Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Islam and the prayers of Allah

An examination of the worship and praise which Allah performs

Sam Shamoun

We are told in the Quran that the Islamic deity prays for his followers, especially Muhammad:

They are those on whom are the prayers (salawatun) from their Lord and mercy (rahmatun), and it is they who are the guided-ones. S. 2:157

He it is who prays (yusallee) for you and His angels too, to bring you forth out of the darkness into the light, for He is merciful to the believers. S. 33:43 Palmer

Verily, God and His angels pray (yusalloona) for the prophet. O ye who believe! pray for him (salloo) and salute him with a salutation! S. 33:56 Palmer

The hadith reports also mention Allah praying for people:

1387. Abu Umama reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “Allah AND His angels AND the people of the heavens AND the earth, EVEN the ants in their rocks AND the fish, PRAY for blessings on those who teach people good." [at-Tirmidhi] (Aisha Bewley, Riyad as-Salihin (The Meadows of the Righteous), Book of Knowledge, 241. Chapter: the excellence of knowledge; bold, capital and italic emphasis ours)

And:

2685. Abu Umamah al-Bahili narrated: “Two men were mentioned before the Messenger of Allah. One of them a worshipper, and the other a scholar. So the Messenger of Allah said: ‘The superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like my superiority over the least of you.’ Then the Messenger of Allah said: ‘Indeed ALLAH, His Angels, the inhabitants of the heavens and the earths – even the ant in his hole, even the fish – say Salat upon the one who teaches the people to do good. (Hasan)

[Abu ‘Eisa said:] This Hadith is Hasan Gharib Sahih… (English Translation of Jami‘ At-Tirmidhi, Compiled by Imam Hafiz ‘Eisa Mohammad Ibn ‘Eisa At-Tirmidhi, From Hadith no. 2606 to 3290, translated by Abu Khaliyl (USA), ahadith edited and referenced by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair ‘Ali Za’i, final review by Islamic Research Section Darussalam [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition: November 2007], Volume 5, Chapter 19. What Has Been Related About the Superiority Of Fiqh Over Worship, p. 80 – listed as number 70 in the ALIM CD-Rom version of at-Tirmidhi’s hadith collection; capital and underline emphasis ours)

There are additional references which acknowledge that Allah prays:

The people of Israel said to Moses: “Does your Lord pray?” His Lord called him [saying]: “O Moses, they asked you if your Lord prays. Say [to them] ‘Yes, I do pray, and my angels [pray] upon my prophets and my messengers,’” and Allah then sent down on his messenger: “Allah and His angels pray…” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 33:56; translated from the Arabic online edition; bold emphasis ours)

And:

Hadith 216:

The Israelites said to Musa: Does your Lord pray? Musa said: Fear Allah, O Sons of Israel!

Allah said: O Musa! What did your people say? Musa said: O my Lord, You already know? They said: Does your Lord pray?

Allah said: Tell them My prayer for My servants is that My Mercy should precede My Anger. If it were not so, I would have destroyed them. [Ibn ‘Asakir] (Al-Ahadith Al-Qudsiyyah - Divine Narratives translated by Dr. Abdul Khaliq Kazi & Dr. Alan B. Day, Section 2: Al-Ithafat Al-Saniyya Bi‘l-Ahadith Al-Qudsiyyah by Shaikh Zain al-Din Abdul Ra‘uf b. Taj al-‘Arifin b. ‘Ali b. Zayn al-‘Abidin al-Munawi [Dar Al Kitab Arabi - USA, 1995], pp. 305-306; underline emphasis ours)

The following is supposed to be a prayer of Allah taken from Ibn Hisham’s Al-Sirah Al-Halabiyya:

قلت يا جبريل أيصلى ربك قال نعم قلت وما يقول قال يقول سبوح قدوس رب الملائكة والروح سبقت رحمتى غضبى

