Kifah Mustapha

Establishing Prayer

Most of the acts of worship were ordained by Allah (SW) to His Prophet (PBUH) on earth but Prayer. For the importance of Prayer (Salah), Allah (SW) had His messenger (PBUH) ascend to Him, and the order to establish five daily prayers came directly from Him (SW) during the trip of Isra and Miraj. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “I kept returning between my Lord and Moses until (Allah SW) said: O Mohammad! There are five prayers every day and night; for each prayer (rewarded) ten and that is fifty prayers.”[1]

Definition

Prayer (Salah) in the Arabic language means supplication[2] and the Islamic term means: “specific words and actions that starts with Allah Akbar (Takbeer) and finishes with Assalamu Alaikum (Tasleem).”[3]

Importance of Prayer

Prayer (Salah) is considered the main pillar of Islam that Allah (SW) ordered Muslims to perform.  He (SW) said: {Indeed, the prayer is (a) prescribed (obligation) for the believers at the (well–known) appointed times} 4:103.  Allah (SW) promised punishment on the Day of Judgment for those who do not practice prayer.   He (SW) said: {What has thrust you into (the deep of) Saqar[4]? They will answer: We were not of those who prayed} 74:43. Prayer will be the first thing people will be asked about on the Day of Judgment after faith. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Indeed, the first of what a servant would be questioned about of his deeds on the Day of Judgment is Prayer.”[5] The Prophet (PBUH) described the importance of the prayer as being the Pillar that Islam is built upon.  He (PBUH) said: “Prayer is the pillar of religion.”[6] The Prophet (PBUH) defined the line that separates a true believer from another who only claims faith is by the performance of Prayer; he (PBUH) said:  “Indeed, between a man and associating gods with God and disbelief is to let go of prayer.”[7]

The main purpose of Prayer was mentioned in the verse where Allah (SW) said: {Indeed, it is I! I am God! There is no God but me. So worship Me (alone). And (duly) establish the Prayer for My remembrance} 20:14. It is all about the remembrance of Allah (SW) for we owe Him to remember Him, and remembrance means love, being grateful and thankful for all that He has granted us. In this verse, people are asked to know God, worship Him alone and remember Him through the highest level of worship and remembrance; Prayer.

Spiritual Elevation

In the Quran, Allah (SW) described the position of prostration during Prayer (Sujud) as a reason for being near to God, elevating spiritually and feeling His protection through closeness. Allah (SW) said: {Rather, bow down (to the ground in God’s worship) and draw near (Him)} 96:19.  It is amazing how the concept of spiritual elevation which reflects rising high is only obtained through (Sujud) bowing down to earth! During (Sujud) a person would demonstrate his true essence connecting back to earth, the place where he was made from at the time of creation.[8] This verse was revealed after Abu Jahl[9] promised to step on the Prophet’s face (PBUH) while in Prayer. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “If he had done it, angels would take him.”[10] Allah replied by telling His Messenger Mohammad (PBUH) to bow down to the ground to feel the closeness and protection even if people meant him harm. That is why the Prophet (PBUH) described this position as the closest one for a servant to be with His Lord. He (PBUH) said: “The servant is nearest to His Lord during prostration; Increase (for that) the supplications.”[11]

In Prayer, during the position of (Sujood) prostration, spiritual elevation is seen as a road for Heaven and winning the company of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH.) Rabee’ah Ibn Ka’ab Al Aslami said: “I used to sleep by the Prophet (PBUH) and I would bring him (water) for ablution (Wudu) and (for washroom) need.” He told me: “Ask?” I said: “I ask your company in Heaven.” He said: “Anything else?” I said: “That’s all.” He said: “Help me by (purifying) yourself through lots of (Sujud) prostration.”[12]

The Prayer is the practical effort to obtain spiritual elevation. Prayer is not seen as dry words but a sincere supplication from the heart; nor movements for a physical excercise but a position of humility; nor a burden to be fulfilled but a moment of peace and tranquility. The Prophet (PBUH) used to tell Bilal: “O Bilal; call for (the start of) Prayer; relieve us by it (the Prayer).”[13]

