A Timeless Miracle Called Salaah
A Timeless Miracle Called Salaah
(Bringing Islam to the World One Concept at a Time!
Taking the Qur'an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It --
And which One Does Not?)
The Miraculous Salaah: Made in the Qur’an
All over the world, Muslims know what Salaat is. Urdu and Farsi folks call it Namaaz. English speakers call it “prayers”. But, Salaat is more – much, much more – than prayer as the world understands and uses that expression.
What is salaah then? All you need to do is ask any Muslim in any part of the world. And they will tell you the full miraculous story.
In addition to what we understand as “prayer” in the English language, that which we call Salaah is all of the following, every time:
- Performing formal ablution before you begin.
- Forming the correct intention as you begin.
- Facing Makkah.
- Standing upright, unless there is a serious excuse for not doing so, in which case you may sit down.
- Raising your hands shoulder level or higher.
- Folding your hands in front or dropping them straight to your side.
- Bending down and holding your knees firmly with your arms and back straight.
- Rising from that position and standing upright.
- Going down into a semi-prostration-like posture where you almost assume a vertical fetal position such that your knees are on the ground, your hands are planted on either side of your face, which is already on the ground with your forehead and nose resting on the ground, such that your elbows, chest and stomach are not touching the ground.
- And so on … and so on … in addition to “praying” as we know it in the English language in the sense of asking God for his favors and blessings.
Is this what you call “prayer” in the English language? Have you ever observed a non-Muslim? When and where did they “pray” like that last?
So how in the world do you sum up this rich range of actual physical activities that Qur’an’s original Arabic expression “Salaah” routinely encompasses, in addition to all the readings and chanting and prayers, into the common English expression “prayer” without seriously and irredeemably losing the original content and meaning and without completely misleading the readers about what that expression “Salaah” really stands for?
Tragically, humanity has been extremely ill served by our English translations of some of the key expressions of the Qur’an.
Again – Salaat – one unit of it – involves standing upright; it involves sitting with your knees folded under you; it involves prostrating in a fetal position; it involves bending, rising, bending deeper and rising again; it involves turning your head symmetrically 45°-90° degrees, first to your right and then to your left in the same way – and a few other things.
And every Muslim does it all, in every Salaat, in every part of the world. And Muslims have done it without stop, and without change, for the past 1400 years – since Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, taught them how to do it personally.
I don’t think any non-Muslim speaker of the English tongue has any clue as to any of these things when he or she says the word “prayer.” Therefore, Muslims do themselves and Islam – and the world – a great disservice when they continue to refer to this amazing divine institution of Salaah as prayer.
Covering Up the Light of Allah’s Book
Persistently referring to Salaah as prayer may have the unfortunate effect of covering up from the eyes of the world the light of what God Almighty has revealed in his book for its guidance and what he sent down as a standing miracle and, therefore, an open and timeless invitation to all of humanity to come to Islam.
And the miracle of miracles is that this Salaat – I don’t know how many people fully realize or appreciate this – is made in the Qur’an, practically every bit of it.
Isn’t it miracle enough that this Qur’an comes down, hand-to-hand, and generation after generation, for 1400 years, the way Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, himself taught and practiced it? And the way the Companions practiced and taught it to their Followers thereafter – right down to our times and us?
A Miraculous Detail of the Salaat in the Qur’an
So, where did we get the details of how to perform our daily Salaah? Yes, we got them from the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, as the Muslims so rightly point out. But does the buck stop there or does it go any further – to the Qur’an, for example, and to Almighty Allah himself?
Well, hear Allah himself answer some of our questions in this regard in the Qur’an. Here is one miraculous detail of the Salaat right from the pages of the Qur’an:
Should we stand or sit or lie down when we “pray”? When we do our Salaah that is?
Answer from the Qur’an:
(a) Idhaa qumtum ilas-salaah – when you stand up for Salaah.
(b) Qoomoo lillahi qaaniteen – stand up for Allah with single-minded humility.
A Personal Scale of Salaah for Every Muslim Man and Woman
Of course, the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, thereafter, created a most magnificent scale of Salaah, which he personalized for each individual in his Ummat – each follower of Islam – man as well as woman.
And here is how that highly personalized scale of “prayers” works:
(a) “Pray” – the compulsory “prayers” that is – in groups. But pray by yourself when you are alone.
(b) “Pray” standing up if you can. But if you were unable to stand up, then pray sitting down.
(c) And should you find yourself unable to even sit and pray, then lie down and pray.
