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Ritual Prayer

Part 1
I am motivated to write because of the sayings of the Prophet that go thus:

  1. whoever sees anything disaproves by Allah and His Prophet, he should correct it with his hand, if this is not possible, he should do so with the tongue and if this is not possible then with the heart and this is the weakest of it all.
  2. No zamani (period, time or era) will come upon you, the zamani that will follow it will be worse (Sahih Bukhari, vol 9, p. 152).

Therefore, if we dont want the generation that will follow us to be ignorant of the basic things which we should know and pass them on to our brethrens, children and new comers (to Islam), it is time to join hands to bring to light practices that are oddity to Islam.

I am starting with salat because it is the delienator between a muslim and a kafir. I will assume everyone is familiar with salat. The impetus for this article arises from what I observed in all mosques I visited in this locality. There is a very serious and bad trend among muslims which I noticed and I presume it is general across the world. I entered a mosque to say Zuhr prayer, four brothers came in at different intervals during the course of my prayer and Wallahi they all finished their prayers before me. One thing I noticed was that a four-rakah prayer was done in less than two minutes (you can imagine the speed!). I drew the attention of these brothers to what they have done, some were appreciative other say they have no time to do it better. What made me sad was that they hanged on to drink tea and spent more than an hour chatting to others on frivolous matters. I am pretty sure you may be in the same shoe and so the need for this article.

Lets take an hadeeth in Sahih Al-Bukahri: Narrated by Abu Huraira: A man entered the mosque while Allahs Apostle(S.A.W) was sitting in one side of the mosque. The man prayed (in a hurry), came, and greeted the Prophet (S.A.W). Allahs Apostle(SAW) said to him, Wa alaika-s-salam. Go back and pray as you have not prayed (properly). The man returned, repeated his prayer, came back and greeted the Prophet (SAW). The Prophet (SAW) said: Wa alaika-s-salam. Go back and pray again as you have not prayed (properly). The man said at the second or third time, `O Allahs Apostle! kindly teach me how to pray. The Prophet said, when you stand for prayer, perform ablution properly and then face the qibla and say Takbir (Allahu Akbar), and then recite what you know from the Quran, and then bow with CALMNESS till you feel at EASE then rise from bowing, till you stand STRAIGHT, and then prostrate CALMLY (and remain in prostration) till you feel at EASE, and then raise (your head) and sit with CALMNESS till you feel at EASE and then prostrate with CALMNESS ( and remain in prostration) till you feel at EASE, and then raise (your head) and sit with CALMNESS till you feel at EASE in the sitting position, and do likewise in the whole of your prayer. (Sahih Al-Bukhari vol 8, p. 176-177, Hadith No 268)

Even though You and I did not see the Prophet praying, this very hadeeth is sufficient to summarise the way the Prophet used to pray. The capital letters are mine, just for emphasis. The key words are Calmness and Ease in every genuflexion.

In another saying of the Prophet he said: Pray as you see me praying. If we are ignorant of the way the Prophet prayed lets kindly go over the hadeeth (above) carefully. No rushing, no hurry and every genuflexion is properly observed. In another Hadeeth (often called hadeeth Jibril). The Prophet said: worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, if you can not see Him, know that He sees you. We may ask ourselves, a muslim who rushes prayer how can he think of Allah properly? it is important therefore that we understand what we utter from the mouth in our prayers. This way we may attain piety!

The Prophet said: La yasiada ilallah ila taeb (Sahih Al-Bukhari) meaning Nothing ascends to Allah except that which is good. If our prayers are not good ones, obviously they will be rejected. In another saying of The Prophet: Allah is good, He will not accept anything except that which is good. Let me coin a similitude: suppose you come home to eat lunch one afternoon and the food prepared for you by your wife is not properly cooked. How would you feel? Unhappy of course! Mankind love good food but not good prayers to Allah. Does it not occur to you that the most delicious food you may eat, will only last, at most, six hours in the stomach; and its final place is toilet? Quran reminds you:

A day when mankind will remember what he has strived for (yawma yatazakaru linsanu ma saa)(Q. 79:35) The reward of good prayers is with the Omnipotent Being (Allah) and we shall be recompensed for it on the Day when Wealth and Children will be of no use (Quran) (yawma la yenfau maalu wala banun).

Today we shall continue the discussion and examine various Quranic verses which remind us of the need to be God-conscious in prayers. It does appear we have turned everything in prayers to mere symbols and consequently many of us are marking time instead of reaping the benefits and rewards of our prayers. As if Allah is cursing us: Woe to the worshippers who are unmindful of their prayers (Quran 107:4-5) Yusuf Ali has this to say on these verses: true worship does not consist in the mere form of prayer, without the HEART and MIND being EARNESTLY applied to seek the realization of the presence of Allah, and to understand and do His Holy Will.

To be excempted from the curse of Allah, it is a MUST that both our HEARTS and MINDS are atuned to Allah whenever we are in His presence in ritual prayers. That is why Quran admonishes as follows: Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers, especially the middle prayer; and stand before Allah in devout (frame of mind) (Q. 2:238) also, Successfull indeed are believers. Those who humble themselves in their prayers (Q. 23:1-2) And who (strictly) guard their prayers. These will be the heirs (warithuna). Who will inherit paradise: they will dwell therein (for ever) (Q. 23:9-11). We can see an interplay between believers success and prayer. In fact, one of the conditions for a believer to tarry in paradise is proper observance of prayers in an humble way. Obviously one who rushes and unmindful of his prayers will

  1. not recite the Quranic verses and the suplications in bowing and prostration correctly and properly.
  2. not understand and comprehend what are being recited in bowing and prostration.
  3. not feel the presence of His Creator (Allah) and so unconscious of Allah.

