[Al-Quran 50:6-8] Have they not looked at the heaven above them - how We structured it and adorned it and how it has no rifts? And the earth - We spread it out and cast therein firmly set mountains and made grow therein [something] of every beautiful kind, Giving insight and a reminder for every servant who turns [to Allah].

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Sustainer of the Worlds (رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ)

The Middle Prayer & The Declining Sun
Glad Tidings: A Flourishing Future 

Allah is the one and only true God, the only one worthy of worship. Allah is unlike anything conceivable or imaginable. The Quran repeatedly reminds us of our رَبِّ, the Lord, the Sustainer of the Worlds. It is Allah who creates, sustains and causes to flourish. Though this world and everything in it is destined to perish, the Believers are given glad tidings of a flourishing life in the Hereafter.

Sun-worshippers typically worship the rising sun, while The Quran enjoins prayer timings from the decline of the Sun till early morning, before sunrise. 

Muslims are required to guard their prayers, especially the middle prayers. The middle prayer, as established religious practice, is also found in The Bible. People debate whether Asr (the late afternoon prayer) is or not the middle prayer. The Quran relates the loss Prophet-King Solomon suffered due to his negligence of the late afternoon prayer, his repentance and how his repentance was accepted, appreciated and magnificently rewarded. 

Full Text

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;

The Quran repeatedly reminds us of اللَّهِ our  رَبِّ, the Lord, the Sustainer of the Worlds. It is Allah who creates, sustains and causes to flourish. The Quran enjoins strict monotheism. Allah is the only, one and true God, the only one worthy of worship. Allah does not have a family, so there is no concept of a partnership or pantheon of gods. The Quran also clarifies that there is nothing like Him.  

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ
لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ
وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ
Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;
Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him.

The Quran introduces us to many aspects of Allah through various names. It also informs us that Allah is the Nur of the Heavens & Earth: 

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لَّا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ نُّورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
فِي بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ أَن تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ فِيهَا بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light: Allah doth set forth Parables for men: and Allah doth know all things.
(Lit is such a Light) in houses, which Allah hath permitted to be raised to honour; for the celebration, in them, of His name: In them is He glorified in the mornings and in the evenings, (again and again),-

Nur is generally translated as light; however since there is nothing like Allah, its unimaginable what Allah’s Nur exactly is, except that we trust that it is the true guiding light, the true life-giving and life-sustaining Nur. 
Note: I do not think 'star' is a correct translation of كَوْكَبٌ in the above ayah, as explained in another post

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ
وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ 
وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ افْتَرَىٰ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا
Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him;
but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth;
to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin Most heinous indeed.

Sun Worship
People have deified the Sun, Moon, Stars, Trees and many other objects and beings, since ancient times, across many cultures, and the practice continues till today. For example, the Hindu worship of the rising sun (Lord Surya) every morning facing the East with chants and offerings.

Along with Sun-worship, the concept of trinity also keeps cropping up in many mythologies, followed by a pantheon of gods and the idols that represent them. Thus, the sun has been revered as the only god in some monotheistic mythologies, and as the head of a pantheon in other polytheistic mythologies.

Fire-worship and fire as a religious symbol also has its roots in antiquity and continues till today, such as in Zoroastrian and Hindu belief systems.    

The Quran informs us that Abraham’s people worshipped the sun among other objects. Surah alAn’am relates the story of Abraham starting from ayat 74. Then we read in ayat 78:  

فَلَمَّا رَأَى الشَّمْسَ بَازِغَةً قَالَ هَٰذَا رَبِّي هَٰذَا أَكْبَرُ فَلَمَّا أَفَلَتْ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ إِنِّي بَرِيءٌ مِّمَّا تُشْرِكُونَ
And when he saw the sun rising, he said, "This is my lord; this is greater." But when it set, he said, "O my people, indeed I am free from what you associate with Allah .

From Egyptian history, we know that the people of Pharaoh worshipped the sun, sometimes as the only god, and most of the time as the head-god in their pantheon through various periods of their civilization. The Quran informs us that the Pharaoh and his forces were destroyed when he exceeded all bounds and  eventually claimed to be the most high god himself, rejecting all the clear signs shown through Moses, even though he knew it is was the truth. The Quran informs us that the Pharaoh and his people were made leaders inviting to ‘the fire’:

 وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَدْعُونَ إِلَى النَّارِ وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا يُنصَرُونَ
And We made them leaders inviting to the Fire, and on the Day of Resurrection they will not be helped.

