Prayer according to the Quran

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

Many Muslims, including some Quranists, tend to express that daily prayers aren’t fully explained in the Quran. This false argument is generally used by hadithists to make dissent and discourage people from following the Quran alone, and due to the complexity of Arabic, and a lack of a unified channel of information, some Muslims fall for individual misinterpretations that sometimes mislead them away from prayer altogether.


The truth is that the Quran does include all the necessary details about prayer, but people just tend to ask for more instructions, which leads to other people making them up. The Quranic way of prayer closely reflects what the holders of preceding divine scripture do. This article is a guide for those wanting to establish prayer the way God told them to, with correct prayer times according to the verses, and the right way to perform ablution and prayer.


Prayer Times


وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ طَرَفَیِ ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفࣰا مِّنَ ٱلَّیۡلِۚ إِنَّ ٱلۡحَسَنَـٰتِ یُذۡهِبۡنَ ٱلسَّیِّـَٔاتِۚ ذَ ٰ⁠لِكَ ذِكۡرَىٰ لِلذَّ ٰ⁠كِرِینَ - 11:114
Stand the prayer at both edges of the day and in the close parts of the night. Surely, good deeds erase bad deeds. That is a reminder for the mindful. (11:114)

By the first look, it may seem that the verse specifies three times for prayer, but that’s a misconception, because then “in the close parts of the night” would not be applicable on its own; the phrase specifies a time frame that has to be close or near to something that is in contact with some parts of the night. Hence, it becomes clear when we look at “both edges of the day” that “the close parts of the night” refer to the night time overlapping these two edges, a period we call twilight.


Now that we know the upper bounds of daily prayer time are both edges of the day, namely sunrise and sunset, what remains is the respective night bound of each period.


أَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ لِدُلُوكِ ٱلشَّمۡسِ إِلَىٰ غَسَقِ ٱلَّیۡلِ وَقُرۡءَانَ ٱلۡفَجۡرِۖ إِنَّ قُرۡءَانَ ٱلۡفَجۡرِ كَانَ مَشۡهُودࣰا - 17:78
Stand the prayer for the declining of the sun to the dusk of the night and the recital at dawn. Surely, the recital at dawn is witnessed. (17:78)

This verse makes the night bounds clear to us. Dawn marks the beginning of the parts of the night close to sunrise, and dusk marks the end of the parts of the night close to sunset.

The two verses together make the timings precise for the two prescribed prayers that are named in the Quran: The dawn prayer or Fajr (صلاة الفجر) and the dusk prayer or Isha (صلاة العشاء)


Fajr Prayer is to be established between dawn and sunrise.

Isha Prayer is to be established between sunset and dusk.


The third prayer mentioned in the book is called the Night Prayer.


وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَّكَ عَسَىٰ أَن يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَّحْمُودًا - 17:79
And from the night, adulate by it an additional for yourself, that your Lord may raise you to a praised position. (17:79)

The night prayer is unobligatory, and can be established anytime during the night, that is from dusk till dawn.


Due to the diversions of Sunni prayers, you will find that Isha prayer starts a while after dusk, while dusk is where the time for Isha actually ends. And the fajr prayer is established before the time for dawn actually befalls, and they mark its ending at Duha or first light, where the correct time for Fajr begins according to Quranic timings. Almost as if they intend to delude Muslims from the Quran.


To verify that yourself, there’s a pretty good tool that you can use to attend prayers according to the Quran, and notice the escapism of hadithists in prayer yourself. The tool is called Google weather, scrolling all the way down the main weather page takes you to this handy diagram:

According to local timings in the image, Fajr should take place between 5:05 AM and 5:29 AM, and Isha between 6:24 PM and 6:48 PM


As you can tell, the tool shows accurate timings for all four events we need to realise prayer time; dawn, sunrise, sunset and dusk. You can use this or any other similar tool to attend Fajr and Isha during their accurate twilight times.