All conditions for Prayer feed into spiritual elevation. Making ablution (Wudu) is the cleansing of the body but it is bringing the freshness of life to our soul; Allah (SW) said: {And (that) We have made every living thing (therein) from water} 21:30. The cleanliness of the clothes and the place for prayer is a symbol of the purity that starts from the heart and reflects on the body and environment; Allah (SW) said: {O Children of Adam! Don your adorning apparel when setting out for every place of worship} 7:31. Facing Makkah is the direction toward the Sacred Mosque (Ka’abah) which connects to a place described as a source of peace and spiritual resort for Muslims; Allah (SW) said: {So behold! We made the (Sacred) House (in Makkah) a (spiritual) resort and (place of) security for all (believing) people} 2:125. Covering the private parts of the body is a connection to the natural inclination (Fitra) that demonstrates the purity of the person through the concept of (Taqwa) fearing God. Allah (SW) said: {O Children of Adam! We have, indeed, bestowed upon you [a sense of want for] clothing- to cover your secret parts- and [garments] for adornment. Yet the garment of fearing God is the best [of human adornment]. This is of the [manifest] signs of [One] God, that they may remember [His mercy and be thankful]} 7:26.

 The Prayer itself starts with the word (Allah Akbar) God is Great, meaning that when a person starts his prayer he sees nothing greater than God, and all his attention then would be to focus on the quality of the relationship with his Lord. The (Fatihah) Opening Prayer which is repeated each time you stand (Raka’h) is the declaration of the praise worthy only to God, the Lord of the Worlds, the All-Merciful, the Mercy-Giving and the Master of the Day of Judgment. For that truth, He (SW) is the only one to be worshipped and asked for help. The (Surah) chapter finishes with the supplication of asking guidance to hold on along the straightway that only God can bestow on His servants and not to be among those upon whom there is wrath nor to be among those whom have gone astray.

After reaching out to God by reading His words, praising Him and asking Him (SW) for guidance, the believer finds himself naturally ready for a position of praising Allah in (Ruku) bowing down. It is an extension of the praise a person started his prayer with while standing, and a position of total humility by being grateful for all God has given and honored us with. Bowing down (Ruku) is also a transition from the position of standing to the main position of praising God by (Sujud) bowing down to the ground, which really demonstrates the true meaning of surrender and closeness at the same time. In both positions, words of praise like (Subhan Rabbiya El Atheem and Subhan Rabbiya El A’ala) ‘Glory to my Lord the Almighty’ and ‘Glory to my Lord the Most High’ are uttered to join all the words in praising Allah (SW) in total submission. The remembrance becomes a combination of words, movements and thoughts.

Social Empowerment

If the Prayer was the road for spiritual elevation for the individual then it shall reflect on all members of the community. Allah (SW) said: {Indeed, God does not change a people’s condition (of grace) until they change what is in their souls} 13:11. In simple words, the well being of the community rests on the wellbeing of the individuals, and if the Prayer shapes the character of the individual then by default Prayer shapes the character of the community itself.

Prayer should help the individual keep away from causing harm to others. Allah (SW) said: {Moreover, (duly) establish the Prayer. Indeed, the Prayer guards (one) against immorality and evil} 29:45. Ibn Aabass said: “In Prayer is prevention and a warning against sins (declared by) Allah.”[14] Imam Al Fakhr Al Razi gave the comparison of a person who might be a garbage collector having other clothes outside of his work that he will not touch garbage with and that the more luxurious his clothes are the less chance he would allow it to touch filth. Then he said: “If the servant prays he wears the clothes of (Taqwa) for he is standing for Allah (between His Hands)[15] with his right hand over his left; like the position in front of a great king. The clothes of (Taqwa) are the best garment for its relativity to the heart (and it is) higher than the relativity of (wearing) golden silk (clothes) on the body. Then, one who wears this garment (Salah) cannot engage the filthiness of immorality and evil.”[16]

When talking about social empowerment and its relation to Prayer one can never ignore the role of the (Masjid) the Mosque and the important factor it is to introduce Prayer as a social empowerment.

It is very important to understand that a Mosque (Masjid) is not a monastery. Mosques (Masajid) are not places where people  seclude themselves from society; rather it is a place where people seek empowerment from the spiritual connection with God through Prayer and the engagement they encounter with other community members who come to join them in (Salatul Jamaa) group Prayer.

In the (Masjid) Mosque people listen to the Friday (Khutba) sermon as part of the Prayer which is a direct link between knowledge and Prayer. This knowledge is meant to connect people to each other and promote caring about each other through presenting the issues that are important to them and their real daily life issues.