 In Surah Taha, Surah anNaml and in Surah alQasas, we read about when God first spoke with Moses. Moses saw a fire and told his family to wait while he went to get some information or guidance or some burning torch for warmth from it. I think it is important to bear in mind that Moses, even though a bani Israel, and most probably already on the faith of his forefather Abraham, as it seems from the ayaat of Surah alQasas; Moses was brought up in the palace of the Pharaoh as a prince, and thus was not only exposed to the religion of the Pharaoh, but also knew their beliefs and practices very well. In Surah anNaml, we read:  

فَلَمَّا جَاءَهَا نُودِيَ أَن بُورِكَ مَن فِي النَّارِ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا وَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

This ayat mentions those in the fire and those around it. Curiously, the verb is taken to mean blessed and its root as ب ر ك . However, this root does not occur in any other instance in The Quran with a و . What if the root may be ب و ر and ك its pronoun, then the translation would change into:
But when he came close to it, it was called out: you are ruined, whoever is in the fire and whoever is around it; Allah is exalted (free from all they ascribe to Him), Lord of the Worlds

After the above proclamation, Allah spoke with Moses, ordaining him with the responsibility of being a Messenger of Allah, sending him to Pharaoh with Allah's great signs.  

Imminent ruin for those who worship the fire, I think, is more consistent with the message that Allah is the only God, nothing is comparable to Him, no vision can encompass Him, and warning of ruin in the Hereafter for all those who consider anything worthy of worship along with Allah. 

Furthermore, Surah anNaml also informs us of the people of Saba (Sheba) who were sun-worshippers. A personnel from Solomon's army reported:  

فَمَكَثَ غَيْرَ بَعِيدٍ فَقَالَ أَحَطتُ بِمَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ وَجِئْتُكَ مِن سَبَإٍ بِنَبَإٍ يَقِينٍ
إِنِّي وَجَدتُّ امْرَأَةً تَمْلِكُهُمْ وَأُوتِيَتْ مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَلَهَا عَرْشٌ عَظِيمٌ 
وَجَدتُّهَا وَقَوْمَهَا يَسْجُدُونَ لِلشَّمْسِ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ فَهُمْ لَا يَهْتَدُونَ
أَلَّا يَسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ الَّذِي يُخْرِجُ الْخَبْءَ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُخْفُونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ
اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
But the hoopoe stayed not long and said, "I have encompassed [in knowledge] that which you have not encompassed, and I have come to you from Sheba with certain news.
Indeed, I found [there] a woman ruling them, and she has been given of all things, and she has a great throne.
I found her and her people prostrating to the sun instead of Allah, and Satan has made their deeds pleasing to them and averted them from [His] way, so they are not guided,
[And] so they do not prostrate to Allah, who brings forth what is hidden within the heavens and the earth and knows what you conceal and what you declare -
Allah - there is no deity except Him, Lord of the Great Throne."

Allah: the Creator, the Sustainer & the Flourisher   
The Quran clarifies that Allah is the one and only God. The sun is a creation, not the creator. In Surah alFussilat, it is stated:

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ اللَّيْلُ وَالنَّهَارُ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ لَا تَسْجُدُوا لِلشَّمْسِ وَلَا لِلْقَمَرِ وَاسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ الَّذِي خَلَقَهُنَّ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ
فَإِنِ اسْتَكْبَرُوا فَالَّذِينَ عِندَ رَبِّكَ يُسَبِّحُونَ لَهُ بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَهُمْ لَا يَسْأَمُونَ 
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنَّكَ تَرَى الْأَرْضَ خَاشِعَةً فَإِذَا أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْهَا الْمَاءَ اهْتَزَّتْ وَرَبَتْ إِنَّ الَّذِي أَحْيَاهَا لَمُحْيِي الْمَوْتَىٰ إِنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي آيَاتِنَا لَا يَخْفَوْنَ عَلَيْنَا أَفَمَن يُلْقَىٰ فِي النَّارِ خَيْرٌ أَم مَّن يَأْتِي آمِنًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ اعْمَلُوا مَا شِئْتُمْ إِنَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ 
And of His signs are the night and day and the sun and moon. Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostate to Allah, who created them, if it should be Him that you worship.
But if they are arrogant - then those who are near your Lord exalt Him by night and by day, and they do not become weary.
And of His signs is that you see the earth stilled, but when We send down upon it rain, it quivers and grows. Indeed, He who has given it life is the Giver of Life to the dead. Indeed, He is over all things competent.
Indeed, those who inject deviation into Our verses are not concealed from Us. So, is he who is cast into the Fire better or he who comes secure on the Day of Resurrection? Do whatever you will; indeed, He is Seeing of what you do.

