Thursday, June 27, 2013

The "Rakaat" in the Quran


There is nothing better except the Quran that can give us the best evidence to show proofs the Prophet Muhammad did his Salat and God is the very Witness Who made record on the Prophet’s actions the way he did it and when he did it individually or when he did in a congregation and that is where we should put our total trust in the message upon which the Prophet did his actions and the best and most reliable to depend on will be his actions that is being shown in the Quran. God is the Witness when the Prophet performed his Salat and God is the One Who teaches the Prophet and the people who follow him how to perform and what to say in the Salat. Information from other than the Quran will not be immaculate as that which has been preserved in the Quran. There is attestation by God that He will preserve it from being tempered and no crookedness will ever creep in the Quran and God’s teaching is there in His Book which is the practice of the Prophet and those who follow him and this is stipulated in the Quran as follows:

We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it from corruption. (Surah 15:9)

No falsehood can approach it from before or behind it: It is sent down by One Full of Wisdom, Worthy of all Praise. (Surah 41:42)

And put your trust in the Almighty, the All Merciful. The One Who sees you (O Muhammad) when you stand in prayer; And among those who prostrate themselves. (Surah 26:217-219)

O ye who believe! bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may prosper. (Surah 22:77)

Guard strictly your prayers (plural of Salat) and the Middle Salat and stand in a devout manner before God. And if you fear (missing the Salat) pray on foot or while riding but when you are in security; celebrate God’s Praises in the manner He has taught you which you knew not before. (Surah 2:238-239)

Muhammad is the Apostle of God; and those who are with him are strong against the unbelievers, but compassionate among each other. You will see them bow and prostrate themselves in prayer seeking grace from God and His good pleasure. (Surah 48:29)                                                 

Thus it can be seen that from the evidences of the Quran, the Prophet did the standing, bowing, prostrating and before he ends his Salat after the postures of prostration he would sit praising God before he completed by ending his call on God. The following verse confirmed that after his prostration the Prophet will praise God in a sitting position before he ends his salat and this is done after the action of prostration as confirmed by the following verse:

And during part of the night celebrate His praises and so likewise after the postures of prostration. (Surah 50:40)

The action of standing, bowing, prostrating and the natural sitting position to end his Salat in praising God indicates to us that the Prophet completed a one “stand” ritual of performing his Salat. Sources other than the Quran defined this complete sequence as one “rakaat” or one bowing sequence.

It is important whether it is being called a one “stand” (qumu in Quran) or a one “bow” (rukuk in Hadith) sequence although the postures of the physical actions are the same but the number of sequences that are being repeating is very difference from the Quran compared to other sources.

The Quran identify the salat sequences by a complete two or one “stand”
There is a different in definition of the Salat sequences between the Quran and other books of the Hadith or books written by famous Imams of various sectarians in the Muslim world. From books other than the Quran a complete sequence is called a “rakaat” or bowing sequence. A complete rakaat is done by the sequence of standing, bowing, prostrating, follows by a quick sitting and prostrate again and then again the sitting posture to end the Salat. One complete rakaat therefore is the action of doing one stand, one bowing but two prostrations on the forehead and two sitting postures before ending the Salat. Rakaat is from the Arabic word rukuk which mean bowing to humble oneself and the plural rakaat indicates the number of sequences one make during the Salat  The traditional dawn Salat have two rakaat, the noon have four rakaat, the asar have four rakaat, the sunset have three rakaat and the night Salat have four rakaat.

However a complete one sequence of standing, bowing, prostrating and the sitting after the postures of prostration in the Quran is identified as “One Stand” or “qumu” in Surah 34:46. In the Quran we are shown by the example of Prophet Muhammad who performed his Salat by doing two times of the above sequences. He performed two stands by the evidence that when he was doing his Salat some of his companions finished their Salat by doing one stand sequence as shown by the following verse:

When thou Messenger art with them, and stand to lead them in Salat, let one party of them stand up (in Salat) with thee, taking their arms with them: When they finish their prostrations, let them take their position in the rear. And let the other party come up which hath not yet Salat - and let them Salat with thee, (Surah 4:102)

The Salat which was established by the Prophet and his companions doing the action of two stands or one stand of the sequences of standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting as shown in the above verse is supported from an earlier inspiration in which God commands the Prophet to say to his companions to either do two stands or one stand stated in the verse below:

Say: “I do admonish you on one point: that you do standup before God in two or one stand and reflect.” your companion is not possessed: he is no less than a Warner to you in face of a terrible penalty. (Surah 34:46)

In the above verse the Prophet was commanded by God to instruct his companions to do their Salat in two stand or one stand the way he was taught by God in doing the sequences of standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting postures and then to reflect within their souls when they make their submission during the Salat.

