Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Turning the Tables Pt. 1c

Sam Shamoun

We come to the concluding part of our rebuttal.

The final problem that Muslim polemicists such as Badawi face is that their own religious sources teach that Allah himself actually prays just like his creatures do!

Note, for instance, the following reference which refers to both Allah and his angels praying for believers:

He it is who prays (yusallee)1 for you and His angels too, to bring you forth out of the darkness into the light, for He is merciful to the believers. S. 33:43 (Edward Henry Palmer, The Qur’an, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1880)

Palmer has a rather interesting footnote here regarding the Quranic usage of the Arabic word for “prays”, namely salla:

145:1 The same word is used as is rendered ‘pray’ in ALL THE OTHER PASSAGES in the Qur’ân, though the commentators interpret it here as meaning ‘bless.’ So, too, in the formula which is always used after Mohammed’s name, zalla ’llâhu ‘alâihi wa sallam, ‘may God bless and preserve him!’ is literally, ‘may God PRAY for him and salute him!‘ (Bold and capital emphasis ours)

Palmer’s comments show that Muslims have no way around the fact that their deity prays much in the same way that creatures like angels do, since the Arabic word used here always means prayer whenever it is used in the Quran.

Nor is this the only text which states this:

Verily, God AND His angels PRAY (yusalloona) for the prophet. O ye who believe! PRAY (salloo) for him and salute him with a salutation! S. 33:56 Palmer

Here we have Allah, his angels and believers praying for Muhammad!

Even the hadith reports affirm the point of Allah praying along with his creation:

1387. Abu Umama reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “ALLAH AND His angels AND the people of the heavens AND the earth, EVEN the ants in their rocks AND the fish, PRAY for blessings on those who teach people good.” [at-Tirmidhi] (Aisha Bewley, Riyad as-Salihin (The Meadows of the Righteous), Book of Knowledge, 241. Chapter: the excellence of knowledge; capital and italic emphasis ours)


1397. 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As reported the Messenger of Allah says, "Anyone who says a prayer on me, Allah will PRAY on him ten times on account of it." [Muslim] (Ibid., 243. Chapter: Book on the Prayer on the Messenger of Allah; italicized and underline emphasis ours)


2685. Abu Umamah al-Bahili narrated: “Two men were mentioned before the Messenger of Allah. One of them a worshipper, and the other a scholar. So the Messenger of Allah said: ‘The superiority of the scholar over the worshipper is like my superiority over the least of you.’ Then the Messenger of Allah said: ‘Indeed ALLAH, His Angels, the inhabitants of the heavens and the earths – even the ant in his hole, even the fish – SAY SALAT upon the one who teaches the people to do good. (Hasan)

[Abu ‘Eisa said:] This Hadith is Hasan Gharib Sahih… (English Translation of Jami‘ At-Tirmidhi, Compiled by Imam Hafiz ‘Eisa Mohammad Ibn ‘Eisa At-Tirmidhi, From Hadith no. 2606 to 3290, translated by Abu Khaliyl (USA), ahadith edited and referenced by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair ‘Ali Za’i, final review by Islamic Research Section Darussalam [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition: November 2007], Volume 5, Chapter 19. What Has Been Related About the Superiority Of Fiqh Over Worship, p. 80 – listed as number 70 in the ALIM online version of at-Tirmidhi’s hadith collection; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Despite the fact that the verbs employed in these specific texts always mean prayer and/or worship every time they appear in both the Quran and ahadith, Muslims still wish to argue that they do not have this meaning when used in reference to Allah. They claim that when salla and its related terms are applied to their deity then they are referring either to Allah’s mercy or his blessings, which he bestows upon his creatures.

There are two major problems with this assertion. First, the quotes we provided describe Allah joining his creatures in performing salla/salat/salawat. As such, they must carry over the same meaning when they appear in the same context, irrespective of who the subject of these verbs may be. Seeing that no Muslim denies that salla/salat/salawat means prayer/worship when used of angels and the other creatures listed, such as humans and ants, they must therefore be consistent and accept the fact that this same meaning must apply in respect to Allah, who is described as performing this same exact action alongside of these other entities.

Second, the Islamic sources distinguish the salla/salat/salawat of Allah from both his mercy (rahmah) and blessing (baraka). Notice, for instance, this next verse:

Upon them rest the prayers and mercy from their Lord (salawatun min rabbihim warahmatun), and those -- they are the truly guided. S. 2:157 Our translation

Contrast this with the following English version:

They are those on whom are the Salawat (i.e. blessings [sic], etc.) (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones. Hilali-Khan

Here we have Allah bestowing both his prayers (salawat) and mercy (rahmah) upon believers, showing that they do not have the same meaning.

