The Significance of the words in 2:238


Regarding the number of Salat in the Quran, a friend of mine gave me a valid point, he said:
If the number of Salat is only 3, then why do the words in 2:238 say: "maintain the Salawat, and the middle one"?
The word Salawat means three or more. The Arabic word for 2 Salat is Salatayn. So if they were only 3 Salat in total, the words should have been: "preserve the salatayn (2 Salat) plus the middle one"?
But since God said "Salawat" (3 or more) plus the Salat al-Wusta, that makes them at least 4 Salats. But the word Wusta means middle, and to have a middle Salat, the number of Salat must be an odd number and not 4. That is why we have 5 Salats in the Quran.


Let us first read the words in 2:238:

Maintain the Salawaat and the Salat Al-Wusta, and stand devoutly obedient before God. 2:238

The reply to your question lies in two parts:

FIRST- An Issue of Linguistics

When God tells us to maintain the "Salawat" (which indeed means more than 2), God is speaking about all the Salat authorized by God. It makes no sense to suggest that when God refers to the "Salawat" to be maintained, God is speaking about all the Salats minus one of them! The Salat Al-Wusta is a Salat that is decreed by God, so naturally, it is one of the Salat to be maintained. Therefore, the Salat Al-Wusta is already one of the "Salawat".

The question that arrises thus is: Why did God single out the Salat Al-Wusta with extra mention when it is already one of the "Salawat" that we should "maintain"?

The answer to this question becomes apparent when we look into the true significance of the word "and" which lies between the word
"Salawat" and the words "Salat Al-Wusta". Does the word "and" add a new Salat that is not included in the "Salawat"? We have already shown that this is not the case. The singling out of the Salat Al-Wusta can only mean that God is providing the believers with an extra reminder for this Salat in particular.

If that is the case, we would still need to know why is there a need for an extra reminder for the Salat Al-Wusta when all the Salats are of equal importance?
The answer is because out of the three decreed Salats, the Salat Al-Wusta is the Salat which believers are most likely to miss.

During the times of Fajr and Isha the believers are usually at home, and so they would not find difficulty in observing those two Salats. However, during the middle of the day, which is the time of the Salat Al-Wusta, people are normally out working. Some would be too busy, others may be distracted by work and thus can easily forget, and some others may not find a convenient place to observe this Salat at their place of work.
So God is reminding us specifically not to forget the Salat Al-Wusta and to make every effort to observe it.
What this means is that the word "and" does not add an additional Salat, but only adds an extra reminder.

Think of a mother who knows that her little boy does not like to eat his green vegetables and that he often leaves them on his plate. Knowing that the vegetables are good for him, she tells him:
"Eat your dinner and your vegetables".
The vegetables on the plate are already part of his dinner. Yet, the mother still tells him to eat his vegetables after her words "eat your dinner". The word "and" in this case does not add a new item that is not part of the dinner, but it only serves as a needed reminder not leave out the vegetables.

The concept is the same in 2:238. God is emphasising the Salat Al-Wusta, even though it is already one of the "Salawat", because God knows that it is often missed.

In His infinite wisdom, God gave us an example in the Quran that completely justifies why did God give an extra reminder in 2:238 regarding the Middle Salat:

He (Solomon) said, "I loved the material things over the remembrance of my Lord until it disappeared behind a veil. 38:32

Prophet Solomon was referring to the setting of the sun with the words,
'it disappeared behind the veil'. Solomon was saying that his love of material possesions (in that case it was his horses) distracted him and he forgot the Salat. As we know, the Salat which ends at sunset is the Wusta Salat. When Solomon used the words "the remembrance of my Lord" he was not referring to the remembrance of God in general, but specifically about the Salat. This is because the remembrance of God does not expire at a certain time. One can remember God at all times. In contrast, the Salat is decreed for specific times of the day (4:103). When the decreed time passes, the Salat expires.

Solomon was a prophet of God, yet he was distracted and missed his Wusta Salat. No wonder that we, ordinary believers, are given an important reminder in 2:238 not to miss the Wusta Salat.

SECOND- An Issue of Sincerity

The first part of the answer presented above was merely aimed at outlining the correct significance of the word "and" in 2:238.
In contrast, the second part presented here is one of sincerity. For that reason, this second part is far more important than part 1. This is because it tests a person's sincerity regarding his/her belief in God's words.
God tells us that the Quran is fully detailed:

Shall I seek other than God as a lawmaker when it is He who has brought down to you the Book fully detailed?

We are also told that nothing has been left out:

We did not leave anything out of the Book. 6:38 (also see 16:89 and 12:111)

God gave us His law (do this and do not do that) in clear-cut unambiguous words:

A.L.R. These are the signs of the clear Book.
An Arabic Quran without any crookedness. 39:28

What this means is that when God decreed for us the Salat, or any other ritual, God gave us every detail we need in the Quran, and has left nothing out.
When we look at the names God gave us for the Salat, we find only three names, they are: Fajr, Wusta and Isha. There is no mention of any other names for Salat in all the Quran.