Attending Prayer


The word Salah(t) (صلاة) - synonymous to Prayer, comes from the root word S-L (صل), which means communicate or connect. Therefore, any form of remembrance or supplication is considered a connection with God can also be called prayer. However, whenever the daily scheduled prayer is mentioned in the Book, it is always preceded or joined by either "أقم/أقيموا" or "قم/قوموا" – which mean "Stand the" and "Stand up" respectively.


The reason for this is that our prayers are performed by standing, just like how the Jews perform it. Prayer means “Amidah” in Hebrew, and their daily timed prayers are called "Tefilat HaAmidah", which means "Standing prayer", and they too have three times for prayer during a day. Standing is the Abrahamic way of praying as recorded since the Torah, and is unassociated with prostration (سجود) and bowing (ركوع) – which are different forms of worship that are unobligatory, just like it is for the Jews.


A good example from the Quran for understanding prayer is the night prayer story. Due to the voluntary and flexible nature of night prayer, the prophet needed guidance when he first started establishing it, so here’s how God taught the confused prophet how to pray at night:


يا أَيُّهَا المُزَّمِّلُ * قُمِ اللَّيلَ إِلّا قَليلًا نِصفَهُ أَوِ انقُص مِنهُ قَليلًا * أَو زِد عَلَيهِ وَرَتِّلِ القُرآنَ تَرتيلًا * إِنّا سَنُلقي عَلَيكَ قَولًا ثَقيلًا * إِنَّ ناشِئَةَ اللَّيلِ هِيَ أَشَدُّ وَطئًا وَأَقوَمُ قيلًا
O you wrapped up in clothes, stand at night (to pray) except a little. Half of it, or reduce it by a little. Or add to it, and recite the Quran a good recital. We are going to send you down a weighty discourse. Indeed, rising by night is the greatest in composure, the finest in spiel. (73:1-6)

God told the prophet to stand up to pray, for however long he wanted, and to recite some Quran if he wanted to lengthen the prayer. Here are other examples for standing prayer in the verses:


ٱلَّذِينَ يُؤۡمِنُونَ بِٱلۡغَيۡبِ وَيُقِيمُونَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقۡنَٰهُمۡ يُنفِقُونَ - 2:3
those who believe in the unknown, stand the prayer, and spend out of what We have provided them (2:3)

حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَىٰ وَقُومُوا لِلَّهِ قَانِتِينَ - 2:238
Take due care of the prayers, and the mindful prayer, and stand (up) for God devotedly (2:238)

إِنَّ ٱلۡمُنَـٰفِقِینَ یُخَـٰدِعُونَ ٱللَّهَ وَهُوَ خَـٰدِعُهُمۡ وَإِذَا قَامُوۤا۟ إِلَى ٱلصَّلَوٰةِ قَامُوا۟ كُسَالَىٰ یُرَاۤءُونَ ٱلنَّاسَ وَلَا یَذۡكُرُونَ ٱللَّهَ إِلَّا قَلِیلࣰا - 4:142
Surely, the hypocrites are deceiving God while He is the One who leaves them in deception, and if they stand for prayer, they stand up lazily, showing off, and do not remember God but a little. (4:142)

Standing is the only given instruction for regular prayer, and bowing and prostration are never mentioned in a verse that speaks of Prayer (Salah) except in one verse, where it actually proves that prostration is voluntary and not part of the standing prayer:


وَإِذا كُنتَ فيهِم فَأَقَمتَ لَهُمُ الصَّلاةَ فَلتَقُم طائِفَةٌ مِنهُم مَعَكَ وَليَأخُذوا أَسلِحَتَهُم فَإِذا سَجَدوا فَليَكونوا مِن وَرائِكُم وَلتَأتِ طائِفَةٌ أُخرىٰ لَم يُصَلّوا فَليُصَلّوا مَعَكَ وَليَأخُذوا حِذرَهُم وَأَسلِحَتَهُم ۗ وَدَّ الَّذينَ كَفَروا لَو تَغفُلونَ عَن أَسلِحَتِكُم وَأَمتِعَتِكُم فَيَميلونَ عَلَيكُم مَيلَةً واحِدَةً ۚ وَلا جُناحَ عَلَيكُم إِن كانَ بِكُم أَذًى مِن مَطَرٍ أَو كُنتُم مَرضىٰ أَن تَضَعوا أَسلِحَتَكُم ۖ وَخُذوا حِذرَكُم ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ أَعَدَّ لِلكافِرينَ عَذابًا مُهينًا - 4:102
And If you are in their midst, and stood for them the prayer, a party from them should stand with you, and should take their arms. And if they prostrate, they should be (doing so) from behind you, and another party that has not yet prayed should come and pray with you, and they should take their precautions and their arms. Those who disbelieve want you to become heedless of your arms and your belongings, so that they would strike you down a single strike. There is no sin on you, if you have some inconvenience due to rain, or if you were sick, in putting your arms aside, but take your precautionary measures. Surely, God has prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment. (4:102)

