* NOTE! THESE ARE NOTES FROM THE FIQH OF SALAH COURSE AND NOT MY OWN INTERPRETATION OR READING. THE CLASS WAS TAUGHT BY SHEIKH YASIR BIRJAS AND IS STILL OFFERED BY AL MAGHRIB. HE IS AVAILABLE ON FACEBOOK IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS PLEASE DIRECT THEM TO HIM INSHA ALLAH. ALSO, CAUTION AGAINST THOSE TAKING BITS AND PIECES OF THESE NOTES RATHER THAN THEM IN THEIR ENTIRETY, AND WITHOUT PLACING THEM IN THE CORRECT CONTEXT.
For more details on the material covered in Divine Link: Fiqh of Salah please refer to Ibn Hajer’s Bulugh Al Maram. You can download the book for free by clicking here [go to contents and it is the second book after ‘Purification’ and YES, it’s in English]. Here’s another site that offers the book here
In Islam, Salah [prayer] went through a number of stages before it was finalized in the form that we have today. So, let’s go through these stages Insha Allah.
Stage 1: The 2nd or 3rd year of the Message
The obligation of Salah was received early in the Prophetic mission. When the Prophet (saw) received the message he was ordered to establish and perform prayer. After 40 days, Al Mudather and Al Muzamel were also revealed ordering him (saw) to stand up and perform prayer.
Two prayers, one in the morning and one in the evening:
When prophet, received first revelation , he was immediately ordered to establish and perform prayer. Al Mudther and Muzamel were revealed 40 days after the first revelation, and in both the Prophet (saw) was asked to stand up and perform Salah. The format of the prayer was not specific, but the times were. They were two prayers, one in the morning and one in the evening.
“Patiently, then, persevere: for the Promise of Allah is true: and ask forgiveness for thy fault, and celebrate the Praises of thy Lord in the evening and in the morning.” [40:55]
The first Qiblah was towards Jerusalem. The Prophet (saw) and his followers were instructed to face the direction of Jerusalem in Salah, and this continued for 15 years of the Prophet’s mission. Indeed, he (saw) prayed more towards Jerusalem than he (saw) did towards Makkah.
“ . . . We appointed the Qibla to which you used to face, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels (From the Faith). Indeed it was (A change) momentous, except to those guided by Allah. And never would Allah Make your faith of no effect. For Allah is to all people Most surely full of kindness, Most Merciful.” [2:143]
Was the form of Salah as we know it today? We don’t know. We don’t have much detail of how prayer was performed during that period of time, but we do know that it was performed two units [rak’as] at a time. We also know that Salah went through stages until it was finalized in the format we know today.
Stage 2: The Night Prayer
1. Night prayer [Tahajjud] was made obligatory upon the Prophet (saw) and the believers. So, imagine being asked to stand up in prayer for the most part of the night—so for instance 6 out of 8 hrs of the night. And this was every single night for a whole year, for Allah (SWT) says:
“O thou folded in garments! Stand (to prayer) by night, but not all night,- Half of it,- or a little less, Or a little more; and recite the Qur´an in slow, measured rhythmic tones.” [73:1-4]
3. The abrogation of the obligation of the Night Prayer [Tahajjud]. The Prophet (saw) and his followers continued in this strenuous vein, until the companions came to the Prophet (saw) and complained that it was very hard for them. We are talking here about every single night, so you can’t blame them. Allah (SWT) the Merciful, revealed this ayah offering them relief:
“Thy Lord doth know that thou standest forth (to prayer) nigh two-thirds of the night, or half the night, or a third of the night, and so doth a party of those with thee. But Allah doth appoint night and day in due measure He knoweth that ye are unable to keep count thereof. So He hath turned to you (in mercy): read ye, therefore, of the Qur´an as much as may be easy for you. He knoweth that there may be (some) among you in ill-health; others travelling through the land, seeking of Allah´s bounty; yet others fighting in Allah´s Cause, read ye, therefore, as much of the Qur´an as may be easy (for you); and establish regular Prayer and give regular Charity; and loan to Allah a Beautiful Loan. And whatever good ye send forth for your souls ye shall find it in Allah´s Presence,- yea, better and greater, in Reward and seek ye the Grace of Allah: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [73:20]