I [Muhammad] said, “O Gabriel, does your Lord pray?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “What does he say?” “This is what he says. He says: ‘Glory, holy, Lord of the angels and the Spirit. My mercy overcomes my wrath.’” (Bold, underline and comments within brackets ours)

What makes this rather amazing is that according to the Islamic sources the words salawat and salah refer to 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. (The Meaning of the Word "Sala'h", May 19, 2001; bold emphasis ours)

In fact both of these words are used in the Quran to denote the worship or invocations that Allah’s servants are commanded to give to him:

Guard strictly (five obligatory) As-Salawat (the prayers [al-salawati]) especially the middle Salat [al-salati] (i.e. the best prayer 'Asr). And stand before Allah with obedience [and do not speak to others during the Salat (prayers)]. S. 2:238

And some of the Bedouins believe in God and the Last Day, and take what they expend for offerings bringing them near to God, and the prayers of the Messenger (wa-salawati al-rasooli). Surely they are an offering for them, and God will admit them into His mercy; God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. S. 9:99 Arberry

Take of their wealth a freewill offering, to purify them and to cleanse them thereby, and pray (salli) for them; thy prayers (salataka) are a comfort for them; God is All-hearing, All-knowing. S. 9:103 Arberry

And those who strictly guard their (five compulsory congregational) Salawat (prayers [salawatihim]) (at their fixed stated hours). S. 23:9

The Muslim scripture also employs the word salla, and its various forms, in this same sense:

And the angels called to him as he stood praying (yusallee) in the sanctuary: Allah giveth thee glad tidings of (a son whose name is) John, (who cometh) to confirm a word from Allah, lordly, chaste, a prophet of the righteous. S. 3:39 Pickthall

When you (O Messenger Muhammad) are among them, and lead them in As-Salat (the prayer [al-salata]), let one party of them stand up [in Salat (prayer)] with you taking their arms with them; when they finish their prostrations, let them take their positions in the rear and let the other party come up which has not yet prayed (yusalloo), and let them pray (yusalloo) with you taking all the precautions and bearing arms. Those who disbelieve wish, if you were negligent of your arms and your baggage, to attack you in a single rush, but there is no sin on you if you put away your arms because of the inconvenience of rain or because you are ill, but take every precaution for yourselves. Verily, Allah has prepared a humiliating torment for the disbelievers. S. 4:102

And never (O Muhammad) pray (tusalli) (funeral prayer) for any of them (hypocrites) who dies, nor stand at his grave. Certainly they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger, and died while they were Fasiqun (rebellious, - disobedient to Allah and His Messenger). S. 9:84

So he (the disbeliever) neither believed (in this Qur'an, in the Message of Muhammad) nor prayed (salla)! S. 75:31

and mentions the Name of his Lord, and prays (salla). S. 87:15 Arberry

Have you (O Muhammad) seen him (i.e. Abu Jahl) who prevents, a slave (Muhammad) when he prays (salla)? S. 96:9-10

Furthermore, the Quran states that all praise belongs to Allah:

Whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is on the earth glorifies Allah. His is the dominion, and to Him belong all the praises and thanks, and He is able to do all things. S. 64:1

Some of the creatures that praise Allah include thunder and angels:

And Ar-Ra'd (thunder) glorifies and praises Him, and so do the angels because of His Awe, He sends the thunderbolts, and therewith He strikes whom He wills, yet they (disbelievers) dispute about Allah. And He is Mighty in strength and Severe in punishment. S. 13:13

And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth.” They said: “Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, - while we glorify You with praises and thanks (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners) and sanctify You?” He (Allah) said: “I know that which you do not know.” S. 2:30

