The First Pillar of Islamic Worship, the Pole of Religion, the Light of Faith, and the Vehicle of Ascension for Believers
Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers” (Muminun, 1-2)
The life of man is full of signs that indicate the search for truth in order to reach the Creator of the universe. These signs are the consequence of our natural inclinations to believe and worship. These are innate and set in the nature of mankind. Those then who remain deprived of the (Divine) Reality and truth, and go astray by deifying a powerless being who cannot satisfy their true natural needs, as has been seen both in the past and present, end up following unreasonable and illogical paths. Thus, today, many millons of people deify such creatures as the cow, and many of them, as in the deviated religions, have an anthropomorphic view of the Transcendent Lord, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Universe.
This points out that man is in need of being a servant and is in need to carry out the requirements for fulfilling that purpose. Thus, Allah says in the Qur’an:
“I have only created the Jinn and humankind, that they may serve Me.” (Zariyat, 51:56).
This means that because of this destiny, man is a servant and since he is living in the secret of servanthood, he is in a state of need. Therefore, man is supposed to reach salvation and success to the degree that he is able to channel this natural inclination in to pursuing the honor and dignity of mankind. And he is, thereby, charged to praise and worship his Lord. Ultimately, all superior features and degrees that man is endowed with are based on the condition of accomplishing this task. It is stated in the Qur’an:
“You have no value before My Lord if you do notworship Him” (Furqan 25:77).
Thus, Allah in this verse, and in many verses of the Qur’an, states that man needs to do good deeds as well as having faith. Therefore, the believers who aim to enter the presence of Allah with a sound heart commit themselves to the sublime springs of acts of worship called righteous deeds and with a willing heart, they travel towards the ocean of union with their Lord. And prayer is, without doubt, the biggest and most important worship that leads the servant to the ocean of union with the Lord. Because prayer is the core and the zenith of all practices in terms of content, scope, and degree.
All creation in the universe; the sun, green meadows, and trees glorify Allah. Birds, mountains, and stones all praise Allah in ways that are unknown to us. Plants glorify Allah by standing; animals glorify Him by bowing down, and inanimate objects glorify Him by lying down. And the heavenly creatures follow the same pattern. Some angels glorify Allah by standing, some by bowing down, and some by lying down. However, the prayer that Allah offered man as a vehicle for ascension covers all these acts of worship. Thereby, those who are true in their prayers gain countless rewards and spiritual manifestations since this act of worship covers the totality of worship that beings of this-world and other-worlds can perform.
Soloman Chalabi puts this special characteristic of prayer into words so elegantly:
Whoever performs this prayer,
Acquires merit in Allah’s sight…
As it covers every form of worship,
Union with Allah is included in this kind of worship…
The Prophet (pbuh) says in this regard:
“Prayer allows the person to attain Allah’s approval and also the love of the angels. It is the way of the prophets. It is the light of wisdom. It is the foundation of faith. It makes one’s sustenance blessed with increase and fertility. It gives comfort to the body. It is a weapon over the enemies. It keeps Satan away. It is an intercessor between the worshipper and the Angel of Death. It is a candle and a carpet in the tomb. It is an answer to the angels of Munkar-Nakir (the angels that question the dead person right after death). It is a bosom friend until the Day of Judgment. It is a shade over the worshipper on the Day of Judgment. It is a crown on the head. It is a dress on the body. It is pioneering light. It is a curtain stretched between him and others. It is a proof for the believers before Allah. It is a weight on the Scale. It makes the passage on the bridge to Paradise very easy. It is a key to Paradise. Because prayer is praising, honoring, glorifying, reciting and requesting. In short, a prayer on time embodies all virtuous acts.” (Tanbih al-Gafilin, 293).
That is why prayer is a meeting point with Allah, and it is a gift to the people of Islam as a small ascension(as compared to the Mir’aj of the Prophet (pbuh). As stated in the Qur’an:
”.. Bow down in adoration, and bring yourself the closer (to Allah)!” (Alaq 96:19) one is supposed to enter the presence of Allah through prayer.
In a true prayer all else besides Allah is removed, and all worldly concerns are wiped out. The worshipper and the worshipped come together in a meeting place. One can thus travel to the bottom of the Divine secrets. Prayer was enjoined on the Prophet (pbuh) after the meeting on the Night of Ascension(Lailatul-Miraj) without the mediation of Archangel Gabriel, and therefore, it is attributed as a personal union with Allah. That is why the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Prayer is the light of my eye.” (Nasai, Ahmad bin Hanbal).
What is gained through prayer such as perfection, serenity, relief, tranquility and intimacy, can be attained with no other practice, but prayer. The rank of prayer in the world is like the rank of seeing Allah in the Hereafter. Because, in no act of worship may the servant come closer to Allah than in prayer. The finest taste and spiritual manifestation can be acquired through prayer. It may be said that all other acts of worship are steps to prepare the servant for prayer. That is why the Prophet (pbuh) described prayer as:
“The pillar of religion and the light of the heart, the key of happiness, and the ascension for believers.”
Prayer, with its all Divine character, is an extraordinary act of worship divided between the servant and Allah. It is like surah Al-Fatiha (the first chapter of the Qur’an).
The first four verses: (1- In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
2- Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds.
3- Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
4- Master of the Day of Judgment) belong to Allah;
And the fifth verse “You (do) we worship, and Your aid (do) we seek)” belongs to both Allah and the servant. This brings together the servant’s commitment to Allah, and also Allah’s function as the deity for the servant. Namely, the servant is supposed to devote his acts of worship to only Allah by being conscious of the fact that Allah is the Unique One to worship. The rest of surah belongs to the servant. It is said in a tradition supplementing the Qur’an (Hadith-i-Qudsi): related by the Prophet (pbuh) as if spoken by Allah:
“I divided the prayer between Myself and My servant; one half is Mine, and the other is his/hers.” (Muslim, Salat, 38-40).
So, prayer is an appeal to the Lord by His servant. It is an invocation. Allah says in the Qur’an:
”.. Establish regular prayer for celebrating My Praise.” (Taha, 20: 14).
And again the secret of the verse “Then do you remember Me; I will remember you!..” (Baqara, 2:152) emerges in prayer rather than in another act of worship.
Thus, during the invocation of prayer, the union with Allah is actualized as stated in a Hadith-i-Qudsi related by the Prophet (pbuh) as if spoken by Allah:
“I am with the one who invokes Me…” (Bukhari, Tawhid, 15).
However, in order that one could duly utilize this union attaining to the lerel of (ihsan) is required. The Prophet (pbuh) says in this respect:
“Ihsan(Beneficence) means the pray as if you see Allah! Even though you cannot see Him, He sees you!..” (Muslim, Iman, 1).
So, a prayer which is done in this way is regarded as “light of the eye” (joy).
Those who do the prayer in this way please Allah and His Prophet (pbuh).
Therefore, prayer is like a glorious tree that shows Prophet Moses (a.s) the path. It is a consolation for broken-hearts; it is a joy for the hearts tired of the preoccupations of this world; it is a spiritual sustenance; it is a cure for souls; and it is a language of enlightenment. The Prophet (pbuh), when the pressure of worldly duties grew strong, used to ask Bilal (the companion first assigned to give the call (adhan) for prayer) as follows:
“O Bilal! Comfort us by calling to stand for the prayer.”
This is because there is no other act of worship like prayer. The person doing the prayer can engage himself with nothing, but prayer. Prayer breaks his connection with any other engagement. It gives one the opportunity to experience in true prayer, the indescribable pleasure of union with Allah. No other act of worship can provide this pleasure. For example, during the worship of fasting one can be in the market as a buyer, or a seller… The person who does the pilgrimage is also in the same position. Yet, the person who prays can neither be a seller nor a buyer. He can only do the prayer. Namely, he is in presence of Allah both physically and spiritually.
Perfect believers pray five times a day as enjoined in the Qur’an:
”.. Prayers are enjoined on Believers at stated times.” (Nisa, 4:103).
They also do supererogatory prayers, and they, step by step, find a place among the virtuous servants of Allah, and in the end, by getting endless beneficence and mercy reach the home of peace as required by Allah’s decree of “Come back you to your Lord!”
Muslims who follow this line are in position of “Then do you remember Me; I will remember you!..” (Baqara, 2:152).
They enjoy the declaration of “Remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life)!” (Ankabut, 29:45).
This statement includes both meanings of “remembrance of Allah, namely, prayer is the greatest thing” and also “Allah’s remembrance of the servant is greater than the servant’s remembrance of Allah.” So, prayer is the primary act of worship that makes the servant come close to Allah.
Preparation for Prayer
In order to perform prayer it is, of course, essential to prepare for it perfectly. In the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh), ablution (wudhu) is said to be the first reqirement for prayer.
Ablution is the first requirement, because prayer contains spiritual, physical, and natural beauty. The statement by Imam Azam (Abu Hanifa) in that he felt that his sins were washed away when he made ablution is such a nice account in that it explains the importance of a perfect preparation for prayer. The spiritual intuition and insight of Imam Azam, in this regard, is a famous one. He once said to a youngster who was making ablution:
“– O my son! Please leave ‘this and that’ sin…”
And the youngster responded:
“– How do you know that I commit ‘this and that’ sin?”
Imam Azam replied:
“ –I know them through the water coming down from your ablution…”
On the other hand, brushing teeth with miswaq (a stick of wood made into fibers at one end, used as a toothbrush), which is a custom (sunnah) of the Prophet (pbuh), is also important. The Prophet (pbuh) says in this matter:
“The prayer that is made after brushing the teeth with the miswaq is seventy times stronger than the one without it.” (Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad, VI, 272).
“The toothbrush (miswaq) not only cleans the teeth, but also pleases Allah.” (Bukhari, Sawm, 28).
As it is known, the act of prayer is completely done by the tongue through such means as pronouncing the profession of Allah’s Unity, the affirmation of “Allah is Great”, praising Allah, and other recitations. Therefore, the mouth, from where Divine prayers come out, should be kept clean in prayer. This will, obviously, provide serenity to hearts as well.
Though toothbrush and toothpaste clean the teeth as well, extra medical benefits are gained by using miswaq. As stated in the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh), miswaq protects by preventing tooth decay and stomach problems in addition to many other benefits.
One of the important aspects of preparation for prayer is, in view of the saying of the Prophet (pbuh) “a few acts of worship based on knowledge are better than many acts of worship done in ignorance”, to know its prerequisites, traditions, and necessities.
Then again, we should try our best to be ready for prayer by purifiying our hearts from enmity, malice, and other moral weaknesses as we clean our outer organs. We should remain vigilant about the tricks and traps of Satan and satanic people who keep us away from this preparation.
Wise people understand and put into practice, the verse “And keep your garments free from stain!” (Muddathir 74:4) meaning:
“Purify yourself inwardly and outwardly for the prayer, which means being in the presence of Allah; have good moral qualities!”
It is said in one of the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh):
“Thin down the middle of your back and your stomach!” (Jamiu’s-Sagir).
Here, thinning down the middle of one’s back refers to keeping away from forbidden acts, and thinning down one’s stomach refers to not overeating.
Prerequisites of Prayer: Pious
The outward prerequisites of prayer are regulated by Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh). A prayer that does not observe the regulations set by Islamic law is not acceptable. However, a prayer that is not done in pious reverence is not a respected one. Therefore, a prayer should combine the outward regulations and the inner ones that adorn the heart. Adornment of the heart can be accomlished by actualizing the secret of purification. It is said in the Qur’an:
“But those will prosper who purify themselves.” (A’la (7:14).
