Various Aspects of Salaat for Social Transformation

 by Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque

Islam is the name of obeying the Divine Laws in every walk of life; it is the complete submission to these laws. Salaat, in this way, is the practical admittance and concrete manifestation of subservience to these Laws from the deepest recesses of the human heart.

The Word Salaat

The word Namaaz, usually used for Salaat is not of Arabic language; it is a Persian word; but more than that, it is Pahlvi in its connotation. It was used for the old method of worship popular among the Persians. Later on when the alien conspiracies were made to prevail upon the teachings of Islam, this word was used for the congregations of Salaat; now this same word is in vogue.

The word Salaat that has come in the Quran is very vast and comprehensive. Its basic meanings are “ to comply some one from within or to submit and to be under the command of some one.” In this way, according to the Quran, Salaat is a collective process through which a true Quranic Society is established. That is why the meanings of Salaat are “balanced and continuous tempo and incessant obedience to the Divine Laws from the deepest recesses of heart.” It is plain enough that this entity is collective, it is not individual in nature. The Quran has also used this word for the congregations of Salaat –Namaaz.

The root of the word Salaat is S-L-O. Its root-meanings and various aspects have profusely been dealt with in an email of Mr. Saim. So I need not to make a mention of them.

The Quran has used the term aqaa mate salaat (i) as the establishment of the System of Islam and (ii) as the establishment of the congregations of Salaat. The establishment of Salaat – so far I could grasp the Quran -is an extremely comprehensive and scholarly term of the Quran. Its aim is to develop a society where the Divine Laws are practically implemented. And thus full-blown development of the potentialities of every individual of the society may go on blooming and blossoming so that after achieving the pleasant accomplishments of this world and that of the Hereafter, he may go ahead onto the next evolutionary stage of life. So the system of Salaat encompasses the all life of a Momin (or the jama’et of the Momineen). Every breath of their life stands witness to this exalted reality that these are the Musallees   (i. e. the members of the caravan following – the dictums of – Allah). Each and every aspect of their life – and each and every sphere of their Ibadaat confirms their sub-ordination to the Divine Laws. The record of their business life – when manifested – looks to be the living picture of the Divine will. Due to their adherence to this collective system, their earthly life, right from its burgeoning to the end, reflects the comprehensive exegesis of Islam: (fala tamootunna illa waantum muslimoona) (2:132)


The following are the ingredients of this system they project in the whole tenure of their life:

1.      The Quran i.e. Islam’s Constitutional Code
2.      The Centre i.e. the implementing force of the Divine Code and
3.      The Party – the individuals of the society with whom this system is established

And the following two are the principles and foundations of its pragmatic execution:

1.      Complete harmony among the individuals of the society i.e. one heartedness, one vision, one footedness and
2.        Subordination to the Centre

In this way it demands an all time program.


 This system remains pervaded in the all life of the rank and file of the Momineen. And there happens to be not a single moment in any single day and night in their life when they may even cross this fold. It enjoys the same status in their “human life”, as is the air for the “physical life.” The human life depends upon air and every body acknowledges its need and significance. Even then the doctors have to reiterate this sentence frequently: there is urgent need of open and fresh air for health and life. This has to be repeated just because its reminding makes its importance self-evident. The Divine Code has also had the provision that the reminding of this system is made regularly so that its principles and foundations become refulgent. And its significance does not go out of sight.


The name of this reminding is the ‘time-related obligation’ of Salaat i.e. the congregation of Salaat at conspicuous timings. The Quran, in its program for ‘the construction of society’ has elaborated this vantage point very profusely. For this purpose the necessary accessories are the time-related congregation where, after God’s appreciation, and adjudication of His obeisance and subordination, important and urgent matters are mutually consulted. That is why the order of ‘mutual consultation’ and ‘establishment of Salaat’ have come together in the Quran. In Surah Shoora, says the Quran: 

Waallatheena istajaboo lirabbihim waaqamoo alssalata waamruhum shoora baynahum wamimma razaqnahum yunfiqoona (42:38) 

This is the group of the people who voluntarily leaping to the law of Nourishment of the Nourisher establish the system of Salaat and their matters are decided with mutual consultation. And whatever We have provided them, they keep it all open for the nourishment of the masses.

The history stands witness to this fact that whenever there happened to be any important episode demanding immediate gathering, there was proclamation with these words: Assalaa-tul-jaam’ia. So, hearing these words the people used to assemble and the matter under discussion was considered. My companion, Mr. Bashir Abid has elaborated this point in an email, so I leave it at present. This makes the exposition of assalaat clear.

