Praise be to God! There is no other god except God. In the clarification about places of worship, one of the burning issues there was the prayer in the masjid while others are also there praying. It was concluded there that if the congregation is not doing the movements simultaneously, then we do not join them in prayer. The clarification does not mention the word “Sunnah”, but actually that is what it is in practice when you see people, in all of the Muslim world, the Sunnah prayer in the masjid is done INDIVIDUALLY, and the so called obligatory (Farz) prayer, which is like our contact prayer, is done together simultaneously. So, based on the clarification about places of worship, people can make the right decision, even if they don’t know what Sunnah is. The clarification simply solves that issue by saying that if they are not bowing and prostrating together simultaneously, don’t join them. The other people almost always minded their own business, and a lot of them actually do not do the Sunnah prayer either, even though they might consider themselves Sunnis. But, let’s actually analyze “the Sunnah” a little bit, not from the religious perspective, but from the historical perspective. So, what the Sunni Muslims have is what they call the confirmed Sunnah prayer. What they mean by that is that they have a common agreement among all Sunni groups about what it is, while the unconfirmed Sunnah prayers are those where each group has a different version, and the other group does not agree with that. Whether it is confirmed Sunnah or unconfirmed Sunnah, they do not call it Salat, or Contact Prayer. They just call it Sunnah prayer. Anyway, let’s just focus on their so called “confirmed Sunnah prayer”, and analyze it from the historical perspective, not the religious perspective. The so called “Sunnah prayer”, is most likely a human relic which had its reasons in the past but now it is more damaging than beneficial. It’s not a Contact prayer which God ordered Muhammad to do. And actually, even in their Hadith which supposedly tells them how Muhammad was taught by Gabriel how to do the Contact Prayer, in that Hadith the Sunnah is not mentioned at all, and there is no mention at all in the Hadiths of Muhammad teaching people how to do the Sunnah prayer. He never taught them that, even according to their own sources. But then how did it emerge? Well, according to the Hadiths, they saw Muhammad do it, and they imitated him, even though Muhammad never told them to do it. So, the question is if Muhammad did it, (and we are not necessarily concluding that he did it), but if he did it, and yet he did not tell them to do it, he must have had other non-religious reasons. For example, when a lot of people joined the mosque in Medina and it became overcrowded with people, Muhammad, being a very smart man, noticed that whether people get up to go home or whether some of them wait in line at the mosque for a while, it takes them just as long to get outside of the mosques. Typically, it takes the people about five minutes to get outside of the mosques when the mosque is full, since there are line bottlenecks at the door where people have to find their sandals or shoes and put them on, and that prevents others from going out, even if they are ready. So, Muhammad, being a genius, instead decided to use the time to worship God for extra credit, knowing that he cannot leave, even if he wants to, knowing full well that a lot of the people would see him and do the same thing. This would manage the crowd in such a way where people would wait inside the mosque instead of waiting just outside the door of the mosque. If people waited just outside the door of the mosque, it would be less comfortable for them, because at night, it would be dark, and they would especially not be able to find their sandals because of the crowd, and darkness. And during the day, waiting outside, it would be extremely hot during the noon time in Arabia. So, Muhammad chose to use that extra unused time for beneficial purposes, to worship God, and manage the crowd at the same time. This is why the so called “Sunnah” was only done in dark or very hot times. There is no confirmed Sunnah for the Afternoon time, when it is neither dark, neither too hot. Of course, inside the mosque there were candles during the night, and it was cooler during the day compared to the outside. But outside, it would be completely dark at night and without street lights, and it would be hot during the middle of the day. And this idea matches with the so called “confirmed Sunnah” prayers. They consist of 2 Rakats before the Dawn prayer, because before the dawn prayer, it would be darker outside, and after the Dawn prayer, it would be brighter, and there was no need to manage the crowd after the Dawn prayer. At Noon when it was too hot to wait outside of the mosque, he would do 4 Rakahs before the Noon prayer, and 2 Rakahs after the Noon Contact Prayer. As you can see, it was too hot before and after Noon prayer, so it made sense for Muhammad to implement this crowd management system when people come in the mosque and also when they leave at Noon. Of course, the Afternoon prayer does not have any confirmed Sunna Rakats. This is because, as we said, during the afternoon it would cool a little bit, and also it would not be dark. It would be a nice time for people to wait outside rather than inside the mosque. They could chit chat outside of the mosque while waiting in line, and so on and the weather would be nice to just hang around. For the Evening Prayer, it would be bright enough towards the beginning of the Evening Prayer, so it was fine for people to wait a little bit outside of the mosque to get in, but when they left, it would be much darker. So, the Evening Confirmed Sunnah was done by Muhammad after the Evening Contact Prayer. Please bear in mind that the evenings are shorter Arabia, because the sun sets at a more direct angle, and people also recited the Quran to memorize it at the mosque back then, and this means that they would pretty much go in the mosque just after sunset and leave probably about half an hour later, when it was much darker. For the Night Prayer, a lot of people would actually stay at the mosque from the Sunset Time, since it would be very close in time with the Sunset Prayer in Arabia, and then there was no need to introduce a Sunnah Prayer before the Night Prayer, although some schools of thought do have a Sunnah Prayer before the Night Prayer, which might indicate that Muhammad sometimes did it and sometimes did not do it, depending on how many people stayed at the mosque, and after the night prayer, when it was definitely dark, all “schools” of traditional scholars agree that Muhammad did do a Sunnah Prayer after the Night Contact Prayer. So, as you can see all the Sunnah prayers match with the idea that Muhammad was simply trying to use his time efficiently, and not waste his time, and the people’s time by waiting in line, but rather use that time to worship God, and since this prayer was voluntary, not all people would do it, which means that some of them left and some waited, and so on, gradually, until