A Christian Critique of a Muslim's Denial
Muslim dawagandist MENJ of Bismikaallahuma website has critiqued my paper, as well as Christian Evangelist and debater Dr. Anis Shorrosh's book, Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab's View of Islam, regarding Allah praying for Muhammad.
More specifically, MENJ seeks to deny that the acronym PBUH, which in English stands for "peace be upon him," is a mistranslation of the Arabic phrase, sallallâhû `alayhî wa sallam (a better translation would be: the prayers of Allah be upon him and peace).
MENJ essentially ignored and didn't even bother addressing all the Muslim citations we provided to show that salah (or sallâ, MENJ's preferred transliteration of the Arabic) means prayer, and that Allah actually prays. Therefore, we repeat some of them here for our readers to see what Muslim sources themselves have said about this term, and about Allah praying:
In the Arabic language, the basic meaning of Salah is supplication. In religious terminology, Salah is used to refer to the acts of bowing and prostration, the remaining specified acts associated with it, specified at certain times, with those known conditions, and the characteristics, and requirements that are well-known about it. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; underline emphasis ours)
Ibn Abbas, Muhammad's first cousin and viewed as a renowned Muslim scholar, said:
"The people of Israel said to Moses (peace be upon him): Does your Lord pray? His Lord (az wa gal) called him [saying]: O Moses, they asked thee if your Lord prays. Say [to them] Yes, I do pray, and my angels [pray] upon my prophets and my messengers, and Allah (az wa gal) then sent down on his messenger (prayer and peace be upon him): Allah and His angels pray ..." [quoted by Ibn Kathir on Surat Al-Ahzaab 33:56; translated from the Arabic online edition]
Qadi 'Iyad Musa al-Yahsubi, a scholar quoted by MENJ on his site, noted:
Allah makes the merit of His Prophet clear by first praying blessing on Himself, and then by the prayer of the angels, and then by commanding His slaves to pray blessing and peace on him as well. Abu Bakr ibn Furak related that one of the 'ulama interpreted the words of the Prophet, "The coolness of my eye is in the prayer," as meaning Allah's prayer, that of the angels and that of his community in response to Allah's command until the Day of Rising. The prayer of angels and men is supplication for him and that of Allah is mercy.
It is said that "they pray" means they invoke blessing (baraka). However, when the Prophet taught people the prayer on himself, he made a distinction between the word salat (prayer) and baraka (blessing). We will return to the meaning of the prayer on him later. (Muhammad Messenger of Allah (Ash-Shifa of Qadi 'Iyad), translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley [Madinah Press, Inverness, Scotland, U.K. 1991; third reprint, paperback], p. 25; bold emphasis ours)
The Prophet made a distinction between salat (prayer) and baraka (blessing) in the hadith in which he taught about making the prayer on him. This indicates that they have two separate meanings. (Ibid., p. 250; bold emphasis ours)
When we consult some online Islamic glossaries this is what we find for the words Salah and Salawat:
- Salat are the obligatory prayers
- Salawat are invocation of blessings, specifically the recitation of Allahumma Sali 'Ala Muhammadin Wa Aali Muhammad, meaning O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad. (Source)
Another site says the Arabic words for prayer are Salah and Salat:
Prayer (salat or salah in Arabic) is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. All Moslems are expected to pray five times a day. These are fixed prayers (including the Shahada and the opening Sura of the Koran) which can be said in private, whereever one happened to be when the time for prayer comes, or with the community in a mosque. (Source)
Keeping the foregoing in mind, we now turn to examine MENJ's rebuttal:
There is a claim, circulated in Arab Christian circles and further propagated by the Islamophobic Christian missionary Anis Shorrosh in his book  with regard to the allegation that the beatific phrase (sallallâhû `alayhî wa sallam) does not literally mean "peace be upon him" but "occurs in the Quranic text" and
...literally reads, "Lo! Allah and His angels pray upon the prophet. Oh yea who believe, pray on him and salute him with peace."
One is utterly confounded when the literal and real translation is understood. Why do our Muslim friends hide the real meaning of pbuh? Is it because the Arabic statement is embarassing[sic] since it contradicts Muslim doctrine?
