This universe is like an eternal handiwork of The Divine in which He has embroidered His Greatness and Power. At the centre is man who has been created as the peak of this divine artistry and has been given the duty of worship in order to be assured of being together with Allah.
In many verses in the Qur’an, Almighty Allah commands man to embrace good deeds in order to save himself from eternal loss and to obtain to a sound heart, and a kalb-i munib.
Worship is a sign of one’s loyalty to the promise given by the servant to his Lord before time eternal. They are moments in time which bring the believer closer to Almighty Allah. From another point of view, worship is the most effective cure and source of peace and comfort that will free man of his fear and anxiety about what is to come after death. Worship is an essential source of prosperity in order for the servant to rise in degree and to assure peace and balance of the heart.
Consequently out of all of the matters that we must be extremely careful and sensitive about, our worship must take priority.
Scenes of Virtue
Because of its importance, it is necessary to touch on, first of all, the care that must be shown when taking one’s ablution. Because the lack of care and neglect that is shown during the ablution will negatively reflect on the worship that is to follow.
One time the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) led the morning prayer. Some minor mistakes were made whilst the chapter Romans was being recited. After finishing the prayer the Prophet turned to the congregation and said:
“Some people are coming to the prayer without ablution and this is the cause for Satan interfering in our recitation. When you come for prayer, take your ablution as carefully as you can”.
Thus purification and the taking of ablution with care before prayer is crucial for the soundness of our worship.
It is also a great virtue to be always in a state of ablution to the best of one’s ability. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) liked to carry out all of his tasks while he had ablution.
According to Abu Juhaym , the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)once came across someone as he was coming from the Well of Jamal. The man greeted him, but the Prophet did not return the greeting. He immediately went to a wall and wiped his hands and face over it to perform the tayammum (dry ablution), and then he accepted the man’s greeting of peace. (Bukhari, tayammum, 3)
With this action, the Prophet of Allah demonstrated how it is possible for one to always be in a state of ablution. This is also an indication of how virtuous it is to take ablution before carrying out a task, even though that task is not obligatory.
Ibn-i Abbas narrates:
“When the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) finished relieving himself he would first pour water over his hands to wash them and then he would perform tayammum with dry earth. I once asked him:
“O Messenger of Allah, there is water available. Why did you do that?” The Prophet replied:
“How can I be sure that my spirit will not be taken back from me before I reach water?” (Ahmad, I, 288, 303; Haysami, 263).
According to another narration whenever he needed to perform the major ablution, the Prophet (pbuh) would wipe his hands over the walls and do tayammum in order not to be without ablution until he could perform his major ablution. (Haysami, I, 264).
This is the scope of the material and spiritual cleanliness that the Prophet demonstrated to his community…
One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) went together with his Companions to a graveyard and said:
“May the peace of Allah be upon you o dwellers of the abode of Believers! Allah willing we will one day join you. How I wish to see my brothers. How much I have missed them”.
His Companions asked:
“Are we not your brothers o Messenger of Allah!”
The Prophet replied:
“You are my Companions. My brothers are those who have not yet arrived in this world”.
His Companions then asked:
“How will you recognise those who have not yet come as from your community o Messenger of Allah?”.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Consider a man who has a horse whose forehead and feet are pure white. Would this man not be able to recognise his horse from a herd of other horses, all of which are pitch black?”
His Companions answered:
“Yes he would o Messenger of Allah”. Then the Blessed Messenger (pbuh) said:
“And so my brothers are those who will come with faces radiant from their ablution and hands and feet shining. I will be waiting for them at the head of my fountain ready to offer them what they desire. But beware! Some people will be cast out of my pool like a wild camel is thrown out of a herd and distanced. I will call out to them:
“Come here”. It will be said to me:
“They changed after you left. (They did not follow your sunnah and strayed far from it)”. Then I will say:
“Let them be distant from me. Let them be distant”.(Muslim, Taharat 39, Fedail 26).
Thus those believers who are careful about their ablution will be subject to the love of Allah’s Messenger and will be those whom he will address as his ‘brothers’. Those who are careless in their ablution and other worship and who deviate towards the wrong path will be cast out like wild camels on the Day of Judgement. They will be afflicted with the most terrible of misfortunes, namely that of being distanced from the Messenger of Allah.
