The Quran

Commentaries for 2.238

Al Baqara (The cow) - البقرة

2.238 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Allah then prompted the believers to observe the five daily prayers, saying: (Be guardians of your prayers) the five daily prayers including the ritual ablution that precede them, their bowings, prostrations, and everything prescribed in them during their appointed times, (and of the midmost prayer) the 'Asr prayer specifically, (and stand up with devotion to Allah) pray to Allah, by performing the bowings and prostrations this prayer includes; it is also said that this means: pray to Him by being obedient to Him in the prayer and not disobedient through engagement in mundane talk.
2.238 Asrar - Kashf Al-Asrar
Guard over the prayers, and the middle prayer, and stand before God devoutly.
In the tongue of allusion to guard over the prayer is that, when the servant comes into the presence of the prayer, he comes with awe, and when he leaves, he leaves with reverence. As long as he is in the prayer, he is described by courtesy. He keeps his body in the outward service, his heart in the realities of union, and his secret core along with his spirit in the ease of whispered prayer. “The praying person is whispering with his Lord.”
Abū Bakr Shiblī said, “If I were given the choice to enter the prayer or to go into paradise, I would not chose that high paradise over the prayer. Even if paradise is joy and blessings, the prayer is secret whispering with the Patron of Blessings. That is the place of pleasure for water and clay, and this is the place of gazing for spirit and heart. That is roasted fowl in the garden of approval, and this is repose and ease [56:89] in the garden of the Beloved.”
For the sake of gazing stroll once into the Beloved's garden, see the Beloved scattering spirit beneath your feet.
MuṣṬafā gave no station the mark he gave to the prayer when he said, “'The delight of my eyes was placed in the prayer.' Amongst the caresses and beauties, the brightness of my eyes lies in being occupied with Him and whispering secretly with Him.”
Here is my heart-look into it and see: is there any goal other than You?
There was a man called Abū ʿAlī Siyāh, who was unique in his era. Whenever anyone went to see him, he would say, “I'm a carefree man. I have no occupation. The brightness of my eyes lies in seeing a man of His road or talking about Him with someone.”
Every night I talk to my heart about You.
I seek Your scent from the dawn breeze.
The knower of the Tariqah, ʿAbdallāh Anṣārī, said, “O God, O lovingly kind, O helper! Exalted is he who has one breath with You! May I have a breath in which no one mixes, a breath that afterwards has no veil. For me that one breath is enough in the two worlds.
O You who are before each day and separate from everyone! In this celebration a thousand minstrels are not enough for me.” Guard over the prayers. Guarding is what keeps someone in the station of service and his heart in the station of veneration. Then the form of outwardness will be complete and the attribute
of inwardness will be in place.
A man was the imam in the prayer. He wanted to straighten the rows and said, “Straighten!” He had not yet finished this word when he fell down unconscious. Afterwards they asked him what he had received in that state. He said, “A call came to Me in my secret core: 'Have you ever once been straight for Me?'”
The first pillar of the prayer is intention, and the meaning of intention is the aim of the heart. When someone enters the prayer, there must be three things in three places in order for him to begin the prayer with a worthy attribute: allusion with the hands, expression with the tongue, and intention in the heart.
In the state of the intention it is as if the servant is saying, “I am aiming for the threshold of the Patron and I have put this world behind.” Then if he does not put aside thoughts of this world and he fails to occupy his heart with the prayer, he will have been a liar in the first pillar. When Ḥasan ibn ʿAlī reached the door of a mosque he would say, “O God, Your guest is at Your door, the asker from You is at Your door. O Beautiful-doer, the ugly-doer has come to You, and You have commanded the beautiful-doers among us to overlook the ugly-doer. So overlook my repulsiveness with Your beauty, O Generous One!”
Lifting up the hands in the prayer at the time of saying “God is greater” alludes to the servant's constraint and poverty and his brokenness before the Presence of the Patron. It is as if he is saying, “I am drowning in the ocean of disobedient acts, so take my hand!” Lord God, I am a stranger in the land, I have fallen into the well of disobedience, I am drowning in the sea of tribulation. I have pain, but I do not know the remedy, or I know it, but I cannot drink it. There is no way to despair, but I do not have the gall to come forward.
