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DEFINING SALAT

Quranic concepts must be allowed to present themselves to us. Preconceived ideas should not cloud our search
for the truth. Our research must be objective and we should not allow ourselves to approach research with the
intention of proving a preconceived notion. These concepts must be examined on a linguistic and a practical
level. Salat is no different.

The Roots

In Arabic, the root system is the basis of the language and these roots are understood to be verbs. However,
they are much more comprehensive than simple verbs. They represent a series of actions which would more
accurately be described as processes.

An example of this is the root
1
.

The lexicons give us the following meanings:

I t is the drawing together, portion by portion, in stages.

refers to not having comprised or enclosed a foetus.


also refers to a woman who menstruates for the first time, meaning she is now able to conceive and in so
doing, enclose a foetus.

There is also a connotation of delay or postponement.

I nvestigation is another shade of meaning alluded to in the lexicon.

Yet another component is that of something being done at the right or opportune time.

Putting all this together, we could describe

as:

He drew the composite parts together in a protected environment allowing the correct development to take
place in stages and then allowing a productive whole to come forward and function as it is meant to. Just as the
process of conception, carrying a healthy foetus to term and delivering a fully developed baby.

When we recite, we bring together the letters and words and deliver them as something understandable. This is
what speech and recital is, but utilising as he recited is dependent on what is. is not dependant on
what recital is.

We can also now look at what the Quran is. It is a protected environment composed of various parts, to be
implemented stage by stage, culminating in the implementation of a functional System.

So we can see that the meaning of recital only comes through because it fits in with the broader definition.


1
Lanes Lexicon Volume 7 (page 30) -http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume7/00000030.pdf

These processes are necessary in the language of Quran because the Quran is universal and meant to serve as
the word of Allah in a variety of conditions, communities and circumstances. The broad scope of these
processes enables the Quran to be relevant in all circumstances and throughout time because as our knowledge
expands there is no need to coin new terms for new discoveries. All we need to know is what something does or
is supposed to do, and we can then describe it through these processes.

One of the limitations we have been subject to is that we expect the Arabic root to describe very specific actions
that can easily be translated into one or two English words. This is a limitation of the English language and
should not be imposed on the Arabic of the Quran.

These Arabic roots have different forms which have specific effects on the root. It is important to note that
whatever form the root takes, the connection to the base root must remain intact. If this does not happen, the
root system itself is open to conjecture. For our purposes in this paper it is sufficient to look at forms I and II of
the root.

represents the first or base form of the root. This form describes a process.

represents the second form of the root which is formed by doubling the second root letter. This form is
causative and intensive
2
.

So once the root takes the second form, it takes on the meaning of bringing the original process about, or
causing/effecting the process described by the first form.

It must be remembered that a noun is only given meaning by a verb. Without the connecting verb a noun
becomes meaningless. In the Arabic of Quran there must be clarity in usage of words because it is a clarifying
message. As such using one word to have different meanings is problematic and causes confusion rather than
clarification.

Turning to the concept of salat, we see that it is derived from the root . What process is described by this
root? Form I of the root indicates contact
3
. If is formed from the first form of the root, it would mean
The Contact.

It is worth noting that prayer is only indicated by the second form of the root
4
. Since the second form is
causative, we can see how the process of prayer is arrived at. It brings about the first form of the root. Hence
he contacted becomes he brought about or caused or effected contact. Prayer is seen as making contact
with Allah, and so, salla has come to be understood as he prayed. Such a meaning can only be extrapolated
from the core meaning of the root, which is associated with contact. It is therefore dependent on that core
meaning. So it can be seeing that he prayed is a possible meaning of the second form of the root.

Just as in the case of above, this understanding of praying is dependent on the core meaning of the root. As
such, this second form can, and in fact should be seen as he brought about or caused or effected contact, and
can therefore be applied as such in its Quranic usage. One effects contact by turning towards something
5
. If

2
A Grammar of the Arabic Language (page 30) Translated from German by W.Wright LL.D.

3
Lanes Lexicon Volume 4 (page 444), Taj al 3uroos Volume 38 (page 437)

4
Lanes Lexicon Volume 4 (page 444)

5
An Understanding of salat from Al Quran - http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/slw.htm
is formed from the second form of the root, it would be seen as The Turning Towards or The Cause of
Contact.

So while prayer is a possible meaning of salat, it is dependent on the core meaning, and hence too narrow an
understanding.

Testing Salat as Prayer

It may be argued that the context of its Quranic usage dictates that the meaning of prayer be taken. Lets test to
see if this is the case. In order to do this, we would have to see if this understanding is practical in the Quranic
context.

We will first test whether or not the five daily prayers in the specific format we are accustomed to finds any
credence in Quran.

The format does not find its evidence in the Quran, and this is undisputed for the most part. The only
proponents of this format being described in Quran, point to the concepts of qiyam, ruku and sajda being
mentioned in Quran. To use this justification, these concepts have been thrown together from all over the Quran
without any coherent thought process. Furthermore, these concepts are once again reliant on certain core
concepts when viewed as stand, bow and prostrate. It is this limiting of the root that causes problems
because the broad process which the root defines is squeezed down into something that justifies ones own
position.

For example, if we look at the root we find that there are too many places where its Quranic usage is just
not possible as prostration. A detailed discussion on this here will detract from the focus of the paper so please
see the article on this referenced in the footnote
6
.

Furthermore, the format we are accustomed to contradicts the Quran in that according to the Quran, salat ends
with sujud
7
.

The matter of praying five times a day is drawn from a scattering of verses that describe time frames in relation
to salat within the Quran
8
. 11:114 and 17:78 indicate times that span periods of time rather than instances in
time. 24:58 mentions Salat al Fajr and Salat at Isha, but this does not indicate that there are five salats per day.
In any event it does not follow that these time frames refer to prayer. They certainly refer to salat.

