Appendix 10: "How Can we Observe the Sala Prayers by Following the Quran Alone?"
"How can we observe the Sala prayers by following the Quran alone?" is a favorite question among the adherents of Sunni and Shiite sects who follow derivative texts, religious instruction, teachings and laws, all of which were authored by men. With this question, both sects try to justify the necessity and proliferation of contradictory sectarian teachings, medieval Arab culture, oppressive laws filled with numerous prohibitions and regulations--all falsely attributed to God and His prophet. Perhaps, the best answer for those who direct that question is the following:
If you are expecting the intercession of Muhammad and many other saints, if you are associating your religious leaders as partners to God in authoring your religion, justifying authoritarian regimes, violating women's rights and putting them in black sacks, showing no tolerance for the expression of opposing ideas and cultures, justifying the punishment of stoning to death for adulterers, adhering to numerous superstitions, entering the restroom with left foot, forcing your child to eat with right hand, prohibiting music and visual arts….. In short, if you are condemning yourself and your society to a backward and miserable life just because you learn from those sectarian sources how to bend your belly or where to put your hands, then it is better for you not to pray at all. Such a prayer (more accurately, physical exercise), is not worth exchanging monotheism with polytheism, reason with ignorance, light with darkness, peace with conflicts, universalism with tribalism, progress with regression.
But, this answer may not be able to wake them up and save them from the cobwebs of clergymen. They will still challenge us to produce a manual for prayer. How and how many times to bow, where and how to put their hands, what to do with their fingers, where and how to stand on their feet, etc. For many adherents of Sunni or Shiite sects, the question is just an excuse to avoid the pain of reforming themselves. They know that the Quran does not provide extensive explanation on every itsy bitsy spiders crawling in their minds. So, the question is usually asked in a rhetorical sense: "You cannot find in the Quran how many times to bow and prostrate, or how to hold my index or pinki finger in Sala prayer, so I will continue following all those volumes of contradictory books filled with silly stories and outrageous instructions!"
As a result, Monotheism is redefined as a Limited Partnership, in which the recognition and submission to God alone becomes an oxymoron; a contradiction in terms in which other 'partners' are submitted to and accepted by these 'believers.' The most common set-up for Sunni shirk is: the Quran (God) + hadiths and sunna (messenger) + the practice of the Prophet's companions + the practice of the companions of the Prophet's companions + the opinions of emams (ijtihad) + consensus of ulama in a particular sect (ijma') + the comments and opinions of their students + the comments and opinions of early ulama + the comments and opinions of later ulama + the fatwas of living ulama.
In Shiite version of shirk, in addition to the aforementioned partners, the 12 Infallible Emams (all relatives and descendants of the Prophet Muhammad starting with Ali) and the living substitute emam is added to the board of directors of the Holy Limited Partnership. The Quran is usually considered an ambiguous book and is basically distorted and aused for their justification of this shirk, that is, setting partners with God.
Islam, which means Submission to God in peace, is the state of mind of all people who submit to God alone. All messengers, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Jesus and all previous monotheists were Submitters ( 2:131; 5:111; 7:126; 10:72; 22:78; 27:31; 28:53; 72:14). Thus, the only religion approved by God is Submission to God (3:19). It is God Almighty who uses this attribute to describe those who submit to His law (22:78). Islam is referred to as the "Religion of Abraham" in many verses since Meccan idol worshipers were claiming that they were following their father Abraham (2:130; 3:95; 4:125; 6:161; 12:37; 16:123; 21:73; 22:78). And Muhammad was a follower of Abraham (16:123).
Ignorant of the fact that Abraham observed the contact prayers (21:73), many contemporary muslims challenge God by asking where we can find the number of units in each contact prayer. Ignorant of the fact that God claimed Quran to be complete (6:11), they do not "see" that ALL religious practices of Submission/Monotheism were established and practiced before the Quranic revelation (8:35; 9:54; 16:123; 21:73; 22:27; 28:27). Messengers after Abraham practiced Sala prayers, obligatory charity, and fasting (2:43; 3:43; 11:87; 19:31; 20:14; 28:27; 31:17).