However initially the companions of the Prophet were not pleased as they were not familiar with the Salat done by the Prophet and they were only familiar with the Salat of their forefathers as stated in Surah 8:35 but then God intervened and said in the same verse at Surah 34:46 to the companions of the Prophet that “your companion (Muhammad) is not possessed he is no less than a Warner in face of a terrible penalty. The cautioned from God cleared their doubt and they obeyed the Prophet to do the two or one stand ritual in their Salat as commanded by God in the Quran.

It can also be deduced from the Surah 34:46 God mentioned two or one stand instead of normal number sequence one or two stand indicate it is more preferential for doing a complete two sequences otherwise He would have mentioned in the Surah 34:46 you stand “one stand or two stands“ but He said otherwise. Nevertheless the complete one stand sequence of standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting position is useful during abnormal or difficulty times like war or traveling as shown in the Surah 4:102 some may do one stand for the purpose to guard the others who have not finish their Salat. This is also true during the time of travel one can either shorten the Salat by doing one stand or do their Salat in a free style as the verses below indicated: 

When ye travel through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your Salat, for fear the Unbelievers may attack you: For the Unbelievers are unto you an open enemies. (Surah 4:101)

If ye fear (to miss the Salat at the ordained time), pray on foot, or riding, as may be most convenient, but when ye are in security, celebrate Allah's praises in the manner He has taught you, which ye knew not before. (Surah 2:239)

The Salat is thus to be performed by the sequences of two or one stand of the postures of standing, bowing, prostrating and the sitting position. However the Arabs at that time when the Prophet received his inspiration to establish Salat, their Salat actions were different as they did not prostrate and bow but they just stand and doing the following which is described in the Quran as follows:

Their Salat at the House is nothing but whistling and clapping of hands: (Its only answer can be), "Taste ye the penalty because ye blasphemed." (Surah 8:35)

As shown by the above evidence the Arab disbelievers were doing very different actions but God commands to do all our Salat preferentially in two stands or rakaat sequences which start by standing, bowing, prostrating and then with the sitting position after the postures of prostration and then repeating it. But as the verse Surah 34:46 stated, we are however allowed to do the sequence once or a single stand sequence. This flexibility of having the choice of doing two or one stand is not uncommon in the Quran as during the pilgrimage after being at Arafah, the pilgrims were allowed to stay in Mina for two or three days at their own preference. So this is another privilege that God has given us to make our preference which is ordained by God during pilgrimage as reflected in the following verse:

Celebrate the praises of God during the Appointed Days. But if any one hastens to leave in two days, there is no blame on him, and if any one stays on, there is no blame on him, if his aim is to do right. (Surah 2:203)  

The choice of doing two stands or one stand in the Surah 34:46 has several interpretations being done on it. In the light of the Quran this verse cannot be other than the description of the Prophet urging his companions to do their Salat by two or one complete sequences. The prophet’s companions were not familiar with the ritual of worshipping God in the way the Prophet did it initially but the caution by God to them relief of their ignorance.