The missionary Shorrosh goes on to take the opportunity to blaspheme and make mockery of Allâh, but we shall not bother to cite further from his blasphemous work and will instead directly address the issue of the phrase which the missionary had disputed.
Even though MENJ chose not to quote the rest of Dr. Shorrosh's comments, we have decided to do so in order to see whether or not he really blasphemed Allah as MENJ claims:
THE MYSTERY OF PBUH UNVEILED
Before we go on, we must deal with the term pbuh. This cryptic word is accepted by Muslims as an abbreviation for "peace be upon him." It is respectfully spoken of as well as written after repeating the name of Muhammad. Although it is supposed to be the rendering of an Arabic phrase, it is actually not a true translation - only half of it is. The Arabic phrase is Salla-llahu 'wassalam. It occurs in the Quranic text and literally reads, "Lo! Allah and His angels pray upon the prophet. Oh yea who believe, pray on him and salute him with peace."
One is utterly confounded when the literal and real translation is understood. Why do our Muslim friends hide the real meaning of pbuh? Is it because the Arabic statement is embarrassing since it contradicts Muslim doctrine?
How is Allah supposed to pray to Muhammad and greet Him or anyone else for that matter? Does Allah pray? And if He does, to whom does he pray? Is this passage not contrary to Muslim theology, which teaches that Allah is prayed to but He never prays to anyone else? Or does Allah really pray to other human beings or only to Muhammad, Allah's own prophet? The confusion of this popular Islamic expression leaves one perplexed and hanging in the air. (Dr. Anis A. Shorrosh, Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab's View of Islam [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988], p. 179)
It isn't just Dr. Shorrosh who has made this claim, since there are other Arab speaking Christians who have essentially made the same point. Abdullah Al Araby, a Christian author who writes on Islam, says:
In Sura 33:056
"Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect."
The phrase "send blessings" was originally "pray upon". The translator didn't think it is appropriate to say that God and His Angels would pray upon (inferring praying to) the prophet Mohamed, so he had to change it to "send blessings."
This is an example of the difficulty translators sometimes face when trying to literarily translate the Quran, and how they have to deviate from the original text to present something that makes sense. We are not trying to say here that Muslims believe that God or Muslims pray to Mohammed. (Source)
Another Arab Christian authority on Islam and Christianity, Dr. Labib Mikhail, writes:
The Quran Positioned Mohammed As The Center Of Praise In Heaven, And On Earth
Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the prophet. O ye who believe? Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worth salutation (Surat Al-Ahzab 33:56 MPT)
The literal translation of this verse is:
Allah and His angels pray on the prophet. O ye who believe pray on him and salute him with a worthy salutation.
If Allah in heaven is praying on the prophet, the question is, to whom is Allah praying? Why do Muslims doubt the deity of Jesus Christ because He prayed when He was on the cross:
My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46 NKJ)
If the Muslim accepts the Biblical revelation of God, and believes that God is a Triune God, if he understands that the one who was incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ is God the Son, and that Jesus took the form of a servant, came in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:7,8 NKJ), then he would know that Jesus, as a servant, cried out to God. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Charles Haddon Spurgeon commented on that verse saying:
In order that the sacrifice of Christ might be complete, it pleased the Father to forsake his well-beloved Son. Sin was laid on Christ, so God must turn away his face from the Sin-Bearer. To be deserted of his God was the climax of Christ's grief, the quintessence of his sorrow. See here the distinction between the martyrs and their Lord; in their dying agonies they have been divinely sustained; but Jesus, suffering as the Substitute for sinners, was forsaken of God. Those saints who have known what it is to have their Father's face hidden from them even for a brief space, can scarcely imagine the suffering that wrung from our Savior the agonizing cry, "My God, my God, why has thou forsake me?" (Matthew: The King has Come, page 406).
Nevertheless, the first word Christ uttered while on the cross was:
Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:34 NKJ)
Then he committed his human spirit to the Father, saying:
Father, into your hands I commit My spirit (Luke 23:45 NAS).
He was always the Son calling His Father. In addition, He offered that prayer, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" to demonstrate that He was the one whom the prophet David spoke about in Psalm 22. All the prophecies in that Psalm were fulfilled to the letter when Christ died.
