Greetings and Salutations on the Prophet (PBUH)

Salat and Salam is the Divine Practice

The Qur’anic verse pertaining to salat and salam is highly meaningful and replete with wisdom. Allah proclaims in the Qur’an as follows:
Undoubtedly, Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). O believers! You (too) send your blessings upon him and salute him with all respect.[1]

All worships are accomplished under the subjection of Divine commandments. It is obligatory for Believers to show reverence to Divine commandments, as they have traditionally held a superior position. Divine laws have also changed with the passage of time and from nation-to-nation. New Prophets brought new Revelations often subjugating older Divine laws. In contrast to this Divine practice has been constant and abiding. Divine practice is an inevitable reality, entirely safe from all sorts of alterations and effects. The Qur’an states:

Yet you will never find any change in Allah’s practice.[2]

With the passage of time Divine practice is abiding and eternal. If we ponder over the Qur’anic verse, we come to know that conveyance of greetings to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is not a commandment but also a Divine practice. This Divine practice will be abode and last for all times to come. The conveyance of salat and salam divulges the glory and sublimity of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) as well as exaltation of this pious act. Since there is no change and transition in the practice of Allah this act is free from any retrogression and change. It is incumbent upon the faithful to abide by Divine practice and to offer salutations to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).

As Allah Himself has acted upon this command this divine practice becomes the sunnah of Allah. This is unlike most of Allah’s other commands. All worships such as prayers, fasting, the pilgrimage, charity and donations are the commandments of Allah but not His sunnah. Allah neither performs hajj nor fasts nor prays. He is above all these things. All these duties and deeds are not His sunnah but the sunnah of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). So if a person offers prayers or goes to Makkah for the pilgrimage or keeps the fasts of Ramadan or gives the poor due or does any other virtue, he is following the sunnah of the holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) not the sunnah of Allah.

However, the showering of blessings and salutations upon the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is the Divine practice of Allah, His sunnah. As the glory of Allah is the highest and the most exalted, so His sunnah is also the highest and the most exalted. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is the faithful and devotee of Allah. Amongst all of creation, his ranking is the highest and the most reverend. Yet regardless of this ranking and reverence, no human can be equal to the Creator. So in the same way, the sunnah of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) cannot equate with the sunnah of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).

Secondly sending salat and salam (blessings and greetings) upon the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم), being the sunnah of Allah, is deemed the most esteemed and glorified act as compared to all others, a unique and peerless act. Salat and salam (blessings and greetings) is a Divine practice, whereas other acts are pertaining to humans. On account of being a Divine practice, it is preferential and exalted standing conspicuous and explicit. Allah is the Omnipotent, the One and Only and none is equal to Him. He is Infinite in His attributes, His qualities being above everything. So his sunnah is also unique, peerless and infinite. Contrary to Allah’s attributes, human attributes are limited. Human beings are Allah’s creation so they are limited in their powers and traits. They are subject to natural human constraints whereas Divine practice and attributes are not.

What is unique about this verse is that in order to convey the exalted status of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) Almighty Allah did not solely allow the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to convey this message to his followers but deemed it necessary to do so himself. This ensured for all times the paramouncy of Prophethood.


Perpetual Nature of Salat and Salam

If one studies commands relating to worship it can be noted that they are mostly conditional and subject to rules and regulations. There are different conditions for all kinds of worship. Take the example of the Muslims’ prayer. It has the binding of time. If time elapses, the specific prayer is deferred. If someone wants to perform the night prayer (‘Isha’) the next day, he is not allowed to do so because the time has elapsed. In the same way the afternoon prayer (‘Asr) cannot be performed in the evening. Similarly if someone wants to perform his sunset prayer (Maghrib) before sunset, he cannot do so.

Moreover, the Muslims’ prayer has some external form to be followed, namely the way the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) performed it. Standing, bowing and prostration are required to be maintained in the prayer similar to the Prophet’s sunnah. The prayer will only be acceptable if all the parts of the prayer are executed as taught by Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم).

Fasting is also conditional and stipulated with time. The duration for the fast is from dawn to dusk. During this time, the observer of the fast abstains from eating, drinking and other religious prohibitions. If the observer of the fast does not abide by time, his fast will not be acceptable or if he eats during the fast, his fast will be futile. Since the fast warrants the observance of all its requisites it is also conditional in its apparent form.

All these examples indicate that the acts, which are the Prophet’s sunnah, have the binding of time and compliance with all its respective requisites. They are subject to the observance of forms and conditions of the acts because they belong to the sunnah of the creation. But salat and salam are the sunnah of the Creator, so they are free from all bindings of time and other subsidiary obligations.