In the (Masjid) Mosque people discuss their matters of life in total freedom reflecting on the importance of the freedom of speech that early Muslims enjoyed and demonstrated how nations can grow strong. When Omar (RAA) wanted to set a fixed number for dowry money, a woman stood up and said: “How would you do that and Allah (SW) said: {Moreover, if you intend a substitution of one wife in place of another wife and you have given one of them (as much as) a heap (of gold in dowry), then you shall not take back anything (at all) from it. Will you take it by the way of calumny and clear sin} 4:20. Such an incident reflected on the quality of the relationship between the ruler and the citizens; it was the freedom of speech that made Omar say: “This woman was right and Omar was wrong.”

In the (Masjid) Mosque, poor (Sahabah; Ahl Al Suffah) companions of the Prophet (PBUH) found refuge and shelter.[17] This act by the Prophet (PBUH) to allow the poor Muslims to reside in the Mosque is a clear sign of the expected use of the Mosque by broadening the understanding of its role not just as a place of Prayer but also a shelter which falls under social services.

In the (Masjid) Mosque, the Prophet (PBUH) welcomed the Christian delegation from Najran in Yemen, and when time came for their Prayer he (PBUH) allowed them to pray inside the Mosque.[18] Again, the Mosque is seen here not just as a place of Prayer but as a meeting place for delegations and a platform of relationships and Da ‘wa.

In the (Masjid), the Prophet (PBUH) allowed the group of Abyssinians to play their dances.[19] In the (Masjid) Mosque, the Prophet (PBUH) urged Muslims to conduct their marriage ceremonies and announce it by playing drums.[20] The Mosque here is seen as a place for approved entertainment to be enjoyed for people to know that in Islam there is space for such things to be enjoyed.[21]

All these examples mentioned above balance between the concept of establishing Prayer as an act of worship to Allah (SW) in the Mosque and connecting to social issues that are also part of people’s life. This is the true reality of Islam that does not separate between the spiritual life of a Muslim through Prayer and the practical lifestyle needed for survival.

Prayers and Sins

Prayer (Salah) is seen as one of the main reasons to invite the Mercy of Allah and for sins to be forgiven. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “You see; if there was a river by the door of someone’s house, and one was cleansing in it every day five times, would anything of his filth remain? That is the example of the five daily prayers.  Allah erases sins (because of) them.”[22] In this comparison, Prayer is seen as the cleansing tool and the relation to the fresh water of a river is a reference to bringing life. Sins harm people’s faith while Prayer brings it back to life with strength again exactly how water would bring life into the body.

The Prophet (PBUH) also said: “If the servant stands to pray, his sins would be brought and put over his head and shoulders; every time he bows down or prostrates, sins fall off him.”[23] In this Hadith, we see the power of two positions in Prayer; bowing and prostrating. These two positions demonstrate the state of submission and surrender to God, and with that, Allah (SW) shall bestow His mercy by granting forgiveness to those who submit. This meaning was demonstrated in the request Allah (SW) asked the Children of Israel to do when entering Palestine- to submit and ask for sins to be erased and then forgiveness shall be granted. Allah (SW) said: {Yet you shall enter the gateway bowing down (to God) while you say (in prayer): Disburden us, (our Lord, from the consequences of our wrongdoing. Then) We shall forgive you of your sins} 2:58.

When the Prophet (PBUH) saw leaves from a tree falling down, he took one branch and said: “O Aba Zarr; the Muslim servant while performing Prayer with intention (pure) to Allah (SW,) his sins shall fall down off him like these leaves fall off this tree.”[24] In this Hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) set one of the main conditions for Prayer to work as a reason for forgiveness: sincere intention.

Another list of conditions were mentioned in this Hadith; the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Five obligated Prayers by Allah (SW), whoever washes (wudu) in good (way), and performed them at (the appointed) times, and fulfilled the bowing, and attained humility during prayer, he has indeed got a covenant from Allah (SW) to forgive for him (his sins); and whoever did not then he has no covenant from Allah (SW); if (Allah) wishes, He will forgive for him (his sins) and if He wishes, he will punish him.”[25] These conditions are to be taken seriously or the Prayer would not work for your favor as it is supposed to.