The verse tells those people with the prophet, that “if they prostrate”, they should go behind the people standing to take cover. The fact that it’s a conditional "if”, and also that they have to move away from the prophet, means that their prostration is optional and not part of the standing prayer.


While it’s important to distinguish standing prayer from other forms of worship, it is also important to understand that standing is essential for prayer. That fact is stressed in the mentioned verses, and again in the ablution verse (5:6) as a first requirement, where it starts with “O you who believe, if you stand up for prayer…”. Just like prayer, ablution has also been heavily affected by hadithism.


Ablution


The laws of ablution or Ghusl (غسل) are one of the instructions most damaged by hadithists. The way Muslims treat, perform and understand ablution barely resembles anything from the Quran, even Quranists tend to rely on Salafi explanations for it, mostly due to absence of theological efforts surrounding it's verses.


Those who understand how corrupt prayers have become should also expect the effect Hadiths must have had on ablution. They call it Wudu’ (وضوء) – an external word that has nothing to do with the Quran, which is fitting because it has nothing to do with what's described in the verses.


There are two verses that set the conditions for approaching prayer. The first verse tells people when not to approach prayer:


يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تَقۡرَبُواْ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَأَنتُمۡ سُكَٰرَىٰ حَتَّىٰ تَعۡلَمُواْ مَا تَقُولُونَ وَلَا جُنُبًا إِلَّا عَابِرِي سَبِيلٍ حَتَّىٰ تَغۡتَسِلُواْۚ وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرۡضَىٰٓ أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ أَوۡ جَآءَ أَحَدٞ مِّنكُم مِّنَ ٱلۡغَآئِطِ أَوۡ لَٰمَسۡتُمُ ٱلنِّسَآءَ فَلَمۡ تَجِدُواْ مَآءٗ فَتَيَمَّمُواْ صَعِيدٗا طَيِّبٗا فَٱمۡسَحُواْ بِوُجُوهِكُمۡ وَأَيۡدِيكُمۡۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَفُوًّا غَفُورًا - 4:43
O you who believe, do not near prayer when you are intoxicated until you know what you say, nor excessively unclean - except when you are traversing a way - until you wash. And If you are sick, or in travel, or if one of you has come from the deep lands, or you have had contact with women, and you find no water, go for some clean dust and wipe your faces and hands (with it). Surely, Allah is Most-Pardoning, Most-Forgiving. (4:43)

This verse tells only those who are excessively unclean to wash, and the same root word that refers to Quranic ablution in Arabic is used (Ghusl / غسل). Hence, people can approach prayers without wash/ablution, but not if they're excessively unclean. And even then, the verse still gives permission for those sick, gotten in touch with a woman, or came from the deep lands to use dust if they couldn't find water.


The deep lands (الغائط) refers to workplaces that are located in deep lands far outside the community, where water may not be of reach. The word has been twisted in Arabic overtime, and thus misinterpreted and mistranslated by scholars to mean bathroom, but it doesn't. It would make no sense to allow those who came from the bathroom to have extra permission to use sand instead of water, because in their own claims using the bathroom makes it extra urgent for you to cleanse not less. Moreover, it is clear why distant work places in deep rural areas wouldn’t have water, but not bathrooms.


