What is the Islamic approach to other religions’ temples and places of worship?

Respect and protection, because Allah says the following in the Qur’an regarding other faiths’ places of worship:

“… If Allah had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which Allah’s name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed” (Kafirun 109:1-6)

What are the adhân (a call to summon worshippers) and the iqâmah (a call to start prayers)?

The adhân is a call to prayer made out loud to summon believers to offer the daily prayers. The purpose of adhân is informing believers that the time of a prayer has come. The adhân performs a function similar to that of a Sofer sound in Judaism and a bell in Christianity. The use of human voice to call the adhân symbolizes its human-originated source and its naturalness. The fact that the adhân contains meaningful phrases underlines the purpose of not only notifying people, but also reminding them about foundational values of Islam. The phrases in question highlight the inseparable connection between faith and acts of worship. The adhân is not a symbol of authority or power, but it is a call to peace and friendship.

The words and phrases in the adhân were compiled in Prophet Muhammad’s times, and represent the axis of the Islamic creed—tawheed:

  • Allah is great (4 times)
  • I bear witness that there is no god worthy of worship but Allah (2 times)

  • I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah (2 times)

  • Hasten to worship (2 times)

  • Hasten to success (2 times)

  • Allah is great (2 times)

  • There is no god worthy of worship but Allah (2 times)

The iqâmah is a concise version of the adhân that is recommended  congregation. The words in the iqâmah are the same with those in the adhân except for one minor addition: after “Hasten to success,” one adds, “The prayer has begun” (Qad qâmati as-salâh).

What time is salâh performed?

There are specific times—the connection points of various parts of a 24-hour period—for performing this or that salâh.

Doing so saves the human from becoming a broken piece of wood violently thrown from side to side by the tide of time.

1. Fajr is performed before sunrise and has two obligatory raka’ahs (repeated units in a supplication). The message it carries: “I stand in front of You, o Allah, before the sun rises so the dawn is a witness to my iymân!”

2. Dhuhr is performed immediately after the sun passes its zenith at noon and has four obligatory raka’ahs. Travelers away from home may perform only two raka’ahs. The message it carries is: “I make daytime and its greatest sign—the sun—witnesses to my faith in You, o Allah! My relationship with You is my priority, o Allah!”

3. ‘Asr is performed between noon and evening and has four obligatory raka’ahs. Travelers away from home may perform only two raka’ahs. The message it carries is: “Despite the busiest time of day and despite my fatigue, I am not missing my divine dialogue with You, so I stand before You, o Allah! (Those with reasonable predicaments may combine the second and third prayers within their combined time.)

4. Maghrib is performed immediately after sunset and has three obligatory raka’ahs. The message it carries: “I make stars and sunset witnesses to my faith in You, o Allah!”

5. ‘Isha is performed after sunset’s redness withdraws in the sky and has four obligatory raka’ahs. Travelers away from home may perform only two raka’ahs. The message it carries: “I make the night witness to my faith, for darkness cannot conceal me from You, o Allah!” (Those with reasonable predicaments may combine the last two prayers within their combined time.)

One could say the timing and essence of daily prayers carries the following message: “O servant of Allah! Turn such important times of the day into your witnesses!

Be constantly mindful of the place and time you are in! Do not alienate yourself from Allah who gave that time and placed you in that place! Do not put off the remembrance and worship of Allah from your daily agenda, so Allah does not “delete” you from His agenda!”

 

Who performs salâh?

Every sane Muslim who reached adulthood (puberty) must perform salâh, because any genuine faith is based on free choice. Obviously, the most important, indeed the foundational, prerequisite for a free choice is one’s saneness and reasonableness.

Adulthood (puberty) symbolizes “the capacity for responsibility.” Those who freely choose to have faith in Allah are responsible to perform salâh. And those who are responsible to perform salâh are subsequently obliged to perform it.

Who is salâh performed for?

Salâh is performed for Allah only! Performing it in the name or for the sake of anything and anyone else beside Allah is the biggest sin possible—shirk (polytheism). Islam teaches that the only deity worthy of worship is Allah.

Did Prophet Muhammad institute salâh?

Prophet Muhammad did not initiate the performance of salâh. The Qur’an speaks about “the past prophets’ salâh.” To be sure, the word “salâh” means “prayer” and “servitude”; prayers, obviously, exist since the dawn of humankind’s life on Earth.

Therefore, there are indications that certain aspects and portions of the salâh Prophet Muhammad taught his followers were observed and practiced by previous prophets of Allah as well.

Salâh as “worship” was commanded upon recipients of previous revelations (Bayyinah 98:5).

All prophets were commanded to perform salâh (‘Anbya’ 21:73).

Prophet Ishmael commanded his native peoples to offer salâh (Maryam 19:55).

Performing salâh is one of the five pledges sons of Israel made (Baqarah 2:83).

Prophet Moses was ordered to offer salâh immediately after bearing testimony of monotheism (Taha 20:14).

Luqman the Wise advised his son to perform salâh (Luqman 31:17).

One of the two tenets given to Jesus the son of Mary was salâh (Maryam 19:31).

This information we see in the Qur’an is in fact found in some of the canonical Bibles. For instance, according to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus the son of Mary, accompanied by Peter, James, and John, walked a certain distance and “started saying prayers with  faces on the ground” in his last night (‘Ibrahim 14:32-35).

What Mark describes Jesus “threw himself on the ground and prayed” is nothing but that very salâh that the Qur’an ordains. This particular prayer is a description of a sajdah.

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