Accept My Prayer O Allah

In many cases, people focus more on the details of performing the Prayer physically rather than the quality of the Prayer through the status of the hearts. Allah (SW) spoke about the Prayer that it should be performed in (Khoushou) humility; {Truly, the believers shall realize (everlasting) success: The ones who attain humility in their prayers} 23:1-2. The (Khoushou) humility is seen here as the focus of the eyes looking at the place of prostration, the calmness of the body parts, the tranquility of the inner self and the contemplation of the mind about the words of God. Imam Al Hasan Al Basri said: “When the heart was in tranquility, the body was in humility.”[26] Prayer is meant to be a powerful tool that can help you face all kinds of hardships when performed in humility; Allah (SW) said: {Rather, seek (God’s) help through (enduring) patience and (devotion in) Prayer. And this is, indeed, a great (burden), except on those who humble themselves (before God)} 2:45. Allah (SW) always referred to performing Prayer in the term of (Iqamah) establishing the Prayer; Allah (SW) said: {Those who believe in the (realms of the) unseen, and who (duly) establish the Prayer (set by God), and who spend (charitably) out of what We have provided them} 2:3. The term (Iqamah) establishing Prayer gives the full meaning of perfecting your Prayer and not just doing it. Ibn Aabass said: “The perfection of (Ruku) bowing down, (Sujud) prostrating down to ground, reciting (Quran), humility and focus in it.”[27] A true Prayer should be free from the feeling of looking at it as a burden or approaching it in laziness or seeking people’s attention in it rather than the pleasure of Allah. Such are the descriptions of hypocrites; Allah (SW) said: {Indeed, the hypocrites seek to deceive God. But it is He who causes them to be deceived. Whenever they stand for the Prayer, they stand lazily, (for they merely desire) to show themselves before people. Nor do they remember God (thereafter) except a little} 4:142. Maintaining the Prayer in perfection was another description Allah (SW) gave the true believers when described in the (Surah) chapter of (Al Ma’arij) The Heavenly Ascents; {and (again) the ones who are ever vigilant as to (keeping) their Prayers} 70:34. Allah (SW) threatened those who are not serious about establishing the Prayer in respect to time; Allah SW) said: {So woe to all those who pray- (that is,) those who are unmindful about their prayers.[28]

Muslims should be grateful to Allah (SW) for giving them such a great act of worship (Salat) Prayer. Muslims are grateful to all kinds of blessings and provisions, but indeed the blessing of connecting with Him (SW) tops everything that Muslims can be grateful about after knowing Him (SW). Prayer is an act of worship, a moment of tranquility, a relationship with God, a social investment when performed at the Mosque, a purifying spiritual zone and so much more.

We ask Allah (SW) to accept our Prayers, and grant us sincerity, and reward us with the highest level in Heaven, and bestow His mercy on us, Ameen.

Sh. Kifah Mustapha



[1] Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim

[2] Lisan Al Arab by Ibn Manthoor

[3] Kashaf Al Qinaa

[4] A low level in Hell

[5] Hadith narrated by Imam Nawawi

[6] Hadith narrated by Imam Al Siyouti

[7] Hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari

[8] Allah (SW) said: {and behold! Your Lord said to the angels: Indeed, I will create a human being from a clay of aged, black mud} 15:28

[9] He is one on the main enemies of Islam at the time of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his name was Amro Ibn Hisham Al Makhzumi. His nick name was Abu Al Hakam but the Prophet (PBUH) called him Abu Jahal in relation to ignorance

[10] Hadith narrated by Imam Bukhari

[11] Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim

[12] Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim

[13] Hadith narrated by Abu Daoud

[14] Jamea’ El Bayan by Imam Al Tabari

[15] A metaphor of the feeling that Allah (SW) is looking at you

[16] Mafateeh El Ghaib

[17] Hadith narrated by Imam Tirmizi through Abu Hurayrah

[18] Hadith narrated by Imam Ibn Al Qayyim in his book: (Ahkam Ahl Al Zimma)

[19] Hadith narrated by Ibn Al Muflih in his book Al Adaab Al Shariyyah through Anas Ibn Malek

[20] Hadith narrated by Imam Tirmizi, Baihaqi and Baghawi through Aiesha (RAA)

[21] Hadith narrated by Ahmad Shaker; “for Jews and Christians would know there is a space (for joy) in our religion”

[22] Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim

[23] Hadith narrated by Imam Al Zahabi

[24] Hadith narrated by Imam Al Munziri

[25] Hadith narrated by Abu Daoud

[26] Jamea Al Bayan for Imam Al Tabari

[27] Jamea Al Bayan for Imam Al Tabari

[28] Most of the interpretation was in reference to delaying the Prayer from its obligated time but some others interpreted it as (Ghafiloon) heedless. Look Jamea Al Bayan for Imam Al Tabari