The second verse describes the steps for ablution and tells us to wash unconditionally whenever we stand for prayer, and to do extra cleansing if we were unclean. This means that it isn’t forbidden to pray without ablution (unless excessively unclean) - but it's recommended to always wash before each prayer nonetheless.


يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِذَا قُمۡتُمۡ إِلَى ٱلصَّلَوٰةِ فَٱغۡسِلُواْ وُجُوهَكُمۡ وَأَيۡدِيَكُمۡ إِلَى ٱلۡمَرَافِقِ وَٱمۡسَحُواْ بِرُءُوسِكُمۡ وَأَرۡجُلَكُمۡ إِلَى ٱلۡكَعۡبَيۡنِۚ وَإِن كُنتُمۡ جُنُبٗا فَٱطَّهَّرُواْۚ وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرۡضَىٰٓ أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ أَوۡ جَآءَ أَحَدٞ مِّنكُم مِّنَ ٱلۡغَآئِطِ أَوۡ لَٰمَسۡتُمُ ٱلنِّسَآءَ فَلَمۡ تَجِدُواْ مَآءٗ فَتَيَمَّمُواْ صَعِيدٗا طَيِّبٗا فَٱمۡسَحُواْ بِوُجُوهِكُمۡ وَأَيۡدِيكُم مِّنۡهُۚ مَا يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ لِيَجۡعَلَ عَلَيۡكُم مِّنۡ حَرَجٖ وَلَٰكِن يُرِيدُ لِيُطَهِّرَكُمۡ وَلِيُتِمَّ نِعۡمَتَهُۥ عَلَيۡكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَشۡكُرُونَ - 5:6
O you who believe. If you stand up for Prayer, wash your faces and your hands to the joints, and wipe on your heads and your feet to the heels. If you are excessively unclean, cleanse yourselves. If you are sick, or on a journey, or if one of you has come from the deep lands, or you have had sexual contact with women, and you find no water, then, go for some clean dust and wipe your faces and hands with it. God does not want to cause inconvenience to you; He, rather wants to cleanse you and to complete His favour upon you, so that you may be grateful. (5:6)

Today's "Wudu" is performed by washing the hands up to elbows, that is how they interpret and translate the verse. However, the word used in the verse is "joints" (مرافق) and not elbows (كيعان). So, from the hands (ايدي) to the joints, refers to the first joint attached to the hand, and that's the wrist joint. If the verse had said from the wrists (كفوف) to the joints, or if it had mentioned the forearm (ساعد) it would have been harder to conclude that it points to the wrist joint. But the phrase "your hands to the joints" (أَيۡدِيَكُمۡ إِلَى ٱلۡمَرَافِقِ) clearly refers to the the first joint after the hand, and the only attached to part of it, the wrist joint.


Similarly, the root word كعب (from كعبين) has been translated to ankles instead of heels. The word كعبين in the verse is a double plural (two heels), therefore the verse tells people to wipe both feets to their respective heels. Ankle means كاحل in Arabic, an entirely different word.


Hadithists like to extend things on their own, so they extended ablution to elbows and ankles, and added mouth and nose rinsing. They also set three repetitions for face, hand and foot washing, for no apparent reason from the Quran whatsoever, and people still majorly commit to their description.


The correct way from the verse to ablute is to wash one’s face, wash the hands to their joints (on the wrist not the elbow), and use water to wipe their heads and their feet to the heels (not ankles), each action once.


Summary


Prayers: Two mandatory prayers, Fajr and Isha, during the morning and evening twilight respectively. A third voluntary prayer anytime at night. Prayers have no cycles, they are performed by standing. Bowing and prostration are voluntary and different from the main standing prayer.


Ablution: No repetitions, and it covers the hands and wrists not the forearms and elbows. Farting and discharging have no effect on ablution. People not allowed to pray without ablution are those who are excessively unclean, but we are encouraged to always wash before prayer anyway.


It might be as tempting for some Quranists to draw several conclusions for prayers or follow individual interpretations of other people, but this undermines Quranism. There is one truth in the book, and people need to understand what it says, and not attempt to make their own vague assumptions about what could be made clear to them if they understood the verses correctly. Those who seek the truth know the truth when they see it.

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