Refraining from getting involved in those matters which are unclear

Q: Humble request for advice regarding the following:

An elderly family member recently forwarded me and other members the following email. I would like to know if I should advise him to renew his Kalimah. He has propagated something which casts a doubt on the fundamental beliefs of Islam. Hereunder is the message:

The prayers mentioned by name in the Quran are:

1- Salat Al-Fajr (Dawn Prayer)24:58
2- Salat Al-Isha (Night Prayer)24:58
3- Al-Salat Al-Wusta (The Middle Prayer) 2:238

However, 99% of all Muslims in the world claim that God decreed 5 daily prayers.

The question is: If the prescribed prayers are indeed five per day, why does the Quran have only three named salat (prayers)? The advocates of the five prayers state that the Quran does not have all the details. To research this issue we present the following points:

First: Why are there only three named salat in the Quran? God tells us that the Quran contains all the details (6:114) and that nothing has been left out of the book (6:38). If this is the case, and more important, if we believe God 100%, Then we have to ask why are the names of two of the alleged five salat not in the Quran? The reply to this can be one of the following:

1- God forgot to mention the other two names of salat! This option is obviously false, because God does not forget.

2- The Quran does not contain all the details. This is also false because God tells us in 6:114 that it does.

3- God did not mention the names of the other 2 salat because they are not important. This is also a false option, if they were not  important then they would not be compulsory, and as a result, to claim that there are five compulsory prayers becomes a false claim.

4- God did not mention the names of the other 2 prayers because God wants us to guess them! Once again this is false, the Quran is not a book of puzzles.

5- God does not mention the names of the other 2 salat because God wants us to rely on other sources besides the Quran, or to rely on our inherited rituals as a second source of law besides the Quran! Once again this option is in violation of a number of Quranic verses such as 6:114, 7:3 and 5:48.

6- God does not mention the names of the other 2 prayers, because there are no other prayers according to the law of the Quran.

The genuine believers who believe that the Quran contains all the details, with no ifs or buts, will not accept any other option other than option 6

Second: Does the Quran give the exact times for each salat? God tells us that the time of each prayer is precisely given in the Quran “kitaban mawqootan“ 4:103. The word ”kitaban“ which means ‘book’ refers to the Quran, or to ‘that which is written’, and the word ”mawqootan“ means specifically timed. The deliberate use of these two words by God confirms that the precise appointed time for each of the prayers is given in the Quran. Once again this conforms to the fact that the Quran contains all the details. The exact times of the three salat are given in the Quran and they are as follows:

The Fajr (Dawn) Prayer (mentioned by name in 24:58). This prayer starts when fajr (dawn) starts. The start of fajr is given in 2:187. It starts when the first thin ray of light is observed in the sky. The words in 2:187 are: “until the white thread of light becomes distinguishable from the dark thread of night at dawn.“ The prayer ends at sunrise as will be explained in more details below.

The Isha (Night) Prayer (mentioned by name in 24:58). The night prayer corresponds to the other end of the day. It is the mirror image of the fajr salat. This prayer starts at sunset and ends when all light has disappeared from the night sky.

The Wusta (Middle) Prayer (mentioned by name in 2:238). The middle or ‘Wusta‘ prayer starts when the sun starts to decline from its highest point in the sky (dulook al-shams), which is at noon, and ends at sunset as detailed below.

Third: The detailed times for each salat

The exact times of the Dawn (fajr) prayer and Evening (Isha) prayers are given in the following verse:

“You shall observe the Salat (Contact Prayers) at the ends of the day, and zulufann min al-layl (in the near parts of the  night)”11:114.

