Lamya's Corner

"There was for Saba, aforetime, a sign in their homeland [Yemen] two gardens to the right and to the left . . . be grateful to Him[Allah] . . .But they turned away, and We sent against them the flood released from the Dams [Maarib dam]" (Qur'an. Saba:15-16)

History of Salah/ prayer [Part 2 Free Friday Divine Link: Fiqh of Salah with Sh. Yasir Birjas] May 17, 2011

Filed under: Seminar Notes — lamyaalmas @ 2:37 pm

We can trace the history of Salah as far back as our Father Adam (as), but we aren’t going  that far—but rather back to Prophet Ibrahim (as).

1)       We’re going to back to Prophet Ibrahim (as), who leaves his baby son Ismail (as) and wife Hajer in a barren valley in Makkah in fulfillment of Allah’s (SWT) command so that they may establish regular prayer. Allah (SWT) says:

 “O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits: so that they may give thanks.” [14:37]

Was his prayer like ours? Was it in Arabic? We know that Ibrahim (as) did not speak Arabic but Aramaic.  Yet, we have indications of his prayer in the Bible:

“And Abraham fell on his face and God talked with him, saying . . .” [Genesis 17:3 and 17:17] Description is of prostration.  Indeed, when priests when promoted to high positions, they perform certain positions.

2)      During the time of Isma’il (as) as expressed in Surat Maryam aya 55 Allah (SWT) described him as establishing prayer:

“He used to enjoin on his people Prayer and Charity, and he was most acceptable in the sight of his Lord.” [19:55]

3)      During the time of Prophets Musa (as) and his brother Harun:

“We inspired Moses and his brother with this Message: “Provide dwellings for your people in Egypt, make your dwellings into places of worship, and establish regular prayers: and give glad tidings to those who believe!” [10:87]

In the Bible:

“And Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth and worshipped” [Exodus 34:8] which suggests a sequence of actions: looking down, making ruk’u [bowing down] or sujood [prostration].

“And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.” [Number 20:6]. The suggests a congregational prayer.

4)      After Musa (as) and during the time of Bani Israel when Allah (SWT) promises to remain by their side as long as they establish prayer:

“Allah did aforetime take a covenant from the Children of Israel, and we appointed twelve captains among them. And Allah said: “I am with you: if ye (but) establish regular prayers, practise regular charity, believe in my messengers, honour and assist them, and loan to Allah a beautiful loan, verily I will wipe out from you your evils, and admit you to gardens with rivers flowing beneath; but if any of you, after this, resisteth faith, he hath truly wandered from the path or rectitude.” [5:12]

From the Bible:

“And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all people answer, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands and they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” [Nehemiah 8:6]

“And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and did worship.” [Joshua 5:14]

“And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord.” [Chronicle 20:18]

5)      During the time of ‘Essa (as)—Maryam and her son ‘Essa (as) were from Bani Israel, so she has  Jewish legacy and hence was praying as they did. In Surat Al Imra ayah 43 Allah (SWT) says:

“O Mary! worship Thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.” [3:43]

This translation is a rough one of the word “Qunoot” which means “standing for a long time [as long as possible, even hours] in devotion” in Arabic. The ayah also suggests that they used to pray in congregation, in a specific format, like we do today.

And ‘Essa (as), who spoke in the crib and came to continue the message of the Prophets before him, was also commanded to perform Salah [prayer]:

“And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live;” [19:31]

In the Bible:

“And he [Jesus] went a little farther, and fall on his face and prayed, saying . . .” [Mathew 26:39]

“And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were so afraid.”  [Mathew 17:6]  As we can see, the prayer sounds familiar to us Muslims who prostrate to Allah (SWT).

Note: Isn’t it strange nowadays the Jews and Christians find our prayer strange—if anything it points to the fact that they don’t know much of their own prayer as it appears in their books either intentionally or unintentionally.  Indeed, eastern Christians still maintain many of the same characteristics of prayer as we Muslim know it, and make the claim that it was western Christians and Jews who completely changed the characteristics of prayer in the original sources.

Here are some videos:

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

 Video 4

Question: What did Salah look like pre-dating Islam?

a)      Praying in the House of Allah:

 Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma´il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).” [2:125]

b)      Praying in the Mihraab, a special private/secluded area for clergy to perform acts of worship. Today, the Mihrab is the chamber in from of the Imam. Prophet Zakariyyah (as) received the glad tidings of his son Yahya (as) while he was praying in the ‘Mihraab’.

“While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels called unto him: “Allah doth give thee glad tidings of Yahya, witnessing the truth of a Word from Allah, and (be besides) noble, chaste, and a prophet,- of the (goodly) company of the righteous.” [3:39]

In the story of Prophet Dawud (as) when the two angels disguised as disputing parties came to ask him to litigate between them:

 “Has the Story of the Disputants reached thee? Behold, they climbed over the wall of the private chamber;” [38:21]

c)      Praying in the house, as when Allah (SWT) of Musa and his brother Harun (as) to make their houses into places of worship and establish prayer:

“We inspired Moses and his brother with this Message: “Provide dwellings for your people in Egypt, make your dwellings into places of worship, and establish regular prayers: and give glad tidings to those who believe!” [10:87]

Today people designate one area of the house as their place of worship.

d)     We learn from the history of Salah that their prayers included standing

e)      Salah included Ruk’u [bowing gown]

f)       Sujood [prostration]:

“Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): ‘Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).’” [22:26]

Only Allah knows if it is the same as we do it today, but we know that they did prostrate.

g)      Congregational prayer:

“O Mary! worship Thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.” [3:43]

h)      Establishing dhikr [remembrance in Salah]. Allah (SWT) commanded Musa (as) to make Salah solely for Him:

“Verily, I am Allah: There is no god but I: So serve thou Me (only), and establish regular prayer for celebrating My praise.” [20:14]

i)        Take shoes off was traditional. Today Muslims can pray with their shows on if they like, except in places of worship:

 “Verily I am thy Lord! therefore (in My presence) put off thy shoes: thou art in the sacred valley Tuwa.” [20:12]

Savor the sweetness of the history of Salah:

  • Muslims were not the first or only people who performed Salah, rather they are carrying and continuing its legacy.

  • Actions of Salah are universal, not exclusively Islamic. Salah is a how one humbles oneself to Allah.

  • Actions of Salah suggest and represent humility, humbleness, and a sign of devotion.

  • Some Salah related rituals might be different from what we do today.

Action item:

–          Start a dialog with a non-Muslim friend over the concept of Salah or prayers

–          Discuss with them the meaning and actual format of Salah.

–          See how much do they know about the Salah of their Prophets.

Suggested reading: Philip Jenkins The Lost History of Christianity

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One Response to “History of Salah/ prayer [Part 2 Free Friday Divine Link: Fiqh of Salah with Sh. Yasir Birjas]”

  1. Johara Says:

    Jazaki Allahu Khair dear sister. Excellent work!!!


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