However other exegesis have made their interpretation on this verse at Surah 34:46 but failed to elaborate the true purpose of its inspiration as to why it was sent down and as a result if it is applied as suggested and followed strictly as proposed by these “mufassirun” or the persons doing the exegesis, it would contradict the message of the Quran and as an example below is the explanation of the above verse by Maulana Maududi a popular personality in the modern Islamic world and a commentator of the Quran. He wrote his interpretation on the verse at his note number 66:

The Quran Surah 34:46-50

Say (O Prophet), "I do admonish you of one thing: that you stand up before God in two or in one and reflect (within yourselves): Your companion is not possessed, he is no less than a warner to you, in face of a terrible penalty.” Say: "No reward do I ask of you: it is (all) in your interest: my reward is only due from Allah: And He is witness to all things." Say: "Verily my Lord doth cast the (mantle of) Truth (over His servants), He that has full knowledge of (all) that is hidden." Say: "The Truth has arrived, and Falsehood neither creates anything new, nor restores anything." Say: "If I am astray, I only stray to the loss of my own soul: but if I receive guidance, it is because of the inspiration of my Lord to me: it is He Who hears all things, and is (ever) near."

Maududi Note 66 – in explanation of the above verses:

That is, "Free yourselves of selfish interests and whims and prejudices and consider this sincerely for the sake of Allah: consider this singly as well as jointly in two's and three's and four's in an objective manner and consider it well and deeply: What after all can be the reason that the person whom you call a madman today was, until yesterday, being looked upon as a very wise man among you? The incident that happened a little before his appointment to Prophethood is well known among you. When after the re-construction of the Ka'bah the different clans of the Quraish were going to clash among themselves on the question as to who should place the Black Stone in the wall, you yourselves had unanimously agreed to accept Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace) as the arbitrator, and he had settled the question amicably to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. Now, how is it that you have started calling the same person mad, whose wisdom and sagacity has been thus tested and experienced by your whole nation? What is it if not stubbornness? Do you really mean the same that you say with your tongues?" 

In the above note several questions can be raised, first is the words “your companions” is unlikely that God was making reference to the whole Quraise clan as interpreted by Maududi because not all of the Prophet’s people were on his side when he was propagating the religion of Islam. As such not all of the Quraise were his companions but in the Surah 34:46 God was referring to the Prophet’s companions and the background to the event is therefore affecting only the companions of the Prophet and not the whole Quraise clan. It is therefore something relating to the command of God to the Prophet’s companions which they think was not appropriate to their preference at that time and this is to establish the sequences of the Salat postures or the “rakaat” of standing, bowing and the prostration which was a forgotten practice of the Prophet Abraham at that time. He was to reinstate the practice of Prophet Abraham.     

Furthermore if Maududi interpretation is taken into action then we are to consider individually or in pairs or in three’s or in four’s standing before God not on “rakaat” is it then on contemplating Prophet Muhammad is not a madman? It is therefore standing before God to establish the number of sequences that is the gist of the message in that particular verse. The fact that Maududi did not indicate the reason why the companions were addressed by God makes it as a missing link to the command at Surah 34:46 what is to be done and reflected. He also quoted the whole Quarise community as the reference of which the Prophet was to warn but the verse stated that it was address only to the Prophet companions as God was saying in that verse “your companions is not possessed” meaning it is not the Quraish clan but only those Quraise among the companions of the Prophet. The Quraish clans were mostly against the faith of the Prophet. So it is clear in that verse the Prophet was speaking on the number of “rakaat” in Salat that is to be implemented that is reflecting the true worship of God to his companions rather than addressing an important message to the whole of his Arab clans. The companions think it is strange to perform stand, bow, and prostrate because at the time the prayer or the Salat of the Quarish of the Arab community were different from the one inspired by God to the Prophet Muhammad and it is stated in the Quran they did their Salat were nothing except whistling and clapping of hands which can only be done while standing as in Surah 8:35.

The verse Surah 34:46 is therefore indicating to us in relation to the Salat ritual than anything else which if Maududi’s comment is taken it gives a totally meaningless reaction and response to the command of God to stand before Him in two or in one and reflect as commanded by God. Nevertheless it can be seen that none have been practicing as what Maududi have suggested standing before God in one, in pairs or in three’s or in four’s to reflect about the madness of the Prophet.

The current Salat rakaat is too complex and doubtful

The most important issue that is being question on the Salat is the number of times one is to do the physical action of standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting position when performing the Salat. The normal Salat done by Muslims is taken from unknown sources and not from the Quran. It is either invented from former generation after the Prophet Muhammad or from third party sources claiming the Prophet Muhammad established his Salat 2,4,4,3 and 4 bowing or “rakaat” sequences for the subh, dzohor, asar, maghrib and the ishaa Salat respectively. But for those who wish to have a genuine and original source of information the Quran gave the true facts and guidance the way to perform their Salat following the examples as practice of the Prophet from the references extracted from the Quran.

