The Meaning Of ‘Salawaat’

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Kaleef K. Karim

Recently I came across an article, the title was “As-salaat.” I had a read of it. Reading through it, the person was arguing that “Salawat” in the Quran does not mean “prayer” (worship), according to him it means,  “a set of guidelines or instructions.” The problem the author has, he didn’t provide any source (Arabic -English Dictionary) to back him up. He interpreted the word “Salawat” with his own understanding. Another thing people need to know is, he does not know the Arabic language. He  attacked  Arabs for translating the word “Salawat” to “prayer”, according to this self made illiterate scholar, the Arab Scholars are all wrong for nearly 1400 years and he is right. Edward Lane elucidates what “Salawat” means:

Edward Lane Lexicon[1]

As you have read from above Lexicon, Edward Lane, explains that “Salaat” means prayer (worship). The author of the article for “As-Salaat”, goes on to say that this verse (Q. 11:87) below makes no sense if  we use “prayer.”  I will use the letter “J” as the author’s name.

Quran 11:87 They said, “O Shu’ayb, does your salaat (salaatu-ka) command you (ta/muru-ka) that we should leave what our fathers served or not do with our wealth what we please? Indeed, you are the forbearing, the discerning!”

Actually it makes perfect sense J, if you just read the commentary (Tafsir). First, the word “served” is not even the proper translation. Instead of “served” the poor translator should of put “worshipped.”

Tafsir al-Jalalayn says the following,

“They said, to him mockingly: ‘O Shu‘ayb, does your [way of] prayer command you, with the obligation [to make sure], that we should leave what our fathers [used to] worship, of idols, or, that we should cease, to do as we will with our goods?, meaning that such a command is an absurdity which no person calling to good would commend. You are indeed the forbearing, the right-guided’: they said this in mockery.”[2]

So you see J, if you just read a commentary it makes perfect sense what the story is about. J goes on and mistranslates the word “Salawata” in the following verse:

Quran 19:59 But there came after them successors who neglected to follow instructions (as-Salaat) and pursued desires; so they are going to meet evil


Here is a number of Arabic speaking translators of the Quran, who have translated 19:59. Let’s see if one of them agree with his interpretation:

1. Sahih International
But there came after them successors who neglected prayer and pursued desires; so they are going to meet evil –

2. Muhsin Khan
Then, there has succeeded them a posterity who have given up As-Salat (the prayers) [i.e. made their Salat (prayers) to be lost, either by not offering them or by not offering them perfectly or by not offering them in their proper fixed times, etc.] and have followed lusts. So they will be thrown in Hell.

3. Pickthall
Now there hath succeeded them a later generation whom have ruined worship and have followed lusts. But they will meet deception.

4. Yusuf Ali
But after them there followed a posterity who missed prayers and followed after lusts soon, then, will they face Destruction,-

5. Shakir
But there came after them an evil generation, who neglected prayers and followed and sensual desires, so they win meet perdition,

6. Dr. Ghali
Then there succeeded even after them a succession who wasted the prayer and closely followed lusts; so they will eventually meet misguidance.

All of them agree that Q. 19:59 is to do with prayer (worship). Question J, which source have you provided that this verse is not talking about prayer (worship), but something else? This is the last verse I will respond to from his article,

Q24:41 Do you not see that he who is in the heavens and in the earth goes about performing tasks for Allah, and even the birds with wings spread? Each has its own set of instructions (salaata-hu) and its own work which it performs for Allah, and Allah is Knowing of what they do.

J,  is very ignorant, he has never studied the Arabic language, yet he is translating the above verse as if he is a scholar. Check the following translators of the Quran and how every one of them agree that the above verse is talking about prayer. Yet J, is trying to argue that it is about “instructions” not prayer.