The Meccan mushriks used to believe that they were followers of Abraham. They were not worshipping statutes or icons as claimed by hadith fabricators, but they were praying for shafaat (intercession) from some holy names, such as al-Lat, al-Uzza, and al-Manaat (53:19). So, contrary to their false assertion of being monotheists (6:23), they were accused of being mushrik or associating partners to God (39:3).
Sunni and Shiite scholars subsequently fabricated stories in an attempt to erase any similarities between themselves and the mushriks, but in doing so exposed their own inherent lies in contradictory descriptions of those statutes (For instance, see Al-Kalbi's classic book on statutes: Kitab-ul Asnam). Meccan mushriks who were proud of Abraham's legend could not practice the literal observance of idol-worship; they settled for a more metaphysical satanic trap by accepting intercession and man-made religious prohibitions (6:145; 39:3). They were metaphysical or spiritual idol worshipers.
Meccan Mushriks, during the era of Prophet Muhammad were respecting the Sacred Masjid built by Abraham (9:19). They were practicing the contact prayers, fasting, and pilgrimage (2:183; 8:35-the meaning of this verse is deliberately distorted in traditional translations-; 9:54; 107:4). Although they knew Zaka (obligatory charity) they were not fulfilling their obligation (53:34). During the time of the Prophet Muhammad people knew the meaning of Sala, Zaka, Sawm, and Hajj. They were not foreign words.
God sent the Quran in their language. As with each proceeding Book, the revelation was given in it's time, in the language of the people receiving the revelation. God commands and reveals in a manner which can be both understood and observed, and then He details His requirements of His people throughout His Book (16:103; 26:195). Moreover, if God wants to add a new meaning to a known word, He informs us. For instance, the Arabic word al-din in 1:4 is explained in 82:15.
Verse 16:123 is a direct proof that all religious practices in Islam were intact when Muhammad was born. Thus, he was ordered to "follow the religion of Abraham." If I ask you to ride a bicycle, it is assumed that you know what a bicycle is and you know or would learn from others how to ride it. Similarly, when God enjoined Muhammad to follow the practices of Abraham (16:123), such practices must have been well known.
Nevertheless, contrary to the popular belief, the Quran details contact prayers. While neither Quran nor hadith books contain illustration for Sala or video clips showing how the prophets observed their Sala, Quran does describe prayer. The Quranic description of Sala prayer is much more superior for the following reasons:
- The language of the Quran is superior to the language of hadiths. Hadiths are collections of narration containing numerous different dialects and are inflicted with chronic and endemic linguistic problems. The language of the Quran is much simpler as witnessed by those who study both the Quran and hadith. The eloquence of the Quranic language is emphasized in the Quran with a repeated rhetorical question (54:17, 22, 32, 40).
- Hadith books may contain more details. But are those details helpful and consistent with the Quran? How does a believer decide between conflicting details? Does he just pick the word of his favorite Imam? If we follow the words of a particular, favorite imam, does that mean that we are really following the practice of the prophet? For instance, you may find dozens of hadiths in Sahih Muslim narrating that the Prophet Muhammad read the first chapter of the Quran, al-Fatiha, and bowed down, without reading any additional verses from the Quran. You will find many other hadiths claiming that the Prophet read this or that chapter after al-Fatiha. There are also many conflicting hadiths regarding ablution which is the source of different rituals among sects. Hadith, more or less of them compounding God's Word with contradictory details, cannot guide to the truth. It has become a necessary evil for ignorant believers and community leaders who manipulate them.
- Hadith books narrate a silly story regarding the times of Sala prayer and its ordinance. The story of Mirage is one of the longest hadiths in the Bukhari. Reportedly, after getting frequent advice from Moses by going up and down between the sixth and seventh heaven, Muhammad negotiated with God to reduce the number of prayers from 50 times a day (one prayer for every 28 minutes) to 5 times a day. This hadith portrays Muhammad as a compassionate union leader saving his people from God's unmerciful and impossible demand.
SALA PRAYER ACCORDING TO THE QURAN
- Observing Sala prayer is frequently mentioned together with giving charity and thus emphasizing the social consciousness and communal responsibility of those who observe the prayer (2:43; 4:77; 22:78; 107:1).
