Wa Alaikum As Salaam,
The verse which is referred to is verse 45 of Sura Al Ankabut which states,
‘Recite (O Muhammad) what has been revealed to you of the book (the Holy Quran), and establish Salaah. Surely, Salaah prevents from shamelessness and evil. And indeed the remembering of Allah is greater. And Allah knows what you do’. (29:45)
If one looks carefully at the above verse, one will clearly see that the Prophet (SAS) has been ordered by Allah to do two duties. While commenting on this verse, the great commentator of the Holy Quran Mufti Muhammad Shafie (AR) writes, ‘In the above verse, the Holy Prophet (SAS) is advised a brief but comprehensive formula for inviting people towards Allah. If acted upon, this formula opens the avenues leading to practicing Islam with all its precept and the natural hurdles that come in the way in practicing it are removed easily. This elixir formula is made up of two parts; one is the recitation of the Holy Quran, and the other is establishing (performing) Salaah. Although the real object here was to make all people adhere to the two basics, but for the sake of persuasion and emphasis, the Holy Prophet (SAS) was directed first to practice them, because it was much easy for the followers to act upon the teachings of Islam when they saw the Holy Prophet(SAS) practicing it. (Ma’ariful Quran vol.6 pg697-698).
As highlighted above, it is well established that the Prophet (SAS) has been clearly ordered by Allah to recite the Holy Quran and to perform Salaah. The same has been given to the followers.
While explaining the verse ‘and establish Salaah’ the great exegete Imam Qurtubi states, ‘The address is for the Prophet (SAS) and the entire Ummah’. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.13 pg.308). This is the same explaination which has been given by all other commentators. Hence, it is extremely sad to know that while reading this verse in which Allah Has directly commanded the Prophet (SAS) and his Ummah (followers) to perform Salaah, the person can opt for such a misguided notion that ‘one does not have to perform Salaah’. In fact, the law/order to perform Salaah is one which is given throught the Holy Quran and the Ahadith (traditions) of the Prophet (SAS). No one denies this law except one who has turned to disbelief.
The verse goes further to highlight the great benefit of Salaah when it states ‘Surely, Salaah prevents from shamelessness and evil’.
Here, Allah highlights a peculiar and significant effect that Salaah has on a person, once it is done in the proper manner. The verse states that when one performs Salaah regularly, then it stops him from every type of indecent act and sin.
The verse ends by saying ‘And indeed the remembering (or remembrance) of Allah is greater. And Allah knows what you do’.
The above part of the verse does not mean that the Zikr (remembrance) of Allah is greater than Salaah. This is absurd, and indeed a deviated understanding. No scholar from among the Sahabahs, Tabieen, Atba’ut Tabieen and the other generations of Muslims has adopted this misguided import. This in reality, is from among the teachings of deviated sects in the past, like that of the ‘Zikri’, and ‘Bahai’ sects, whose teachings are totally opposed to Islam and they have all been condemned as unbelievers.
The true message of the verse is that Allah says, ‘His Remembrance in Salaat, that is, remembering Allah, while one is in Salaah, is greater than everything in the world’. While a person is performing Salaah he should bring to his mind/heart the greatness, grandeur and glory of Allah, and he should not be unmindful of Allah in his Salaah. (Safwatut Tafaseer vol. 11 pg.65).
The same explaination has been given by the great commentators of the Holy Quran also.
The great Mufasir, Imam Qurtubi, while explaining the verse ‘and the rememberance of Allah is greater’, states, ‘it means your remembrance of Allah in Salaah and while reciting Quran (in Salaah) is more virtuous than everything’. ( Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol. 13 pg 310).
The commentators of the Holy Quran have also stated, the verse may also mean that ‘Allah’s remembrance of a servant is far greater than the servant’s remembrance of Allah’. This is in accordance to the promise of Allah that when his servants remember Him, He too remembers them, as Allah says in the Holy Quran, ‘Remember Me, and I will remember you’ (2:152). This commentary has also been given by Imam Qurtubi in his Tafseer. In his commentary Tafseerul Al Qurtubi, he wrote ‘and the remembrance of Allah is greater’, (also means) ‘Allah’s remembrance of you (that is, when Allah remembers you, it is greater than your remembrance of Him’. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol. 13 pg.310).
Hafiz Ibn Jareeer At Tabari has also quoted the commentary of this verse from Abdulllah bin Abbas (RA). He says, it means, ‘Allah’s remembrance of you when you remember Him, is greater than your remembrance of Him’. Tafseer At Tabari vol.20 pg.181).
The gist of this entire explaination is that the understanding which the person has taken from the verse that it means that the remembrance of Allah (Zikr) is greater than Salaah’, is totally wrong. This is not the understanding of the verse, and the true message, as given by all the commentators of the Holy Quran from the Sahabahs (companions of the Prophet (SAS)) and those after them is what I have given above.
And Allah knows best,
Mufti Waseem Khan