| Next Lesson
Lesson - 13
"Who believe in the Unseen and keep up prayer
and spend out of what We have given them." The Holy
Prayer as a means of guarding against evil
In my last two lessons I have discussed the important reasons
underlying the Divine intent to keep Himself in the Unseen. As a
result of being in the Unseen, people tend to forget Allah, and
are in need of a reminder. Prayer serves as such a reminder. Thus
the Holy Quran states:
It is not just enough to recite the prayer. In fact, a believer
is enjoined to keep up prayer. In the previous chapters I have
discussed the injunctions pertaining to this. In brief, prayer should
be recited with understanding of its meaning, and with the realization
that one is standing in front of Allah. It should be considered a
great privilege to be given the opportunity to stand before the Best
of Judges five times a day. The words of the prayer create the most
excellent concept of the Divine Being and His attributes (provided
prayer is kept up, and not just said in a hurry). Prayer also strengthens
the belief in our hearts that Allah, the Possessor of all perfect
attributes, is with us all the time; He sees us, and we can pray to
Him wherever we are. He is able to hear our prayers, and is aware
of our inner secrets. This is why during prayer we stand with our
hands folded, bow down and prostrate; and some of the prayer is recited
loudly while the rest is said in silence. When faith firmly becomes
established in all of these concepts, the truth of the Quranic statement:
"And keep up prayer for My remembrance." (20:14)
"Surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil"
is fully manifested. This means that no dirt or evil collects in
a persons heart, or remains behind as a part of his actions.
He reaches the state of taqwa or guarding against evil, which
is a great achievement.
Now I would like to mention another great objective of prayer,
knowledge of which has only been given to us by the Holy Quran.
No other revealed scripture or religion mentions this. The human
soul also requires sustenance for its well-being, progress and existence,
just as food is essential for the life, health and development of
the human body. This spiritual nourishment is provided by the institution
of prayer. Our physical bodies, which are maintained by the daily
intake of food and water, will eventually die and perish into the
earth. The human soul is the part that remains behind forever, and
on it is based our life hereafter. This is the reason why so much
stress has been laid on prayer in the Holy Quran and Hadith, and
it is a major edict of Islam. The human spirit which receives this
nourishment stays healthy, develops, and remains alive. This is
the greatest blessing for mankind. The Holy Quran explains this
vital truth in these verses:
It is a distinctive characteristic of the literary eloquence of the
Holy Quran that in very few and simple words it sheds light on some
very important and complex issues. The essential facts which have
been described in these two verses can be summarized as follows.
"And strain not thine eyes toward that with which We have
provided different classes of them, (of) the splendour of this
worlds life, that We may thereby try them. And the sustenance
of thy Lord is better and more abiding. And enjoin prayer on thy
people, and steadily adhere to it. We ask not of thee a sustenance.
We provide for thee. And the (good) end is for guarding against
evil." (20:131, 132)
1. Allah has created different
classes of persons. This is mentioned in another place in the Holy
"See how We have made some of them to excel others."
This Divine wisdom makes it possible for the activities of daily
life to be conducted in a satisfactory manner.
2. Each class of persons has
been given variable amounts of material possessions. Abundance of
wealth, however, leads to a greater degree of trial. This occurs
because the attraction of material wealth is such that man makes
it the purpose of his life, despite the fact that the world is a
temporary abode. The sorrow of leaving ones prized possessions,
and the realization in the Hereafter of the immense loss sustained
by not having exerted oneself for the greatest blessing, the love
of Allah, is in itself akin to the torment of hell. In addition,
a person will have to account for all that he was given in this
world. If he considered his worldly possessions a trust of God and
spent out of them according to Divine injunctions, he would be secure.
His punishment, otherwise, would be that of a dishonest person who
betrays a trust given to him.
3. A believer should not greedily
long for the fineries of this world. Worldly sustenance is temporary,
and one is held accountable for its appropriate disposal. For the
believer, however, the everlasting reward is the spiritual sustenance
which is bestowed without the need for accountability, and is of
a far superior quality.
4. This spiritual sustenance
is acquired through prayer. The Holy Quran is a wonderful book of
knowledge and profound wisdom. While mentioning the procurement
of this sustenance through prayer, the believer is first enjoined
to ask his family to do so, and also provide a strong personal example
of steadfastness in the keeping up of prayer. This is because even
in case of physical sustenance, man gives preference to his wife
and children. A large portion of his earnings is spent for food
and clothing and other necessities for his family. The man of the
house, who is usually the breadwinner, spends very little on himself.
Thus man is told that just as he worries for the physical maintenance
of his family, he should be even more concerned for their spiritual
well-being. In order to accomplish this he is advised not only to
enjoin them to keep up prayer, but also to keep up prayer in person
so as to set an example. Without a personal example it would be
difficult to get their compliance.
