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Was There Ritual Prayer before Islam? (1/2)

Was There Ritual Prayer before Islam? (1/2)

By: Mehmet Soysaldı
Some Muslims are prostrating while performing prayers.

We learn from information in the sources that some members of the Hanif religion performed ritual prayer (salah).

The Prayer of the Monotheists before Islam (Hanif)

We learn from information in the sources that some members of the Hanif religion – the small group of believers who refused to join in the general idol worship and remained attached to the worship of the One God in the period before Islam – performed ritual prayer (salah). According to Ibn Habib and Muslim; Abu Dhar and Qus ibn Sa`id were among those who prayed during the Age of Ignorance.(1)

Various verses of the Qur’an state that Ibrahim (Abraham) and Isma`il (Ishmael) performed ritual prayers and that they ordered their followers to do the same.

Again, the Qur’an informs that Abraham prayed:

My Lord, make me and some of my progeny among those who make salah! My Lord, accept my prayer!(Ibrahim 14:40)

The following verse shows that Abraham’s prayer included the qiyam, ruku` and sujud positions of prayer:

At one time I described the Ka`bah to Abraham (and I commanded him): clean my house for those who do not take other gods and who circumambulate, stand in an upright position, bend over, and bow down (Al-Hajj 22:26)

We also know from verbal Jewish narrations that there was prescribed prayer in Abraham’s religion. In the Talmud it is recorded that the Prophet Abraham rose early in the morning and prayed to Allah at dawn and that the Shararit worship is from Abraham.(2)

Some reports in Islamic sources illuminate this subject. According to a report made by Al-Azraqi, Abraham used the Maqam-Abraham as qiblah, he made prayer from the direction of the door towards it, and Ishmael continued the same practice.(3)

Also, Abraham and Ishmael, together with believers coming from every direction, came to Mina on the eighth day of Dhul-Hijjah (Tarwiyah Day) and made the noon, afternoon, evening and night prayers together. After spending the night there, they made the morning prayer and went early to `Arafat.

There they made the noon and afternoon prayers together and went to Muzdalifah after the sunset. They prayed the evening and night prayers together and spent the night there. After making the morning prayer at Muzdalifah, they stoned jamarat. According to the record, this practice was taught to Abraham by Gabriel.(4)

Later, Allah commanded Muhammad (peace be upon him) to conform to Abraham’s practice in the Qur’an.

It is recorded that the Prophet’s father `Abdul-Muttalib knew that the Ka`bah was established as a qiblah by Abraham, and that Zayd ibn `Amr turned towards the qiblah during the Time of Ignorance and saying: ‘My God is the God of Abraham, my religion is the religion of Abraham’,  he made sajdah.(5)

This and similar reports show that some traces of prayer were passed on from the time of Abraham to the Age of Ignorance.(6)

The Arab Idolators’ Prayer:

There is a verse in the Qur’an that says:

Their prayer next to the House of God is nothing more than whistling and clapping hands…(Al-Anfal 8:35)

This verse shows that the idol-worshipping Arabs were familiar with prayer. As a matter of fact, idolaters of this period – men and women – openly held hands and circumambulated the Ka`bah, whistling and clapping hands. Thus, as a form of worship they whistled, danced and applauded what they did. When the Prophet (peace be upon him)wanted to come to the Ka`bah to pray and read the Qur’an, they usually made this kind of demonstration, and making a noisy show as if they were making salah and praying, they counted this as worship.

It is narrated that Arabs in the Time of Ignorance knew about prayer and that they made prayers for their dead. They would stand at the head of the dead person’s grave, mention his good traits and good deeds, and show their grief. This was called As-Salah.

Islam called this prayer and similar religious traditions jahiliyyah (prayer of ignorance). This prayer, although different from the funeral prayer in Islam, is still prayer.

Again during the Age of Ignorance, Ka`b ibn Lu’ay would gather Quraish together on Friday and make a form of weekly worship that included a sermon. This day was called the Friday statement or Yawmu’l-Aruba (Arabism Day).

In conclusion, we can say that there was a form of worship called salah during the Age of Ignorance before Islam. However, the prayer made by the idolaters was without a spirit, removed from peace and good manners, and a disorderly form of worship. They made this worship not only for Allah, but for His partners, girls whom they accepted as angels, as well.

Islam directed worship only to Allah, and removed everything from worship that was contrary to unity.

To be continued…



(1) Ibn Habib, Abu Ja´far Muhammad, Kitab al-Muhabbar, Beirut, trs, pp.171-172; Muslim, IV, 1920.