I am bewildered in Thee, take my hand,
O guide of those bewildered in Thee!
If I'm an unbeliever, O Friend, make me a Muslim I'm deprived of You, call me and cure me!
Although I'm not worthy to see Your face,
at least sacrifice me at the top of Your street.
It has been said that the first person to make the dawn prayer was Adam. When that dust-dwelling chief, that unprecedented marvel of power, that artifact of creativity, that unique fabric of the desire, came down from heaven to earth, it was the end of the day. As long as he saw the brightness of the day, he had a bit of ease, but when the sun was hidden, Adam's heart became a quarry of sorrows.
Night came like me, in mourning and grief, its clothing black, its face downcast.
Adam had never seen night and had not suffered darkness and sorrow. All of a sudden he saw the darkness that reaches the whole world, while he was a stranger, ill, and separate from his spouse. In that darkness sometimes he sighed, sometimes he looked at the moon, sometimes he whispered in prayer at the Threshold.
At night your remembrance is my intimate,
my lips never resting from your remembrance.
The origin of all strangers was Adam, the forerunner of all the grieving was Adam, the first of all the weepers was Adam. It was Adam who laid the foundation of friendship in the world and Adam who set down the custom of night vigils. Moaning from the pain of separation and weeping in the middle of the night was a tradition set down by Adam. In that night when he moaned and wept, sometimes he complained of lowliness, sometimes he shouted out, sometimes he remembered the Friend while weeping.
Every night people sleep-how come I'm awake?
They're all asleep with companions-how come I'm alone? [DS 932]
At last when the breeze of dawn began to breathe like a lover and the army of morning burst from its ambush and shouted against the darkness of night, Gabriel came with the good news: “O Adam! Morning has come, peace has come! Light has come, joy has come! Brightness has come, familiarity has come! Arise, O Adam, and recite two cycles of prayer in this state-one in gratitude for the passing of the night of deprivation and separation, one in gratitude for the breaking of the dawn of good fortune and union.
” The tongue of the state was saying,
“Union has come-I've been released from the dread of separation.
I've sat down with my beloved, my heart's desire fulfilled!”
The first person to make the midday prayer was Abraham the Bosom Friend, at the time when he had been commanded to sacrifice his child. In the dream he had been shown that he had obeyed the command and thrown away the life of his dear child by its decree; in His bounty the King of the Throne had called him, and he had sacrificed Ishmael. At the hour when the sun begins to wane, the Bosom Friend's desire was realized and he confirmed the truth of the dream. He looked carefully and saw four states, in each of which he found elevation and a robe of honor. He bound his waist with gratitude and set out to serve the Presence. He performed four cycles of prayer in gratitude for the four robes of honor: one was gratitude for success-giving, the second gratitude for confirming the truth, the third gratitude for the call, and the fourth gratitude for the sacrifice.
The first person to perform the four-cycle afternoon prayer was Jonah. That well-pleasing servant was in the stomach of the fish, and that fish was in the stomach of another fish. From the bottom of the deep sea came the cry, “There is no god but Thou, glory be to Thee! Surely I am one of the wrongdoers” [21:87].
Listen here to a subtle point: Jonah was imprisoned in the stomach of the whale, and the person of faith will be imprisoned in a tomb in the stomach of the earth. May the bed be blessed, may the couch be happy! MuṣṬafā said, “The grave is one of the plots of the Garden.” Though it is a prison, for the person of faith it is like a scented garden with much repose and ease [56:89]. Jonah in the stomach of the fish, in that darkness and blackness, is the person of faith in the stomach of the earth, with intimacy and divine light. The fish's liver became Jonah's mirror. In its limpidness he saw the animals of the sea and their wondrous forms. For the person of faith a door of the tomb is opened to paradise, so along with the divine light are houris, wide-eyed maidens, blessedness, and nearness.
