The Quran informs the believers that under unusual circumstances, particularly during times of war, they can modify how they perform their Salat. These commandments occur in the following verses: 2:239, 4:101, 4:102.

In order to understand 2:239, it helps to start from 2:238 in order to understand that the context is Salat. This verse informs the believers that during times of insecurity they can perform their Salat while walking or riding.

[2:238] You shall consistently observe the Contact Prayers, especially the middle prayer, and devote yourselves totally to GOD.

(٢٣٨) حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَىٰ وَقُومُوا لِلَّهِ قَانِتِينَ

[2:239] Under unusual circumstances, you may pray while walking or riding. Once you are safe, you shall commemorate GOD as He taught you what you never knew.

(٢٣٩) فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ فَرِجَالًا أَوْ رُكْبَانًا فَإِذَا أَمِنْتُمْ فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ كَمَا عَلَّمَكُمْ مَا لَمْ تَكُونُوا تَعْلَمُونَ

Below is a word-by-word translation of the above two verses.

22381حَافِظُواGuard strictly [you all]ḥāfiẓū
22382عَلَى[over]ʿalā
22383الصَّلَوَاتِthe Contact Prayers (Salat),l-ṣalawāti
22384وَالصَّلَاةِand the Contact Prayer (Salat)wal-ṣalati
22385الْوُسْطَىٰ[the] middle,l-wus’ṭā
22386وَقُومُواand stand firm [you all]waqūmū
22387لِلَّهِfor Godlillahi
22388قَانِتِينَ[ones] with total devotion.qānitīna
22391فَإِنْAnd iffa-in
22392خِفْتُمْyou [all] fearedkhif’tum
22393فَرِجَالًاthen (pray) on foot / walkingfarijālan
22394أَوْoraw
22395رُكْبَانًاriding.ruk’bānan
22396فَإِذَاThen whenfa-idhā
22397أَمِنْتُمْyou [all] were secureamintum
22398فَاذْكُرُواthen commemorate [you all]fa-udh’kurū
22399اللَّهَGodl-laha
223910كَمَاaskamā
223911عَلَّمَكُمْHe taught you [all]ʿallamakum
223912مَاwhat
223913لَمْnotlam
223914تَكُونُواyou all [were]takūnū
223915تَعْلَمُونَ[you all] know.taʿlamūna

4:101 informs the believers that during times of war they are allowed to shorten their Salat.

[4:101] When you travel, during war, you commit no error by shortening your Contact Prayers (Salat), if you fear that the disbelievers may attack you. Surely, the disbelievers are your ardent enemies.

 وَإِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ تَقْصُرُوا مِنَ الصَّلَاةِ إِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَنْ يَفْتِنَكُمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِنَّ الْكَافِرِينَ كَانُوا لَكُمْ عَدُوًّا مُبِينًا

41011وَإِذَاAnd whenwa-idhā
41012ضَرَبْتُمْyou [all] traveledḍarabtum
41013فِيin
41014الْأَرْضِthe earthl-arḍi
41015فَلَيْسَthen notfalaysa
41016عَلَيْكُمْupon you [all]ʿalaykum
41017جُنَاحٌany blamejunāḥun
41018أَنْthatan
41019تَقْصُرُواyou [all] shortentaqṣurū
410110مِنَ[of]mina
410111الصَّلَاةِthe Contact Prayer (Salat)l-ṣalati
410112إِنْifin
410113خِفْتُمْyou [all] fearedkhif’tum
410114أَنْthatan
410115يَفْتِنَكُمُ[they] (may) harm you [all]yaftinakumu
410116الَّذِينَthose whoalladhīna
410117كَفَرُوا[they] disbelieved.kafarū
410118إِنَّIndeed,inna
410119الْكَافِرِينَthe disbelieversl-kāfirīna
410120كَانُوا[they] werekānū
410121لَكُمْfor you [all]lakum
410122عَدُوًّاan enemyʿaduwwan
410123مُبِينًاopen / ardent.mubīnan

4:102 provides the believers specific instructions on how they are to perform the Salat when they have to be on guard during war.

[4:102] When you are with them, and lead the Contact Prayer (Salat) for them, let some of you stand guard; let them hold their weapons, and let them stand behind you as you prostrate. Then, let the other group that has not prayed take their turn praying with you, while the others stand guard and hold their weapons. Those who disbelieved wish to see you neglect your weapons and your equipment, in order to attack you once and for all. You commit no error, if you are hampered by rain or injury, by putting down your weapons, so long as you remain alert. GOD has prepared for the disbelievers a shameful retribution.

