Here is my critique of Sam Gerrans’ Salat=duty.
Let me state clearly and unambiguously Sam’s purpose is not to understand “what is Quranic Salat,” rather his purpose is to bring in his desires “what it should be.” To this end, he is gathering straws to erroneously conclude “what it should be.”
Just one verse can remove the confusion:
[3:38-9]: At that (right there and then), Zechariah called upon his Lord, saying, "My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication." So the angels called him while he was standing in prayer (Qaimun Yussalli) in the chamber, "Indeed, Allah gives you good tidings of John, confirming a word from Allah and [who will be] honorable, abstaining [from women], and a prophet from among the righteous."
Now anyone can put Sam’s Salat=Duty above and can see it for him/herself how absurd it reads.
Further, one can have a discussion and arguments only with those who want to adhere to certain rules of the language, the context, etc. You cannot have a civilized discussion with those who go with their own wild notions and desires, projecting those back on to the Book.
First, the premise, the assumption “ritual out of hadith literature” upon which this article is based is not correct, thus the conclusions drawn from this could be in error. Sam is either ignorant how, when and/or for what purpose were Hadith written or he is purposefully misleading himself and others to believe that hadith are the basis of Muslim practices. Hadith were non-existent in well documented and collected form for nearly 200 years if not more after the demise of the exalted prophet. To state that Muslims at the time adopted their practices from Hadith is simply incorrect.
It is well established that verses of the Quran were revealed to the exalted prophet over about 23 years. Verses of Salat are spread over throughout the Quran. When say first verse of Salat was revealed, prophet knew it, Muslims with him knew it what it is. Salat was not something new, it was already practiced by pagan Arabs, Jews, and Christians, though in different forms. It is inconceivable to even think that when a command “do salat” verse is revealed prophet is not aware of it as to what it is, how to do it, when to do it, etc. Similarly, Muslims at the time followed prophet in all religious practices, thus learning from him first hand. These were on going practices and were handed down to generation after generation reaching to us. Ghamidi Sahib’s exposition in this regard is really good.
Sam Gerran writes: “As ever, whenever there does not exist a clear Qur’anic definition, as here, the first port of call in our investigations is the established Arabic language.”
Another faulty premise. Quran did not use the words which Arabs at the time did not understand. If that was so, Quran cannot claim to be Arabic Mubeen, clear and unambiguous Arabic language. Through this non-existent backdoor Sam begins to conclude what he intended to begin with.
Sam then brings in the example of “one horse following the other” to highlight that “Salat” means this and that. Lexicons use such examples to clarify the meanings of certain words. It is well known that Arabic words are diverse in meanings and scope. The word “Mussali” with reference to a horse is clearly understood by an Arab exactly what it is. In exactly the same way, the same word “Mussali” when used with reference to a man is also precisely understood by the same people. There is no error and ambiguity in their understanding. It is us, including Sam, non-Arabic people who are unaware of this and making unwarranted and erroneous inferences.
Sam Gerrans writes: “Since the Qur’an links these words by the same verb it is reasonable – in fact, necessary – to assume them to be of the same type. It is not reasonable that a single verb would connect an abstract noun with a concrete one. Abstract nouns may be joined – hope and fear; concrete ones may be joined – burger and milkshake…”
Another faulty assumption and logic. This is perhaps Sam is unaware of Quran and its language. He is bringing in English language examples to override the Arabic language. What a faulty methodology. Sabr, patience and perseverance, are indeed needed to remain steadfast in prayers. God says in 20:132, “And enjoin your followers/family the prayer (Salat) and be steadfast upon it…” Sam has no idea how “prayers” can change the inner self of people, thus making them to persevere, remain steadfast. Sam trying to bring in as many straws as possible to conclude what he began to conclude. If I say “seek help through patience and Yoga,” how is it in error?
Although Sam does not translate [2:45] as to what is his translation, I am going to use his Salat=duty in 2:45 and see how it reads:
[2:45] “And seek help through patience and prayers …” Is this better OR “And seek help through patience and DUTY…”? What a nonsense!!!
Then Sam goes through unnecessary list of Nouns and what not. Irrelevant stuff.
Then he goes on to the word “Iqama” and defines it as: “adopt a course of action in keeping with known criteria.” In this case, however, he did not go to the dictionary to define this word, rather he now uses another criterion, namely, “I noticed that the verb aqāma takes ḥudūd allah (the limits of God) as a direct object.” Why he skipped the dictionary to define it? Because this word has a range of meanings suitable for various context, this will destroy Sam’s main argument. From here on he concludes another erroneous conclusion, namely, “A ritual prayer, per se, impacts nothing.” Since Sam is either not aware of the purpose of the salat or he ignores it, Salat performed as per Quran impacts everything, see [29:45]
[29:45]: Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.
Sam writes: “..A FAITHFUL MAN knows what his duty is by looking to the commandments of God.”
Look at the above confused and convoluted words Sam had to write. Doing Salat is one of God’s commandments like any other commandments, see [2:177] how well Salat is nested with other commands.
[2:177]: Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] ESTABLISHES PRAYER and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during stress. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.
Just like one has to give to poor, …., to fulfill one’s promise, ….., the same way one has to establish Salat, i.e. pray to God. It is completely and unambiguously erroneous to assume that, say, by giving to poor or giving Zakah, or keeping a promise, one has done “Salat”. All apples in 2:177, except one orange if Salat=duty.