Can you think of a more compassionate, accommodating and broad-based model for the rather complex routine of your personal Salaat or prayers?
Can you think of anything more responsive to varying human needs and situations across time and across the globe?
But when it comes down to actual practice, who makes this decision: whether to stand, sit or lie down when doing one’s Salaat? Islam says it is every individual – man or woman – that makes this decision for himself or herself.
Roots of Democracy and Freedom in Islam
What a miracle!
And what an empowerment of individuals – of both genders – with regard to something so critical to their own personal salvation!
Designed not in the early or late 20th Century, but 1400 years ago, in the 7th Century.
And did anyone notice how deep the roots of democracy, personal freedom, individual choice and decision-making run in Islam?
Another Miraculous Detail of the Salaat in the Qur’an
Which direction should we face when doing Salaah?
Answer from the Qur’an:
(c) Fawalli wajhaka shatral masjidil haraam – turn your face in the direction of the sanctuary of Allah’s mosque. This address is directly to the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
(d) Fawalloo wujoohakum shatrah – all of you turn your faces in the direction of the sanctuary of Allah’s mosque. The address here is equally directly to the Muslims – you, me and everyone else everywhere for all time to come.
Allah talking to you directly in the Qur’an even as he talks to his Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, directly in the Qur’an?
How much more powerful and personal can it possibly get?
Some More Miraculous Details of the Salaat in the Qur’an
What about Rukoo’ – the act of bending your body 90° degrees at the waist, while firmly grasping your kneecaps with your palms and outstretched fingers, with your back and elbows perfectly straight?
All this, of course, while we are in the process of performing our daily Salaah – what we so unthinkingly refer to as prayers.
Does the Rukoo’ have a basis in the Qur’an? Not necessarily in all its technical details outlined above, but at least in principle?
And what about Sajdah – the act of what people generally call prostrating, but which in Islam requires touching the ground with your forehead, nose, knees and open palms and fingers, but not your elbows or forearms, all at the same time?
Does Sajdah or Sujood – another name for it – have a basis in the Qur’an, if not in all its details, at least in principle?
Well, let us let the Qur’an talk to the believers in another example of its miraculous direct-address format.
Answer from the Qur’an:
Yaa-ayyuhalladheena aamanur-ka’oo wasjudoo!
Paraphrase: Believers, perform rukoo’ and perform sajdah!
It Is God, Not Muslims, Who Produced This System
How much clearer, and how much more miraculous, does it get?
It is not Muslims who produced or made up this system of Islam. For, they could not, even if they tried. No one can.
Instead, it is God Almighty and God Almighty’s messenger, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, who perfected this system of Islam. For, only they could.
And they did not produce this amazing system of Islamic “prayers” just for “Muslims” – those who may have been born in Muslim homes.
But they produced it for all of humanity that may turn to God and to Islam.
For, God is everyone’s God and the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, is God’s mercy to all the worlds.
Don’t Know What to Say
Folks, frankly I don’t know what to say. If all this does not strike you as miraculous, then there is nothing that I can do about it. For my part, I am speechless with awe and wonder.
What Else To Say But Subhanallah?
Let me Quote …
These things, and a million other things like them, fill my heart with wonder, awe and amazement, every time I behold them.
Perhaps not unlike the poet Wordsworth, whose heart danced every time he saw the daffodils sway in the breeze.
It is that same feeling, compounded a billion-fold, that I get when I gaze at the wonders of the Qur’an – at all those miracles that lie scattered all through the pages and passages of Allah’s book.
I used to say Subhanallah then. I say Subhanallah now.
What else can I say? And, frankly, what else can anyone say?
But Before I Go
Let us look at one or two more examples of the miracles of the Qur’an, specifically as they relate to your daily Salaat.
1. Question: What should we say when we are in Rukoo’?
Answer from the Qur’an:
How about Fasabbih bismi rabbikal 'azeem?
Please check to find your own translation. I don’t know how to translate Sabbih.
2. Question: What should we say when we are doing Sajdah or Sujood?
Answer from the Qur’an:
How about Sabbihisma rabbikal a’alaa?
Please check to find your own translation for this one too, because I still don’t know how to translate Sabbih.
Rejoice Muslims – And Try To Do Better!
So, Muslims, rejoice and feel good, your Namaaz was made in Heaven. It was lovingly fashioned by none other than the hand of God Almighty himself.