This spiritual cultivation is so important for prayer. Allah does not mention the obligatory (fardh), the necessary, (wajib), and the number of units of prayer, but rather repeatedly states the importance of pious reverence, sincerity, and peace of mind. The importance of these states covers our entire life. So, the spiritual side of prayer is the most important component that the praying person should observe. It is said in the Qur’an:
“The believers must (eventually) win through: those who humble themselves in their prayers…” (Muminun, 23:1-2).
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“Whoever makes ablution accordingly, and prays in time, and bows down and prostrates in pious reverence, his prayer arises as a luminous light and calls to the praying person: ‘ –May Allah save you as you observed my details!’ And whoever does not make ablution accordingly, and does not pray in time, and does not bow down and prostrate in pious reverence, his prayer arises as a dark object and calls to the praying person: ‘ – May Allah waste you as you wasted me!’ Thus, the prayer, following Allah’s decree, goes to a place and then comes back to slap the face of the praying person.” (Tabarani).
Bahaaddin al-Naqshiband was once asked:
“– How does a servant achieve pious reverence in prayer?”
“- There are four prerequisites for that:
1. Legitimate earning,
2. Remaining vigilant during ablution for prayer,
3. Feeling the presence of Allah as one begins prayer by saying “Allah is Great!”
4. Feeling the presence of Allah all the time; remaining in peace and tranquility, and obeying Allah after prayer.”
Pious reverence in prayer is so important that the servant is treated by Allah accordingly. The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“When a person completes his prayer, one tenth of its reward is given to him; or he is given one ninth; or one eighth; or one seventh; or one sixth; or one fifth, or one fourth, or one third, or half…”(Abu Dawud, Salat, 124).
“Many people cannot get one sixth, or even one tenth, of the reward for his prayer. He only gets the part he does in pious reverence.” (Abu Dawud, Nesai).
Namely, the servant gets reward for only the prayer he does in pious reverence.
Those who do prayers in sincerity mean to perform prayers adequately and thereby to commit themselves to Allah. They engage themselves only with prayer, and perform prayer in order that they may renlize spiritual accomplishments. They fix their eyes on the point to which they prostrate, and sensing that they are under Divine scrutiny, they go into rapture in spiritual pleasure.
This is, of course, the condition of the sincere servants with a sound heart. Namely, pious reverence is the fruit of sincerity. Then, sincerity provides the servant with pious reverence, and it advances him to high degrees before Allah as well as providing Divine protection. The Prophet (pbuh) says in this regard:
“Good news is for those who are guided into the right way. It is just because of them strong troubles vanish.” (Fadail-i Amal).
In order for sincerity and pious reverence to take root in the heart and thereby bring spiritual benefits the following points should be observed:
1. Peace of Heart: The soul should be covered up with only the spirit of the prayer, praise of Allah, and the verses. One should break with worldly engagements. A soul that cannot break with the engagements of the world cannot concentrate on the prayer. It can never be aware of his/her presence before Allah. If the servant manages to overcome this forgetfulness, and manages union with Allah, and also benefits from the meanings of the recitations, then s/he acquires peace of mind/heart. Thus, men of Allah used to struggle to compensate for not only the prayers they did not perform properly, but also the ones they were not able to perform in peace of mind. However, this does not mean that everbody must act in the same way, but it demonstrates the importance of a sound heart in prayer.
The cause for peace of mind is spiritual endeavor. It is the desire to rise spiritually. And this endeavor is actualized by comprehending that intimacy with Allah can only be attained through prayer.
2. Perception: One should perceive what he recites. This is the second important thing after peace of mind. And perception acts as a bridge in order that peace of mind in prayer be kept at other times as well.
3. Reverence: One should be aware of his being in the presence of Allah, and keep pious reverence both physically and spiritually. Namely, reverence means maintaining peace of mind, perception, and regulations in prayer. Maintaining these manners enhances the merit of the prayer and a prayer having these manners intercedes for the praying person on the Day of Judgment.
One should take into consideration the following warning:
“If you want your prayer to be an ascension, do not think that your worship is an excellent one in the face of the Grandeur of the Lord, and the blessings that Allah endowed you with! Do not ever think that your worship is enough to thank Allah! Think about the Prophet (pbuh) who used to say: ‘O my Lord! I was not able to duly thank You; please forgive me!’”
4. Awe and Fear: The praying person should feel the awe and dread which come out of reverence. Awe and Fear provide the praying person with an awareness of Allah’s Power and Highness, and thereby earnestness and piety come out. Piety arises from the awe of Allah, and protecting the heart from unawareness. These are the most effective way of enhancing the rank of the servant before Allah. It is said in the Qur’an:
”.. The most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you…” (Hujurat 49:13).
Abu Zarr narrates:
The Prophet (pbuh), one day, had gone out in the autumn. The leaves of trees were falling down. The Prophet (pbuh) then said:
“O Abu Zarr! There is no doubt that if a Muslim prays just for the sake of Allah with all his sincerity, his sins fall off him as these leaves fall off the trees.” (Ahmad, Targib).
5. Hopeful Expectation: One is supposed to expect the Mercy of Allah during prayer, and appeal to Allah after the prayer as well. If one fears only, this condition makes the person sorrowful, and it may one day play havoc with our spiritual balance. Therefore, hopeful expectation eliminates this danger.
6. Modesty: This is a complementary virtue to the above mentioned merits. The servant who sees himself in the presence of Allah feels ashamed of his/her indecent behaviors, and therefore avoids them. Thus, he becomes aware of his lapses and oversight in prayer. He does not get obsessed with relying on his worship. The Prophet (pbuh) says in this regard:
“No one should ever rely on his sins being forgiven just because of his worship (prayer).”(Fadail-i Amal, 251).
Thus, one cannot guarantee that his sins would be forgiven because of prayer, and one should always remain ashamed of his indecent behavior as forgiveness is a Blessing and a Mercy from Allah. It is a requirement of His Compassion. Otherwise, we are unable to pray and thank the Lord adequately. However, prayers that are done in a humble and vigilant manner please Allah through His Beneficence and Blessing.
In short, one who does not combine the rhythm of the body with the awe of the heart cannot attain to the essence of prayer. One needs to strive to capture the essence of prayer both physically and spiritually. Those things that damage the union of body and spirit should be cleared away and the mind should be kept free of all kinds of distraction. The Prophet (pbuh), for example, says in this matter:
“When prayer and a meal overlap have the meal first!” (Bukhari, Muslim).
Muslim scholars are particular about the union of body and spirit in prayer, and they metaphorically point out that the prayers of the following three groups of people are not accepted:
Here, the hunter represents that person who pries about with his eyes during prayer; here, the porter represents the person who does not ease himself to avoid freshening his ablution though he really needs to do so; and the merchant, here, stands for the person who does not clear his mind and heart of worldly dealings. These three metaphorical groups of people cannot steep themselves in prayer, and cannot attain awe and tranquility. They perform prayers just for the sake of doing, and this is not acceptable before Allah as the parts of the body should be ready for prayer as well. Thus, when the Prophet (pbuh), who saw a person passing his hand through his beard said:
“– If there were awe in this person’s heart, all parts of his body would remain quite still.” (Tirmizi). This saying of the Prophet (pbuh) points toward the union of body and spirit in prayer.
The following sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) call attention to this point:
“When you rise up for prayer, do your prayer, keeping all parts of the body very still! Do not weave as Jews do. Because keeping the body immobile is a requirement for a sound prayer.” (Tirmizi).
“Seven things are from Satan in prayer (i.e., Satan likes them): bleeding of the nose, napping, misgivings, yawning, itching, looking around, and playing with something…” (Tirmizi).
These things encroach upon the spirit of prayer.
Conversely, if the praying person seems outwardly in awe, but inwardly away from awe, this is called hypocritical awe. And the heart should be kept away from such a condition.
The epilogue in this matter of awe is the words of the prayer of the Prophet Abraham (a.s), which Allah has provided us with in the Qur’an:
“My Lord! make me keep up prayer and from my offspring (too), O our Lord, and accept my prayer!” (Ibrahim, 14:40).
Hatem-i Asam suggests the following points about performing prayer properly:
“Prepare for prayer in the best way. Then put the Ka’bah in between your eyebrows; and the bridge (sirat) to paradise under your feet; and paradise to your right; and the hell to your left! Enter the presence of Allah with awe and hope, thinking that Azrail (angel of death) is about to take your life, and this is your final prayer in this world! Begin to pray consciously saying “Allah is Great”! Start reading the Qur’an slowly and think of the meaning! Make your soul bow down in reverence and prostrate in humbleness. Make your body follow the external requirements for prayer, but let your soul always remain in the state of prostration and do not allow separation from this union for one breath..”
Al-Gazzali discusses having the love of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) while in the sitting position (tahhiyat) in prayer and gives an important example. In prayer it is necessary for the heart to be at peace as made clear in the following teaching.
“It is required to imagine the Prophet (pbuh) in between the eyes of the heart while saying, (O Prophet, may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon you!) in the first and final sitting.”
This particular greeting by Allah to His Prophet at the time of the Prophet’s ascension (mi’raj) to the heavens with the words “O Messenger! May the Peace and Mercy of Allah be upon you both in this world and the Hereafter” is such an exceptional exaltation for him.
Prayer, is like the ascension of the believer, providing those who think deeply on it with benefits from Divine Grace.
Therefore, one should try to benefit from the spirit of sending blessings on the Prophet (pbuh) in prayer. It means a remembrance for us of the Prophet’s ascension to the Heavens. His ascension is the mysterious transfiguration of the love of Allah towards the Prophet (pbuh). The Declaration of Faith that is cited right after sending blessings on the Prophet signifies how honorable a gain is the belief in One Allah and being a servant to Him, and also signifies the requirement of sending greetings on the Prophet (pbuh) whenever his name is mentioned. So, the prayer with all these contents is like a window shutter opened to us from the true essence of Islam. Lovers of Allah come close to Allah through this window shutter, and they watch the High transfigurations and realities as they observe the Divine mystery. Therefore, one cannot reach perfect faith without realizing the mystery in sending blessings on the Prophet (pbuh) alongside citing the name of Allah by chanting the formula of the Declaration of Faith.
Thus, Allah enjoins believers to send blessings on the Prophet (pbuh) as a reflection of fondness for the Prophet (pbuh) in a verse in which it is said that Allah and the angels send blessings to him as well:
“Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O you that believe! Send blessings on him, and salute him with all respect.” (Ahzab 33:56).
Thus, those who worship and pray get carried away and do not care about worldly concerns. They take no account of worldly pleasures.
Jalal al-Din Rumi says about those people who can manage to pray in this framework:
“Those people go out of this world as soon as they enter prayer as a sacrificial animal does when slaughtered.”
Then Rumi calls to the praying person:
“You pray standing as a candle in the niche of a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca. Be wise and know the meaning of the first recitation while beginning prayer as (Allah is the Greatest-اللَه اَكبَر) It means: (O our Lord! We sacrifice ourselves in your presence! And by putting our hands to our ears we put everything behind us, and we direct ourselves to You!)