Abu Hazim, from the Tabieen once saw Abu Hurayra taking his ablution and washing his arms right up until his armpits.
“Abu Hurayra, what sort of ablution is this?” He asked. Abu Hurayra replied:
“O Bani Ferruh! I did not know that you were here? Had I have known that you were here I would not have taken my ablution like this”.
He continued by way of explanation:
“I heard my friend, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say:
“On the Day of Judgement, the light of the believers will reach as far as their water for ablution reached”. (Muslim, Taharat, 40)
How beautifully the following words of Ali express the love of the Messenger of Allah for his worship:
“On the day of Badr, there was no horseman left other than Mikdad. I remember well that day that everyone slept except for the Messenger of Allah who performed the prayer under a tree and cried until the morning”. 
This is an example of love of worship that never diminished, neither under conditions of peace nor war…
Almighty Allah states:
“And worship your Lord until what is Certain (death) comes to you”.(Hijr, 15:99)
“Prostrate and draw near”.(Alaq, 96:19)
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would praise Abdullah bin Rawaha who showed meticulousness in his prayer and he complimented him by calling him ‘my brother’:
“May Allah have mercy on my brother, Abdullah bin Rawaha! Wherever the time for prayer comes he immediately stands and prays”. (Haysami, IX, 316)
Jarh bin Abdullah narrates:
“One night we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah. He looked at the full moon and said:
“Just as you can see that full moon easily, without having to push and shove each other, so too you will be able to see your Lord. Make every effort to perform all of your prayers before the rising of the sun and before its setting”.
After that he recited the following verse:
“…glorify your Lord with praise before the rising of the sun and before its setting. And glorify Him during part of the night and at both ends of the day, so that hopefully you will be pleased”.(Taha, 20:130) (Bukhari, Mawakit 16,26, Tafsir 50/1, Tawheed 24; Muslim, Masajid 211).
Thus the greatest means to see our Lord is to show the utmost fastidiousness in performing the prayer.
Every act of worship that is carried out should be seen as an entry visa to Paradise and should be performed with care and with the enthusiasm of the loftiest spirit.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“If a person performs his prayer in the best way by bowing down and prostrating properly then the prayer will say to that person:
“May Allah preserve you, just as you have preserved me. Prayer raises one’s rank.
If a person does not perform their prayer in the best way and does not bow down and prostate properly then the prayer says to him:
“May Allah waste you just as you have wasted me”. The prayer will be crumpled up like an old piece of clothing and thrown back into his face”.
It is stated in a verse from the Qur’an:
“So woe to those who do salat, and are forgetful of their salat”. (Maun, 107:4-5)
It is a dire trait to delay the prayer until the last minute and then get up to pray unwillingly as if to get something over and done with and just pray the obligatory part of the prayer. It is so grave that it can lead one to hypocrisy, Allah forbid. Ala bin Abdurrahman narrates:
“One afternoon we went to see Anas bin Malik . When we arrived Anas immediately rose and prayed the afternoon prayer. After he had finished we told him that he had prayed the prayer early. He explained why he had performed the prayer early:
“I heard the Messenger of Allah say:
“This is the prayer of the hypocrites. This is the prayer of the hypocrites. This is the prayer of the hypocrites. One of them sits and sits and then just when the sun has turned orange and it is about to set, when the sun enters in between Satan’s two horns, he gets up and rises and bows down four times quickly as if he is a pecking hen. He remembers Allah little during his prayer”.(Muwatta, Qur’an al Kareem, 46; Muslim, Masajid 195)
Omar once advised his governors as follows:
“Your most important duty for me is the prayer. Whoever preserves it and is careful about its times, will preserve his religion and whoever does not perform it and wastes it will lose their religion in a very short time”. (Muwatta, Wukut’s salat, 6)
Miswar bin Mahrama narrates:
“When Omar bin Khattab was stabbed he fainted and lay unconsciously. One time I entered the room to visit him. They had covered him and he was lying down. I asked those around him:
“How is he?”