Sun worship seems to be based on the fact that sunlight seems to be essential for most life forms to exist on Earth. However, there have been extinction events in the Earth’s history, when almost all life perished except whom Allah saved. Surah alAn’am points out some fundamental processes that do not involve any direct role of the Sun, and some processes that must precede before the Sun's light and heat can be used:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ فَالِقُ الْحَبِّ وَالنَّوَىٰ يُخْرِجُ الْحَيَّ مِنَ الْمَيِّتِ وَمُخْرِجُ الْمَيِّتِ مِنَ الْحَيِّ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ فَأَنَّىٰ تُؤْفَكُونَ
فَالِقُ الْإِصْبَاحِ وَجَعَلَ اللَّيْلَ سَكَنًا وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ حُسْبَانًا ذَٰلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ
وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ النُّجُومَ لِتَهْتَدُوا بِهَا فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ قَدْ فَصَّلْنَا الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ
وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ فَمُسْتَقَرٌّ وَمُسْتَوْدَعٌ قَدْ فَصَّلْنَا الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَفْقَهُونَ
وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ نَبَاتَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ فَأَخْرَجْنَا مِنْهُ خَضِرًا نُّخْرِجُ مِنْهُ حَبًّا مُّتَرَاكِبًا وَمِنَ النَّخْلِ مِن طَلْعِهَا قِنْوَانٌ دَانِيَةٌ وَجَنَّاتٍ مِّنْ أَعْنَابٍ وَالزَّيْتُونَ وَالرُّمَّانَ مُشْتَبِهًا وَغَيْرَ مُتَشَابِهٍ انظُرُوا إِلَىٰ ثَمَرِهِ إِذَا أَثْمَرَ وَيَنْعِهِ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكُمْ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ
وَجَعَلُوا لِلَّهِ شُرَكَاءَ الْجِنَّ وَخَلَقَهُمْ وَخَرَقُوا لَهُ بَنِينَ وَبَنَاتٍ بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ
بَدِيعُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ تَكُن لَّهُ صَاحِبَةٌ وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ فَاعْبُدُوهُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَكِيلٌ
لَّا تُدْرِكُهُ الْأَبْصَارُ وَهُوَ يُدْرِكُ الْأَبْصَارَ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ
قَدْ جَاءَكُم بَصَائِرُ مِن رَّبِّكُمْ فَمَنْ أَبْصَرَ فَلِنَفْسِهِ وَمَنْ عَمِيَ فَعَلَيْهَا وَمَا أَنَا عَلَيْكُم بِحَفِيظٍ
وَكَذَٰلِكَ نُصَرِّفُ الْآيَاتِ وَلِيَقُولُوا دَرَسْتَ وَلِنُبَيِّنَهُ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ
اتَّبِعْ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