The recitation of اللَه اَكبَر ‘Allah is the Greatest’ while beginning prayer is like the recitation of ‘Allah is the Greatest’ while slaughtering a sacrifice. By saying اللَه اَكبَر) ‘Allah is the Greatest’ while beginning prayer you are supposed to slaughter your sensuality.”
“At that moment your body is like Ishmael and your soul is like Abraham (a.s). When your soul says ‘Allah is the Greatest’ your body gets rid of all sensuality and passions. And when you say الرَ همن الرهيم
بِسمِ الله ‘In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficient, and the Most Merciful’, they get sacrificed.”
“Those who pray stand in line as they would do on the Day of Judgment; they begin to account for their actions and appeal to Allah.”
“Standing in prayer while weeping corresponds to standing before Allah on the Day of Judgment after arising from the grave. Allah will question you and ask: ‘What have you done in your worldly life? What have you earned and what have you brought to Me?’”
“Such questions come to mind in Allah’s presence in prayer.”
“While standing in prayer the servant feels ashamed, and then bows down as he cannot manage to stand because of the shame he feels. While bowing down he glorifies Allah by saying ‘Glory to my Lord, the Great’.”
“Then Allah orders the servant: ‘raise your head and answer the questions!’”
“The servant raises his head ashamedly, but he cannot bear that condition and this time he prostrates.”
“Then he raises his head again, but he cannot bear that condition and he prostrates again.”
“Then Allah says: ‘Raise your head and answer. I will question you about what you have done in your earthly life.’”
“Allah’s Word to him is so forceful that he cannot bear to stand. And therefore he sits with his knees bent. Allah says: ‘I provided you with favor and benefaction, how did you make use of them? Did you return thanks for them? I provided you with material and spiritual wealth; what did you earn with them?
“Then the servant turns his face right; and greets the soul of the Prophet (pbuh) and the angels. And tells them: ‘O masters of the spiritual world! Please intercede with Allah for this poor servant.’”
“The Prophet (pbuh) answers to the greeting person: ‘The time for help and comfort is over. It should all have been done in worldly life. You have not performed good deeds there, you have not worshipped, you have wasted your time!’”
“Then the servant turns his face left. He asks for help from his relatives. They answer: ‘Do not ask help from us. Who are we? You are supposed to answer your Lord on your own!’”
“The servant who cannot find help from any side gets disappointed. Having abandoned all hope to find help he resorts to Allah, to seek refuge in Him and opening his hands in prayer he says: ‘O my Lord! I have abandoned any hope from anybody. You are the First, the Last, and the Unique for the servants to appeal to, and the last to turn to. I seek refuge in Your Eternal Mercy and Compassion.’”
“See these pleasant signs of prayer and be aware of what you would be facing. Gather yourselves together and try to benefit from your prayer both physically and spiritually! Do not put your head like a bird collecting grain on the ground!.. Take heed of the saying of the Prophet: ‘The most wicked thief is the one who steals from prayer.’” (Hakim, Mustadrak, I, 353).
“If one prays in pious reverence and beseeches Allah in awareness of His Love, Allah pays him a compliment saying that ‘I am at your service.’”
The Prophet (pbuh) says about the degrees of prayer in terms of pious reverence:
“Two people pray separately at the same place and at the same time. However, there is as huge a difference between them as between the sky and the earth.” (Ihya).
Therefore, the Qur’an points out that true believers are those who justly do their prayer in pious reverence: “And those who guard (the sacredness) of their worship.” (Maarij, 70:34).
It is again said in the same chapter of the Qur’an:
“Those who remain steadfast to their prayer.” (Maarij, 70:23).
Those who spiritually experienced think that:
“The intent of this verse is to express the spirit of prayer as only an outward manifestation of prayer cannot remain permanently. But it is the spirit that bows down and prostrates. Permanent prayer means remembering Allah all the time.”
Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, also, interprets this verse metaphorically:
“The servant keeps his state at prayer and also afterwards. In this way he spends all his life in pious reverence and decency; and also watches his mouth and soul. This is the way of the lovers of Allah.”
Rumi goes on:
“The prayer that keeps us away from evil acts is done five times a day. Whereas the lovers of Allah always remain in prayer for the love in their soul and the Divine fondness that kindles their lungs does not calm down with praying five-times a day.”
“The prayer of the lover of Allah is like the condition of a fish in water. As a fish cannot live without water, the soul of a lover of Allah cannot find peace without constant prayer. Therefore, the expression that “visit me not much!” is not for the lovers of Allah. The soul of the true lovers always remains thirsty.”
“If a lover stands apart from his desire even for a moment, it feels like thousands of years to him. And if he spends thousands of years with his dearest one it feels like just a moment to him. That is why a lover of Allah always remains in prayer and it is by this that he meets Allah. If he misses even a unit of prayer, it feels to him like missing thousands of units of prayer.”
“O wise and smart ones! It is beyond the reach of the intellect to understand the union with Allah in prayer. It can only be understood by sacrificing the intellect for the Dearest and reviving the heart.”
And reviving the heart depends on to which direction the servant goes. Rumi says about this direction as follows:
“The direction for kings is the crown and the belt; and the direction for the worldly-minded is gold and silver; and the direction for those who love material beings is idols; and the direction for lovers of spirit is the heart and the soul; and the direction for ascetics is the niche of a mosque; and the direction for the careless is unnecessary works; and the direction for the lazy is to sleep and eat; and the direction for humans is knowledge and wisdom.
The direction for the lover is eternal union; and the direction for the wise person is the Face of Allah; and the direction for the worldly-minded is possessions and rank; and the direction for dervishes is the provisions of religious orders; and the direction for passion is worldly desires; and the direction for the people of confinement is putting trust in Allah.
We must be aware that the direction we face for prayer is not the building of the Ka’bah, but it is the place where the Ka’bah is located. If the Ka’bah is moved to another place it cannot be the direction for prayer there.”
So one is supposed to direct his heart to Allah while directing his body towards the Ka’bah. Because the direction for the heart is Allah.
On the other hand, in order to accomplish pious reverence in prayer one is supposed to have a perfect intention to perform his prayer in accordance with the following saying of the Prophet (pbuh), “acts are judged by intentions.” This means being conscious of whose presence we are in as we pray. This requires examining the desires of the heart and also divorcing all aims except the approval of Allah.
One is supposed to feel the Grandeur of Allah as soon as he begins prayer with the words “Allah is Great!” When the person raises his hands to his ears to begin prayer he is supposed to put everything behind him. The praying person should feel the delight of being in Allah’s presence in his heart. He should feel as if he has left this transitory world for the Hereafter when he begins prayer.
The praying person is supposed while standing to set his eyes on where he puts his head for prostration. He should always feel that he is in Allah’s presence, and that s/he is an impotent being and therefore s/he always needs Allah. He should try to be among those servants whom Allah praises with the words “What a nice servant!”
While reciting from the Qur’an he is supposed to read properly, and also to try to understand and to contemplate the meaning of the verses as well as putting them into practice in life. The Prophet (pbuh) says that “Recitation of the Qur’an means speaking to Allah.” (Abu Nuaim, Hilya, 7, 99). Therefore, one’s soul should be vigilant while reading the Qur’an.
One is supposed to say the words “Glory to my Lord, the Greatest” by contemplating its meaning and feeling the Grandeur of Allah while bowing down.
And while saying the words “Glory to my Lord, the Highest” in the position of prostration one is supposed to feel, again, the Grandeur of Allah. Being aware of the fact that the servant comes closest to Allah in the position of prostration, we should get our soul to prostrate as well as our body. Only by doing so can we attain that blessing from the secret of the verse “Bow down in adoration, and bring yourself closer (to Allah)!” (Alaq 96:19). Thus, the servant should enjoy his union with Allah and try to be among those lovers of Allah who long for receiving the love of Allah.
While sitting upright after every two units of prayer the servant should sit in reverence and feel how impotent he is and, therefore, he should call down Allah’s mercy.
When it comes to the act of turning one’s face to the right and to the left to complete prayer with the words said to the two angels “peace and mercy of Allah be upon you”, this should be done feeling the joy of union with Allah through prayer and sharing this feeling by greeting the two angels on one’s right and left shoulders.
If a prayer is performed in a way that pleases Allah, the greeting said to the two angels is returned by them. And Allah rewards this kind of prayer in the Hereafter as said in the Qur’an:
“Peace unto you for that you persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final Home!” (Rad, 13:24).
Such requirements of prayer as pious reverence, decency, and union with Allah are not beyond the reach of humans. Spiritual enjoyment in prayer should not be considered as just a decorative element of prayer since the prayers of the Prophet (pbuh), who taught us how to pray, present a nature transcending such an evaluation. Also, the prayers of his companions and those of the (chosen) friends of Allah who follow them are spiritual guides for us too.
Prayers by the Prophet (pbuh)
It is narrated that while the Prophet (pbuh) was praying the people around him used to hear a voice of weeping that came out of his chest. Ali, (may Allah be pleased with him), remembers his observation in this regard:
“I saw the Prophet weeping in prayer under a tree at the Battle of Badr. Insomuch that he spent all night in that position…” (Fadail al-Amal, 299).
The Prophet (pbuh) was even observed in a state in which his heart spread voices as if a stewpot boiled inside.
Aisha, (May Allah be please with her), the wife of the Prophet (pbuh), says:
“We used to hear some voice coming out of the Prophet’s chest as if a stewpot boiled inside.” (Abu Dawud, Salat, 157; Nasai, Sahv, 18).
Aisha also says:
“The Prophet always used to have conversations with us. Yet, when the time for prayer came due he used to change as if he never knew us, and he used to direct himself to Allah…” (Fadail al-Amal, 299).
So, availing oneself of this blessing of prayer should be the primary aim of our souls. Though this cannot always be achieved we should endeavor in this way. In short, the mood of the Prophet (pbuh) in prayer should be our ideal. The closer we come to this ideal, the more benefit we will receive.
It must be stated here that no acts of man are to be performed in complete perfection before many trials. So is it for prayer. Prayer is done in the form of imitation at first. The servant needs time to reach perfection in prayer as an artist needs time and experience to produce a perfect work. Therefore, those who cannot perform their prayer in a perfect way should not lose hope and keep going to reach perfection. As one needs to sift tons of earth to gain a gram of gold, one needs to try to reach perfection and peace in prayer with perseverance.
And it is a requirement to have a feeling in prayer described in the following saying of the Prophet (pbuh):
“When you pray you do it as if it was your last prayer! Do not say a thing that you will be sorry for; do not be inclined to things that careless people desire!” (Ibn Maja, Zuhd, 15).
The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and those saints of Allah who followed them have always strained after this objective identified by this saying of the Prophet (pbuh).
Prayers by the Pioneers of Islam
Omar, (May Allah be pleased with him), the second caliph, was mortally wounded by a disgruntled fire-worshipper. He was losing blood and in critical condition and soon lost consciousness. Yet, when it was time for prayer somebody stated close to his ear:
“O Omar! It is time for prayer!” Astonishingly, he then became aroused to perform his prayer. And afterwards he said:
“One who does not perform prayer has no place in Islam!” After these words he lost consciousness and later expired.
Ali, the fourth caliph, was growing pale and shedding all worldly senses while praying. When he was struck with an arrow in a battle he began prayer for somebody to remove the arrow from his body. He felt no pain while the arrow was being removed. He was once asked:
“– O Leader of Believers! Why is your face growing pale and your body shaking when it is time for prayer?”
