Dear Dr. Saab,
Thanks for replying. May Allah bless us with the light of knowledge and strengthen us to illuminate the darkest corners.
There are two lines of thought which seem to be coming out of the discussion:
1. That salat was never meant to be a ritual that is currently in force. Hence the standing with folded hands, ruku, sujood etc are meaningless actions.
2. That salat, apart from meaning 'follow divine command closely', also encompasses a daily duty for believers to be done at certain fixed hours (two ends of the day, when the sun is declining, jumua congregation), which can be shortened if you are traveling and have apprehensions of your safety. The physical actions may not be directly meaningful, but help in psychologically preparing the believer for his higher duties.
Since the Quran is the 'complete message', it should contain the how part, if it is a daily ritual. The absence of this 'how' is leading to the confusion that many people are experiencing, resulting in the above two lines of thought. Both are logical & rational, but only one can be correct.
The first line of thought is the outcome of some laborious research which did not yield convincing answers to uphold the current ritual.
If one is still seeking answers (with a unbiased mind), trying to find any hidden/ overlooked meaning of salat, the second line of thought holds. I am currently in this state of thought. I agree to the reasoning of brothers who have abandoned the ritual, but I still have the lurking doubt that there is more to it than appears. Salat, apart from following the divine decree, is also something else. If I erase the years of mullah conditioning (which I have done quite successfully), I am unable to find any alternative answer (my study has only begun and I am miles away from scholarship). However, the following thoughts have crossed my mind:
1. If it was just 'following divine commands' why would the words 'ruku' & 'sujood' be separately/ distinctly used. In "symbolic" terms, both the words convey, more or less, similar meanings. The difference arises only if you look at them from the physical aspect.
2. Also, in the Quran, there are 15 bookmarks/ instances where you are supposed to do sajda. Is this to be considered as allegory or should you do physical sajda.
3. If the article of namaaz was a persian addition (with striking similarity to their ritual), what was the practice in Spain, which was not under persian influence? In case of a deviation (in this case, a gross addition of something alien, that too five times a day), someone would have certainly noticed it and it would have gone on record. The imams/ rulers would certainly have made a conscious attempt to stop the deviations from spreading in their geography and it would have gained enough attention to be recorded in history.
4. Was there any ritual called salat in pre-islamic arabia which was then allowed to be carried over as a practice, with obeisance only to Allah. (a 'description'/how part is needed if a new way is being introduced or an existing practice is being amended. In case of an old practice without amendment, no description is warrented). To cite an example, people in pre-islamic time practiced pilgrimage to Kaaba and circumambulated it. The same tawaaf is mentioned in the Quran. Hence the 'how' part of tawaaf is not required & not given. In my opinion, if the word tawaaf was only for symbolic purpose, there would have been a clear warning against the physical stuff, or a clear way defined, just the way we have been told as to which women we should marry, quit gambling & intoxicants, refrain from usury, etc.
What I mean to say is that, if anything that was a practice at the time of revelation, was deemed by God as harmful, it found specific mention & do's/ don'ts were given. Other practices in currency during that time were left untouched. Could salat be one such practice.
I would request your opinions on these.
Seeking the truth,