- Sala prayer is observed to commemorate and remember God alone (6:162; 20:14).
- Sala remembrance protects us from sins and harming others (29:45).
- Sala prayer should be observed continuously until death (19:31; 70:23).
- Sala is for God's remembrance (20:14).
- Sala is conducted regularly at three times each day (24:58, 11:114, 2:238, 17:78).
- Sala is for men and women (9:71).
- Sala requires a sober state of mind (4:43).
- Sala requires cleanliness (5:6).
- Sala is done while facing one unifying point (2:144).
- Sala is done in a stationary standing position (2:238).
- Sala involves the oath being made to God (1:1) followed by the Scripture being recited (29:45).
- Sala requires a moderate voice (17:110).
- Sala involves prostration (4:102).
- Sala is ended by prostrating and saying specific words (4:102, 17:111).
- Sala can be shortened in case of war (4:101).
- Sala can be done on the move or sitting in case of worry (2:239).
- Sala is to be prescribed to your own family (20:133).
- Sala is also performed with congregation (62: 9-10).
To observe prayer one must make ablution (4:43; 5:6). Ablution is nullified only by sexual intercourse or passing urine or defecation. Ablution remains valid even if one has passed gas, shaking hands with the opposite sex, or a woman is menstruating. A menstruating woman may observe contact prayers, contrary to superstitious cultural beliefs (5:6; 2:222; 6:114).
There is not a particular dress code for prayer, in fact, if you wish you may pray nude in your privacy. Covering our bodies is a social and cultural necessity aimed to protect ourselves from harassment, misunderstanding and undesired consequences (7:26; 24:31; 33:59).
Times for Prayer
Quran mentions three periods of time in conjunction with Sala prayer. In other words, the Quran qualifies the word "Sala" by three different temporal words: (1) Sala-al Fajr (Morning Prayer), (2) Sala-al Esha (Evening Prayer), (3) Sala-al Wusta (Middle Prayer). The Morning Prayer (24:58) and Night Prayer (24:58) should be observed at both ends of the day and part of the night (11:114). (We will discuss the times of Sala prayers later in detail at the end of this article).
Direction for Prayer
For the prayer one should face the Sacred Masjid built by Abraham, the Ka'ba (2:125, 143-150; 22:26). To find the correct qibla a person should keep in mind that the world is a globe, far different from Mercator's flat map. Since the prayer during emergency and fear is reduced to one unit, in normal conditions the prayer should be at least two units and during the prayer one must dramatically reduce his/her contact with the external world (4:101). Prayers, unlike fasting, cannot be performed later after they are missed; they must be observed on time (4:103).
Believers, men and women, once a week are invited to a particular location to pray together every Juma (Congregational) Day. They go back to their work and normal daily schedule after the Congregational Prayer which could be led by either man or a woman (62:9). The mosques or masjids should be dedicated to God alone, thus, the invitation should be restricted to worship God alone, and no other name should be inscribed on the walls of masjids and none other than God should be commemorated (72:18). Those who go to masjids should dress nicely since masjids are for public worship and meetings (7:31).
Position For Prayer
One should start the Sala prayer in standing position (2:238; 3:39; 4:102) and should not change his/her place except during unusual circumstances, such as while riding or driving (2:239). Submission to God should be declared physically and symbolically by first bowing down and prostrating (4:102; 22:26; 38:24; 48:29). This physical ritual is not required at the times of emergencies, fear, and unusual circumstances (2:239).
Comprehension And Purpose Of Prayer
We must comprehend the meaning of our prayers, as these are the moments in which we communicate directly with God (4:43). We must be reverent during our contact prayers (23:2). Along with understanding what we say, we can recall one of God's attributes, depending on our need and condition during the time of our prayer (17:111). Prayer is to commemorate God, and God Alone (6:162; 20:14; 29:45). Prayer is to praise, exalt and remember His greatness, His Mercy and ultimately our dependence on each of these attributes (1:1; 20:14; 17:111; 2:45). So that even mentioning other names besides God's contradicts our love and dependence on Him (72:18; 29:45).
