Salaat [Prayer]

by Mr. Shahid Aziz

The Light (UK), September 1996 Issue (pp. 1–2)

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ وَ ابۡتَغُوۡۤا اِلَیۡہِ الۡوَسِیۡلَۃَ وَ جَاہِدُوۡا فِیۡ سَبِیۡلِہٖ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تُفۡلِحُوۡنَ ﴿۳۵﴾

“O you who believe, keep your duty to Allah, and seek means of nearness to Him, and strive hard in His way that you may be successful.” (The Holy Quran, 5:35)

There is, in this short verse of the Holy Quran that I have quoted,1 a powerful message for Muslims. It starts with

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوا

“O you who believe”.

This is not because guidance is restricted to Muslims only. It is because, for those who do not believe in Allah, His messenger and His guidance, this message does not have any potency. It also means, belief alone is not sufficient for salvation but that it needs to be followed by something more. What a believer must do to achieve salvation is given in the words that follow.

A believer must keep his duty to Allah. This does not only refer to the formalised prayer, fasting and other such prescribed duties he is required to perform. To some degree by performing salaat [prayers] and fasting and paying zakat [poor rate], he has done his duty to Allah but only partially. His duty to Allah will not be completed until he also fulfils his duty to everything around him. A Muslim has a duty to his relations (grandparents, parents, wife, children, aunts, uncles and so on), his neighbours, his colleagues, animals, the land he lives on and the air that he breathes. He would not have done his duty to Allah fully unless he has fulfilled his duty to all these. The reason is that all lawful acts fall within the definition of being pious and good. This makes it incumbent upon a Muslim to care for all of God’s creation, including the animals and the environment in which he lives.

Having set out the Divine Instruction that man is to keep his duty, the next thing we are told is that the first duty of a Muslim is to seek nearness to God. The foremost means of seeking nearness to Allah is salaat or prayer. The Holy Prophet Muhammad showed by his example that true and sincere prayer creates a bond between man and Allah. This message was lost in the mist of time. Glory in this world led Muslims to rely solely on material resources and to abandon reliance upon Allah. The prime purpose of the mission of the Promised Messiah [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian] was to create a group within the Muslims that fosters this link with God or taaluq billah and relies on none other than Allah.

As has been said already, the most important method of creating this link is the salaat. In the morning at the very time when one is asleep in a warm and comfortable bed and dreaming beautiful dreams, one hears the call [Call to prayer; Azan; Adhan]:

اَللّٰهُ اَكْبَرُ

Allah hu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest], Allah hu Akbar”.

Calling one to arise from slumber because the pursuit of God is a greater objective than the comfort of bed. The crier is telling us to leave temporal comforts and turn to the means of everlasting comfort.

Having reminded man of the Glory of God, the crier then says

اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لَّآ اِلٰهَ اِلَّا اللّٰهُ

Ash hadu un la illha

reminding us that there should be only one objective of our desires and that is God. He is the only thing we should be seeking to the exclusion of everything else. If you ignore the call to prayer you are denying God by your actions, although you may not have done so with the tongue. Human beings naturally wonder whether they can attain to the nearness being spoken of here. That is why the crier follows this with the words

اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَّسُوْلُ اللّٰهِ

Ash ha du unna Muhammad ur Rasul Allah”.

When we say we bear witness that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the messenger of God, we are admitting that there was one person in this world who truly followed the Holy Quran and achieved the station of fana-fillah or subsuming his personality within that of Allah. We are told that we have a role model, a hero that we can follow. When reminded of the character of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) and his companions (rta), people always say that fifteen hundred years have passed since those events took place, the world has changed and perhaps it is not possible to emulate them. If we accept that the world and times have changed and that it is no longer possible to follow in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and to emulate his companions (rta), what we are saying is this that the message of Islam is not for all people for all time but that, like other religions, it is restricted to a particular time and place. That is exactly why God raises mujaddids [Reformers]. They show the world by their example that the message of the Holy Quran is eternal. The mujaddid puts the Holy Quran and Sunnah [Actions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)] in to practice and shows that whatever the time or the place, the message of Islam is still practicable.

The crier then makes it abundantly clear that he is calling you to the path of reformation and goodness. Having heard the cry and responded to it, the next step is to leave the comfort of your bed and to perform the wudhu [ablution]. The first aspect of physical cleanliness is obvious. Also, having risen from sleep, washing helps to clear your mind and gets you ready for presentation to your maker. There is however, a spiritual aspect of this ritual ablution as well. When you wash your hands, you promise Allah that you will not perform any evil deeds with these hands. When you wash your mouth, you promise Allah that you will not utter anything evil. When you wash your face, you promise Allah that your eyes will not see any evil.  When you wash your ears, you promise that you will not hear any evil. When you wash your feet, you promise that you will not go to any place where evil deeds take place and when you wash your head, you promise Allah that you are washing your mind of all impure thoughts and that you will only think pure thoughts from now on.

The ablution needs to performed with the same seriousness as the prayer itself. How well did Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad illustrate this point by the following example! He said that when people have to go for an interview for a job or a promotion or some business deal, they take great care when they are getting ready. They get special hair cuts, bathe, put on their best clothes, etc. However, when it is a question of performing the wudhu, they run in and just splash some water on their limbs without considering that they are going for an interview with the Lord and Master of the universe. What such people show by their actions is that they believe a human being is greater and more powerful, and in a position to grant them more benefits than God himself!

Having prepared yourself for an audience with Allah, you stand before him in a posture of respect. This posture means that you stand ready to obey His smallest Command. You stand ready to make the greatest sacrifice at His Command. In this posture, you also pray to Allah to help you with strength to carry out His Commands. You then bow before him to show that you will bow down to make whatever sacrifice He Commands you to make and you extol His Glory while doing so. Eventually, to show that you are a mere weak human being and that you may not be able to fulfil the promises you are making and to ask for forgiveness, you fall on the ground before Him to humble yourself.

Remember that a Muslim bows or prostrates before God only. He does not bow or prostrate before anyone or anything else because that will mean that he is humiliating himself before things which are either his equal or even inferior to him. That is why it is completely forbidden to bow or prostrate before graves of even prophets. The other reason for bowing and prostrating before God is to recognise that there is a greater power which controls the universe. This is meant to crush human ego, pride and vanity and to make one humble. If your ruku [bowing down] or sajda [prostration] does not have this effect on you then you need to put more effort in to your prayers. When you have finished your morning prayer, you have made a promise with Allah. You have promised that you have washed your body of worldly sins and purified it and you promise that you will not fall prey to the temptation of those sins again. A Christian is baptised once in a lifetime. A Muslim is baptised many times a day. And just as a cloth which is washed over and over again cannot possibly remain dirty, in the same way by sincerely cleansing yourself over and over again, you cannot possibly remain dirty in your spiritual life. Remember, that this cleansing must be performed consciously, thoroughly and so far as possible removing all the dirt and marks that you find.

You should make love of God the sole objective of your life so like blood it flows through your veins. And when you open your eyes, the first thing you want to do is to reach out and communicate with Him. You should get such intense pleasure from this communication with him that you should not be able to think of anything else when you open your eyes and your first thought should be of Allah.

A Muslim must learn from everyone he meets. The pious teach one what to do and the impious what to avoid. Indeed, even the impious can show you how to seek nearness to Allah.

This then is the start to the day for a true Muslim. Throughout the day he must keep in mind the promises he made to Allah. Other societies have new year resolutions to do better annually, a Muslim society has daily resolutions that they will do better.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Based on a khutba [sermon] delivered at Jummah [Friday] on 23rd August 1996.

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