Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Prayer (salah) and the Quran

In the name of Allah,
the beneficent, the merciful.
Praise be to the Lord of the
Universe who has created us and
made us into tribes and nations
That we may know each other, not that
we may despise each other.
If the enemy incline towards peace, do
Thou also incline towards peace, and
trust God, for the Lord is the one that
hearth and knoweth all things.
And the servants of God,
Most gracious are those who walk on
the Earth in humility, and when we
Address them, we say "PEACE."

Peace comes from reading good spiritual books, inspirational stories, & most of all, Prayers. The yearning for the soul is towards its home, towards the Lord. Music too elevates but the effect is temporary.

For many people finding peace of mind is closely linked with a spiritual quest, others find it through physical exercises which bring relaxation and a calm inner state. Prayers help too. Serving & helping people is always nice. We must realize that most events are simply not worth worrying about or being upset about. In our efforts to obtain inner peace, we must NOT do the most unpeaceful things.

Not hurt others. Instead, practice forgiveness. Inner peace is a gift you can give to others and to yourself. Always try to fill your mind with thoughts of peace & true Love for the Lord, and it will direct you toward inner peace.

"In wandering over the earth, you can find cities without walls, without science, without rulers, without palaces, without treasures, without money, without gymnasium or theatre, but a city without temples to gods, without prayer, oaths and prophecy, such a city no mortal has ever seen and will never see." [Humanity and Deity, p. 15, by W.M. Urban]

         .....When we pray.....
. When we pray, what really happens to us? The prayer normally consists of reciting some words and possibly some body movements. This is true in all religions—only the forms may be different. Do the words have any effect on the individuals who pray? From the study of Psychology, we know that words have powerful effect on individuals as well as people. But for that to happen, it is necessary that words are clearly understood and their meaning and context fully comprehended. This ensures that the mind actively participates in the prayer also along with the body. Without this, the prayer will become a somatic routine, regardless of how much piety is attached to it from outside.

Thus we see that prayer has a very deep connection with the mind. But this mind-body connection, although made sincerely, should not be superficial that only produces a placebo effect. This has to be real. And a real connection can be established only when the power and the meaning of prayer activate the mind’s cognitive faculty. The so called doctors of religions, on the other hand, have perpetuated a myth which keeps people satisfied by performing the act of prayer without trying to establish this mental cognitive connection.

The question then is how to inject the soul back into the mummified body of our prayers. We will discuss the meaning of Aqeemus-Salat (translated as "establish prayer") later but one thing is clear: This is not possible without a critical evaluation of our present approach to prayer.

The best way to start this evaluation is to pose fundamental questions pertaining to the importance of prayer in our way of life. This is what we have done earlier. Answers to these questions will, hopefully, provide the necessary knowledge that will help us in our quest to find the meaning and essence of prayer. To do that, however, we must, first of all, establish a frame of reference. Without this absolute frame of reference we won’t be able to find The Truth about prayer.

An Absolute Frame of Reference is required

In order to deal with the above questions, we will have to find a permanent and an absolute reference that transcends the barriers of space, time and circumstance. This is because these questions are important to life here-and-now as well as to life in the hereafter. The only reference that can satisfy these conditions is a Book from God. [Books of humans, no matter how great, can never satisfy the above conditions.]

Earlier Books of God (including the Bible) no longer exist now in their original, unadulterated form. [Proponents of these books admit this.] The Qur’an, revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), is the only Book of God which exists now exactly as it was revealed about 1400 years ago. This fact is borne by Muslims as well as non-Muslim scholars who have done an objective, historical or linguistic analysis of the Quran [See Maurice Bucaille’s excellent book, "The Bible, The Quran, and Science"]. Therefore, the Quran will be our frame of reference. But it might be helpful in our search for the essence and meaning of prayer if we first analyze the reasons why people pray.

.......Why Do We Pray ?............

