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Was There Ritual Prayer before Islam? (2/2)

Some Muslims are performing prostration during the prayer.

Referring to ritual prayer, Salah is mentioned in more than eighty verses in the Qur’an.

By: Mehmet Soysaldı

In the first part we learned a little about prayer before the advent of Islam, the prayer of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), and the prayer of Arabs during the Days of Ignorance.

Prayer in the Qur’an:

Referring to ritual prayer, salah is mentioned in more than eighty verses in the Qur’an. The word is used mostly in the Qur’an in this way:

When you finish salat, remember Allah while you are standing, sitting and lying down on your side; when you are safe, make salat. For salat within certain times was made mandatory for believers. (An-Nisaa’ 4:103)

Make salah, give the poor tax, and bend over with those who make ruku`. (Al-Baqarah 2:43)

Say good things to people, perform salah, give the poor tax… (Al-Baqarah 2:83)

child, perform salah, command the good, forego evil and have patience in face of trials. For these are things Allah has commanded you to do. (Luqman 31:17)

As seen from the above verses, the Qur’an emphasizes prayer a great deal. For when prayer is established, it protects a person from every kind of evil and makes them pious. One who follows prayer will be saved from the fire of hell.

The Qur’an counts prayer as a necessity of faith and piety:

That book is without doubt; it is a guide for people of piety. They believe in the unseen, perform prayer and spend for Allah the means that We have given them. (Al-Baqarah 2:2-3)

It praises those believers who pray with inner peace and who are steadfast in prayer:

Believers who make prayer with respect have attained success. (Al-Mu’minun 23:1-2)

In another verses we read:

And believers who protect their prayer have reached success. (Al-Mu’minun 23:9)

Allah commanded the Prophet to treat his grief and anxiety with prayer:

I swear, I know what they say has upset you. Praise your Lord and be among those who perform prayer and serve your Lord until you draw nigh. (Al-Hijr 15:97:99)

Undoubtedly, prayer performed with faith and a peaceful heart will save a person from evil thoughts and torment. That person will not be sad about the world and will not see anyone who gives benefit or harm except Allah. He knows that everything comes from Allah, and he will be ashamed of lying and making discord.

He will prepare to be in Allah’s presence at every moment. As stated in the fourty-eighth verse of Surat Al-`Ankabut, that person will avoid evil and ugly acts. According to verses from 19-34 of Surat Al-Ma`arij, he will avoid impatience and disagreeableness and take on high virtues. Real prayer gains high virtues and character for its performer. If it does not, it cannot be called real prayer.

In fact, it is narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ”If the prayer a person performs does not prohibit a person from evil and ugly acts, that prayer is of no use except to make him remote from Allah”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Prayer Is Mandatory in Islam

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was still at the beginning of his apostleship, he spent his nights in worship and dhikr. His ascetic life began before his apostleship. `A’ishah indicates that he began to like solitude in the years approaching his apostleship. He would retreat to the Hira’ Cave and there he made worship and performed servanthood according to the religion of Abraham. (Al-Bukhari)

After he became a prophet, he continued this life of worship and asceticism, and most of those who believed in him did the same. With the revelation of Surat Al-Muzzammil, night prayer was made mandatory to the Prophet:

O thou folded in garment! 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.(Al-Muzzammil 73:1-4)

Again it is commanded in the Bani Isra’il surah:

And pray in the small watches of the morning: it would be additional prayer (of spiritual profit) for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a station of praise and glory. (Al-Israa’ 17:79)

Islamic scholars are in dispute regarding the night prayer commanded in these verses. According to some, night prayer is only mandatory for the Prophet. This continued until his death. According to others, night prayer was made mandatory for both the Prophet and his followers.

They got up and prayed until their feet were swollen, and later Allah rescinded this command with the last verse. However, it is also disputed as to how long this command was in effect. According to some, it was one year; according to others, it was eighteen months, and according to still others, it was ten years. A third view is that night prayer was made mandatory for both the Prophet and his Ummah and that the command was never rescinded. It is mandatory to pray at night as much as possible. Hasan Al-Basri and Ibn Sirin are of this view.

There is also dispute as to whether or not prayers five times a day were made mandatory during Al-Mi`raj. Since Al-Mi`raj occurred one and one-half years before the Migration, that means that all Muslims were responsible one and one-half years before the Migration for praying five times a day.



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