It is Allah Who causeth the seed-grain and the date-stone to split and sprout. He causeth the living to issue from the dead, and He is the one to cause the dead to issue from the living. That is Allah: then how are ye deluded away from the truth?
He it is that cleaveth the day-break (from the dark): He makes the night for rest and tranquillity, and the sun and moon for the reckoning (of time): Such is the judgment and ordering of (Him), the Exalted in Power, the Omniscient.
It is He Who maketh the stars (as beacons) for you, that ye may guide yourselves, with their help, through the dark spaces of land and sea: We detail Our signs for people who know.
It is He Who hath produced you from a single person: here is a place of sojourn and a place of departure: We detail Our signs for people who understand.
It is He Who sendeth down rain from the skies: with it We produce vegetation of all kinds: from some We produce green (crops), out of which We produce grain, heaped up (at harvest); out of the date-palm and its sheaths (or spathes) (come) clusters of dates hanging low and near: and (then there are) gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates, each similar (in kind) yet different (in variety): when they begin to bear fruit, feast your eyes with the fruit and the ripeness thereof. Behold! in these things there are signs for people who believe.
Yet they make the Jinns equals with Allah, though Allah did create the Jinns; and they falsely, having no knowledge, attribute to Him sons and daughters. Praise and glory be to Him! (for He is) above what they attribute to Him!
To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: How can He have a son when He hath no consort? He created all things, and He hath full knowledge of all things.
That is Allah, your Lord! there is no god but He, the Creator of all things: then worship ye Him: and He hath power to dispose of all affairs.
No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things.
"Now have come to you, from your Lord, proofs (to open your eyes): if any will see, it will be for (the good of) his own soul; if any will be blind, it will be to his own (harm): I am not (here) to watch over your doings."
Thus do we explain the signs by various (symbols): that they may say, "Thou hast taught (us) diligently," and that We may make the matter clear to those who know.
Follow what thou art taught by inspiration from thy Lord: there is no god but He: and turn aside from those who join gods with Allah.
[Al-Quran 6:95-106, Translator: Yusuf Ali]

Note: As explained in another postأَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً is referring to the delivery of water to our planet. 

The Sun is a creation and will eventually come to an end. Scientists know that it has limited fuel, as well that it is travelling through space in a certain direction. The Quran informs us:

وَالشَّمْسُ تَجْرِي لِمُسْتَقَرٍّ لَّهَا ذَٰلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ
And the sun runs [on course] toward its stopping point. That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing.

Though this world and everything in it is destined to perish, the Believers are given glad tidings of a flourishing life in the Hereafter. Among the features of the Gardens of Eternity, no direct sunlight is especially mentioned. Scientists think that direct sunlight promotes ageing, so absence of direct sunlight should be an essential environment for a very long or an immortal life.

Consider the following ayat: 

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَشْتَرُونَ بِعَهْدِ اللَّهِ وَأَيْمَانِهِمْ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا أُولَٰئِكَ لَا خَلَاقَ لَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ 
وَلَا يُكَلِّمُهُمُ اللَّهُ وَلَا يَنظُرُ إِلَيْهِمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَلَا يُزَكِّيهِمْ 
وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ
Lo! those who purchase a small gain at the cost of Allah's covenant and their oaths, they have no portion in the Hereafter.
Allah will neither speak to them nor look upon them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He make them grow.
Theirs will be a painful doom.

Allah, the Nur of the heavens and earth, is the Sustainer of everyone. Nothing in creation compares with Him. Q39:67 drives home the insignificance of creation in comparison with the Creator, and then Q39:69 informs us that on the Day of Resurrection the Earth will shine in the Nur (Light) of its Rab (Sustainer):

وَمَا قَدَرُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ وَالْأَرْضُ جَمِيعًا قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
وَنُفِخَ فِي الصُّورِ فَصَعِقَ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا مَن شَاءَ اللَّهُ ثُمَّ نُفِخَ فِيهِ أُخْرَىٰ فَإِذَا هُمْ قِيَامٌ يَنظُرُونَ
وَأَشْرَقَتِ الْأَرْضُ بِنُورِ رَبِّهَا وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ وَجِيءَ بِالنَّبِيِّينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ
They have not appraised Allah with true appraisal, while the earth entirely will be [within] His grip on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be folded in His right hand. Exalted is He and high above what they associate with Him.
And the Horn will be blown, and whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth will fall dead except whom Allah wills. Then it will be blown again, and at once they will be standing, looking on.
And the earth will shine with the light of its Lord, and the record [of deeds] will be placed, and the prophets and the witnesses will be brought, and it will be judged between them in truth, and they will not be wronged.

Along with sustaining, The Quran also presents another wonderful concept بَارَكَ which is generally translated as blessed. The Arabic word implies growth in such a way that the present leads to a better state: a flourishing future. 

إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ يُغْشِي اللَّيْلَ النَّهَارَ يَطْلُبُهُ حَثِيثًا وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ وَالنُّجُومَ مُسَخَّرَاتٍ بِأَمْرِهِ أَلَا لَهُ الْخَلْقُ وَالْأَمْرُ تَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ
Indeed, your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne. He covers the night with the day, [another night] chasing it rapidly; and [He created] the sun, the moon, and the stars, subjected by His command. Unquestionably, His is the creation and the command; blessed is Allah, Lord of the worlds.

Genesis & The Laws that Govern Nature
Scientists wonder how life originated on Earth, what caused it, what the initial conditions were on the planet, what the atmosphere was like, the fundamental factors, co-factors, and so on. Discoveries such as tardigrades, and other exotic lifeforms, double helix in water clusters, delivery of water to a planet, etc. are continuously challenging, re-shaping and changing the understanding of what life is and what it takes to create, sustain and flourish.  

Surah alFussilat (Explained in Detail) informs us that it is Allah who created and blessed the Earth, such that it would flourish to provide for all who seek. The sky, and the heavenly bodies that have been created in it, are performing their appointed role, in submission, exactly according to Allah’s commands:

قُلْ أَئِنَّكُمْ لَتَكْفُرُونَ بِالَّذِي خَلَقَ الْأَرْضَ فِي يَوْمَيْنِ وَتَجْعَلُونَ لَهُ أَندَادًا ذَٰلِكَ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ
وَجَعَلَ فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ مِن فَوْقِهَا وَبَارَكَ فِيهَا وَقَدَّرَ فِيهَا أَقْوَاتَهَا فِي أَرْبَعَةِ أَيَّامٍ سَوَاءً لِّلسَّائِلِينَ
ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ وَهِيَ دُخَانٌ فَقَالَ لَهَا وَلِلْأَرْضِ ائْتِيَا طَوْعًا أَوْ كَرْهًا قَالَتَا أَتَيْنَا طَائِعِينَ
فَقَضَاهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ فِي يَوْمَيْنِ وَأَوْحَىٰ فِي كُلِّ سَمَاءٍ أَمْرَهَا وَزَيَّنَّا السَّمَاءَ الدُّنْيَا بِمَصَابِيحَ وَحِفْظًا ذَٰلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ
Say: Is it that ye deny Him Who created the earth in two Days? And do ye join equals with Him? He is the Lord of (all) the Worlds.
He set on the (earth), mountains standing firm, high above it, and bestowed blessings on the earth, and measure therein all things to give them nourishment in due proportion, in four Days, in accordance with (the needs of) those who seek (Sustenance).
Moreover He comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: "Come ye together, willingly or unwillingly." They said: "We do come (together), in willing obedience."
So He completed them as seven firmaments in two Days, and He assigned to each heaven its duty and command. And We adorned the lower heaven with lights, and (provided it) with guard. Such is the Decree of (Him) the Exalted in Might, Full of Knowledge.

The Right Religion
Thus, it follows that it is Allah alone to whom belong creation and command, and has the right to be worshipped: 

مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِهِ إِلَّا أَسْمَاءً سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُم مَّا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِن سُلْطَانٍ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ أَمَرَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
"If not Him, ye worship nothing but names which ye have named,- ye and your fathers,- for which Allah hath sent down no authority: the command is for none but Allah: He hath commanded that ye worship none but Him: that is the right religion, but most men understand not...

Glad Tidings for the Worshippers 

Establishing Prayer
Q98:5 lists establishing prayer as one of the key commands of the right religion. Surah alMomineen (The Believers) and alMa’arij (The Ways of Ascent) list the salient characteristics of the believers. One of the characteristics is that they are those who guard their prayers (root: ص ل و): 

وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَوَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ
And they who carefully maintain their prayers -

وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ
And those who [carefully] maintain their prayer:

The Middle Prayer & The Declining Sun

حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَىٰ وَقُومُوا لِلَّهِ قَانِتِينَ
فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ فَرِجَالًا أَوْ رُكْبَانًا فَإِذَا أَمِنتُمْ فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ كَمَا عَلَّمَكُم مَّا لَمْ تَكُونُوا تَعْلَمُونَ
Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer and stand before Allah, devoutly obedient.
And if you fear [an enemy, then pray] on foot or riding. But when you are secure, then remember Allah [in prayer], as He has taught you that which you did not [previously] know.