“As you can see, he is unconscious”, they answered.
“Have you called him for prayer? If he is alive nothing else can scare and wake him other than the prayer”. Upon hearing this they said:
“O Commander of the believers! The prayer, the prayer has been prayed. Omar woke up and said:
“Is that so? By Allah, the one who abandons the prayer will have nothing of Islam”. He rose and performed his prayer while the blood from his wounds flowed”. (Haysami, I, 295; Ibn-i Sa’d, III, 35; Muwatta, Taharet, 51)
While giving the sermon in Kufa, Ali repeated what he had heard from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):
“On Fridays, Satan goes early to the shops and markets and tries to hinder people using a thousand and one obstacles. (If he fails here) he at least tries to delay them from going to the congregational prayer. The angels on the other hand go early to the mosques and wait at the doors. They record those who arrive as follows: those who came in the first hour, then those who came in the second hour, etc. This condition continues until the imam ascends the pulpit. If a person sits down in a spot where he can see and hear the imam and listens with all ears and does not speak, then a twofold reward is written down for him. However if a person sits far away in a place where he cannot hear the imam, and if he remains silent and does not speak, one reward is written down for him. If, however a person sits where he can see the imam but speaks idly and does not remain silent he has two sins recorded for him… (Abu Dawud, Salat, 209/1051).
Those who come early to the mosque out of respect for the Friday prayer and sit where they can comfortably hear the imam and listen and reflect upon what is being said and who are in a state of deep reverence will certainly come out more profitable than those who do not.
One of the leading scholars on commentary and recitation of the Qur’an from the Tabieen, Mujahid says:
“Abdullah bin Zubayr had reached the peak in his worship of Allah, which no one else had reached. One time the area around the Ka’bah where people would walk around was flooded and the people were unable to make tawaf of the Ka’bah for a week. Abdullah, on the other hand, made tawaf of the Ka’bah for a week by swimming around it. (Ali al Muttaki, XIII, 471/37228; Zahabi, Sier, III, 370).
In his work called Gulistan, Shaykh Sadi expresses well the importance of not extinguishing one’s worship with mistakes of the heart:
“When I was a child I was very keen on withdrawing from the world and night worship. One night I was sitting next to my father. I had not closed my eyes the whole night and had not put the Qur’an down. Some people around me were sleeping. I said to my father:
“Not one of these people is lifting their heads to pray two cycles of night prayer; they are sleeping as if they are dead”. Hearing my words my father furrowed his brow and replied:
“My son Sadi! Would that you had gone to sleep too instead of gossiping about others. (Because even though those whom you are looking down upon right now are probably being deprived of divine mercy, at least the angels are not writing down anything negative about them. But what has been written in your book of deeds? That you belittled your brothers in religion and you committed the sin of gossiping”.
The Muslims maintained the fastidiousness they showed in their worship even at times of battle and were consequently subject to the help of Allah. Travijani of Venice describes the brave and victorious army of Yildirim Bayazid as follows:
“There is no wine, gambling or women in the Ottoman army like there is in ours. In addition to their military training in which they never falter, they constantly remember the greatest and lofty name of Allah, and are preoccupied with worship day and night. This is why they always come out victorious”.
The Bayazit Mosque was opened for worship on a Friday and the first to lead the prayer there was the son of Fatih, Bayazid II himself. Evliya Chelebi explains this event as follows:
“After the mosque had been built, it was officially opened one Friday with great festivity. Bayazid II said to the congregation:
“Whoever has never abandoned the first sunnah prayer of the asr and ‘isha prayers, may he come forth and be the imam at this blessed time”.
When no one in the congregation (which was like the ocean) rose, Bayazid Han had to rise:
“Praise be to Allah! We have never abandoned these sunnah prayers neither in war nor in peace…” and he became the imam and led the prayer”.
Safiye Hanim, or Muallima’i Selatin as she was otherwise known, was the Teacher of Sultans, appointed in order to raise and educate the children in the Ottoman Palace by Mehmed Rashad, the Sultan. One of the first commands to her by Mehmed Rashad was as follows:
“I will forbid salt and bread to those who do not pray and who do not fast. Let this wish of mine be declared to the student pashas and lady sultans by the lady teacher”.