the whole group left the mosque or entered the mosque. However, Muhammad never told the people to do the Sunnah Prayers. He simply did himself, if he did it, and most of them copied him. He did tell them however not to write it down, because he knew that the circumstances might not be the same in other times and places. But centuries later they eventually did write them down, without his permission. And in the beginning the purpose of those written books was to be used as books of history, not as religious books, and then soon whenever people had religious arguments with each other, they would start to use the books of history to prove their arguments, and thus effectively turning the books of history into religious books, and this is how the world most likely ended up with the so called “Sunnah Prayers”. So, the Sunnah Prayers were most likely Muhammad’s human solution for crowd management. He was acting like a city mayor in that circumstance, not like God’s messenger. He was only God’s messenger when delivered the Quran. However, no matter how good his solution was as a city mayor for that time, his solution was still a human solution, and eventually would not apply to other circumstances. What Muhammad could not predict is that there will come a time when his crowd management solution would absolutely not be necessary, and here is why. Today, it’s extremely unlikely to find a mosque where it is completely dark around it outside. All the crowded mosques are within cities, where there are street lights outside, and there are mosque lights outside. We have electricity now. Also, most of the mosques are not in Arabia, so there is no reason to try to avoid the noon heat. Actually, it is healthier in most cases around the world to wait a little bit more outside rather than inside, if you have to wait, since we do need some sun tanning these days, vitamin D, and a lot of mosques are usually cold inside. So, we are neither suffering from darkness, neither from the sun heat, in most cases, and Muhammad’s crowd management solutions are not necessary. If they happened, they were meant only for those specific circumstances. But the Quran applies to all circumstances. The Quran was meant for all times, while Muhammad’s on-the-spot solutions as a city mayor were only meant for the exact time and exact place. Actually, the way the people are implementing those human solutions now are doing more harm than benefit. For example, they waste their time doing a prayer in Arabic when they don’t understand anything, and then they remain ignorant, and then they will waste the time of the religious leaders later by asking them question about what the Quran says about certain issues. It would have been more efficient for them to read the Quran in their own language during that time, and in that way save the time of their religious leaders, and everybody would be better off. This solution was not possible during Muhammad’s time since most people did not have a copy of the Quran. But nowadays, we all have a copy of the Quran in our smartphones, which we keep constantly with us. So, because people disobeyed Muhammad when he told them not to write from him anything except the Quran, the circumstances changed in such a way that those things which they wrote about him, even if they were true, because they wrote them without his permission, they turn out to be more harmful than useful today. The Sunnah is not helping with effective crowd management today at all, while at the same time it is only keeping the people more ignorant, since they are wasting precious time, which they could use to properly understand the word of God.
Actually, even their hadith books where they base the so called “extra voluntary prayers” they tell us how Muhammad was afraid that the people might misuse his solution.
In the Sahih Muslim Hadith, Book 4, Number 1666, it says:
“’Aisha reported that the Messenger of God prayed one night in the mosque and people also prayed along with him. He then prayed on the following night and there were many persons there. Then on the third or fourth night many people gathered there for the prayer after the obligatory prayer, but the Messenger of God did not come out to do it. When it was morning he said: I saw what you were doing, but I stopped coming out because I feared that this prayer might become obligatory for you…”
So, as you can see even Muhammad was afraid that they might turn it into a religious ritual, when he actually was just doing it as a time management solution, and a personal thing, in a world without clocks, without proper lighting, and in the hot desert circumstances at noon, and when people did not have copies of the Quran with them. But none of these circumstances are true for us today. We all have clocks in our smartphones, and we know exactly when the prayer will be done, and we can prepare even beforehand and go there in a more gradual crowd. During Muhammad’s time, they would realize that the prayer time has come when the call for prayer was made, and then all of them at the same time would go to the Mosque, and if there was no indirect crowd management system, it would be inefficient. Nowadays, we have clocks, and some people will already be there 5 minutes earlier and so one, because they have a clock and know in advance exactly when the call for prayer will be made, and actually they would rather wait in line outside to make an urgent phone call about whatever they left unfinished at work or something like that.
Anyway, this is only a historical analysis of this issue. This is not a religious approach. The religious approach is this. It’s not in the Quran, we don’t have to follow it. Simple. But, the so called “Hadith books” can be used as historical books, not as religious books. Contrary to what some people might think, Rashad Khalifa did use Hadith books, but only for historical purposes. For example, in Appendix 25, Rashad says, “While Hadith is forbidden as a source of religious teachings, it can be a useful source of history. We can derive a lot of information about historical events and local customs and traditions during the early centuries of Islam.”
So, in this sermon, we analyzed from the historical perspective how the Sunna Prayer most likely emerged, and why it is useless today, because those circumstances do not apply today. However, because history is one of the least exact sciences, we should never use it to reach religious conclusions, because historical sources are always doubtful, and even if they happen to be true, the circumstances are always at least a little bit different from today. But anyway, the historical sources are always doubtful, so why should we follow doubtful sources, when we have the confirmed truthful source, the Quran? And actually, imitating Muhammad is not the same as following Muhammad. Imitating means doing what he did, even if it does not apply in our circumstances, while following Muhammad means using the Quranic commandments in all cases where he used Quranic commandments, and using our own reason in all cases where he used his own reason. That is true following. Imitating is not following.