And those who kept their duty to their Lord will be led to Paradise in groups, till, when they reach it, and its gates will be opened (before their arrival for their reception) and its keepers will say: “Salamun 'Alaikum (peace be upon you)! You have done well, so enter here to abide therein.” And they will say: “All the praises and thanks be to Allah Who has fulfilled His Promise to us and has made us inherit (this) land. We can dwell in Paradise where we will; how excellent a reward for the (pious good) workers!” And you will see the angels surrounding the Throne (of Allah) from all round, glorifying the praises of their Lord (Allah). And they (all the creatures) will be judged with truth, and it will be said. “All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).” S. 39:73-75

Those (angels) who bear the Throne (of Allah) and those around it glorify the praises of their Lord, and believe in Him, and ask forgiveness for those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah) (saying): "Our Lord! You comprehend all things in mercy and knowledge, so forgive those who repent and follow Your Way, and save them from the torment of the blazing Fire!” S. 40:7

Nearly the heavens might rent asunder from above them (by His Majesty), and the angels glorify the praises of their Lord, and ask for forgiveness for those on the earth, verily, Allah is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful. S. 42:5

Muhammad and his followers are expressly commanded to praise their Lord:

And put your trust (O Muhammad) in the Ever Living One Who dies not, and glorify His Praises, and Sufficient is He as the All-Knower of the sins of His slaves; S. 25:58

So glorify the Praises of your Lord, and ask for His Forgiveness. Verily, He is the One Who accepts the repentance and forgives. S. 110:3

Allah even expects his servants to praise him at different times of the day:

And His is all the praises and thanks in the heavens and the earth, and (glorify Him) in the afternoon (i.e. offer 'Asr prayer) and when you come up to the time, when the day begins to decline (i.e. offer Zuhr prayer). (Ibn 'Abbas said: “These are the five compulsory congregational prayers mentioned in the Qur'an”). S. 30:18

So be patient (O Muhammad). Verily, the Promise of Allah is true, and ask forgiveness for your fault and glorify the praises of your Lord in the Ashi (i.e. the time period after the midnoon till sunset) and in the Ibkar (i.e. the time period from early morning or sunrise till before midnoon) [it is said that, that means the five compulsory congregational Salat (prayers) or the 'Asr and Fajr prayers]. S. 40:55

So bear with patience (O Muhammad) all that they say, and glorify the Praises of your Lord, before the rising of the sun and before (its) setting (i.e. the Fajr, Zuhr, and 'Asr prayers). S. 50:39

Moreover, Allah’s praise is directly connected with his worship, such as bowing or prostrating to him:

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. The Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection). You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything). Guide us to the Straight Way, The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians). S. 1:1-7

(The believers whose lives Allah has purchased are) those who repent to Allah (from polytheism and hypocrisy, etc.), who worship Him, who praise Him, who fast (or go out in Allah's Cause), who bow down (in prayer), who prostrate themselves (in prayer), who enjoin (people) for Al-Ma'ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all what Islam has ordained) and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism of all kinds and all that Islam has forbidden), and who observe the limits set by Allah (do all that Allah has ordained and abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which Allah has forbidden). And give glad tidings to the believers. S. 9:112

So glorify the praises of your Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves (to Him). And worship your Lord until there comes unto you the certainty (i.e. death). S. 15:98-99

Only those believe in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), who, when they are reminded of them fall down prostrate, and glorify the Praises of their Lord, and they are not proud. S. 32:15

This means that Allah worships, praises and glorifies like his creatures do since he prays like them! In fact, Allah even recites chapters from the Quran like Muslims do in their prayers!

Narrated AbuHurayrah
Allah's Messenger 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 (At-Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 660 – taken from ALIM CD-ROM Version; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And since the Quran depicts Allah praying by using the very same words which denote praise, worship and glorification Allah must therefore be praising, glorifying, worshiping etc. himself and/or someone else.

Lo and behold this is precisely what Allah does according to the following Islamic authority!

