What is the meaning and significance of At-Tahiyyat in the salah?

We recite the at-tahiyyat in our salah in our sitting position after sujjud, after every two rakahs in all our prayers.

What is the significance of the words we recite?

The Tashahhud

التَّحِيَّاتُ لِلَّهِ وَالصَّلَوَاتُ وَالطَّيِّبَاتُ، السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكَ أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ وَرَحْمَةُ اللَّهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ، السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى عِبَادِ اللَّهِ الصَّالِحِينَ، أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ

At-tahiyyatu Lillahi wa-salawatu wa’t-tayyibat, as-salamu ‘alayka ayyuha’n-Nabiyyu wa rahmat-Allahi wa barakatuhu. As-salamu ‘alayna wa ‘alaa ‘ibad-Illah is-saliheen. ashhadu alla ilaha illallah wa ashhadu anna muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasuluhu

All the best compliments and the prayers and the good things are for Allah. Peace and Allah’s Mercy and Blessings be on you, O Prophet! Peace be on us and on the pious slaves of Allah, I testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and I also testify that Muhammad is Allah’s slave and His Apostle.” (Bukhari)

What is tahiyyaat?

Tahiyaat is the plural of tahiya which means to greet someone one. It is the way we greet Allah. We do not say ‘Hello’ or ‘Salam’ when we converse with Allah Almighty, we respect and glorify Him. And we show Him our gratitude through the words which the Prophet (peace be on him) taught us.

After this, we send greetings to the Prophet (peace be on him). Even though he is in his grave, by saying, as-salamu ‘alayka ayyuha’n-Nabiyyu wa rahmat-Allahi wa barakatuhu. In the authentic hadith the Prophet (peace be on him) said:

The prophets are alive in their grave.

(Abu Ya’la and Bayhaqi)

Their status is different from ours and this is why we send salutations to him, even though he has passed away.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:

There is no one who sends salaams upon me but Allah will restore to me my soul so that I may return his salaams. (Abu Dawood)

Once we have greeted Allah and the Prophet (peace be on him) we send salutations to the righteous.

Islam is a religion of connectivity

Islam is not a religion focused on me, myself and I. It is not self centred, but about being part of your family and your community. From the Surat al Fatiha in which we say: You alone we worship and You alone we ask for help’ (not ‘you alone I worship’, or ‘you alone I ask for help’). We ask Allah to ‘guide us’ not ‘guide me’. It is indicative of the fact we include our fellow Muslims in our salah and our duas not just ourselves. It is a bondship of believers across the globe. This is why we use the third person plural in our salah in various positions.

Global spiritual community of believers

We send our salutations, blessings and salams not just to other believers, but in fact to all the righteous creatures across the globe – whether they are men or women, human or jinn or angels. The angels after all are the servants of Allah too.

The salah is a spiritual connection which takes us from our individual concerns to the global community. You are not an isolated person, you are living an interconnected spiritual community of believers and goodness, and this energises and boosts your heart and mind and life.

The salah is the ascension of the soul to Allah. In every salah our soul roams through the universe. When we understand what we are reciting it improves the quality of our connection with Allah.

The salah is true social media connecting all believers together

While we send our salutations to other believers when we pray, the millions who are praying from their corners around the world, send us their greetings in return without knowing us.

The salah is a better version of social media, without any spam or junk. It is pure goodness. All the believers day and night are connecting to each other. It is beyond our imagination, if we could see the grid connecting us all from one end of the world to the other, we would be shocked. All bound together by belief in Allah Almighty.

Misconceptions

There are some misconceptions about the at-tahiyaat, that it was given to the Prophet (peace be on him) during his ascension to the heavens (Isra wal Miraj) and that this was his conversation with Allah Almighty. He was given the obligation of the salah five times a day, and he did not know what to say, so he said, ‘All the best compliments and the prayers and the good things are for Allah.’ Then Allah Almighty replied: ‘Peace and Allah’s Mercy and Blessings be on you, O Prophet!’ and the angels said, ‘Peace be on us and on the pious slaves of Allah’ And the Prophet added, ‘I testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and I also testify that Muhammad is Allah’s slave and His Apostle.’

The words fit beautifully into this story of their conversation, however there is no authentic evidence to support this narration. It may be a nice story, but not every nice story can be attributed to the Prophet (peace be on him).

I know many people will be upset to hear that it is not authentic and people are attached to this story, but without authentic evidence we can’t simply believe or spread something that has no valid basis. It is not the sweetness or the beauty of the story which makes it sound. It is not a story or a novel. If there is no chain of transmitters, we cannot pass anything on as a hadith.

Authentic narrations

The Hanafi school relies on the well-known narration of Abdullah bin Masud

We used to say the greeting, name and greet each other in the prayer. Allah’s Apostle heard it and said:–“Say, ‘At-tahiyyatu lil-lahi was-salawatu wat-taiyibatu. Assalamu ‘Alaika aiyuha-n-Nabiyu wa-rahmatu-l-lahi wa-barakatuhu. Assalamu alaina wa-‘ala ‘ibadi-l-lahi as-salihin. Ashhadu an la ilaha illa-l-lah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan ‘abdu hu wa Rasuluh.

All the compliments are for Allah and all the prayers and all the good things (are for Allah). Peace be on you, O Prophet, and Allah’s mercy and blessings (are on you). And peace be on us and on the good (pious) worshippers of Allah. I testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Apostle.) So, when you have said this, then you have surely sent the greetings to every good (pious) worshipper of Allah, whether he be in the Heaven or on the Earth.

There are some slight variations in the wordings in other narrations, you can recite the words of any of these authentic narrations from Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, Muwatta Malik, Bayhaqi’s Sunan.

When should you raise your finger during the Tashahhud?

There is a debate over when to raise your finger during salah.

The debate is summarised by a narration in Sahih Muslim in which the companions who lived with the Prophet (peace be on him) said they never saw him raise his finger in salah, in another authentic narration it says that he used to raise his finger in his salah. It means he didn’t move his finger, but he kept it raised and still. The people who promote this narration are not promoting an authentic narration.

Raise your finger at the beginning of the tashahhud, keep it raised and still till the end of the tashahhud, then put it down. It does not matter whether you raise it from the At-tahiyyatu Lillahi, or at ashhadu alla ilaha illallah or lailaha illallah.. It is not a big deal. And we should not make a big deal out of it.

Believe it or not, there are people who have had their fingers broken because they prayed in a mosque and raised their finger in a different way from how the regular congregation do it. We have room for disagreement.

If someone wants to move their finger, they can follow their evidence but they should not force anyone else to follow their opinion. If you want to move your finger, you can move your finger. Personally, I keep my finger still.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Delivered to the Al Manaar New Muslims Group on 19th January 2021

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001.His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College).He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.