“It is time to perform a worship that the earth and the sky could not bear. And I do not know whether I will be able to do it perfectly, or not.”
All companions of the Prophet (pbuh) used to have a feeling of awe and fear while praying.
Hasan (r.a), the grandson of the Prophet (pbuh), used to turn pale while making ablution. Somebody who noticed that asked him:
“– O Hasan! Why do you turn pale while making ablution?”
“– It is time to enter the presence of Allah, the All-Powerful, the Glorious, and the Great.”
Hasan used to read a prayer while entering the mosque as follows:
“O my Lord! Here is your servant at your door. O the most Merciful Lord! Your sinful servant is before You. You ordered Your righteous servants to forgive the evil acts of sinful people because You are the Most-Generous and the Most-Forgiving. Please forgive my sins and show mercy to me by Your Generosity and Compassion!”
Zayn al-Abidin used to turn pale whenever he rose to make ablution and his legs used to shake when he was about to pray. And he used to answer those who asked him “what happens to you” as follows:
“– Do not you ever know whose presence I am about to enter?”
Once, his house caught fire while he was in prayer, but he did not notice it. On completion of his prayer he was told about it, and he was asked:
“– What made you have no notice for what had happened?”
“– The fire in the Hereafter prevented me from feeling this worldly fire.”
Muslim bin Yasar used to have the same kind of feeling during prayer. Once, while he was praying in a mosque in Basra, the mosque collapsed, but he did not notice what had happened and went on praying. On completion of his prayer he was asked:
“– The mosque collapsed, but you were indifferent to it? What makes you behave so?
“– Did it really collapse?”, he asked them in astonishment:
Sufyan al-Sawri was once in a great spiritual ecstasy. He secluded himself for seven days. He ate and drank nothing. His spiritual master was told about what he was doing and asked:
“– Is he conscious of the times of prayer?”
And he was told:
“– Of course, he is conscious, and he properly performs prayer.”
Upon hearing this, he said:
“– Thanks be to Allah who did not let Satan attack him.”
A lover of Allah narrates:
“I prayed a late-noon prayer which Dhunnun–i-Misri led. When he, a saint like servant of Allah, said, “Allah is Great!”, the word “Allah” was so powerful that I thought his soul left his body. And when he said “Great” my heart was torn into pieces.”
Amir bin Abdullah used to cut all his connection with the outside world and he used to say:
“I would prefer an arrow to pierce my body rather than being aware of the talks and acts of people around me while I am praying.”
Those who cannot pray as the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) did are so alienated from the joy of prayer that they even have doubts about the transcendent nature of it. They lack the intelligence to understand that while people enjoy doing worldly and evil acts, why should they not too get spiritual pleasures from prayer. Yet, it is so difficult for those people who cannot appreciate this kind of pleasure to understand the nature of this joy. Those unwary people believe that humans can lose sight of everything in the face of engagements and conversations with their lovers, but they cannot perceive that one can take pleasure from prayer which enables the servant to have a conversation with Allah, the Most Beloved. What a blindness and deprivation this is.
In fact, true prayer leads the servant to perfection and knowledge of Allah. Therefore, performing prayer is regarded as an easy act by those who are strong in faith and whose hearts are adorned with the love of Allah; prayer provides them with an exceptional joy. That is why they always feel as if they are in prayer even though physically they are not. Waisal Qarani always wanted to remain in prayer. He was once visited by a friend while he was praying. His friend waited for him to finish the prayer, but upon seeing that he would not do so he said to himself:
“– O my soul! You came here to visit Waisal and benefit from his spirituality. Here is his highest condition. This is the best advice to you! Action speaks more than words! If you can manage to take a lesson from what you have seen, this is more than enough for you until the end of your life!”
It was a silent, unspoken and generous lesson for this person. And then, considering himself to have been endowed with Divine Blessings he left that place.
When it comes to those who are deprived of this position, Allah says about them in the Qur’an:
”.. And prayer: it is indeed hard, except to those who bring a lowly spirit.” (Baqara, 2:45).
It must be stated here that:
Though it may be possible to reach the level that the beloved of Allah do, we must try earnestly as much as our hearts and souls can manage. Satan sometimes deludes us not to pray because we cannot do it in pious reverence. This is a trap. This may lead one to go astray. It is better to pray, though it may not be done in complete pious reverence, than not praying. The difference between the two is great. Those who do not pray always incur losses. Yet, those who pray, though not perfectly, may one day be endowed with Divine Bounty that guides them to perform prayers acceptable before Allah. If we can do even just one prayer of this kind we may have the face to enter the presence of Allah.
The Five Compulsory Daily Prayers
Basic duties have been declared to the Prophet (pbuh) through the Archangel Gabriel. However, the five compulsory daily prayers were directly presented to the Prophet (pbuh) on the night of Mir’aj, the miraculous journey of the Prophet (pbuh) to the heavens. At first, it was fifty daily prayers, but when Prophet Moses (a.s) told Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that:
“– O Messenger of Allah! I unsuccessfully tried this on the Sons of Israel before you. Your people cannot bear that responsibility either!”
The Prophet (pbuh), that night, appealed to Allah five times to reduce it to five daily prayers.
Prophet Moses (a.s), again, told Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):
“– They cannot bear the five daily ones either!”
The Prophet answered:
“– I have no face to appeal to Allah any more!”
And it was, then, determined to be five times a day.
However, Allah showed Mercy due to the appeal of the Prophet (pbuh), and also announced good news to the Prophet (pbuh) as well as reducing it to five daily ones:
“O the Prophet (pbuh)! Allah abides by His word. You will get reward of fifty for the five.” (Ibn Maja, Ikametu’s-Salah, 194).
The Prophet tells his people about the five daily prayers:
“Allah said: ‘I enjoined the five daily prayers on your people. There is a pledge by Me. I will surely place those who perform the five daily prayers in time into the paradise. And there is no pledge by Me to those who do not keep these prayers.’” (Ibn Maja, Ikametu’s-Salah, 194).
It is stated in another saying of the Prophet (pbuh):
“Allah enjoined the five daily prayers on His servants. Allah assures those who faithfully do these prayers of paradise on the Day of Judgment. Yet, Allah does not assure those who do these prayers lightly, without care and have defects in the manner of its performance; Allah deals with them as He wishes, either punishes them, or forgives them.” (Ibn Maja, Ikametu’s-Salah, 194).
The Prophet (pbuh) asked the following question to the companions to explain to them the importance of the five daily prayers:
“– If one of you has a river next to his door, and he washed himself five times a day in this river, do you think that person can have a scrap of dirt on his body?”
The Companions answered:
“– No dirt will remain on that person.”
The Prophet went on:
“Five daily prayers function in the same way. Allah deletes sins through five daily prayers.” (Bukhari, Mawaqit, 6).
The Prophet (pbuh) announced the following good news in several sayings as well:
“If deadly sins are avoided, the five daily prayers and the Friday congregational prayers are considered to be redemptions for minor sins committed between them. And this is valid for all times.” (Muslim, Taharat, 14).
“If a Muslim makes ablution when the time for prayer is due, and does the prayer in pious reverence, this prayer redeems his previous sins. And this is valid for all times.” (Muslim, Taharat, 7).
It must be stated here that the five daily prayers are all-important. There is a wisdom behind their being at different times of the day. The way they are divided is good for humans both bodily and spiritually. Therefore, one should be serious about performing each one of them with sincerity. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“So (give) glory to Allah, when you reach eventide and when you rise in the morning; To him be praise, in the heavens and on earth; and in the late-afternoon and when the day begins to decline.” (Rum 30:17-18).
Abdullah ibn Abbas regards these verses as covering the five daily prayers and says:
“The words ‘when you rise in the morning’ refers to the morning prayer;
The words ‘in the late afternoon’ refers to the noon-prayer;
The words ‘the day begins to decline’ refers to the late-noon prayer;
The words ‘when you reach eventide’ refers to the evening and late-night prayer.”
There are other verses in the Qur’an referring to the obligatory prayers.
Saphiri attaches great importance to the five daily prayers and describes the condition of those who do not offer them as follows:
“The angels call to those who give up the morning prayer as ‘O the great sinner!’;
‘Those who give up the noon-prayer as ‘O deprived one!’
‘Those who give up the late-noon prayer as ‘O rebel’
‘Those who give up the evening prayer as ‘O ungrateful one!’
‘Those who give up the late-evening prayer as ‘O loser!’..”
On the other hand, the ways and regulations of prayer, and also the additional prayers (sunnah) that the Prophet (pbuh) always performed or the ones he usually did, should be attentively observed. These are essential parts of the five daily prayers besides the optional ones throughout the day.There are many narratives attributed to the Prophet (pbuh) in this regard:
“The two units of sunnah of morning prayer is more beneficial than the world and also all the creation in the world.” (Muslim, Salat al-Musafirin, 96).
“The Prophet used to pray four units before the obligatory units of the noon-prayer, and he also used to pray two units after that.” (Tirmizi, Cuma, 66).
“May Allah show mercy to those who pray four units before the obligatory units of the late-afternoon prayer.” (Tirmizi, Salat, 201).
“Hurry up to pray the two units of sunnah prayer after the three obligatory units of evening prayer as it is uplifted together with the obligatory units.” (Rezin).
The following narrative is said to refer to the four extra units before the late-night prayer:
“There is a prayer between the call to prayer(adhan) and the call for the beginning of the obligatory units(iqamat).” (Bukhari, Azan, 16).
And the two extra units after the obligatory units of the late evening prayer is known to have been done by the Prophet routinely.
One of the most important aspects of prayer is to do it in time. Whenever the Prophet (pbuh) was asked:
“What is the most virtuous worship?”
“The prayer that is performed in time.” (Bukhari, Mawakitu’s-Salah, 5).
So it is preferable to offer prayers as soon as their time is due. The Prophet (pbuh) says in this regard:
“Allah is pleased with those who offer prayers in their due time, but He forgives those who do them towards the end of the time.” (Cam’u’l-Fawaid, I, 163).
Apart from the five daily prayers there is also the obligatory Friday (Jumu’ah) prayer. It is offered in congregation with a sermon on Fridays in place of the noon prayer. All adult male Muslims must take part except for travellers. It is not a must for women, but they can join. It is said in the Qur’an about the importance of Friday prayer:
“O you who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of Allah, and leave off business (and traffic): that is best for you if you but knew!” (Jumu’ah, 62:9).
In a Hadith-i-Qudsi -a tradition that was communicated by Allah by inspiration to the Prophet (pbuh) and related by him as if Allah was speaking:
“Whoever bears enmity to My saintly servant I will proclaim war on him. The thing that I like most among the acts that bring My servant closer to me is his performance of the acts that I enjoined on him. At the same time, My servant keeps coming closer to Me through optional worship. In the end he attains My Love. And when I love him I become the ears that he hears with; I become the eyes he sees with, I become the hands that he holds with, I become the feet that he walks with (I become the heart that he reasons with, and I become the tongue that he speaks with). When he asks for anything from Me, I immediately grant it to him. When he seeks refuge in Me, I safeguard him. I never hesitate about anything as I do in taking the life of a believing servant: He dislikes death, and I do not like anything he dislikes…” (Bukhari, Rikak, 38).