The Meaning of Salah

Allah's Salah means that HE PRAISES HIS SERVANT BEFORE THE ANGELS, as Al-Bukhari recorded from Abu Al-`Aliyah. This was recorded by Abu Ja`far Ar-Razi from Ar-Rabi` bin Anas from Anas. Others said: “Allah's Salah means mercy.”' It may be said that there is no contradiction between these two views. And Allah knows best. Salah from the angels means their supplication and seeking forgiveness for people, as Allah says…

(Those who bear the Throne and those around it glorify the praises of their Lord, and believe in Him, and ask forgiveness for those who believe (saying): "Our Lord! You comprehend all things in mercy and knowledge, so forgive those who repent and follow Your way, and save them from the torment of the blazing Fire! Our Lord! And make them enter the `Adn Garden which you have promised them -- and to the righteous among their fathers, their wives, and their offspring! Verily, You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise. And save them from the sins.'') (40:7-9) …

(that He may bring you out from darkness into light.) means, by means of His mercy towards you, HIS PRAISE OF YOU and the supplication of His angels for you, He brings you forth from the darkness of ignorance and misguidance into the light of guidance and certain faith. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 33:43; capital and underline emphasis ours)

And:

The Command to say Salah upon the Prophet

Al-Bukhari said: “Abu Al-`Aliyah said: ‘Allah's Salah is HIS PRAISING HIM BEFORE THE ANGELS, and the Salah of the angels is their supplication.’” Ibn `Abbas said: “They send blessings.” Abu `Isa At-Tirmidhi said: “This was narrated from Sufyan Ath-Thawri and other scholars, who said: ‘The Salah of the Lord is mercy, and the Salah of the angels is their seeking forgiveness.’” There are Mutawatir Hadiths narrated from the Messenger of Allah commanding us to send blessings on him and how we should say Salah upon him. We will mention as many of them as we can, if Allah wills, and Allah is the One Whose help we seek… (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 33:56; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Allah’s prayers consist of praising his slaves such as Muhammad before the angels in heaven!

Ibn Kathir's statements also imply that Allah is actually praying to his angels since he is directly addressing them when he prays and invokes praises upon his servants!

Thus, just as Muslims are praising and glorifying someone when they pray, Allah is also praising and glorifying certain persons when he prays! In the case of Muslims they are glorifying and praising Allah, whereas in Allah’s case he is actually glorifying and praising Muhammad and the believers! And just as the object of Muslim prayers is Allah since they are directly addressing him whenever they pray, the object of Allah's prayers happen to be the angels whom he directly addresses whenever he praises his servants!(1)


Responding to Some objections

Some Muslims argue that Allah’s prayers are really his mercy which he showers on his servants. In other words, when the Quran says that Allah prays it really means that Allah is showing mercy. The problem with this assertion is that the Muslim scripture distinguishes between the prayers of Allah and his mercy:

Upon them shall be prayers from their Lord AND MERCY (salawatun min rabbihim wa-rahmatun), and they are the rightly directed. S. 2:157

So this explanation won’t work, just as the following Muslim website admits:

“Blessings upon the Prophet” – according to the majority of scholars, what is meant is mercy from Allaah, prayers for forgiveness offered by the angels, and du’aa’ offered by humans. Others – including Abu’l-Aaliyah among the earlier scholars and Ibn al-Qayyim among the later scholars, and Ibn ‘Uthaymeen among the contemporary scholars – are of the view that the meaning of blessings upon the Prophet is praise for him among the “higher group” (al-mala’ al-‘a’la, i.e., the angels, cf. al-Saffaat 37:8), and the prayers of the angels and the Muslims for blessings upon him are for him to be praised by Allaah among the “higher group” (the angels). Ibn al-Qayyim wrote a book on this topic entitled Jala’ al-Afhaam fi Fadl al-Salaati wa’l-Salaam ‘ala Khayr il-Anaam, in which he discussed at length the meaning of blessings upon the Prophet, the rulings thereon, and its benefits.

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

The phrase “Bless Muhammad (salli ‘ala Muhammad)” – it was said that blessing from Allaah means mercy, blessings from the angels means prayer for forgiveness, and blessing from humans means du’aa’.