Recitation during the Sala Prayer
Preferring the Quran for recitation has practical benefits since believers from all around the world can pray together without arguing on which language to chose or which translation to use. The chapter al-Fatiha (The Opening) is the only chapter which addresses God in its entirety and is an appropriate prayer for Sala. For non-Arabs it should not be too difficult to learn the meaning of words in al-Fatiha, since it consists of seven short verses. Those who are unable to learn the meaning of al-Fatiha should pray in the language that he or she understands. I see no practical reason for reciting in Arabic during individually observed prayers.
We should recite Sala prayers in moderate tone, and we should neither try to hide our prayers nor try to pray it in public for political or religious demonstration (17:111). If it is observed with congregation, we should listen to the recitation of the men or women who leads the prayer (7:204; 17:111). After completing the Sala prayer, we should continue remembering God (4:103).
Units of Prayer
The Quran does not specify any number of units for prayers. It leaves it to our discretion. We may deduce some ideas regarding the length of the prayers from verses 4:101 and 102. Verse 101 allows us to shorten our prayers because of the fear of being ambushed by enemy during wars. The following verse explains how to pray with turn; it mentions only one prostration, thus implying one unit. If shortening the prayers is considered as reducing the number of their units, then one may infer that prayers at normal times should consist at least of two units. The units of the Congregational Prayer being 2 is revealing, since it is more likely to be accurately preserved. Again, the units of prayer is not fixed by the Quran; it is upto individual and groups.
There is no funeral Sala prayer. However, remembering those who died as monotheists and providing community support for their relatives is a civic duty.
There are many sectarian innovations that differ from sect to sect. Some of the innovations are: combining the times of prayers, performing the prayers omitted at their proper times, shortening the prayers during normal trips, adding extra prayers such as "sunna" and "nawafil," innovating a paid cleric occupation to lead the prayers, prohibiting women from leading the prayers, while sitting reciting a prayer "at-Tahiyat" which addresses to the Prophet Muhammad as he is alive and omnipresent, adding Muhammad's name to the Shahada, reciting zamm-us Sura (extra chapters) after the al-Fatiha, indulging in sectarian arguments on details of how to hold your hands and fingers, washing mouth and nose as elements of taking ablution, brushing the teeth with "misvak" (a dry branch of a three beaten into fibers at one end as a toothbrush) just before starting the prayers, wearing turbans or scarves to receive more credits...
HOW MANY PRAYERS A DAY?
Only three Contact Prayers are mentioned by name in the Quran. In other words, the word "Sala" is qualified with descriptive words in three instances. These are:
All of the verses that define the times of the prayers are attributable to one of these three prayers. Now let's see the related verses:
DAWN & EVENING PRAYERS by their names:
". . . This is to be done in three instances: before the DAWN PRAYER, at noon when you change your clothes to rest, and after the EVENING PRAYER. . ." (24:58).
The times of DAWN & EVENING PRAYERS defined:
"You shall observe the contact prayers at both ends of the daylight, that is, during the adjacent hours of the night. . . " (11:114)
Traditional translators and commentators consider the last clause "zulfan minal layl" of this verse as a separate prayer indicating to the "night" prayer. However, we consider that clause not as an addition but as an explanation of the previous ambiguous clause; it explains the temporal direction of the ends of the day. The limits of "Nahar" (daylight) is marked by two distinct points: sunrise and sunset. In other words, two prayers should be observed not just after sunrise and before sunset, but before sunrise and after sunset.
Furthermore, the traditional understanding runs into the problem of contradicting the practice of the very tradition it intend to promote. Traditionally, both morning and evening prayers are observed in a time period that Quranically is considered "LaYL" (night) since Layl starts from sunset and ends at sunrise. The word "Layl" in Arabic is more comprehensive than the word "night" used in English.
If the expression "tarafayin nahar" (both ends of the day) refers to morning and evening prayers which are part of "Layl" (night), then, the last clause cannot be describing another prayer time.
The time of NOON and EVENING PRAYER defined.
"You shall observe the contact prayer when the sun goes down until the darkness of the night. You shall also observe the Quran at dawn. Reading the Quran at dawn is witnessed." (17:78).
