Why is there an absence of worship frequencies in the Quran
Researched by: A. Muhammad

The reader of the Quran will note that throughout the Quran God never set any frequencies in connection to worship practises. We do not find in the Quran any set number of times we must wash our hands in ablution or the percentage of Zakat we are to pay or the number of times we must travel the distance between Safa and Marwah during Hajj and Umrah, and so on.

We are entitled to wonder about this noticeable absence and why did God deliberately omit any mention of a minimum number of times we must adhere to in connection to practising our religious rites. This leads us to question where did all the frequencies we were brought up to follow come from? What is certain is that they do not come from the Quran! Since the Quran contains all the details of our religion (6:114) and that nothing has been left out of the Book (6:38), it becomes evident that God never did set fixed frequencies in connection to any of the worship practises.

On further study of God's Book it becomes evident that we have numerous indications that these practises are indeed left open to each individual's willingness and ability. The following are some of these indications:

1- A good case is given in connection with the Zakat (obligatory charity). We note that the traditional percentage of 2.5% which is practiced by most Muslims has no Quranic reference and can only be traced in origin to hadith. In reality, we have in the Quran conclusive evidence that God never set a fixed percentage for the payment of Zakat. The evidence to this truth is found in the following verses:

You shall give the relative his due, as well as the needy and the homeless and do not squander wastefully.
The squanderers are brothers to the devils and the devil is a rejecter of his Lord.
If you must turn away from them because you yourself are seeking mercy from your Lord and hoping for it, then say to them words that comfort them.
Do not keep your hand tied to your neck, nor shall you fully extend it, lest you end up blaming yourself and feeling remorseful. 17:26-29

The words "his due" in verse 26 speak of an obligatory payment which means that the subject here is the Zakat which is an obligatory charity. With this in mind, the words in verse 29 become very significant:

Do not keep your hand tied to your neck, nor shall you fully extend it, lest you end up blaming yourself and feeling remorseful.

We must ponder on these words a while and pose the question: If the traditional 2.5% rate is from God, then why would God command us not to be stingy, nor too extravagant? Surely following a fixed 2.5% rate would not give rise to a situation where anyone would be stingy nor too extravagant! The command not to be stingy nor too extravagant confirms that the percentage is NOT fixed, but is flexible and that it has been left to each individuals means.

2- Another strong indication which confirms that God allowed us flexibility in practicing the rituals is found in the following Quranic words:

The Safa and Marwah are among the rites decreed by God. So whoever observes Hajj at the House or observes Umrah incurs no blame for passing by them, and as for those who volunteer extra good work, God is Appreciative, Knowledgeable. 2:158

From these words we note the following:

a- The words "passing by them" speaks of one distance. Hence the Quranic command is to travel the distance once and not seven times as tradition dictates.

b- The words "for those who volunteer extra good work, God is Appreciative, Knowledgeable." indicate that God left any extra practise to each individual and that all extra righteous work and worship is noted and appreciated by God. This once again indicates strongly that God left the frequencies of worship practises open to each individual. Thus, after travelling the distance between Safa and Marwah once, one is free to voluntarily travel any additional number of times, but the minimum requirement is just the once.

As a result of this presentation, we must totally reject any non Quranic set frequencies in connection to our religious practises. Among those are the 2.5% rate for the Zakat, the seven times of circling the Kabaa, the seven times of travelling the distance between Safa and Marwa, the three times of washing (face, hands, etc) in ablution, the two prostrations after every one bowing and so on.

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Recently, a group of scholars have made a claim that the Quran requires a minimum number of two rakas per each Salat.

They base their claim on the words in 4:101, and specifically the concession from God for the believers to shorten their Salat at times of war. They argue that the Salat must be at least two rakas in order to be shortened, since it is not possible to shorten a Salat that is made of one raka.

On initial reading this may make good sense, but does it really? The answer is no, and these are the reasons:

1- The concept of "raka" for a start is not a Quranic concept, nor format. This word is not mentioned anywhere in the Quran, consequently the starting point of this line of thought is based on a non-Quranic concept (raka) rather than a rule authorised in the Quran.

The Quran commands us to observe 3 positions during the Salat, these are the standing, bowing and prostrating (in that order). However, the Quran does not give us any specific length of time in which we are to spend in any of these three positions. Consequently, one may choose to spend 2, 10 or any number of minutes in the standing position glorifying God. The same applies to the time spent bowing and also prostrating. One may choose to bow once or 10 times before prostrating, and as long as the bowing (in any frequency) is followed by prostrating (in any frequency), this would not violate any Quranic law.

