An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah an-Nisa Ayah 102

The Fear Prayer

Ayah 102 mentions a special way of offering Salah in a state where, due to the fear of enemy, all the Muslims cannot pray in a single congregation. This special way is called salat-ul-khawf or the fear prayer.

The fear prayer has different forms, for the enemy is sometimes in the direction of the Qiblah and sometimes in another direction. If it is not possible to turn the face to the Qiblah, it may be offered facing any other direction. The fear prayer consists sometimes of four, three and even two rakahs. This prayer is sometime offered in congregation, but when the battle is raging, congregational prayer may not be possible. In this case, they pray each by himself, facing the Qiblah or otherwise, riding or on foot. In this situation, they are allowed to walk and fight, all the while performing the acts of the prayer.

Some scholars said that in the latter case, they pray only one rakah. Ibn Abbas radhiAllahu anhu narrated, “By the words of your Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam, Allah has ordained the prayer of four rakah while residing, two rakah during travel, and one rakah during fear.” Muslim, Abu Dawud, An-Nasai and Ibn Majah recorded it. This is also the view of Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

Ishaq bin Rahwayh said, “When a battle is raging, one rakah during which you nod your head is sufficient for you. If you are unable, then one prostration is sufficient, because the prostration is remembrance of Allah.”

More details of salat-ul-khawf can be found in the books of fiqh.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala begins this ayah by saying,

وَإِذَا كُنتَ فِيهِمْ فَأَقَمْتَ لَهُمُ الصَّلَوةَ فَلْتَقُمْ طَآئِفَةٌ مِّنْهُمْ مَّعَكَ وَلْيَأْخُذُواْ أَسْلِحَتَهُمْ

“And when you are among them and you lead them in prayer, then let a group of them stand with you and let them take their arms….”

When you are among them here means, when Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam is among them. This now mean that the fear prayer cannot be performed in today’s times, rather the command remains the same for any Imam. An Imam is the leader of the Muslims. The believers were not asked to pray at different timings in different congregation but one jamm’at and one time. The logic behind this was to prevent division and promote unity among the Muslims.

Permission to carry weapon during Salah has been given in order to deter the enemy forces who may assume that since Muslims are busy in their prayers, we can attack them. During war, it is allowed to be conscious of enemy forces while one is in Salah. And if the enemy approaches the believers can pick up their weapons and counterattack. The weapons were with them for self-defense.

Moving ahead, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,

فَإِذَا سَجَدُواْ فَلْيَكُونُواْ مِن وَرَآئِكُمْ وَلْتَأْتِ طَآئِفَةٌ أُخْرَى لَمْ يُصَلُّواْ فَلْيُصَلُّواْ مَعَكَ وَلْيَأْخُذُواْ حِذْرَهُمْ وَأَسْلِحَتَهُمْ

“….Then when they have prostrated, let them be behind you and let the other group come forward, which has not (yet) prayed and let them pray with you, taking their precautions and their arms.”

Here, there is an important lesson. Even in the state of war praying in congregation was encouraged. How neglectful are we of this command? Despite not living in a war zone, we give up praying in congregation because of our laziness. Many men offer prayer at home because they don’t want to walk to the masjid.  And look here, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is commanding the believers to offer their Salah in congregation, as one team. So what excuse do we have when there is no fear, no risk of life and yet we pray at home?

[The procedure to pray fear prayer has been explained in the previous post] 

وَدَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ لَوْ تَغْفُلُونَ عَنْ أَسْلِحَتِكُمْ وَأَمْتِعَتِكُمْ فَيَمِيلُونَ عَلَيْكُمْ مَّيْلَةً وَحِدَةً

Those who disbelieve wish that you neglect your arms and your baggage, so that they can assault upon you in a single attack.”

This is the reason why the Muslims were asked to keep their weapons and baggage nearby. Baggage here may include water and food supplies, etc. In war you want to know the weakness of the enemy. The disbelievers knew that the Muslims are supposed to pray in congregation and when they pray they don’t look here and there. So disbelievers were plotting to attack the Muslims while they are busy praying. They assumed that the Muslims would be negligent of their weapons and baggage and hence, the enemy could get them at once. However, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala failed their evil schemes by teaching the procedure to pray salat-ul-khawf through the revelation of this ayah.

وَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِن كَانَ بِكُمْ أَذًى مِّن مَّطَرٍ أَوْ كُنتُم مَّرْضَى أَن تَضَعُواْ أَسْلِحَتَكُمْ وَخُذُواْ حِذْرَكُمْ

“But there is no blame upon you, if you are troubled by rain or are sick, for laying down your arms, but take your precautions.” 

Over here Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is giving relaxation to put down the weapons if there is a genuine reason. Yet, He is reminding the believers to be on their guard and take precautions.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then reminds the believers that He has prepared a humiliating punishment for the disbelievers.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ أَعَدَّ لِلْكَـفِرِينَ عَذَاباً مُّهِيناً

“Indeed, Allah has prepared a humiliating punishment for the disbelievers.”

Just as making salat-ul-khawf is permissible when in fear of hostility from human beings, so it is when one is gripped with the fear of hurt from some beast like a lion or python and there is very little time left to make the Salah.

LESSONS

In this ayah we learn the following things:

Prayer is not forgiven under any condition. If believers were asked to pray during battle and travel, then being tired, laziness, house chores, or being stuck in traffic is no excuse for skipping Salah.

The importance of praying in congregation. In the Qur’an wherever there’s an order for Salah the words chosen for this command are “Iqamatas Salah” which means establish prayer. This does not only mean that we should offer our individual prayer, but we should call others to pray as well and form a congregation. Praying in congregation indicates unity and prevents division in the Ummah.

– The position of Imam in Salah. As mentioned above, an Imam is the leader of the Muslims. Each Muslim cannot select his individual Imam, but all the Muslims must agree on one leader and obey him.

Tawakkul. After giving the believers all the commands to take necessary precautions against the enemy, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends this ayah by assuring that He will take care of the disbelievers and a humiliating punishment awaits them in the Hereafter. This tells us that we should make our very best efforts and then leave the matter to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

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