We have to see in Christ's prayer Jesus as the Son of man, praying to God the Father, and in that hour of darkness, God is still the God Christ reveals.
But in the Quran Allah, who is absolute, prays TO HIMSELF on the prophet. The Muslims accept that. They should not question Christ's deity because of his prayer on the cross. More importantly, if Allah and his angels in heaven are praying on the prophet, and on earth Muslims are praying on the prophet, then Mohammed is the center of worship in heaven and on earth. This is also the conclusion arrived at by some intellectual Muslims.
The daily Egyptian Newspaper, Alwafd, (September 9, 1992), recorded the following question sent to Sheik Hassan Mamoun, one of the prominent clerics in Egypt:
What is your judgment concerning prayer on Mohammed, the messenger of Allah, doesn't that mean worshipping him?
Muslims never mention the name of Mohammed without saying peace be upon him or in Arabic Salla Allaho Alihe Wasalaam or Alihe Alsalaato Wasalaam which means "Allah's prayer and salutation on him."
(Mikhail, Islam Muhammad and the Koran: A Documentary Analysis, first edition; capital and underline emphasis ours)
Now that we have quoted the entire context of Dr. Shorrosh's statements, what exactly is blasphemous with what he said? Don't Christians have the right to critique the Quran, or is it only Muslims that have the right to critique the Bible? Can't Christians express what they perceive to be errors and mistakes within the Quran and Islam without having to be labeled as evil, wicked individuals, or blasphemers and "Islamophobes"? Does this mean we can also apply the same criteria against Muslims and call them idolaters, heathens, and Christophobes, etc. for their constant attacks on the Holy Bible and the Christian faith?
For instance, MENJ accuses Dr. Shorrosh and myself of being liars and "Trinity-polytheists" who believe in a "pseudo-monotheistic Triune god." Now, if anyone is blaspheming, it would be MENJ for insulting the true God of the Holy Bible. But of course, MENJ would reason that either the Bible doesn't teach the Trinity, or that the Bible has been corrupted, which means that, as far as he is concerned, the Trinity doesn't truly exist. On this basis, he would therefore reason that his insults and blasphemies cannot be regarded as such since our God doesn't truly exist. After all, you cannot blaspheme and insult a deity that isn't real.
In a similar manner, neither Dr. Shorrosh nor myself believe that the Allah of Islam is real, or that Muhammad was a true prophet. Therefore, when we criticize the Quran and Islam, we do not take this as blaspheming the true God. We are simply documenting our conclusions which we have arrived at, presenting the arguments which we feel prove that the Allah of the Quran is not real and Muhammad was not a true prophet.
MENJ's slurs against Dr. Shorrosh is an obvious attempt of causing his Muslim readers to harbor hatred towards Dr. Shorrosh, and any other Christian, before the reader has had the chance of evaluating the arguments proposed by the Christian side. MENJ is thereby guilty of several fallacies, namely the genetic fallacy and of ad hominem, trying to poison the well so that others won't bother considering Shorrosh's claims. He is also guilty of trying to appeal to the emotions and sentiments of the Muslim readers, the fallacy of ad misercordium. Such rhetoric is an indication of the weakness of the author, demonstrating that the person who uses such cheap debate tactics and slurs really has no solid refutation to the facts presented against him or her. MENJ is hoping, in fact banking, that his attacks will cause Muslims not to bother reading or seriously considering the Christian arguments, apparently because he is afraid that intelligent Muslims will see for themselves the soundness of the facts presented against Islam, and the utter shallowness of the Muslim answers.
MENJ then mentions my article:
Related to this is the argument that was also recently repeated by the missionary Shamoun in reference to several Qur'ânic verses, alleging that
Since these verses all clearly say that Allah literally prays, and since prayer requires an object, we must therefore ask to whom does Allah pray? Muslims claim that Allah is a singular entity, there being no plurality of persons within his Being, which means that Allah cannot be praying to himself. Or is he? Maybe Allah does in fact pray to himself.