In view of the assurances of the fully detailed attribute of the Quran, is it possible that God assured us that all the details are in the Quran, yet gave us only 3 names when they are in fact 5 Salat?

In addition, we are assured in 4:103 that the times for the Salat are given in the Book.

The Salat has been appointed specific times for the believers (kitabban mawqutan).

The word
"kitabban", comes from the word "kitab" which means book. Thus the word "kitabban" means that which has been written down, or recorded, in the Book. The 'Book' here refers to the Quran. The word "mawqutan" means that which has been assigned a specific time. The two words together, which speak about the Salat, mean that the Salat has been assigned specific times in the Quran.

Just like we are given only 3 named Salat in the Quran, we also find that we are given only three times for the Salat in the Quran.
The time for Fajr and Isha are in 11:114 and the time for Wusta is in 17:78.
The word Salat is specifically mentioned in both verses, 11:114 and 17:78
There are no times given in the Quran for the Salat outside those three times.
In the Quran, a Book which has all the details, and from which nothing is left out, we have three names of Salat, and three times for Salat.

Some who are intent on imposing the 5 Salat, but cannot find more than three times for Salat in the Quran, have manipulated verses (such as 20:130) which speak of Tasbeeh (glorifying God) or Hamd (praising God) and claimed that they speak of Salat. However, verses
such as 20:130 do not speak of the Salat nor is the word Salat mentioned in these verses. Such verses merely invite us to praise and glorify God virtually at all times of the day (when we are able to).
Please check this page for more details: Manipulation of 20:130

Others have supported the claim of 5 Salat by stating that they are mentioned in the hadith and Sunna. By doing so, they violate the Quranic commands not to follow any hadith other than the Quran (45:6). They also violate the Quranic assurance that the Sunna of God is the only Sunna and that it has no substitute (33:62). They also do not believe the Quranic assurance that God is the only Lawmaker (6:114), and that the messengers of God are not sent as lawmaker, but only as deliverers of God's message (5:99).
The above clear Quranic assurances confirm that the hadith and Sunna cannot be used to authorise what is not in the Quran.

Others still have supported the 5 Salat allegation by claiming that all the worship practices (including the 5 Salat) came to us preserved from the time of Abraham. This claim is based on a clear
misinterpretation of the meaning of the Quranic command to follow the Millat of Abraham. Please check this page for the details: Millat Ibrahim

The assurance from God that all the details are in the Quran, and nothing has been left out, means that whether a ritual was given to Abraham or not, it should still be detailed in the Quran, if it is indeed part of the religion authorised for us by God.
The claim itself is erroneous, simply because if some details are left out of the Quran because they were given to Abraham, then it would not be accurate for God to state that nothing has been left out of the Book. For then, it can be said that what was given to Abraham has been left out of the Book.

The allegation by some that all the rituals came to us intact from the time of Abraham defies reason, history, and most of all contradicts the Quranic truth:

1- The proponents of the "came from Abraham" camp quote verses such as 21:73 to show that the Salat is as old as Abraham:

made them (Abraham and his sons) leaders, guiding by Our command, and We inspired them to do good deeds, the observance of the Salat and the giving of the Zakat. They were worshippers of Us. 21:73

Indeed, the words in 21:73 confirm that the Salat was given to Abraham and his sons, however, neither 21:73 nor any verse in the Quran states that God gave Abraham 5 Salat. Therefore, 21:73 cannot be used to confirm the number of Salat given to Abraham.

2- Abraham lived well over 3500 years ago. To claim that rituals inherited by countless generations one after the other remained preserved defies Quranic truth. H
ow is it possible for the receivers of God's law, across so many generations, keep their rituals preserved when God tells us that they could not even preserve the Books of God given to them (see 4:46, 3:78, 2:75, 5:41)?

3- How can the rituals passed down by many generations be preserved when God assured us that the only Book that is promised preservation is the Quran (15:9)?

4- Let us consider how various rituals get passed down from generation to generation. We inherit rituals through what our parents and our teachers pass down to us. The question here is as follows:
Are the words of our parents and teachers, when they pass down the rituals to us, to be considered revelation? Or are their words, just like the words of all humans, a form of hadith? If we uphold the words of our parents and teachers, which was passed down to us by means of their hadith, would we not be violating the clear command in 45:6:

In which hadith other than God and His revelations do they believe? 45:6

5- H
ow can we be justified in saying we inherited the Salat across the generations, all the way back from the time of Abraham, when the Quran prohibits us from taking any part of our religion by means of inheritance:

And when it is said to them, "Follow what God has brought down (Quran)," they say, "No, we only follow what we found our fathers upon." What! Even if their fathers did not understand anything and were not guided?

6- How can we be justified in following what is claimed to have come to us from Abraham when the Quran states categorically that every people will be accountable only to what was given to them and not what was given to those before them:

He tests you through what He has given each of you. 5:48


Those who believe God, out of the millions who claim they do, will accept that if the Quran has only 3 names of Salat, and also 3 times of Salat, then God authorized only 3 salat.
Those who believe God unconditionally will never entertain any ifs or buts!