With this ayah, night prayer became an optional prayer. But old habits die hard, and the companions did not quit but continued their legacy with the Night Prayer—and we have so many wonderful examples of their stories with this great form of worship. When Aisha (raa) was asked about the Prophet’s night prayer she said:
“Have you not read the Surah, (O you wrapped up.). Verily, Allah made standing at night (for prayer) obligatory at the beginning of this Surah. So the Messenger of Allah and his Companions stood for an entire year during the night (in prayer) until their feet swelled. Allah held back the revelation of the end of this Surah for twelve months. Then, Allah revealed the lightening of this burden at the end of this Surah. Then, the standing for night prayer became voluntary after it used to be obligatory.” [Ahmed and Muslim]
Stage 3: 3 years before Hijra/ 5 years before Hijra [depending on year of Isra wa al Mi’raj]:
In the first three years the Prophet (saw) and the companions would pray in secrecy, then Allah commanded the Prophet to go public with the message and so some companions prayed in public. It was a huge challenge—some were beaten, tortured, others almost killed. It was very hard, even for the Prophet (saw)—his neck was stepped on while he was prostrating, and the insides of a slaughtered camel was place on his back as well. Yet, they all endured the trials in devotion to Allah (SWT).
Things would yet get worse for the Muslims. Makkans resigned to boycott the Prophet and his entire clan. To enforce this boycott they sent the Prophet (saw), his clan, and followers to a concentration camp where they remained for 3 years. Conditions were dire. Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas describes their condition inside the concentration camp: “I went out one night to relieve myself. Whilst I was urinating I heard the rustling noise coming from where I was urinating: it was a piece of dry camel skin. So I picked it up, washed it and then seared it and put some water on it. (I ate it) and found strength from it to last another three days.” When the boycott was over, the Prophet’s (saw) uncle died, and with that he lost his staunchest supporter. So, he (saw) set out to Al Taif [the second largest city and clan—Thaqeef—after Makkah/ Quraysh] to ask for support. He went with high hopes and expectations but left Taif disappointed. Not only did they reject his message and request for support, but they also lined up their fools and children to pelt the Prophet (saw) out of their city. The Prophet (saw) was heartbroken, indeed Aishah (raa) said: “I asked the Prophet [saw] if he had ever experienced a worse day than Uhud. He answered that he had suffered a lot from those people (the idolaters) but the most painful was on the day of ‘Aqabah. I went seeking support from Ibn ‘Abd Yalil bin ‘Abd Kalal [leader of Taif], but he spurned me . . .” Worse still when he went back to Makkah he had camp outside for three days. He could not enter his own city, or his own home. Leaving Makkah was one thing, returning to it was another. Mut’am ibn Adi, a non Muslim leader with ten sons, offered him protection to enter his own city again.
At the lowest point of the Prophet’s (saw) career came the journey of Al Israa wa Al Mi’raj [Note: The journey to Al Taif was a humbling experience for the Prophet (saw), and he wasted no time in showing humility in front of Allah (SWT) in his famous dua, in which he blamed the fact that Islam was not progressing because of nothing short of his (saw) own faults. If a finger were to be pointed, he (saw) did not hesitate to point it at himself and only himself. In the midst of such a low state, Allah (SWT) raised him to heights unimaginable in a journey of a lifetime, so as to give him and his Ummah the opportunity take on five daily journeys to Allah (SWT) through Salah –5 daily Mi’raj’s to Allah (SWT) ]. It was an exhilarating experience at a time when airplanes didn’t exist, let alone spacecrafts. The Prophet (saw) reached a station in the heavens even Jibreel (as) didn’t. And behind a curtain of light, our Prophet (saw) spoke to Allah (SWT) directly—no intermediary or interpreter needed.
