By Nastik Durrani, New Age Islam
15 February, 2014
The obligation of Namaz has been mentioned in the holy Quran as a religious commandment failing which one may be punished. However, we do not find any clear mention of the five obligatory prayers in Quran (1). Due to this reason, it is too difficult for us to determine the exact point of time for the obligation of Namaz. Moreover, we have no Qur'anic details for the methods and specific numbers of this mandatory Islamic prayer. Subsequently, we are compelled to rely upon Hadith reports and the books of Sirah to carry out research on this subject.
Despite exerting all possible efforts, the Quran exegetes could not determine a single categorical verse that may detail all the daily five prayers without ambiguity or need for clarification. (2)
Of course, we do not entertain any doubt regarding the revelation of the commandment of Namaz (Salah) to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH during his stay in Mecca before he migrated to Medina. For the word “al-Salat” was mentioned in the Meccan Surahs such as Al-Mudassir (3) and Al-Kausar which, according to chronological order, was revealed as the twelfth Surah. The complete Surah had been revealed in Mecca. A verse in this Surah says: “So, pray to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him alone]” (4). Moreover, many other Meccan Surahs also mention the commandment of Salah. This opinion is endorsed by the Hadith reports and Sirah traditions saying that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to pray with his first wife Hazrat Khadija until her demise, which took place before the incident of Isra (Prophet’s Night Journey) (5). In addition, there is a report saying that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH would walk around the city of Mecca and offer prayer with his companion Hazrat Ali (r.a). Once Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib saw him offering the Salah and asked the Prophet about this prayer. Abu Talib too passed away before the Isra (6). Other reports mention that the earliest converts to Islam used to offer the Salah even before the Isra happened. All this clearly shows that the commandment of Salah was revealed in Mecca before the Prophet’s Night Journey (Isra).
Even Surah al-Alaq, also known as Surah “Iqra”, contains a verse saying: “Have you seen the one who forbids a servant when he prays?” (Surah al-Alaq-10-11)
Majority of Ulema hold the view that this Surah was the first revelation to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. This Surah suggests out that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH would offer Salah even at the time of the first divine revelation to him. The commentators of the holy Quran have mentioned that the aforementioned verse was revealed because of Abu Jahal Bin Hisham who stopped the Prophet PBUH from offering the Salah at a certain place and had said: “If I see Muhammad offer the Salah, I will slit his throat” (8). The commentators have further written that the Messenger of God did not take his threat into consideration, whereupon Abu Jahal said: “What Muhammad is warning me against, while I have the largest number of companions in the valley.”
These Quranic exegeses point to the fact that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH used to offer the Salah before people in the earliest three years of his prophethood, that too at the most manifest place of Mecca, known as “Muqam”. This is what outraged one of the chieftains of Quraish, Abu Jahal Bin Hisham, who threatened him for that. It implies that this verse had been revealed shortly after the revelation of the first verses of the Surah Iqra. It was at the time when the Prophet Muhammad PBUH and Abu Jahal came at odds with each other, as the Quraish could not tolerate the Prophet’s praying to a God whom they did not pray or believe, particularly at the place of Maqaam. So, Abu Jahal attempted to stop the Prophet PBUH from offering his prayer.
The Quran exegetes have reported that the earliest verses of the Surah “Iqra” up to the verse “Allamal Insana Maa Lam Yaalam” (taught man that which he knew not) are among the first revelations of the holy Quran, while the rest of them were revealed later. This opinion is endorsed by Abu Jahal’s threats to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
1- The History of the Quran-151/1 (German Origin)
2- Moldeke, Gesch. d. Qoran, I. S., 51, Mittwoch, S., 9
3- Verse: 42
4- Second verse
5- 311/2 and the following
6- Ibn Hisham, 157/1, Al-Tabri, 313/2, Al-Blazri’s Ansaab al-Ashraaf, 113/1 and the following
7- Verse: 9 & 10
8- Tafseer al-Tabri, 163/2 and the following