On The Subject Of Prayer

So, for the past couple of days, I’ve been having a pretty interesting discussion with one of my dearest friends a propos the concept of “namaz,” or in other words, prayer, and how my friend believes that it’s the defining line between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. He also argued that because Muslims bow down during prayer, this further proves that Muslims are indubitably worshipping Allah, as compared to their non-Muslim counterparts. I, of course, disagreed; and because my responses were exhaustive, I feel that they are relevant enough to share on my blog.

While it’s blatantly true that namaz/prayer is the main pillar of Islam, per se, I don’t necessarily agree that it is a “defining line” between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. And why, you may perhaps ask? Well, because non-Muslims have their own religions too; non-Muslims could be Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, or Jewish. They, too, pray to God and offer “namaz,” which of course may not be performed in the same way as Muslims. Their namaz may be offered in a different patois, different recitations, different postures, and perhaps even be performed on any number of occasions, on specific days.

Further, the word “namaz” is simply the Urdu equivalent for prayer. And “salaat” is the Arabic equivalent for prayer. So, it’s erroneous to say that namaz is fundamentally exclusive to Islam and Muslims. And while it’s true that namaz involves “bowing down to ONE Allah,” does that then imply that non-Muslims such as Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc. don’t worship God as well? Of course, Hindus have many *representations* of God, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in God, per se. And as I stated earlier, non-Muslims, who believe in a sole deity, have distinct ways of praying, which includes chanting, meditation, or clasping of the hands together with the head bent down in prayer. So, one does not necessarily *have* to bow down in order to prove that s/he is worshipping God. Worshipping God can be done in a plethora of different ways, and is not only limited to the physical ambit, i.e. bowing. A person may even worship God through songs, dance (dancing dervishes), or even just spiritually, by cleansing their soul of evil sins. Moreover, the way in which Muslims pray has undoubtedly evolved since the inception of Islam, a little over 1400 years ago. And if we read up on the history, we will surely notice how their prayers are very similar to that of Jews, Christians, Pagans, etc. who were present in the region, during that time. And here’s some proof from the Bible to further illustrate this fact:

~ Deuteronomy 5:6-9: I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

7. Thou shalt have none other gods before Me.

8. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:

9. Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them nor serve them…

~ Psalm 95:6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

(Note that both bowing and kneeling are mentioned in Psalm 95:6 – the very order in which Muslims perform them.)

~ Revelations 7:11-12 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,

12. Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.

~ Numbers 20:6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.

And then here’s a verse from the Qur’an, with the exact same wordings as those in the Bible:

~ Holy Qur’an 2:45: And be steadfast in prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down.

Furthermore, my dear friend also argued that non-Muslims worship, but they don’t worship “Allah.” Of course, once again, I disagreed with his argument simply because “God” and “Allah” are one and the same. Allah is simply the standard Arabic equivalent for it. (Of course, if one delves deeper into the historical origins of the name “Allah,” they will come to realize that it dates as far back as Pre-Islamic Arabia.) Anyway, the same goes for the word “Khuda,” it also means God, so if one says that they believe in Khuda, does that necessarily imply that s/he doesn’t believe in Allah? How is that logical? One needs to understand that all religions, particularly Abrahamic religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam believe in the same oneness of a supposedly supreme deity. And while Christians call Allah, “God,” or “Father of Heaven,” Jews, on the other hand, call Allah, “Yahwah.” But, how does that make it distinct from the Allah that Muslims worship? Does it make sense that just because non-Muslims address Allah with a different name, that they MUST believe in a completely different deity than the one that Muslims believe in? Of course not! So, yeah, if someone were to ask me whether Christians worship Allah, I’d say yes they certainly do! If s/he then asked me whether Jews believe in Allah, I’d again say yes they certainly do! The only difference (and I am now reiterating) is simply that they have a different TERM for Allah, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in the same oneness of an all-mighty deity.

In all three Abrahamic religions, prayer is considered to be a test of peoples’ humility. A woman or man may pray loudly and at great length publicly (in a church, mosque, or synagogue), or simply do it in the privacy of her/his home, on her/his knees. And it would really make no difference to me; none whatsoever. For it doesn’t really matter HOW one prays, because at the end of that day, they are ALL trying to achieve the same result — that ONE goal — which is to worship Allah/God/Yahwah.

Anyway, I, personally, believe that in order to understand this complex phenomenon, one will first have to define what it means to WORSHIP. To others, it may perhaps be limited to Muslims praying by bowing or doing “sajda,” (in a specific language); but to me, worshipping/praying entails much, much more than that. I don’t like to place limits on such dogmas, for religion is *supposed* to be a very personal thing; it varies from person to person and of course from religion to religion. Who are we to say that just because non-Muslims are not praying according to the Muslim way, that they are not praying or worshipping God at all? I mean is there any proof for this? Most likely there is not. At the end of the day, all one can do is either accept differences or simply agree to disagree.

2 responses to “On The Subject Of Prayer

  1. You are absolutely right. Allah is the Arabic term for God and the word pre-dates Islam. In fact, the Prophet (PBUH)’s father’s name (who died before his son’s birth) was named Abdullah, or slave of Allah. Many modern day Arab Jews and Christians may refer to their God as Allah.

    What is interesting to note is that I will eat meat declared Kosher because it is slaughtered in the name of “The Lord of Moses” who is, in my belief, the same Lord that Muslims worship.

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