Quran & Sunnah

Injunction for Silent Recitation in the Daytime Prayers

Muslims offer 5 x obligatory prayers every day (as in day and night). Two out of the five prayers that are offered in the sunlit hours, Zuhr (ظهر) and ‘Asr (عصر), are silent: i.e. to say that the recitation from the Holy Quran in these two prayers is done silently, as opposed to out loud in the other three prayers. If one is to ask the scholars as to why is it like that, their reply would undoubtedly be, because the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) did it like that; and this reply is and should be sufficient for all believers. True dat! Anyhow, I believe that every religious injunction of the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was either explicitly mentioned in the Holy Quran, or inferred by him from Quranic verses predicating that injunction. I think, this verse from سورة الأعراف, Chapter 7, verse 205, formed the basis for silent recitation in the daytime prayers:

وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ فِي نَفْسِكَ تَضَرُّعًا وَخِيفَةً وَدُونَ الْجَهْرِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآَصَالِ وَلَا تَكُنْ مِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ

And remember thy Lord in thy very soul, with utter humility and abundant fear, as opposed to the out-loud manner of speaking, in the early and latter parts of the day; for do not be from among the heedless.

I have translated the verse in my own words. Normally, the red portion has been translated as ‘in the morning and the evening’; which is absolutely correct. I’ve adopted these words since they better help to put forth the point I wish to make here. The actual words used are ‘بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآَصَالِ’. The first one, i.e. غُدُوِّ, means the earlier part of the day after the rising of the sun, up until noon; and the latter, i.e. آَصَالِ, means the later part of the day when the sunlight fades, up until the sunset. The popular interpretation of this expression, as done by our traditional scholars, and even Islahi Sahab, is to allude perpetuity, which in my humble opinion, is not intended here. For perpetuity, Allah uses another similar yet different expression; which is ‘بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا’ used at many places in the Holy Quran. However, ‘بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآَصَالِ’ refers to two specific portions of the day as described above. To establish it, there are only two other places in the Holy Quran where this pair has been used as is, but both support the meaning I wish to establish. Here are the verses:

وَلِلَّهِ يَسْجُدُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ طَوْعًا وَكَرْهًا وَظِلَالُهُمْ بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآَصَالِ

And for Allah prostrates whosoever is in the Heavens and the Earth, willingly and unwillingly, and their shadows too, in the early and latter parts of the day. (سورة الرعد, Chapter 13, Verse 15)

فِي بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ أَنْ تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ فِيهَا بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآَصَالِ () رِجَالٌ لَا تُلْهِيهِمْ تِجَارَةٌ وَلَا بَيْعٌ عَنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ

….in houses Allah has enjoined to be raised and His name remembered therein, glorified in the early and latter parts of the day: men whom neither trade nor sale diverts from remembering Allah and establishing prayer and paying charity… (سورة النور, Chapter 24, Verse 36)

In the first verse quoted above, the temporally specific meaning of the words in red is clear, as shadows only grow and shrink in these two times during the day, ornately depicted here as if they are prostrating. In the second verse, actually two verses, the allusion might be a little hard to comprehend. This actually is a part of a long allegory Allah is painting to describe how His Light (نُورُ) illuminates the surroundings. The times mentioned are again temporally pinpointed by extending the allegory in the next verse by saying that their indulgence in trade and sale does not hinder their presence in the mosques, and we all know that trade in that era was conducted during the sunlit hours only. These two usages in the Holy Quran have further established the meaning of earlier and latter parts of the day. Hence ‘بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآَصَالِ’ conclusively refers to the times for Zuhr and ‘Asr prayers.

Now for the silent in the silent recitation. The ‘وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ فِي نَفْسِكَ’ (And remember thy Lord in thy very soul) portion of the verse was enough to purport this meaning, since it is the same expression in Arabic as we use in English to mean ‘read it in your heart‘, with a literary touch. However, Allah further solidifies this meaning by following it up with words ‘وَدُونَ الْجَهْرِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ’ (as opposed to the out-loud manner of speaking), which unequivocally mean silently.

With these arguments, I think, I’ve made my point. Just to end it on another note that is inferential to this article is this concept that every thing the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) did in matters of religion has its roots somewhere in the Holy Quran. We just need to dig a little deeper. I’ll expand on this concept in another article, God willing, soon enough!

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