(2) Kuzgun, Şaban, Hz.İbrahim ve Haniflik, Ankara, 1985, s. 176-177.

(3) Al-Azraki, Abu ‘L-Walid Muhammad ibn Abdillah, Ahbaru Makka wa Ma jae fiha min al-Asar, (Tah: Rusdi as-Salih Malhas Makka,1399; Kabe ve Mekke Tarihi, Trc: Y. Vehbi Yavuz, İst,   1974,11,30.

(4) Ibn Ishak, Muhammad, as-Siretu al-Nabawiyya, (Tah: M. Hamidullah), Konya, 1401, s.79-80; at-Taberi, Tarihu al-Umam wa´l-Muluk, 1,262.

(5) İbn Habib, ibid, s. 171; Aynî, Bedrüddin Ebu Muhammed Mahmud b.Ahmed, Umdetu´l-Kârî li Serhi Sahihi Buhârî, Beirut, trs, XVI,285.

(6) Ateş, A.Osman, Sünnetin Kabul ve Reddettiği Câhiliye ve Ehl-i Kitab Örf ve Adetleri, (Unpublished doctoral thesis), İzmir,1989, s. 19-32.

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Was There Ritual Prayer before Islam? (2/2)

Was There Ritual Prayer before Islam? (2/2)

Some Muslims are performing prostration during the prayer.

Referring to ritual prayer, Salah is mentioned in more than eighty verses in the Qur’an.

By: Mehmet Soysaldı

In the first part we learned a little about prayer before the advent of Islam, the prayer of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), and the prayer of Arabs during the Days of Ignorance.

Prayer in the Qur’an:

Referring to ritual prayer, salah is mentioned in more than eighty verses in the Qur’an. The word is used mostly in the Qur’an in this way:

When you finish salat, remember Allah while you are standing, sitting and lying down on your side; when you are safe, make salat. For salat within certain times was made mandatory for believers. (An-Nisaa’ 4:103)

Make salah, give the poor tax, and bend over with those who make ruku`. (Al-Baqarah 2:43)

Say good things to people, perform salah, give the poor tax… (Al-Baqarah 2:83)

child, perform salah, command the good, forego evil and have patience in face of trials. For these are things Allah has commanded you to do. (Luqman 31:17)

As seen from the above verses, the Qur’an emphasizes prayer a great deal. For when prayer is established, it protects a person from every kind of evil and makes them pious. One who follows prayer will be saved from the fire of hell.

The Qur’an counts prayer as a necessity of faith and piety:

That book is without doubt; it is a guide for people of piety. They believe in the unseen, perform prayer and spend for Allah the means that We have given them. (Al-Baqarah 2:2-3)

It praises those believers who pray with inner peace and who are steadfast in prayer:

Believers who make prayer with respect have attained success. (Al-Mu’minun 23:1-2)

In another verses we read:

And believers who protect their prayer have reached success. (Al-Mu’minun 23:9)

Allah commanded the Prophet to treat his grief and anxiety with prayer:

I swear, I know what they say has upset you. Praise your Lord and be among those who perform prayer and serve your Lord until you draw nigh. (Al-Hijr 15:97:99)

Undoubtedly, prayer performed with faith and a peaceful heart will save a person from evil thoughts and torment. That person will not be sad about the world and will not see anyone who gives benefit or harm except Allah. He knows that everything comes from Allah, and he will be ashamed of lying and making discord.

He will prepare to be in Allah’s presence at every moment. As stated in the fourty-eighth verse of Surat Al-`Ankabut, that person will avoid evil and ugly acts. According to verses from 19-34 of Surat Al-Ma`arij, he will avoid impatience and disagreeableness and take on high virtues. Real prayer gains high virtues and character for its performer. If it does not, it cannot be called real prayer.

In fact, it is narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ”If the prayer a person performs does not prohibit a person from evil and ugly acts, that prayer is of no use except to make him remote from Allah”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Prayer Is Mandatory in Islam

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was still at the beginning of his apostleship, he spent his nights in worship and dhikr. His ascetic life began before his apostleship. `A’ishah indicates that he began to like solitude in the years approaching his apostleship. He would retreat to the Hira’ Cave and there he made worship and performed servanthood according to the religion of Abraham. (Al-Bukhari)

After he became a prophet, he continued this life of worship and asceticism, and most of those who believed in him did the same. With the revelation of Surat Al-Muzzammil, night prayer was made mandatory to the Prophet:

O thou folded in garment! Stand (to prayer) by night, but not all night, – half of it, – or a little less, or a little more: And recite the Qur’an in slow, measured rhythmic tones.(Al-Muzzammil 73:1-4)

Again it is commanded in the Bani Isra’il surah:

And pray in the small watches of the morning: it would be additional prayer (of spiritual profit) for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a station of praise and glory. (Al-Israa’ 17:79)

Islamic scholars are in dispute regarding the night prayer commanded in these verses. According to some, night prayer is only mandatory for the Prophet. This continued until his death. According to others, night prayer was made mandatory for both the Prophet and his followers.