Suffice to say that the missionaries Shamoun and Shorrosh, the Trinity-polytheists, are not the first to bleat out this lie of the Arab Christians and they shall not be the last. From the standpoint of the Arabic language, however, there is no reason to assume or charge that this phrase "contradicts Muslim doctrine" as Shorrosh alleges or that God is "praying to himself" as Shamoun claims, since it is known that the basic meaning of the verb sallâ generally meant "to invoke blessings upon someone", and this usage is consistent in both pre-Qur'ânic and the post-Qur'ânic literature.
The following is some very interesting examples of its usage in pre-Islamic poetry. The poet al-A'shâ in describing how wine is preserved, says that:
And (the wine-dealer) exposed it to the wind in a jar, then invoked blessings upon (wa sallâ ala) the jar and sought assistance from God (so that the wine might not turn sour).
Noteworthy of this poetry is its usage in first "invoking blessings upon" (wa sallâ ala) the jar, and at the same time attempts to "sought assistance from God" with regard to the contents of the jar, hence signifying that the usage of the verb sallâ certainly does not mean "to pray upon" the subject as a deity! Thus from the above verse, it is enough to demolish the claims of Shorrosh and Shamoun combined.
We want to highlight MENJ's own proposed definition for sallâ so that others can see the problems he has caused for himself:
since it is known that the basic meaning of the verb sallâ generally meant "to INVOKE blessings upon someone",
MENJ proposes that sallâ generally refers to invoking, to an invocation. I guess MENJ failed to comprehend the fact that invocation implies that one is asking or requesting someone to do something. In the case of sallâ, a person invokes a deity to bless a person or thing. In other words, people are making invocations or requests to God (if monotheists) or a god (or even gods if a polytheist) when they invoke a blessing.
If MENJ is correct, then this means that Allah either makes invocations to himself, or to someone other than himself, when he invokes blessings upon Muhammad and believers. Taking MENJ's own proposed definition, here is how we would have to render the following Quranic verses:
He it is Who invokes blessings for you, and His angels (bless you), Surah 33:43
Lo! Allah and His angels invoke blessing on the Prophet. O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation. Surah 33:56
And, here is what happens when we render sallallâhû `alayhî wa sallam (or pbuh) the way MENJ suggests:
"the invocation (or request) for blessings of Allah be upon him and his peace."
Now we all know that, according to the Quran, Muslims and angels must invoke Allah for blessings. The question which therefore arises is who exactly is Allah invoking, to whom does he make invocations, when he desires to invoke a blessing for Muhammad and others? He is either invoking himself or someone else. And if himself, this means that a singularity-within-unity deity, a dry monad, as Muslims believe Allah to be, invokes himself or talks to himself. On the other hand, if Allah is invoking someone else then this either means that there is more than one god, or that there is more than one person who exists as God.
Furthermore, MENJ for no apparent reason thinks that the words, wa sallâ ala, cannot legitimately be translated as "and prayed for." Here is what happens when we use the word prayer as part of the translation:
And (the wine-dealer) exposed it to the wind in a jar, and prayed for (wa sallâ ala) the jar and sought assistance from God (so that the wine might not turn sour).
As the readers can see, the text reads quite smoothly when sallâ is rendered as prayed, since it is quite obvious that the poem is speaking of a person praying to God to protect his wine. In the footnote to this poem, MENJ even admits this point:
 Ibid., Cf. Lisân al-'Arab, p. 242; irtasama means "PRAY TO GOD for protection", but according to Abû Hanîfah, the verb here means "to seal up the jar tightly". (bold and capital emphasis ours)
In light of the foregoing, how does this poem provide evidence against rendering the verb sallâ as prayer when the context obviously shows that prayer is the intended meaning?
MENJ continues with his insults:
Yet we are obliged to add further salt to the wound of the missionaries' blunder. Similarly, another poem composed in praise of the Emperor of the Persian Empire, Anûshirwân, by the poet 'Antarah uses the verb sallâ as follows:
"All the kings of the earth pay homage [sallâ] to him from all places of the world (lit. from every valley-path); all people on earth turn their face towards him."
Thus from the above exposition it is clear that there is no reason to be "utterly confounded when the literal and real translation is understood" as Shorrosh alleges, since the usage of sallâ has been in existence since pre-Islamic times.
