peace be upon him

Peace Be Upon Him” & Chris­t­ian Polemics of an Islam­ic Eulogy

There is a com­mon claim cir­cu­lat­ed in Chris­t­ian Arab cir­cles with regard to صَلَّى and the beatif­ic phrase "Peace Be Upon Him" & Christian Polemics of an Islamic Eulogy 1 (sal­lal­lahu alay­hi was-sal­lam) which comes as an eulo­gy to the Prophet’s name, trans­lat­ed as peace be upon him” or often abbre­vi­at­ed as PBUH. It was first prop­a­gat­ed in the Eng­lish-speak­ing world by the Chris­t­ian Arab mis­sion­ary, Anis Shorrosh1, who claimed that this eulo­gy does not lit­er­al­ly mean peace be upon him” but occurs in the Quran­ic text” and :

…lit­er­al­ly reads, Lo ! Allah and His angels pray upon the prophet. Oh yea who believe, pray on him and salute him with peace.”

He goes on to claim :

One is utter­ly con­found­ed when the lit­er­al and real trans­la­tion is under­stood. Why do our Mus­lim friends hide the real mean­ing of pbuh ? Is it because the Ara­bic state­ment is embar­rass­ing since it con­tra­dicts Mus­lim doc­trine ?2

In the usu­al vein of mis­sion­ary tra­di­tion, Shorrosh went on to take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to blas­pheme and make mock­ery of Allah(T) by accus­ing Him of pray­ing[!] to a sub­ject, but we shall not both­er to cite fur­ther from his blas­phe­mous work. Oth­er Chris­t­ian Arab polemi­cists such as Labib Mikhail3 and the pseu­do­ny­mous Abdul­lah Al-Ara­by4 had fol­lowed suit in repeat­ing this polemic.

As expect­ed, the rest of the Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ary world is not too far behind and they jumped on the band­wag­on by rehash­ing a ver­sion of the argu­ment pro­posed by these pseu­do-intel­lec­tu­als. Relat­ed to this is the argu­ment that was recent­ly repeat­ed by the Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ary Sam Shamoun in ref­er­ence to sev­er­al Qur’an­ic vers­es5, alleg­ing that :

Since these vers­es all clear­ly say that Allah lit­er­al­ly prays, and since prayer requires an object, we must, there­fore, ask to whom does Allah pray ? Mus­lims claim that Allah is a sin­gu­lar enti­ty, there being no plu­ral­i­ty of per­sons with­in his Being, which means that Allah can­not be pray­ing to him­self. Or is he ? Maybe Allah does in fact pray to himself.

Let us now direct­ly address the issue of the phrase peace be upon him” which the Chris­tian­i­ty mis­sion­ar­ies are fond of disputing.

The Verb sal­la In Pre-Islam­ic Usage

In lin­guis­tics there is a phe­nom­e­non that is known as pol­y­se­my, which is defined as a word or phrase that may car­ry mul­ti­ple dimen­sions or mean­ings in dif­fer­ent situations. 

Ahmad She­hu Abdus­salam explains it in the following :

Pol­y­se­my is a seman­tic state of a word in which it indi­cates two or more mean­ings. A word is pol­y­se­mous when it looks the same as oth­ers and has more than one meaning…These var­ied mean­ings are known as sens­es” (al-wujuh in the sci­ences of the Qur’an), and can be inter­re­lat­ed, shared in cer­tain attrib­ut­es or slight­ly dif­fer­ent, indi­cat­ing mul­ti­plic­i­ty of mean­ing, while var­ied forms of the same word, if any, are the uses” (al-naza’ir in the sci­ences of the Qur’an). The word al-akhi­rah, with only one form (i.e., a use) has five sens­es : res­ur­rec­tion, par­adise, hell, grave and the lat­ter (Qur’an 92:13, 2:102, 39:9, 14:27 and 38:7 respec­tive­ly).6

From the stand­point of the Ara­bic lan­guage, there is no rea­son to assume or charge that the phrase con­tra­dicts Mus­lim doc­trine” as Shorrosh alleges or that God is pray­ing to him­self” as Shamoun claims, since it is known that in the con­text of usage for the verb sal­la (صَلَّى), it gen­er­al­ly meant as to invoke bless­ings upon some­one”. This usage is con­sis­tent in both pre-Qur’an­ic and the post-Qur’an­ic lit­er­a­ture.7

The fol­low­ing are some very inter­est­ing exam­ples of its usage in pre-Islam­ic poetry. 

