Life – An Exalted Destiny – Aga Khan III

Life - An Exalted Destiny - Aga Khan III Life is a great and noble calling; not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can, but a lofty and exalted destiny.

Salat or Dua

Islamic Calligraphy AmaanaBy Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali


The word salat (plural salawat) is an Aramaic verbal noun s’lota (bowing or
bending) had passed into several dialects with the meaning of prayer. This word
was used by Armaic speaking Jews for the obligatory recital of the 18
benedictions. In Hebrew, the synagogue of the Jews was also termed as a salat,
vide Koran, 22:40. It also means to walk behind anything constantly. In horserace,
the second horse runs just behind the first horse, is also called salla. Its
meaning indicates to follow the divine law constantly. Another view suggest that
it means burnt. It signifies that through the agency of worship, a person seeks to
burn or kill the animal instinct within him. The verb from which it derives is salla (hallow); as an act of God it is translated as “to bless”; and as an act of man it is
translated as “to pray.” W. Montgomery Watt writes in Muhammad in Medina
(London, 1956, p. 304) that, “The usual translation of salat is “prayer,” but this
corresponds rather to dua.” The word du’a is derived from da’wa or ad’iya,
meaning to call or cry, occurring 159 times in the Koran.


In the Koran, the noun salat occurs in the singular 78 times, 65 times with the
definite article, twice in a genitive construction (24:58) and 11 times with a
pronoun affixed, while it occurs only 5 times in the plural. Besides, there are 16
occurrences of various forms of the verb salla (second verbal form, with the
meaning to perform salat), which is derived from the noun. The usual Koranic
phrase is qama bi’s-salat or qama ila ‘s-salat or aqama ilaiha (he rose to pray) is
more often used. Other corresponding phrases are ata bi ‘s-salat, adda ‘s-salat,
qada ‘s-salat, shahida ‘i-isha, dakhala fi salatihi and bashara salatahu.The
equivalent word for salat in Persian is namaz (pl. namazha), which has been
corrupted into nmuz by the Afghans. This word is commonly in usage in Iran,
Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, etc.


The word salat, when Islam adopted it, had a long history. In Koran, Jesus once
prayed that, “And He has enjoined on me prayer (salat) and poor-rate so long as I
live.” (19:31). In the narration of Ismael, the Koran says, “And he (Ismael)
enjoined on his family prayer (salat) and alms-giving.” (19:55). The Koran
quotes Luqman as advising to his son, “O my son! Keep up prayer (salat).”
(31:17). It is also stated in Koran that, “And We delivered him (Abraham) and
Lot….And We gave him Isaac and Jacob, a son’s son….And We revealed to them
the doing of good deeds and keeping up of prayer (salat).” (21:71-73). In addition,
“(Abraham said) O’our Lord! surely I have settled a part of my offspring in a
valley unproductive of fruit near Thy Sacred House, our Lord! that they may keep
up prayer (salat) (14:37). And also said, “My Lord! make me keep up prayer
(salat) (14:40). When Moses received first revelation, God said, “Surely I am God,
2 there is no god but I, therefore, serve Me and keep up prayer (salat) for My
remembrance.” (20:14). The people of Madain said to Shu’aib, “They said:
O’Shu’aib! does your prayer (salat) enjoin you that we should forsake what our
fathers worshipped.” (11:87)


Formation of the Salat – its Evolution

In Mecca, it appears that the ordinance of the salat was revealed in a fragmentary
manner. The life of the Prophet in Mecca had been primarily concerned with the
fundamentals of Islam : the Unity of God, the judgment day, worship and the
purification of the soul. For the worship, God simply commanded, “And magnify
the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with (exclusive) devotion.”
(33:8). In fact, what is considered ritualism in the Islamic institution of prayer
was simply a way to feel the Divine presence and ponder over His greatness, glory
and love by adopting certain reverential prostrations. In Mecca, the following
verses revealed: “Enjoin salat upon your people” (20:132) and “Stay with those
who invoke their Lord” (18:28)
In its formative stage, the glorification, bowing and prostration in standing and
sitting postures were simply the name of the formal prayer. The Koran says, “And
rely on the Mighty, the Merciful, Who sees you when you stand up. And your
turning over and over among those who prostrate themselves before God.”
(26:217-219) And also, “And wait patiently for the judgement of your God, for
surely you are before Our eyes, and celebrate the praise of your God when you
rise. And in the night, give Him glory too, and at the setting of the stars.” (52:48-