Lets look at the timing of salat. Quran warns: ...verily, salat is an obligation on the believers to be OBSERVED AT ITS APPOINTED TIME (Q. 4:103) I have seen muslims who are in the habit of combining Zuhr and Asr prayers for no any reasons other than they have no time to leave wordly materials to obey Allah. This is a popular phenomenon among students, especially those who care to pray. Islam, as we all know, is a complete way of life, we cannot obey one aspect of it and reject any other ones. That is why Quran declares that:

Enter into Islam wholeheartedly, and do not follow the footstep of shaitain, for he is to you and avoe enemy (Surat Baqarah) Be reminded that the purpose of our creation is to be Allahs votaries, failure on our part to fulfil this, carries a severe chastisement. Another aspect I would like to touch upon is the way we recite Tasbih after salat. The three things which are generally said are (1) Sunuhanallah (2) Alihamdulillah (3) Allahu Akbar, each 33 times. I noticed that these things are not pronounced completely and correctly. Just experiment it yourself. If you know a brother who recites his loudly, try to hear him reciting them after one congregational prayer. Wallahi, you will be surprised that what he is actually saying is

  • (1) suba, suba,.... (2) Aliham, Aliham,.... (3) Allabr, Allabr,..... Truly, NOT that he cannot say it well, but the speed in which they are recited reduces the rythm to what I have pointed out. I know, we may be the exact person, but for Allahs sake, lets recite and pronounce these words completely and as accurately as possible. This can be achieved ONLY if we do not rush them.

To sum up, it is time to place the fear of Allah above all things. Our prayers, if we want them to be accepted, must be said the way the Prophet taught his saabah (see Part 1). We should be mindful of prayers and always stand before Allah in complete devotion and the prayers must be said at their correct time. Again Quran says: Enjoin prayer on your family and be CONSTANT therein. We ask you not to provide substenance: WE provide it for you. But the hereafter is for righteousness (Q. 20:132)

One cannot do two things at a time. In the familiar phrase, one cannot use a stone to kill two birds. When a muslim stands for prayer, any worldly things must not be allowed to distract his/her concentration. But the reverse is the case---a praying muslim would want to know/see everyone that enters the mosque. This is where we invite shaitan. Narrated Aisha (R.A): I asked the Prophet (S.A.W) about one looking here and there during the prayer. He replied it is what shaitan steals from the prayer of any one of you. (source: Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol 4., p.326). Remember that the Quran says: We have not created any man with two hearts and so, we cannot stand before Allah and tune the heart to another place or things. If it is the here and there looking that our hearts desire, we should satisfy it first before the prayer. Even if it is hunger that we want to quench, lets do so first before sallat.

Narrated Anas bn Malik(R.A): The Prophet (S.A.W) said, If super is served and the iqama for (Ishai) prayer is proclaimed, start with your super first (source: Sahih Al-Bukahri, vol. 7, p.269) Sometimes we deliberately invite shaitan. Imagine a muslim who decorates his room with series of pictures, how do we expect him, seeing these pictures, to fully concentrate in his prayer? Also, one who puts on his radio to listen to news and then assume prayer, how can he be attentive in prayer? In short, all these lukeworm attitudes are signs of unseriousness and lack of fear of Allah. We seem to me immersed in the love of material things of this world.

Yet you prefer this present life, while the life to come is better and longer lasting (Quran 87:16-17) What is the life of this world but amusement and play? But verily the home in the Hereafter---that is life indeed, if they but knew. (Q. 29:64) Those who desire the life of the present and its glitter--- to them WE shall pay (the price of) their deeds THEREIN without diminution (Q. 11:15) The material (worldly) things which ye are given are but the CONVENIENCES of this life and the glitters thereof, but that which is with Allah is better and more enduring: WILL YE NOT THEN BE WISE? (Q 28:60). Tens of these verses appear repeatedly in several places in the Quran reminding us of what the struggle in this world is all about. Or Do they not ponder over the Quran or are their hearts block from within (Quran)

What is then left in our deeds? We rush prayers, look here and there in prayers, thereby allowing shaitan to reduce the weight of the prayers. We struggle for worldly materials than righteousness. Above all, you love wealth passionately (Q. 89:20) And Quran says: By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give (freely) of that which you love and whatever you give, of a truth Allah knows it well (Quran). How does shaitan interfere in our prayers? Narrated Abu Huraira (R.A): The Prophet said, When the call for the prayer is pronounced, shaitan takes to his heels, passing wind with noise. When the call for the prayer is finished, he comes back. And when the iqama is pronounced, he again takes to his heels, and after its completion, he returns again to interfere between (the praying) person and his heart, saying to him Remember this or that thing till the person forgets whether he has offered three or four rakaah: so if one forgets whether he has prayed 3 or 4 rakaah, he should perform 2 prostrations od sahw(forgetfulness) (source: Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 4, p.324).

Finally, we should know how to pass before the praying person as well as preventing it. Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: The Prophet said, if while you are praying somebody intends to pass in front of you, prevent him; and should he insist, prevent him again; and if he insists again, fight with him (i.e prevent him violently) because such a person is (like) a devil (shaitan). (source: Sahih Al-Bukahri, vol 4, p. 319) Practically one could afford being disturbed by staying clear off the door in which those who finished their prayer will pass. I pray Allah to guide us to His right path. If we pray the way we are supposed to pray, certainly, there will be no fear and apprehension whenever we are faced with difficulties. Verily, this is an admonition: therefore, who so will, let him take a (straight) path to his Lord! (Q. 73:19)

Distributed by Islamic Information & News Network
File Name: ritual.prayers
Lasted Updated: August 14, 1994
By Abdul lateef Bello.

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