Salat in the Quran


INTRODUCTION

 

Despite the fifteen centuries since Muslims have been praying five times a day, there is still some debate about the number of Salats (prayers) mentioned in the Quran.  Some people argue that since there are 3 Salats mentioned by name in the Quran – dawn, middle, evening (24:58, 2:238) –  and thus they pray only 3 times per day.   Another group claims there are 2 Salats mentioned in the Quran because they interpret ‘Salatul Wusta’ as ‘the best prayer’ and not as an additional ‘middle’ prayer.

 

{24:58} O you who acknowledge, let those whom are under your contract and have not yet attained puberty request your permission regarding three times: Before the Dawn Salat, and when you take off your attire from the heat of the noon, and after the Evening Salat

 

{2:238} Preserve the Salat, and the Middle Salat (Salatul Wusta), and stand devoutly for God

However, when we read {24:58} and {2:238} we see that these verses speak of matters concerning private times for parents and about preserving the Salats.  These verses do not speak of when to ‘establish prayer’ (AQIM AL SALAT) and therefore have nothing to do with the number of Salats we need to observe.

 

The objective of this article is to show that God commands us to AQIM AL SALAT (Establish the Salat) during five specific times of the day in the Quran.

METHODOLOGY (Quran is the only reference)

 

The evidence for the five daily Salats will be clearly demonstrated using the Quran alone as the only reference. After all, the Quran is complete {7:3}, detailed {6:114} and contains all our religious practices {5:48}:

 

{7:3} Follow what was sent down to you all from your Lord, and do not follow besides Him any supporters. Little do you remember!

 

{6:114} “Shall I seek other than God as a judge when He has sent down to you this book sufficiently detailed?” Those to whom We have given the book know it is sent down from your Lord with truth; so do not be of those who have doubt.

 

{5:48} We have sent down to you the book with truth, authenticating what is present of the book and superseding it. So judge between them by what God has sent down, and do not follow their desires from what has come to you of the truth. For each of you We have made laws, a structure. Had God willed, He would have made you all one nation, but He tests you with what He has given you, so advance the good deeds. To God you will return all of you, and He will inform you regarding that in which you dispute.

 

VERSES ABOUT ESTABLISHING SALAT

 

There are only two verses in the entire Quran which commands the believer to AQIM AL SALAT (establish the Salat) at specific times throughout the day;

 

In {11:114} we learn the number of Salats we must establish, and in {17:78} we learn the precise duration for each Salat.

 

{11:114} Establish the Salat at the TARAFAY of the day and ZULAFAN from the night.

 

{17:78} Establish  the Salat LIDULUK of the sun until GHASAQ of the night and Quran at dawn.

Please note: one should not confuse SALAT with SABBIH (glorify). Some scholars have attempted to derive the timings of Salat from verses that speak of SABBIH or glorification (see 20:130). This is an invalid approach because SABBIH is not the same as AQIM AL SALAT.

   

THE NUMBER OF SALAT IN THE QURAN

 

God Almighty commands us:

 

{11:114} Establish the Salat at the TARAFAY (two portions) of the day and ZULAFAN (near parts) from the night.

  

Firstly, we must recognize that 11:114 commands us to establish the Salat during the Day (NAHAR) as well as at Night (LAYL).

 

According to the Quran, Day is the time when the sun is revealed and Night is the time when the sun is covered. This is evident in {91:1-4} where God says, “By the sun and its brightness… and the Day which reveals it, and the night which covers it…”.

  

Secondly, in 11:114 the keywords TARAFAY and ZULAFAN enable us to determine the number of Salats mentioned.  But first, we must learn a very basic rule of Arabic grammar in plurals:

 

In Arabic, a noun can be ‘singular (one)’, ‘dual (two)’, or ‘plural (three or more)’. The words TARAFAY and ZULAFAN in 11:114 are grammatically constructed in the following plural forms:

 

TARAFAY = dual (2)

ZULAFAN = plural (3 or more)

 

Putting it all together, and from a purely grammatical perspective, we see that God commands the believers to establish the Salat at TARAFAY (2) of the day, and ZULAFAN (3+) from the night:

 

{11:114} Establish the Salat at the TARAFAY [dual: 2 Salats] of the day and ZULAFAN [plural: 3 or more Salats] from the night.

  

So it is without a doubt that – as it has been practiced by Muslims since the time of prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – there are 5 total Salats ordained by God to the Muslims.