Ibn Ishaq (85-151) writes in his Sirat Rasul Allah (tr. A. Guillaume, London,
1955, p. 112) that Salih bin Kaisan relates from Urwa bin al-Zubayr that, “When
prayer was first laid on the Apostle, it was with two prostrations for every prayer:
then God raised it to four prostrations at home, while on a journey the former
ordinance of two prostrations held.” Abu Huraira was asked, “Is it necessary to
recite any other sura with Sura Fatiha in the salat?” He said, “It will be beneficial
if other sura is added, otherwise Sura Fatiha is sufficient.” (al-Muslim, 2:31)
In Mecca, the original Muslim community had no special place for worship. The
Prophet used to perform the salat at home or in secret in the narrow alleys of
Mecca with Ali and other earliest Companions. (Ibn Hisham, p. 159) The
Prophet also performed the salat between the Yamen corner and the Black Stone.
(Ibid., p. 190)


When the pagan Arabs embraced Islam, some persons used to bring small idols
in the prayer-hall and kept them secret in their armpits. Besides, none of them
followed the discipline and conversed during prayers. It was revealed: Wa kumu
li’lahi qanetin (2:238) means “And stand up truly obedient to God.” The word
qunut means humbleness.


The worshippers looked at the incoming and outgoing people during the prayers,
therefore, the verse revealed that the first condition of a prayerful mind is
humility: Kad aflaham momenun l’lazin’hum fi’salatihim khashe’un (23:1-2)
means “Successful indeed are the believers, who are humble in their prayers.”
The word khushu means to bend or cast eyes downward or fear.


Concentration is the pivotal act to be followed in the prayer. The people tied their
camels outside, and focused their minds on their animals during the prayer. The
verse revealed: Wa tab’tal alaihi tabtila (73:8) means “And devote yourself to
Him with devotion.” The word tabtil means to cut off from worldly affairs.
Besides, the salat should not be recited loudly by one who leads, and thus the
Koran says: Wala tajahar bi’slatika wala tukhafit biha wa chabtagi baiyna
zalika sabila (17:110) means “And do not utter your salat with a very raised voice
nor be silent with regard to it, and seek a way between them” (17:110). The word
bayan means middle or no high or low.


When the Prophet was firmly settled in Medina, the mosque was also built, the
prayer was instituted, the alms tax and fasting were also prescribed, legal
punishments fixed, the forbidden and permitted prescribed, and Islam took up its
abode with them.


Miraj Prophets and HeavensSalat – its Timing

“Indeed, the salat (du’a) is ordained for believers in fixed time” (4:103). The
word kitaban mawqutan means an ordinance regulated as to time or ordained
to be performed at fixed times. The word “muwaqib” means the timing for
prayers. Abu Daud and Nissai quote Ammara bin Ruweba that the Prophet said
that those people would never enter the hell, who had performed salat in
morning and evening. Upon hearing it, one person from Basra asked Ammara
whether he himself had heard the Prophet as saying, to which Ammara admitted.
The person said, “I also testify that I have also heard it.” The Koran says: “Glorify
the name of your God morning and evening” (76: 25)


In Mecca, the Muslims had no mosque or proper place to offer prayers due to the
oppression of the pagan Arabs. During the period of 13 years in Mecca, the
Muslim offered their prayers in fajr, maghrib and Isha. There is no indication of
five times prayers in Meccan period. According to Marshall G.S. Hodgson in The
Venture of Islam (London, 1974, 1:179), “The bowings and prostrations of
formal worship, the salat, were commonly done at least three times a day in
unison, normally at the prayer ground at the Prophet’s home.” Later, the
theologians debated on it, but found no explicit indication. In order to justify five
times prayers in the Meccan period, someone fabricated a hadith, known as the
Hadith-i Miraj, the secondary source to claim that the Islam ordained five times


