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KITAB, QURAN & ARABIC

CHAPTER 1     KITAB, QURAN & ARABIC –     IS "ARABIC" THE NAME OF A LANGUAGE OF MIDDLE EAST AND "QURAN&quo...

Saturday, 9 February 2019

UNDERSTANDING THE ROOT WORD OF SALAT: PART 1



UNDERSTANDING THE ROOT WORD OF SALAT: PART-1



Salah is one the most important term of the book Quran and the most misunderstood term by very vast majority of the Muslim world. The canonical interpretations of the word salat are prayer, contact prayer, blessings. Its new interpretation is establishment of socioeconomic system based on the concept / theme of Nizam e Rabbubiat coined by Sir Ghulam Ahmed Parvez and later upgraded by Dr. Qamar Zaman esq.

Now it's a dilemma for the sincere student of the book Quran, how to choose the correct interpretation of the term salah. My method is to cross check the hints provided in colloquial Arabic then in lexicons and finally how the derived meaning makes sense in the given context of the message. On the basis of this inquiry my next step is to select the root word accordingly.

INFERRING THE WORD SALAT:

The word al-ṣalat [الصَّـلَاةَ] is a feminine noun. Ta marbutah [ة] at the end of the word salat indicates that it is some kind of process or mechanism. The basic objective of the process of al-salat is continuous establishment or installation of the connection [وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّـلَاةَ]   – The word يُقِيمُونَ is a form IV imperfect verb.  Imperfect verb is when the action is incomplete and is in continuous process. Form IV verbs are used for transfer of action on self for transformation. So in this context salat is a continuous process / mechanism of connection for our own self awareness and transformation.

Al-salat is a continuous establishment of connection [وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّـلَاةَ] – The ritual salat of 3 or 5 times a day does not fulfill the criteria of actual Quranic salat. The Quranic salat is very difficult; it needs patience and humbleness – 2:45

The process of salat enables us to connect with the guidance stored within us by our consciousness [Rabb].

First we will discuss the apparent meaning of the word salat. If we ask any common Muslim or a clergy what is salat? The spontaneous answer would be communication / connection with Allah or contact with God is salat. But when some curious minds like me refers it to any dictionary to verify the correct meaning of the word, he would not find the word communication / connection in the entire list of meanings if he checks under the common root word ص ل و – But at the same time everybody would insist that the meaning of Salat is contact / communication or connection with Allah.

I was always reluctant to discuss the root word of Salat as I found my understanding contrary to many present lexicographers. I did not have much backup to support my arguments. As far as I know majority of “Muslims” think salat is direct communication / contact with Allah. I also discussed with some ulemas [scholars graduated from religious school] they too are of the same opinion that salat is a contact / communication with Allah but when it comes to root word of salat they too fumble. Some more learned among them said the word salat is a derivative of sila [صلة] – link, connection but they were not aware of its actual root word.

The basic meaning of صلو [salu] is - I struck, or beat. صلوت الظهر means to beat the back. Beat / struck is called صلا – Now according to the lexicons the most familiar meaning taken by the ”Muslims” of salu and its derivatives الصَّـلَاةَ - صَلَوَاتٌ - يُصَلِّي - يُصَلُّواْ are – he prayed, supplicated, petitioned, divinely appointed prayer, eulogy, benediction, blessing commendation..

One of the meaning صلى – it is said that the horse who followed the next after the foremost in the race or a goal – صلا is middle back of the human being. Projected portion of the central back of the animal between the buttocks from where the tail of an animal comes out, the rump.

The more commonly used meanings by the translators or exegesist for SALAT are:

Divinely appointed prayers, supplication, contact prayers, blessing, commitment, follow closely and establishment of Kingdom of God on Earth / socioeconomic system  [nizam e rabubiat].

Any deviation from the commonly held or established beliefs or in the absence of precedent or references from so called academic authorities is not at all easy for anyone to explain their point of view. The most common form of confirmation demanded by almost all academicians or common man is “show us where it is written” that salat and sila are derivatives of wasal.

Unfortunately references from the lexicons or exegesis and lexicographers are treated as bench mark of authority & authenticity by the so called academicians. No space or respect is given to independent research, deliberation, colloquial usage, common sense or even the context of the book Qur’an is ignored. Subsequently the understanding of Islam and the book Qur’an are dictated by the same prejudiced authorities who are not independent thinkers but bookish stooges of the rule books written by their hallowed predecessors. These pseudo scholars are the main hindrance in understanding the book Qur’an independently.