Here is a transliteration of the Arabic for this poem so that the readers can follow the discussion:
Tusaly nah'owaho min kuli faji muluku al-ardi wa huwa laha imamu
The word nah'owaho means "towards", and is known in Arabic grammar as zarf makan (a point of place). Arabic grammar also classifies the word ala (meaning "upon" or "for") under zarf makan. So both phrases refer to a point of place, or direction. The text also uses the word imamu, or imam, which means leader, and can also refer to the leader in Muslim congregational prayers, the one who leads prayers. Thus, a more literal translation would be:
From all the crevices of the world, the kings of the earth pray to/towards him; for he is the ruler/leader/imam of the earth.
The text can quite legitimately be implying that all the kings direct their prayers towards the Persian ruler since they take him as their prayer leader, viewing him as their qiblah or prayer direction.
Or, if we take nah'owaho to mean "to", then this may imply that the kings and others were praying to him.
It must be noted that Sasanian rulers were either viewed as gods and as objects of worship, or were taken as the religious authorities of the people:
In ancient Near Eastern societies the king stood at the apex of the social hierarchy. He possessed supreme status, vast wealth, and great authority. The ruler rested his claim to rule on divine sanction. All other prerequisites for rule such as tradition and royal descent also required and received their warrant from the gods through religion. For the exercise of rule the king often depended on royal charisma, personal and family allegiances, the alliance of noble families, and retainers. The authority of the king required divine sanction based upon the prevailing religious institutions, and hence kingship in the ancient Near East was primarily of two types: divine kingship and sacral kingship. Both forms of kingship were based on religious doctrines and beliefs and resulted in the development of political ideologies and practices to legitimize and propagate the claim to power and authority.
All doctrines and ideologies of divine kingship embodied the fundamental belief that the king was of divine essence; a god incarnate or descended among mankind. The ruler was not deified at any particular moment such as coronation or death, and indeed his coronation was an epiphany, not an apotheosis.' The monarch was usually identified as the incarnation of a major deity of the state religion. In doctrines and ideologies of sacral kingship, however, the king was not divine. The ruler, though greater than ordinary men, and often claiming to be of the lineage of the gods, was always subordinate to the gods. He was a mortal and a member of the human community, not a god incarnate or descended on earth. The king led and ruled his people but was not believed to be greatly different from his subjects in essence or nature. The king was the chosen representative of the gods on earth and hence required their support, assistance, and good will ...
Kingship, Religion and the People
The Zoroastrian doctrine of sacral kingship, as crystalized under the Sasanians, enjoined all Iranians to obey and assist the king (DKM 338.1432, 523.10-22). The Denkard emphasizes that devotion and service to the ruler brings a Zoroastrian spiritual and material exaltation: "He who gives [his] entire person to the king of kings, [and] who also holds the product as the property of Ahura Mazda, is empowered to show the saved and the condemned [people] to the spirits" (DKM 901.10-13). Such devotion and loyalty was essential since the king and his office were regarded as an integral part of the law and wisdom of god (DKM 313.9-15). The greatest service to religion arose from the king and his state, and doctrinally there was total unity between kingship and religion: "Essentially, royalty is religion, and the religion [is] royalty" (DKM 47.5-6). The union of king and priesthood, kingship and religion was believed to make both these glorious and vigorous. Therefore in Zoroastrian doctrine, kingship originated from Ahura Mazda and his religion, and was bestowed upon the king. The king, through his sacral kingship, united the state and religion, aiding the progress of god's material creations (DKM 335.18-336.2). The intimate connection between the social hierarchy of the Sasanian empire and orthodox Zoroastrian doctrine is best expressed in a passage from the Shkand Gumanig Wizar:
And he [Ahura Mazda] created the religion of all knowledge like a very great tree, with one trunk, two limbs, three boughs, four branches, and five shoots. And its one trunk is discernment; its two limbs are performance and abstinence; its three boughs are good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, which are, thinking well, speaking well and behaving well; its four branches are the four classes of the religion by which the world is arranged, which are the priesthood, the warrior class, the herdsman class and the artisan class; the five shoots are the five rulers whose scriptural names are master of the house, village headman, tribal chieftain, provincial governor, and the highest religious authority [the person most like Zarathushtra, the Mowbedan Mowbed]. And [over these rulers is] the one chief of chiefs who is the king of kings, the ruler of the world (ShGW 1.11-19).