The five daily prayers
Allah (SWT) prescribed 50 prayers on us until the were finally reduced to 5. In the hadith of Annas:
“. . . Then Allah revealed what He revealed to me. He then made obligatory for me fifty prayers every night and day. I began my descent until I reached Moses who asked me: ‘What has your Lord made obligatory for your community?’ I said to him, ‘Fifty prayers.’ He then said, ‘Return to your Lord and ask Him to reduce them, your community will not be able to bear that. I know the people of Israel from long experience and I have tested them.’ I then returned to my Lord and said, ‘O Lord, make things lighter for my people’. He then reduced it by five prayers for me. I then returned to Moses and he said to me, ‘Your community will not be able to stand that. So return and ask Him to make things lighter.’ I kept going between my Lord and Moses until Allah said, ‘O Muhammad, there are five prayers every night and day. Each prayer is equal to ten prayers making them equal to fifty prayers. Whoever intends a good deed and does not do it, there will be written for him a single good deed. If he does it then there will be written for him ten good deeds. Whoever intends an evil deed and does not do it then there is nothing written against him. If he does it then there is written for him one evil deed.’ I then descended until I reached Moses and informed him of what had occurred. He then said to me, ‘Return to your Lord and ask Him to make things lighter.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace then said, ‘I have returned to my Lord until I felt ashamed before Him.” [Sahih Muslim]
Musa (as) was a tough man. He grew up in the palace of Pharaoh, and was a general. He (as) was the only one asked to see Allah (SWT). Are 5 prayers unbearable as Musa (as) says? We believe it, because Musa (as) said it. It is bearable—it’s a lot but it is possible.
Why five prayers? It’s like going to the gym on a regular basis and carrying weights. With each visit you add more weights and watch as you muscles strengthen, or you lose weight. Likewise, with the 5 prayers a believer grows spiritually stronger.
2. Times o the five daily prayers
Ibn Abbas narrates, “The angel Jibril led the prophet, to teach him the prayer times. On the first day he prayed all the prayers at the beginning of the respective times and on the second day he delayed the prayers until just before the end of their times for all prayers except maghrib, where he instead prayed it both days at the same time, and then said, ‘…the time of each salah is between these two times.’” [Tirmidhi]
3. Prayers were two rak’as only:
Aishah (raa_ narrated, “The prayer was prescribed as consisting of two rak’as both when one was resident and traveling. The prayer while traveling was left according to the original prescription, and the prayer of one who was resident was enhanced.” [Abu Dawud]
4. Talking during Salah was allowed—so for instance if someone arrived late for the Salah he could ask the person next to him which rak’a they were on. Zayd ibn Arqam narrated: “We used to talk while engaged in Salah suring the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger, and one would talk with his companions regarding his needs in Salah till this verse was revealed: ‘Guard strictly the Salah especially the middle Salah and stand before Qaniteen [silently with obedience].” [Bukhari and Muslim]
“We used to gives salams to Rasulullah (saw) while he was standing in Salah and he would respond to us. When we came back from being with An-Najashi [in Abyssinia] we would give him salams and he would not respond to us. So we said, ‘Oh Messenger of Allah! We used to send salams upon you while you were in Salah and you would respond [why have you stopped]?” And so He (saw) said, “In Salah, one is occupied [i.e. with Quran, dhikr etc.].” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]
Mu’awiyyah ibn al Hakam said: “I was praying behind the Messenger of Allah and someone in the congregation sneezed. I said [to him]: ‘May Allah have mercy upon you.’ The people then stared at me, showing their disapproval of my act. I said: ‘Woe to me, why do you stare at me so?’ They started to strike their hands on their thighs and when I saw that they wanted me to become silent, I was angered but said nothing. When the Messenger of Allah finished the prayer – and may my father and mother be ransomed for him, I found no teacher better than him either before or after him – he did not scold, beat, or revile me but he simply said: ‘Talking to others is not seemly during the salah, for the salah is for glorifying Allah, extolling His Greatness, and reciting the Qur’an.'” [Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and an-Nasa’i]