I am not against the use of lexicons or exegesis or any other literature or tools as long as it helps in finding the truth and give sense to the context. But we all should be aware that all the lexicons or exegesis are customized to legitimized Hadith literature rather than the semantics of the book Quran. No doubt classical lexicons do possess some traces of truth in it but for that we must have an open mind and scanning eyes to pick up the right meaning from so many vocabularies. If we only depend on academics and fail to apply reason while translating the noble book Quran then we would be doing great injustice to the message of the book Qur’an.

The most prominent and easily available lexicons are Lisan al-Arab (Arabic: لسان العرب) Ibn Manzur(Arabic: ابن منظور) (b.630 A.H / 1233 - d. 711A.H / 1312). The dictionary was completed in 689 A.H / 1290. It contains about 80,000 dictionary entries.

Al-Qamus al-Muhit wa al-Qabus al-Wasit (Arabic: القاموس المحيط، والقابوس الوسيط) Shorter title: Al-Qamus al-Muhit    Al-Firuzabadi (Arabic: الفيروزآبادي) (b. 1329 - d. 1414) the dictionary was completed in 1410. It contains about 60,000 dictionary entries.    

Taj al-Arus Min Jawahir al-Qamus (Arabic: تاج العروس) Shorter title: Taj al-Arus - Al-Murtada al-Zabidi (Arabic: المرتضى الزبيدي) (b.1143 A.H / 1731 - d. 1204 A.H / 1790) the dictionary was completed in 1774. It contains about 120,000 dictionary entries.     

Some of these dictionaries served as the basis of later European dictionaries of Arabic.

Muhit al-Muhit (Arabic: محيط المحيط) a.k.a. Qutr al-Muhit (The Diameter of the Ocean) Butrus al-Bustani (Arabic: بطرس البستاني) (b. 1819 - d. 1883) the dictionary was completed in 1870. 

We find derivatives of word salat in daily conversation in the Arab world. Etisalat: اتصالات ittiṣālāt, literally means "communications" is widely used all over Middle East for telecommunication - is one of the derivatives of وصل and salat - the Arabic phrase صلة الرحم literally means bonding of blood relationship is also used widely among sub-continent and Arab Muslims. They are all derivatives of وصل and salat - Inner calling means الاتصال الداخلي, here الاتصال a derivative of salat is referred as calling. This explanation of mine was not sufficient, people wanted more proof of that, they questioned why someone before me or since 1400 years nobody ever used wasal as the root word of Salat. I knew people used wasal as the root word of salat but I had no reference to show them. People began to accuse me following heresy or using my whims and some even called me a liar.

Again I have to waste my valuable time and energy to search for written records only for the sake of supporting my claim that salat and wasal are related words. I was satisfied with my understanding but I have to search it for the sake of academicians who only rely on academic proofs or precedents. I consider it as an insult to my intellect to cite examples from Mr. x, y & z to prove my point. I consider context as the king; rest all are immaterial, if the context and the theme makes sense it has to be true. Usually I hate the idea of references or citations. It is an irony that I have to depend on works of some early scholars to endorse my conviction. Instead of studying the richness of message of the book Qur’an I have to waste my time in searching for acknowledgment and confirmation from outside source to satisfy the masses. And if am fortunate enough to get hands to it, only then the precious common sense will be acceptable otherwise it has no value. Such line of thinking breeds the habit of copying predecessors and this is the main cause of mental degradation of Muslims societies around the world. We must understand all researchers, lexicographers or academicians are just human beings and they can commit mistakes, we can take help from them but we cannot blindly follow them in entirety. We should understand that only the context from the book is important and not the citations of scholars.

Anyways I deemed it a very urgent necessity in the case of Salat as it was a very important subject of Islam and one of the main topics among Muslims. I was eager to show the seekers of truth that the Quranic salat does not mean ritual prayer or following closely Allah’s Law. The so called servants of “God” directly jump to the “Laws of God” without knowing anything about the Owner God. It feels good to hear such rhetoric but how can we serve or follow closely the Laws without knowing the actual Owner or Law Maker.
      
After studying the book Quran very deeply I was fully convinced that the word salat is a derivative of wasal [و ص ل] the meaning of which is - to link, bond, connection, communication but the problem was how to explain it to others, without the backing of lexicons and exegesis it is difficult for anyone to accept it. However in my quest to have the credential to my conviction I was on the lookout for some authentic source which would endorse my understanding. Luckily I came across the treatise of Nasir Khusrow [394 A.H – 480 A.H] some 15 years back in that I found that the root word of Salat was wasal but currently while writing this article I could not find that reference.