The poet al-A’sha in describ­ing how wine is pre­served, says that :

And the wine-dealer invoked blessings upon wa salla ala the jar

And (the wine-deal­er) exposed it to the wind in a jar, then invoked bless­ings upon (wa sal­la ala) the jar and sought assis­tance from God (so that the wine might not turn sour).8

Note­wor­thy of this poet­ry is its usage in first invok­ing bless­ings upon” (wa sal­la ala) the jar, and at the same time attempts to sought assis­tance from God” with regard to the con­tents of the jar, hence sig­ni­fy­ing that the usage of the verb sal­la cer­tain­ly does not mean to pray upon” the sub­ject as a deity. Rather, it is clear from this usage of this par­tic­u­lar pre-Islam­ic verse that the idea of invok­ing bless­ings [sal­la] upon” the sub­ject is not an indi­ca­tion of direct wor­ship, as it is incon­ceiv­able that a per­son would wor­ship” the jar and seek assis­tance from God, both at the same time ! Thus from the above verse, it is enough to demol­ish the claims of Shorrosh and Shamoun combined.

Yet we are oblig­ed to add fur­ther salt to the wound of the mis­sion­ar­ies’ blun­der. Sim­i­lar­ly, anoth­er pre-Islam­ic poem com­posed in praise of the Emper­or of the Per­sian Empire, Anûshir­wân, by the poet Antarah uses the verb sal­la as follows :

All the kings of the earth pay homage salla to him

All the kings of the earth pay homage [sal­la] to him from all places of the world (lit. from every val­ley-path); all peo­ple on earth turn their face towards him.“9

An amus­ing mis­sion­ary objec­tion to the above is that all the kings of the earth were wor­ship­ping the Emper­or lit­er­al­ly when it is clear that there is cer­tain­ly no such indi­ca­tion by the poet Antarah. On the con­trary, it is obvi­ous even from the trans­la­tion of this poem that the poet is invok­ing a glo­ri­fi­ca­tion upon the Per­sian Emper­or, rather than any indi­ca­tion of any form of worship.

Thus from the above expo­si­tion, it is clear that there is no rea­son to be utter­ly con­found­ed when the lit­er­al and real trans­la­tion is under­stood” as Shorrosh alleges since the usage of sal­la has been in exis­tence since pre-Islam­ic times.

The Verb sal­la In Islam­ic Usage

In the case of the Ara­bic صَلَّى and the phrase sal­lal­lahu alay­hi wa sal­lam, it is under­stood as an eulo­gy of God giv­ing His Bless­ings upon some­one10. Hans Wehr’s Dic­tio­nary of Mod­ern Writ­ten Ara­bic defines sal­la as thus :

This trans­la­tion is con­sis­tent else­where and Wehr con­firms it as follows :

This is dif­fer­ent from salah, rit­u­al prayer or wor­ship in the con­no­ta­tions that the Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ar­ies intend it to be :

Would the mis­sion­ar­ies now accuse Wehr of embar­rass­ment”, so much so that he trans­lat­ed sal­lal­lahu alay­hi wa sal­lam as God bless him and grant him sal­va­tion!” in his dic­tio­nary ? Indeed, it is rather embar­rass­ing for the mis­sion­ar­ies to polemi­cize such a triv­ial matter.

What About Abra­ham, Peace Be Upon Him And His Family ?

So far, the main crux of the Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ary dis­par­age­ment is that the verb sal­la is invoked upon the Prophet Muham­mad, upon whom be peace. The only rea­son that they are even rais­ing the issue, if at all, is because the Prophet sal­lal­lahu alay­hi wa sal­lam is men­tioned in God’s infi­nite Bless­ings. How­ev­er, the mis­sion­ar­ies are wrong to assume that only the Prophet Muham­mad(P) is giv­en this treat­ment as Mus­lims also apply this phrase to the Prophet Abra­ham(P) and his fam­i­ly in their dai­ly prayers.

peace be upon him and his family

O Allah ! Send Your Mer­cy [sal­la] upon Muham­mad and on his fam­i­ly [wives and his off­spring], as You sent Your Mer­cy [sal­la] on Abra­ham’s fam­i­ly ; and send Your Bless­ings on Muham­mad and his fam­i­ly, as You sent Your Bless­ings on Abra­ham’s fam­i­ly, in the world, for You are the Most Praise-wor­thy, the Most Glo­ri­ous.13

Now the mis­sion­ar­ies have a prob­lem that they have cre­at­ed for them­selves. If it is true that the Prophet Muham­mad(P) is the only Prophet that God wor­ships” to, they then have to explain how did this invo­ca­tion which every Mus­lim recite in his prayers came about, and why the Prophet Abra­ham(P) is now men­tioned in this prayer. For if we were to read the above prayer accord­ing to their inter­pre­ta­tion, we would hence notice that :

    (a) The Prophet Abra­ham(P) and his fam­i­ly is yet among the var­i­ous peo­ple that God Almighty prays to”;

    and ;

    (b) The whole prayer above does not make any log­i­cal sense since the sup­pli­ca­tion is direct­ed at God and it also states that God is the Most Praise-wor­thy and the Most Glorious.

