Like most languages Arabic has a rich vocabulary, some would go as far as to say that the words and grammar are so unique in nature that the reader can be left in no doubt as to its meaning. Perhaps God choose this medium for his final revelation because of this very reason.
For me the logic is clear and I know from reading sura 43:3 that God revealed the Quran in Arabic so that an Arabic speaking nation, to whom it was first revealed, would understand it. However Gods message is not for the Arabs alone and since most of the people cannot speak Arabic we have translations to aid our understanding. In verses 54:17, 22, 32 and 40 God categorically states that it is easy to understand and in sura 2:99 it is explicit that God has sent down clear verses and furthermore in sura 29:49 God says that these revelations are clear in the hearts of those who possess knowledge.
Translations at their best can only be representing of the originals but as long as they convey the essence of the message it is a sufficient basis for accepting them. But as no translation is definitive, comparison with other translations is imperative. Sometimes people arrive at different conclusions even when reading the same rendition, however this only occurs when a verse or a word is read in isolation rather than in conjunction with other verses relevant to the same topic.
In some cases a word may carry a greater meaning than the translation can impart and in such an instance the original word can be used. An example of this situation is the word Deen which has no English equivalent. To communicate the full meaning of this in a single phrase is impossible as it contains many concepts but essentially we can accept it to mean a way of life and reading it in the context of a sentence would transmit its precise connotation.
There are also other words which have a different status. These words have a more explicit meaning and to consider them as multifaceted concepts would distort their true sense. Attributing chimerical aspects only detracts from the real value and attenuates their expression.
We can take a common
word in the Quran to illustrate this point. For example we
can advance the concept theory and say that to
establish Salat means to initiate, organize and preserve a social
and economic ideology with worship and prayer. To support
this wider meaning sura Hood verse 87 may be quoted
where Shuib is asked:
does your Salat forbid us From doing what we want with our money?. According to the concept hypothesis it means that when Salat is established as an institution it includes charity (Arabic: Sadaqah), which Shuibs community were against.
This extraction could wrongly lead some people that Sadaqah acts are part of and possibly sufficient as Salat. However, Sadaqah is possible without establishing Salat, but once you establishing Salat, Sadaqah becomes an obligation. But this does not make Salat a system because we also learn from sura 58:12-13 that Salat and charity are both separate components of the Islamic Deen.
When we read other verses referring to Salat we face further difficulties in assigning a broad meaning to Salat as a system rather than an element of Deen: Verse 3:104 says: We should establish Salat as a system at specific times. In Sura 17:78 God tells us to establish Salat at the suns decline and in Sura 17:110 we are commanded to speak in a moderate tone during Salat.
How do we establish Salat as system at specific time or at the end of a day? Once establish does that mean we do not need to establish it again? Once Salat has been establish can people speak only in a moderate voice? In sura 62:10 we are told that once you have finished Salat you should disperse through the land and seek Gods bounties. Surely we cannot establish a system, finish it and go about our daily business?
The verses from the Quran only confirm that Salat is specific funtion and not the establishment of a system as considered by some. As stated in Sura 3:85 the only system acceptable to God is the Islamic Deen: which is peace through submission to the laws of God. Salat and Sadaqah are integral constituents of that system and not separate concepts. There is no purpose in considering Salat as a system when this meaning is adequately conveyed by the word Deen.
If Salat is not a system then
what exactly is it? Salat is commonly translated as prayer but
prayer is the spontaneous supplications. Salat has a much more
God says: I am the one God; there is no God except Me. You shall serve Me. And establish Salat to commemorate Me. Sura 20:14
Salat protects from falling in sin and is a means for remembering God, which is even greater . Sura 29:45
Seek help through steadfastness and Salat.. Sura 2:45
In the above three verses God gives three clear objectives for establishing Salat: 1. Establish Salat to remember God. 2. Establish Salat to guard yourself from sin. 3. Establish Salat to petition help from God.
The central purpose of Salat
is to remember God and if we do that we will guard ourselves from
wrongdoing and when in need we should turn to Him. But we can
only do these things if we keep in contact with God. Now the
meaning of Salat becomes obvious: Put simply it means keeping in
touch with God by communication. But it is no ordinary
communication because Salat is an exclusive word for
communication from servant to God and His servants are all of His
The only system acceptable to God is the Islamic Deen: which is peace through submission to the laws of God
QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
Much has been written of the timings of Salat but a convicing argument has yet to be put forward for establishing Salat five times a day. Often people set out to prove a firmly held belief. This can be quite precarious especially if the evidence is fragile as is often the case with those who advocate five Salat. The strongest testimony for this number comes from the Hadith which is controversial at the best of times. The Salat is a key aspect of the Islamic Deen and its structure cannot be installed on the crumbling foundation of the suspect chronicles of Hadith literature.