The decline of the sun can be understood either its decline from the zenith marking the start of the Noon prayer or its decline behind the horizon marking the start of the Evening prayer. There are two opposing theories regarding the purpose of the usage of "duluk" (rub) in the verse; nevertheless, either understanding will not contradict the idea of 3 times a day since both Noon and Evening prayers are accepted.
MIDDLE PRAYER (Noon)
"You shall consistently observe the contact prayers, especially the MIDDLE PRAYER, and devote yourselves totally to God." (2:238).
Verse 38:32 implies that the time of the Middle prayer ends with sunset.
We can easily understand the MIDDLE prayer as a prayer between the two other prayers mentioned by name (Dawn and Evening).
The Old Testament has at least three verses referring to Contact Prayers (Sala) and they confirm this understanding. Though we may not trust the Biblical translations verbatim, we may not consider them as errors since both internal and external consistency of the Biblical passages regarding the Contact Prayers are striking.
"And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded." (1 Samuel 20:41)
"As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice." (Psalms 55:16) (PS: crying aloud apparently means praying with passion).
"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." (Daniel 6:10 )
The followers of Shiite sect observe 5 prayers in 3 times: morning, noon and evening. This strange practice perhaps was the result of a historical compromise with the dominant Sunni 5-times-a-day practice.
Though the 3 times of prayer is my current understanding, I do not find fault in praying five times a day. Since we have decided to devote ourselves to God alone and uphold the Quran alone as a sufficient authority for guidance, we have exposed and rejected numerous false teachings. During this process of purification, we have been passing through internal debate, both individually and as groups. The debate on Sala, prayer has been one of the longest lasting and more contentious. Sometimes, we tend to ignore our agreement on so many issues yet focus on our differences. I have received accusations of being a "divider" from some of the followers of the Quran alone, and engaged in numerous debates on this issue.
ith bigotry and expectation that everyone must understand everything exactly like we do has been one of the main causes of division. Furthermore, the great majority of those who follow the Quran have so much in common... But the dividers focus on the marginal ones and focus on the few issues that are still being discussed: they scream division! Their obsession with the military-style lock-step and uniform walk is perhaps the very cause of the division they complain about...
If we make different understandings/ practices of a detail that is not even mentioned in the Quran (such as rakaas, that is units of the sala prayers, or the position of our hands during standing in sala), as the cause of hostility and division among ourselves then we are doomed to be divided into many sects and sub-sects. Interestingly, we are following a book that contains verse 2:62 among others.
May God guide us, teach us, and help us to show the courage and wisdom to accept the truth and correct ourselves. 20.114.
Bacca, Mecca, Jerussalem, Qibla
EDIP: If after Muhammed there was such a major geographical distortion there would be great division over this OBVIOUS change. Thus, the conspiracy theory is not realistic.
LAYTH: I may be being repetitive on this issue, but the last time I checked the written history it said there was a "civil war" that broke out in which the Muslims slaughtered one another shortly after the prophet died...The same history also states that the Kaaba in Mecca was attacked and destroyed by the Muslim Khalifa (Abdul-Malik Bin Marwan) who brought it to the ground and, at the same time, enhanced the structure of the Dome at Jerusalem (not an act any pious Muslim leader would do if the Kaaba were indeed the undisputed restricted temple).
Now, add to all this the fact that the 1st Qibla was Jerusalem, that Jesus preached in Jerusalem, that the Jews only know Jerusalem, that Mohammed allegedly made the night journey from Jerusalem to heaven, that Mohammed struggled to fight the Romans who were based north and controlled Jerusalem (a mighty and powerful force) and insisted to try again until he won, that old mosques are centered towards Jerusalem, that Bakka is the name of Jerusalem, that the fig and the olive are features of Jerusalem, that the Maqam of Abraham lies at the heart of the temple (while in Mecca it is outside the temple), that Bani Israel take the restricted temple as part of the prophecy of sura 17 when they are all gathered in one land....The list goes on and on, but I think the facts are overwhelming beyond any 'conspiracy'.
EDIP: Interesting and plausible points, yet I need to do a thorough research on this issues.