Stage Four: 2nd Year after Hijra
5. Quiblah was changed towards Makkah:
Al Bara bin Azib narrated, “ Allah’s Messenger offered his prayers facing Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months, but he wished that he could pray facing the Ka`bah (at Makkah). The first prayer which he offered (facing the Ka`bah) was the `Asr (Afternoon) prayer in the company of some people. Then one of those who had offered that prayer with him, went out and passed by some people in a mosque who were in the bowing position (in Ruku`) during their prayers (facing Jerusalem). He addressed them saying, `By Allah, I bear witness that I have offered prayer with the Prophet facing Makkah (Ka`bah).’ Hearing that, those people immediately changed their direction towards the House (Ka`bah) while still as they were (i.e., in the same bowing position). Some Muslims who offered prayer towards the previous Qiblah (Jerusalem) before it was changed towards the House (the Ka`bah in Makkah) had died or had been martyred, and we did not know what to say about them (regarding their prayers towards Jerusalem). Allah then revealed: (And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost (i.e., the prayers of those Muslims were valid)) (2:143).” [Bukhari]
What is the significance of the change in direction of the Qiblah? Many scholars gave their interpretations. Among them is that when Prophet Ibrahim (as) asked Allah (SWT) to make of his offspring Prophets and Messengers, he was granted Ismail and Ishaq (as) Ismail (as) the eldest was sent down to Makkah today. Ishaq remained in as did his son Jacob (as) from who came the 12 clans of Bani Israel. During their time, they were a great nation by the testimony of Allah (SWT). But the greatness in the eyes of Allah (SWT) is guaranteed only righteous actions—and not based on blood. After a long legacy, and closer to the time of Prophet Essa (as) they failed to carry on the legacies of the Prophet (as) and hence were stripped of their title. They remained Prophet-less for 500 years after Essa, after which Muhammad (saw) was commissioned in Makkah. He was still from the line of Ibrahim (as), so when the Qiblah was changed it was an indication of sealing the deal. The torch now moved from the hand of Bani Israel to the followers of Muhammad (saw).
Savor the Sweetness of Salah in Islam
– As Muslims we follow in the step of righteous nations before us in Salah
– We are the only nation today that adheres to the original form of salah. Indeed in the world today, the Salah we perform today is undoubtedly associated with Islam by others.
– Allah is the most Merciful that he prescribed Salah gradually. We should seek to teach it to our kids in the same manner.
– Quiyam al Layl is most powerful spiritual retreat, hence Allah (SWT) prescribed it to the early Muslim and consequently they could move mountains.
– The change of the Qiblah was an indication t0 the significance of this Ummah.
– We do as little as five prayers but we get rewards for 50—such a lucrative business.
– May Allah reward the companions for enduring the hardships of performing Salah when it was the most difficult so that they could establish Salah as we know it today.
1) Try to practice Quiyam al Layl during one of the weekends as long as you can afford.
2) Repeat that a few times
3) Write your feelings about how much the Sahaba had to endure during those early times of Islam in regards to establishing Salah.
Examples of different types of Salah:
Fard Salah: the five obligatory Salah; Friday Salah
Wajib Salah: Eid prayer; witr prayer
Nafl Salah: Rawatib [regular Sunnah that you add to obligatory Salahs]; Tasabih
Congregational Salah: Taraweeh; Istisqa’
Individual Salah: Duha; Shuruq
Prayers performed with no specific sabab [occasion or cause]: Nafl Mutlaq; Qiyam ul Layl
Prayers performed for specific sabab [occasion or cause]: Al Istikharaa; Khusuf and Kusuf.