The traditional format for the raka (standing, then one bowing followed by 2 prostrations) is not Quranic, and thus to adhere to this format and condition our thinking in terms of multiples of rakas is to follow tradition rather than Quranic law.

2- Consequently, the command to shorten the salat does not pertain to shortening the number of raka's, since (as explained) God would not give us instructions to shorten something that is man made and which God never authorised.

3- With this in mind, the command to shorten the Salat becomes clearer. Since the Quran does not authorise a specific format for the frequency of any of the three positions, thus the command to shorten the Salat becomes clearly a command to shorten the overall time we spend in our Salat.
For example if we normally spend 10 minutes in one Salat (which could be only one sequence of the 3 positions), at times of war we are advised to shorten this time for reasons of safety. Let us say, we may spend only 2 or 3 minutes. The concession to shorten the time of our Salat would also mean that instead of uttering any phrase that glorifies God, such as 'sobhan rabi Al-Aala' (Praise God the Most High) 10 times, we can utter it only once or twice.

4- If we read 4:102 we find confirmation that prostration signals the end of the Salat. Verse 102 does not speak of two, three or more prostration, but only of "once they have prostrated":

And if you are among them and you lead the Salat for them, let a group of them stand with you and let them hold on to their weapons. Then once they have prostrated let them be positioned behind you and let another group, who has not yet observed the Salat, observe the Salat with you while remaining cautious and while holding on to their weapons. 4:102

The words above indicate that once the first group have prostrated, their Salat is complete, thus another group would replace them and start a new Salat with the leader of the Salat. The words "once they have prostrated" in 4:102 speak of a single prostration and not multiple prostrations. This confirms that the claim of more than one raka cannot be justified by the words in 4:102.

We know that God is not short of words (18:109). If God required us to prostrate more than once, to make the Salat lawful, God would have told us so in the same verse, for the Quran is indeed fully detailed.

God defined our Salat as a sequence of three movements (standing, bowing, prostrating) without placing a time limit to the overall length of our Salat nor placing a fixed number to each of the three movements before proceeding to the next movement.

If there is no frequency given in the Quran to any of the three movements, then the only meaning of shortening the Salat is time related. It cannot be frequency related since there are no frequencies given in the Quran to start with.

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From the above, it becomes evident that all these frequencies connected to our religious practises are man made. In contrast, God left the frequency of all our religious rites to the ability and willingness of every individual. Undoubtedly there may be a number of reasons for which God grants us flexibility regarding the frequencies of the rituals. The following are the most obvious:

1- God in His Infinite Wisdom and Mercy knows that different people have different abilities and means. A young man can walk the distance between the Safa and Marwah any number of times, but an old man does not have the same energy or fitness. Similarly paying 2.5% of ones net income for Zakat would not burden a millionaire in any way, yet for a poor man with a family, 2.5% may mean a dinner or two less for his family. To impose a set fixed number for any of the rituals would not be in line with God's Justice.

2- The second reason is that each will receive in exact equivalence to their work. If God was to set any fixed presets, then our account would not reflect an expression of voluntary righteousness but enforced worship.

The reader is advised to note that the only frequency set in the Quran for a religious practise is the one month (29/30 days) of Ramadan for fasting. However, we note that the financial ability of a person does not affect his/her ability to fast the decreed month. In addition, God was quick to grant concessions for the one who happens to miss days of fasting due to illness or travel.

Having said that, we note that God has set numerous fixed frequencies in the Quran for religious rites, but if we examine them we note that they are all connected to atonements for violating God's law. As an example, we read in 5:89 the following:

God does not hold you accountable for your casual oaths, but He holds you accountable for the oaths which you make binding. The atonement for it is by feeding ten needy people from the average of what you feed your families, or by clothing them, or by freeing a slave. Whoever does not have the means shall fast three days. 5:89

In the case above, and if we violate an oath, we must feed a minimum of ten poor people, and not any less. It is understandable that God would set a fixed penalty (e.g. feeding 10 poor people) since only God knows the exact penalty that atones for the violation which we have committed. However, when it comes to worshipping God willingly, God rewards each according to his/her deeds, there are no pre-set, minimums nor maximums.

The reader is well advised to always remember that the Quran is complete and fully detailed (6:114) and that God has left nothing out of the Book (6:38). What this means is that those who attempt to devise a fixed number for any religious practise, when there is no such restriction in the Quran, are guilty of authorising what was not authorised by God. According to the words in 42:21, this is an act of shirk.