If it is said: “The angels sent blessings upon him,” it means that they prayed for forgiveness for him.

If it is said, “The khateeb sent blessings upon him,” it means that he prayed for blessing for him.

If it is said, “Allaah sent blessings upon him,” it means that He bestowed mercy upon him.

This is well known among the scholars, but the correct view is something different, because blessing (salaah) is more specific than mercy. Hence the Muslims are unanimously agreed that it is permissible to pray for mercy for every believer, but they differed as to whether we may pray for blessings (using this specific word of salaah or salli ‘ala…) for anyone other than the Prophets. If the word salaah here is taken to mean mercy, then there is no difference between them, and just as we pray for mercy for a person we may send blessings upon them.

Moreover, Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“They are those on whom are the Salawaat (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones”

[al-Baqarah 2:157].

The word rahmah (mercy) is mentioned in conjunction with the word salawaat (blessings), which indicates that they are two different things, so the meaning of the verse is clear. The scholars used the word salaah (blessings) in some places and the word rahmah (mercy) in others, so salaah is the not the same as mercy. The best that can be said concerning this is what Abu’l-‘Aaliyah said: The salaah (blessing) of Allaah upon the Prophet is His praising him among the “higher group” (the angels).

So what is meant by Allaahumma salli ‘alayhi (O Allaah send blessings upon him) is: O Allaah, praise him among the higher group, i.e., among the angels who are close to Allaah.

If someone were to say that this is unlikely from a linguistic point of view, because salaah in Arabic means supplication, not praise, the answer to that is that the word salaah is also connected to the word silah (gift), and there can be no doubt that praise for the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) among the higher group (angels) is one of the greatest gifts, for praise may sometimes be more important to a person than all else. So a good mention is a great gift.

Based on this, the correct view is that sending blessings (salaah) upon him means praise for him along the higher group (the angels). End quote.

Al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 3/163, 164 (The meaning of blessings and salaams upon the Prophet, Fatwa no. 69944; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Still others (like the above site) define Allah’s prayers as his blessings which he bestows upon his servants. This too is wrong since there is a word for blessing which the compilers of the Quran could have used if they meant that Allah is actually blessing and not praying, namely baraka:

And We made a people considered weak (and of no account) inheritors of lands in both east and west lands whereon We sent down our blessings (barakna). The fair promise of the Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel because they had patience and constancy and We levelled to the ground the great works and fine buildings which Pharaoh and his people erected (with such pride). S. 7:137

They said: "Dost thou wonder at Allah's decree? The mercy of Allah and His blessings on you (rahmatu Allahi wa-barakatuhu alaykum) O ye people of the house! for He is indeed worthy of all praise full of all glory!" S. 11:73

In fact, the hadiths actually distinguish between Allah’s prayer (salah) and his blessing (baraka):

The Command to say Salah upon the Prophet

Al-Bukhari said: "Abu Al-`Aliyah said: “Allah's Salah is His praising him before the angels, and the Salah of the angels is their supplication.” Ibn `Abbas said: “They send blessings.” Abu `Isa At-Tirmidhi said: “This was narrated from Sufyan Ath-Thawri and other scholars, who said: `The Salah of the Lord is mercy [sic], and the Salah of the angels is their seeking forgiveness.’” There are Mutawatir Hadiths narrated from the Messenger of Allah commanding us to send blessings on him and how we should say Salah upon him. We will mention as many of them as we can, if Allah wills, and Allah is the One Whose help we seek. In his Tafsir of this Ayah, Al-Bukhari recorded that Ka`b bin `Ujrah said, “It was said, `O Messenger of Allah, with regard to sending Salam upon you, we know about this, but how about Salah?’ He said…

<<Say: ‘O Allah, send YOUR SALAH upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR SALAH upon the family of Ibrahim, verily You are the Most Praiseworthy, Most Glorious. O Allah, send YOUR BLESSINGS upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR BLESSINGS upon the family of Ibrahim, verily You are Most Praiseworthy, Most Glorious.’'>>” Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn Abi Layla said that Ka`b bin `Ujrah met him and said, “Shall I not give you a gift? The Messenger of Allah came out to us and we said, `O Messenger of Allah! We know how to send Salam upon you, but how can we send Salah?’ He said…

<<Say: ‘O Allah, send YOUR SALAH upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR SALAH upon the family of Ibrahim, verily You are the Most Praiseworthy, Most Glorious. O Allah, send YOUR BLESSINGS upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR BLESSINGS upon the family of Ibrahim, verily You are Most Praiseworthy, Most Glorious.’'>>” This Hadith has been recorded by the Group in their books with different chains of narration. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 33:56; capital and underline emphasis ours)

And:

Another Hadith

Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri said: “We said, `O Messenger of Allah, this is the Salam upon you, but how do we send Salah upon you?’ He said…

<<Say: ‘O Allah, send YOUR SALAH upon Muhammad, Your servant and Messenger, as You sent YOUR SALAH upon the family of Ibrahim, and send YOUR BLESSINGS upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR BLESSINGS upon the family of Ibrahim.’>>” Abu Salih narrated that Layth said…

<<Upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad as You sent YOUR BLESSINGS upon the family of Ibrahim.>> Ibrahim bin Hamzah told that, Ibn Abi Hazim and Ad-Darawardi told, that Yazid, i.e., Ibn Al-Had said…

<<As You sent YOUR SALAH upon Ibrahim, and send YOUR BLESSINGS upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, as You sent Your blessings upon Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim.>> This was also recorded by An-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah. (*; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Once again:

Another Hadith

Imam Ahmad recorded from Abu Humayd As-Sa`idi that they said: “O Messenger of Allah, how can we send Salah upon you?” He said…

<<Say: “O Allah, send YOUR SALAH upon Muhammad and his wives and offspring, as You sent YOUR SALAH upon Ibrahim, and send YOUR BLESSINGS upon Muhammad and his wives and offspring, as You sent YOUR BLESSINGS upon the family of Ibrahim, verily You are Most Praiseworthy, Most Glorious.”>> It was also recorded by the rest of the Group, apart from At-Tirmidhi. (*; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Finally:

Another Hadith

Muslim recorded that Abu Mas`ud Al-Ansari said: “We came to the Messenger of Allah and we were with Sa`d bin `Ubadah. Bashir bin Sa`d said to him, `Allah has commanded us to send Salah upon you, O Messenger of Allah. How can we send Salah upon you?’ The Messenger of Allah remained quiet for so long that we wished that he had not asked him, then the Messenger of Allah said…

<<Say: ‘O Allah, send YOUR SALAH upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR SALAH upon the family of Ibrahim, and send YOUR BLESSINGS upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR BLESSINGS upon the family of Ibrahim among all people, verily You are Most Praiseworthy, Most Glorious.’ And the Salam is as you know.>>” This was also recorded by Abu Dawud, An-Nasa'i, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Jarir. At-Tirmidhi said, “It is Hasan Sahih.” (*; capital and underline emphasis ours)

In the above narratives Muhammad distinguished and differentiated between the words salah and baraka, thereby demonstrating that they do not have the same meaning. As one Muslim authority 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. (Qadi 'Iyad Musa al-Yahsubi, Muhammad Messenger of Allah (Ash-Shifa of Qadi 'Iyad), translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley [Madinah Press, Inverness, Scotland, U.K. 1991; third reprint, paperback], Part One. Allah’s great estimation of the worth of His Prophet expressed in both word and action, Chapter One: Allah’s Praise Of Him And His Great Esteem For Him, Section 8: Concerning Allah instructing His creation to say the prayer on the Prophet, His protecting him and removing the punishment because of him, p. 25; bold emphasis ours)