A simple, conventional answer may be that we pray because our forefathers have been praying and told us to pray, just as we tell our children to pray. Or that we pray because God has asked us to pray. But for many people who are sincerely searching for a more meaningful answer, this may not be satisfactory. First of all, God has given us freedom of choice for everything, including prayer. So we do not have to pray if we do not want to. In fact, in good times, most of us don’t. Only when some personal tragedy strikes (or when we reach old age) that many of us start praying regularly.

For example, consider a plane full of people about to crash. In this helpless situation, every one will be praying for life and survival. If the situation seems completely hopeless, and they realize that they are going to loose their lives, people will be praying for God’s mercy, forgiveness, His pleasure, and personal salvation in the hereafter. But nevertheless, everyone will be trying his/her best to survive until the very end.

This instinct of self-survival is inherent in every living being, including humans. Other beings have defense mechanisms given by God for their survival. But humans find themselves helpless and defenseless against many living beings and natural catastrophes. Naturally primitive man tried to pray to them, as he had not developed tools for self-defense. He prayed to various natural objects that threatened or benefited his survival. When human beings developed tools for self-defense and gradually advanced in science, they tended to drift away from religion. They found security in science (rather than prayer) because science gave them control over the forces of nature. [Priesthood considered this attitude as an attack on religion itself. This led to a continuous battle of religion with science. History bears ample testimony to this continuous struggle. A classic example of this is the battle of creation versus evolution. But this is a whole new topic.]

Thus we see that there seems to be no single reason as to why people pray. Everyone can come up with his or her own answer and feel satisfied. In fact, this is what we normally do. But as we mentioned before, the answer that transcends space, time, circumstance and human emotion can only come from God (which means His book, the Qur’an.). This brings us to the following question.

Why was the Quran Given to Us?

So, let us ask: what does the Quran have to say about this question? But before that, we might ask a related question: why was the Quran sent to humanity?

Allah says that the Quran was sent to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to lead humanity out of darkness and into light.

"A Book which we have revealed unto you in order that you might lead mankind out of darkness into light" (14:1)

Various examples can be given to explain this verse. Liberating people out of slavery into freedom is an example of leading them from darkness into light (14:5). Prophet Moses’ (PBUH) liberation of Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom and Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) migration to establish an independent Muslim (community) state in Medina are historical examples of leading mankind from darkness into light.

Removing ignorance, superstition and blind beliefs with knowledge, reason and understanding is another example. Allah Almighty also says that the Quran was sent to remove conflict and differences among human beings.

"And we sent down the Book to you (O Muhammad (P)) for express purpose, that you should clear to them those things in which they differ" (16:64)

So, the Quran removes differences and conflicts which divide human beings and eventually creates unity of mankind.

Prayer and the Quran

Prayer, being an integral part of the Quranic system, must lead towards the above goals. It is important to remember that prayer is neither independent nor mutually exclusive of the overall goal of the Qur’an. That means we can not separate it from the other commands of the Quran and practice it in isolation in the hope of getting rewards in the hereafter.

Let us explain this with some concrete albeit simple examples. Various parts of a car have to work together in a coordinated fashion for it to run properly. If we take out the wheels or the engine, it is not going to move. Similarly, if we separate the various parts of a computer and focus our attention on the individual components, the computer is not going to work until all the components are connected properly and synchronized. The same thing applies to the functioning of the human body. No human organ can survive outside the body. In a similar way, prayer can not survive outside the living body of the Quranic system driven by its laws. With this brief background we now come to the main question.

What Does Prayer Mean

The Arabic word Salat is normally translated as Prayer in English. [It is translated as Namaaz in Urdu and Persian. "Namaaz" is an Old Persian (Pahlavi) word which the Zoroastrians (fire worshippers) used for their prayer. It should be translated as Pooja in Hindi! However, no Muslim of the subcontinent would dare say that he is going to do Pooja but he feels perfectly satisfied and honored in saying that he is going to do salah Namaaz!!] Since no translation of the word "Salat" could fully reflect its meaning, we have to first understand what Salat means.