Relief came to Jonah, and assistance came to him from the divine bounty, so he came out from that prison to the desert of the world. That time was the moment for the afternoon prayer. Jonah saw that he had been released from four darknesses: the darkness of slipping, the darkness of night, the darkness of water, and the darkness of the fish's stomach. In gratitude for having put aside these four darknesses he made four cycles of prayer. This is an allusion to the faithful servant, before whom are four darknesses: the darkness of disobedience, the darkness of the tomb, the darkness of the resurrection, and the darkness of hell. When he performs these four cycles of prayer, he is released from one darkness with each cycle.
The first person to make the evening prayer was Jesus, the one made pure-a person of pure constitution, pure clay, and pure creation who came into the world without a father. In the stomach of his mother he had read the Torah and the Gospel, and in the cradle he spoke. A people from
among the folk of misguidance marveled at this. They said that a child without a father is inconceivable. The arrival of a child and the existence of a lineage is not permissible without two different waters. They said what they said, and they walked on the road of misguidance as they did. Then they wrote out the inscription of [God is] the third of three [5:73]. Gabriel came: “O Jesus, your people said such a thing, and the earth quakes at their saying it. The Creator of earth and heaven is pure of their words.” That was the hour of the prayer of evening. Jesus stood up and hurried to service, asking God for pardon and mercy. He made three cycles of prayer. With one cycle, he repelled the claim of lordhood from himself: “You are the great Lord, I am the servant with many offenses.” With the next cycle, he negated divinity from his mother: “You are the allcompelling God, and my mother is Your maid.” The third cycle was attestation to the oneness of
the Enactor, the renowned Uniquely One.
The first person to make the four-cycle prayer of sleep was Moses the Speaking Companion, the caressed of the faultless Creator, the one singled out for the gift of the Unseen, he who earned his wage from Shuʿayb.
When his term with Shuʿayb came to an end and he left Midian, he set out for his domicile and thought of his homeland. After he had gone several way stations and the night arrived-a night that pulled the skirt of darkness over the horizons-a fierce wind arose, and rain, thunder, and lightning arrived. Wolves fell upon his flock, and the pain of childbirth came to his wife. The whole world came into tumult for his sake, and the ocean was boiling. On that night, all fire remained inside the stones and not one lamp was lit in the whole world. Moses was helpless in that state. Sometimes he stood, sometimes he sat, sometimes he rolled, sometimes he rested, sometimes he fled, sometimes contracted, sometimes expanded, sometimes his head on his knees, sometimes his face on the ground weeping. He kept on saying,
“How long will You drive me to every street?
How long will You make me taste every poison?”
Yes, they put the night-brightening pearl in front of the life-snatching shark, and they built a domicile for the Kaabah of union in the man-eating desert, so no one ever saw the treasure without suffering, and no one reached the day of good fortune without the grief of tribulation. At last he looked in the direction of the Mount and a ray of light appeared. He heard the call of the Forgiving God: “Surely I am God” [28:30].
Moses had four griefs: the grief of his wife, his child, his brother, and his enemies. The command came, “O Moses, do not grieve and do not sorrow, for I deliver from grief and I take away sorrows.” Moses rose up at that time and made four cycles of prayer in gratitude for those four blessings. This is an allusion that when the faithful servant performs these four cycles of prayer on condition of loyalty, truthfulness, and limpidness, He will suffice him for the business of his wife and child, He will give him victory over his enemies, and He will deliver him from grief and sorrow.
2.238 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
Maintain the, five, prayers, by performing them at their appointed times, and the middle prayer, either that of the afternoon, or the morning, or the midday, or another prayer (there are many opinions on this matter); God has singled it out for mention because of its merit; and stand, in prayer, submissive to God, li Lllāhi qānitīn: some have said that this means ‘obedience’, on account of the Prophet (s) saying, ‘Wherever the [expression] qunūt [‘submission’], appears in the Qur’ān, it denotes obedience’, as reported by Ahmad [b. Hanbal] and others; it is also said to mean ‘in silence’ [sākitīn], on the basis of a hadīth of Zayd b. Arqam, in which he said, ‘We used to speak to each other sometimes during prayer, but when this was revealed, we were commanded to be silent and were forbidden to talk’, as reported by the two Shaykhs [Bukhārī and Muslim].
