Reciting salaat and salaam for Prophet Muhammad (Alayhi's-Salaatu wa's-Salaam) and for other Prophets (Alayhimu's-Salaam) is a reflection of the commitment, affection and respect felt towards them. This task can be performed anywhere anytime. In fact, the only deed Almighty Allah commands His servants to perform and acknowledges of Himself performing is the act of reciting salaat and salaam. In one the verses, He decrees "Lo! Allah and His angels recite salaat for the Prophet..."103
The dictionary meaning for the term "Salaat" is "prayer, salah, and blessing." 104 When the salaat comes from Allah, it is used in the sense of a blessing; when it comes from the angels, it is used in the sense that they wish to receive His divine forgiveness; when the salaat is recited by the believers, it implies the act of praying107.
In the 56th verse of the Surah Al-Ahzab, we are asked to recite just as much salaam for the Prophet as the salaats. Salaam does not only refer to the name of Allah but also denotes greeting, being free of faults and such meanings as safety and peace108.
The overall intention in reciting salaat and salaam is honoring the Holy Prophet and paying him respect. The way he is praised in this world is by glorifying his deeds, spreading his religion and struggling to maintain it. For the afterlife, one prays for the Prophet's good deeds to increase and for him to be rendered as the intercessor of his people110.
On the other hand, Ibnu al-Arabi says: "The benefit of the salaat for the Holy Prophet comes back to the person who recites it. The act of reciting salaat shows the sincere faith and aim of the reciter, his affection for the Prophet, his observance of the worship and his respect. 111.
Reciting Salawat enables the person to contact the spirit of the Holy Prophet and to benefit from his light. When a person recites salawat for him, the Holy Prophet recites twice as much salawat (wishes blessing) as that of the reciters112.
FOR WHOM SHOULD WE RECITE SALAAT AND SALAAM?
The salaat and salaam is recited only for the Prophets. The Prophets are honored and valued by these prayers. When the name of Allah is uttered, He is revered by reciting the fact that He is free of defects. (Azza and Jalla or similar prayers are said).
For the other Prophets, the expression "Alayhi's-Salam" is used, whereas the forgiveness and consent of Allah is sought for the leading Islamic figures113 ("the prayer Radiyallahu Anhu -May Allah bless him" is stated for the companions, " the prayer Rahimahullah- May Allah have mercy on him is stated for the scholars, and for the awliya (spiritual leaders), the prayer "Quddisah sirruhu- may his secret be pure" is stated.).
Moreover, the salaat recited by the Holy Prophet in return for those reciting salaat for him implies that he is praying for them114. As a matter of fact, he commanded the following on this issue: "Whoever sends salaam for me, Allah at that point returns my soul to my body and I grant my salaam to that person."115. In the hadith (sayings of the Prophet) it is also expressed that there are angels in charge of conveying the salaats and salaams to the Holy Prophet116.
THE PLACE AND AUTHORITY OF SALAAT AND SALAAM
It is a religious duty to recite salaat and salaam for the Holy Prophet. In a verse, Allah orders: "O! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O you who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation."131
There are many hadiths reported on the importance of reciting salaat and salaam.
"When you hear the muezzin (caller to prayer) recites azaan (call to prayer), recite azaan like him and recite salaat for Me."
"Whoever recites salaat for me once, Allah shows His blessings for him ten times."132
"Whoever recites salaat for me once, Allah recites salaat for him ten times, his ten mistakes are forgiven, he is elevated ten degrees high"133
We learn from many hadiths that reading salawat is conducive to forgiveness134, that writing salaat and salaam wherever his name is encountered causes angels to repent135 and that the ones who frequently recite salaat and salaam for the Prophet will be saved from the dreadfulness of the Judgment Day.136
The person who does not recite salaat and salaam when he hears the name of the Holy Prophet commits an evil deed which must be denounced137. As a matter of fact, in a hadith, it is stated that an evil person is the one who does not recite salaat and salaam for the Holy Prophet138.
Indeed, reciting salaat and salaam is an obligation120. In a gathering, it is obligatory to recite salaat and salaam once when the name of the Holy Prophet is uttered121; it is recommended to recite salaat and salaam in accordance with the number of times that his name is uttered122.
It is accepted as sunnah (practice of the Prophet) to recite salaat and salaam in salah (ritual prayer) after saying at-Tahiyyatu. It is recommended to recite salaat and salaam and it is conducive to the acceptance of prayer when saying prayers regardless of which prayer is said123.
Apart from these occasions, on Fridays, it is also recommended to recite salaat and salaam when entering the mosque and when performing the funeral salah124. Furthermore, Hanafis recite salaat and salaam after "at-tahiyyatu" prayer of "Salli and Bariq" salawats as sunnah, and Shaafis recite salaat and salaam after "at-tahiyyatu" prayer of "Salli and Bariq" salawats as an obligation125.
SALAAT AND SALAAM EXPRESSIONS
There are different phrases that define the meanings to which salaat and salaam refer which are included in the hadith books126. The shortest salawat is "Allahumma salli ala Muhammadi'n..."127. There are also many works in which various salawat are collected one of which is al-Azkar" by an-Nawawi.
Below is a brief explanation for the meanings of "Salli and Bariq"129 which are included in the hadith books as one of the most commonly read salawats:
"Allahumma salli ala Muhammadi'n..." which means, "O Allah! Honor Muhammad on earth by glorifying His deeds and by spreading His religion. Let your blessings come upon Him after life, render Him as the intercessor of His people and ascend Him to Maqam al-Mahmud." "Ve ala ali Muhammedin..." which means, "May Your grace and peace rest upon Muhammad." "Kama sallayta ala Ibrahim'a wa ala ali Ibrahim'a..." which means, "as you blessed Abraham and the family of Abraham." "Innaka hamidun macidun" which means, "verily You are the Praiseworthy and Glorious."
"Allahumma Barik ala Muhammad'in wa ala Ali Muhammed..." which means, "O Allah! Confer Your blessings on Muhammad and the family of the Muhammad." "Kama Barakta ala Ibrahim'a wa ala Ali Ibrahima..." "as you confer Your blessings on Abraham and the family of Abraham." "Innaka hamidun macidun" which means, "verily You are the Praiseworthy and Glorious."
The reason why Abraham and his family are mentioned in both of these salawats is because he is among the prophets qualified as "Ulu al-Azm (great)" for having rebuilt the Kaaba. Another reason is to reciprocate to the prayer Abraham he said for Ummat al-Muhammad (people of Muhammad) while he was building the Kaaba.