The root meaning of this word is "to follow someone closely." For example, in a horse race, if the second horse follows the first horse so closely that its head is always overlapping the first horse’s body, then it is called Al-Musalli, and the first horse is called Saabiqun. [Taj-al-‘Urus, vol. 10, page 213; Lisan-al-‘Arab, vol. 7, page 398.] Therefore, Salat means to follow Allah closely. The only way we can follow Allah is to follow His Book, Al-Qur’an, to remain within the limits imposed by it, and never to transgress these limits. This implies that we have to establish a system so that we lead our lives according to the Code enshrined in the Qur’an. Establishment of this system is referred to as Aqeemus Salat by the Qur’an. This is quite different from theocracy where religious leaders rule in the name of God using their own version of ‘Shari`ah’ rather than the ‘Shari`ah of God’, the Qur’an. "Woe to those who write the book with their own hands and then say, "This is from Allah" - 2:79, so says the Quran about them.

What is the Essence of Prayer?

The Quran uses the term Aqeemus Salat quite often which is usually translated as "Establish Prayer." This translation does not fully convey the meaning of the original concept. The root of Aqeemus comes from ‘qaa-ma,’ which means to stand, to be balanced, to have a just, fair and long-term strategy for dealing with problems, and to be steadfast. Therefore, Aqeemus Salat means "to establish Salat" as a permanent and balanced system in which human beings can follow the Divine Code in all aspects of their lives individually, as well as collectively. This obviously requires an independent and sovereign land in which the Divine Code can be enforced as a living constitution. This is the essence of prayer and, in fact, an essential requirement for the establishment of Salat. The Quran is very specific on this point when it says:

"These are the people who, when they will have power in the land (24:55), then they will establish Salat…" (24:21.

Is Salat a Ritual?

We have seen that according to its root meaning, Salat is a system and not a ritual. Prayer (performed five times a day) is only a component of Salat. Within this system, prayer is a powerful and effective means of achieving the Quranic goals mentioned earlier. Outside the system, however, it becomes a soulless ritual repeated solely for getting rewards in the hereafter. The difference between prayer being part of a system and a ritual can better be explained by the following example.

Soldiers within an army perform many duties and responsibilities. They lead their lives according to the various codes (or Shari`ah) prescribed by the army. Every aspect of their lives is governed by these codes and violators are dealt with according to the "Shari`ah" of the army. Along with other important activities, the soldiers are required to perform daily drills as well. These drills have their own codes (e.g., dress, haircut, schedule etc.) and every soldier has to follow them. The soldiers are also required to obey the orders of their commander-in-charge. Thus the drill is a component of the system and within the army system it produces its desired result.

Now, suppose the soldiers go home and perform their drills in their home streets exactly as before. These drills are now being performed outside the army system and therefore would not produce the same results as before. Nevertheless, if the soldiers keep on performing their daily drills like this, then this will be called a ritual because these drills are being performed outside the command and control of the army system.

The question then is how to establish this system of Salat referred to by the Quran as Aqeemus Salat.

How to Establish Salat
According to the Qur’an, it can not be forced (10:99) on an unwilling or ignorant people (10:100). First, the message has to be presented to them (62:2). Then, they have to be educated (2:151) so that they can understand this message (12:108). Only when a group of people have willingly accepted, understood, and been convinced of its truth with deep conviction (Iman) and want to lead their lives by this Divine Code, that this system of Salat can be implemented. This is the process our Prophet (PBUH) followed and therefore, is his Sunnah.