According to the ayah from Surah alBaqarah quoted above, Muslims are required to especially guard the middle prayers. Late afternoon is a very busy time for most people across most businesses and professions. There is debate regarding whether Asr (the late afternoon prayer) is or not the middle prayer. 

Prayer Timings
As we read in Surah alIsra: 

سُنَّةَ مَن قَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ مِن رُّسُلِنَا وَلَا تَجِدُ لِسُنَّتِنَا تَحْوِيلًا 
أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ إِلَىٰ غَسَقِ اللَّيْلِ وَقُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا
وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَّكَ عَسَىٰ أَن يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَّحْمُودًا
وَقُل رَّبِّ أَدْخِلْنِي مُدْخَلَ صِدْقٍ وَأَخْرِجْنِي مُخْرَجَ صِدْقٍ وَاجْعَل لِّي مِن لَّدُنكَ سُلْطَانًا نَّصِيرًا
[That is Our] established way for those We had sent before you of Our messengers; and you will not find in Our way any alteration.
Establish prayer at the decline of the sun [from its meridian] until the darkness of the night and [also] the Qur'an of dawn. Indeed, the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed.
And from [part of] the night, pray with it as additional [worship] for you; it is expected that your Lord will resurrect you to a praised station.
And say, "My Lord, cause me to enter a sound entrance and to exit a sound exit and grant me from Yourself a supporting authority."

Prayer Timings of the People of the Book
Notice in Q17:77, it is stated that it is the ‘established way’ and that there is never any change or alteration in it. I understand that this ayat is linked with the ayaat preceding and following it. So, the people of the Book must have also been enjoined prayers similarly. In Daniel we read:

10 And Daniel, when he hath known that the writing is signed, hath gone up to his house, and the window being opened for him, in his upper chamber, over-against Jerusalem, three times in a day he is kneeling on his knees, and praying, and confessing before his God, because that he was doing [it] before this.

The Jews believe they are required to pray thrice daily as a practice received from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Christians also identify three to seven times of prayers from the scriptures, even though they believe they are not ‘duty-bound’ to pray them.   

Solomon & the Afternoon Prayer 
The Quran, Surah Saad, relates the loss Prophet-King Solomon suffered due to his negligence of the late afternoon prayer, his repentance and how his repentance was accepted, appreciated and magnificently rewarded:

وَوَهَبْنَا لِدَاوُودَ سُلَيْمَانَ نِعْمَ الْعَبْدُ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ
إِذْ عُرِضَ عَلَيْهِ بِالْعَشِيِّ الصَّافِنَاتُ الْجِيَادُ
فَقَالَ إِنِّي أَحْبَبْتُ حُبَّ الْخَيْرِ عَن ذِكْرِ رَبِّي حَتَّىٰ تَوَارَتْ بِالْحِجَابِ
رُدُّوهَا عَلَيَّ فَطَفِقَ مَسْحًا بِالسُّوقِ وَالْأَعْنَاقِ
وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا سُلَيْمَانَ وَأَلْقَيْنَا عَلَىٰ كُرْسِيِّهِ جَسَدًا ثُمَّ أَنَابَ
قَالَ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَهَبْ لِي مُلْكًا لَّا يَنبَغِي لِأَحَدٍ مِّن بَعْدِي إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ
فَسَخَّرْنَا لَهُ الرِّيحَ تَجْرِي بِأَمْرِهِ رُخَاءً حَيْثُ أَصَابَ
وَالشَّيَاطِينَ كُلَّ بَنَّاءٍ وَغَوَّاصٍ
وَآخَرِينَ مُقَرَّنِينَ فِي الْأَصْفَادِ
هَٰذَا عَطَاؤُنَا فَامْنُنْ أَوْ أَمْسِكْ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ
وَإِنَّ لَهُ عِندَنَا لَزُلْفَىٰ وَحُسْنَ مَآبٍ

And to David We gave Solomon. An excellent servant, indeed he was one repeatedly turning back [to Allah ].
[Mention] when there were exhibited before him in the afternoon the poised [standing] racehorses.
And he said, "Indeed, I gave preference to the love of good [things] over the remembrance of my Lord until the sun disappeared into the curtain [of darkness]."
[He said], "Return them to me," and set about striking* [their] legs and necks.
And We certainly tried Solomon and placed on his throne a body; then he returned.
He said, "My Lord, forgive me and grant me a kingdom such as will not belong to anyone after me. Indeed, You are the Bestower."
So We subjected to him the wind blowing by his command, gently, wherever he directed,
And [also] the devils [of jinn] - every builder and diver
And others bound together in shackles.
[We said], "This is Our gift, so grant or withhold without account."
And indeed, for him is nearness to Us and a good place of return.

