I seek refuge with Allaah, from satan the outcast.
In the name of Allaah, the beneficent, the merciful.

In the previous article on swalah, we studied in the light of Qur-aan, about the validity of the different acts that constitute our prayer and we thus became aware of what to do and what not to do in the prayer.

In this article, we shall be studying, in the light of Qur-aan, of course, about the number of rak'ats to be prayed at different times of the day and night. This, we shall come to know, in-sha-Allaah, as we analyse the Qur-aanic commands about Qaswr (shortened) prayers.

Qaswr swalah : Shortened prayers.

Our fiqh books tell us that prayers must be shortened, once we travel a certain minimum distance (36 miles, according to some) to a place and if we intend to stay at such place for a period not exceeding fifteen days. These stipulations, because of uncertainties arising in travel, bring up many questions and the 'fiqh' books discuss these questions - masaa-il - at length.

However, if we look at the verses of Qur-aan that deal with Qaswr swalah or shortened prayers, we find that the circumstances under which shortened prayers have been permitted, as also the manner of conducting such prayers, are entirely different. The verses are self-explanatory and need no further explanation, whatever be the circumstances of travel.

Let us study those verses of Qur-aan, which deal with the Qaswr prayers (Surah An-nisaa)
101. "And when you go forth in the land, then it is no sin for you to shorten from (your) prayer, if you fear that those who disbelieve may attack you.
Indeed the disbelievers are an open enemy to you."
102. "And when you (O Messenger) are among them and stand to lead them in prayer, let a party of them stand with you (in prayer) and let them take their arms.
Then when they have performed their prostrations, let them fall to the rear and let the other party - that has not prayed - come and let them pray with you, and let them take their precaution and their arms.
Those who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may assault you in a single rush.
It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedes you or you are sick.
And take your precaution.
Indeed Allaah prepares for the disbelievers humiliating punishment."
103. "When you have performed the act of prayer, remember Allaah, standing, sitting and lying down on your sides.
And when you are in safety, set up regular prayers.
For such prayers are enjoined on Believers at stated times."

From studying the above verses, we come to know that Qaswr prayers are permitted if there is a threat of trial or trouble from the non-believers.

In spite of that, we presently believe, based on our 'fiqh' books, that :

1. The Qaswr prayers become applicable on travelling a certain minimum distance
2. The Qaswr prayers are applicable for a certain maximum period of stay in the place travelled to ; 
3. The Qaswr can be prayed only for Zwuhr, 'Aswr and 'Isha prayers (where the usual four raka'ats have to be reduced to two) ; There can be no shortening in Fajr and Maghrib prayers, when we pray two and three raka'ats, respectively.

But we see from the verses of Qur-aan that distance of travel or period of stay is not a factor to be considered at all and, moreover, no distinction has been made between different times of prayer, i.e., Zwuhar, Maghrib, etc., making it permissible to shorten the prayer at all times of prayer while travelling, when there is a threat of attack by the disbelievers.

In an Urdu book called "Aasaan (easy) Fiqh" by Mohamed Yousuf Islaahi, a veteran member of Jamaa'ath-e-Islaami, the author evades, like many others, mentioning that part of the verse which talks about the condition " if you fear that those who disbelieve may attack you " but only quotes the preceding part of the verse which permits "When you go forth in the land, then it is no sin if you shorten from your prayer,". Thus, even the learned people dare not mention this inconsistency between our present beliefs and the actual Qur-aanic commands. They would rather mislead the people by suppressing the Qur-aanic commands than telling people that such and such rules given in the Fiqh books go against Allaah's commands. Thus they place greater respect and value for the akaabir (the elders) than the Akbar (The Greatest) Himself.

As we can see from the verses, the Qaswr prayer facilitates one group of believers to be engaged in prayer while the other group guards it, while the role is reversed after the first group completes the prostration, Sajdah.

However, since our present method of practising Qaswr prayer is not at all connected to a threat of trial or trouble from the non-believers, the entire congregation which is travelling or in a "state of travel" (which is upto 15 days while staying in the place travelled to!), stands up for Qaswr prayer behind the 'travelling' imaam.