5. Allah provides us with
physical sustenance, and does not ask us for it. In a similar manner,
when He enjoins prayer, it is not for His own benefit. It is purely
for the good of mankind, and provides him with spiritual sustenance,
which is essential, much superior, and everlasting.
6. The final comment is that
taqwa (keeping ones duty, guarding against evil) leads
to a better end. Keep your duty also in regard to the physical sustenance
you are given, for you will be held accountable for it. Utilize
the spiritual sustenance provided for you in the form of prayer
to strengthen and keep your spirit healthy, so that it can control
your animal desires. If the animal within you is left unbridled
it will weaken your defenses (taqwa) against evil, resulting
in loss and torment of hell. As I have already mentioned, if prayer
is kept up and not merely recited, it leads to living faith in God,
which of course gives rise to the quality of guarding against evil.
I will end this discussion by mentioning one other important aspect
of prayer. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and the blessings
of Allah be upon him) said: "Prayer is the ascension (Miraj)
of the believer." Now the event of Miraj (ascension)
is well known to the Muslims. The Holy Prophet in a state of vision
(kashf) ascended to the spiritual heavens. He progressed
in spiritual status beyond the level of all other prophets. At a
certain point in this spiritual journey, the Angel Gabriel who escorted
him on this journey also parted his company, stating that from there
on he would not be able to withstand the manifestation of the Divine
presence. He advised the Holy Prophet to go on further by himself.
As the Holy Prophet proceeded ahead, he came into the presence of
Allah. He sat down respectfully with his legs folded in front of
Allah and said: "All services rendered by words, and bodily
actions, and sacrifice of wealth, are due to Allah." To this
Allah replied: "Peace be on thee, O Prophet, and the mercy
of Allah and His blessings." To this the Holy Prophet answered:
"Peace be upon us and on the righteous servants of Allah."
What other conversation took place during this spiritual encounter
is not recorded. The extraordinary precious treasure or reward,
however, that he brought back with him was the permission for his
followers to pray five times a day. The lessons that we learn from
these events of the Miraj are:
1. If we follow completely
the footsteps of the Holy Prophet, we can ascend to those highest
levels in the life after death, where we have to go eventually.
2. By completely following
the path of the Holy Prophet, one can progress further than the
reach of the angels. The Quran also tells us that if a man truly
becomes the vicegerent of Allah, angels are committed to bow before
3. The spiritual status achieved
by the Holy Prophet is the ultimate stage of Fana-fi-Allah
(losing oneself completely in Allah). At this stage every word,
action, and possession is spent in the way of Allah, and under His
direction. This is apparent from the words of the Holy Prophet:
"All prayers and worship rendered through words, bodily actions
and sacrifice of wealth are due to Allah."
4. As a result of this complete
obedience and service with humility, Allah rewarded the Holy Prophet
with peace, mercy and everlasting blessings in this world and the
Hereafter. He immediately conveyed these to his followers and all
the righteous servants of Allah, because he knew that whenever Allah
says something it is fulfilled. This is clearly indicated by his
words: "Peace be upon us and on the righteous servants of Allah."
In these words we see a remarkable display of the feelings of selflessness,
love and caring for humanity that the heart of this pure and saintly
person was endowed with.
5. Going directly into the
Divine presence is a historically unique occurrence. What did the
Holy Prophet request from Allah? He asked Allah to bless his followers
with the same honor and blessing that he was blessed with in obtaining
nearness to God. The permission to pray five times a day was granted
for this very purpose. How unfortunate is the being who keeps himself
deprived of this blessing, and does not keep up prayer; or merely
recites it as a custom without acquiring its full benefit.
6. The Holy Prophet has called
prayer the Ascension (Miraj) of the believer. This
tells us that prayer is the means to get close to Allah and recognize
Him. The conversation which took place between Allah and him is
recited in the obligatory prayer service after the two prostrations.
From this it is quite apparent that prostration is the posture of
closest proximity to the Divine Being. Prolong your prostration
and understand what is being recited, i.e. "My Lord is free
of all faults, and He is the most High." In reciting these
words we are imploring Allah, Who has created the means for our
spiritual evolution: just as He is free of all faults, may He nurture
our spiritual progress so that we can obtain freedom from all our
shortcomings; just as He is the most High, due to His goodness and
perfect attributes, may He create good qualities in us. If this
prayer is rendered sincerely, in it lie all the blessings of this
life and the life hereafter. Besides the prayers of the Hadith and
the Holy Quran, if you have to make any other request before Allah,
you can pray in your own language. Say prayers with the shedding
of tears, for prostration is the time when one is closest to God.
When a child wraps his arms around his mother and cries, maternal
feelings of love and mercy are aroused. Crying of the suppliant
in prostration evokes an outpouring of Divine mercy, for who is
more Merciful and Bounteous than Allah?