Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why do we pray five times each day?

I read Quran that a man should pray three times: before sunrise, after sunset and in the middle of the day. So why do we pray five times? I hope that you will not give me the story that 50,000 prayers were enjoined then it was reduced to five. I want a convincing answer.

Praise be to Allaah.

1 – What is mentioned in the question about the number of
prayers is mistaken. It was 50 then it was altered to 5 prayers, a favour
from the Lord of the Worlds to the Muslims. 

2 – The rules of sharee’ah may be divided into two
categories: those which may be understood on a rational basis; and those
which are purely worship, the wisdom behind which is concealed from us and
is not mentioned in either the Qur’aan or the Sunnah. 

Examples of the first include: the prohibition on alcohol and
gambling. Allaah has told us the reason why they are forbidden, which is: 

“Shaytaan (Satan) wants only to excite enmity and hatred
between you with intoxicants (alcoholic drinks) and gambling, and hinder you
from the remembrance of Allaah and from As‑Salaah (the prayer). So, will you
not then abstain?”

[al-Maa'idah 5:91] 

And there are other
similar rulings.  

Examples of the second kind include offering Zuhr prayer when
the sun has passed its zenith, circumambulating the Ka’bah with it on one's
left (i.e., anticlockwise), the nisaab of gold being a quarter of ten
percent; Maghrib prayer being three rak’ahs, and many other such rulings. 

What is mentioned in the question falls into this second
category, which is things for which we do not know the reason from the
holy Quran or Sunnah, so we have to submit to the command of Allaah. This
applies to all such rulings. 

The Muslim has to accept the things for which Allaah has not
explained the reason, and say as the believers say: “We hear and we obey.”
He should not be like the Children of Israel who said: “We hear but we

Accepting what Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“He [Allaah] cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they will be
questioned” [al-Anbiya’ 21:23] is better for the believer in his
religious and worldly affairs, for he is a slave who has a Lord, and the
slave has no right to ask his Lord why He enjoined something. Rather he has
to submit to His command. If he tells us why, we should do it, and if He
does not tell us why, we should still do it. 

3 – In al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah
(1/49-51) there is a useful discussion which we will quote here: 

With regard to understanding the reasons why things have been
prescribed, we may divide the issues of fiqh into two categories: 

1 – Rulings whose wisdom may be understood on a rational
basis, either because the reason is stated in the texts, or because it is
easy to work out. 

Such rulings are the majority of those that Allaah has
prescribed, such as enjoining prayer, zakaah, fasting and Hajj in general,
and such as enjoining the mahr (dowry) in marriage, ‘iddah (waiting period)
following divorce or widowhood, spending on one’s wife, children and
relatives, divorce when married life becomes unbearable, and many other such
issues of fiqh. 

2 – Ruling which are enjoined on us as a kind of pure
worship. These are rulings in which the connection between the ruling and
the action is not clear, such as the number of prayers, the number of
rak’ahs and most of the actions of Hajj. By the mercy of Allaah, such
rulings are few in relation to the rulings the wisdom behind which may be
rationally understood. These rulings are prescribed as a test to demonstrate
whether a person is a true believer. It should also be noted that sharee’ah
– both general principles and minor details – does not prescribe anything
that contradict common sense, but it may prescribe something the reason for
which cannot be understood. There is a big difference between the two. If a
person is rationally convinced that Allaah exists and that He is wise, and
that He alone deserves to be acknowledged as Lord, and he is rationally
convinced that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
is a true Prophet, then he affirms that Allaah is the Sovereign and the
Lord, and that he is His slave. Then if he is commanded to do something or
is forbidden to do something, and he then says, “I will not follow this
ruling until I know the reason behind this command or prohibition,” then he
has proven himself to be false in his claim to be a believer in Allaah and
His Messenger. The human mind has a limit beyond which it cannot go. 

The one who rebels against the rulings of Allaah that have to
do with rituals is like a sick person who goes to a trustworthy doctor who
prescribes various kinds of medicine for him, some to be taken before
eating, some to be taken during the meal and some to be taken afterwards, in
various amounts, and he says to the doctor: I will not take your medicine
until you explain to me the reason why this one should be taken before
eating and this one afterwards, and this one during the meal, and why are
they are varying amounts, some small and some big? Does this patient really
trust his doctor? The same may be said of a person who claims to believe in
Allaah and His Messenger, then he rebels against the rulings the wisdom
behind which he does not understand. The true believer, if he is commanded
to something or forbidden to do something, says, “I hear and I obey,”
especially when we have explained that there are no rulings that can be
rejected on the basis of reason. Not knowing something does not indicate
that it is not true. How many rulings are there, the reason for which has
been concealed from us in the past, then we discovered that there is great
wisdom behind them? The reason why pork is forbidden was unknown to many
people, then we found out that it carries germs and disease and other bad
things, and Allaah wanted to protect the Muslim society against them. The
same may be said concerning the command to wash vessels that have been
licked by a dog seven times, one of which should be with earth… and other
rulings the wisdom behind which may be discovered one day even though it is hidden from us now. 

And Allaah knows best.


Islam Q&A

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