This corroborates that fundamental principle of the Order of Deen, Islamic Society, - to enjoy the life of achievement and prosperity -is not individual in its nature; it is collective. The congregation of Salaat takes its initiative from this very principle i.e. the gathering of the scattered people at one place on a single call.

The next step in the Order of Deen is obedience to the Centre. In the Collective Salaat its manifestation harbors in a practical form when this conglomeration selects the best of its individual within its own rank and file as an “Imam” – the leader. And the criterion of being the best is the one whose life surpasses the most in harmonizing the Divine Laws. This same “Imam” is the representative of this gathering. Every one has to rise up on the call of this same one. And every one has to kneel down on the same call – And this kneeling and rising is a simultaneous anchoring providing witness to the stark fact that there is perfect harmony of thought and action among the individual members of this group. This makes the social stigmas go vanishing.


The word “Imam”, used above, is the name of the thread that the masons use to judge whether the wall he is constructing is rising exactly straight up  - the building bricks are not zigzag.

The next principle of the Order of Deen is that it is all-universal and its concrete Centre is the House of Allah. So, for reminding this reality, the direction of the group members in the Collective Salaat is kept towards Kiblaa. It means the aim and destiny of all Muslims of the world will be the same one entity.

As stated above, the establishment of the Islamic Society is founded on the Divine Laws. And the objective of the congregation of Salaat is basically the reminding of this very foundation. That is why the concept of Salaat can not be imagined without the Quran. Its very purpose is to divert the attention of the members of the society to the Quran. – These gatherings have been stemmed for the sake of reminding this very purpose. So the Quran is repeatedly recited in these congregations so that this conviction (the aim of life) is revitalized – that we have to establish ourselves alert to rise against every non-Quranic Order; we have to surrender down from the deepest recesses of our heart to its decisions alone.


These congregations of Salaat are not merely for the sake of its reminding; these also encompass the mutual consultation for the solutions of the matters of the Ummah. In fact, as mentioned earlier, these are the gatherings of the “consultative council” of the Quranic Government. So, in the Surah “Sho’ra” the characteristics of Momineen are described as

Waallatheena istajaboo lirabbihim waaqamoo alssalata waamruhum shoora baynahum (42/38)

These people establish Salaat, and their matters are mutually decided. 

The injunctions of establishment of Salaat and mutual consultation at one place profusely determine the aim and purpose of congregations of Salaat. So the history unveils to us that after the exalted period of the Rasool Allah, whenever there was any matter during the period of caliphate, the guided, a proclamation of assalaat-ul-jaam’ey was made on behalf of the caliph. The people used to gather in the Nabvi Mosque for discussion, deliberation and decision. First two rak’ah of Namaaz were used to be offered, then the caliph used to explain the matter under discussion and so its decision with the mutual consultation of the gathering was used to be made. 


So far my insight goes I do never find any glimpse of guidance for the Individual Salaat anywhere in the Quran. Factually the only difference between Collective Salaat and Individual Salaat (if the Individual Salaat could ever be called Salaat) is not that when a number of people offer Salaat together, it is called Collective Salaat, and when a single individual offers it privately – all alone – it is Individual Salaat. These are exponentially the two distinctly different concepts. The Collective Salaat, according to the Quran, is founded on this concept that the personality development of the individual can only be made within a society, being an integral part of it. Also the exposition of Ibadaat is “unbiased and pure obedience to the Divine Laws” which too is possible within a society; it is not possible individually. Contrary to it, the Individual Salaat (non-Quranic in nature) is based on the concept that an individual can “purify the self” privately, being isolated from the society. And that the purpose of Ibaadat, which can be done privately, is to worship God. It is plain enough to say that both of these concepts, from their genuine and foundation point of view, are diametrically opposite to each other. The Quran is an echoing protest against the individual concept of life and a clarion call for the collective concept of life. So it is not possible that the Quran, a herald and a procurer of Collective Salaat, be simultaneously a proponent of Individual Salaat and may tell of its benefits. The entity called Individual Salaat is, in fact, a benediction –da’a, not the Quranic Salaat, which is offered. 