They got up and prayed until their feet were swollen, and later Allah rescinded this command with the last verse. However, it is also disputed as to how long this command was in effect. According to some, it was one year; according to others, it was eighteen months, and according to still others, it was ten years. A third view is that night prayer was made mandatory for both the Prophet and his Ummah and that the command was never rescinded. It is mandatory to pray at night as much as possible. Hasan Al-Basri and Ibn Sirin are of this view.

There is also dispute as to whether or not prayers five times a day were made mandatory during Al-Mi`raj. Since Al-Mi`raj occurred one and one-half years before the Migration, that means that all Muslims were responsible one and one-half years before the Migration for praying five times a day.



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Sunnah before Maghrib Prayer

Sunnah before Maghrib Prayer

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Pray before Maghrib (Sunset Prayer), pray before Maghrib,” and after saying it a third time, he said: “For whoever wishes to do so.” (Al-Bukhari)

Ibn `Abbas also said, “We would pray two rak’ahs before Maghrib, and the Prophet would see us but he would not order us to do so, nor would he prohibit us.” (Muslim)

In this talk, Sheikh Muhammad Salah sheds light on the ruling of this sunnah prayer. He also explains the confirmed sunnah prayers before and after the fard (obligatory) prayers.

Learn about all these here…


Source: Huda TV.


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Seeking Refuge in Allah during Prayer

Seeking Refuge in Allah during Prayer

Two Muslim men are performing prayer.

We have been taught to seek refuge with Allah from the accursed devil before we begin to recite the Qur’an in prayer.

Do you know that Satan becomes extremely envious when a person is standing in prayer before his Lord? And thus he does everything he can to get the worshiper out of that elevated state- by distracting him or her to think about other things. And all too often, unfortunately, we accept the invitation. The likeness of Satan is to that of a fly – every time one pushes him away, he comes back.


We have been taught to seek refuge with Allah from the accursed devil before we begin to recite the Qur’an in prayer. The devil’s impact is substantial – when we come to pray we remember things that previously escaped our memory and we think of solutions to our biggest problems.

By the time we say “salam” at the end, we do not remember what we have said in the prayer or even how many rak`ahs we prayed. If this description fits us, Ibn Al-Qayyim says that this person leaves the prayer the same way he entered it – with all of his sins and burdens unexpiated. If this is how it is in this life, can we imagine how it will be in the next? In the Qur’an, Allah (Glory be to Him) tells us of the scenario on the Day of Judgment:

And Satan will say when the matter has been concluded, Indeed, Allah had promised you the promise of truth. And I promised you, but I betrayed you. But I had no authority over you except that I invited you, and you responded to me. So do not blame me; but blame yourselves. (Ibrahim 14:22)

Imagine- being duped and distracted and then having that sealed with remorse on the Day of Judgment. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“A person may pray and have nothing recorded for it except a tenth of it, or a ninth, or an eighth, or a seventh, or a sixth, or a fifth, or a quarter, or a third, or half.” (Abu Dawud)

So the Satan wants to decrease our reward by stealing what he can from our prayers. It is as though we have already been given up all of our rewards but we must guard them- every time we become heedless the Satan steals some of it. And for some of us, he keeps on stealing until we are left with nothing.

The Solution

Sheikh Al-Shinqiti (Saudi Caller to Islam) tells us that Allah the Almighty has shown us how to guard ourselves from the human demons and from the demons of the jinn. Allah says:

And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, ‘Indeed, I am of the Muslims.’ And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. (Fussilat 41:33-34)

Thus to protect ourselves from the human demons, we should do the above – repel evil with good. This will not only protect us but it might make that enemy a warm friend. This is not easy, which is why Allah  says straight afterward:

But none is granted it except those who are patient, and none is granted it except one having a great portion [of good]. (Fussilat 41:35)

But what about the demons from the jinn? We cannot use the same method above. So what do we do? Seek refuge in Allah, as Allah tells in the verse directly following the one mentioned above:

And if there comes to you from Satan an evil suggestion, then seek refuge in Allah. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing. (Fussilat 41:36)

It is related that an old man asked a young lad what he would do if he saw Satan.