Worldly rank and position did not allow these people to forget their sensitivity in worship nor did it prevent them from making efforts to make their provisions for the hereafter such as prayer and fasting, at the head of all of their duties.
The most dynamic example of fastidiousness in worship is from the glorious mujahid of the Caucasus, Shaykh Shamil. He had suffered several bayonet, sword and bullet wounds during the Defence of Gimri in 1829. A bayonet that had entered through his breast and came out his back had pierced his lungs, and broken his ribs and his right collar bone. He was treated by his father-in-law who was also his surgeon, and it was only after a period of nearly 6 months that he was able to recover. This young mujahid had been in a coma for 25 days since the day he had been wounded. When he came to and opened his eyes at the end of the 25th day he found his mother at his side. His first words to her were:
“Dearest mother! Have I missed the time for prayer?
It was the eve of the Ramadan eid (festival) during the time when the Battle for the Dardanelles was being fought. The front commander, Wahip Pasha called the imam of the 9th battalion and said to him sadly and reluctantly:
“O Hafiz! Tomorrow is the eid of Ramadan. The soldiers wish to pray the eid prayer in congregation. No matter how I tried, I could not make them change their minds. But such a thing is very dangerous as it is an opportunity for the enemies to destroy us completely. Can you please try to explain the situation to the privates in a suitable way…”
The Imam had just left the Pasha’s side when a radiant-looking individual appeared and said to him:
“My son! Make sure not to say anything to the soldiers! Let us wait and see what the day brings. Whatever Allah says will be”.
The next morning a divine manifestation was experienced that left everyone in shock. Huge clouds hung down from the skies like bunches of fruit, covering the believing soldiers as they prayed in a state of love for Allah. The enemy soldiers who had been watching them with binoculars could see nothing but pure white clouds. That morning, the loud cries of takbir (Allahu Akbar) of the eid prayer ascended to the skies. Whilst the radiant old man read some verses from the chapter Victory from the Qur’an, the oneness of Allah overflowed from the hearts of the soldiers and could be heard from the enemy ranks.
It was at this point that chaos broke out amongst the British forces. The British had deceived various Muslim soldiers from their colonies and brought them to fight for them. When these Muslim soldiers heard the cries of takbir (Allah is the Greatest) and tawheed (La ilaha illallah) they realised that they were fighting Muslims like themselves and they subsequently rebelled. Not knowing what to do, the oppressive British executed some of them and others were hurriedly dragged to the back of the front.
Faith, the unwavering fortress in the hearts of the soldiers of Islam, enabled them to perform their worship even when on the battlefield and as a result divine success and help befell and enveloped the entire army.
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) stated that the speed with which a person will pass over the bridge of Sirat will be in accordance to the degree to which they gave importance to their worship.
“People will come to the Fire and then will pass by according to their deeds: the first group will pass by at the speed of lightning, the second group like the wind. The next group will pass by as quick as horsemen and the next will pass by at the speed of a camel rider. The next one will run and the one after that will walk”.(Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 19/3159).
In short, the aim of worship and servanthood is that the heart should be together with Allah. That is, it should have knowledge of Allah (gnosis) and love for Him. Worship will bestow grace and beauty upon a person to the degree that faith has become apparent in their heart. Worship done with enthusiasm and ardour will bring depth to the soul and bring the servant closer to Allah. It will allow feelings of mercy and generosity to develop in their heart. Almighty Allah will become like the seeing eye and the hearing ear of such servants. That is to say, what they see, hear, think, and express will reach a state of divine illumination.
May our Lord make this possible for each of us. Amen!…
. A Kalb-i munib is a heart that ever turns towards Allah with fervour in order to be free of the slavery of ephemeral attractions
. Ibn-i Huzayma, Sahih, Beirut 1970, II, 52
. Suyuti, Al Jamiu”s Sagir, Egypt 1321,I,58/364
. This hypocrisy that is mentioned in this hadith is a hypocrisy of action not of belief.
. Safiye Unuvar, Saray Hatiralarim, Istanbul 1964, p 21).