Ablution and validity of Muslim prayers
In nothing less than 700 times, the word Salat (the Muslim Prayer) is mentioned in the Qur’an. Sometimes, the word appears in the Muslim scripture accompanied by another religious obligation, the Zakat (alms giving to the poor). When the Muslim prayer is collocated, as it were, with alms giving, it calls attention to yet two other religious obligations both of which go together – worship of the Almighty and goodness to parents.
But a careful contemplation of these religious duties is instructive of the fact that the obligation to perform five daily prayers occupies the core of the Muslim religious worship. As evidenced in the above epigraphs, the observance of Salat is the key to other acts of worship. The Muslim worshipper who observes the Salat at the right time and in the manner in which it has been stipulated or prescribed, positions himself for series of blessings from the Almighty. Prophet Muhammad says (P.B.U.H): “The Almighty has obligated five prayers. Whoever excellently performs their ablutions, observes them in their proper times, completes their bows, prostrations and khushu` (the word Khushu` refers to the prayer of the worshipper in which the person’s heart is attuned to the prayer) has a promise from the Almighty that He will forgive him.
And whoever does not do that has no promise from Him. He may either forgive him or punish him. The Almighty (swt) is giving us a promise that He will forgive us! What more can we ask for? (People) should realize this prayer is a way for them to get their sins forgiven”. These words from the Almighty and His Prophet exemplify the path we wish to tread in this sermon. The contemporary period exemplifies the constant necessity for us to read, and re-read our religion. Modernity functions in ensuring that we forget where we were yesterday; it seeks to occlude our vision with reference to where we should be tomorrow.
In today’s sermon, I wish to remind you of the importance of the performance of ablution in the prescribed manner as a precondition for the acceptance of our daily prayers.Ablution is the ritual, which usually precedes the Salat. It is usually done with water or, in the absence of water, with tayamum –ablution with dry and clean sand. One of the reasons which drive this sermon today is the error we usually commit while performing this ritual. Enter any ablution area in any mosque in our neighborhood, you would be shocked to behold such noise and bedlam as if you are in the market place. Whereas each step we take in the course of performing ablution has spiritual implications, the chance is there that our involvement in other activities like chattering while we assume we are performing this ritual can only lead to the invalidation of this whole process. In other words, he who has no ablution would have no reward in his Salat. If your ablution is deficient, it stands to reason that your prayers should be invalid.
May I remind you, that, unlike all other religions, it is incumbent upon us to have adequate knowledge of whatever acts of worship we want to embark upon before we begin such acts. Thus, each of the action we take while performing ablution has different supplications which the worshipper is expected to offer. For example, beginning from the point at which we wash our faces three times, the worshipper is expected to supplicate thus: “Ya Rabbi, Bayyid wajhiy yawma tabyad wujuhun wa taswad wujuhun” – “O! My Lord, Lighten my face, the day some faces would be lightened while some would be blackened”; at the point of washing the right hand, the worshipper is expected to supplicate thus: “Ya Rabb, Atini kitaabi bi yamini” O! my lord, grant unto me my book (book of reckoning) with my right hand”; while washing our left hand, we are expected to supplicate thus: “Ya rabb, la taj’alni ma’a ashab Shimal” – O! lord, don’t gather me together with the people of the left (inmates of the hell fire); while washing our right foot, the Muslim should say: “Ya Rabb, adkhilni al-Janat ma’a Dakhilin – O! My Lord, make me enter paradise with those who would enter it”; while washing the left foot, she should say: “Ya Rabbi, thabit qadami yawma tazuul al-aqdam” – O! My Lord, make my foot firm on the day feet would shake and tremble (out of the fear of punishment). A Muslim who is not apprised of these may not have the full compliment of the reward in his prayers.
I was once told of the story of an elderly man who was in the habit of saying the words of tawhid – Ash-ad an la illaha illa …, wa anna Muhammadan Rasulullah –I bear witness that there is no god but the Almighty; that Muhammad is His apostle and messenger”. Just before Fajr prayer of that fateful day, he performed the ablution as he used to do, faced the qiblah, lifted his head up to the skies and raised his index finger to the heavens and then uttered the statement. It was as if he was seeing the face of the Almighty in the horizon; it felt as if he was communing with the Almighty.
But alas! He was destined not to observe the fajr prayer that day. The next thing that happened was that he dropped to the floor. He gave up the ghost moments before he entered the mosque. It was one death the conscious ones in the neighbourhood wished they could experience!
May I, therefore, enjoin us to treat our acts of worship with more seriousness than we currently do. We should not forget that what matters is not what we desire to achieve in life; that which matters is what we are doing at each point in our life and where we are when it is time for us to expire!
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