Therefore, pious Muslims, following the tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) offer optional prayers in times of fear, during the latter part of the night and at other times, and when they need something- in addition to performing the obligatory prayers. They are among those who are praised in the Qur’an:
”.. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration.” (Fath, 48:29).
They get endless pleasure from prayer and optional prayers are offered to keep up this endless pleasure. The Prophet (pbuh), though he committed no sin, used to pray at nights until his feet became sore, and he used to read the Qur’an until he was exhausted. So, optional prayers do not hinder obligatory prayers but, on the contrary, fortify them. The point here is to try to perform them in their proper way.
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“The first worship that the servant will be questioned about on the Day of Judgment is prayer. If his prayers are done properly, he will be saved. If not, he will be among the losers. If the obligatory prayers are not enough to save him, Allah will ask:
‘Are there optional prayers done by My servant so that they could complement the obligatory prayers?’
Other worship will be the same.” (Tirmizi, Salat, 188).
So, regarding obligatory prayers as sufficient will be a grave mistake, for it is almost impossible to perform the obligatory ones perfectly and duly. No matter how much weight we give to them we may, any time, make mistakes in our performance. Thus, we have no other chance, but optional prayers to complement our mistakes. Our deficiencies in offering the obligatory ones may be complemented by optional ones as we do not have a second chance to perform the obligatory prayers in case we miss or perform them incorrectly. However, this does not mean that we should leave out the obligatory prayers for optional ones. We should try to observe both at the same time. The practice of the Prophet (pbuh) in this regard is a unique example before us. On the other hand, those who did not offer obligatory prayers in time should not try to supplement only the unperformed prayers, but try to offer optional prayers as unperformed prayers could be done any time of the day whereas such optional prayers as those done during the night, forenoon, the rising of sun, and late-evening are to be done only at certain times.
Rabia bin Ka’b al-Aslamî said:
I used to stay with the Prophet at night and wait upon him to bring water for ablution and so forth. One day he told me:
“– Wish anything you like from me!”
“– I want to be with you in Paradise.”
“– What else do you wish?”
“– I only wish what I said.”
“– If so, please help me by offering as much prayer as you can!” (Muslim, Salat, 226).
Another saying of the Prophet (pbuh) in this regard is as follows:
“Nothing is more helpful to the servant to approach Allah than prostrations s/he does in solitude. Namely, it is optional prayers that s/he does on his/her own at home that bring him/her close to Allah most.”(Ibn Mubarak).
We looked for five things and we found them in five things:
1. The fruitfulness of sustenance in forenoon prayer.
2. The light in the grave in prayer done during the night.
3. The answers to the questions asked by the two angels that question the dead in reading the Qur’an.
4. The success in passing the bridge from this world to Paradise in fasting and giving alms.
5. The shelter on the Day of Judgment in remembering Allah in solitude.
There are various optional prayers. The most important ones are as follows:
Dukha Prayer (Prayer done in the earlier part of the forenoon)
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
”.. The words ‘Praise be to Allah’ is a charity; the words ‘Glory be to Allah’ is a charity; the words ‘There is no god but Allah’ is a charity; the words ‘Allah is Great’ is a charity; enjoining the good is a charity; detaining from evil is charity. And a dukha prayer of two units substitutes all of these.” (Muslim, Salat al-Musafirin, 81).
Aisha, wife of the Prophet, told:
“Once I saw the Prophet offering the dukha prayer, and I never left it out in my life afterwards.” (Bukhari, Muslim).
Awabeen Prayer (late-evening prayer)
The Prophet said:
“Whoever offers a prayer between the evening and late-night prayer, it is called the awabeen prayer.” (Ibn Mubarak, el-Raqaik).
Tahiyyat al-Masjeed Prayer (prayer done to greet the Mosque)
The Prophet said:
“Let one of you pray two units of prayer when s/he enters a mosque before sitting down!” (Bukhari, Salat, 60).
Tarawih Prayer (prayer performed after the prescribed night service of worship in the month of Ramadan)
Aisha, wife of the Prophet, (may Allah be happy with her) said:
“The Prophet was not so wrapped up in worships in other months as he was in the month of Ramadan. And he was particularly wrapped up in worships done during the last ten days of Ramadan.” (Muslim, Itikaf, 832).
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“Whoever spends a night of Ramadan offering prayer with a sincere belief and hope that s/he will get reward for it, his/her past sins are forgiven.” (Bukhari, Iman, 27).
And the primary prayer that is done in Ramadan is the tarawih prayer. It is done in twenty units. And as it takes a long time one is supposed to observe it duly.
Istikhara Prayer (prayer done before lying down to sleep in the hope that Allah will decide for the best between two or more options through a dream)
Jabir bin Abdallah said:
“The Prophet used to teach us the Istikhara prayer as if he was teaching us a chapter from the Qur’an…” (Bukhari, Tahajjud, 28).
Hajat Prayer (prayer done for the fulfillment of wishes)
The Prophet says about the hajat prayer through which the servant seeks refuge in Allah for the fulfillment of his/her wishes:
“Whoever wishes anything from Allah, let him/her make ablution properly first, and do two units of prayers afterwards. Then call Allah’s benediction to the Prophet, and finally say the following prayer:
‘There is no god but Allah, the Clement, and the Gentle. Praise be to Allah, the Master of the heavens. And praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe.
O my Lord! I wish things that come out of Your Mercy, and I wish Your forgiveness, and I also wish to reach righteousness. O the Lord, the Most Compassionate! Please do not let any sin be unforgiven, any sorrow unrelieved, and any lawful wish declined!..” (Tirmizi, Witr, 17).
Tahajjud prayer (prayer performed by becoming awake after sleep at night) and other prayers offered at night-time
Every time has a specific feature in Allah’s sight. However, certain times are more valuable than others, and they are to be taken advantage of. And night-time is one of these times that the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) describe as valuable.
The value that Allah ascribes to night-time and the secrets hidden in it are countless. Allah says: “The night and its homing!” (Inshiqaq, 84:17). “And by the night when it is still!..” (Dhuha, 93:2). The secret of the swearing of Allah by the night is a Divine window to get our hearts and souls to watch many facts.
The night is the time to prostrate before the Divine Being with love and affection for the sake of pleasing Him instead of lying down in smooth beds. Therefore, extra prayers performed at night are of great importance in achieving immediacy with Allah. Thus, one desires and performs prayers at night as much Divine Love as s/he has. It may be said that praying at night is like meeting and conversing with one’s lover at night. Being awake at a time when everybody is asleep means being included in the group of love and mercy.
The Prophet (pbuh) used to pray at night until he was footsore. He was once asked:
“– O the Messenger of Allah! Why do you strain yourself though Allah declared in the Qur’an (in chapter 48) that you were forgiven of all your sins?”
“– Should not I be a thanking servant?” (Bukhari, Tahajjud, 6).
The Prophet (pbuh) also said:
“The most virtuous prayer except the obligatory prayers is the one offered by becoming awake after sleep at night.” (Muslim, Siyam, 202-203).
“Two units of prayer performed at night is more beneficial than anything in the world. If I thought that it would not be a burden on my people I would enjoin it on them.” (Fadail al-Amal, 257).
“There is a certain moment at night. If a Muslim catches that moment to wish something from Allah, that thing is granted to him/her.” (Tirmizi, Vitr, 16).
“If a man wakes up at night and also wakes his wife up to offer two units of prayer together, Allah registers their names among those who remember Allah most.” (Abu Dawud, Tatawwu, 18).
“Do not you ever disregard praying at night! Because it was a custom of righteous people before you. Worshipping at night brings one closer to Allah, atones for one’s sins, keeps the body from illnesses, and prevents one from performing sinful acts.” (Tirmizi).
“Let Allah show mercy to the man who wakes up at night to pray, and also wakes his wife up to do so. Let Allah show mercy to the woman who wakes up at night to pray, and also wakes her husband up to do so!” (Abu Dawud, Vitr, 13).
The Prophet (pbuh) told Abu Zarr:
“– Do you get prepared when you are about to set forth on a journey?”
Abu Zarr replied:
“– Of course, o Prophet”
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“– Well, how do you think that the journey on the Day of Judgment will be? Take heed of what I will tell you; shall I tell you what you would benefit from on the Day of Judgment?”
Abu Zarr replied:
“– Yes, o Messenger of Allah!”
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Fast on a very hot day for the Day of Judgment. Offer a prayer of two units at night to be saved from loneliness in the grave. Make the journey to Qabah once in a lifetime, and give alms to a needy person for the great occasions of the Doomsday. Say just words or save your tongue from saying unjust things!”(ibn Abi’d-Dunya, Kitab al-Tahajjud).
The Prophet (pbuh) said to Abu Hurayra in this regard:
“O Abu Hurayra! If you want the company of the Mercy of Allah when in the grave and on the Doomsday, wake up at night to offer a prayer for Allah’s sake. O Abu Hurayra! If you pray at the corner of your house, your house lightens as a constellation in the sky, and it becomes like a star for the people of the world.” (Ihya al-Ulumiddin, I, 1023).
Abdallah bin Omar, for interpretation, let the Prophet (pbuh) know one of his dreams through Hafsa, who was the sister of Abdullah and the wife of the Prophet (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) said while interpreting the dream:
“Abdallah is a great person. Yet, it would be superb if he prayed at night!..”
From that day on, Abdallah never abandoned praying at night. (Bukhari, Tahajjud, IV, 360).
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“The Archangel Gabriel said: ‘The honor of a believer is, no doubt, related to night-time prayer…’” (Hakim, Mustadrak, IV, 360).
One of the servants whom Allah is pleased with is one who gets out of his/her gentle and warm bed in order to offer the prayer of tahajjud. Allah is well-pleased with that servant and says to the angels:
“– What makes this servant of Mine care about praying at this time of the night?”
The angels reply:
“– It is his/her wish to attain Your Grace and Blessing, and also fear of Your punishment.”
“I grant him/her what s/he wishes from Me then. And I safeguard him/her from what s/he fears from.”(Fadail al-Amal, 299).
Many verses of the Qur’an call the servants to remember Allah at night-time.
“And during part of the night, (also), celebrate His praises, and (so likewise) after the postures of adoration.” (Qaf, 50: 40).
“And for the part of the night also praise Him, and at the retreats of the stars.” (Tur 52:49).
“Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrate and standing.” (Furqan 25:64).
Allah explains the features of those who will be saved from the Divine punishment and be placed in paradise:
“They were in the habit of sleeping but little by night. And in the hours of early dawn, they (were found) praying for forgiveness.” (Zariyat, 51:17-18).
In addition to this honoring, Allah cites those believers who remember Him at night-time as superior when comparing believers with disbelievers:
“What! he who is obedient during hours of the night, prostrating himself and standing, takes care of the hereafter and hopes for the mercy of his Lord! Say: Are those who know and those who do not know alike? Only the men of understanding are mindful.”(Zumar, 39:9).
As Allah describes those who devoutly worship at night as such, He forewarns those unwary servants who do not behave accordingly:
“And part of the night, prostrate yourself to Him; and glorify Him a long night through.”
“As to these they love the fleeting life, and put away behind them a Day (that will be) hard.”(Insan, 76:26-27).
The second part of the night is said to be more valuable. The Prophet (pbuh) was once asked about it:
“– In which part of the night are the worships more likely to be accepted?”
“The worships that are done in the second half of the night…” (Abu Dawud).