1. Muhammad Asad ART THOU NOT aware that it is God whose limitless glory all [creatures] that are in the heavens and on earth extol, even the birds as they spread out their wings? Each [of them] knows indeed how to pray unto Him and to glorify Him; and God has full knowledge of all that they do:

2. M. M. Pickthall Hast thou not seen that Allah, He it is Whom all who are in the heavens and the earth praise, and the birds in their flight? Of each He knoweth verily the worship and the praise; and Allah is Aware of what they do.

3. Shakir Do you not see that Allah is He Whom do glorify all those who are in the heavens and the earth, and the (very) birds with expanded wings? He knows the prayer of each one and its glorification, and Allah is Cognizant of what they do.

4. Yusuf Ali (Saudi Rev. 1985) Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praises all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise. And Allah knows well all that they do.

5. Yusuf Ali (Orig. 1938) Seest thou not that it is God Whose praises all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise. And God knows well all that they do.

6. Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar Hast thou not considered that glorifies God whatever is in the heavens and the earth and the birds, ones standing in ranks? Each knew its formal prayer and its glorification. And God is Knowing of what they accomplish.

7. Wahiduddin Khan [Prophet], do you not see that all those who are in the heavens and on earth praise God, as do the birds with wings outstretched? Each knows his own mode of prayer and glorification: God has full knowledge of all that they do.

8. T.B.Irving Have you not seen how everyone in Heaven and Earth glorifies God, even to the birds lined up (in flight)? Each knows its prayer and how to glorify Him. God is Aware of whatever they do.

9. Abdel Haleem [Prophet], do you not see that all those who are in the heavens and earth praise God, as do the birds with wings outstretched? Each knows its [own way] of prayer and glorification: God has full knowledge of what they do.

10. Abdul Majid Daryabadi Beholdest thou not that Allah –those hallow Him whosoever is in the heavens and the earth and the birds with wings outspread? Surely each one knoweth his prayer and his hallowing; and Allah is the Knower of that which they do.

11. Aisha Bewley Do you not see that everyone in the heavens and earth glorifies Allah, as do the birds with their outspread wings? Each one knows its prayer and glorification. Allah knows what they do.

12. Ali Ünal Do you not see that all that is in the heavens and the earth, and the birds flying in patterned ranks with wings spread out glorify God. Each knows the way of its prayer and glorification. God has full knowledge of all that they do.

13. Ali Quli Qara’i Have you not regarded that Allah is glorified by everyone in the heavens and the earth, and the birds spreading their wings. Each knows his prayer and glorification, and Allah knows best what they do.

14. Hamid S. Aziz Have you not seen that Allah, He it is whom praise all who are in the heavens and the earth, and the birds in their flight? Each one knows its worship and its praise, and Allah is aware of what they do?

Whosoever believes that “salawat” doesn’t mean prayer, please do solve this puzzle for me. Let’s say I agree with your modernistic interpretation that “salawat” means “Instructions.” Can anyone make sense of this verse below? Say, we removed the word “prayer” and replaced it with “instructions” would it make sense? Here is the verse:

salawat
If we use J’s way of translating the above verse (Q. 2:238), it will sound something like this:

“Maintain with care the (obligatory) instructions and (in particular) THE MIDDLE INSTRUCTION and stand before Allah, devoutly obedient.”

What does “MIDDLE INSTRUCTION” mean? I have a lot more verses that wont make no sense at all, if we used the word “instruction” instead of “prayer.” Now I will finish of with Non-Muslim sources, who know the Arabic language fluently. See what they think “Salawat” means:

1. Haywood says:
Salaat[3]

2. Hans Wehr:
salaat[4]


3. John Penrice:
salaat[5]


Conclusion:
It is abundantly clear with the evidences I have presented that “salawat” means “prayer.” I had looked around from Muslim and Non-Muslim sources, maybe if “salawat” could mean “instruction”, but I didn’t find a one shred of evidence for that. All the Muslim and non-Muslim Scholars agreed that it could only mean “prayer” and not “instruction”.

