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A MONK WONDERS: WHO DOES ALLAH PRAY TO?

The following is a translation of a theological debate that took place between Ibrahim al-Tabarani and the prince Abd al-Rahman ibn Abd al-Malik al-Hashimi in Bait al-Maqdis (Quds) around the year 820 AD (http://alkalema.net/gedal/gedal18.htm).

B – The meaning of Christ’s prayer

Al-Basri said: Tell me, O Monk, did the Messiah pray (salla)? Because in the Gospel it testifies that he prayed (salla) and supplicated to God! And al-Ilah (the God) does not pray (yusalli)

And the monk said: It is true al-Ilah does not pray (yusalli). However, prayer (al-salaah) to Allah is obligatory upon the created servant.

Al-Basri said: So you have just now falsified yourself and the Gospel.

The monk said: You ask me about certain matters and put yourself as the prosecutor and judge. Allah forbid that I falsify the Gospel! For no one can accuse the Gospel of any lie except the Jews, and the cursed people, and hypocrites and those who do not believe in Allah. Rather, O Muslim, the Messiah did pray (salla), glory be to Him, by His human nature to Allah His Father.

Al-Basri said: Why do you absolve him (the Messiah) from servanthood and make him into a god (ilah) to be worshipped? And when you are told that you are polytheists (mushrikun) you deny it. And your idolatry is evident because he is only worshipped by polytheists (mushrikun).

The monk said: We are not polytheists (mushrikun), but we are partakers (mushtarikun) of the grace of God, by that Chosen Man from our nature, by Him we know that Allah is Three (thalatha) Persons (aqaneem), and what is evil, what is good, and what is the resurrection (al-qiyama) and resurrection (al-ba’ath).

Because Christians (al-nasara) did not invent the saying that the Messiah is the Son of the Living Allah, but Allah is the One who said that. [Allah said] “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” We have listened to Him and responded to Him. And He (the Messiah) said to us: “I and the Father are one (waHid). The nearby angels announced this good news, the prophets who were sent prophesied about Him, the Apostles (al-hawariyyun) and the warners spoke of Him, and the honored fathers agreed on Him. And we are not polytheists (mushrikin), but we are partakers (mushtarikun) of God’s grace.

As for your saying that Allah never prayed (yusalli) and doesn’t pray (yusalli), you are right.

Al-Basri said: You lied. Allah does not associate himself with anyone and is not pleased by those who do associate with him. And you said the truth, that Allah never prayed (yusalli) and doesn’t pray (yusalli).

The monk said: How clear is the truth and how strong is this matter in regards to the Messiah for he who guarded Himself against disobedience and arrogance. So tell me, who do the believing servants/slaves pray (yusalli) to?

Al-Basri said: To Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

The monk said: And who do the nearby angels pray (yusalli) to?

Al-Basri said: To Allah, the One Lord of the worlds.

The monk said: And who does Allah, the One Lord of the world pray (yusalli) to?

Al-Basri said: May Allah be exalted above what you associate with Him. Allah never prayed (salla), nor will He ever pray (yusalli)! But all the prayers (salawaat) of people and angels go to Him.

The monk said: Then, since you have admitted that Allah has never prayed (salla) nor will He pray (yusalli), You and your book testify that Allah does pray (yusalli) with your saying: “Allah and his angels pray (yusalluna) over the prophet. O you who believe, pray (sallu) for him and salute him with salutations” (S. 33:56). So, you say that Allah and his angels, and his servants all pray (yusalluna) over/for Muhammad in one single prayer (salaat wahda). If this is indeed true, then there must be another god (ilah) that Allah, his angels, and his servants all pray (yusalli) to, and send requests to him about Muhammad. So whoever admits this has suffered in the two worlds. And if you say contrary to this, then you have denied yourself and your Quran.

Al-Basri said: Allah’s prayers (salawaat) are not like the prayers (salawaat) of the angels and servants. But Allah’s prayers (salawaat) are mercy and forgiveness from him for the prophets and messengers.

And the monk said: You have not pleased (or favored) Allah or honored him in saying: “for the angels and the prophets.” But you have placed the three in one saying by saying that: “Allah and his angels pray (yusalluna) on the prophet, O you who believe pray (sallu) on him and salute him with salutations” (S. 33:56). That is [making them] one in equal matters.

But, I will go back to your saying that Allah’s prayers (salawaat) are mercy and forgiveness. So it is with the prayers (salawaat) of the Messiah! They are but mercy on those who believe in Him and follow Him. And just as Allah prayed (salla) and had mercy on the prophets and messengers, so it is the same with the Messiah’s prayer (salla) and have mercy on the Apostles and on the weary.

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