Prayers: wisdom and significance
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
The well known scholar Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlvi, who lived in the 12th century Hijra (1114-1176 H), says that some people think that the commands of Islamic Shari’ah carry no wisdom, purpose, or significance. They believe that its components are loosely related to each other and lack logical harmony. These commands are simply to test the loyalty and obedience of a servant by his master. It is simply a servant-master relationship and nothing beyond. If the servant obeys, he is rewarded and if he disobeys, he is then punished. Shah Waliullah (RehmA) says that this is a misconception. The study of the traditions of Prophet (SAW) and the consensus of scholars reject this misconceived notion. Had there been no wisdom behind these commands, how then it came to be based on human intention and psychology. The intention and motivation with which a person carries out these commands form the very basis of Shari’ah and Shari’ah applies this criterion for the acceptance or rejection of servant’s performance.
Shah Sahib then gives the example of Salat, which is a part of Shari’ah. Its purpose is the remembrance and glorification of Allah (SWT). Salat enables a man to see Allah (SWT) in the Hereafter. Prophet (SAW) says that you will see Allah (SWT) in the Hereafter as you see the moon without doubting it. He emphasizes that one should not miss the Fajr and Asr prayers [to be among the fortunate.] (Bukhari & Muslim).
Salat is the first and most important command in Shari’ah. Its wisdom and significance has been mentioned both in the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of Prophet (SAW). One can easily deduce from both sources that Salat relates to life and affects the life in a big way. The entire world and creations within it are engaged in glorifying Allah (SWT) and submitting to His commands. Aayah 5-6 of Surah Al-Rahman says:
“The sun and the moon follow their circulated course; the plants and trees submit to His designs.”
And Aayah 41 of Surah Nur says: “[Rasul Allah], do you not see that all those who are in the heavens and earth praise Allah, as do the birds with wings out stretched? Each knows its [own way] of prayer and glorification of Allah: Allah has full knowledge of what they do.”
But such a prayer and glorification is beyond man’s comprehension. Allah (SWT) says in Aayah 44 of Surah Isra:
“The seven heavens and the earth and everyone in them glorify Him. There is not a single thing that does not celebrate His praise, though you do not understand their praise: He is forbearing, most forgiving.”
When a man performs Salat and glorifies Allah (SWT), he achieves unison with the universe and the entire cosmos. But the man who gives up Salat deviates from this natural path of harmony and becomes out of place and out of joint in the divine scheme of creation.
A person who denies Allah’s supremacy and omnipotence has only two options before him. He either thinks himself to be self sufficient, or he worships someone else. In either case it is a gross mistake and goes against the dictates of common sense. One who submits and prostrates before some one else and not Allah, he for sure is doomed and no one can bail him out from this lowest of the low situation. Aayah 18 of Surah Al-Hajj says:
“Do you not realize [Rasul Allah] that everything in the heavens and earth submits to Allah: the sun, the moon, the starts, the mountains, the trees, and the animals? So do many human beings, through for many others punishment is well deserved. Anyone disgraced by Allah will have no one to honor him: Allah does whatever He wills.”
A person who benefits from all blessings bestowed upon him by the Creator, and yet he turns a blind eye to his own observations and Allah’s signs above, below and around and turns a deaf ear to the call of his conscience, he is rejected by the order which governs and regulates the universe. He lives on a borrowed time, which soon will be over and he will be held accountable and answerable in the life to come which is permanent and eternal.
The very soul of faith is that each moment rejuvenates the heart with Allah’s remembrance. Salat is the most nourishing elixir, which keeps the pulse of remembrance alive. When Allah (SWT) addressed Musa (AS) on Mount Toor, as per Aayah 14 of Surah Taha, He said:
“I am Allah; there is no god but Me. So worship Me and keep up the prayer so that you may remember me.”
The preceding verses of this Aayah lay emphasis on the Oneness of Allah who is the only One worthy of worship and then immediately in this verse Allah (SWT) commands to establish prayers. The truth is that Salat keeps the created connected with the Creator.