* مَسْحًا means to wipe or gently pass hand, not strike. So I understand that this ayat is stating that he resumed enjoying the horses in spite of realising that the prayer had been missed. Note that the very next ayat states that it was after he was tried that he returned and repented. Compare 50+ English translations here

In a State of Loss
Asr is the name of the late afternoon Muslim prayer. Surah alAsr warns us:

إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ
إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ 
By the declining day,
Lo! man is a state of loss,
Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance.

How to Guard Prayers when in Danger
Surah anNisa elaborates on Q2:239 regarding guarding prayers even when in danger. It allows shortening prayer if there is fear of being attacked:

وَإِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَقْصُرُوا مِنَ الصَّلَاةِ إِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَن يَفْتِنَكُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِنَّ الْكَافِرِينَ كَانُوا لَكُمْ عَدُوًّا مُّبِينًا
4:102 وَإِذَا كُنتَ فِيهِمْ فَأَقَمْتَ لَهُمُ الصَّلَاةَ فَلْتَقُمْ طَائِفَةٌ مِّنْهُم مَّعَكَ وَلْيَأْخُذُوا أَسْلِحَتَهُمْ فَإِذَا سَجَدُوا فَلْيَكُونُوا مِن وَرَائِكُمْ وَلْتَأْتِ طَائِفَةٌ أُخْرَىٰ لَمْ يُصَلُّوا فَلْيُصَلُّوا مَعَكَ وَلْيَأْخُذُوا حِذْرَهُمْ وَأَسْلِحَتَهُمْ وَدَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْ تَغْفُلُونَ عَنْ أَسْلِحَتِكُمْ وَأَمْتِعَتِكُمْ فَيَمِيلُونَ عَلَيْكُم مَّيْلَةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِن كَانَ بِكُمْ أَذًى مِّن مَّطَرٍ أَوْ كُنتُم مَّرْضَىٰ أَن تَضَعُوا أَسْلِحَتَكُمْ وَخُذُوا حِذْرَكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ أَعَدَّ لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابًا مُّهِينًا
فَإِذَا قَضَيْتُمُ الصَّلَاةَ فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىٰ جُنُوبِكُمْ فَإِذَا اطْمَأْنَنتُمْ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ كَانَتْ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ كِتَابًا مَّوْقُوتًا
وَلَا تَهِنُوا فِي ابْتِغَاءِ الْقَوْمِ إِن تَكُونُوا تَأْلَمُونَ فَإِنَّهُمْ يَأْلَمُونَ كَمَا تَأْلَمُونَ وَتَرْجُونَ مِنَ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَرْجُونَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا
When ye travel through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear the Unbelievers May attack you: For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies.
When thou (O Messenger) art with them, and standest to lead them in prayer, Let one party of them stand up (in prayer) with thee, Taking their arms with them: When they finish their prostrations, let them Take their position in the rear. And let the other party come up which hath not yet prayed - and let them pray with thee, Taking all precaution, and bearing arms: the Unbelievers wish, if ye were negligent of your arms and your baggage, to assault you in a single rush. But there is no blame on you if ye put away your arms because of the inconvenience of rain or because ye are ill; but take (every) precaution for yourselves. For the Unbelievers Allah hath prepared a humiliating punishment.
When ye pass (Congregational) prayers, celebrate Allah's praises, standing, sitting down, or lying down on your sides; but when ye are free from danger, set up Regular Prayers: For such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times.
And slacken not in following up the enemy: If ye are suffering hardships, they are suffering similar hardships; but ye have Hope from Allah, while they have none. And Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.

And Allah knows best!
May Allah guide us all. 


References & Links

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Last updated on March 7, 2018