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Do the words in 2:239 indicate that God taught the prophet how to pray?

“So if you fear, then (observe the salat) while walking or riding, then once you feel more safe you shall commemorate (zhikr) God as He taught you what you did not know.” 2:239

Some of the advocates of the hadith (sayings) and sunna (methodology) of the prophet Muhammad refer to the words “God has taught you” in 2:239 and claim that they speak directly to the prophet. They claim that these words mean that God has taught the prophet the correct way of observing the salat (prayer).

They add that since the Quran does not tell us how the prophet prayed then we must follow the prophet’s sunna to learn the correct way of observing the salat.

The manipulations injected in the above claims are very easily exposed by an analysis of the words in 2:239.

The correct translation of 2:239 reads as follows:

“So if you fear, then (observe the salat) while walking or riding, then once you feel more safe you shall commemorate (zhikr) God as He taught you what you did not know.”


The first part of 2:239 speaks of the prayer and how it can be conducted while walking or riding (in circumstance where there is danger or fear). The words between brackets (observe the salat) are only added to confirm that the topic (prayer) is a continuation of the words in the verse just before 2:238.


The second part of 2:239 does not speak about prayer (salat), it speaks about commemorating God (zhikr). The words used are: “izhkuru Allah”… which mean: “you shall commemorate God”.

As we know, there is a difference between “salat” and “zhikr”. Salat is a defined ritual with specific requirement (e.g. wudu, qibla … etc) and precise physical positions (standing, bowing and prostrating), but zhikr is simply commemorating God which has no requirements nor physical positions. Also salat is to be observed at specific times while commemorating God
(zhikr) can be conducted at all times.


Then we read the words : “kama allamakum”. These words mean: as He taught you. The grammatical form of these words, and specially the letters “kum” at the end of the word indicates that God is speaking to all believers and not just one person .. i.e .. “as He taught YOU (plural)”.  If God was speaking to just one person (e.g. the prophet) the word used would be “kama allamak”.


The words (as God taught you) are followed with the words: “ma lam takunu taalamoon” which mean “what you did not know”. These words, can be interpreted in two ways:

a– In a general sense, which would speak about everything God has taught us, it is not only confined to salat or zhikr.

b– In a narrow sense (which is more probable) which would speak specifically about how God taught us to commemorate Him.

As mentioned, the narrow sense is the more probable since the words “kama allamakum” come immediately after the words “izhkuru Allah” (commemorate God).


The Quran contains numerous explanations of how God has taught us to commemorate Him, such as:

1– First, we are commanded to commemorate God (zhikr) frequently: “Izhkuru Allah Zhikran Katheeran” which translates to: commemorate God frequently 33:41

2– “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) to be uttered frequently to commemorate God, 29:45, 2:185 and 17:111.

3– “Sobhan Rabi Al-Azeem” (Praise my Lord the Great). This is In response to the command in 56:74

4– “Sobhan Rabi Al-Aala” (Praise my Lord the Most High). This is as per the command in 87:1

5– The Shahada (Testimony): “Ash”hadu ana la illaha ila Allah” (I bear witness that there is no God other than God). 3:18

The above are some ways which show how God taught us how to commemorate Him (zhikr). All this teaching is found in the Quran.


The name of Muhammad, or the prophet, does not appear anywhere in 2:239. As a result, whoever claimed that this verse speaks about what God taught Muhammad is a fabricator and a manipulator of God’s words. As indicated above, in 2:239 God is speaking to all believers and not just to one person.


The purpose of this manipulation is obvious, it is to claim that God taught the prophet (independent of the Quran) how to pray so we must follow the sunna of the prophet!

Sadly, this is no more than another case of twisting the words of the Quran in order to impose the legality of the hadith and sunna.

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