We can see in the page : devzikr.html , how each and every part of the aayah (verse) relating to Zikr (7:205 - Surah Al-a'araaf) is violated in a single act. Similarly, each and every part of the aayah (verse) relating to Qaswr - shortened prayer - is violated in the following manner :

Allaah says: "When you travel  in the land... "

Our fiqh books say : "Even while you stay (for less than 15 days) in a place after completing the travel." (The condition of number of days of stay introduced to make it appear genuine).

Allaah says: "then it is no sin for you to shorten from (your) prayer, "

Our fiqh books say : You must shorten your prayers. We think that we are shortening our prayer. Actually there is no shortening, because we pray two rak'ats instead of one.

Allaah says: "if you fear that those who disbelieve may attack you." : 

Our fiqh books say : Shorten even when there is no fear ; only distance and time matters.

The manner of shortening The whole congregation praying Qaswr thinks it is shortening, while it prays full two raka'ats. While the fiqh books allow shortening by 2 rak'ats for Zwuhr, 'Asr, and 'Ishaa prayers (50% reduction), it is not known why it is not shortened to two rak'ats in Maghrib to allow a 33% reduction.

If we try to imagine how our prophet (peace upon him) and his companions would have prayed according to our notions, we have the following scenario :

1. If Qaswr prayer is for the four-rak'ath prayers only, i.e., in Zwuhr, 'Asr and 'Ishaa, then the people praying the first 2 of the 4 rak'aths of 'Ishaa will have Qir-ath, - recitation of Qur-aan - while the people praying the later 2 rak'aths behind the prophet will not have Qir-ath. This lacks equality and does not serve the purpose of swalah for the second group. (This will be explained later in this article.)

2. The time for interchange of the two groups is mentioned in Qur-aan as after sajdah (prostration) and not as "after the sajdahs of the second rak'ath" or as "after the the first qaa'idah (first sitting)", which would have been the case if Qaswr prayer were for the four-rak'ath prayers only.

3. If during Fajr and Maghrib prayers, the prophet and his companions had not prayed Qaswr prayers in spite of threat from the disbelievers, how would have they guarded themselves, if they had stood all together in one congregation?

This disharmonious situation can be removed and a solution found, if we try to apply the Qur-aanic commands to the Fajr prayer, where the number of rak'ats is two and both the rak'ats have recitation of Qur-aan. If the group which stands first for praying takes the job of guarding after performing sajdah of the first rak'ath, then the other group which has not prayed can come and stand behind the imaam and perform the prayer. Thus, both the groups can hear the recitation of Qur-aan in the prayer (which is its essence) and the command of Allaah to inter-change the roles after sajdah is also fulfilled.

We, in this manner, come to know that the complete prayer consists of two rak'ats and Qaswr prayer consists of one rak'at for each of the two groups which pray and guard by turns. Only if we pray two rak'ats in all times of regular prayer, we can avoid the problems of inconsistency which otherwise arise when we try to apply the method of praying Qaswr as detailed in Qur-aan. Later in this article we would see, in the light of Qur-aanic verses, in-sha-Allaah, how it is necessary for us to pray two rak'ats at all times of prayer.

What is Swalah?

I have said above that the recitation of Qur-aan in the prayer and its hearing is its essence. Let us see the full details in the light of Qur-aan :

The contradictors of prophet Shu'aib (peace upon him) tell him:

11:87 "They said: 'O Shu'aib! does your prayer (swalah) command you that we leave off the worship which our fathers practised, or that we leave off doing what we like with our property? Truly, you are the mild and right-minded!' "

We all know that it is Qur-aan which commands the polytheists to leave off what their fathers used to worship and lays down the manner of dealing with our property. Here, the prophet's opposers too are aware that the recitation of Allaah's book (in prayer) constitutes swalah, when they say: "O Shu'aib! does your prayer (swalah) command you that we leave off the worship which our fathers practised, or that we leave off doing what we like with our property?"

I give below another proof that the recitation of Allaah's book (in prayer) constitutes swalah.

