Quranic Reflection No. 350 Āyat 20:132 – Enjoining salāt to the family

وَأْمُرْ أَهْلَكَ بِالصَّلَاةِ وَاصْطَبِرْ عَلَيْهَا
wa’mur ahlaka bis-salāti was-tabir ‘alayhā
And enjoin prayer on your family and be steadfast on it.
(Sūrat Taha, No. 20, Āyat 132)

In this verse Allah tells the Holy Prophet to enjoin salāt on his family or some say on his people. The verse was revealed in Makkah and commentators believe that the word ‘ahl’ here refers to Bibi Khadija (a) and Imam Ali (a) who were with him at that time. Some scholars believe it also refers to those who were close to him – his followers. The commandment of salāt had already been placed in the early years of Islam. Imam al-Bāqir (a) says: Allah commanded the Prophet to preach to his family to show their position so people would know they had an exclusive status with Him. He first preached to them along with the other people and then to them as a special group (‘Abdul Ali Arūssī, Tafsīr Nūruth Thaqalayn, v. 3, p. 308).

Reminding the family of the importance of salāt is one of the ways of following the Quranic command of aqimis-salāt, i.e. ‘establish the daily canonical prayers’ (Q 11:114, 17:78, & 20:32), which must be done both individually and as a group. When salāt is enjoined, practiced and established in a home it builds a foundation for a lot of good. Many virtues can then flourish in that home. It is part of the protection of the family discussed in last week’s Reflection (See Quranic Reflection No. 8:01 on Family Responsibilities).

The command ‘istabir’ here means to take on patience with all one’s ability and capacity. It conveys a form of patience that is determined and consistent. In this verse such patience is being recommended both for the prayer itself and for the act of enjoining prayer. Both acts require constancy and strength. Children and youth especially may become heedless of the sanctity of salāt. Unless there is appropriate effort put into inclining them towards it they may abandon the practice. It is the duty of the family to prevent this.

Some principles of enjoining salāt on others include;
– Be a good example yourself. If you bid others towards salāt it will be effective if you say it regularly on time. Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a) said: Even after receiving assurance of Paradise, the Messenger of Allah (s) used to exert himself for prayers because of the command of Allah – the Glorified. The he recited Q 20:132 (Nahjul Balāgha, Sermon 198).
– The reminders must be loving and respectful to attract them towards salāt. This could be through praying together, involving them in giving adhān and reciting the Ta’qibāt, reading inspiring stories about salāt, etc.
– Children will not always listen to reason and moral talks on necessity of salāt. Strategies that appeal to their feelings and emotions are more effective.
– Discuss a correct perspective of prayer. That includes making them view salāt as:
a) a conversation with Allah. A one to one talk with the Creator. Imam Ali (a) said: Prayer is the pious person’s means of proximity [to his Lord] (The Scale of Wisdom, H. 3590);
b) a gift for Allah. Beautify and decorate the gift you send;
c) a companion in the grave and on the Day of Judgment;
d) the dividing line between faith (īmān) and disbelief (kufr). The Holy Prophet (s): It only takes a Muslim to deliberately abandon the performance of the daily prayer or not perform it out carelessness, for him to become a kāfir, i.e. infidel (Ibid, H. 3642); and
e) a peaceful, calming, stress relieving activity that brings tranquility to the heart.

A family that prays enjoys many blessings. That home is a sanctified home. Members of the family benefit from the calmness and confidence that salāt can grant. It counters stress and negativity and bonds the family together. The patience and efforts put into it reaps many rewards. Recite this verse to remind yourself to continue enjoining salāt on your family.

Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; ‘Abdul Ali ‘Arūsī, Tafsīr Nūruth Thaqalayn; M. Rayshahrī, The Scale of Wisdom; http://www.alketab.org/