Why do Ismailis Pray Dua instead of Namaz like many other Muslims?


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Source: Ismaili Gnosis

The prayer-form that most Muslims use today – called Namaz or Salah – was not taught by the Prophet Muhammad himself; it was actually derived and interpreted by the Sunni jurists during the first 200 years after the Prophet and validated by the Sunni legal tool of ijma or “consensus of the scholars.” Whatever prayer-form the Prophet Muhammad actually taught and used is not known today and scholars can only find a few minute details about it from the Qur’an. For example, historians know that the Prophet’s prayer-form included recitation of some Qur’an verses and it included bowing and prostrating. The Qur’an also states that the Pagan Arabs before Prophet Muhammad already prayed in the same way as Prophet Muhammad’s community, except that the Prophet did some of the same actions in a different order – this is reported in the earliest Tafsir of Muqatil b. Sulayman on Qur’an 96:19 which talks about how the Pagans used to perform sujud, qiyam and ruku’ in a different sequence from the Prophet Muhammad. All of this is based on historical analysis using the Quran as a historical document.

The procedures of what is today called Namaz or Salah as practiced by most Sunni Muslims are the result of the Sunni Jurists and Ulama interpreting the Qur’an and Sunni Hadith corpus. Even then, a large number of Muslims such as certain Sufi groups in South Asia, the esoteric Shia groups like the Ahl-i Haqq and Alawis and Alevis in the Middle East, and other Muslim groups do not practice the Namaz as the mandatory prayer-form. The Ismaili Muslims follow a living Imam in direct lineal descent from Prophet Muhammad and Imam ‘Ali b. Abi Talib because the Ismaili Imam is the rightful bearer of the authority of Prophet Muhammad, so it matters little how the rest of the Muslim Ummah prays; nor does it matter precisely how the Prophet Muhammad and his Community prayed. The Ismaili Imam prescribes and authorizes the best and most correct method of prayer in every time-period of history. 

This model of continuous Divine Guidance reinterpreted in every time is the same model of Divine Guidance used by Prophet Muhammad when he recited the Qur’an to the Community and gave guidance. The Prophetic-Qur’anic Guidance model is a model of CONTINUOUS, PROGRESSIVE, and RESPONSIVE guidance – that means, whatever the situation of the early Community, both the Qur’anic guidance recited by the Prophet and the Prophet’s own guidance on all matters including ritual practices would CHANGE and UPDATE and EVOLVE as new situations arose and circumstances changed – and this is an undeniable historical fact proven from the Qur’an itself:

  • The number of prayers changed from 2 times in Makkah to 3 times in Madinah;
  • The rules on drinking alcohol changed at least 3-4 times;
  • The guidance for warfare changed several times as the circumstances changed;
  • The practices of fasting – how to fast and when to fast – changed at least 2-3 times.

The Quran and Prophet were changing and updating the Divine Guidance to the Community in an ongoing manner as times and circumstances changed – and all this happened only over 23 years. The Prophet Muhammad KNEW that Divine Guidance would have to continue after his death – that is why he said that the Kitab of God (meaning Divine Guidance) and his Ahl al-Bayt would never separate from one another and told the Community to follow Imam Ali as the Mawla (Master) because the Imams continue giving Divine Guidance to the Community that is also CONTINUOUS, PROGRESSIVE, and RESPONSIVE. The Qur’an even says that the Imams in the periods before Prophet Muhammad had the Divine authority to establish the form of prayer for the Believers:

And We made them Imams guiding by Our command. And We inspired to them the doing of good deeds, to establish the prayer, and giving of zakah; and they were worshippers of Us
– Qur’an 21:73

“By the institution of the Ulu’l-Amr – who can be interpreted as Imam and Caliph – and by placing obedience to the ulu’l-Amr immediately after that to God and Prophet, he ensured that the Faith would ever remain living, extending, developiing with science, knowledge, art, and industry… If, rightly, the Muslims have kept till now to the forms of prayer and fasting at the time of the Prophet, it should not be forgotten that it is not the forms of prayer and fasting that have been commanded, but the facts, and we are entitled to adjust the forms to the facts of life as circumstances changed. It is the same Prophet who advises his followers ever to remain Ibnu’l-Waqt (i.e. children of the time and period in which they were on earth), and it must be the natural ambition of every Muslim to practice and represent his Faith according to the standard of the Waqt or space-time.”

