Thursday, July 23, 2009

How We Pray 1

Click for CreditIf you are not a Muslim, have you ever wondered why Muslims pray the way they do? If you are a Muslim, have you ever been asked the question?

Have you ever thought to answer by asking: Why doesn't everyone pray this way?

One thing we learned in Fiqh of Salah was the History of Salah, and it doesn't start with Islam. Anyone who has read the Bible might recognize the postures of salah being performed by Prophets and Messengers as far back as the time of Ibraheem! (as)

Muslims probably already know that Ibraheem, called Abraham in English, recognized salah, because it is mentioned in the Qur'an (14:37.) But did you know that even the Bible describes sajdah, prostration? In Genesis 17 (v. 3 and 17) it says that Abraham fell on his face. The son of Ibraheem, Isma'il (as) , also used to pray salah and enjoin it on his family. (19:54-55.)

The Qur'an also describes salah in the time of Musa and Harun (as) in Surah Yunus (10:87.) But the Bible describes some of their positions in salah as well. Exodus 34:8 describes Moses bowing his head in prayer, while Numbers 20:6 describes both Moses and Aaron falling on their faces.

From Surah al-Ma'idah (5:12) Muslims know that the Children of Israel were instructed to perform salah. But it is also mentioned in the Bible, that the people would lift their hands, bow their heads, and worship with their faces to the ground (Nehemiah 8:6); that Joshua fell on his face to worship (Joshua 5:14); that Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all of Jerusalem fell before the Lord to worship (2 Chronicles 20:18).

And what about during the time of Jesus? The Qur'an tells us that Mary was instructed to prostrate and bow (3:43), and that salah was also enjoined on her son (19:31). And what does the Bible say? First that Jesus fell on his face to pray (Matthew 26:39) but also it says that even his disciples fell on their faces out of fear of God (Matthew 17:6).

So clearly there is nothing bizarre or unfounded about the way Muslims pray today--the postures they exhibit in worship have been mentioned in previous scriptures and the Qur'an, long before the time of Muhammad (saws). The postures of the prayer universally represent humility and devotion, and are not exclusive even to Islam. So why not pray the way that Muslims pray? Although the exact manner of prayer today might be different than during the time of the Prophets, as Muslims we partake of their legacy every time we pray. It might be that we are the only nation in all of humanity to keep these rituals alive.


Anonymous said...

Your posted reminded of some of the youtube videos showing how Orthodox Jews pray.

The similarity is quite interesting

Anonymous said...

Your posted reminded of some of the youtube videos showing how Orthodox Jews pray.

The similarity is quite interesting

DCkid said...

excellent post.. i always thought salaah itself was unique to Muslims...

umar said...

A revert brother told me that in traditional Catholic monasteries they prayed five times a day: Dawn (Matins), mid morning (Lauds), noon (Sext), afternoon (Vespers, though often this is just on Fridays), and night (Compline). These are usually done in congregation and mostly sung.

The traditional Catholic church had a call to prayer - it was called the Angelus and was rung 3 times a day. When you heard the Angelus you stopped what you were doing and prayed (usually this was in honor of the moment Gabriel - Jibril - coming to Mary to announce she was to become a mother).

Wonder where all of this got lost in mainstream Christianity?

Amy said...

DCKid--the manner in which salah is specifically performed today is unique to Muslims, but the postures which comprise the prayer are not--they are universal, while the particular manner of performing salah is actually unique to Muslims. :-)

Amy said...

Umar --

I think to some extent it has gotten lost in culture, just as some practices of Islam have similarly been compromised by culture.

We recognize "church bells" but the purpose of the bells in the first place was to call townspeople to come to the church. (So as Muslims we don't use bells.)

Bells would ring out on Sundays, on holidays, and at special events.

It's part of the beauty of Islam that it has been preserved. Alhamdulillah.

*Midnight Star* said...

Excelent post Amy, congratulations! Now I know something new :) and have something new to think about, u are right, why not?