 

 

Linguistics of 11:114

 

TARAFAY

 

{11:114} Establish the Salat at the TARAFAY (two portions) of the day…

 

TARAFAY: comes from the root Ta Ra Fa and it means ‘end, side, edge, or portion’… TARAFAY in 11:114 is dual, its plural form is ATRAF, and singular form is TARAF.

 

Some people translate ‘TARAFAY of the day’ as ‘two ends of the day’ being the dawn and sunset times.  However, this is an incorrect interpretation due to the following reasons:

 

  1. ‘Dawn’ and ‘Sunset’ are NOT part of the Day but they are part of the Night. The command in 11:114 is to establish the Salat at TARAFAY of the Day.

 

  1. As far as the Quran is concerned, the Day has more than two edges or ATRAF (ends/edges/portions). This is evident in 20:130:

 

{20:130} So be patient to what they are saying and glorify the grace of your Lord before the rising of the sun (Dawn), and before its setting (Sunset), and from the early part of the night (Night) glorify, and at the ATRAF (edges/portions) of the day that you may be content.

 

 

In 20:130 God excludes the timing of Dawn, Sunset, and Night from the ‘ATRAF (edges/portions) of the day’.  Thus, TARAFAY of the day in 11:114 would mean two portions of the Day which do not include Dawn, Sunset, or Night.
 

Therefore ‘TARAFAY of the day’ in 11:114 is best translated as ‘two portions of the day’ because this conforms to the above noted Quranic verses.

 

ZULAFAN
{11:114} Establish the Salat at… ZULAFAN (near parts) from the night….

 

ZULAFAN: comes from the root ZA LA FA and it means “close proximity or nearness”…

Most interpreters translate ‘ZULAFAN from the night’ as “approaches of the night”. Although this is a correct translation, it does not demonstrate the precise Arabic plurals function which affects how we understand this verse.

 

As mentioned earlier, the word ZULAFAN in 11:114 is plural and therefore there are 3 ‘near parts’ of the night in which the Salat must be established.

 

These 3 ‘near parts’ of the night reflect the 3 primary degrees of darkness in the night:

 

1)      Sunset (night mixes into day)

2)      Night (absolute darkness)

3)      Dawn (day mixes into day)

 

SALAT TIMING IN THE QURAN

 

{17:78} Establish the Salat LIDULUK (repeated-declining) of the sun until GHASAQ (darkness) of the night and the Quran at Dawn…

 

In {17:78} we are given the timing and duration of each of the 5 Salats:

 

  • LIDULUK of the sun= 3 Salats.  The word LIDULUK means the repeated ‘declining’ of the sun which occurs 3 times: noon, afternoon, and at sunset.

 

The phrase ‘LIDILUK of the sun’ coincides with ‘TARAFAY (two portions) of the day’ and the 1st part of the ‘ZULAFAN (near parts) of the night’ in 11:114.

 

  • GHASAQ of the night= 1 Salat. The word GHASAQ means ‘absolute darkness’ and this occurs at Night when the sky turns completely dark.

 

The phrase ‘GHASAQ (darkness) of the night’ coincides with the 2nd part of the ‘ZULAFAN (near parts) from the night’ in 11:114.

 

  • Quran at Dawn= 1 Salat. Linguistically, the phrase WA QURAN AL FAJR (Quran at dawn) emphasizes establishing the Salat as well as reading the Quran at dawn.

 

The phrase WA QURAN AL FAJR (Quran at Dawn) coincides with the 3rd part of the ‘ZULAFAN (near parts) from the night’ in 11:114.

 

LINGUISTICS OF 17:78

 

LIDULUK

 

{17:78} Establish the Salat LIDULUK (repeated declining) of the sun…

 

LIDULUK comes from the root DA LA KA and it generally means ‘falling or being pushed from one place to another’… As such, the “DULUK of the sun” is simply ‘the declining’ of the sun from its position in the sky into the next position. This declining begins at noon.

 

However, because the word DULUK in 17:78 is accompanied by the preposition ‘LI’ (LIDULUK) this signifies a repeated process consecutively throughout one day. In other words, the ‘LI’ in LIDULUK means that the sun will ‘decline’ more than one time; at noon, afternoon, and sunset.

 

The ‘LIDULUK (repeated-declining) of the sun’ explains precisely the ‘TARAFAY (two portions) of the day’ as well as the 1st part of ‘ZULAFAN (near parts) from the night’ in 11:114.