Critical analysis of the Hadith-i Miraj

Anas bin Malik is alleged to have related that when the Prophet returned from
the seventh heaven, Moses asked him at the first heaven, what he had brought for
his ummah. The Prophet said that he brought an ordinance of 50 times prayers.
Moses told that prayer was a weighty matter and his ummah was weak, so go
back to God and ask Him to reduce the number of prayers. The Prophet returned
to the seventh heaven and God reduced the number by half. The Prophet
returned and Moses once again persuaded him that it was still intolerable for the
ummah. Back with God, the Prophet succeeded in reducing the number of salat
to five a day. Moses told that it was still too heavy burden for the ummah, which
needed further reduction. The Prophet did not agree with it, and said, “I feel
ashamed to go again in the Holy Presence. I am now satisfied with it. The God
told me that He made no changes in His injunction.” The weakness of this hadith
is examined as under :-
The event of Miraj took place in Mecca. Due to the oppression of the pagan
Meccans, the Muslims could not offer prayers publicly. No salat, fast or haj were
ordained since the situation was absolutely not in their favour. Nevertheless, the
Muslims offered salat secretly in a simple mode at homes or caves. Under the
hostile milieu, a heavy injunction of 50 times prayer in Mecca seems quite
improbable. Was God not aware that the Muslims were hardly praying three
times in Mecca due to hostile atmosphere, so how they could offer fifty times? It
is a great pity that the order of five times prayer was not revealed through divine
revelation, while other injunctions were come down through usual revelations.
Granted that the mode of injunction is reliable, then it suggests that the Prophet
was quite unknown either his ummah would bear it or not. It is curious that only
Moses is made first in the hadith to perceive the distress of the ummah of the
Prophet of Islam. The Prophet ascended to the seventh heaven more than once,
and made reduction of salat from 50 to 5, and did not feel ashamed on each turn!
Why did he feel so on third turn? It further deserves notice that God commanded
salat for 50 times, and then made alterations two times in His injunction. Then,
why He said that He never made changes in His injunction?


It seems that the person who fabricated above hadith had a plan in mind to bring
the figure of salat at five and not less. It was a time when the jurists needed a
tradition to justify five times prayer, therefore, none of them cared in its
authenticity. The sudden emergence of above tradition however met their
requirement, but forgot its weak notion. The designer was a Jew, who intended to
show that Moses advised the Prophet of Islam about the future grievance of the
Muslims, which was unknown to him. Dr. Ghulam Jilani Burk remarks on the
above hadith in his Du Islam (Lahore, 1981, p. 234) that, “To sum up the legend,
the grievance of the ummah was not known to God and the Prophet. If Moses had
not played an intermediary role, the injunction of 50 times prayer had been
ordained for the ummah. And the ummah would offer prayers constantly from
morning to evening. Neither they can eat nor attend to their necessity of life. It
would have force the people to forsake Islam and follow other path. The foresight
of Moses should be applauded who saved the Islam.” According to Qurani Faisal’e (Karachi, 1953, pp. 16-18), “God ordained 50 times prayer, and the
Prophet returned with the order. Neither God realized in His order of impossible
performance, nor the Prophet, how his people would bear its burden. And if it
had been realized, it was only Moses……We only request to think with cool
minds, what the non-Muslims had imagined for our God and Prophet when they
went through the story. It clearly infers from this tradition that it must have been
fabricated by a Jew, so that the superiority of Moses be elucidated and the
Muslims be informed the status of Moses before the Prophet.”


The Muslim scholars however express great doubts as to the historical character
of the above hadith, nevertheless, it is produced as a reliable source, for the
Koran is silent for it. G.E. Von Grunebaum writes in Classical Islam (London,
1970, p. 47), “….though in Muhammad’s lifetime the requirement of five sessions
daily was not yet laid down. The Koran prescribes only two or three, and raising
the number to five is probably the result of Jewish influence.”


Mohammad Jafar Shah Phulwari writes in Islam din’i A’san (Lahore, 1955, p.
296) that, “Koran does not describe in explicit words that the prayers are five. In
some other sound traditions the evidence of less than five prayers is accessible.
The Koranic context is clear and that the words khums al-salat or al-salat alkhums
have not been mentioned.”