However, as it is not too easy to worship at night, one is supposed to observe some points. In addition to the strong desire to worship at night, one is supposed to have a light dinner and keep early nights. It is narrated that:
“The Prophet (pbuh) used to discourage people to sleep before the late-night prayer, and he also used to discourage them to have long conversations after it.” (Bukhari, Mawaqit al-Salat, 23).
A Muslim should be in the habit of keeping early hours, and waking up early. There may be exceptions to that on condition that they should not hamper one’s activity to worship at night. Omar, the second caliph, says:
“The Prophet (pbuh), sometimes, used to speak with Abu Bakr about the affairs of Muslims until daybreak. And I used to stay with them.” (Tirmizi).
These principles are necessary to remove the strain of waking up for prayer and also to untie the knots of Satan tied through sleep. The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“When you sleep Satan ties three knots on the back of your neck. And he says to each knot ‘let a long night stay with you.’ When you wake up and cite the name of Allah one of the knots unties. When you make ablution another knot unties. And when you offer a prayer all of the knots untie. Thus, you wake up hale and hearty in the morning. Otherwise, you wake up asleep and downhearted.” (Bukhari, Tahajjud, 12).
So, it is clear that the prayer offered at night is so valuable that it comes second only after the obligatory prayers. However, those who do prayers at night are to be reminded that they should not be proud just because they do worship at night. If so, they lose the blessing they would get. They should always bear the following saying of the Prophet (pbuh) in mind:
“There are many who worship at night, yet they get nothing out of it. They just stay awake.” (Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad, II, 373).
Prayer in Congregation
One of the most important points about prayer is to offer the obligatory ones in congregation.
Praying the obligatory ones in congregation is a strong tradition of the Prophet (pbuh), never omitting praying them in congregation except during the last days of his life when he was seriously ill.
The following event that points out the importance of praying in congregation is a striking one:
One of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) called Abdallah ibn Mektum, a blind man, once asked the Prophet (pbuh) to be excused from attending the congregation for the obligatory prayers:
“O Messenger of Allah! You know my position; there are many palm trees on my way to the mosque! And I cannot find a guide every time!”
The Prophet (pbuh) answered:
“– Can you hear the call for prayer?”
“– Yes, I can!”
“– Then, you are supposed to attend the congregation, even by crawling…” (I. Canan, Kutub al-Sitte, VIII, 256).
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“Those who attend the mosque at dark will find a shade on the Day of Judgment when no shade is to be found.” (Ibn Maja).
Other sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) are to be found in this regard:
“The prayer offered in congregation is twenty seven times superior to the one offered on one’s own.” (Bukhari, Adhan, 30).
.”.. The prayer done by two persons is superior to the prayer done by one person; the prayer done by three persons is superior to the prayer done by two persons. The more their number the more lovely their prayer is to Allah.” (Abu Dawud, Nasai, Imamat, 45).
“Those who offer late-night prayer in congregation are regarded to have spent the first half of the night; and those who offer morning prayer in congregation are regarded to have spent the second half of the night praying.” (Muslim, Masjid, 260).
“Those who attend congregation for five daily prayers regularly will pass the bridge from this world to Paradise like a thunder. Moreover, Allah will resurrect and assemble them for judgement among the second generation of Muslims after the Prophet (pbuh). Those who attend congregation night and day will get as much reward as a thousand martyrs.” (Camu’l-Fawaid, 246).
“Stand in proper lines while praying in congregation, because it is a sign of perfect prayer.” (Abu Dawud, Salat, 93).
Praying in congregation advances the power of one’s faith. It is a mirror of the Muslim community. The community of faith is kept through attending congregational prayer.
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“The person who goes to mosque for prayer after making ablution at home is like the person who goes to the Ka’bah for pilgrimage after putting on ihram, a special cloth for pilgrimage.” (Fadail al-Amal, 275).
This person is given a reward for every step he takes on the way to the mosque, and one of his/her sins is forgiven.
“S/he who prays in congregation from start to finish for forty days is given two titles of privilege. The first is salvation from hell. The second is distancing himself/herself from hypocrisy.” (Muslim, Tirmizi).
Allah will ask on the Day of Judgment:
“Where are my neighbors?”
The angels will answer:
“O the Lord! Who are your neighbors?”
Allah will say:
“Those who regularly attend mosques.”
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“The mosque is the home of every sincere believer. And Allah assured these servants of all kinds of easiness, mercy, and convenience on the bridge from this world to Paradise.” (Tabarani).
Attending congregation is so important that the Prophet (pbuh) seriously warned about the negative consequences of being careless about it. One of the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) in this regard is as follows:
“The prayers of those who do not attend congregation though they hear the call for prayer (and offer their prayer where they are) with no reasonable excuse are not accepted.”
The companions asked him:
“O Messenger! What is to be regarded as an excuse?”
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
“It is illness or fear of danger.” (Abu Dawud, ibn Maja).
If a group of people cannot join congregation at mosque, they are supposed to offer their prayer together where they are. The Prophet (pbuh) said in this regard:
“If a group of people of three in a village or countryside do not perform their prayer together, Satan will impose himself on them. Try to offer your prayer with other people, and do your best to join congregation; because the wolf eats a lonely sheep.” (Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Nasai).
Attending congregational prayers for the morning and late-evening prayers is of great importance. The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“He who offers late-evening prayer in congregation is regarded to have worshipped in the first half of the night; and he who offers morning prayer in congregation is regarded to have worshipped in all parts of the night.” (Muslim).
“If people knew the virtue of the call for prayer and standing in the first line of congregation, and if they had no other chance, but drawing lots in order that they could be the one to call for prayer and stand in the first line, they would go for drawing lots. If they knew the virtue of being an early comer for prayer in congregation, they would contest among themselves. And if they knew the reward for morning and late-evening prayer, they would attend them even by crawling.” (Bukhari, Muslim).
So, a believer is supposed to lend his heart to prayer, and his ears to the call for prayer. Participation in congregation begins with participation in the call for prayer. The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) used to stop all their worldly engagements while the call for prayer was being recited in order to get ready for the mood of prayer. The hands that swung hammers and the tongues that spoke used to stop, and the roads were only for the mosque. Their hearts filled with the love of Allah used to follow the guidance described by the Prophet (pbuh):
“When you hear the call for prayer, repeat the words said by the caller! Then pronounce the formula calling Allah’s benediction on me! Whoever pronounce the formula calling Allah’s benediction on me, Allah grants him ten benefactions in return. This is so great a rank in paradise that it is given only to one servant. And I myself wish to be that person. And whoever wishes my intercession, it is granted to him.” (Muslim, Salat, 11).
He who goes to the mosque without enjoying the deep and spiritual meaning of prayer as described above gets no blessing out of his action. The saying of the Prophet (pbuh) is to be remembered in this regard:
“The person gets what he intends by coming to the mosque.” (Abu Dawud).
On the other hand, attending congregation grants the person a facility to keep his life under control, and acts as an agent to regiment the person’s disorganized life.
The saying of the Prophet (pbuh), “Does not the person who raises his head from the position of prostration before the leader of the prayer fear that Allah might turn his head into that of donkey?” (Bukhari, Muslim), points out that disorganized individuals can be trained through prayer and the individual thus can be prepared to duly stand in the presence of Allah. Otherwise, order and stability cannot be established in prayer.
The final word about prayer in congregation is that every believer should have his heart attached to the mosque; because among seven groups of people who are promised Divine shade by Allah on the Day of Judgment when there is no other shade that will exist is the group of believers “who have hearts clinging to the mosque.”
Prayer as a Unique Refuge
Prayer, as the most exceptional form of worship, is also the most exceptional form of seeking refuge in Allah. Therefore, when one faces any kind of hardship, trouble, tribulation, suffering, and pain he is supposed to turn to prayer immediately. This is the tradition which the Prophet (pbuh) often put into practice.
“The Prophet used to turn to prayer whenever he faced a difficulty.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud). Abu Darda said:
“The Prophet used to go into the mosque whenever a storm broke out, and would stay there until it was over. He also used to pray during the eclipse of the moon or the sun.”
We may here elaborate on the eclipse of the moon or the sun. The day when Ibrahim, the son of the Prophet (pbuh), died was a day when the moon was eclipsed. Due to this coincidence some of the companions said:
“– The moon eclipsed on the same day when the son of the Prophet (pbuh) died.”
Yet the Prophet (pbuh) disapproved of this and said:
“Neither the moon nor the sun eclipses upon one’s death!” (Muslim, Kusuf, 29).
On the other hand, the daughter of Abu Bakr asked Aisha, wife of the Prophet (pbuh), during an eclipse of the sun:
“Is this a sign of rage or doomsday?”
Amr bin As narrates as follows:
“The sun had already eclipsed. The Prophet (pbuh) stood up for prayer. He stood so long that we thought he would never bow down. Yet he bowed down, but he again was so long that we thought he would never raise his head again. Then he went down for prostration. Again, we thought he would never raise his head. Yet he raised his head, but he kept his new position so long that we thought he would never go back to the position of prostration. Yet he then went down for prostration. We again thought the same. Yet he raised his head again. And he did the same in the second unit of the prayer. He was crying while prostrating.
Then he appealed to Allah:
‘O my Lord! Have not You assured that You would not punish them when I am among them? Have not You assured that You would not punish them as long as they ask forgiveness from You?’
The eclipse of the sun was over and it was shining again when the Prophet (pbuh) had finished his prayer.” (Nasai, Abu Dawud).
As these accounts display, the eclipse of the sun is not just an ordinary act of nature. It is to remind us of the Divine Grandeur and Power. It is also a Divine Warning and a sign of Doomsday; because having a dark sky suddenly at daytime demonstrates how both the moon and the sun bow down to Allah in accordance with the Divine Order, and also reflects the atmosphere of Doomsday. Humans are supposed to take warning by the eclipse of the moon and the sun and thereby be wary all the time; and know that everything in this world is passing, and thereby get prepared for the Hereafter; because the eclipse of the sun may not be lifted again.
These kinds of warnings by Allah can be found in other areas. For example, the fault lines on earth are of this kind of warning. Allah can take the lives of His servants without activating the fault lines. However, He displays them before the eyes of His servants as an example of the inevitable end so that they might be in constant vigilance, and thereby be prepared for the Hereafter. This is, in fact, a warning by Allah. Surely, these are not the only Divine warnings. Floods, hurricanes, incurable illnesses and so on are of this kind. A poet says in this regard:
Death has approached me,
With the excuse of a headache!
However, it must here be emphasized again that if these did not occur, humans would carelessly fall into the claw of death all of a sudden, and perish. Yet, Allah, the Most Merciful, guides His servants through many Divine Manifestations so that they might be prepared for the inevitable realities before the die is cast. Hadrat Nadr narrates:
One day it became dark at daytime. I ran to Anas to ask him:
“Has anything like this occurred at the time of the Prophet? (pbuh)”
“Allah forbid! We used to run into the mosques even if the wind blew a little bit faster.”
They used to do so, as prayer is a shield against many calamities and harms in this world, and also a shield against the hellfire. Allah says:
“O you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.” (Baqara 2:153).
The dynasty of Pharaoh in Egypt is a very well-known one in history. It was famous for tyranny and arrogance. It was in power in Egypt at the time of the Prophet Abraham (a.s) as well. The king called Pharaoh used to arrest any beautiful woman who came to his country, and murder her husband (in case she was married), and then ask her brother (in case she had one) to release her to him.