“I would hit him,” the young man said.

“And if he came back?”

“I would hit him again,” he replied.

And the old man asked the same question, and the young man gave the same response.

Shaking his head, the old man said, “If you were walking on a road and a ferocious dog came to you, how often would you hit him to make sure he doesn’t come back? Rather the smarter way is to ask the master of the dog to remove it from your path.”

And this is why we seek refuge in Allah when we begin the prayer. Ibn Al Qayyim said that it is narrated that when we commence the prayer, Allah orders for the barrier between us to be lifted and we are directly facing our Lord, yet if we turn away (i.e. get distracted) the barrier is brought back down. And it is in these moments of heedlessness that the Satan tries to make one thought lead to another but when the barrier is removed, Satan does not dare to distract us.

Thus, let us seek refuge in Allah from the Satan, truly think over the meaning of that supplication, and guard ourselves from Satan throughout the prayer.



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Ruku` in Prayer

Ruku` in Prayer

A person is bowing during prayer.

Many of us rush our bowing and prostration, but it is very important to give each action its due measure.

Ruku` (bowing): Internal Actions

Preparing ourselves for the prayer means realizing whom we are meeting with—Allah (Exalted is He), our Lord, the Most Merciful of those who show mercy. We beautify ourselves externally because we are meeting with Allah, and we humble ourselves internally as we stand before the Most High. We stand between fear and hope, but the overwhelming emotion is love.

When we recite Surat Al-Fatihah (the Opener), we pause after every verse to reflect on it, knowing that Allah responds. When we recite a short surah (chapter) afterward, we recognize that these words are a message to us.

The External Acts of Ruku`

When finish reciting the short surah after Al-Fatihah, we should implement a very short pause just as the Prophet (peace be upon him) did (as related by Abu Dawud), and then raise our hands to say, “Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest).” Remember that between almost every change of position we say, “Allahu Akbar.”

This is to remind ourselves and to alert us that Allah is greater than anything—whatever our mind is distracted with and whatever worries plague us. And then we bow down in bowing. When we bow down, we should emulate the actions of the Prophet who said:

“When you make ruku`, place your palms on your knees, then space your fingers out, then remain (like that) until every limb takes its (proper) place,” (Ibn Khuzaymah)

In another narration, he added that we should straighten our backs. (Abu Dawud)

Many of us rush our bowing and sujud (prostration), but it is very important to give each action its due measure. The Prophet (peace be upon him) once saw a man not completing the bowing properly, and rushing his prostration such that he looked like he was pecking, and he said:

“Were this man to die in this state, he would die on a faith other than that of Muhammad—the likeness of one who does not make ruku` completely and pecks in his sujud is like the hungry person who eats one or two dates, which are of no use to him at all.” (At-Tabarani)

Why did the Prophet use such an example? Because we come to our prayer as people who are spiritually hungry and thirsty, looking for a refuge from the worries of the world. It does not make sense for a starving person to eat one or two dates if he has access to more; neither does it make sense for us to rush our bowing and prostration.

Du`aa’s (supplications) of Ruku`

Just as we discussed previously that there are different opening supplications, there are also a variety of supplications of bowing. We should try to memorize them and vary what we say so that we are conscious of them and so they do not become words we simply repeat.

We should say three times:

1. Subhana Rabbiya Al-‘Azheem.

“How Perfect is my Lord, the Supreme.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

When we say “Subhan Allah” or “Subhan Rabbiya,” we are disassociating Allah from any imperfection or impurity or from anything derogatory. And we say “Rabbiya” meaning “my Lord” in order to feel closeness to Him and love Him.

2. Subuhun Qudus, Rabb Al-Mala’ikati wa Al-Ruh.

“Exalted, Pure, Lord of the Angels and the Spirit.” (Muslim)

Subuh comes from the same root word of subhan, which is Sa-Ba-Ha, and is an aggrandizement of subhan, meaning the Exalted One who is praised and glorified extensively. It has been debated by scholars as to what the ‘Spirit’ refers; most have said that it refers to Jibreel (peace be upon him), others have said it is another great Angel, and others have said that it is a formidable being that not even the Angels can see. Allah knows best.

3.Subhanak Allahuma wa bihamdik, Allahumma ighfirli.

“How Perfect You are, O Allah. Praises are for You. O Allah, forgive me.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)



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