 وَإِذَا كُنْتَ فِيهِمْ فَأَقَمْتَ لَهُمُ الصَّلَاةَ فَلْتَقُمْ طَائِفَةٌ مِنْهُمْ مَعَكَ وَلْيَأْخُذُوا أَسْلِحَتَهُمْ فَإِذَا سَجَدُوا فَلْيَكُونُوا مِنْ وَرَائِكُمْ وَلْتَأْتِ طَائِفَةٌ أُخْرَىٰ لَمْ يُصَلُّوا فَلْيُصَلُّوا مَعَكَ وَلْيَأْخُذُوا حِذْرَهُمْ وَأَسْلِحَتَهُمْ وَدَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْ تَغْفُلُونَ عَنْ أَسْلِحَتِكُمْ وَأَمْتِعَتِكُمْ فَيَمِيلُونَ عَلَيْكُمْ مَيْلَةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِنْ كَانَ بِكُمْ أَذًى مِنْ مَطَرٍ أَوْ كُنْتُمْ مَرْضَىٰ أَنْ تَضَعُوا أَسْلِحَتَكُمْ وَخُذُوا حِذْرَكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ أَعَدَّ لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابًا مُهِينًا

Before going through the word-by-word translation of the above verse, it is worth pointing out that many individuals who read the above verse often become confused about how this is to be understood and conducted. The reason for this confusion is that in English we do not typically utilize a distinction between the singular you and the plural you; e.g. you all. In the Arabic Quran, typically when the singular “you” is used it is in reference to the prophet, while the plural “you all”, is used is in reference to the people.

The Arabic clearly shows that the prophet when is leading the Contact Prayer (Salat) the whole time for both groups, while the believers, who are in two groups, take turns praying behind him rotating in after prostration. This way there is always a group that is standing guard and holding their weapons. For simplicity, I translated the verse specifying group #1 as the group that stood guard first, and group #2 as the group that stood guard second.

[4:102] When you (prophet) are with them (the believers during battle) and you (prophet) lead the Contact Prayer (Salat) for them (the believers during battle), then let a group stand guard (group #1) with their weapons, over them (group #2) and you (prophet). Then when they (group #2) prostrated, then let them (group #2) go behind you [all] and let another group (group #1) come forward, who has not prayed and let them (group #1) pray along with you (prophet). And let them (group #1) take their precautions and their weapons.

41021وَإِذَاAnd when [in the future]wa-idhā
41022كُنْتَyou (prophet) werekunta
41023فِيهِمْamong themfīhim
41024فَأَقَمْتَand you (prophet) ledfa-aqamta
41025لَهُمُfor themlahumu
41026الصَّلَاةَthe Contact Prayer (Salat),l-ṣalata
41027فَلْتَقُمْthen let [it] stand guardfaltaqum
41028طَائِفَةٌa groupṭāifatun
41029مِنْهُمْover themmin’hum
410210مَعَكَalong with you (prophet)maʿaka
410211وَلْيَأْخُذُواand let them takewalyakhudhū
410212أَسْلِحَتَهُمْtheir arms / weapons.asliḥatahum
410213فَإِذَاThen when [in the future]fa-idhā
410214سَجَدُواthey prostrated,sajadū
410215فَلْيَكُونُواthen let them befalyakūnū
410216مِنْfrommin
410217وَرَائِكُمْbehind you [all]warāikum
410218وَلْتَأْتِand let [it] come (forward)waltati
410219طَائِفَةٌa group –ṭāifatun
410220أُخْرَىٰanother,ukh’rā
410221لَمْ(which has) notlam
410222يُصَلُّوا[they] prayed,yuṣallū
410223فَلْيُصَلُّواthen let them prayfalyuṣallū
410224مَعَكَalong with you (prophet),maʿaka
410225وَلْيَأْخُذُواand let them takewalyakhudhū
410226حِذْرَهُمْtheir precautionsḥidh’rahum
410227وَأَسْلِحَتَهُمْand their arms / weapons.wa-asliḥatahum
410228وَدَّ[He] wishedwadda
410229الَّذِينَthose whoalladhīna
410230كَفَرُوا[they] disbelievedkafarū
410231لَوْiflaw
410232تَغْفُلُونَyou [all] neglecttaghfulūna
410233عَنْ[about]ʿan
410234أَسْلِحَتِكُمْyour arms / weaponsasliḥatikum
410235وَأَمْتِعَتِكُمْand your baggage / equipmentwa-amtiʿatikum
410236فَيَمِيلُونَso (that) they (can) assaultfayamīlūna
410237عَلَيْكُمْ[upon] you [all]ʿalaykum
410238مَيْلَةًan attackmaylatan
410239وَاحِدَةًsingle (once and for all).wāḥidatan
410240وَلَاBut (there is) nowalā
410241جُنَاحَblamejunāḥa
410242عَلَيْكُمْupon you [all]ʿalaykum
410243إِنْifin
410244كَانَit waskāna
410245بِكُمْwith you [all]bikum
410246أَذًىsuffering / harm / hamperingadhan
410247مِنْfrommin
410248مَطَرٍrainmaṭarin
410249أَوْoraw
410250كُنْتُمْyou [all] arekuntum
410251مَرْضَىٰsickmarḍā
410252أَنْthatan
410253تَضَعُواyou [all] lay downtaḍaʿū
410254أَسْلِحَتَكُمْyour arms / weapons,asliḥatakum
410255وَخُذُواbut take [you all]wakhudhū
410256حِذْرَكُمْyour precautions.ḥidh’rakum
410257إِنَّIndeed,inna
410258اللَّهَGodl-laha
410259أَعَدَّ[He] preparedaʿadda
410260لِلْكَافِرِينَfor the disbelieverslil’kāfirīna
410261عَذَابًاa punishment / retributionʿadhāban
410262مُهِينًاhumiliating / shameful.muhīnan

Did The Messenger Prostrate

Some argue that according to 4:102, the messenger did not prostrate with the believers when they were performing their Salat. The supposed claim for this argument is that the verse only indicates that “they prostrated” and does not specifically mention the messenger prostrating, but this can easily be disproved.

Firstly, the absence of stating explicitly that the messenger prostrated does not mean that he did not prostrate with the group. At best this can only be insinuated but, as we will see below, it is clear that the messenger was part of the group that prostrated.

Secondly, the verse states that the messenger was the one who was leading the Salat for the believers, this would mean that he was performing all the actions of the Salat, while each of the two groups would join him before and after the prostration.

Before looking at the Arabic grammar it is worth pointing out the three forms that are used in the verse to address the various parties.

  • the singular “you” is used when addressing only the prophet with the suffix تَ / ta or كَ / ka
  • them/their is used when addressing each group or both groups with the suffix هُمُ
  • the plural “you” is used when addressing the prophet and the group with the suffix كُمْ / kum

So let’s look at these uses in the context of the verse. We see in the below snippet, the singular “you” is used when addressing the messenger, and “them” is used for the rest of the believers.

41021وَإِذَاAnd when [in the future]wa-idhā
41022كُنْتَyou (prophet) werekunta
41023فِيهِمْamong themfīhim
41024فَأَقَمْتَand you (prophet) ledfa-aqamta
41025لَهُمُfor themlahumu
41026الصَّلَاةَthe Contact Prayer (Salat),l-ṣalata

In the next section, we see that the first group of believers are to stand guard over the other group as well as the prophet while they do their Salat.

41027فَلْتَقُمْthen let [it] stand guardfaltaqum
41028طَائِفَةٌa groupṭāifatun
41029مِنْهُمْover themmin’hum
410210مَعَكَalong with you (prophet)maʿaka
410211وَلْيَأْخُذُواand let them takewalyakhudhū
410212أَسْلِحَتَهُمْtheir arms / weapons.asliḥatahum

Then the verse states that after “they prostrated”, that the other group comes forward to pray with the prophet. Here is where individuals claim that the “they” is only in reference to the group and not the prophet, but if we just look at the next couple of words we see that the prophet was included in this “they” because it uses the term “behind you [all]” and not “behind [them]” which indicates that the prophet was among those prostrating.

410213فَإِذَاThen when [in the future]fa-idhā
410214سَجَدُواthey prostrated,sajadū
410215فَلْيَكُونُواthen let them befalyakūnū
410216مِنْfrommin
410217وَرَائِكُمْbehind you [all]warāikum
410218وَلْتَأْتِand let [it] come (forward)waltati
410219طَائِفَةٌa group –ṭāifatun

If we look at the grammar we see that it uses the suffix “you all” كُمْ (the plural you) in the word وَرَائِكُمْ / warāikum / “behind you [all]”. If the prostration did not include the messenger then it would have used the term وَرَاءَهُمْ / warāihum / “behind them” using the suffix هُمْ (hum / them), but since it uses the term وَرَائِكُمْ / warāikum / “behind you [all]” this indicates that the messenger was included with those who were prostrating.

Below is a color-coded translation to help clarify this point:

  • Group #1 is the group that stood guard first
  • Group #2 is the group that stood guard second

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