When the Prophet Abraham (a.s) with his wife Sarah left the city of Urfa for Egypt after Nimrod perished, upon crossing the border the Pharaoh’s men asked Abraham (a.s) about the woman accompanying him. Abraham (a.s) told them that she was his sister in religion, hoping to take them in by falling back upon a legal device for getting around the law. Upon his answer they let Abraham (a.s) free, but they took Sarah away to the palace.
It is narrated in Bukhari:
“When Sarah came to the palace, she immediately made ablution and offered two units of prayer. She sought refuge in Allah. And Allah took care of her.”
And the Pharaoh who attempted to approach Sarah was out of breath because Allah was protecting her.
And eventually the Pharaoh was paralyzed and alarmed. He finally let Sarah free. Moreover, he gave her his slave Hajar as a gift. The Pharaoh told the high officials of the palace who were bewilderedly watching him:
“– This woman is a jinn. If she were to stay with me a bit longer, I would have perished. I gave her my slave Hajar as a gift not to be harmed by her!”
So, this was a result of the two units of prayer offered by Sarah.
Therefore, the Prophet (pbuh) used to direct his household to perform a prayer when faced with any difficulty or calamity, and also read the following verse from the Qur’an:
“Enjoin prayer on your people, and be constant therein. We ask you not to provide sustenance: we provide it for you. But the (fruit of) the Hereafter is for righteousness.” (Taha 20:132).
The Prophet (pbuh) also let us know that the prophets before him also held fast to prayer when faced with any difficulty:
“The former prophets also used to hold on to prayer when faced with any tribulation or misfortune.” (Fadail al-Amal, 249).
The Prophet (pbuh) also said.
“Allah lends help to my people due to the prayers and the sincerity of the underprivileged.” (Nasai, Jihad, 43).
Allama Sharani says:
“A country where people do not offer prayers is afflicted with problems and calamities. And a country where people offer prayers is kept away from them. Let nobody say ‘I offer prayers, and it is not my business if others do not offer prayers’; for when a society is exposed to trouble or calamity it includes all members of it.
The Prophet (pbuh) was once asked about this point as follows:
‘ – Are we to perish even though we have righteous people among us?’
The Prophet (pbuh) answered:
‘ – Yes, when wickedness prevails…’ (Muslim, Fitan, 1).
Therefore, every believer who has been given the inherent power is responsible to enjoin the good and prohibit evil.”
On the other hand, the only way of being saved from the weight upon our shoulders through careless acts that draw Divine warning or calamity is to hold fast to prayer. Namely, salvation from sins is possible only by repentance and prayer. The Prophet (pbuh) told a sinful person who came to him and prayed together with him in repentance:
“– Allah has forgiven your sins.” (Muslim, Abu Dawud, Bukhari).
The orders of Allah in the Qur’an are not said with the word “Pray!” but they are said with the words “Establish prayer!”
A prayer that is offered properly restrains the believer from sensual inclinations; it gives the believer ecstasy. It is said in the Qur’an:
”.. And establish regular prayer: for prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and the remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt…” (Ankabut, 29:45).
Prayer restrains the believer from misdeeds either before prayer or after it, and of course, during prayer. If prayer does not restrain one from misdeeds that means s/he does not pray regularly. The Prophet (pbuh) says about the prayers of these kinds of people:
“Whoever is not restrained from clear and ambiguous misdeeds by the prayer he does, he moves away from Allah.” (Jam’ al-Fawaid, I. 339)
Therefore, the most important point to be observed during prayer is pious reverence.
Prayers Done Unwarily
A prayer that is done improperly and a prayer in which Satan steps in, is equivalent to a blow being struck on the person who prays it. It is said in the Qur’an:
“So woe to the worshippers who are neglectful of their prayers, those who (want but) to be seen (of men), but refuse (to supply) (even) neighborly needs.” (Maun, 107:4-7).
Exegetes of the Qur’an identify three forms of heedlessness in prayer:
1. Being careless when the time of prayer is due and delay it to do at another time.
2. Not sensing prayer spiritually though being physically at prayer.
3. Not taking heed of the precepts of prayer.
Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi says:
“I asked my intellect about ‘what is faith?’ And my intellect leaned over the ear of my heart and whispered: ‘Faith consists of manners.’”
The greatest of manners is reverence towards the Lord. And it is best displayed with worship, particularly with prayer.
Being unaware about the requirements, precepts, and contents of the prayer is a compromise that Satan uses to strip off blessings. The inclination of the praying person towards unwariness allows Satan recourse to act. And, of course, a prayer that Satan weakens is not accepted.
Some people display themselves as strong defenders of Islam, but they do not duly perceive the importance of prayer, and they are heedless about it. They underestimate the Qur’anic and Prophetic orders and advice, and they remain indifferent to prayer. They neglect both pious reverence and the precepts of prayer. They perform prayers as if they wished to be free from it as soon as possible. May Allah save us from this kind of indifference.
Those careless people are like those who go bankrupt. They have nothing left but weariness. The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“There are many of those who pray, but they only get weariness and exertion.” (Nasai).
“Allah does not appreciate the other good qualities of those who do not pray regularly.” (Tabarani).
Then again, the Prophet (pbuh) describes one’s negligence of proper prayer as “theft.” He says:
“The most wicked thief of humans is the one who steals from his prayer.” (Ahmad and Hakim).
And as this kind of theft is done on behalf of Satan the thief gets nothing but weariness. And the thief should remember the words of Allah in this regard:
“So woe to the worshippers who are neglectful of their prayers…” (Maun 107:4-5).
As this verse propounds, those who are lazy cannot approach prayer, and those who are not able to overwhelm their unsubmissive self cannot penetrate into the spirit of prayer, and thus they cannot benefit from it. Whoever prays without observing the precepts of prayer, and offer his prayer not realizing that he is in Allah’s presence, and holds worldly concerns in remembrance during prayer, that means he is not really praying. And his prayer remains in this world.
So, the prayer that is supposed to mature one’s faith in the heart ends up causing deprivation in the hands of such unwary people. And prayers of such individuals bring them nothing, but eternal torment. The Qur’an says:
“The hypocrites – they think they are over-reaching Allah, but He will over-reach them: when they stand up for prayer, they stand without earnestness, to be seen of men, but little do they hold Allah in remembrance.”(Nisaa 4:142).
Those who keep themselves away from prayer
A saint of Allah warns those who are not among those who pray:
“Those who refrain from prayer because of worldly possessions will be resurrected and assembled with Qarun for judgment. Those who do not pray because of being possessed by their power of ruling and administration will be resurrected with Pharaoh. Those who do not pray because of being a high and influential official will be resurrected with Haman (the minister of Pharaoh) and those who keep away from prayer because of inordinate love of gaining profit in business will be resurrected with Ubay bin Khalaf , an enemy of the Prophet.”
Those who neglect prayer live an unproductive life. They do not have the light of Divine beauty in their faces. None of their deeds are rewarded. Their supplications to Allah are not accepted. They are also deprived of the love of saintly people. Their entire experience is in pain in accordance with the maxim “you die as you live.” Their graves turn into a pit of hell where they find the rage of Allah against them. They are questioned strongly and finally thrown into hell .
As narrated in a hadith of Bukhari, the Prophet (pbuh) used to ask the companions after morning prayers if they had any dreams. Those who did used to tell their dreams and the Prophet (pbuh) used to interpret them. One day he again asked and then said:
“I had a dream. Two persons came and took me away.”
Then he told them the rest of the dream describing to them the features of paradise and hell, particularly the suffering there. The story of a man in hell was related as follows: One of the men was being struck on the head with a stone. The stone hit so strongly that it was bouncing off. This happened over and over again.
The Prophet (pbuh) asked the two persons who took him away:
“– Who is this person?”
“– This man preferred sleeping to offering the obligatory prayers and he gave up reading the Qur’an though he earlier had learned how to read it.”
Satan particularly tries to keep the servant away from prayer. Satan wants to make sure that the servant is kept away from Divine Mercy, as he knows the fact that “he who has no prayer has also no religion.” (Taberani)
Therefore, foresighted believers protect themselves from the traps of Satan in this regard and they care about prayer and do their best to make up the prayers they had been unable to offer in their proper time.
The Prophet (pbuh) says:
“Whoever forgets his prayer, let him immediately offer it whenever he remembers; there is no other way to atone for it.” (Muslim, Masajid, 314). If the message of this saying to make up what is owed is not observed, the servant will be afflicted with a wretched state in the Hereafter.
Prayer AS a Means of Differentiation
The Prophet (pbuh) advised anyone who became Muslim:
“The symbol of Islam is prayer. Whoever prays in time, paying attention to the details, and whole-heartedly, this person is a believer.” (Fadail al-Amal, 255-256).
He used to teach those who embraced Islam how to pray and he let them know that prayer is the pillar of religion, and it distinguishes the believer from the disbeliever.
The Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) regarded the avoidance of prayer as equal to disbelief. Abu Bakr used to tell the people who were around when it was time for prayer:
“O people! Arise! Extinguish the fire you are in with prayer!”
Prayer is not only a means of distinction between the believer and the disbeliever, but it also distinguishes between believers with regard to their having different degrees. Abu Hurayra narrates this hadith:
“Two persons from the tribe of Udaa came to the Prophet (pbuh) to embrace Islam. Later, one of them was martyred on the battlefield. The other died a natural death one year after him. I dreamed that the one who died one year after entered paradise before the one who was martyred. I was amazed and said:
‘Is not the degree of the martyr higher? Should not he have entered paradise first?’
When I told the Prophet (pbuh) about this he said:
‘Do not you see how much reward the latter has? He fasted in the month Ramadan during the extra year after the first was martyred. He also offered more than six thousand units of prayer.’”(Ahmad, ibn Maja).
Regarding another occasion of this kind the Prophet (pbuh) commented to the companions:
“Has not the person who died a year after worshipped more?”
“Certainly”, they replied.
Then the Prophet said:
“Has not he prostrated more than the one who died a year earlier?”
“Certainly”, they answered.
And the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“There is as great a difference between them as between the sky and the earth.”
The privilege of prayer is stated in the following sayings of the Prophet (pbuh):
“Allah did not enjoin anything superior than belief and prayer. If He were to enjoin anything superior, He would enjoin it on the angels. Whereas some of the angels bow down and some of them prostrate night and day.”
“Prayer is the most valuable striving (Jihâd).”
“When the individual stands up for prayer Allah turns towards him. When he completes the prayer, Allah turns away.” (Fadail al-Amal, 256).
“If there comes a disaster or calamity from the sky the people in mosques are saved from it..” (Fadail al-Amal, 256).
“The key to paradise is prayer.” (Tirmizi, Taharat, 3).
“Prayer is the sacrifice of every pious believer.” (Kuzai, Musnad, I, 181).
“The person who neglects a prayer is like the person who has lost all his wealth and family.” (Nasai, Ahmad).
As prayer is so superior and important, Islam demands training in the early years of life for it. The Prophet (pbuh) advises us to be very serious in this regard:
“ Order your children to pray at the age of seven. At the age of ten (if they do not) beat them lightly. Let them also sleep by themselves (at this age).” (Abu Dawud).