References:

[1] Edward Lane Lexicon, volume 4, page 1720 and 1721
[2] http://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=74&tSoraNo=11&tAyahNo=87&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2
[3]
J.A Haywood, A New Arabic Grammar, page 686
[4] Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, page 523
[5]
John Penrice. A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran. Page 85

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4 Responses »

  1. Mr. J’s translation makes sense, when read broad minded, Salawat is the set of commands which make us closer/ connected to God, which include supplications remembring praising, ‘aamalu salihat etc.

    • Bro first learn Arabic …. Saliha means Virtues or good Salaah or Salwat means prayer ….. Aamalu Saliha means Good deeds or good actions and Salat pr Salawat means Prayer Both are different Words ….

  2. It isn’t about making sense, it’s about having a source that can support it. With no source it’s worth nothing.

    What is your source that salawaat means ” set of commands/instructions ”?

    But still, no, it still doesn’t make sense in anyway even if you take it that way. Because you have to take the ayaat in their context and when you do that, you’ll see it doesn’t make any sense.

    ” 2:238 Maintain with care the instructions (prayers*) and the middle instruction (prayer*) and stand before Allah , devoutly obedient. ”

    Take the meaning with the next ayah 2:239 together, do the set of commands/instructions on foot or riding when you are in danger? What instructions to do while on foot?

    It’s obvious the ayaat that talk about salaah, talk about a specific/certain prayer. It’s not a word used for general set of commands which makes us closer/connected to god. It talks about one of the ways that brings us closer to Allah s.w.a. Because Allah s.w.a. says in 9:5

    ” But if they should repent, establish instruction (?!)(salaah/prayer*), and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. ”

    Repenting, giving zakaah are ” commands ” which bring us closer to Allah s.w.a. too, those are good deeds too, but it’s obvious ” salaah ” is something different than those, Allah s.w.a has separated it many times in the Qoraan from other good deeds. It has a meaning on it’s own, which means the specific prayer. If we’d take it as ” set of instructions ” if would be, ” But if they should repent, establish the command/instruction and give zakaah ”. How does this make sense? What is that command then? Which instructions/commands? If other good deeds are salawaat too, then what is the salaah that’s being talked about here? Why are other good deeds listed appartly?

    In soerat 62:9 Allah s.w.a. says;

    ”O you who have believed, when [the adhan] is called for the prayer on the day of Jumu’ah [Friday], then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you, if you only knew.”

    Would it make sense the salaah here means ” instruction ”. Being called to the instruction of friday? Which instruction? Where is that instruction written? What is it we have to do on that friday? Which of the many ” instructions ” written in the Qoraan?

    And ofcourse the question still stands, what does ” middle instruction ” mean? So there are a set of instructions but there is a middle one too? What to do then? How do we carry out that one middle instruction?

    Many examples could be given. It makes perfect sense salawaat means prayers, and that leaving/neglecting the prayers opens the way to pursue desires, because Allah s.w.a. says in 29:45,

    ” Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do. ”

    So Allah s.w.a. says that the prayer protects you from immorality and wrongdoing. the ayah says aqiemussalaah, it doesn’t talk about ” set of instructions ”, it talks about THE ” instruction ”, now, what is that instruction? The prayer.

    With no source to base it on, it’s just empty talk. If salawaat would mean ” set of instructions ” then many ayaat in the Qoraan couldn’t be explained in logical ways. Alright, set of instructions, but which instructions? Establish THE instruction, alright, but which instruction? IT says ” assalawaat ”, not ” salawaat ”, so it’s talking about a specific thing here ” AL-SALAWAAT ”, and same everywhere else the word prayer is used, it says ” assalaaah ”, THE salaah, the known one, that one specific salaah(prayer). So it would be unexplainable to say it doesn’t mean prayer but set of instructions, because then there’d be no way to explain/prove about which of the instructions those ayaat talk about.

    So, having no evidence that salaat/salawaat means instruction/instructions, and instruction/instructions making no sense in the ayaat is an evidence is doesn’t make sense at all. This is not being ” narrow minded ”, this is basing your arguments on evidence and common sense.

  3. What is the meaning of the word يصلون

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