In Sura Maryam, after narrating the story of the prophets and His obedient servants, Allaah says in verse No. 58 and 59:

58. " These are they unto whom Allaah showed favour from among the prophets, of the seed of Aadam and of those whom We carried (in the ship) with Nooh, and of the seed of Ibraaheem and Israa-eel, and from among those whom We guided and chose. When the revelations of the Beneficent were recited unto them, they fell down, prostrating and weeping.
59. " But after them there followed a generation which ruined prayers and followed after lusts: soon, then will they face destruction,"

As we could see from the above verses, the later generations missed or ruined the prayers - Swalah - that which the earlier generations preserved, by falling down in prostration and weeping, when the Signs of Allaah - Aayaathur-Rahmaan - were recited upon them. Through these verses, we understand that Swalah is : being recited upon the Aayaatillaah - the Signs of Allaah - and falling down in prostration, weeping, on hearing them. But when it is done in a tone inaudible to the 'audience' - the muswallees - it ceases to be swalah. Nobody hears anything. Neither he hears and understands nor he weeps but goes to the prostrations without any feeling or emotion and devoid of guidance.

Because of reciting two times of the prayers inaudibly by the imaam, the muswallees miss the recitation - which has been enjoined to be recited in a middle level of sound (neither aloud nor in low tone), in Sura Al-Israa', verse No.110.

By violating this command, we come within the purview of the warning of punishment in the above verse : "soon, then will they face destruction".

Dear Brothers! Let us save ourselves from the punishment, by repenting from this contravention, as kindly provided for by Almighty Allaah, in the next verse (No.60) of Sura Maryam :

60. "Except those who repent and believe, and work righteousness: for these will enter the Garden and will not be wronged in the least, "
Therefore, let us avoid praying inaudibly, i.e., without the people behind the imaam being able to hear his recitation, in Zwuhr and 'Asr prayers and save ourselves from contravening a Qur-aanic command.

All prayers consist of two rak'ats.

Besides the circumstantial evidence we have seen about the prayers consisting of two rak'ats at all times of prayer, while studying the details of Qaswr swalah, I quote below verses of Qur-aan which directly indicate this fact.

In the above verse (39:23) of Qur-aan, Allaah has called the book He revealed as mathsaanee. Thsaanee means the "second", as indicated in the following verse of Sura At-taubah, verse 40 :

9:40 " If you help him not, still Allaah helped him when those who disbelieve drove him forth, the second of two; when they two were in the cave, when he said unto his comrade: Grieve not. Indeed Allaah is with us."

When the word "the second" is used referring to the book which is read - mathsaanee - it means "that (a book) which is read a second time", i.e., twice.

The word mathsaanee occurs in another place in Qur-aan, which indicates that the Opening Surah, Surah Al-Fathiha, as well as the Grand Qur-aan is to be read twice, ruling out rak'ats more than two.

Sura Al-hijr : 15:87 "And We have bestowed upon you seven from the twice-read (verses) and the Grand Qur-aan."

Presently, we pray third and fourth rak'ats (in four times of prayer) in which we inaudibly recite Surah Al-Fathiha.By doing so, we recite only the seven (verses) and ignore the recitation of the rest of the Qur-aan. In Surah Al-Faatihah we pray to Allaah :"Show us the straight path", and then we neglect to recite the guidance, which is the Qur-aan. This also amounts to making rukoo' (bowing) and sajdah (prostration) after hearing nothing. Thus we show disrespect to Qur-aan.

By Allaah's grace, I have explained in this and the previous article, the Qur-aanic commands relating to our prayers - swalah.

We are accustomed to praying differently since our childhood. The reason given by our elders for praying in that manner is that our prophet Muhammad (peace upon him) was taught by Allaah, through archangel Jibreel (peace upon him), to pray in that manner.

But having seen the Qur-aanic verses that show us the method of prayer, now we know for sure that it is indeed this method which was shown through the angel, Jibreel, by revelation on our prophet Muhammad (peace upon him), and not what our elders believed in.

Allaah says about Qur-aan in Surah An-Nahl, verse 102:

16:102 "Say, the holy spirit has brought the revelation from your Lord with Truth, in order to strengthen those who believe, and as a Guide and Glad Tidings to Muslims."

Therefore, it is binding on us to follow the Qur-aanic explanations and not disregard them, so that, in Allaah Subhaanahu-wa- Ta-'Aala's words : "in order to strengthen those who believe, and as a Guide and Glad Tidings to Muslims."

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