The Prophet (PBUH) and the Sa’haba (R) did not pray for their personal salvation or just to please God. Their entire life was devoted to fulfilling the goal of establishing the system of Salat in the society. ‘Aisha (R) is reported to have said that the Prophet (PBUH) was a "walking Qur’an". This means that he was leading his life by the Qur’an. He also made certain that his companions were living by it as well. The Quranic way of life can not be led individually or alone. It must be done collectively as an Ummah under a system driven by the Divine Laws. The only way to do this (according to the Quran and shown by the Prophet (PBUH)) is to replace the old system based on lifeless and soulless rituals with a new one based on the Quranic concept of Salat.


`Uboodiyyah is a comprehensive term that asserts the meaning of the Verse (Ayah).
"You alone do we worship and You Alone do we seek for Help." (Qur'an
It comprises the slavery of the heart, tongue and limbs to Allah Ta’aala. The
Slavery of the heart includes both the Qawl (saying of the heart) and `Amaal
(Actions of the heart). The Qawl of the heart is the belief (I`tiqaad) in what
Allah has informed about His Self, His Names and Attributes, His Action,
His Angels, and that which He revealed in His Book and sent upon the
Tongue of His Messenger Muhammad sallallaahu `alayh wa salaam.
The `Amaal of the heart include love for Allah, reliance upon Him, turning
to Him in repentance, fearing Him, having hope in Him, devoting the Deen
Sincerely to Him, having patience in what He orders and forbids, having
Patience with His decrees and being pleased with them, having allegiance
for His pleasure, having humility for Him and humbling oneself in front of
Him and becoming tranquil with Him.
The Qawl (saying) of the tongue is to convey what Allah has revealed (in the
Qur'an and authentic Sunnah) regarding Himself, His Names and Attributes,
His Actions, His Commands, His Prohibitions, and all that is related to this
Deen), to call to it, defend it, to expose the false innovations which opposite
, and to establish its remembrance and to convey what it orders. The
`Amaal (actions) of the limbs include the Salat (prayers), Jihad, attending

    The Merits of As-Salah

1-Prevents from Al-Fahshaa’ (great sins of every kind, unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.) and Al-Munkar (disbelief, polytheism, and every kind of evil wicked deed, etc.). [See Q: 29/45].
2-The best of deeds are after the Testimony of Faith (laa ilaaha illallaahu, Muhammad Rasulullah). [Hadith ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (radiyallaahu 'anhu) in Bukhari (v.9; 625) & Muslim].
3-Washes you’re out sins. [Hadith of Jabber (radiyallaahu 'anhu) in Muslim (v1; 1410)].
4-Expiates sins. [Hadith of Abu Hurairah (radiyallaahu 'anhu) in Muslim (v1; 450)].
5-A light for its adherent in this Life and in the Hereafter. [Hadith of Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallaahu 'anhuma) in Musnad Ahmad. (v2; 169) with good chain of narration].
6-Raises in rank and removes sins. [Hadith of Thaw Baan (radiyallaahu 'anhu). in Muslim (v.1; 989)].
7-One of the greatest causes to enter Paradise with the company of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'Alaihi wa salaam). [Hadith of Rabee’a al-Aslami (radiyallaahu 'anhu) in Muslim (v1; 990)].
8-Between each performance of Salat and the next performance, sins are pardoned [hadith ‘Uthman (radiyallaahu 'anhu) in Muslim (v1; 438)].
9-The angels will ask Allah for Blessings and Forgiveness upon the adherent in his place of prayers. [Hadith: Abu Hurairah (radiyallaahu 'anhu) in Bukhari (v.3; 330) and in Muslim].
10-Waiting for the next prayer after observing a prayer is Ribaat (keeping oneself adhering and firm on acts of obedience).[hadith Abu Hurairah (radiyallaahu 'anhu) in Muslim (251)].

11-The one who goes to the Mosque to perform the prayer is in prayer until he returns. [Hadith by Abu Hurairah radiyallaahu 'anhu).

 It is obligatory to make up missed prayers in the proper order, according to the majority of scholars.