“The five times of prayer” writes Richard Bell in The Origin of Islam (London,
1968, p. 142), “which ultimately became the rule are nowhere mentioned in the


Besides, at-Tabrani traced a tradition to Abu Zarin as narrated that once Nafi bin
Azrak asked from Ibn Abbas, “Is there any explicit verse in Koran, showing five
times prayer?” In his reply, Ibn Abbas quoted the 18th verse of Sura Rum as
follows: “Therefore, glory be to God when you enter upon the time of the evening
and when you enter upon the time of the morning. And to Him belongs praise in
the heavens and the earth, and in the afternoon, and when you are at the
midday.” Ibn Abbas further said that the verse contains the word hain tamasun,
means maghrib, hain tas’ju means fajr, a’shia means asr and hain taz’hareen
means zuhr.


The above tradition indicates that the Companions of the Prophet were not sure
of five times prayer, otherwise no such question had been asked. Secondly, the
above verse does not contain the word salat, but glorification of God.


Friday Salat – its Origin

It appears that the Jews offered midday worship in Medina, known as minhah. It
was performed from the moment when the shadow of a vertical stick was equal to
the length of the stick and the minimum shadow of the stick at noon. There was a
strong recommendation that the Muslims should gather together in some public
place in midday. It must be known that the Prophet had offered forenoon prayer
in the Kaba in Mecca, for according to Masanad (1:95), this prayer was
permitted under the pagan doctrine too, but mocked at by the Meccan chiefs
there assembled. In Medina, it was usual to hold this worship in the courtyard of
the Prophet during the Friday. Thus, a weekly salat was created, known as the
zuhr (early afternoon), and if it was offered sometimes at late afternoon for some
reasons, then it was called asr. The later jurists in the Abbasid period added these
two terms (zuhr & asr) on daily basis with the original ordinance of three prayers
to make the five times prayer, such as fajr (morning), zuhr (early afternoon), asr
(late afternoon), maghrib (sunset) and isha (early night). It means that on Friday
the zuhr prayer was replaced by the congregational prayer (salat al-jumah).
The Friday prayer was mostly offered in early afternoon (zuhr), but not taken
very seriously in the early days. There is a report that once the congregation
broke up at the arrival of corn dealers from Syria, while the Prophet was
conducting the service. Only twelve or according to another report, only forty
worshippers remained there, and this conduct occasioned the revelation: “And
when they see merchandise or pastime, they break up for it, and leave you
standing. Say: What is with God is better than pastime and (better) than
merchandise.” (42:11)


Later, it was witnessed the devotion when a Muslim would set no store by any
amount of earthy treasures in preference to his prayers, and God admired such
devotion: “These are the persons whom neither merchandise nor selling diverts
from the remembrance of God and the keeping up of prayer and giving of poorrate.”


Thus, the midday prayer (zuhr or asr) on Friday had been ordained with the
Koranic verse: “O you who believe! When the call is made for prayer on Friday,
then haste to the remembrance of God and quit trafficking; that is better for you
if you know.” (42:9)


When the jurists collected the traditions and codified the canons, about 150 years
after the death of the Prophet, it appears that the midday prayers greatly
influenced them, who gave a final touch to the five times prayer. In their
justification, many traditions were minted, which is explained by Ibn Hajr


Fixation of five times Salat

We have already mentioned that the Friday prayer in Medina used to be
performed either at zuhr or asr according to the circumstances. These timings
were reserved for Friday only. Nevertheless, the Prophet himself reported to have
performed daily additional salat either at zuhr or asr. Sometimes he performed
two addition salats at zuhr and asr. The reason behind it was unknown. What he
practiced privately was a different, but what practices he exhorted were
important, since he never wanted to create hardship for his ummah.
There are many examples of Prophet’s religious practice, which he never
recommended to the Muslims, whose few illustrations are given below:-


a) The Prophet fasted for two month in Ramzan and Shaban months. Besides,
the first fortnight of the month he devoted usually for fasting. Two Mondays,
one Thursday, and according to some reports Friday as well, were the fast days
in every month. For the first ten days of Muharram and for six days from the
2nd of Shawal month to the 7th, he was always fasting.


b) Besides the obligatory prayers, he performed some 39 raka’ts – two in the
morning, four in the forenoon, six in the afternoon, six early in the evening,
two at sunset, six early in the night, and thirteen about midnight.


c) Sometimes, the Prophet recited Sura Marium in the morning salat.
Sometimes he read 60 to 100 Koranic verses in the morning salat. He also
recited some 30 Koranic verses during the afternoon prayer, and about 15
verses in late afternoon prayer.