It is clear then, that in the orthodox Zoroastrianism of the Sasanid empire, the state, religion, law and order, justice, salvation, and divine will were united in and symbolized by sacral kingship and the king. Hence rebellion against a just and divinely appointed king who possessed the royal xwarrah was equated to rebellion against religion and god. (Source)
Thus, the King was viewed as a god and/or as the religious leader and priest of the people, which means that the poem is either stating that the people prayed to the King or prayed in his direction because he was their priest. In either case, sallâ in the context of this poem can only refer to worship and/or prayer.
This now leads us to MENJ's own preferred rendering. It seems that in his haste to refute us evil, bad "missionaries", MENJ failed to read even his own translation carefully:
"All the kings of the earth prayed [or worshiped] to him from all places of the world (lit. from every valley-path); all people on earth turn their face towards him."
Notice carefully that even MENJ's preferred rendering implies that sallâ denotes worship since his own source translates it as homage. The kings are paying homage to the Persian Emperor, presumably because some kind of worship was involved, that the people viewed the Emperor as a divine figure. Therefore, if we take MENJ's own rendering, this is what we actually end up with:
"All the kings of the earth glorified/worshiped him from all places of the world (lit. from every valley-path); all people on earth turn their face towards him."
After all, even one Muslim source defines sallâ as denoting worship and glorification:
Ibn Al-Atheer in his highly acknowledged dictionary of the Arabic language, 'Al-Nihaayah fi Ghareeb al-Athar' has explained "Sala'h" as follows:
'Al-Sala'h' and 'Al-Salawaat': used for a particular kind of worship. Its literal origin is supplication (prayer). Sometimes, 'Sala'h' is referred to by mentioning any one or more of its parts. It is also said that the literal origin of the word is 'to glorify' and the particular worship is called 'Sala'h', because it entails the glorification of the Lord. (Source; bold emphasis ours)
Let us see what happens when we use MENJ's own rendering of sallâ in the same Quranic verses which we cited earlier:
He it is Who pays homage/worship/glory to you, and His angels (bless you), that He may bring you forth from darkness unto light; and He is ever Merciful to the believers.
Both Allah and his angels give homage/worship/glory to believers.
Lo! Allah and His angels pay homage/worship/glory to the Prophet. O ye who believe! Pay homage/worship/glory to him and salute him with a worthy salutation.
This is what we get when we render the Arabic prayer, pbuh, in the manner proposed by MENJ:
"the homage/worship/glorification of Allah be upon him and his peace."
Thus, if MENJ is correct, then this means that Allah, the angels and Muslims are to give homage/worship/glory to Muhammad. In other words, MENJ's proposed interpretation makes Allah, the angels and Muslims all guilty of the sin of shirk, associating or worshiping others besides the one God!
Further Difficulties with MENJ's Response
Another major problem with MENJ's response is that it not only ignored all the Muslim sources which we had cited, but fails to do justice to the context of the Quranic verses that speak of Allah praying. Here, once more, is surah 33:56, this time leaving the word sallâ untranslated:
Allah and His angels sallâ on the Prophet; O you who believe! Sallâ on him and salute him with a salutation.
The passage refers to three distinct groups that perform sallâ upon Muhammad:
1. Allah sends down or performs sallâ on Muhammad.
2. Angels send down or perform sallâ on Muhammad.
3. Believers are to send down or perform sallâ on Muhammad.
In fact, the passage is encouraging believers to perform sallâ on the basis that Allah and the angels are doing so, i.e. since Allah and the angels perform sallâ on Muhammad the believers should do likewise. This suggests that sallâ bears the same meaning throughout the passage, since the point of the passage is to encourage the believers to do what Allah and the angels are doing on behalf of Muhammad. In light of this, let us propose some different ways the verse has been translated, either by Muslims or others, and see which meaning best fits the context:
Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation. Pickthall
God and His angels bless the Prophet. O believers, do you also bless him, and pray him peace. A.J. Arberry
The problem with these translations is that there is another Arabic word for blessing, baraka, which could have been used:
Glory to (God) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless (barakna), - in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things). S. 17:1
Earlier, we even cited the comments of one Muslim scholar, Qadi Iyad, who said that Allah's sallâ does not mean the same thing as blessing or baraka. See the top for the quotes.