And he saw to it that you, such as you are, will continue to practice his Qur’an so long as you continue to practice your daily Salaah.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
That is why Salaah is the first to come and the last to go in the life of Muslims, whether as individuals or communities.
Yes, there is a great deal more in the Qur’an than Salaah – much, much more.
There is a whole way of life waiting to be explored, internalized and implemented, in the life of everyone everywhere.
But you have to start somewhere. And your Salaah, which quintessentially contains the seeds and the blueprints of that divine way of life in miniaturized and encrypted form, is as good a place as any to start.
Taking the Qur’an to Every Home and Heart That Needs It
So all you need to do, Muslims, is, maybe, to start out with the seed money that you already have in the bank – your daily practice of Salaat a la Qur’an – and build on it.
Until such time as you have succeeded in taking God Almighty’s invitation of love, justice, decency, mercy, equality, service, security and compassion in the Qur’an to every human heart, home and habitation on earth.
That means taking the Qur’an and its message to every home and heart that needs it. And which one does not?
And that, indeed, is, as the Qur’an tells you, and as you should know yourself, the primary purpose of your creation – both as individuals and as nations, societies and communities.
Wa li-dhaalika Khalaqahoom, says the Qur’an: “And it was for that that he created them.”
Miracles of the Qur’an Never Stop
We may stop counting anytime. But the miracles of the Qur’an never stop coming. Here are some more:
- The way God asks us in the Qur’an to seek his protection from Satan the accursed whenever we read the Qur’an and the way that Qur’anic command – A’oozu billahi minash-shaitanir rajeem – thereafter became the routine practical prelude of reading the Qur’an all over the world all these past 1400 years.
- The way all but one Surah or chapter of the Qur’an begins with the name of God, the most merciful, the most merciful, Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, which itself is an Aayat taken directly out of the Qur’an.
- The way the first half of the Islamic creed – is that the right word? – or Kalimah is taken directly out of the pages of the Qur’an: La Ilaha Illallah.
- The way the second half of the Islamic creed – again, is that the right expression? – or Kalimah is, once again, taken out of the Qur’an: Muhammadur Rasulullah.
- The way these two parts of the Kalimah, from the pages of the Qur’an, have constituted a uniform core of the formally spoken Islamic creed throughout the world for all of the 1400 years of Islamic history.
- The way acceptance, internalization and recitation by individuals of this unified and uniform creed – La Ilaha Illallah, Muhammadur Rasulullah – accords them instant, full and unconditional membership in a global Islamic community that is above and beyond all considerations of race, color, gender or social status.
- The way this creed – La Ilaha Illallah, Muhammadur Rasulullah – then becomes the basis for creating a whole new nation in the world whose supreme allegiance is to God Almighty and his messenger and to humanity as a whole and not to narrow tribal, territorial, national, racial, gender, class or some other parochial, divisive and chauvinistic considerations.
What can I say?
All this is nothing but a peek into the kind of miracles that the Qur’an has to offer.
All I can say is if you can keep on counting, the miracles of the Qur’an will keep on coming – regardless of the passage of time; regardless of the advancements in human knowledge, technology and understanding; and regardless of the culture or place or environment in which you may be located.
The Miracle of Seeing Is Believing
You can see that I am not talking here about “supernatural” events of the kind of a parting sea or a splitting moon or a man being raised from the dead.
I am talking instead about a very different set of miracles – the Everyday Miracles of Islam, Muslims and the Qur’an in real time.
I am talking about the fact that there is any number of things about Islam and the Qur'an, and about the life of Sayyidina Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, as well as about the daily life of ordinary Muslims everywhere, that appear equally “implausible” or “unlikely” – and therefore miraculous.
The difference is that they are not of the unseen or distant variety, but rather of the most visible and immediate kind, which you can personally observe and experience.
These are events that are there, visible and plain, right before our eyes. They are out there for everyone to see, to touch, to feel and to experience in their own personal life.
They are not “religious” phenomena, they are not things of mystery, but rather, they are facts of everyday life.
Therefore, to believe in them, it is not "faith" that you require but common intelligence on the one hand and a certain measure of personal integrity, courage and humility on the other hand.
For it is a matter of taking seriously the testimony of your own senses and mind and believing what you see.
That is science. And that is Islam.
And what a supreme miracle this is in itself that you should be able to see for yourself these wonderful miracles of Islam – and of the Qur’an and Muslims – in all ages and places and cultures, as they unfold before you in real time.
So, maybe, the thought that Seeing Is Believing does make sense.
At least in some cases.
At least in this case.
© 2011 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.