Nevertheless much later I found much stronger citation and that was from the commentary of Surah Baqarah by Sahl al-Tustarī [818 CE 203 AH – 896 CE 283 AH]. He clearly cited the meaning of salat in his well known Tafsir [exegesis] of Al-Qur’an.

Let’s first know the background of Sahl al-Tustarī. He was a student of spiritual master Zūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī [175 A.H – 245 A.H]. Osho mentions in his book ‘Journey to the Heart’ that Zūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī was "an Egyptian Sufi mystic, one of the greatest who has ever walked on the earth". His father was a Nubian freedman of the Quraish tribe.

Mansur al-Hallaj [244 A.H – 309 A.H] was one of the famous disciples who studied Islamic mysticism at the school of Sahl al-Tustarī. During this period Al-Hallaj lost his ability to speak Persian and later wrote exclusively in Arabic. 

Sahl al-Tustarī was among the most important and influential mystics of the early, formative period of Islamic mysticism, and many later famous Sufis and thinkers drew upon his ideas and cited his sayings, including Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 505 A.H /1111), Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā al-Suhrawardī (d. 587A.H /1191) and Muḥyī al-Dīn Ibn ʿArabī (d. 638 A.H /1240). The fourth/tenth-century Sufi author Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī (d. 386A.H /996), who had fully imbibed Tustarī’s teachings through contact with the circle of his followers in Basra, contributed to the promulgation of his thought and sayings through his treatise on Sufism, the Qūt al-qulūb (‘Nourishment of Hearts’), which was freely used by Ghazālī in the composition of his celebrated Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn (‘Revival of the Religious Sciences’). 

According to the tafsir of Sahl al-Tustarī, Salat is a link of contemplation [murāqaba] of Him [page 14] and on page 21 of his exegesis he says Salat is a bond [wasal] of gnosis [marifah] with Him. In the context of the book Qur’an salat is a bond of close connection of a Learned Teacher with a devote student where both communicate with each other.            

Let’s study the essence of root word Waw Saad Laam (وصل) and its derivatives -                                                 
  
و ص ل - Waw-Saad-Lam = attained, reached, connected, joined, he made close ties of relation, bond of love, held close, to continue, communion, communicated, صلة – establish contact, connection or relation, يصل – is to join, connect, unite, combine, link, receive – صلة الرحم – making close relationship – connective preposition is called حرف الصلة ittiṣālāt-  اتصالات- literally means "communications" – to get in touch with telephone [modern Arabic] - the phrase for inner calling is الاتصال الداخلي and the word for transportation in Arabic is  مواصلات (mawasalat) which is also a derivative of the same root word of صلاۃ [Salah]. Keeping in mind the rule of classical root languages these chain of meanings are all derivatives of root word وصل and they compliment each other in their meanings as they belong to the same family of single word. Thus we cannot adopt any other meaning of salat except the above. 

Therefore I conclude that the Quranic As-Salaat is a mechanism of bond of connection / communication or a communion with the divine guidance present in the form of embedded script [Al-Kitab] in us. The divine inherent script [Al-Kitab] is the only source which is to be followed for knowledge, guidance and it should be treated as the Clear leader [Imam e Mubin] - 36:12.

The basic intention of offering the “traditional salat” 5 / 3 times a day does not solve the purpose, although it is trying to hint the fact that “Stay Connected” with your consciousness [Rabb] and with your inner self. The connection of salat should be 24x7 and not lasting for just 10/15 minutes period 3 / 5 times a day. The basic purpose is to stay connected 24/7 in order to keep in touch with the anomalous behavior of our self [nafs]. The process of salat has nothing to do with any heavenly God but with the conduct of our own inner-self.

Addendum: For those who have grossly misunderstood my article. My simple argument is that the word Salat [الصَّـلَاةَ] is the derivative of word wasal [وصل].

Please note I never said anything about these words SALLA (صَلَّىٰ) - SALLU (صَلُّوا) - YU SALLUNA (يُصَلُّونَ) – and I never said it means connection or its root word is وصل – I am aware these are all form II verbs and their root word is صلو

I did not want to prolong my article so I confined it to the word الصَّـلَاة only. Please read again, I think many readers are confused with these two root words. I never said the word الصَّـلَاة and words صَلَّىٰ - صَلُّوا - يُصَلُّونَ carry the same root word. I hope the confusion is clear.

CONTINUED IN PART II





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