Is it shirk (polytheism) to say “as-salamu alayka ayyuhannabiyyu” while reciting at-Tahiyyatu in prayer?

The Details of the Question

- Regarding the Tahiyyat we recite in prayer, the following statement is present: “O Prophet! Greetings! May Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon you.” The following is written in an article:

- “Prayer (Salah) is a deed of worship that is addressed to Allah alone, and in which this supplication is expressed wholeheartedly and bodily in awe. Therefore, nothing else is prayed to besides Allah in prayer and supplication. Nothing but Allah and no one else is addressed. From takbir to salutation, the addressee is only Allah. No one can be addressed or called out during prayer, even if it is a Prophet.”

- Again, in the same article, the following is stated about the phrase “ASSALAMU ALAYKA AYYUHANNABIYYU”: “The Prophet is greeted as if he is in front of us. Then, what is the Prophet’s place in a face-to-face dialogue with Allah?” What is your view regarding the issue?

- In addition; “(4) Reading Tahiyyat in Qa’da (175) Abdullah Ibn Masud (Radiyallahu Anh) said: “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) taught me tashahhud while my hand was in his hand. He taught the following tashahhud as if he were teaching a surah of the Quran: ‘At-Tahiyyatu Lillahi was-Salawatu wat-Tayyibatu, As-Salamu Alayka Ayyuhan-Nabiyyu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu, As-Salamu Alayna wa Ala Ibadillahis-Salihin. Ashhadu alla ilaha illallah wa Ashhadu Anna Muhammadan Abduhu wa Rasuluh.’ We used to say this prayer like this when the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was among us, and after he passed away, we started saying ‘As-Salamu Alan-Nabiyyi’…” (Bukhari 6208, Muslim 402/55, Abu Awana 2/228, Abu Dawud 968, Nasai 1169, Tirmidhi 289, Ibn Majah 899, Bayhaqi 2/138, Ibn Abi Shayba 1/326/5, Albani Irwa 321)

- Is there any religious or religious objection to saying ‘As-Salamu Alan-Nabiyyi’ as mentioned above, instead of the “ASSALAMU ALAYKA AYYUHANNABIYYU” in at-Tahiyyatu inside or outside the prayer? Is it permissible?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

- We cannot arrange worship according to people’s own ideas. We did not learn how to perform prayers directly from Allah/the Quran. We learned the prayer from the Prophet (pbuh). As a matter of fact, we learned at-Tahiyyatu that we are reading as Hanafis from the Prophet (pbuh) through Ibn Masud and at-Tahiyyatu that we are reading as Shafiis through Ibn Abbas.

So, “No one but Allah is addressed in the prayer” is a subjective and arbitrary thought because we do not know that our prophet said such a thing in any hadith about Tahiyyat.

- Moreover, in both of the statements of Ibn Masud, “We used to say assalamu alayka ayyuhan-nabiyyu” when the Messenger of Allah was alive and we said “assalamu alan-nabiyyu” after his death, the Prophet (pbuh) is addressed. The difference between the two expressions is that one addressed the addressee (second person), and the other addresses the absentee (third person). Even if it is the third person - according to these hadiths - it is inevitable that someone other than Allah takes part in the prayer.

- In addition, the phrase “Peace be upon us and the righteous servants of Allah” in Tahiyyat includes both us as the performers of the prayer and other servants. Accordingly, it is clear that the judgment “There is no place for anyone but Allah in prayer” is wrong.

Moreover, it is sunnah to pray at the end of Tahiyyat. It is a known fact that “Rabbana atina” and “Rabbanaghfirli”, in which include our parents, and similar prayers, are accepted unanimously by the Islamic world and are continued to be said - based on the hadiths.

- The main issue here is to pick up some texts in order to defend Wahhabis’ way of thinking. It is the following the wrong thought: “After the Prophet died, he no longer hears anyone. And it is shirk (polytheism) to address dead people like that…”

According to the scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah, prophets have a rank above martyrs. As all the deceased continue their spiritual life in the realm of barzakh, prophets and martyrs have a higher level of life than others. So, in this way, we send greetings and prayers to those who are in the life of barzakh.

- If something is shirk in prayer, it is also shirk outside of prayer. If the address to the Prophet by saying “May Allah’s peace be upon you” in prayer is shirk, it means when a person addresses his deceased father by saying “May Allah’s peace, forgiveness and mercy be upon you” must also be shirk because he is dead too.

As you can see, this claim is too nonsensical to take seriously.

- We should not forget that the factor of death is not an element of polytheism. Worshipping someone’s dead body is polytheism just as it is polytheism to worship one’s living body.

- There are narrations showing that the Prophet (pbuh) is at a different level of life from other people after his death:

- According to a narration from Abu Hurayra, our Prophet (pbuh) said:

“When someone greets me, Allah will return my spirit to me, and I will receive his/her greetings and answer with greetings.” (See Abu Dawud, Manasik, 100)

- In another hadith narration from Abu Hurayra, our Prophet (pbuh) said:

“… Send blessings to me because no matter where you are, your blessings reach me.(Abu Dawud, ibid)

- According to the scholars who explained the hadith “...Increase your blessings (salawat) to me on Friday because your blessings are presented to me…” included in Abu Dawud and other hadith sources, the Prophet (pbuh) rejoices at the good deeds of his ummah and is saddened by his bad deeds. According to what Ibn Hajar al-Makki states, all prophets are alive in their graves; they pray but they do not eat or drink; they lead a kind of angelic life. Bayhaqi wrote a special book regarding the issue. (For more information, see Awnul-Mabud, the commentary of the hadiths in question)

- We can see some clues that will shed light on this issue in the statements made in a question-answer style by Badiuzzaman Said Nursi:

“If you ask: Since he is God’s Beloved, what need does he have of all these blessings and supplications?

“The answer: This Being (UWBP) is concerned with the happiness of all his community and shares in the good fortune of each of its members. So too, he is disturbed by all their tribulations. For sure, the degrees of his own happiness and perfection are endless, but since he desires ardently the numberless kinds of happiness for the numberless members of his community for an unlimited time, and is saddened at the numberless kinds of their wretchedness, he is surely worthy of and needy for endless blessings and supplications and mercy.” (See Mektubat, Yirmi Dördüncü Mektup, Birinci Zeyl)

- However, according to some scholars, directly addressing the Prophet (pbuh) is a situation that reflects the state of mind of the person performing the prayer. It is almost as if a person is in the presence of Allah in prayer and when he realizes that the occasion for attaining such an honor is the prophet, he directly says “O Prophet! May Allah’s peace be upon you” (in the literal art of compliment, which is often used in the Quran) due to his strong respect, love and devotion to the Prophet and because it is a moment when he feels as if the Prophet is there next to him.” (See Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, 2/314)

Scholars who consider such instances of wisdoms say, “It is not permissible to address other people in prayer, but addressing the Prophet is peculiar to him.” (see Ibn Hajar, ibid)

- We should also state that, it is permissible to say “as-salamu alan-nabiyyu” instead of “as-salamu alayka ayyuhan-nabiyyu” in Tahiyyat. (See Ibn Hajar, ibid)

Note: It is the most ancient version of ignorance to think that it is wrong to use the phrase as-salamu alayka ayyuhan-nabiyu”, which has been used by all mujtahid imams, millions of scholars and saints for fifteen centuries in Tahiyyat and which is mentioned in sound hadiths, and to accuse them of ignorance, and even to label them as polytheists, even if unknowingly.

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