In like manner, in addition to the three prescribed salats, the Prophet used to
offer salat afternoon (zuhr) and late afternoon (asr) in Medina. But, he did not
approve his religious practice for the Muslims.


It infers from the scrutiny of the traditions that some people in Medina offered
three salats as well as the salats of zuhr and asr when they watched the Prophet
to do so. It appears that the Prophet never prevented them. Before the time the
average Muslims begin to perform five prayers, he put forward a middle way of
the combination of the prayers. The Koranic ordinance of three times prayer was
not abrogated; therefore, he did not like to put the ummah into hardship.
There are twenty-one narrations of sound hadith that pertain to the Prophet’s
joining together of the two sets of prayers, i.e., zuhr – asr & maghrib – isha to
make three prayers in a day. Firstly, he emphasized upon the travellers.
According to Bukhari (18:13-15), the two afternoon prayers, zuhr and asr may be
combined when one is on a journey, and so may the two night prayers, maghrib
and isha. He also permitted to those who were at homes (al-Muslim, 2:151).
Later on, the Prophet is reported to have exhorted the combination of prayers
voluntarily to all the Muslims. Ibn Abbas reports that the Prophet combined the
zuhr and asr prayers, and maghrib and isha when there was neither journey nor
fear. Being asked, why he did it, the reply was, “so that his followers may not fall
into hardship.” (al-Muslim, 6:5). It is also related that the Prophet prayed at
zuhr and asr together, and the maghrib and isha together, without being a
traveller or in fear (al-Muslim, 2:151). Thus, this practice became known as jam
bain al-salatin (combination of two prayers). The wisdom behind it was to retain
the original Koranic injunction of three prayers intact.


Between the period of Abu Bakr and Ali, the Muslims in Medina prayed for five
times and other three times prayer on the basis of the combination of the salats.
When the early Umayyad rulers broke their relation with Medina, the issue of
daily prayers became unsettled, and it also influenced the other Muslim regions
till the final ruling of the jurists, which has been explained briefly as under:-
“In Syria in olden times it was not generally known that there were only five
obligatory salat, and in order to make certain of this fact it was necessary to find
a Companion still alive who could be asked about it.” (Abu Daud, 1:142 and
Nisai, 1:42)


“In the time of Hajjaj bin Yusuf and the Umayyad caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz,”
write Ibn Nadim in his Kitab al-Fihrist (Leipzig, 1871, p. 91), “the people had
no idea of the proper times for prayer and the most pious Muslims were unsure of
the quite elementary rules.”


The pious Muslims, however, endeavored to demand adherence to a fixed
tradition in the name of the Prophet and, when they found that the government
did not support them in efforts which seemed unimportant to the latter, they
produced the following prophecy of the Prophet: “idha kanat alaykum umara
yumituna al-salat” means, “There will come amirs after me who will kill the
salat” (Tirmizi, 1:37).


Goldziher writes in Muslim Studies (London, 1971, 2:40) that,“The fact is,
however, that during the whole of the Umayyad period, the populace, living
under the influence of their rulers with little enthusiasm for religion, understood
little of the laws and rules of religion. Medina was the home of such rules and it
would have been vain to seek them in circles under Umayyad influence.” After
being frustrated from the Umayyad caliphs, the pious Muslims of Syria became
eager from the new regime of the Abbasids. Adherence to the caliph was an
integral element in Muslim belief. Thus, the Abbasid priest propagated a faked
hadith that, “He who does not cling to the aminullah (the confident of God), by
which the caliph is to be understood will not benefit by the five salats.
On this juncture, the tradition quoted by Ibn Hajar (4:238) will be important to
find a missing chain. Accordingly, Abu Darda once came in Medina from
Baghdad. He showed his ability to perform salat more than three prescribed
times. The Prophet told him to add two more salat before noon and afternoon.
Thus, he offered five times prayer and returned Baghdad as if a missionary,
where he preached five times salat.