There has been a number of interpretations of the words ’zulufann min al-layl‘. The ones that are most used are (part of the night) or (during the night) or (some parts of the night). However, none of these interpretations are accurate nor in line with the
Quranic use of the word ”zulufann“ as will be shown. Traditionally, this verse has been interpreted to be speaking of three

two Salat at the ends of the day plus an additional salat during the night, a total of 3 salat. However, this is a clear mis-understanding. This verse in fact speaks of only two prayers. This will be apparent once we establish the true meaning of key
words in 11:114. The root of the word ”zulufann“ is ”Zulfa”. The word ”Zulfa” is singular, while as the word ”Zulufann“ (which is used in 11:114) is the plural. The word ”Zulfa“ is used in the to mean near or adjacent: “ ….. Those who set up idols beside Him say,
“We idolize them only to bring us ‘zulfa’ (near/close) to God …“ 39:3 As a result, the phrase ”zulufann min al-layl“ means the near/adjacent parts of the night. The obvious question is: near to what? Nothing can be described as ‘near‘ in absolute terms. The word ‘near‘ can only have a meaning when we have a reference point to which this thing is near to. So now we have to read 11:114 again and see what does God means by ‘near‘, or in other words, near to what? The only other reference points given in 11:114
are the two ends of the day, which are sunrise and sunset. As a result, the words ”zulufann min al-layl“ speak of the parts of the
night which are adjacent to the two ends of the day (sunrise and sunset). The adjacent parts of the night (to sunrise and sunset) are the part of the night just before sunrise, and the part of the night just after sunset (note that anytime before sunrise and after sunset is defined as night in the Quran.

For details see: Definition of Night in the Quran

As a result, 11:114 speaks of two salat only, and God is giving us in 11:114 the range of two salat. The range for the two salat are the parts of the night which are just before sunrise and immediately after sunset. Perhaps the word “wa“, which means ‘and’, which is placed before the phrase ‘zulufann min al-layl‘ is the word that was the main subject of misinterpretation. Many have  understood the word ‘wa‘ to mean (and an additional Salat), however, the word ‘wa‘ simply links the two ends of the day, with the
adjacent parts of the night, to give the time range of the two salat. This is not any different than the following example:

If your doctor tells you that the time you are allowed to take your medicine is at midday and for the few hours which follow.
What does this mean?Does this mean that you must take the medicine at midday and then take it again for a few hours after that? or does it simply mean that the time you are allowed to take the medicine starts at midday and coontinues for the few hours that follow? Similarly, if God tells us to observe the Salat at the ends of the day ‘and’ for the adjacent hours of the night, it is the same thing. The word ‘and’ in 11:114 does not indicate an additional third prayer. With reason, it can be proved that this is the only logical explanation of this verse:

1- A command to observe the salat at the two ends of the day (sunrise and sunset), without the inclusion of the phrase ”wa zulufann min al-layl“, does not provide us with any indication as to when exactly these two Salat are to be observed.
This is because sunrise and sunset (the two ends of the day) are events that take no longer than 2 minutes to be completed. Surely God does not expect all believers to observe the salat only during those two minutes! It is only with the addition of the words ”wa zulufan min al-layl“ in the same verse that we are given a time range as to when these two salat are to be observed. The two salat must be observed during the near parts of the night, near to sunrise and sunset.

2- Some interpreters, who reject this understanding, have claimed that we can observe the Salat around the two points and not only during the actual sunrise/sunset, but this is equally unacceptable. This interpretation gives rise to a new valid question:
When exactly would the ‘around the two points’ be? Would it be before sunrise (and sunset) or after sunrise (sunset)? It is obvious that we would be left without any clues as to when exactly to observe these two Salat. However, the phrase ‘zulufann min al-layl‘ confirms that it is the night side of the sunrise and sunset that the salat may be observed. The two Salat at the ends of the day that are spoken of in 11:114 are given specific names in the Quran. They are Salat Al-Fajr (Dawn Prayer) and Salat Al-Esha (Night Prayer). Not surprisingly, the times of “fajr” and “esha” are defined in Arabic dictionaries as the times before sunrise and after sunset respectively.