2.238-239 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
Allah commands that the prayer should be performed properly and on time. It is reported in the Two Sahihs that Ibn Mas`ud said, "I asked the Prophet, `Which deed is the dearest (to Allah)' He replied:
«الصَّلَاةُ عَلى وَقْتِها»
(To offer the prayers at their fixed times.) I asked, `What is the next (in goodness)' He replied:
«الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ الله»
(To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah's cause.)'' I again asked, `What is the next (in goodness)' He replied:
«بِرُّ الْوَالِدَيْن»
(To be good and dutiful to your parents.) `Abdullah then added, "The Prophet told me these words, and had I asked more, the Prophet would have told me more.''
The Middle Prayer
Furthermore, Allah has specifically mentioned the Middle prayer, which is the `Asr prayer according to the majority of the scholars among the Companions, as At-Tirmidhi and Al-Baghawi have stated. Al-Qadi Al-Mawardi added that the majority of the scholars of the Tabi`in also held this view. Al-Hafiz Abu `Umar bin `Abdul-Barr said that this is also the opinion of the majority of the scholars of the Athar (i.e., the Hadith and the statements of the Salaf). In addition, Abu Muhammad bin `Atiyah said that this is the Tafsir (of the Middle prayer) of the majority of scholars. Al-Hafiz Abu Muhammad `Abdul-Mu'min bin Khalaf Ad-Dumyati stated in his book on the Middle prayer that it is the `Asr prayer and mentioned that this is the Tafsir of `Umar, `Ali, Ibn Mas`ud, Abu Ayyub, `Abdullah bin `Amr, Samurah bin Jundub, Abu Hurayrah, Abu Sa`id, Hafsah, Umm Habibah, Umm Salamah, Ibn `Abbas and `A'ishah. This is also the Tafsir of `Ubaydah, Ibrahim An-Nakha`i, Razin, Zirr bin Hubaysh, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Ibn Sirin, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Kalbi, Muqatil, `Ubayd bin Abu Maryam, and others.
The Proof that the `Asr Prayer is the Middle Prayer
Imam Ahmad reported that `Ali narrated that Allah's Messenger said during the battle of Al-Ahzab (the Confederates):
«شَغَلُونَا عَنِ الصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَى، صَلَاةِ الْعَصْرِ، مَلَأَ اللهُ قُلُوبَهُم وَبُيُوتَهم نَارًا»
(They (the disbelievers) busied us from performing the Middle prayer, the `Ar prayer, may Allah fill their hearts and houses with fire.)
He performed the `Asr prayer between Maghrib and `Isha'. Muslim and An-Nasa'i recorded this Hadith. In addition, the Two Shaykhs, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi An-Nasa'i and several other collectors of the Sunan recorded this Hadith using different chains of narrators to `Ali. The Hadith about the battle of Al-Ahzab, when the Mushriks prevented Allah's Messenger and his Companions from performing the `Asr prayer, has been narrated by several other Companions. We only mentioned the narrations that stated that the Middle prayer is the `Asr prayer. Furthermore, Muslim reported similar wordings for this Hadith from Ibn Mas`ud and Al-Bara' bin `Azib.
In addition, Imam Ahmad reported that Samurah bin Jundub said that Allah's Messenger said:
«صَلَاةُ الْوسْطَى صَلَاةُ الْعَصْر»
(The Middle prayer is the `Asr prayer.)
In another narration, Allah's Messenger mentioned:
حَـفِظُواْ عَلَى الصَّلَوَتِ والصَّلَوةِ الْوُسْطَى
(Guard strictly (five obligatory) As-Salawat (the prayers) especially the Middle Salah) and stated that it is the `Asr prayer. In another narration, Allah's Messenger said:
«هِيَ الْعَصْر»
(It is the `Asr prayer.) and Ibn Ja`far mentioned that the Prophet was then being asked about the Middle prayer. At-Tirmidhi reported this Hadith and said, "Hasan, Sahih." In addition, Abu Hatim bin Hibban reported in his Sahih that `Abdullah said that Allah's Messenger said:
«صَلَاةُ الْوسْطَى صَلَاةُ الْعَصْر»
(The Middle prayer is the `Asr prayer.)