The episode of Hazrat Zachariah is quoted as the example of the Individual Salaat.  The story of Hazrat Zachariah starts with the words humaa lika da’a Zakaria rabbo hoo (3: 37). Zachariah solicited benediction (da’a) from his Nourisher and said: my Nourisher, bestow on me from Thy self a goodly offspring. (innaka samee udd’a) Thou hearest benediction. After this, as the story goes, it is given that he still stood soliciting benediction in the altar when God rejoiced him good news of the son. Fanadat-hu almala-ikatu wahuwa qa-imun yusallee fee almihrabi (3:39) 

The Quran has added the words wahuwa qa-imun yusallee fee almihrabi (3:39) – to tell that Zachariah had hardly vanquished his benediction (da’a) when God blessed him with the confirmation. This matter has been elucidated in Surah Maryam – Zachariah’s soliciting of benediction, confirming of his benediction and getting the happy tidings of his son had all occurred at the same time. That is why when all this had happened, (fa khara ja al’a qaume hee min al meh rabe19: 11), Zachariah came out to his people from the altar. Therefore, in the story of Zachariah, the meaning of usalli fil mih rabe 3: 39 is not ‘to offer the Salaat in the Quran’s terminology’ but it is the ‘soliciting of benediction (da’a) for the son.’ The word ‘Salaat’ for the meaning of benediction (da’a) has been used at numerous places in the Quran. For example, salaato ka sakunn la hum 9:103 your benediction (da’a) is a comfort for them. So this saying is then correct that Benediction (da’a) can be solicited individually. But to say that the Quranic Salaat can be offered collectively as well as individually will not be correct. Be it known that even the Namaazein that we offer with congregation today are Individual Salaat (if the Individual Salaat could ever be called Salaat) in the real sense. Its reason is that the basic concept involved in it is of ‘God’s worship’ and of ‘individual incarnation’. Hence, neither the separately offered Namaaz of any individual, nor that of offered with congregation falls under the canopy of the concept of Salaat from the desired vantage ground of the Quranic.  

But when this system of Salaat vanishes, the mosque and the State become two separate entities. Then, as the human psychology corroborates the fact that the “material-worshipers of the world,” attain the life facilities by virtue of their intellectual chicaneries and hence get satisfaction of their passions. And the “Religionists” gain the sang-froid of their passions by the individual worship. When the Quran said 

Fakhalafa min baAAdihim khalfun adaAAoo alssalata waittabaAAoo alshshahawati fasawfa yalqawna ghayyan (19: 59)

After the Anbiya, their followers wasted the Salaat, and followed lasciviousness, licentiousness, wantonness, so its consequence was destruction and devastation. Then by the word itte ba-e-shahawaat – “the following of lasciviousness, licentiousness” - meant “these people wanted the satisfaction of their passions by other means and ways instead of Divine Laws”.  

This was the very blunder they committed. It may be clarified here that the satisfaction of the passions in line with what the Quran says is not bad. The bad in it is that the non-Divine means and ways accomplish this satisfaction. But the genuine satisfaction of the human passion is by means of integration and consolidation of human personality. That is why the following find no mention in the Quran: 

  1. Performance of  fraaiz-o-waaji baat, sunnan, mustah baat etc of Namaaz accurately
  2. Performance of its elements: Qeyaam, ra’koo, Sajda etc. correctly
  3. Keeping of this much distance between both the feet on standing
  4. Raising of hands for Takbeer up to the lobule of  ears
  5. Keeping of hands to such and such position while in Qeyaam
  6. Observing of this form while bending in ra’koo
  7. Keeping of this posture while in Sajda etc. 

Then the following necessities/things to the satisfaction of one’s passions were propagated from the religious platform. And you know that crowning satisfaction of passions on one’s own by wasting the Salaat is the second mechanism. This is an erroneous errand. The human psychology provides ample proof to this fact that the human passions are not restrained to the “animal passions” alone. They include those “sacred passions”, the satisfaction of which the religionists attain by means of individual worship. The Quran has denoted it with the term mysticism. You know it well that in mysticism “Individual Salaat” (i.e. the mechanism for gaining serenity by worshiping God) could not bring Allah’s prescribed-pleasant-consequences; so the same mode could bring no surety for the goodness of the consequences envisaged -though how much elegantly that might have been made valid and reliable! That is why the Quran made it clear when it proclaimed through the people of Hazrat Shuaib(AS):

O Shuaib! When you had asked us not to interfere in your obedience to Allah, we had thought that it meant only your worship of Allah. Now we see that it goes beyond that. Your Salaat does not allow us to adhere to the religion of our ancestors, nor to use our wealth as we like 1; 87. (Exposition of the holy Quras)

Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque