The Meaning of Salah (Durood) and Salam

[By Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ Uthmani (Rahimahullah)]

The word: Salah is used in the Arabic language to convey the sense of: Mercy (rahmah), prayer (du’a) and praise (madh and thana). The Salah attributed to Allah Ta’ala in the cited verse means His sending of mercy, but Salah from the angels denotes their prayer for him, and the sense of Salah (durood) from common believers is a combination of dua’ (prayer) and thana’ (praise). Most commentators have given these very meanings and Imam Al-Bukhari has reported from Abu’l-‘Aliyah that the Salah of Allah Ta’ala means the honor accorded to him and the praise showered on him before the angels. As for the honor bestowed on him by Allah Ta’ala within this mortal world, it translates as the high rank he was blessed with when, on many an occasion, his mention was joined with the mention of Allah Ta’ala in adhan (the initial call for prayers) and iqamah (the call announcing the immediate start of the prayer) and elsewhere, and that Allah Ta’ala made the religion brought by him spread and prevail throughout the world, and that He enjoined upon all people to keep acting in accordance with the Shari’ah brought by him right through the last day of al-Qiyamah and, along with it, He has undertaken to keep his Shari’ah stand perennially protected. Then, as for the honor bestowed upon him in the Hereafter, it can be said that his station was made to be the most exalted of the entire creation and, at a time when no prophet or angel could dare intercede on behalf of anyone, it was right at that time that he was blessed with the celebrated station of intercession called:(Al-ma’qam-ul-Mahmud: Praised Station).

Given the interpretation that Allah’s Salah in favour of the Holy Prophet ﷺ means praise, someone may raise a doubt that, according to the narrations of Hadith, Salah and Salam are also offered to the family and companions of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. If so, how can anyone other than him be made to share in the honor bestowed and praise done by Allah Ta’ala? This doubt has been answered in Ruh-ul-Ma’ani etc. by saying that the degrees of such honor and praise are many. The Holy Prophet ﷺ has it at its highest, while his family and companions and believers in general are included with him only to a certain degree.

As for the word: Salam, it is an infinitive in the sense of as-salamah and means staying in peace. And As-salamu-‘alaik conveniently taken as ‘peace on you’ means: May the state of peace and security from losses, defects and calamities be with you. And since, according to the rule of Arabic grammar, this is not the occasion to use the word: ‘ala: on, upon, but since the word ‘Salam’ implies praise, hence the word: ‘ala is appended with it.

And some other early commentators have taken the word: Salam here to mean the sacred Being of Allah Ta’ala, because Salam is among the beautiful names of Allah Ta’ala. According to this view the sentence will mean that Allah is enough to take care of your security and well-being.

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