Today Mawlana Hazar Imam had made the prayer-form of Dua and not Namaz/Salah to be the obligatory prayer-form for Ismaili Muslims, because this is the Divine Guidance that has been ordained for the Believers in the present day and age.  It is true that in the past, the Ismailis or some Ismailis prayed the Namaz as the main prayer but in the era of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, all of this was changed and the Jamats of Syria, Iran, and Central Asia all were commanded to recite the Ismaili Du’a as the mandatory prayer-form three times per day.

The fact is, the Namaz as practiced by most Sunni Muslims and the Dua of the Ismaili Tariqah are not only different in their gestures, actions, and content, but these two prayer forms are not even used in the same context. The Namaz belongs to the category of Shariah, it is unform in terms of the gestures not the recited content, and it can be done by and in front of anyone. The Ismaili Dua is part of the Tariqah category ( read about what is a Tariqah here), it is uniform in its recited content, it is done 3 not 5 times per day, and it is a private prayer when it is practiced. When one deeply examines the Namaz/Salah and the Ismaili Du’a, one will find that the content of the Ismaili Dua is the ta’wil or esoteric dimension of the gestures of the Namaz/Salah, as explained here.

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The Muslim Times’ Chief Editor’s comments

The above details may be hard to swallow and digest for the majority of the Sunni Muslims. But, there is another angle to look at these details. The prayers and postures may be common for Salat or Namaz for the Sunni Muslims but the thoughts, meditations, pleading, beseeching  and emotions that race through the mind are not only different from individual to individual but different in the same person from day to day.

So, let us not lose sight of the bigger picture that Salat or Namaz is individual’s effort to connect with the Infinite, the Almighty, the Omniscient, Who is Subtle and all we know may not care for the petty details or differences.

Please review our vast literature on meditation, from the perspective of different religions and the Western discipline of psychology.

Categories: Arab World, Asia, Meditation, Sectarianism

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10 replies

  1. Thank God for technology of internet open million Muslim’s eyes that they are many way to practice Shalat.

    ==It is true that in the past, the Ismailis or some Ismailis prayed the Namaz as the main prayer but in the era of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, all of this was changed and the Jamats of Syria, Iran, and Central Asia all were commanded to recite the Ismaili Du’a as the mandatory prayer-form three times per day.==

    Most Muslim have been brainwashed by the ancient sunni clerics interpretation of shalat. Ismail followers do not follow the sunni interpretstion.

    I urge young Muslim do not stop seeking the truth, they are many interpretation of Al Quran or Islam among the ancient clerics . Each sect of Islam claim they are the true Islam.

    I do prayer 5 times a day, but I do not mention the name of Prophet Muhammad and Ibrahim. Why?
    Because I believe if I mention the name of prophet, I do not want to associate Allah with Prophet in worship Allah. I will fall into syrick. I worship in Shalat only Allah alone.
    I do not want to worship Prophet Muhammad and Ibrahim.

    All our ❤️
    Please do not delate my respond, love and respect all people even different belief. God bless you.

    • I feel sorry for poor Somi, who does not understand the difference between worshiping Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and seeking Allah blessings for him (sas)…

  2. For the Muslims to make peace with each other and love each other the focus has to change to human rights in our mutual interactions in the public sphere and leave belief and ritual to the individuals. Otherwise there does not seem to be an easy way for the majority Sunnis to respect and love the Shiites, Ismailis and the Ahmadi Muslims.

    If in the West we can coexist with the Christians and the Jews we need to fast find ways to accept and love each other despite some of our religious differences.

    • @ Zia— you are absolutely right—leave belief and ritual to individuals how he or she honor or glorify God.
      When I ask a Muslim, why do you pray 5 times a day, he answer, my Cleric or my parent told me. This Muslim never seek the truth. He become bigot/ fanatic if some one tell him you are wrong.
      Millions Muslim follow his parent or his imam. He fall into syrick, because he believe in on Imam not God alone.

      Thank you Zia, you are in my boat.God bless you.
      All our ❤️

    • Ah, dear brother Zia, what a breeze of fresh air ! Promoting mutual understanding and respect !

  3. I urge Muslim around the world please seek the truth if Islam. And investigate other belief among secte of Islamz

    Why Ismailis pray 3 times a day?
    Why Muslim follow the sunnah differently
    We cannot find the truth if we never try seeking the truth.
    Do not place your belief on parents and Imam, place your belief on God ( The word of God)
    All our ❤️

    • Somi: here you are urging Muslims around the world to investigate other beliefs. And when they do you abuse them like the extremist you are.

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