The Difference between Salat and Du’a: What is Prayer?

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When most people think of “Islamic prayer,” they picture rows of worshippers bowing and prostrating in unison, usually inside a mosque, facing Mecca (Makkah). But the act of worship pictured is salat, a specific act of worship with geophysical as well as body-language physical protocols, requiring a ritual ablution, preferably in water, prior to its performance. The word du’a, on the other hand, is equivalent in meaning to the English word “prayer,” which is simply “supplication.” To refer to salat as “prayer” is convenient, because there is no English equivalent, but inaccurate.

Some have simply used the Arabic word transliterated as “salat,” as I have done, or “salah,” which could be misread as having an “h” or “hah” sound or even “heh” sound (Arabic has two letters for two different sounds that English can only haplessly call “h”), which would give it a different meaning and pronunciation. But it is so central to worship in Islam that the distinction between salat and du’a should be further elucidated.

Du’a means, literally, supplication, as we have said above. It has no protocols, and can be said at any time without wudu'(ablution), qibla (specific direction), or body language. One expresses one’s needs to the Almighty with du’a, any time, any place, without restriction. Often du’a is expressed within one’s salat. It is an individual act, a personal, public or private, prayer. It perfectly matches the English meaning of “prayer.”

Of the two, however, salat is the most important in Islam, a form of worship that is both individual and communal. Salat is an act of worship that must be “established.” It is physical, and bound to physical, time-and-space perimeters. Salat must be performed at specific times of day, be performed in a specified way and include specific physical acts. These acts are standing, bowing, prostration, and kneeling——all strongly configured body language of submission or surrender, the true meaning of Islam.

The “establishment” of salat in the lives of Muslims requires taking time off from whatever one is doing to remember and worship Allah alone. It literally and physically pulls us out of the real, but transitory, world we live in, regardless of how intense or important to us, and puts us in the real, but eternal world of the Most High, making a connection with Allah directly, a connection He enjoined us to make. This connection of salat also involves recitation of passages from the Quran, notably Al-Fatiha, but also other passages of our choosing, usually recommended to be relatively short.

The recitation of Quran should also remind the worshipper of the sourcebook for Islam, a book sent to confirm the same religion of the Torah, the Gospel (Injeel), and the Psalms (Al-Zaboor). And all God’s books sent to humankind. The Quran mentions specifically this fact to remind us that He is one God and had the same essential message, and did not send separate religions to fight and kill one another in His name. But also to correct mistranslations and misinterpretations in His books, that led to idolatry (Jesus-worship and self-worship, among other things) and misunderstanding of the message.

Even so, salat itself is a unifying force in Islam, and should make Muslims kind and tolerant to one another. That they are not reflects on their own mistaken notions, often due to ignoring the actual words of the Quran, or believing part and ignoring another part. Muslims should in fact be kind and tolerant as a basic rule, but strong and aggressive towards those who aggressively attack them first, or who work tirelessly to destroy what they think is Islam and Muslims, their lives and religion. In other words, no turning of the other cheek, except in cases where one forgives an act whose basis was not criminal intent, or from which the perpetrator has repented and shown proof of his/her change of heart. I should say, no collective turning of the other cheek.

Since all salat can be performed collectively (together, in unison), this helps to further bring Muslims closer at heart and in heart to each other. Again, to increase compassion.

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15 thoughts on “The Difference between Salat and Du’a: What is Prayer?

  1. *Pray / Salath :~*
    *Purification of the consciousness*
    *to accept and accommodate the,*
    *destiny (Duniya),*
    *as it is,*
    *through the help of your,*
    *Lord (Rabb/Consciousness),*
    *and NOT from the creator,*
    *God (Allah), who created you,*
    *with all your actions.*
    *Establish the prayer within you,*
    *And do not offer the prayer for a outsider
    http://www.fazelsubian.com

    • Not sure what your comment means, but it is indeed interesting. I don’t expect you’ll answer, but I’m wondering what you mean by “NOT from the creator.” What is it that is not from the Creator? Also what does this mean: “and do not offer the prayer for an outsider”? What or who is “an outsider”? Outside of what?

      • _*EVERYTHING HAPPENS ACCORDING TO THE WILL, OF THE CREATOR*_

        in Al-Qadha’ Wal-*Qadr* (The Divine Decree and The Predestination) is one of the pillars of faith in Islam. None of the Muslim’s faith will complete unless he believes that whatever befalls him could not have missed him, and whatever misses him could not have befallen him. *Everything is subject to the Will and Decree, of Allah*, as Allah Says in the Quran (what means): _*“Indeed, all things We created with predestination”.*_ [Quran 54:49]
        You are asking for change means, you are not surrendering to the will of the creator and not accepting him.
        The Rabb is not name of Allah, in Qur’an around 40 Duas and, asked from Rabb not Allah.
        The prophet never told that Rabb and Allah is same, but we assume..
        If you need any more detail, please refer to my Facebook post (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=988681261259143&id=100003518359365 ) and the Acronyms in the website http://www.fazelsubian.com

      • Some of what you say rings true and some of it needs time to reconcile. But I always consider all things. I also think “hakma” means wisdom but also the root is from “judgement “, as one says in English “he has good judgement.”