Notwithstanding the fact that these timeframes are scattered around the Quran rather than a statement simply
saying establish salat five times a day, there is also something else regarding these timeframes that are
noteworthy. While the Arabs of the 7
th
century may not have been aware that there are places on earth where
such instructions would simply be impossible to carry out, Allah certainly was. The question is how does one
carry out the five daily prayers in those places on earth where there simply is not enough time to do this?

The idea that we are to face Makkah in these prayers presents further problems. It is physically impossible to do
this from most places on earth. Again, while the 7
th
century Arabs may not have been aware that the earth is not
flat, Allah certainly was.


6
The meaning of SuJuD from Quran by Wakas Mohamed - http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/meaning-of-SuJuD-from-Quran.html

7
Quran 4:102

8
Quran 4:103, 11:114, 17:78, 24:58, 62:1-11
These problems regarding the salat timings and format need to be resolved in order to consider salat as prayer 5
times a day in the format we are accustomed to.

It may further be argued that we can still consider salat to be prayer even if the issues above are not resolved
since we can pray in another format, and not necessarily five times a day, but maybe 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 or as often as
we choose. To see whether salat can be considered prayer at all, we need to look at whether or not prayer would
satisfy the purposes of salat set out in Quran.

There are many passages in Quran which show that salat is for maintaining the purity of the message. 2:40-46
shows us that we are to seek assistance with salat, in which the context refers to maintaining the pure message
of Quran. 29:45-51 indicates that salat should restrain us from munkar and fahsha. This points us towards
restraining from changing the signs of Allah to something unrecognisable as well as from being excessive.
20:12-16 shows us that salat should be for remembering Allah, contrasting this with following low desires and
turning away from the revelation. 11:84-95 shows us that salat should be capable of providing us with
instruction in socio-economic matters. For a more detailed study on this please refer to the article referenced in
the footnote
9
.

Prayer is simply not capable of achieving these purposes for salat set out in Quran.

Defining salat and its application

The question remains as to what salat is and how it is practically applied. As described earlier, salat can be seen
as turning towards or causing/effecting contact. Even the understanding of salat as prayer is subject to these
definitions. When we look at the passages that indicate maintaining the purity of the message as a purpose of
salat, we find that it is Al-Kitab that must be turned towards
10
.

How this is applied in the case of a mumin in a well-developed community is dealt with in my conference
paper Quranic Salat and its Role in Establishing Islam and Iman
11
.

In context of the mumin, the establishment of the salat is undertaking to establish formal institutions in which
we turn towards the Quran in order to maintain the purity of the message in various aspects of our lives by
humbling ones self to, and ultimately acknowledging the Quranic position.

There are, however, other considerations when defining salat. The establishment of formal institutions is not
always applicable, since the conditions that facilitate this do not always prevail. The important thing to note is
that it is the environment which dictates the application of salat. It is therefore discretionary to an extent in that
sense. The important thing is that the core concept be maintained.

A mumin could establish salat by undertaking to establish meetings in which we turn towards the Quran in
order to maintain the purity of the message in various aspects of our lives by humbling ourselves to, and
ultimately acknowledging the Quranic position. This would take place in a less formal way than in an
established community, but in a group setting.


9
THE PURPOSE OF SALAT DETAILED http://dl.dropbox.com/u/31518815/THE%20PURPOSE%20OF%20SALAT%20DETAILED.pdf

10
ibid

11
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/31518815/Quranic%20Salat%20and%20its%20Role%20in%20Establishing%20Islam%20and%20Iman.pdf

A mumin could also establish salat by undertaking to establish sessions in which he/she turns towards the
Quran in order to maintain the purity of the message in various aspects of his/her life by humbling him/herself
to, and ultimately acknowledging the Quranic position. This would take place on an individual basis or in a
family environment.

Applying the understanding of bringing about contact with or turning towards the Quran, all the above
applications fulfil the purposes of salat set out for us by Allah.

Other addressees of Salat in Quran

Another consideration regarding salat in Quran, is that it doesnt always refer to a mumin as the subject of the
process.

In the following passage we come across the salat of the kaafir
12
:

8:20-37(35)
We are told to remain true to God and the messenger, using our reasoning as this will bring benefits (v.20-29).
The kaafir do not do this (v.30-36). The salat of the kaafir is ritualistic (v.35). God treats the believers and
disbelievers differently to separate the wicked from the good (v.37).

We should remain true to God and the messenger, using our reason rather than practicing a ritualistic salat
because the ritualistic salat is a mark of the kaafir. God's different treatment of believers and disbelievers is for
separating the wicked from the good.

The following passage speaks of the salat of the mushrik
13
:

9:1-16(5, 11)
This passage deals with agreements that are breached and what the response to this kind of breach should be
(v.1-16). If the mushriks uphold the salat, leave their way free (v.5). They have taken a small price for the signs
of God, they dont respect ties or covenant, but if they uphold the salat, the mushriks are your brothers in
deen (v.9-11).

In this passage, the question that needs to be asked is why would the mushriks praying qualify them to have
their way left free and make them our brothers in deen? The salat here is a reference to them turning towards
the original agreement that was breached, in which case there is no cause for action to be taken against them
and they would be brothers in deen because they would have committed to the terms of the agreement that
would bring about peace in the community resulting in the positive growth and development of the community
since in addition to establishing salat, they are told to bring forth the zakat.

Also see the following article on this subject
14
.

12
Quran 8:20-37
13
Quran 9:1-16
14
Disproved once and for all: salat = prayer by Wakas Mohamed http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/disproved_traditional_salat.htm