At-Tirmidhi reported that Ibn Mas`ud narrated that Allah's Messenger said:
«صَلَاةُ الْوسْطَى صَلَاةُ الْعَصْر»
(The `Asr prayer is the Middle prayer.)
At-Tirmidhi then stated that this Hadith is of a Hasan, Sahih type. Muslim reported the Hadith in his Sahih and his wordings are:
«شَغَلُونَا عَنِ الصَّلَاةِ الْوسْطَى صَلَاةِ الْعَصْر»
(They (disbelievers) busied us from performing the Middle prayer, the `Asr prayer.)
These texts emphasize the fact (that the `Asr prayer is the Middle prayer). What further proves this fact is that, in an authentic Hadith, Allah's Messenger emphasized the necessity of preserving the `Asr prayer, when he said, as Ibn `Umar narrated:
«مَنْ فَاتَتْهُ صَلَاةُ الْعَصْرِ فَكَأَنَّمَا وُتِرَ أَهْلَهُ وَمَالَه»
(Whoever misses the `Asr prayer will be like who has lost his family and money.)
It is reported in the Sahih that Buraydah bin Al-Husayb said that the Prophet said:
«بَكِّرُوا بِالصَّلَاةِ فِي يَوْمِ الْغَيْمِ، فَإِنَّهُ مَنْ تَرَكَ صَلَاةَ الْعَصْرِ، فَقَدْ حَبِطَ عَمَلُه»
(On a cloudy day, perform the (`Asr) prayer early, for whoever misses the `Asr prayer, will have his (good) deeds annulled.)
The Prohibition of speaking during the Prayer
Allah said:
وَقُومُواْ لِلَّهِ قَـنِتِينَ
(And stand before Allah with obedience.) meaning, with humbleness and humility before Him (i.e., during the prayer). This command indicates that it is not allowed to speak during the prayer, as speaking contradicts the nature of the prayer. This is why the Prophet refused to answer Ibn Mas`ud when he greeted him while he was praying and said afterwards:
«إِنَّ فِي الصَّلَاةِ لَشُغْلًا»
(The prayer makes one sufficiently busy.) (i.e., by the various actions of the body, tongue and heart involved during the prayer.)
Muslim reported that the Prophet said to Mu`awiyah bin Hakam As-Sulami when he spoke during the prayer:
«إِنَّ هذِهِ الصَّلَاةَ لَا يَصْلُحُ فِيهَا شَيْءٌ مِنْ كَلَامِ النَّاسِ، إنَّمَا هِي التَّسْبِيحُ وَالتَّكْبِيرُ وَذِكْرُ الله»
(The ordinary speech people indulge in is not appropriate during the prayer. The prayer involves only Tasbih (praising Allah), Takbir (saying Allahu Akbar, i.e., Allah is the Most Great) and remembering Allah.)
Imam Ahmad reported that Zayd bin Arqam said, "One used to address his friend about various affairs during the prayer. Then when this Ayah was revealed:
وَقُومُواْ لِلَّهِ قَـنِتِينَ
(And stand before Allah with obedience.) we were ordered to refrain from speaking.'' The Group (i. e., the Hadith collections), except Ibn Majah, reported this Hadith.
The Fear Prayer
Allah said:
فَإنْ خِفْتُمْ فَرِجَالاً أَوْ رُكْبَانًا فَإِذَآ أَمِنتُمْ فَاذْكُرُواْ اللَّهَ كَمَا عَلَّمَكُم مَّا لَمْ تَكُونُواْ تَعْلَمُونَ
(And if you fear (an enemy), (perform Salah) on foot or riding. And when you are in safety, then remember Allah (pray) in the manner He has taught you, which you knew not (before).)