 

GHASAQ

 

{17:78} Establish the Salat … until GHASAQ (darkness) of the night…


GHASAQ comes from the root GHA SA QA and it means ‘darkness’… As mentioned earlier, the night (LAYL) begins at sunset. The fact that God says GHASAQ AL LAYAL (Darkness of the night) means that we are to establish the Salat when the sky turns completely dark.

 

To establish the Salat until ‘GHASSAQ (darkness) of the night’ precisely coincides with the 2nd part of ‘ZULAFAN (near parts) from the night’ in 11:114.

 

QURAN AT DAWN

 

{17:78} Establish the Salat… and [establish the] QURAN at dawn


Linguistically, the word ‘and’ in this verse is tied to the word ‘establish’ so the phrase ‘…and Quran at dawn’ is a twofold command: Establishing salat at dawn, and establishing reading Quran at dawn.

 

NAMES OF THE SALAT IN THE QURAN

 

Besides the Dawn (fajr) and Evening (isha) Salats (24:58), the Quran does not provide names for the rest of the 3 Salats. The names of the Salat are therefore left up to us (the humans).

 

Keep in mind that what we name each of our Salat is ultimately of insignificance because these are just mere labels; they are for conventional purposes. What matters is establishing them at their appropriate times (4:103). Traditionally, the 5 Salats are named as:

 

Noon (thuhr)

Afternoon (‘asr)

Sunset (magrib)

Night (Isha)

Dawn (fajr)

 

CONCLUSIONS

  • There are 5 specified times of Salat mentioned in the Quran ordained by the straightforward command to AQIM AL SALAH (Establish the Salat).
  • {11:114} speaks of the number of Salats:
    • {11:114} Establish the Salat at the TARAFAY of the day and ZULAFAN from the night.
      • TARAFAY = dual (2 Salats)
      •  ZULAFAN = plural (3 Salats)

 

  • {17:78} speaks of the duration of each of the five Salats

 

    • {17:78} Establish the Salat LIDULUK of the sun until GHASSAQ of the night and Quran at dawn.
      • LIDULUK (repeated-declining) = 3 Salats (noon, afternoon, sunset)
      • GHASAQ (darkness) =  1 Salat (night)
      • Quran at Dawn = 1 Salat (dawn)

 Joseph S.

 

Other issues:

Salam brother,
[11:114] You shall observe the Salat at the two ends of the day; and during the near parts of the night. The good deeds wipe out the bad deeds. This is a reminder for those who take heed.

This verse sounds we should pray after sunrise and before sunset during the day time (2 salats). But we do not pray after sunrise, right?  So brother it seems there is again confusion on timings of salats!?

Salam Brother Musa,

 

You shouldn’t be confused if you’ve read my article LOL!! im just kidding brother.

 

Remember, 11:114 focuses more on the number of Salat, while 17:78 focuses more on the timing and duration of each of the Salat.

 

In my article I mentioned that, according to the Quran, the Day has MANY ends or edges {20:130} and not just two. This means that sunrise, forenoon, noon, afternoon are all part of the ends/eges of the day:

 

{20:130} Therefore, be patient in the face of their utterances, and praise and glorify your Lord before sunrise and before sunset. And during the night glorify Him, as well as at ATRAF (ends/edges) of the day, that you may be happy.

 

So the question is: in {11:114} which ‘two ends/eges’ is God talking about?

{11:114} Establish the Salat at TARAFAY (two edges/ends/portions) of the day…

 

The answer is in 17:78 where God says:

{17:78} Establish the Salat at LIDULUK (the repeated declining) of the sun…

Notice that 11:114 speaks of the Day and 17:78 speaks of the Sun indicating they are addressing the same Salats.

The phrase ‘LIDULUK (repeated-declining) of the sun’ explains exactly the ‘two edges/ends/portions of the day’ which are noon and afternoon.

 

This is because the sun begins its DULUK at noon (1st edge of the day), and then it declines again in the afternoon (2nd edge of the day).

Also remember brother, most English translations translate 11:114 as “two ends…” because they understand the word TARAFAY as only two ends…  And although TARAF can mean ‘end’, in Arabic, TARAF also means ‘edge or portion of something’… As such, in 11:114 I prefer using the word ‘two portions’ as this allows the reader room to evaluate which two portions the verse speaks of.

I pray this helps

Peace

Joe

 

“He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget nor was He begotten, and none equals Him.”[Quran 112]

…Peace and God Bless you…

J.S.

Also you may read: In-depth meaning of Salat

 

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