When one stands up for prayers, he is reminded that he is in Allah’s audience. Awe overtakes him. He glorifies Allah, recites His Message, bows down and prostrates in all humility. He acknowledges Allah’s total and complete sovereignty over his own self and the entire universe. He seeks refuge from Allah’s displeasure, makes repentance, seeks forgiveness, pleas for guidance and begs for His pleasure through supplications. Let me ask you a question: If you go through this spiritual experience five times a day to acknowledge your bondsman ship with Allah (SWT) and His mastery on your being, how than can Allah (SWT), Who is Gracious, Merciful, Generous and extremely Kind can
forget you! No, He never forgets the one who remembers Him. Aayah 152 of Surah Al-Baqarah says
“So remember Me; I will remember you. Be thankful to Me, and never ungrateful.”
To forget Allah’s remembrance is a gross misconduct. It entails losses after losses and the greatest loss is the deprivation from Allah’s love. It leads to loss of faith, sin, and hypocrisy. Aayah 67 of Surah Tawba says about hypocrites:
“The hypocrites, both men and women, are all the same: they order what is wrong and forbid what is right; they are tight-fisted. They have ignored Allah, so He has ignored them. The hypocrites are the disobedient ones.”
Forgetfulness about Allah results in the forgetfulness of the self. One looses the sight of the Hereafter, fails to distinguish between right and wrong, and cannot differentiate between vice and virtue. He focuses only on this world and his time and energy is spent to better his temporary stay in this transient world. Aayah 51 or Surah Al-Aaraaf says about the forgetfulness of the next world:
“Those who took their religion for distraction, a mere game, and were deluded by worldly life, Today We shall ignore them, just as they have ignored their meeting with this Day and denied Our Revelations.”
Allah (SWT) wants to save us from such a condition as mentioned in Aayah 19 or Surah Al-Hashr:
“Do not be like those who forget Allah, so Allah causes them to forget their own souls: they are the rebellious ones…”
If one does not want to forget Allah (SWT) and in turn wants not to be forgotten by Him (SWT), then he should devote his days and night calling Allah’s attention for guidance and mercy. He has to be steadfast in Salat which is most effective means for Allah’s remembrance. Aayah 205 of Surah Al-A’raf says:
“[Rasul Allah], remember your Lord inwardly, in all humility and awe, without raising your voice, in the mornings and in the evenings – do not be one of the heedless.”
One gets purified through Salat, and purification is a condition of great import. It means a holistic cleanliness and purification from all sins, vices and evils. It is the path of piety which leads to Allah (SWT)’s closeness. Aayah 9 of Surah Al-Shams says:
“The one who purifies his soul succeeds.” And Aayah 14-15 of Surah Al-Aala says:
“Prosperous are those who purify themselves, remember the name of their Lord, and pray.”
Let me share with you two traditions of Prophet (SAW), which tell us how purification and piety is achieved through Salat:
“Hazrat Abu Hurayrah (RA) relates that he heard Allah’s Messenger saying: “Tell me, if there were a stream at the door of one of you in which you take a bath five times a day, would any filth remain upon your body?” They replied, “No dirt would remain, Ya Rasul Allah.” He (SAW) said, “Similar is the case of the five (obligatory) prayers. Allah obliterates all sins as a result of offering them.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Hazrat Jaabir (RA relates that Prophet (SAW) said: “The similitude of the five obligatory prayers is like a river running at the door of one of you in which he takes a bath five times a day.” [Muslim]
May Allah enable us to guard our prayers and offer them at appointed time with sincerity and earnestness! Aamin!
The Friday Khutbahs are published to enhance your knowledge of Islam. The references of Quran and Hadith are the approximate translation of the Arabic text. The editors have not verified the accuracy of the the English translation. The scholarly reader is encouraged to refer to the original Arabic script if there is any doubt. Kindly notify us if the translation can be enhanced.