In the Quran there is no difference whether one stand to pray his Salat individually or in congregation except that in a congregation there is the Imam standing in front of the congregation as the Prophet did:

When thou (O Messenger) art with them, and standest to lead them in prayer, Let one party of them stand up (in prayer) with thee, Taking their arms with them: When they finish their prostrations, let them Take their position in the rear. And let the other party come up which hath not yet prayed - and let them pray with thee…(Surah 4:102)

The congregation as what is being depicted by the Prophet in the above verse due focus is more on unity rather than uniformity. It teaches us to tolerate the choice of others who want to pray two or one stand as they have their own reasons for that choice. The Prophet Salat is not as regimented as it is being done today there should be flexibility as it was done during his time. Even if one makes a simulation when a congregation is proceeding during the Prophet’s time if there were one hundred thousand people doing the congregation with him in the forefront it is unlikely that they can synchronized each action to follow him as it is done today. With a loud speaker the congregation can be regimented and a quick response can be done simultaneously with the “billal” or caller making the call whenever the Imam makes a change of posture and it is then being followed by all. However with the example shown by the Prophet there is no necessity to be regimented but the stress is on flexibility and tolerance within the framework given by God in the Quran.

There are numerous choice of words in the Quran to call on God and all these have been recited by the Prophet Muhammad and all the other prophets, to glorify His Names, to magnify Him, to make repentance or to seek His help or ask for provision and other needs to be said in our Salat and all of those were listed as examples of the call of former Prophets and it is there in the Quran for us to copy and emulate. And when we do our Salat in congregation there are numerous verses that started with “Our Lord….” and together we can apply those in our Salat and we are commanded by God to take the examples from the Prophet Muhammad and also from all other Prophets as being reported in the Quran who also did their duty to establish their Salat. And there is a clear way to follow the example by the Prophet Moses who took off his shoes when he did his Salat and we are to emulate his example as the place of our prostration is as sacred as when Moses was in the presence of God at the sacred valley Tuwa which is stated in Surah 20:12. The following verses apart from giving example of Prophet Moses Salat also gives instruction to follow the examples of the prophets in the Quran as their guidance come from God and they were obedient towards all the commands of God:

This is the guidance of God. He gave that guidance to whom He please, of His worshippers. If they were to join other gods with Him, all that they did would be vain for them. These were the men whom We gave the Book, and Authority, and Prophet hood: if they reject them, Behold! We shall entrust their charge to a new people who reject them not. These were the Prophets who received God guidance: Copy their guidance they received; Say: “No reward for this do I ask of you: this is no less than a Message for the nations.” (Surah 6:88-90)

Moses to Salat without his shoes on

But when he came to the fire, a voice was heard: “O Moses! Verily I am your Lord! Therefore put off your shoes: you are in the Sacred Valley of Tuwa. I have chosen you; listen, then to the inspiration sent to you. Verily I am God: There is no god but I: so worship Me; and establish Salat for celebrating My Praise.” (Surah 20:11-14)
Thus from the narrations stated in the Quran we have all the examples of the prophets to take their precedent from and the Quran provides all the detailed requirements what to say and what to do in our daily Salat which is obligatory for us to performed at stated times. There should not be any dispute that the Salat are stated in detail in the Quran. There is certainly one who leads the prayer or the Salat when it is done in congregation and since the Prophet is no more with us the category of people who have the credential to lead the Salat will be the leader among us and he should follow the examples of the Prophet who follows God’s words of the Quran as respectively stated in the following verses of the Quran:

O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination. (Surah 4:59)

"O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided." (Surah 7:158)

The Prophet Muhammad will be a witness the “rakaat” in salat have also been detailed in the Quran

One day We shall raise from all peoples a witness against them, from amongst themselves: and We shall bring thee as a witness against these (thy people): and We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy, and Glad Tidings to Muslims. (Surah 16:89)