      • Very difficult to understand a religion with fear of hell and desire of heaven.

        *WHO WILL PROTECT US?*

        *RABB or ALLAH?*

        *Till you understand the difference between Allah and Rabb, you will never understand the Islam*

        *Quran 69 ; 40*
        Indeed, the Qur’an is the word of a noble Messenger.

        *Quran 7 ; 3*
        Follow, what has been revealed to you from your Lord and do not follow other than Him any allies. Little do you remember.*

        *Qur’an; 26 ; 48*
        *Rabbiy Musa wa Haroona*
        *The Lord of Moses and Aaron.”*

        *The word “Rabb”, doesn’t belong to 99 names of Allah.*
        *The word “Allah” is not prefixed as my, your, his, their, etc., but the word “Rabb”, is prefixed.*

        That Allah’s Messenger *(ﷺ), said to her, “I know when you are pleased with me or angry with me.” I said, “Whence do you know that?” He said, “When you are pleased with me, you say, *’No, by the Lord of Muhammad* (Wa rabbi Muhammadin),’ but when you are angry with me, then you say, *No, by the Lord of Abraham* (Wa Rabbi Ibraaheema).’ ” Thereupon I said, “Yes (you are right), but by Allah, Allah’s Messenger *(ﷺ), I leave nothing but your name.”* (Sahih Muslim and Buhari)
        http://www.fazelsubian.com

        Notable point;
        Why Seyyidina Aysha Raliyallahu Anha said that *”Wa Rabbi Muhammedin or Wa Rabbai Ibraahim”?*
        *(By the Lord of the Muhammed and by the lord of the Ibrahim?)*
        *Instead of by the lord of me.*
        If the ‘Rabb’ is one and common for all.
        *Why here denoted by the names of the messengers?*
        *Any one could share their wisdom on this?*
        #lezaf

      • Brother Fazel, There is a serious flaw in the concept that Rabb (Lord) and Allah (God/ Creator) are two separate “entities.” The two words are both referring to Allah and Rabb is the relationship word which is always used in relationship to another, connoting the closeness between Allah and His creation. By “closeness” I do not mean similarity or the sense of closeness analogous to creature-to-creature relationships, but rather one of worshippers and worshipped, or one of “fealty” in the better/ higher Medieval sense of love/ dependency/ trust toward a higher or greater one.

        The name Al-Rahman is always associated in the Quran with the Almighty/ Creator, yet near the end of Surat Maryam (19:96) the Quran refers to when “On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, will the Almighty bestow love.” The Arabic word is wudda which means love but also closeness, one could think of it also as being close to Allah’s influence as well as Presence. The placement of names in Al-Fatiha clearly indicates Rabb al-aalameen and Allah are one and the same. Your “proofs” do not supersede clear Quranic evidence. The hadeeth does not prove anything about the meaning of Rabb, nor does the absence of Rabb from the 99 names, which is not a “sent revelation” of all Allah’s names in any way. Rabb in any case is not a “name” but rather a “relationship”, showing us another aspect of Allah that He cares for His entire creation and is responsible for its/ their welfare. As is no other. I rest my case.

      • *THE BEST GUIDE IS THE PROPHET MUHAMMADﷺ*
        —————————————————-
        We recite the *Shahadat & accept that our PRESENT MESSENGER IS, PROPHET MUHAMMAD ﷺ & NOT🚫THE PAST MESSENGER*

        1st Kalima *(TAIYEB);*
        Laaa Ilaaha Illa-llaahu Muhammadur-Rasoolu-llaah 
        There is none worthy of worship except Allah and *THE MUHAMMAD ﷺ, IS THE MESSENGER* of Allah

        Second Kalima *(SHAHADAT):*
        Ash-hadu Al-laaa Ilaaha Illa-llaahu Wahdahoo Laa Shareeka Lahoo Wa-Ash-hadu Anna Muhammadan ‘Abduhoo Wa Rasooluhu.
        I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, the One alone, without partner, and I bear witness that *THE MUHAMMADﷺ, IS HIS SERVANT AND THE MESSENGER*
        #lezaf
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *And when it is said to them, “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing.” Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided?* (2;170)
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and beware if ye do turn back, know ye that it is Our Messenger’s duty to proclaim (the Message) in the clearest manner.* (5: 92).
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *O ye who believe! obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: that is best, and most suitable for final determination.* (4: 59).
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *Say: “Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger: but if ye turn away, HE is only responsible for the duty placed on him and ye for that placed on you. If ye obey him, ye shall be on right guidance*.(24: 54).
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *And whoever obeys Allâh and His Messenger, Allâh shall admit him in the Gardens underneath which rivers flow.* (4:13)
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *And whoever obeys Allâh and His Messenger, he has won a great success*. (33:71)
        #lezaf http://www.fazelsubian.com