Now we come to the third Salat mentioned in the Quran, which is Al-Salat Al-Wusta (2:238). The word Wusta is a derivative of the word ‘Wasat‘ which means middle. Therefore the words Al-Salat Al-Wusta mean ‘The Middle Prayer‘. The Middle prayer  (Wusta) thus gets its name as a result of it being exactly half way between the two ends of the day (sunrise and sunset).
As is explained below, the Salat Al-Wusta starts at ‘duluk al-shams‘ (decline of the sun from its highest point at noon) and ends at sunset. Being the Middle prayer, it lies half way between the two prayers at the two ends of the day. This Salat is due exactly at the middle of the day, i.e. when the sun has travelled half its distance in the sky. Just like the word ”zulufann“ (near) in 11:114 was shown to be relative to sunrise and sunset, also the word middle (wusta) in 2:238 cannot have a meaning in an absolute sense. To be described as ‘middle‘ must be in reference to two other points. And since ‘middle‘ speaks of a salat, thus this ‘middle’ salat must
be called ‘middle‘ because it lies between the other two salat. We are told in 11:114 that the two salat are at the ends of the day (sunrise and sunset), thus the middle salat starts when the sun has travelled exactly half way between sunrise and sunset. This is at midday. The exact time for the Middle prayer (Salat Al-Wusta) is given in 17:78. It is to be observed from the moment the sun begins its descend from its highest point at midday (duluk al shams) until the darkness of the night starts (ghasaq al-layl), which starts at sunset:

“You shall observe the Salat (Contact Prayer) from the ‘duluk‘ of the sun (when the sun declines from its highest point) up till the ‘ghasaq al-layl’ (the darkness of the night)“ 17:78

P.S. The darkness of the night starts to set in at sunset. And that is when the Salat Al-Wusta ends.

Fourth: The Friday prayer The prayer spoken of in 62:9-10 is given special importance as it is a collective prayer, and an analysis of the content of these verses confirms that it is the Middle (wusta) prayer on Friday: “O you who believe, when the Salat is announced on Friday, you shall hasten to the commemoration of God, and drop all business. This is better for you, if you only knew. Once the prayer is completed, you may spread through the land to seek God’s bounties, and continue to remember God frequently, that you may succeed“ 62:9-10 The words ‘drop all business’ and also the words ‘Once the prayer is completed,
you may spread through the land to seek God’s bounties’ indicate that this prayer is in the day hours. The reasoning behind this is that since no one is likely to be engaged in their business and have to drop it in the early hours before sunrise, this indicates that this prayer is not the Fajr prayer. Similarly it cannot be the Esha prayer since God says that after the prayer the believers may continue with their business, no one is likely to be continuing work in the late hours of the night. Consequently, if this Salat is not the Fajr prayer nor the Esha prayer, this can only mean that it is the Salat Al-Wusta.

– The words “Once the prayer is completed, you may spread out through the land“ indicate that it is a collective prayer. This is because it is not possible to spread out if one is on his own. The words “spread out“ indicate a crowd, or a collective prayer.

As we have seen, not only do we only have three names of prayers in the Quran, we also have three defined times for prayer in the Quran. Those who follow five prayers a day cannot find names of more than three salat in the book, nor can they find defined times for their five prayers in the Quran. All their information comes from sources outside the Quran. They do that because they claim that the Qurn does not have all the details. And by doing so, they demonstrate that they do not believe God’s assurances
that the Quran is fully detailed (6:114) and that nothing has been left out of the book (6:38)!

Fifth: The usual manipulations Since there are only three named salat in the Quran, the advocates of the five salat have tried to manipulate a number of Quranic words to enforce their non Quranic five salat tradition. The following are some of their  manipulations:

– Some have claimed that the word ‘zahira‘ in 24:58 refers to the salat which they call by the same name. The advocates of the 5 prayers have tried to manipulate this word in 24:58 so as to authorise a salat called ‘zohr‘. But If we look at verse 24:58, we note that the word ‘salat‘ is related only to 2 Salats (Fajr and Esha), and we also note that God only speaks of the ‘time of day‘ (not salat name) which God calls Zahira (zohr). If there is a Salatcalled Salat Al-Zohr, wouldn’t we expect to see the words ‘salat Al-Zahira/Zohr‘ in 24:58, just like God mentions Salat Al-Fajr and Salat Al-Esha in the same verse by their name? The time of ‘zahira‘ spoken of in 24:58 is a time which God reserves for privacy as the words in 24:58 explain, and is not a name for a salat.