Hence we can wit­ness yet again the silli­ness of such a polemic which con­tra­venes the strict monothe­ism of Islam. For now God does not only pray to” Muham­mad(P) and his fam­i­ly but He also indulges in the wor­ship” of Abra­ham(P) and his fam­i­ly ! How hilar­i­ous it is to see the mis­sion­ar­ies dig­ging a hole for them­selves for which there is no way out.

Con­clu­sions

Con­trary to their claim, the verb sal­la indi­cates pray­ing to” a sub­ject is not true and is a com­mon polemic pop­u­larised by the Chris­t­ian Arabs who only fall into the trap of their own igno­rance of the Ara­bic lan­guage and its nuances. It is hence not sur­pris­ing that their gullible Eng­lish-speak­ing coun­ter­parts would, there­fore, be eager to snap up” such a polemic in ver­ba­tim — if only to dis­cred­it the reli­gion of Islam — no mat­ter whether the claim is true or oth­er­wise. Thus do the mis­sion­ar­ies attempt to dis­rupt uni­ver­sal con­sen­sus of Islam con­cern­ing God’s exis­tence and uni­ty, and of man’s oblig­a­tion to serve Him by ful­fill­ing His com­mand­ments which are the sum­mum bon­um : We have sent no mes­sen­ger but with the rev­e­la­tion that men are com­mand­ed to serve God and to avoid evil“14.

It should be seri­ous­ly not­ed that the Islam­ic dog­ma which was already well-devel­oped by the turn of 2nd cen­tu­ry A.H. had employed the beatif­ic phrase sal­lal­lahu alay­hi wa sal­lam with­out any embar­rass­ment” what­so­ev­er attached to it. Cer­tain­ly, if the Mus­lims in that era had adopt­ed the warped under­stand­ing of the mis­sion­ar­ies in ver­ba­tim with regard to the root word/​verb sal­la this beatif­ic phrase would have nev­er been used today by the Muslims !

It is also equal­ly clear that even with the recent mis­sion­ary treat­ment” of the sub­ject, there is no valid jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for their claim apart from their extreme per­jury and hatred of Islam, i.e. Islam­o­pho­bia. For each time the name Muham­mad” is men­tioned, the hair bris­tles on their neck and they shame­less­ly assault the Prophet, sal­lal­lahu alay­hi wa sal­lam, by appeal­ing to their fatu­ous the­o­ries and false accounts of history. 

Hence, the mis­guid­ed attempts of the Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ar­ies to negate the strict monothe­ism of Islam with their abuse of the verb sal­la (صَلَّى) falls flat to the ground, as do all those who lie and blas­pheme for the non-exis­tent, pseu­do-monothe­is­tic Tri­une” god.

And only Allah(T) knows best, for He alone is wor­thy of worship.Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi, “Peace Be Upon Him” & Chris­t­ian Polemics of an Islam­ic Eulo­gy,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Octo­ber 15, 2005, last accessed Feb­ru­ary 28, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​m​u​h​a​m​m​a​d​/​p​e​a​c​e​-​b​e​-​u​p​o​n​-​h​im/
  1. Anis A. Shorrosh, Islam Revealed : A Chris­t­ian Arab’s View of Islam, (Thomas Nel­son Pub­lish­ers, 1988)[]
  2. ibid., p. 179[]
  3. Labib Mikhail, Islam, Muham­mad and the Koran : A Doc­u­men­tary Analy­sis [Online Doc­u­ment][]
  4. Abdul­lah Al-Ara­by (pseu­do­nym), Islam Review [Online Doc­u­ment][]
  5. See Q2:157 ; Q33:43, 56[]
  6. Ahmad She­hu Abdus­salam, Con­cor­dance of the Qur’an (Inter­na­tion­al Islam­ic Uni­ver­si­ty of Malaysia Press:2008), p. 23[]
  7. Toshi­hiko Izut­su, God and Man in the Qur’an : Seman­tics of the Qur’an­ic Weltan­schau­ung, (IBT, Kuala Lumpur, 2002), p. 160[]
  8. ibid., cf. Lisan al-‘Arab, p. 242 ; irtasama means pray to God for pro­tec­tion”, but accord­ing to Abh, the verb here means to seal up the jar tight­ly”.[]
  9. ibid.[][]
  10. J M Cow­an (ed), The Hans Wehr Dic­tio­nary of Mod­ern Writ­ten Ara­bic (Spo­ken Lan­guage Ser­vices 1976), p. 524[]
  11. ibid., p. 523[]
  12. op. cit.[]
  13. Ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani, Kitab Bulughul Maram, hadith no. 336[]
  14. Qur’an, 16:36[]

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2 responses to “Peace Be Upon Him” & Chris­t­ian Polemics of an Islam­ic Eulogy”

  1. Abdul Qadir Nakamba Avatar
    Abdul Qadir Nakamba

    Alham­dulil­lah ! Jaza­kallahul Khair Broth­er for clar­i­fy­ing the the mis­con­cep­tions of this mis­guid­ed Chris­tians propagandist.

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