Ibn Qudaamah said (al-Mughni, 1/352): In conclusion, it is essential to offer missed prayers in order. This was stated by Ahmad in several places… and a similar view was narrated from al-Nakha’i, al-Zuhri, Rabee’a, Yahyaa al-Ansari, Malik, al-Layth, Abu Haneefah and Ishaaq.

Al-Shafi said: It is not essential, because one is making up an obligatory prayer that has been missed, so it is not essential to offer them in order, as with fasting… Once this is established, then it is essential to offer them in order even if they are many. This was stated by Ahmad.

Malik and Abu Haneefah said that they do not have to be offered in order if there are more than a day and a night of prayers, because doing that with regard to more than that period would be too difficult. So the obligation is waived, just like making up missed Ramadan fasts in sequence.

From this it may be understood that offering missed prayers should be done in sequence according to the majority of Hanafis, Maalikis and Hannibal’s, except that the Hanafis and Maalikis do not say it is obligatory if the prayers of more than one day and one night have been missed.

The way in which the missed prayers are made up in order is to do the missed prayers in the same order as the prescribed prayers. So whoever misses Zuhr and ‘Asr, for example, should pray Zuhr first, then ‘Asr.

But the obligation to do them in order is waived in the case of one who forgets or was ignorant, or if there is the fear that the time for the current prayer will end soon, or if one fears missing out on a prayer in congregation – according to the more correct view.

If a person owes two prayers, Zuhr and ‘Asr for example, and starts with ‘Asr by mistake or because he is unaware that the missed prayers should be offered in order, his prayer is valid.

If he fears that if he starts with the prayers he missed the time for ‘Asr prayer will end, then he should pray ‘Asr first, then pray whatever prayers he owes.

Similarly if he enters the mosque, should he offer the current prayer with the congregation or make up what he has missed first? Ahmad, according to one report which was also favored by Sheikh al-Islam, was of the view that he does not have to offer the prayers in sequence if he fears that he will miss out on praying with the congregation.

But in this case he should join the congregation with the intention of offering the missed prayer. So if a person has missed Zuhr and he comes to the mosque and they are praying ‘Asr, he can pray with the congregation with the intention of praying Zuhr and it does not matter if his intention is different from that of the imam. Then he can pray ‘Asr after that.

      Life Still Has A Meaning.....

If there is a future there is time for mending-
Time to see your troubles coming to an ending.
Life is never hopeless however great your sorrow-
If you're looking forward to a new tomorrow.
If there is time for wishing then there is time for hoping-
When through doubt and darkness you are blindly groping.
Though the heart be heavy and hurt you may be feeling-
If there is time for praying there is time for healing.

So if through your window there is a new day breaking-
Thank Allah (God) for the promise, though mind and soul be aching,
If with harvest over there is grain enough for gleaning-
There is a new tomorrow and life still has meaning.

 Praying five times a day is only one part of Salat. When we finish our prayers in the Masjid, we are not done with Salat. It is not something to do and finish. It involves every aspect of life, keeping it within the guidelines of the Divine Code twenty-four hours a day. And this has to be done within a system under a central authority according to the Qur’an. This system was originally established by our Prophet (PBUH) and the Sa’haba (R). Five times a day our prayers are meant to renew and reinforce our commitment to steadfastly enforce the system of Salat ordered by Allah and practically shown to the humankind by the Prophet (PBUH). This renewal boosts our psychological energy to come together and support each other towards the goals of the Qur’an. Salat is the mechanism by which the Quran is implemented in mankind. This is how Allah’s laws can be engrained within us; this is how the Prophet (PBUH) and the Sa’haba (R) found it so natural to follow the Qur’an, and the results they produced within 30 years speak for themselves. Needless to say, our prayers are not producing the same results although we have been praying for more than a thousand years in ever increasing numbers.

And Allah knows best

"Have fun praying and getting ready for the Day of Judgment coz that day will NOT be fun :) P.S.: don’t forget to make dua for me.

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