What is Salah?
Salah is traditionally translated as prayer/namaz.
What is namaz?
Namaz is a ritual otherwise known as contact prayer where Muslims stand, bow and prostrate in a sequence whilst reciting various things in Arabic including verses from the Quran. We are told the importance of doing this 5 times a day to establish a connection with god and the forgiveness of our sins.
The names of these 5 namaz sessions are as follows:
- Fajr – the dawn prayer.
- Dhuhr – the noon prayer.
- Asr – the afternoon prayer.
- Maghrib – the sunset prayer.
- Isha'a – the night prayer.
The ritual sequence is also not mentioned in the Quran. People will claim that these rituals are found in the Quran because they were his sunnah. The issue we have is that the this namaz ritual is not explained with the necessary details to enable someone to learn how to perform it. So the question is, where did it come from? Why is this ritual considered to be Salah and Should we be doing it?
If we have a look at the Zoroastrian faith which was the main religion in the Persian district of the Middle East, we can see the similarities between the Islamic namaz and the Zoroastrian Geh.
Time: Islamic/ Zorastrianism
Dawn: Fajar/ Havaan
Noon: Zohar/ Rapithwan
Afternoon: Asr/ Uziren
Evening: Mazreem or Maghrib/ Aiwisuthrem
Night time: Isha or Ishan/ Ushaen.
As it was the Persians who were spreading Islam in the 7th century, it is not unreasonable to assume the when these Zoroastrians converted to Islamic way of life, they brought their rituals with them.
No where in the Quran does it say Salah is a ritual prayer to be performed doing x y z in a specific order.
So we must conclude that the definition of Salah as namaz is a human interpretation/misinterpretation.
So what is Salah exactly if not a ritual to be performed 5 times a day?