It implies that the Baghdad school gradually practiced five times prayer. The
Umayyad rule in Islam was entirely secular with the exception of the episode of
caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz and was little permeated by religious motives in its
forms and aims. The Umayyads were little concerned about the religious life of
the population. They paid little attention to religion either in their own conduct
or in that of their subjects. Dinawari writes in Kitb al-Akhbar (Leiden, 1888, p.
249) that if a man was seen absorbed in devout prayer in a mosque, it was a
pretty safe assumption that he was not a follower of the Umayyad dynasty but an
Alid partisan.


Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the Umayyad governor in Iraq once rebuked Anas bin Malik like
a criminal and threatened to grind him as millstones would grind and to make
him a target for arrow. (Dinawari, p. 327). Caliph Yazid bin Abdul Malik
contemptuously called Hasan al-Basari a Sheikh al-Jahil and threatened to kill
him, vide History of Arabs (ed. De Goeje, Leiden, 1869, p. 66).


People travelled to Medina, the place of origin of the hadiths, from where the
religious stream flowed. On this juncture, the jealous Umayyad rulers called
Medina as al-Khabitha (dirty one). The governor of Yazid I in Medina gave it the
name of al-Natna (evil-smelling one), vide Muwatta, 4:61.
The Abbasid rule bore from the beginning the hallmark of a religious institution.
The Abbasid’s aim however was to make the recognition of their claims to rule
into a religious affairs.


When Abul Abbas, the founder of the Abbasids asked the people in Basra to fulfil
the duty of the fast-alms (zakat al-fitr), they took consul and sought to find
Medinians who might guide them about this religious duty which was entirely
unknown to them (Abu Daud, 1:162 and Nisai, 1:143). The same community in
the first years of its existence had no inkling of how to perform salat, and Malik
bin al-Huwayrith (d. 94/713) had to give them a practical demonstration in the
mosque of the actions accompanying the liturgy (Nisai, 1:100).


The Abbasid interest in canonical studies increased in the same measure as their
political influence was taken away by governors and usurpers. It was a time when
the movement to establish the sunna as a science and as the standard of life,
received official recognition.


Theologians now found the ground prepared to make accepted in practice the
sunna, which in the Umayyad period was pushed into the background. In Iraq,
for example, Shu’ba (d. 160/777) made the sunna prevail in public for the first
time. In Marw and Khorasan, al-Nadir bin Shumayl (d. 204/820) introduced the
sunna in public, and likewise Abdullah al-Darimi (d. 255/870) in Samarkand
made the sunna public. Abu Sa’id al-Istakhri (d. 328/943) in Sijistan and Yazid
bin Abi Habib (d.128/746) introduced sunna in Egypt for the first time.
Favored or at least not hampered by disregard, the Islamic studies of law
developed freely, and the new stones laid by the repressed jurists of the first
century could now be expanded by steady increase to form the edifice of Islamic


In sum, with the progress of the literature of the Muslim jurists during the early
Abbasid period, the salat for five times was given a conclusive ruling in Islam.
According to the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (ed. James
Hastings, London, 1956, 10:197), “In the first generation after Prophet’s death it
was a subject of discussion which of the daily salats must be regarded as
obligatory, and there was also difference of opinion as to the exact times of a day
at which the Prophet had usually performed his devotions. But gradually it was
recognized in the whole Muslim world that the five salats were obligatory for
every Muslim.”


The Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam (Karachi, 1981, p. 493) comments, “To
us, such traditions are an indication that the number of daily salats had not yet
fixed at five in Muhammad’s lifetime. In the canonical hadith the number of five
is found in numerous traditions. We shall therefore have to place the origin of
this theory before the end of the first century.”


The average Sunnis professed Hanafism, and Abu Yusuf (d. 799), the famous
pupil of Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767) was responsible to spread Hanafism in the
Abbasid domain, and earned the title of sahib hadith wa sahib sunna. He was
appointed Judge in Baghdad and later became the Chief Justice with the
authority to appoint judges throughout the Abbasid kingdom. He thus had a free
rope to propagate Hanafism.


With the emergence of the Abbasids in the 8th century, the science of
jurisprudence flourished, for in that period the four Sunni schools (Hanafism,
Shafi’ism, Malikism and Hanbalism) of law became widespread, traditions were
collected, commentaries of the Koran were compiled. In particular, the works of
Abu Hanifa and his disciple, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad al-Shayban (d. 804), the
works of Shafa’i were brought out, wherein the five times prayer in a day had
been given a final ruling.