Furthermore, the way angels and believers bless Muhammad is by praying to God and asking him to send down his blessings. Since the passage says that Allah is also doing sallâ, then the above translations would imply that Allah is also asking someone to send down blessing on Muhammad. Either that, or Allah is asking himself to send down his own blessings upon Muhammad.
Allah sends His Salat (Graces, Honours, Blessings, Mercy, etc.) on the Prophet (Muhammad) and also His angels too (ask Allah to bless and forgive him). O you who believe! Send your Salat on (ask Allah to bless) him (Muhammad), and (you should) greet (salute) him with the Islamic way of greeting (salutation i.e. AsSalamu 'Alaikum). Hilali-Khan (Source)
Again, there are other words which could have been used to convey the idea of grace, honors, mercy etc. just as the next passages demonstrate:
The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace (anaamta), those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray. S. 1:7
But ye turned back thereafter: Had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of God (fadlu Allahi AAalaykum wa rahmatuh) to you, ye had surely been among the lost. S. 2:37
Verily we have honoured (karramna) the Children of Adam. We carry them on the land and the sea, and have made provision of good things for them, and have preferred them above many of those whom We created with a marked preferment. S. 17:70
O ye who believe! Remember the Grace (niaamata) of God, (bestowed) on you, when there came down on you hosts (to overwhelm you): But We sent against them a hurricane and forces that ye saw not: but God sees (clearly) all that ye do. S. 33:9
Hilali-Khan's rendition still leaves us in the same dilemma we had mentioned above. The text says that Allah, his angels and believers send their sallâ on Muhammad. Even Hilali-Khan realize that this involves praying, since they place within parentheses the comments that angels and believers ask Allah to bless and forgive Muhammad. Consistency in translation demands that they render sallâ in the same fashion when it speaks of Allah, which means that Allah is also asking someone to bless and forgive Muhammad.
Here is another translation:
GOD and His angels help and support the prophet. O you who believe, you shall help and support him, and regard him as he should be regarded. Khalifa (Source)
Khalifa's translation implies that this passage is only applicable during the time that Muhammad was alive. After all, how can Muslims support and help Muhammad now that he is dead? In fact, that is precisely what Khalifa states in his note:
*33:56 The word "prophet" (Nabi) consistently refers to Muhammad only when he was alive. Satan used this verse to entice the Muslims into commemorating Muhammad, constantly, instead of commemorating God as enjoined in 33:41-42.
Khalifa's translation is also problematic since there are other words that could have been used to convey the idea of helping or supporting, such as what we find in the following:
But when Jesus became conscious of their disbelief, he cried: Who will be my helpers (ansaree) in the cause of Allah? The disciples said: We will be Allah's helpers (ansaru Allahi). We believe in Allah, and bear thou witness that we have surrendered (unto Him). S. 3:52 Pickthall
The foregoing shows that no matter how a person chooses to translate the word sallâ in surah 33:56 the problem of Allah praying still remains. And MENJ's examples do little to solve the dilemma of Allah praying for Muhammad, or for believers.
MENJ concludes his rebuttal with the following statements:
It should also be noted that the Islamic dogma which was already well-developed by the turn of 2nd century A.H. had employed the beatific phrase sallallâhû `alayhî wa sallam without any "embarrassment [sic]" whatsoever attached to it.
Hence the misguided attempts of the missionaries to negate the strict monotheism of Islam with their abuse of the the [sic] verb sallâ falls flat to the ground, as do all those who lie for the pseudo-monotheistic Triune god.
And only Allâh knows best!