A simple grammatical analysis of this verse helps elucidate this point further. In the Arabic language there are two types of sentences, jumlah fi‘liyyah — a verbal clause or sentence — and jumlah ismiyyah — a nominal clause or sentence. A verbal sentence is related to some specific time (past, present or future) and falls within the confines of any of the three specific times. Time is also temporal and transient. If it is present, it is about to elapse; if it is future, it is yet to come.

However, a nominal sentence is not related to time but spread over all times. It is lasting and abiding. After adhering to a name, it relates to all times; past, present and future. In this verse Allah the Almighty has opted to use a nominal sentence. Instead of using the past tense “…Allah and His Angels sent blessings…” or the future tense of “…Allah and His angels will send blessings…”, Allah has stated “Allah and his Angels send blessings…”. This is not a command or directive but a declaration and announcement of an event that is continuing to occur or news that is happening. As such blessings and salutations upon the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is an ongoing process, an act for all times, securing its perpetual nature.

Sending Salat and Salam whilst Standing

Allah has subjected His worship and the sunnah of His beloved Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) to bounds and binding but He has set His sunnah free from the same. That is why Allah has made His devotees free from restraint and binding whilst offering salat and salam. Greetings can be sent in any language. We can send our greetings to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) in Arabic, English, Hindi, Persian, Punjabi, Urdu or in any other language. Salat and salam can be sent in the form of prose or verse, silently or loudly, collectively or individually, It can be sent in imam Bawsiri’s invocation or in the melody of imam Ahmad Raza Khan because it is Allah’s sunnah. It is free from all restraints. In view of this, no one has the right to subject salat and salam to any condition of time, condition of place and condition of posture, i.e. of standing, sitting or lying down.

Unfortunately though this has become an unnecessary issue of controversy. Many recent commentators have declared that standing and reciting salat and salam upon the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is a form of innovation, bid‘ah and must never be done. Unfortunately this is a misguided view acted upon due to ignorance of the nature of shari‘ah. A principle of shari‘ah, denotes that any order in the Qur’an or sunnah which is in an absolute form, cannot be qualified. No conditions can be placed upon it. Similarly if a basic command has been revealed with qualifications then it too cannot be changed into an absolute command. By applying this Qur’anic principle to the verse in question, the commands of sallu ‘alayh and sallimu taslima, as far as their format and modality are concerned, are in the absolute form. There is no specification of type, no qualification in their form and thus no condition can be added to it.

In Islamic terminology the concept of ‘ibadah, worship, is a broad based one encompassing all acts that are done to seek the pleasure of Almighty Allah. Through this verse it has already been established that sending salat and salam on to the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is considered a dhikr[3] of Allah, and the dhikr of Allah can be done in any manner – standing, sitting or lying down. There is no exclusion in manner or exclusivity in type. Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an:
Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting and lying on their sides.[4]

Sending salat and salam upon the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) is one of the azkar, remembrances of Allah. So according to the above verse it is permissible to send the blessings in any of the three ways. There is no specific Qur’anic verse or command which stipulates that sending blessings whilst standing is prohibited nor is there any contrary verse saying standing is preferable. The Qur’an is silent on this issue. This comes under the law of generality, which applies to all of the remembrances of Allah as pointed out in the verse above.

Despite this clear-cut view some people continue to criticize those who stand and recite salat and salam claiming standing constitutes a way of worship permissible only for Allah. Again this is a self-concocted argument with no base or rationale from the Qur’an or sunnah. The Qur’anic verse is clear-cut and concise in that remembrance of Allah is not solely restricted to the standing position but can be done in all three positions. Moreover, there is no differentiation or speciality in any one of the positions. Each holds an equal standing in merit. If the standing position is said to be disliked as it constitutes a position reserved for the worship of Allah alone, then sending blessings whilst sitting or lying down should also be banned as they are of equal merit and stature!

Finally there is no Muslim whose ‘aqidah is based on the premise that reciting salam whilst standing is done in the Prophet’s reception or that he arrives in some form during the recitation. This again is a false accusation which has no base at all. The only reason why Muslims stand whilst reciting salam is fulfilling the command of Allah that it must be done with utmost respect.

1. Qur’an (al-Ahzab) 33:56.
2. Qur’an (Fatir) 35:43.
3. Remembrance.
4. Qur’an (Al-‘Imran) 3:191.

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