Today when most Muslims hear the word Salwat, they associate it with the sending of blessings to the prophet Muhammad. Some take it so far to think that it is mandatory to send blessings to the prophet continuously throughout their day, and even during their Salat, and they attribute such understandings to the following verse.

[33:56] GOD and His angels [they salawat] help and support the prophet. O you who believe, you shall [salawat] help and support him, and greet him as he should be greeted.

(٥٦) إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

But is this what the verse means or is this a misunderstanding of what this verse is commanding?

Root fo Salawat

The words يُصَلُّونَ and صَلُّوا can have one of two meanings pending on which root is applied; either ص ل و which is the root for prayers and blessings, or و ص ل which is the same root as Salat and means to connect or join. If we apply the former, then the verse is saying that God and the angels send blessings upon the prophet and so should the believers. If we apply the latter root, then it would be interpreted that God and the angels connect or support the prophet and so should the believers.

Irrespective of which root is applied, the meaning is not much different when we look at this word in context to the entire Quran. An example of this can be seen in the following verse.

[9:99] Other Arabs do believe in GOD and the Last Day, and consider their spending to be a means towards GOD, and a means of supporting [salawat] the messenger. Indeed, it will bring them nearer; GOD will admit them into His mercy. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

 وَمِنَ الْأَعْرَابِ مَنْ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَيَتَّخِذُ مَا يُنْفِقُ قُرُبَاتٍ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَصَلَوَاتِ الرَّسُولِ أَلَا إِنَّهَا قُرْبَةٌ لَهُمْ سَيُدْخِلُهُمُ اللَّهُ فِي رَحْمَتِهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

From this verse, we see that the spending of money is considered a form of salawat. This implies that there is a physical component to salawat through physically supporting the messenger through resources. This is emphasized again in the following verse.

[9:103] Take from their money a charity to purify them and sanctify them. And [wasali] encourage them, [wasalataka] and your encouragement reassures them. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.

 خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِمْ بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلَاتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَهُمْ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

From this verse, we see that the salawat is bi-directional. That the people were sending money in a form of salawat to the prophet, and in return, the prophet was returning salawat to them for their efforts.

This concept is similar to the requirement for when the messenger was alive for the people to go to him so that he can pray to God for their forgiveness, showing that the believers had a duty as did the messenger.

[4:64] We did not send any messenger except to be obeyed in accordance with GOD’s will. Had they, when they wronged their souls, come to you and prayed to GOD for forgiveness, and the messenger prayed for their forgiveness, they would have found GOD Redeemer, Most Merciful.

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ رَسُولٍ إِلَّا لِيُطَاعَ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذْ ظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّهَ تَوَّابًا رَحِيمًا

Salawat from God

The first time the word salawat / صَلَوَاتٌ is used in the Quran is in the following verse, where God is blessing the believers:

[2:157] These have deserved blessings from their Lord and mercy. These are the guided ones.

 أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ

We see a similar phrasing in the following verse, where god is supporting the believers as well as the angels.

[33:43] He is the One who helps you, together with His angels, to lead you out of darkness into the light. He is Most Merciful towards the believers.

 هُوَ الَّذِي يُصَلِّي عَلَيْكُمْ وَمَلَائِكَتُهُ لِيُخْرِجَكُمْ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ وَكَانَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَحِيمًا

In the above verse, we see that God and His angels يُصَلِّي / yuṣallī the believers. Again pending on which root is applied to the verse it can be understood that God and His angels either blesses or connects (e.g. helps and supports) with the believers. But from these verses, it is clear that God is not commemorating the names of the believers, like they do in modern day salawat towards the prophet, but instead blessing the beleivers in their efforts in this world by guiding them.

So from these verses, we see that it is a commandment for the believers to help, support, and send blessings to the messenger. And a commandment for the messenger to do the same to the believers. And also, that God also helps and supports and sends blessings to the believers as do the angels. But none of this implies that we are to do this during our Salat, as the Salat must be dedicated to God alone. That said, does the sending of salawat to the prophet even apply today now that the prophet is dead?

Nabi

Throughout the Quran when the word Nabi is used in reference to Muhammad it is in regards to only when he was alive. This is further reinforced by looking at the rest of the verse in 33:56, where God is informing the believers to “greet the prophet”. Obviously one cannot greet someone who is no longer living, and therefore this only applies when the prophet was alive.

[33:56] GOD and His angels [they salawat] help and support the prophet. O you who believe, you shall [salawat] help and support him, and greet him as he should be greeted.

(٥٦) إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

Another clear example in the Quran that shows that when the word nabi is used that it only applies to when the prophet was alive is in the following verse:

[49:2] O you who believe, do not raise your voices above the voice of the prophet, nor shall you shout at him as you shout at each other, lest your works become nullified while you do not perceive.

 يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَرْفَعُوا أَصْوَاتَكُمْ فَوْقَ صَوْتِ النَّبِيِّ وَلَا تَجْهَرُوا لَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ كَجَهْرِ بَعْضِكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ أَنْ تَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالُكُمْ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَشْعُرُونَ

From this verse, it is clear that one cannot raise their voice above that of the prophet’s once he is dead. And if anyone has any doubts that Muhammad’s physical body is dead, God also clarified this matter:

[3:144] Muhammad was no more than a messenger like the messengers before him. Should he die or get killed, would you turn back on your heels? Anyone who turns back on his heels, does not hurt GOD in the least. GOD rewards those who are appreciative.

 وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ أَفَإِنْ مَاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انْقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِكُمْ وَمَنْ يَنْقَلِبْ عَلَىٰ عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَنْ يَضُرَّ اللَّهَ شَيْئًا وَسَيَجْزِي اللَّهُ الشَّاكِرِينَ

[39:30] You (Muhammad) will surely die, just like they will die.

(٣٠) إِنَّكَ مَيِّتٌ وَإِنَّهُمْ مَيِّتُونَ

Conclusion

Therefore, verse 33:56 is in regards to a commandment that was incumbent upon the believers when Muhammad was alive and carrying out his obligation from God. The believers at that time were required to support the prophet through their resources, means, and prayers.

[24:63] Do not treat the messenger’s requests as you treat each others’ requests. GOD is fully aware of those among you who sneak away using flimsy excuses. Let them beware—those who disobey his orders—for a disaster may strike them, or a severe retribution.

 لَا تَجْعَلُوا دُعَاءَ الرَّسُولِ بَيْنَكُمْ كَدُعَاءِ بَعْضِكُمْ بَعْضًا قَدْ يَعْلَمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ يَتَسَلَّلُونَ مِنْكُمْ لِوَاذًا فَلْيَحْذَرِ الَّذِينَ يُخَالِفُونَ عَنْ أَمْرِهِ أَنْ تُصِيبَهُمْ فِتْنَةٌ أَوْ يُصِيبَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

Now that the prophet has passed and has fulfilled his mission to deliver this message, it is no longer applicable to have salawat for the prophet, just like we can no longer raise our voice or greet the prophet.

Not only can the commandment of 33:56 not be carried out today, but to use this verse as justification to constantly commemorate the prophet and to include his name in the Salat is in complete defiance of the Quran that all praise belongs to God alone.

As believers, we are commanded to commemorate only God, not the prophets or saints.

[33:41] O you who believe, you shall remember GOD frequently.

(٤١) يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ ذِكْرًا كَثِيرًا

[33:42] You shall glorify Him day and night.

(٤٢) وَسَبِّحُوهُ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا

To do otherwise would be in direct contradiction to the teachings of the prophets and messengers.

[3:79] Never would a human being whom GOD blessed with the scripture and prophethood say to the people, “Idolize me beside GOD.” Instead, (he would say), “Devote yourselves absolutely to your Lord alone,” according to the scripture you preach and the teachings you learn.

 مَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَنْ يُؤْتِيَهُ اللَّهُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحُكْمَ وَالنُّبُوَّةَ ثُمَّ يَقُولَ لِلنَّاسِ كُونُوا عِبَادًا لِي مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَلَٰكِنْ كُونُوا رَبَّانِيِّينَ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تُعَلِّمُونَ الْكِتَابَ وَبِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَدْرُسُونَ

Those who attempt to justify such actions make the excuse that since these righteous individuals were closer to God that by calling upon them they will put a good word for them with God, but God tells us this is not the case.

[39:3] Absolutely, the religion shall be devoted to GOD alone. Those who set up idols beside Him say, “We idolize them only to bring us closer to GOD; for they are in a better position!” GOD will judge them regarding their disputes. GOD does not guide such liars, disbelievers.

 أَلَا لِلَّهِ الدِّينُ الْخَالِصُ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ مَا نَعْبُدُهُمْ إِلَّا لِيُقَرِّبُونَا إِلَى اللَّهِ زُلْفَىٰ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ فِي مَا هُمْ فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ كَاذِبٌ كَفَّارٌ

When we assume such things we are assuming that these other entities are omniscient and can hear our prayers, but not only do they not hear our prayers they will not even be able to recognize us on the Day of Judgment. For instance, in Paradise Jesus has no clue that the people in this world are calling him as part of a trinity.

[5:116] GOD will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Make me and my mother idols beside GOD’?” He will say, “Be You glorified. I could not utter what was not right. Had I said it, You already would have known it. You know my thoughts, and I do not know Your thoughts. You know all the secrets. [5:117] “I told them only what You commanded me to say, that: ‘You shall worship GOD, my Lord and your Lord.’ I was a witness among them for as long as I lived with them. When You terminated my life on earth, You became the Watcher over them. You witness all things.

As believers, we must be 100% content with the worship and commemoration of God alone.

[39:45] When GOD ALONE is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink with aversion. But when others are mentioned beside Him, they become satisfied.

 وَإِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ اشْمَأَزَّتْ قُلُوبُ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ وَإِذَا ذُكِرَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ دُونِهِ إِذَا هُمْ يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ

The places we worship and our homes must be a place where only God is worshiped and called upon.

[72:18] The places of worship belong to GOD; do not call on anyone else beside GOD.

 وَأَنَّ الْمَسَاجِدَ لِلَّهِ فَلَا تَدْعُوا مَعَ اللَّهِ أَحَدًا

[33:34] Remember what is being recited in your homes of GOD’s revelations and the wisdom inherent therein. GOD is Sublime, Cognizant.

(٣٤) وَاذْكُرْنَ مَا يُتْلَىٰ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَالْحِكْمَةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ لَطِيفًا خَبِيرًا

And this is particularly true for our worship practices, most notably the Salat, where the purpose of such actions is to remember God alone.

[20:14] “I am GOD; there is no other god beside Me. You shall worship Me alone, and observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) to remember Me.

 إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي

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