After Allah commanded His servants to perform the prayer perfectly and emphasized this commandment, He mentioned the situation where the person might not be able to perform the prayer perfectly, during battle and combat. Allah said:
فَإنْ خِفْتُمْ فَرِجَالاً أَوْ رُكْبَانًا
(And if you fear (an enemy), perform Salah on foot or riding.) meaning, pray in the appropriate manner under these circumstances, whether on foot or riding and whether facing the Qiblah or otherwise. Imam Malik reported that Nafi` related that Ibn `Umar used to describe the Fear prayer when he was asked about it and would then add, "If there is intense fear, pray on foot, riding, facing the Qiblah and otherwise.'' Nafi` commented, "I think that he related that to the Prophet.'' Al-Bukhari and Muslim reported the Hadith.
Muslim, Abu Dawud, An-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah and Ibn Jarir reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "Allah has ordained the prayer by the words of your Prophet : four (Rak`ah) while residing, two Rak`ah while traveling and one Rak`ah during times of fear.'' This is also the view of Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, and others.
In addition, Al-Bukhari has entitled a Chapter: `Prayer while confronting the Forts and facing the Enemy'. Al-Awza`i said, "If the victory seems near and the Muslims are unable to perform the prayer (in the normal manner), they should pray by nodding each by himself. If they are unable to nod, they should delay the prayer until fighting is finished. When they feel safe, they should pray two Rak`ah. If they are unable, they should then pray one Rak`ah that includes two prostrations. If they are unable, then Takbir alone does not suffice, so they should delay the prayer until they are safe.'' This is the same view that Makhul held. Anas bin Malik said, "I participated in the attack on the fort of Tastar, when the light of dawn started to become clear. Suddenly, the fighting raged and the Muslims were unable to pray until the light of day spread. We then prayed (the Dawn prayer) with Abu Musa and we became victorious. I would not have been pleased if I were to gain in the life of this world and whatever is in it instead of that prayer.'' This is the wording of Al-Bukhari.
Prayer during the Times of Peace is performed normally
Allah said:
فَإِذَآ أَمِنتُمْ فَاذْكُرُواْ اللَّهَ
(And when you are in safety, then remember Allah (pray)) meaning, `Perform the prayer as I have commanded you by completing its bowing, prostration, standing, sitting, and with the required attention (in the heart) and supplication.' Allah said:
كَمَا عَلَّمَكُم مَّا لَمْ تَكُونُواْ تَعْلَمُونَ
(in the manner He has taught you, which you knew not (before).) meaning, just as He has endowed you, guided you and taught you about what benefits you in this life and the Hereafter, so thank and remember Him. Similarly, Allah said after He mentioned the prayer of Fear,
فَإِذَا اطْمَأْنَنتُمْ فَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلَوةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَوةَ كَانَتْ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ كِتَـباً مَّوْقُوتاً
(...but when you are free from danger, perform As-Salah. Verily, As-Salah (the prayer) is enjoined on the believers at fixed hours.) (4:103)
We will mention the Hadiths about the prayer of Fear and its description in Surat An-Nisa' while mentioning Allah's statement:
وَإِذَا كُنتَ فِيهِمْ فَأَقَمْتَ لَهُمُ الصَّلَوةَ
(When you (O Messenger Muhammad ) are among them, and lead them in As-Salah (the prayer).) (4:102)
2.238-239 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
After enunciating rules and regulations for ensuring social welfare and for leading a civilized life, Allah has impressed the importance of the Salat as a finishing touch because it alone can produce fear of Allah and feelings of virtue and piety and create the attitude of obedience to the Divine Law and keep one on the right path. None can remain firm in one's obedience to the Law of Allah without Salat, for one is liable to swerve into one kind of disobedience or the other like the Jews.