The later jurists ignored the tradition of the combination and included zuhr and
asr with the three daily salats, making a final ruling of five times prayer in a day.
It was the period of Imam Muhammad al-Bakir, who exhorted the practice of
combination like the Prophet in order to retain the Koranic injunction and give
relief to the followers. Al-Amili writes in “Wasa’il al-Shi’a” (Beirut, 1982, 3:4)
that Imam Muhammad al-Bakir said, “When the sun begins to decline, the time
for the zuhr and the asr begins, and when the sun sets, the time for the maghrib
and isha begins.”


Hence, the Shi’ites consider it permissible to run together the noon and afternoon
and the evening and night prayers, so that the prayers are only offered on three
separate occasions during the day. The Prophet had approved the practice of
combination of prayers permissible and there is a support for this view in the
Bukhari (1:146) and al-Muslim (1:264-5)


Three times Salat – an Original injunction

Explicit injunction for three times prayer is given in the Koran in several verses,
which are mentioned here under:-

“Wa aqimi salwata tarfai nahar’e wa zualfan mina l-layl” (11: 114)

“And establish salat at the both ends of the day (morning and evening) and at the
approach of the night”


The word tarf means an end, extremity or part, and atrafa l-nahr means two
ends of the day refers to the morning and evening, or the fajr and maghrib, while
zualfan mina l-layl means a short while after falling of night. Shibli Noman
(1857-1914) also admits in his Sirat al-Nabawi (2:112) that this verse contains
an injunction of three times prayer.


“Wa aqimisalwata li- duluki i-shamsi ila gasqi l- layl wa quranul fajar’e” (17:

“And establish salat at the sun’s decline till the darkness of the night and in the


The word duluki i-shams means sunset refers to the salat of magrib. The word
gasqi l- layl means the darkness of the night, refers to the salat of isha, and fajr
obviously the salat of morning. Ibn Umar relates that the Prophet said that
duluki i-shams means sinking of the sun, vide al-Itqan (2: 631-2) by Suyuti.
Tirmizi and Nisai also admit veracity of this tradition related by Abu Huraira.
Referring the above Koranic verses, Reuben Levy writes in The Social
Structure of Islam (London, 1962, p. 155) that, “It would appear from these
verses that only three appointed times of worship are indicated….For a century or
more after the death of the Prophet, it was not definitely known, or decided,
actually how many periods of worship were laid down nor at what hours worship
was to be performed.”


It was a period when no timepiece device existed, therefore, the above three
salats were used to be performed on the following method:-



Also called salat al-subh. When any person could perceive his neighbour at near
distance in darkness at dawn. (Bukhari, muwakit, p. 21). Its time begins with
“the true dawn” (al-fajr al-sadik) when the faces can still not yet be recognized,
and extends until the daybreak as such before the sun appears. It should be noted
that the Arabs designated the early morning as the dhanab al-sirhan (the tail of
the wolf), and this is when the light gradually begins to get brighter at the place
where the suns is about to rise like the light of a lamp.



It was offered and ended when an arrow was shot from a bow and could be seen
at sunset ((Ibid., p. 27). Its time begins when the sun disappears beneath the
horizon, and normally continues until disappearance of the twilight radiance.



Also called salat al-atama (salat of black night), and salat al-layl (night prayer).
When the people felt need of burning lamp in early night. (Ibid. p. 24). Its time
begins soon after the disappearance of the twilight and extends until the end of
the first third of the night.


According to The Encyclopaedia of Islam (1995, 8:926), “In the Koran as a
whole, the times of prayers are indicated with a richness of vocabulary which
shows a practice still at the evolutionary state. There are, it seems, three essential
times, to which the median prayer is added somewhat later.”


W. Montgomery Watt writes in Muhammad in Medina (London, 1956, p. 305)
that, “When the worship was stabilized by the later jurists, it became obligatory
for every Muslim to perform it five times daily. It is doubtful, however, whether
the five daily hours were regularly observed even during Muhammad’s closing
years, and a phrase in the Quran shows that there must have been at least three
hours of prayer daily.”