One wonders if Muslims were never embarrassed by the Arabic expression, then why do Muslims consistently mistranslate the phrase into English? Why do they say "peace be upon him" or "peace and blessings be upon him" when the Arabic says something more or different? "Peace be upon him" in Arabic is salamun alayhi, or alayhi as-salam, and "peace and blessings be upon him" would either be salamun alayhi wa barakat, salamun wa barakatun alayhi, or alayhi as-salam walbarakat. But the phrase, sallallâhû `alayhî wa sallam, means "the prayers of Allah be upon him and peace," or "the prayers and peace of Allah be upon him." As the careful reader can see, the first expression omits the word for prayer completely, whereas the second substitutes prayer for blessing.
There are even some modern Muslims who, because they know what the Arabic text of the Quran actually says, have been perplexed at the thought of Allah praying for Muhammad:
Scholars of Islam, As-Salaam `Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh. I have a question that perplexes my mind: In surat Al-Ahzab (verse 56), Allah says that He, Most High, yusalli (PRAYS) for the Prophet. How does Allah PRAY for the Prophet? (Source; capital emphasis ours)
The response given is that Allah's salat consists of Allah sending down blessing upon Muhammad, even though admitting that the salat of angels and believers involves praying to Allah:
"The word "salat" literally means "to come close and near". It is used in the Qur'an for prayers as well as for blessings. Through our salat OR PRAYERS we try to come closer to Allah with submission and surrender. Allah also draws near to His Prophets and the Believers through His blessings. In the Qur'an it is also mentioned that Allah sends "salat" on the Prophet (Al-Ahzab: 56) as well as on the believers (Al-Ahzab: 43). When Allah comes closer to His Prophets, peace and blessings be upon him, and to other believers, it means that He comes closer to them with His blessings, love and favor. Allah says in the Qur'an, "Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation." (Al-Ahzab: 56) and "He it is who blesseth you, and His angels (bless you), that He may bring you forth from darkness unto light; and He is Merciful to the believers." (Al-Ahzab: 43)
Thus when it is said that Allah sends His salat on the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, it means that He blesses the Prophet. When it is said that angels send salat, it means that THEY PRAY TO Allah for His blessings for His Prophet. When we, the believers, are told to do so it means THE SAME THING that we should ask Allah to bestow His blessings on Prophet Muhammad. (Capital and underline emphasis ours)
See above for our response why this explanation doesn't solve the Muslim dilemma. One thing is for sure, though, even this Muslim site realizes that sallâ means prayer(s), to pray.
Other Muslims were even perplexed over the way surah 33:56 was worded, since it implies that angels are equal with Allah:
The commentators and etymologists disagree regarding the words of Allah, "Allah and His angels pray blessings on the Prophet." (33:56) about whether the word "pray" (masc. pl.) refers to both Allah and the angels or not. Some of them allow it to refer to both while others forbid this because of the idea of partnership. They make the pronoun refer to the angels alone and understand the ayat as Allah prays and His angels pray. (Ash-Shifa of Qadi Iyad, pp. 8-9: Source; underline ours)
The foregoing information leaves us with one inescapable conclusion. The Quran and Muslim scholars teach that Allah does pray, since the Quran teaches that he prays for Muhammad and even believers.
Why, there is even a hadith that speaks of Allah reciting the Quran:
Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "A thousand years before creating the heavens and the Earth, Allah recited Ta-Ha and Ya-Sin, and when the angels heard the recitation they said, 'Happy are the people to whom this comes down, happy are the minds which carry this, and happy are the tongues which utter this."
Darimi transmitted it (Tirmidhi Hadith, 660- ALIM CD-ROM Version)
If the hadith can speak of Allah reciting surahs from the Quran, then MENJ should really have no objection to Allah praying. After all, if Allah can recite the Quran why can't he also pray? Aren't the surahs of the Quran recited during the daily Muslim prayers, and wouldn't this therefore suggest that Allah is also praying when he recites the Quran?
We conclude by modifying MENJ's own words and using it against him. The misguided attempts of dawagandists such as MENJ in trying defend the very un-Quranic strict monotheism of Islam, a monotheism in stark contradiction to the actual teachings of the Quran, with their vehement denial of the precise meaning of the verb sallâ falls flat to the ground, as do all those who lie for their post-Quranic, pseudo-monotheistic god who doesn't even exist.
And the true, living Triune God always knows best since he alone knows perfectly! Amen.
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