Let us first take into consideration the some points put forward for the five Salat times. Many learned people have produced information from the Hadith, the Quran or both. The presentation may differ but the resolutions are the same.
Writers who promulgate this ecumenical belief are often eminent scholars who take support from traditions and commentaries of varies translators.
But these scholars along with those who share this doctrine, are mistaken in their conclusions regarding the timings of Salat. It is these erroneous impressions which should be dispelled and reinstated with facts and a totally pragmatic approach.
There are scholars who present Salat as a broad term. This as mentioned earlier can be a predicament. The word Salat does not lend itself to this concept because Deen is sufficient to transmit the substance that not only is it a way of life but when considered as an Islamic Deen it also means to follow closely the Divine laws which includes the establishment of Salat as an essential principal.
Sura Bani Israel verses 78 and 79 are frequently cited with this observation: From this verse the commentators understand the command for five daily prayers . However scholars do concede there are differing views regarding this verse hardly conclusive evidence for the five Salat.
While reffering to the same verse other scholars say that the prayer in the small watches of the night is held to be addressed specially to the Holy Rasool (PBUH) who usually prayed more than the five regular prayers. But why should a prayer be specially for the prophet? If he, according to this verse, prayed more than five times then should we not do the same? After all we should follow his example.
When citing verse 20:130 it is said: The word used in the passage is Subh not Salat but it is generally accepted to mean Salat. This, however, is a gross indiscretion as it implies an error on Gods part.
Why should He use an inappropriate word when the perfect word for a specific act is available? We should never replace words with those of our own choosing when quoting the Quran.
All the reasoning based on verses which I have read concerning the timings of Salat are said to infer the five Salat but as yet there has been no decisive verification of the five Salat. This is because it is impossible to find what is not in the Quran.
Those who accept the Quran as God's veritable word should accept that it is fully detailed (Sura 6.1 14) and that nothing has been left out (Surah 6.38). And anything which God has not mentioned is as a mercy. In Sura AI-Maa'idah verse 5. 101 God enlightens us: "0 you who believe, do not ask about things, if revealed to you, you will be hurt. If you consider them in the light of the Quran, you will realize that God left them out as an alleviation. God is forgiver, Clement." God does not want to make his prescribed way of life difficult for us and he states this in Sura AI-Hajj 22.78.
Numbers are mentioned throughout the Quran and if God wanted us to establish Salat five times a day, would He not say that clearly? In Sura al-Noor verses 27-29 God has shown us in detail the manner we should enter homes and further on in verse 61 He lists the relations from whose homes we can eat freely and that we commit no error when eating alone or in groups. God has given these details, why then should He overlook to specify the five times of Salat? This exclusion must be deliberate, unless we accuse God of forgetting. How can we believe that God has sent us a detailed guide in the Ouran then say that He is vague when it comes to Salat?
In order to support mistaken opinions and institutionalized beliefs it then becomes necessary to attach 'wider meaning' to certain words.
This is an impudent trespass on God's law which can impede instead of developing our understanding of Deen. The Quran is God's message for all mankind and all it's fundamental concepts are simple and should easily be understood by all. To engage in academic wordplay is unnecessary. What is required is an intelligent yet practical presentation of the Islamic Deen so that we can easily understand our duties.
God says in AI-Nisa 4.104: ' ...The Salat has been decreed for the believers at specific periods." Apart from unusual circumstances, such as war, there are set periods when Salat should be established either individually or in a congregation.
These periods are quite extensive because if everyone stopped for Salat at the same time then the Islamic nation would come to a standstill. Sura Bani Israeel verses 78-79: "Establish Salat at the sun's decline, till the darkness of night." Clearly there is plenty of time for everyone to establish Salat during this particular period.
The verse which unequivocally details the times is in Sura Hood 11.114: "You shall establish Salat prayers at BOTH ends of the day and during the night." Some people say that 'two ends of the day can easily be interpreted as noon and sunset" .
But where in the world is noon said to be the beginning of the day? There would be chaos if this was to be accepted!
Both ends of the day are indisputably when the day begins at sunrise and when the day ends at sunset and parts of the night is anytime after dark.
The wisdom in this becomes apparent when we see how easy it is to establish Salat at these times.
These specific periods are additionally anchored by God defining THREE names for them. Read Sura 24.58 for evidence of SALAT FAJRI, SALAT ISHA and Sura 2.238 for SALAT WUSTA.