in a manner which seem unrecognisable against the Arabic text. What seems not to be appreciated is that aspects of prayer are actually quite detailed in the Quran. It is only pedantic form and utterance which is not stipulated and for a very good reason.

I am sure you recently noted an article of mine which asserted that the Quran was replete with prayer related aspects.

-   The details of ablution (4:43; 5:6)
-   A need for a direction - Qiblah, specific for the 'believers' (Mu'mins) (2.143-44)
-   Garments (7:31)
-   Allusion of times: (4:103; 11:114; 17:78; 24:58; 30:18; 2:238: 20:58)
-   That prayers must be observed on time (4:103)
-   Followers of the previous scripture to observe their Qiblah and the 'Believers (Mu'mins) heir own Q'iblah (2:145)
-   Prayer involves prostration (Sujood - 4:102; 48:29)
-   There is more than one prayer (Prayer in plural used - Salawat) (2:238)
-   There is a general form to prayer (2:238-39).
-   Standing position (3:39; 4:102)
-   Bowing down and prostrating (4:102; 22:26; 38:24; 48:29)
-   Form is not required during times of emergencies, fear, and unusual circumstances (2:239)
-   A mention of a call to prayer and congregation prayer (62:9)
-   A warning not to abandon prayer as was done by people before (19:58-59) but to establish prayer (Numerous references)
-   The purpose of prayer - To remember God alone (6:162; 20:14)
-   Prayer involves utterance (4:43)
-   The purpose to protect from sins (29:45)
-   What to do in danger and the shortening of prayer (4:101)
-   Garments and mention of a Masjid, or a place of prayer 7:31
-   The tone of prayer (17:110)
-   There is a leader of prayer (4:102)

Also words have a context as you will no doubt appreciate. For example, why would you need to do ablution before a salah? If one cannot find water, why the use of dry sand? Some contexts only drive one particular understanding of Salah. What is the tone of prayer in 17:110? Form is abandoned in emergencies and fear in 2:239. What else can it mean? I am aware that responses are offered, but they have to remain true to context, the Arabic and of course, to one's intellectual reasoning.

But of course, God is the final judge. Monotheistic prayer has always been understood in a certain way even by the people of the book. The following video may be of interest.



I am sure you have visited the 'prayer' section on my site. There are a lot of articles there which deal with prayer from the salaat.

Please don't hesitate to ask any questions if you feel that I may be able to offer a worthwhile humble opinion, or to share your thoughts.

Your brother,
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell