Al Baqarah [2:238]
Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer and stand before Allah , devoutly obedient.
Which is the middle prayer meant in the ayah?
One scholar says it’s very similar to Ramadhan, with regards to laylatul qadr. We are told that worship on laylatul qadr is better than worshipping of a thousand nights but we are not told when the night of laylatul qadr is. So we end up seeking it and praying all of the last ten nights.So, in this ayah, the middle prayer is not specified, and in the same way, we will end up praying all 5 prayers in order to seek or secure that middle prayer.
The significance of the word حَافِظُوا
حفظ – to safeguard, protect, watch over something
حَافِظُوا – this is in the form of mufaa’alah, indicates an action taking place on both sides
The mufassireen says, here, Allah puts an emphasis ; be extremely particular, protective, concerned about your prayer. There is a difference between just praying and know how to pray properly. First you learn how to pray, then you know the proper procedures of salah, then you observe the proper times of salah, then you have concentraion and devotion and when all this is done, ‘just praying’ doesn’t quite cut it anymore for you.
In a hadith: There will be a person on the Day of Judgment who have done lots of good deeds but in his social interactions, he didn’t behave appropritately, he was rude and abrasive to this person, hit this person, curse that person etc, and these people have lodged complaints against him. So Allah would command the angels to distribute this man’s good deed.
Part of observing properly is to make sure you’re also observing other aspects of the deen properly so you’re not just ending up wasting your good deeds. In being watchful over salah, it’s like watching over your valuables. A store owner would go through the process of hiring an employee to watch over his store. In this process, he would interview the potential employee, do a background check, and when the person is all hired, the store owner would install a security camera. All this in order to watch over his valuables in the store. That is how we should be mindful over our salah.
The prophet saw used was very easy going at home; joking, talking, and laughing, but whenever salah time would come in, he would be like a stranger and would have no time for anyone. His focus right there and then would only be for salah. This is the way we should be watchful over our salah.
In the social aspect, if we observe salah properly it automatically leads us away from engaging in things that are evil, socially and personally.
Where is this ayah placed?
The Quran is the word of Allah, It is divinely structured. It’s not accidental. Each ayat is placed where it is on purpose. Here, we look at the ayaat before and after this ayah. This ayah (238) and 239 talks about salah.
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.
The ayah before and after these ayah about salah talk about divorce.
Ayah before it ; Al Baqarah [2:237]:
And if you divorce them before you have touched them and you have already specified for them an obligation, then [give] half of what you specified – unless they forego the right or the one in whose hand is the marriage contract foregoes it. And to forego it is nearer to righteousness. And do not forget graciousness between you. Indeed Allah , of whatever you do, is Seeing.
Ayah after it ; AlBaqarah [2:240]:
And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind – for their wives is a bequest: maintenance for one year without turning [them] out. But if they leave [of their own accord], then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable way. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.
In this instance, two people are having difficulty in their relationship to the extent that they are considering divorce, and Allah provides a remedy.
- Be gracious. generosity will help to remove evil sentiments between each other.
- Turn to Salat. Our relationship with others go bad when our relationship with allah is bad. The scholars used to say, “Repair your relationship with allah and allah will repair your relationship with everyone else.”
This is a rebuke to the couple and warning to all of us. When a person neglects the rights of allah, he cannot be trusted to honor the rights of people. When the taqwa to Allah is gone from a person, he won’t care about anyone else. Umar radhiallahu anhu used to say,
“When a person begins neglecting his salah he will become even more neglectful of everything else.”
If a person can’t be good to Allah how can he be expected to be good to anyone else? Umar radhiallahu anhu used to pick as leaders and chiefs, people whom he observed were very particular of their salah (even if he is a freed slave). Oonce someone protested against an election of a freed slave, and Umar responded by saying,
“I see this person observing his salah. He reads quran everyday with a proper schedule. This person can take care of anything.”
Salah will discipline you. Imagine a person who prays five times a day as soon as the time comes in, with proper etiquette of salah, in the masjid if possible. If you have discipline in this, there is NOTHING you can’t do.
How can salah improve a marriage?
Scholars have derived qualities that salah produces in people:
- salah helps to discipline a person. It makes a person adapt to a schedule (important in maintaining a family where you have to maintain a schedule in order to fulfill everyone’s rights)
- salah refreshes a person, revitalizes a person’s spirit, mind, and soul. Humans are humans. Couples do start to get frustrated and grow tired of each other after a while. Salah is a way to refresh ourselves. The prophet saw said, “The coolness of my eyes has been put in salah.” The analogy here is that of being in a desert where you have the hot desert wind beating at you every now and again. Imagine splashing cold water in your eyes. it rejuvenates you. Salah revitalizes us so we’re able to deal with day to day situations in family life. In order to connect with family members, we first have to connect with Allah.
- salah brings about humility in a person. He puts his forehead on the ground, subjects himself before allah, and this removes the arrogance from a person. One thing that makes marriages difficult is pride and arrogance. Performing salah properly makes us humble, which in turn will help us in our personal relationships.
- in salah we seek forgiveness from Allah. We accept ourselves as criminals, we beg Allah for mercy and forgiveness. When we remind ourselves of how sinful we are, it becomes easier for us to forgive others as well. Forgiveness is essential in any relationship.