In view of The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (London, 1956,10:197), “Some of the earliest verses of the Quran require Muslims to perform the
salat thrice every day in the morning before sunrise, at the close of day, and
during a part of the night.”


“And glorify the name of your Lord morning and evening, and adore Him during
part of the night, and give glory to Him through the long night.” (36:25-26)
Above verse further boost to explicit evidence of three times prayer as well as the
midnight worship in a day. This Islamic practice in fact is being performed by the
Shi’ite Ismaili Muslims.


Reference: “Encyclopaedia of Ismailism” (Karachi, 2006, pp. 539-49)


3 Responses to Salat or Dua

  • salim lalani says:

    At what point in history did Ismailies separate from mainstream muslims in going to mosque and offering 5 daily salaats? I would appreciate a bit of a background, if possible. Thanks

  • Gafoor says:

    Brother Salim,

    Can you please provide proof from the Holy Koran where it mentions that you have pray 5 times a day?

  • AKJ says:

    Answers to both questions are simple
    1) The day our holy Prophet died (circa 632 AD), was the point in history when majority of so-called Muslims separated from Islam and its rightful Wali.
    2) There is no mention of 5 times prayer in the Quran. There are references to day, night and noon. The number and time of prayer was demonstrated by our Prophet, and to get that right you have to follow the rightful Wali

Please leave your comments

Quran, 13:28

ألا بِذِكْرِ اللهِ تَطمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“Verily! In the remembrance of Allah do hearts find contentment.” - Quran, 13:28

Prophet Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad:

‘Ali is ‘as my own soul’ (ka-nafsi).

He said to ‘Ali, ‘You are from me and I am from you (anta minni wa ana minka).’

‘Truly, ‘Ali is from me and I am from him (inna ‘Ali minni wa ana minhu), and he is the wali (patron/spiritual master) of every believer after me.’

Hazrat Ali

12. When some blessings come to you, do not drive them away through thanklessness.

13. He who is deserted by friends and relatives will often find help and sympathy from strangers.

Imam Ali Sayings

Imam Jaffer Sadiq

لاَ يَكُونُ شَيْءٌ فِي اْلاَرْضِ وَلا فِي السَّمَاءِ إِلاَّ بِهذِهِ الْخِصَالِ السَّبْعِ: بِمَشيئَةٍ وَ إِرادَةٍ وَقَدَرٍ وَقَضَاءٍ وَ إِذْنٍ وَكِتابٍ وَأَجَلٍ. فَمَنْ زَعَمَ أَنَّهُ يَقْدِرُ عَلى نَقْضٍ وَاحِدَةٍ، فَقَدْ كَفَرَ.

“Nothing occurs in this earth and in the heaven except with the following seven stages: Will, intention, destiny, decree, permission, book and implementation. Then whoever thinks that he can reduce any of these stages, then indeed he has disbelieved.”

- Imam Jaffer Sadiq, Usul al Kafi, vol. 1, p. 149

Rumi on Ramadan

The month of fasting has come, the emperor’s banner has arrived; withhold your hand from food, the spirit’s table has arrived. The soul has escaped from separation and bound nature’s hands; the heart of error is defeated, the army of faith has arrived. Fasting is our sacrifice, it is the life of our soul; let us sacrifice all our body, since the soul has arrived as guest. Fortitude is as a sweet cloud, wisdom rains from it, because it was in such a month of fortitude that the Koran arrived. …Wash your hands and your mouth, neither eat nor speak; seek that speech and that morsel which has come to the silent ones.


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99 Beautiful Names

Asma-ul Husna


Aga Khan jokes

Aga Khan Speech Brown University May 1996:

"Looking around this colorful gathering, I recall helping in the choice of the Aga Khan University's regalia. Our research into Islamic traditions of academic dress revealed that an academic's rank determined the height of his hat. The higher the rank, the taller the hat. The senior most professors therefore appeared taller than their students even when sitting down. I have just learnt that my friend Neil Rudenstein, the President of Harvard has given instructions that all Harvard hats are to be heightened by at least a foot. This has caused havoc in the Ivy League which is now debating resolution MAHH96, standing for Maximum Allowable Hat Height. My academic standing and that of President Gregorian, should be evident from the hats that we are presently wearing!"

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