Moreover, the hadith literature itself differentiates Allah’s prayer (salah) from his blessing (baraka), as we find in the following cases:

The Command to say Salah upon the Prophet

Al-Bukhari said: "Abu Al-`Aliyah said: “Allah's Salah is His praising him before the angels, and the Salah of the angels is their supplication.” Ibn `Abbas said: “They send blessings.” Abu `Isa At-Tirmidhi said: “This was narrated from Sufyan Ath-Thawri and other scholars, who said: `The Salah of the Lord is mercy [sic], and the Salah of the angels is their seeking forgiveness.’” There are Mutawatir Hadiths narrated from the Messenger of Allah commanding us to send blessings on him and how we should say Salah upon him. We will mention as many of them as we can, if Allah wills, and Allah is the One Whose help we seek. In his Tafsir of this Ayah, Al-Bukhari recorded that Ka`b bin `Ujrah said, “It was said, `O Messenger of Allah, with regard to sending Salam upon you, we know about this, but how about Salah?’ He said…

<<Say: ‘O Allah, send YOUR SALAH upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR SALAH upon the family of Ibrahim, verily You are the Most Praiseworthy, Most Glorious. O Allah, send YOUR BLESSINGS upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR BLESSINGS upon the family of Ibrahim, verily You are Most Praiseworthy, Most Glorious.’'>>” Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn Abi Layla said that Ka`b bin `Ujrah met him and said, “Shall I not give you a gift? The Messenger of Allah came out to us and we said, `O Messenger of Allah! We know how to send Salam upon you, but how can we send Salah?’ He said…

<<Say: ‘O Allah, send YOUR SALAH upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR SALAH upon the family of Ibrahim, verily You are the Most Praiseworthy, Most Glorious. O Allah, send YOUR BLESSINGS upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, as You sent YOUR BLESSINGS upon the family of Ibrahim, verily You are Most Praiseworthy, Most Glorious.’'>>” This Hadith has been recorded by the Group in their books with different chains of narration. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 33:56; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Allah sends down both his salah and blessings upon Muhammad and his family. The fact that Muhammad clearly distinguished between the words salah and baraka (“blessing”) proves beyond any reasonable doubt that they have two different meanings. As one Muslim authority candidly admitted:

Allah makes the merit of His Prophet clear by first praying blessing on Himself, and then by the prayer of the angels, and then by commanding His slaves to pray blessing and peace on him as well. Abu Bakr ibn Furak related that one of the 'ulama interpreted the words of the Prophet, "The coolness of my eye is in the prayer," as meaning Allah's prayer, that of the angels and that of his community in response to Allah's command until the Day of Rising. The prayer of angels and men is supplication for him and that of Allah is mercy.

It is said that “they pray” means they invoke blessing (baraka). However, when the Prophet taught people the prayer on himself, he made a distinction between the word salat (prayer) and baraka (blessing). We will return to the meaning of the prayer on him later. (Qadi 'Iyad Musa al-Yahsubi, Muhammad Messenger of Allah (Ash-Shifa of Qadi 'Iyad), translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley [Madinah Press, Inverness, Scotland, U.K. 1991; third reprint, paperback], Part One. Allah’s great estimation of the worth of His Prophet expressed in both word and action, Chapter One: Allah’s Praise Of Him And His Great Esteem For Him, Section 8: Concerning Allah instructing His creation to say the prayer on the Prophet, His protecting him and removing the punishment because of him, p. 25; bold emphasis ours)


The Prophet made a distinction between salat (prayer) and baraka (blessing) in the hadith in which he taught about making the prayer on him. This indicates that they have two separate meanings. (Ibid., Part Two. Concerning the rights which people owe the Prophet, Chapter Four: The Prayer On The Prophet And Asking Peace For Him, And The Obligation Of Doing It And Its Excellence, Section 1: The meaning of the prayer on the Prophet, p. 250; bold emphasis ours)

In light of the foregoing, Muslims such as Jamal Badawi have no choice but to accept that their god prays and worships much like they do. As such, Muslims must contend with the fact that, according to Badawi’s reasoning, Allah cannot be God or divine “since God doesn’t pray to God.” They must also come to terms with reality by acknowledging that Allah is limited and finite, and cannot possibly be the greatest conceivable being in existence, since “we pray to a power greater than us,” and “prayer is petition from the finite to the infinite.” Hence, Allah must be a finite being who prays to a power greater than himself. 

Obviously no Muslim would accept Badawi’s reasoning as valid, since Muslims will never admit that Allah cannot be God because he prays (though it is strangely not said, whom he prays to, to himself or another entity). Therefore, we are left with a second option, namely, that Badawi’s reasoning as such is wrong, and praying (to God) does not disprove the divine nature of the one praying. Therefore, his whole attack on the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ crumbles into nothing. If it does not disprove the divinity of Allah, it cannot disprove the Godhood of Jesus either.

So much for Badawi’s flawed logic and desperate polemics.

Unless noted otherwise, all quranic references taken from the English version of Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall.

All scriptural citations taken from the Authorized King James Version (AV) of the Holy Bible.

Further Reading