Rejoinders on essence of Muslims’ prayer
In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent the Merciful “Verily, I am the Almighty! There is none worthy of worship but I, so worship Me and offer prayer perfectly for My remembrance.” (Quran, 19: 14)
BRETHREN, last week we pondered that important aspect of Muslim life, al—Salaat. I strove to make the point that the Muslim prayer helps in establishing our relationship with our Creator. I argued that if our prayers are sound and proper, it will facilitate our status in the hereafter. Our Prophet (s.a.w) said: “Allah has obligated five prayers. Whoever excellently performs their ablutions, prays them in their proper times, completes their bowing, prostrations and khushu (complete sincerity) has a promise from Him that He will forgive him… “
Now that sermon as usual elicited some interesting reactions. Two of such reactions necessitated today’s sermon. The first relates to paragraph two of the sermon. I wrote as follows: ‘Now how do we ensure we observe our prayers in the proper way in order to assure the maximum impacts? Let us mention at least three elements. First is cleanliness. The Muslim prayer is invalid once the worshipper is physiologically unclean, when his cloth is unclean and when the place in which the prayer is to be observed is uncouth. The Prophet (upon him be peace) says “Allah is clean; He would not accept anything except that which is clean”. One of our compatriots wrote to complain that the phrase ‘The Muslim prayer is invalid once the worshipper is physiologically unclean’ is ‘misleading’ (fal-iyaadh billah.’ He said: ‘to put my question succinctly, assuming I’m a Moslem, does it mean that my prayer will be invalid if I’m dirty with no possibility of cleaning’?
Brethren, it was my guess that our brother or sister who sent in the above text message had no doubt in his mind that the least I would want to happen is for a reader of Friday Sermon to suffer any misreading. Now my immediate reaction was to thank our questioner for his or her intervention. I thereafter promised to engage his inquiry today. In order to respond to the above, I retrieved the sermon once again and read and re-read it in order to be sure of my propositions. Lo and behold, I discovered that our reader actually misread ‘physiology’ for psychology. The sentence in question occurred in paragraph two and it reads: The Muslim prayer is invalid once the worshipper is physiologically unclean’. Thus neither the sermon nor its reader is blameworthy; the first for committing no legal or scriptural infraction and the second for manifesting the human in him or her. In other words, sometimes we are reminded of our nothingness when we discover we are ignorant of what we thought we know. A former teacher of mine once spent hours looking for his eye glasses only to discover it was right there on his nose silently protecting his eyes! Listen to the Almighty –And he to whom We grant long life, We make them experience reduction in their nature; would they not they understand? (Q36: 67)
But I thought we can actually problematize the issue of psychology or the worshipper’s frame of mind at the moment he or she begins to pray. In other words, I did make a note of it that it is a requirement in Muslim prayer that not only should we be in attendance in the mosque we are equally expected to be in attention. Thus a recipe for failed spiritual intercourse between the servant and his Creator is for the former to ‘hold on to the world’ while posturing in Salaat to be in touch with Lord, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Brother, each time you raise up your hand to do the glorification which signals the beginning of the Salat, what your posture actually alludes to is that you are putting the world behind you not in front of you. You are saying you came to the world with nothing and that the day you would bid it bye nothing shall accompany you on your journey to eternity.
The second intervention came from a sister of ours. In an exchange last Friday I forwarded to her a short message which read: ‘if indeed this life is meant to end then it would be foolhardy for you or me to think our present problem would be permanent’. Then my sister sent a riposte: ‘does this mean I should not pray unto Him the Almighty anymore?’
Dear brethren, I am very sure that the message our sister was actually desirous of conveying to you and me is the necessity for us all to evolve a balance between what is in the domain of our Creator and that over which we have control. In other words, ours is to offer the prayers, it is the Almighty’s duty to accept it; yours is to plant the seed, His is to send down the rain and sunlight that would facilitate the germination and fructification of the plant.
Thus our sister was calling attention to another issue: that there is always a period of ‘germination’, like fruits planted in a farm, for each supplication to be accepted. In other words, as believers we work with the consciousness that each time we stand up in prayers we are actually talking to our Creator; that He is listening to us. But concern usually sets in when our supplication seems not accepted. But to say a prayer is not or has not been accepted is to claim knowledge of what we are actually ignorant of. It also means we have that assurance that sins which constitute cogs in the wheel of acceptance of our prayers and supplications have been removed from us. Let us look at this more closely.
In a collection of sayings of the Prophet, we are told that there are three conditions for a valid repentance. The first is that the sinner should forsake his sinful ways; second, he should be remorseful of the sins he has committed, and three, the sinner should resolve never to return to his iniquitous ways again.
Thus the very first condition for the acceptance of supplication is for the servant to be penitent of his sins. It is the foundation upon which all other acts of worship are built. Once this condition is satisfied, the believer can then proceed to present his prayer points to his Creator. He does that with the full consciousness that it is He the Almighty who can grant him his heart’s desires. Now we should bear it in mind that our Creator has promised us that our supplications will be answered in the way He wishes, and not how we wish; He would grant us what we want when He wishes, and not when we wish. Moreover, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) taught us that supplications are answered in one of three ways. One by actually giving the thing being asked; two, by warding off a harm that would have otherwise afflicted the suppliant; and three, as gifts awaiting the person in the next life, which is the best form of du’a being answered.
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