And:

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., Part Two. Concerning the rights which people owe the Prophet, Chapter Four: The Prayer On The Prophet And Asking Peace For Him, And The Obligation Of Doing It And Its Excellence, Section 1: The meaning of the prayer on the Prophet, p. 250; bold emphasis ours)

Again:

Salama al-Kindi said: 'Ali used to teach us the prayer on the Prophet as follows: “O Allah, the One who spread out the flat expanses and created the heavens! Bestow YOUR NOBLE PRAYERS, Your increasing blessing and the compassion of Your tenderness upon Muhammad…”

'Ali also said about the prayer on the prophet in the ayat, “Allah and his angels pray on the Prophet” (33:56) “At your service and obedience, my Lord. The PRAYERS OF Allah, the good and Merciful, the near angels, the true ones, the martyrs, the salihun, and anything that glorifies You, O Lord of the worlds, be upon Muhammad ibn 'Abdullah…” (Ibid., Section 4: Concerning the manner of doing the prayer on the Prophet and asking for peace for him, p. 257; capital and underline emphasis ours)

This next one is particularly interesting:

Ibn Mas'ud used to say, "When you bless the Prophet, then make the prayer on him excellent. You do not know; perhaps it will be shown to him. Say, ‘O Allah, bestow YOUR PRAYERS, Your MERCY and Your BLESSING on the Master of the Messengers, the Imam of the God-fearing, the Leader of the Good and the Messenger of Mercy.’" (Ibid., p. 258; underline and capital emphasis ours)

Here we see the words prayers, mercy and blessing being used together in the same sentence, conclusively proving that they do not have the same meaning.

Thus, as it stands the Islamic deity prays, worships, glorifies, and praises much like his creatures do!

Unless stated otherwise all Quranic quotations were taken from the Hilali-Khan version.


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Endnotes

(1) Shockingly, Allah actually commands Muslims to glorify and praise Muhammad much like they praise him!

That you may believe in Allah and his Apostle and may aid/help him and revere him; and (that) you may declare his glory/glorify him, morning and evening. S. 48:9

The nearest antecedent to all of the pronouns is “his Apostle,” which means that Muslims are being exhorted to not only help Muhammad but also to revere and glorify him day and night! The author(s) has/have written the verse in such a way that s/he/they ended up making Muhammad the object of praise, worship and glorification!

As one late Christian writer noted:

"This sentence is disrupted because of a sudden shift from addressing Muhammad to addressing other people. Apart from this, the accusative pronoun in ‘succour Him, and reverence Him’ refers, beyond doubt, to Muhammad, who was mentioned earlier, not to God as the English translator understood it. But ‘give Him glory’ refers to God. The entire verse is chaotic. The reader cannot be expected to understand its true meaning from the arrangement of words. It is kufr (‘unbelief’) to say ‘succour Him, and reverence Him, and that you may give Him glory at the dawn and in the evening’ about Muhammad, since glory should be given to God alone. It is also kufr to make such a statement with reference to God, since God almighty is not in need for succour or help!" ('Abdallah 'Abd al-Fadi, Is the Qur'an Infallible? [Light of Life, PO Box 13, A-9503 Villach, Austria], pp. 182-183)

Lest a Muslim accuse this Christian of distorting the facts here is what noted Sufi Muslim author G.F. Haddad stated regarding this specific text:

“That ye (mankind) may believe in Allah and His messenger, and may honor h/Him, and may revere h/Him, and may glorify h/Him at early dawn and at the close of day" (48:9). Al-Nawawi said that the scholars of Qur'anic commentary have given this verse two lines of explanation, one group giving the three personal pronouns "HIM" a single referent, namely, either Allah ("Him") OR THE PROPHET ("him"); the other group distinguishing between two referents, namely, the Prophet for the first two ("honor and revere him"), and Allah for the last ("glorify Him"). Those of the first group that said the pronouns ALL REFER TO THE PROPHET explained "glorify him" (tusabbihuhu) here to mean: "declare him devoid of inappropriate attributes and pray for him." (The Prophetic Title "Best of Creation"; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Haddad tacitly concedes that the text is somewhat chaotic in its structure resulting in some (if not many) Muslims attributing all the pronouns to Muhammad!