Interpreters differ in regard to the meaning of "Salat-al-wusta"but the majority of them are of the opinion that it refers to one of the five Prayers, and most of them have opined that it is the "Asr Prayer." There is, however, no definite saying of the Holy Prophet in support of any of these interpretations. Those who are in favour of the " `Asr Prayer" infer their opinion from this Tradition: In the "Battle of the Clans," the Holy Prophet was so engaged in repelling the invasion of the enemies that he got no time to offer the " `Asr Prayer" till sunset. Then he said, "May Allah fill their graves with fire for depriving us of our 'Salat al-wusta'." From this they infer that by "Salat al-wusta" is meant the " 'Asr Prayer." But in my opinion what the Holy Prophet meant by this was that they were responsible for the spiritual loss the Muslims had suffered by their inability to offer their " 'Asr Prayer" in time and with peace of mind. As the Prayer whose loss the Holy Prophet regretted happened to be the " 'Asr Prayer," the interpreters were led to conclude that the "'Asr Prayer" itself was the Salat al- wu.sta.
The Arabic word "wusta" means both middle and excellent. Thus, Salat al-wusta implies both the middle Prayer and also an excellent Prayer which is said in time and with full attention to Allah, that is, a Prayer which has all the excellent qualities of Salat. The subsequent sentence, "Stand before Allah like obedient servants", itself supports the interpretation that it meant an excellent Prayer offered to Allah, having all the excellent qualities of Salat, and not any one particular Prayer out of the five prescribed Prayers.
2.238 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
Maintain ḥāfiẓū the prayers and the middle prayer and stand submissive to God. Maintaining muḥāfaẓa the prayers means coming to them with awe and leaving with reverence and seeking a state of perpetual witnessing in the proper manner. The middle prayer is mentioned without being clearly defined so that you will observe each of them thinking it is the one [mentioned] and will not neglect any [of them].
2.238 Tustari - Al-Tustari
Maintain the prayers…That is, ‘Persist in upholding them’. However His words, And establish prayer and pay the alms. [24:56], have two aspects, one of which is establishing prayer without the affirmation [of faith], just as when He said in Sūra Barāʾa, if they repent, [9:5] meaning, from idolatry (shirk), and establish regular prayers’ [9:5], that is, committing themselves to prayer and almsgiving, then let them be. In this regard, He also said: Yet if they repent, establish prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then they are your brothers in religion [9:11] [and comrades]. There is something similarto this in Sūrat al-Sajda. The second aspect of establishing [the prayers] (iqāma) is referred to when He says in Sūrat al-Mujādala, Then establish the prayer and pay the obligatory alms [58:13], as in Sūrat al-Muzzammil [73:20], and again with His words in Sūrat al-Māʾida, [believers who] establish the prayer [5:55], meaning that they fulfil it [that duty] completely.
…especially the middle prayer… [Sahl] was asked about these words, and the reason why [the middle prayer] is singled out. He replied:It is singled out due to a particular characteristic it possesses, even though it is not apart from the obligatory prayers as a whole, in the same way that Gabriel and others were singled out for mention among the host of the angels, due to a certain particularity.He continued:There is another reason, namely, that the times of the rest of the prayers are known by both the knowledgeable and the ignorant, because their signs are obvious. However, the time for the ʿAṣr prayer is less clear. Thus by mentioning [this prayer] in particular, He urged people to take care to observe it at its correct time.His words [that follow in the same verse]:…And stand before God in submissionThat is, ‘Stand before God in prayer in a state of obedience, for many a worshipper is disobedient,such as the hypocrite and his like. The Prophet was asked, ‘Which prayer is the best?’ He replied, ‘The longest in devotion (qunūt), that is, the prayer [for which] one stands the longest (ṭūl al-qiyām). And Zayd b. Arqam said that being devout (qunūt) is silence, for we used to speak during the prayer until God, Exalted is He, sent down the words, And stand before God in submission [2:238], after which we desisted from speaking [during prayer]. Muḥammad b. Sawwār said, ‘The qunūt is the witr, which was called a (qunūt) because of the supplication (duʿāʾ) which is offered in it whilst standing, aside from the recitation of Qurʾān.’ This is a kind of magnifying (taʿẓīm) [of God] through supplication.