  2. *Pray / Salath :~*
    *Purification of the consciousness*
    *to accept and accommodate the,*
    *destiny (Duniya),*
    *as it is,*
    *through the help of your,*
    *Lord (Rabb/Consciousness),*
    *and NOT from the creator,*
    *God (Allah), who created you,*
    *with all your actions.*
    *Establish the prayer within you,*
    *And do not offer the prayer for a outsider*

    http://www.fazelsubian.com/acronyms-of-letters ; Arabic and English

    • In a previous reply I described how this opinion is incorrect. “Lord (Rabb/Consciousness), and NOT from the Creator” makes One God into two parts, one in the head or representing “consciousness”, an idea nonexistent in the Quran, and the other the Creator. Absolutely wrong and leads down a wrong path of thought. Allah has a direct relationship to humans and to His creation. No one can wrap their head around that. But the Quran is very explicit about this. Reread al-Fatiha, the opening, and see how Rabb is qualified by al-aalameen (all worlds). Elsewhere in the Quran, Rabb refers to a person whose position is “lord” over a man whom Prophet Yusuf spent time with in Pharaoh’s (Aziz) prison. He was not a “consciousness.” The application of Lord is according to the qualifying words. And what do you mean by “outsider”? Also not a Quranic word. God guide us all, brother.

      • Please have a heart to heart conversation (Shobath / through Fanafi Rasool), with the prophet, if you understand your Kalima (Shahadat), and accepted as it is without assuming.

        *THE BEST GUIDE IS THE PROPHET MUHAMMADﷺ*
        —————————————————-
        We recite the *Shahadat & accept that our PRESENT MESSENGER IS, PROPHET MUHAMMAD ﷺ & NOT🚫THE PAST MESSENGER*

        1st Kalima *(TAIYEB);*
        Laaa Ilaaha Illa-llaahu Muhammadur-Rasoolu-llaah 
        There is none worthy of worship except Allah and *THE MUHAMMAD ﷺ, IS THE MESSENGER* of Allah

        Second Kalima *(SHAHADAT):*
        Ash-hadu Al-laaa Ilaaha Illa-llaahu Wahdahoo Laa Shareeka Lahoo Wa-Ash-hadu Anna Muhammadan ‘Abduhoo Wa Rasooluhu.
        I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, the One alone, without partner, and I bear witness that *THE MUHAMMADﷺ, IS HIS SERVANT AND THE MESSENGER*
        #lezaf
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *And when it is said to them, “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing.” Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided?* (2;170)
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and beware if ye do turn back, know ye that it is Our Messenger’s duty to proclaim (the Message) in the clearest manner.* (5: 92).
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *O ye who believe! obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: that is best, and most suitable for final determination.* (4: 59).
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *Say: “Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger: but if ye turn away, HE is only responsible for the duty placed on him and ye for that placed on you. If ye obey him, ye shall be on right guidance*.(24: 54).
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *And whoever obeys Allâh and His Messenger, Allâh shall admit him in the Gardens underneath which rivers flow.* (4:13)
        —————————————————-
        🌎 *And whoever obeys Allâh and His Messenger, he has won a great success*. (33:71)
        #lezaf http://www.fazelsubian.com

  3. Shehla Adhami

    Dear Fazel
    I read the entire comments along with your poem . Are you trying to say that our individual consciousness recognizes Rabb/Allah differently but it is one and same? i am seriously beating a bush on your this concept as it looks like an oxymoron to me. As a believer, believing in one true God Allah Subhan o Tala we assume ourselves as muslims and are the successor of RasulAllah therefor we testify being in his ummat. The Rab of everything on this world and the unseen world all living beings all prophets is same and only one it cannot be different that is the soul essence of ONE SINGLE GOD. Do relect 🙂

    • Thank you, Shehla Adhami,

      What you say is true, makes sense, is true to the Quran and the Prophet Mohammad, and I appreciate your comment. I had some difficulty too understanding what brother Fazels is trying to convey, but certain statements sound very wrong to me, and he never actually replied in the normal way, but rather continued long quotes and statements which did not directly refer to anything I said. Therefore I could not continue a one-way discussion here. All the names of Allah convey His attributes. He was saying the word “Rabb” means “consciousness” which does not make any sense or relate to Quranic or Islamic teaching or message or even the Arabic language use of the word “Rabb.” Your understanding is correct and for the most part universally understood. Thanks for your patience. Wasalamu ‘alaykum

      • As far as you are in a nutshell, I can’t give you short answers. And it may lead you to more misunderstanding of Islam.
        First, you have to understand the Kalima and act accordingly.

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