Hence, the Islamic scripture exhorts Muslims to glorify and praise not only Allah but Muhammad as well!

 

APPENDIX

Listing all the places where the various Arabic words
For Praying appear in the Quran

The following list is taken and adapted from the following lexical source.

musalla (مصلي) n. m. - 2:125

salat (صلاة) n. f. sing. - 2:3, 2:43, 2:45, 2:83, 2:110, 2:153, 2:177, 2:238, 2:277, 4:43, 4:77, 4:101, 4:102, 4:103, 4:142, 4:162, 5:6, 5:12, 5:55, 5:58, 5:91, 5:106, 6:72, 6:92, 6:162, 7:170, 8:3, 8:35, 9:5, 9:11, 9:18, 9:54, 9:71, 9:103, 10:87, 11:87, 11:114, 13:22, 14:31, 14:37, 14:40, 17:78, 17:110, 19:31, 19:55, 19:59, 20:14, 20:132, 21:73, 22:35, 22:41, 22:78, 23:2, 24:37, 24:41, 24:56, 24:58, 27:3, 29:45, 30:31, 31:4, 31:17, 33:33, 35:18, 35:29, 42:38, 58:13, 62:9, 62:10, 70:23, 70:34, 73:20, 98:5, 107:5
salawat (صلوات) nom. gen. n. plu. - 2:157, 2:238, 9:99, 22:40, 23:9

salla (صلي) vb.II m.
perf. act. 75:31, 87:15, 96:10
impf. act. 3:39, plu. neg. 4:102, plu. 4:102, tusalli (تصل) neg. 9:84, yusallee (يصلي) sing. 33:43, yusalloona (يصلون) plu. 33:56
salli
(صل) impv. 9:103, salloo (صلوا) plu. 33:56, 108:2
musalleena (مصلين) pcple. act. plu. acc. gen. 70:22, 74:43, 107:4

A careful examination of all of these passages shows that words such as salat, salawut, salli etc. always refer to praying, especially in the context of worshiping Allah. The Quran NEVER uses these words to mean blessing or mercy!

Therefore, unless there is some strong contextual reason to suggest otherwise we should assume that when these same words are used in reference to Allah this means that he is also worshiping and praying.

This becomes all the more clear when we consider the following texts one more time:

He it is who prays (yusallee) for you AND HIS ANGELS TOO, to bring you forth out of the darkness into the light, for He is merciful to the believers. S. 33:43 Palmer

Verily, God AND HIS ANGELS pray (Inna Allaha WA mala-ikatahu yusalloona) for the prophet. O ye who believe! pray for him (salloo) and salute him with a salutation! S. 33:56 Palmer

According to these verses both Allah and his angels are engaged in the same act of salla. Since no Muslim doubts that the angels' salla means prayer, i.e. the angels pray to Allah for both Muhammad and the believers, they should therefore have no problem seeing that Allah's salla must also mean prayer.

It is purely wishful thinking on the part of those Muslims who want to argue that the salla or salawut of Allah does not and cannot mean that he prays, but really refers to his blessings or mercies which he sends down, when both Q. 33:43 and 56 apply salla to both Allah and the angels in the same exact context. The fact that salla is used for both Allah and the angels in the very same context refutes the assertion that the word changes meaning so that in respect to Allah salla really means his blessing or mercy which he bestows whereas in reference to the angels it means their prayers. Since the context is the same the meaning must also be the same.

Therefore, much like the angels' salla mean that they pray so too Allah's salla must mean that he also prays and worships. There is simply no way around this fact.