It is noteworthy that prayer often begins due to a distress of the heart when passing through a test or affliction and progresses into experiencing joy on the occasion of celebration of the Eids. If we establish a symbolic connection here, we may say that those who regularly pray in this world will be rewarded with a festival in the Hereafter for prayer includes the meaning to lead the servant to perfection and Divine reward. In short, prayer provides the following physical benefits:
Prayer requires physical acts that are healthy for the body. It also organizes one’s time during the day and regularizes one’s entire life.
Prayer provides spiritual benefits as follows:
It provides, when performed properly, the joy of being in Allah’s presence, meditation, comfort in the time of fear, pleasure in the time of joy, sustaining the spiritual character of the soul, maintenance of faith, and a good relationship with the Divine Being.
Prayer provides the following sociological benefits:
The sense of coming together, knowing one another, friendship, and reinforcement of the bonds of brotherhood.
It must be stated here that no excuse is acceptable for not attempting to offer prayer. Even those who are on the battlefield are supposed to pray by turns. And there can be no excuse for women as well, apart from those related to female health.
The Prophet (pbuh) was so serious about prayer that he warned us even when he was in his last moments of life:
“Be careful about prayer!”
We should forever be awake about prayer taking heed of the above warning.
Those souls who pay attention to this warning and perceive the importance of prayer, let it become the dearest joy of their life. They pull away from this transitory world, and reach union with Allah when they stand up for prayer.
A sincere worshipper needs to embody the following qualities for the acceptance of his/her prayers.
“1. Those who remain steadfast to their prayer;
2. And those in whose wealth is a recognized right for the (needy) who ask and him who is prevented (for some reason from asking);
- And those who hold to the truth of the Day of Judgment;
- And those who fear the displeasure of their Lord;
- And those who guard their chastity;
- And those who respect their trusts and covenants;
- And those who stand firm in their testimonies;
- And those who guard (the sacredness) of their worship;
Such will be the honored ones in the Gardens (of Bliss).”(Maarij, 70:23-35).
O my Lord! Please, let our prayers have the honor of being offered in their true meaning and wisdom , and let them be regarded as an ascension (mi’raj) to You! Let our prayers be our joy, and the delight of our souls both in this world and the Hereafter!
Minor ablution, major ablution of the body, ablution with sand or earth in the absence of water (Dry ablution)
1. Minor Ablution (Wudu)
Obligatory Requirements (Fardh) of Minor Ablution
1. Washing the face.
2. Washing both hands and arms thoroughly up to the elbows.
3. Moving the palm of the wet hand over one-fourth of the head, starting from the front of the forehead to the back of the hend.
4. Washing the feet up to the ankles.
The Voluntary Acts (Sunnah) performed by the Prophet (pbuh) in the Minor Ablution:
1. Declaring the intention that the act is for the purpose of worship and purity.
2. Saying at the start, بِسمِ الله الرَ همن الرهيم“In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate.”
3. Beginning by washing both hands up to the wrists.
4. Cleansing the teeth with a toothbrush (miswak) whenever possible, if not, then rubbing with the fingers.
5. Doing the washing from the beginning to the end without any break.
6. Rubbing the areas of ablution.
7. Rinsing out the mouth with water three times.
8. Gargling (not to be done when fasting).
9. Cleansing the nostrils by sniffing water three times.
10. Washing three times.
11. Beginning to wash from the right side.
12. Beginning to wash the hands and the feet from the fingertips and toes.
13. Wiping the beard with wet hands.
14. Moving the ring on the finger so that no part remains dry.
15. Rubbing wet fingers into the grooves of both ears and cavities.
16. Passing both hands over the back of the head to the neck.
17. Moving the palm of the wet hand over the whole head.
18. Making sure that water has reached between the fingers and the toes.
2. Major Ablution of the Body (Ghusl, bath)
Obligatory Acts (Fardh) of the Major Ablution:
1. Gargling to the throat.
2. Washing the nostrils.
3. Washing the whole body.
The Voluntary Acts (Sunnah) performed by the Prophet (pbuh) in the Major Ablution.
1. Clear intention that it is for the purpose of purity and worship.
2. Saying at the start, بِسمِ الله الرَ همن الرهيم “In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate.”
3. Washing any dirt from the body.
4. Washing the private parts.
5. Making a Minor ablution before the Major ablution.
6. Washing the whole body three times and making sure it covers every part of the body.
7. Washing the head first, then over the right and then the left shoulders, and then rubbing the body.
8. Washing the feet last.
3. Minor Ablution with Sand or Earth in the Absence of Water (Dry Ablution)
Obligatory Acts (Fardh) of Dry Ablution:
1. Declaring the intention that the act is for the purpose of worship and purity.
2. Wiping the hands on clean sand or earth twice and anointing the face and arms respectively.
The Voluntary Acts (Sunnah) performed by the Prophet (pbuh) in Dry Ablution:
1. Saying first, بِسمِ الله الرَ همن الرهيم“In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate.”
2. Doing all acts in proper order.
3. Doing the acts without stopping.
4. Moving hands forward first and then back while wiping on the earth.
5. Keeping the fingers separated.
6. Shaking the hands off when lifting from the earth.
There are twelve requirements for prayer. Some of them are external prerequisites. These are called “conditions of prayer.” And some of them are internal prerequisites. These are called “pillars of prayer.”
The Conditions of Prayer:
1. Purification from invisible dirt: This requires purity from invisible dirt or dust. It is done by performing Minor ablution, Major ablution, or dry ablution.
2. from visible dirt: This requires that the entire body, the clothes worn, and the ground used for prayer be free from all kinds of dirt or impurity.
3. Proper dress: Dressing properly in such a way so as to meet the moral regulations aimed at covering the private parts. For the male, the body should be covered at least from the navel to the knees. For the female, the whole body should be covered except the face, the hands and the feet. If one-fourth of the part of the body becomes open then the prayer is void.
4. Facing the Ka’bah: Facing the right direction, the Qiblah, the direction of the Ka’bah at Mecca. If one’s direction is turned during prayer his prayer is nullified.
5. Time: Obligatory prayers are to be done at fixed times. They cannot be advanced or postponed.
6. Intention: Declaring the intention of prayer with both the heart and tongue. In the case of prayer in congregation the leader of the prayer should declare that he is the leader, and the congregation should declare that they are subject to the leader.
The Pillars of Prayer:
1. Reciting ” آللَه اَكبَرAllahu Akbar is the Greatest” at the start: This is done by raising the hands up to the ears while saying “Allah is Greatest.”
2. Standing: Those who have sufficient strength are required to stand to begin prayer and if unable, they may sit or recline.
3. Recitation: It means reciting at least three verses from the Qur’an while standing.
4. Bowing Down: After standing we bow down with our hands placed on our knees while saying three times سُبْحَانَ رَ ِبّىَ اْلعَظِيمِ“Glory to my Lord, the Mighty.”
5. Prostration: It means prostrating on the floor with the forehead, nose, palms of both hands, and knees touching the floor while reciting three times سُبْحَانَرَ ِبّىَ اْلاَعْلَى“Glory to my Lord, the Highest.”
6. Sitting Upright: This is done by sitting at the end of the prayer so as to read the blessing called “at-Tahiyyat.”
Other Conditions of Prayer:
1. Commencing the prayer by saying “Allah is the آللَه اَكبَرGreatest.”
2. Recitation of the opening chapter of the Qur’an (al-Fatiha) in all units of prayers both obligatory and voluntary.
3. One should recite a minimum of three short verses from the Qur’an after and in addition to al-Fatiha. This should be done in the first two units of any obligatory prayer and in all units of voluntary prayers.
4. Placing the nose together with the forehead on the floor while prostrating.
5. Doing two prostrations one after another in each unit of prayer.
6. Doing all acts properly.
7. Sitting upright after two units of three or four unit prayers.
8. Reading the blessing called “at-Tahiyyat” while sitting upright.
9. Standing up after sitting upright to continue the three or four unit prayers.
10. Reading out loud the opening chapter (al-Fatiha) and a passage from the Qur’an in the first two units of the morning, evening, and late evening prayers if offered in congregation, and also in the Friday congregational and Eid prayers.
11. Reading in a low voice in all units of the noon and late-noon prayers, and also in the third and fourth units of the evening and late-evening prayers.
12. Reading out loud the opening chapter (al-Fatiha) and the passages from the Qur’an in the Tarawih prayer, and in the Witr prayer offered during the month of Ramadan.
13. If prayer is offered in congregation, the individuals apart from the leader of the prayer are not required to read the opening chapter (al-Fatiha) and the passages from the Qur’an.
14. Reciting the Qunut (devotion) supplication in the last unit of the three unit Witr prayer (performed at the end of the late evening prayers.)
15. Saying the special prayers related to the Eid prayers.
16. Ending the prayer with greetings directed to the angels on the right and the left shoulders.
17. Making the prostration of forgetfulness (sajda-us –sahw) in case of any minor mistake made during prayer.
18. Prostration when a verse of prostration is recited in prayer.
The Voluntary Features of Prayer Performed by the Prophet (pbuh):
1. Raising the hands up to the ears when beginning the prayer, and also at the beginning of the qunut prayer of the witr prayer and then placing the right hand on the left hand just below the navel or on the chest (females put their hands on the chest).
2. Before reading al-Fatiha, reciting the “subhanaka” in the first unit of each prayer and then saying, “I seek shelter in Allah from the rejected satan”
3. Saying “Ameen!” silently (according to Hanefi fiqh) after al-Fatiha in all prayers whether done in congregation or separately.
4. Saying “Allah is Greatest” before and after every act between different sections of the prayer.
5. Saying سَمٍِعََ اللهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ “Allah hears those who praise Him. Our Lord, praise be to You!” while rising after bowing down.
6. سُبْحَانَرَ ِبّىَ اْلعَظِيمِ Saying “Glory to my Lord, the Greatest” three times while bowing down, and سُبْحَانَ رَ ِبّىَ اْلاَعْلَى “Glory to my Lord, the Highest” three times while prostrating.
7. Placing the palms on the knees while bowing down, and holding the elbows straight, and the head level with one’s back.
8. Placing the knees, hands, and face on the floor respectively while prostrating; and removing them in reverse order; and placing the face in between the hands in prostration.
9. Placing the hands on the knees while sitting upright; reading “at-Tahiyyat” during the first sitting; and reading “at-Tahiyyat” and as-Salah alan nabiyy (the blessing on the Prophet) in the final sitting.
10. Turning the face to the right and to the left respectively at the end of the prayer with the wordsاَسَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَ حْمَةُ اللهِ “Peace and the Mercy of Allah be upon You!”
Good Manners in Prayer
Focusing our eyes on the place of prostration while standing; on the feet while bowing down; on the hands placed on knees while sitting upright; and on the shoulders while turning our face to the right and to the left at the end of the prayer.
Prostration of Forgetfulness (sajdatus sahw)
The prostration of forgetfulness is performed when some requirements are forgotten or done incorrectly in order to make up for the error by making two extra prostrations and then reciting “at-Tahiyyat” and as-Salah alan nabiyy (the blessing on the Prophet) before ending the prayer.
Such acts as forgetting to read the Qunut supplication in the Witr prayer; bowing down before reading passages from the Qur’an after al-Fatiha; forgetting to sit upright after the first two units; and not doing prostration if a verse of prostration is recited in the prayer, require the prostration of forgetfulness.
However, if one forgets to perform the prostration of forgetfulness and ends the prayer without performing it, it is not necessary to perform the prayer over again.