– Some have also tried to manipulate various Quranic verses which speak of the time of ‘Asr‘ (afternoon) such as 103:1, but once again when we read 103:1 we do not see any mention of the word salat. Asr is merely a time of the day which God refers to. The Quran also speaks of other times of the day such as ‘duha‘ (morning) in 93:1, but once again this is not a reference to a salat by that name. The concept of salat is not mentioned direcly or indirectly in any of these verses.

– Yet another case of manipulation is by those who have tried to change the meaning of the Quranic word ‘tasbeeh‘ (glorification) to indicate salat. The Quran invites us to glorify God at various times of the day (3:41, 20:130, 50:39). The act of ‘tasbeeh‘ is  different from the act of salat. Tasbeeh (glorifying God) can be done at any time and has no pre-requisites, but salat has specific times of the day and can only be done according to specific  rules such as ablution, facing qibla .. etc.

Sixth: The sun given as the timer Many centuries ago in the old days, people did not have printed lists of times of prayers and astronomical charts, etc. They could not do like we do now, turn on the radio or TV or obtain a Prayer Timetable. However, God must have given a means to determine the times of prayers even for those early communities who did not have the facilities we  have today. God must have given them a natural means of determining the times of the prayers. All the three salat are timed in reference to the movement of the sun in our sky. This is a natural method which can be applied by all people and long before the human devised the sophisticated astronomical charts. As long as there is any light in the sky (before sunrise and after sunset) we
know it is the time for Fajr and Isha respectively. With the Salat Al-Wusta it is also very easy. When we see no shadow below us
when we stand, we know that this is when the sun is highest in the sky. When we start to see the smallest shadow, this is the beginning of the salat al-wusta, it ends when the sun sets. It cannot be easier!

Seventh: The issue of the ‘raka’ Finally we come to the issue of how many raka to be observed in each Salat. The cycle of standing, bowing and prostrating is traditionally called a ‘raka‘. According to Quranic law, God did not specify any specific number of raka to be observed in the Salat. More important, the word raka does not appear anywhere in the Quran, so we must discard it and only think in terms of standing,bowing and prostrating while commemorating God alone. The advocates of the 5 prayers claim that the number of raka to be observed during each of the 5 prayers is 24434 respectively. In other words, 2 raka’s at fajr, then 4 raka during their ‘zohr’ prayer, and so on. For a start, and since there are only three Salat decreed by God for the believers, then this 24434 format is false. A different group who also advocate the 5 prayer format have come up with some calculations based on the number 19 to claim that the 24434 format has been preserved since Abraham. These calculations have been proven to be coincidental and thus cannot be considered in any way as divine signs. Some other scholars have claimed that the minimum number of Raka during any prayer must be two. They base their claim on the Quranic concession to shorten the Salat at times of war (4:101). They state that if we are given indication to shorten the Salat, then it must be at least two Raka, that is because it is not feasible to shorten the salat if it were made of just one Raka! The error in this interpretation is double edged:

1- It is based on a non Quranic concept which is the raka.

2- It is also in error because the Quranic concession to shorten the salat is time related, it is not related to the raka frequency. As mentioned, the concept of ‘raka‘ is not a Quranic concept. The Quran speaks of standing, bowing and prostration without any time or frequency restrictions, which allows us to spend the time we wish in any of these positions. In other words, one can spend one minute in the standing position or ten minutes. One could read the Al-Fatiha (The Key) once or ten times. Equally one may praise
God during prostration three times or 20 times. One could prostrate once or five times, and so on. If we add the fact that different people excercise different speeds in uttering their prayers, then we are once again compelled to accept that shortening the salat is related to the overall time we give to the Salat and not to the number of raka’s. The concession to shorten the Salat given in 4:101 is thus a time related one. God is telling us if you normally spend (as an example) 10 minutes in your Salat, you may spend 2 or 3 minutes when you are at war. Apart from the fixed one month decreed for fasting, we find that none of the other Islamic practices and rituals have been given a fixed frequency in the Quran, and for a great wisdom too.”

Your valuable Naseehat on the above matter will be greatly appreciated.


A: He should refrain from this and make istighfaar that he will not get into this in future. A man must embark on those matters that he is absolutely clear about.

And Allah Ta’ala (الله تعالى) knows best.


Answered by:

Mufti Ebrahim Salejee (Isipingo Beach)