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Al Salat (Ritual Prayers)

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Prayers are known in all revelations as means for purification, and expression of longing from man to her/his Originator. The symbolic significance of time and movements of prayers as assigned in Islam, are discussed in this section as well as the impact of the prayer on man’s life.



Intention

 


Expressing the ‘intention” is an essential part of the Prayers with which one starts the ritual. The “intention” points to a degree of inner will, and understanding that a person needs a spiritual power from a higher source and asks for it. This “intention” is emphasized by the ablution as a sort of preparation. In this process, we mean not only to wash our body and get physically clean, but we are washing ourselves from the dirt that directly or indirectly defiles our souls through our interaction with the world. This way, we get ready to be in the presence of the Holy, clean hearted and open-minded.

Once, we stand, directing ourselves to the Quibla, we declare our intention by words. God is the Greatest Allahu Akabar is the phrase that announces that we have started our Prayers. Allahu Akabar is also the first statement in the call for the Prayers that was typically pronounced by al-mu'aden, the man who calls for the Prayers. Allahu Akabar is a reminder that Allah is beyond and above, transcendental and unseen. So regardless of to what extent we achieve being one with the Divine, Allah is greater.



The Significance
of the Times of Ritual Prayers

 


Prayers are known in all revelations as means for purification, and appeals from Man to her/his Originator.glossary Specifying the time of the Prayers in Islam was part of the Divine Revelation. Teachings to Muhammad (PBUH) recommended that people should perform the Prayers in certain times during the day. Those times are defined by the movement of the earth around itself facing the Sun. Man was assigned to pray five times a day. The first Prayer is to be done from dawn to sunrise, the second one from noon till mid-afternoon, the third prayer is supposed to be from mid-afternoon till sunset, the fourth one is done from sunset till the complete absence of the light of the Sun from the sky, and the last prayer can extend from the moment the sky becomes completely dark till dawn. It is recommended to pray at those times and not to postpone a Prayer deliberately. However, if one fails to pray at the assigned time for one reason or another, s/he can pray as soon as possible. Therefore, there is a continuous reminder all through the day that draws man's attention to make Allah her/his direction, be close to Him, remember Him and call for Him.

Those Prayers also harmonize between man's mundane activities and her/his relationship with Allah. One of the messages that we can read from the order that is designed for the believer to follow, is the fact that the interruption of the flow of life, through the day is meant to transform one's whole life to be a way of getting closer to Allah. When the individual finishes her/his assigned Prayers, s/he comes back to life with fresh spirit, now that s/he reminds her/himself of being attached to Allah. If s/he was angry before the Prayers, her/his anger may fade down. If s/he intended to revenge for her/himself from someone, s/he may reconsider her/his way of thinking. On the long run, Prayers build within a person an approach to life on earth that is continuously pushing her/him closer to her/his Lord. During her/his lifetime, s/he may notice differences in her/his way of setting priorities, dealing with her/his problems, treating others, and so and so forth. These changes as a matter of fact are the criteria by which one can discern between those who are just acting as if praying and others who are seeking Divine support during their Prayers.

.. and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest without doubt
(HQ: 29: 45)

“If a person’s Prayer does not take her/him afar from atrocity, s/he gets further and further from God” (PH) .

Narrated by Al Tabarani, as quoted in Al Jam’ Al Sagheer of Al Siuti.

Prayers, as such, link between man's worldly activities and her/his innate desire to be attached to her/his Lord. There will be no contradictions between the two realms; rather it is harmony that prevails. This way, s/he will learn the meaning of surrender to Allah existentially, for s/he is never remote from her/his Lord. Her/his calls for her/his Lord are not limited to the time of Prayers, because s/he will consider all her/his deeds as means to bring her/him closer to the Divine. S/he will listen to Him also in the events that are occurring. Man, then, when s/he is trained to be with her/his Lord in times that are scattered through the day, her/his inner hearing improves, and her/his inner seeing becomes stronger. Once s/he is back to life, s/he listens to the messages and read the Signs of the Lord. S/he will learn not only the scientific knowledge, but also the knowledge of heart.

By being arranged according to the cosmological order, Prayers draw man's attention to the magnificent creation of the universe. We tend to forget that our own existence is a miracle. Observing the coming of the day and the night and the passing of time may create this sense of reverence, and open the heart to praise the All Mighty. Prayers in different times of the day may also decode some of the symbolic sings that are revealed to us through the day. With the beginning of the day, man remembers Allah where the Sun is in its way to the horizon. The Sun symbolizes the Truth that is hidden and reveals itself to the hearts of believers. Out of mercy, the revelation is accomplished partly and gradually, and all the way through, man should not stop calling her/his Lord. When the world is full of light and the Sun is in the middle of the sky, we cannot open our eyes to see it, but the presence of the light guides our steps. Allah is the Light of Heaven and Earth, we should remember His presence as Light, and we pray. The process of light's hiding should not stop us from praying. Even in the middle of the darkness, we have to remember Him whose light should fill our hearts. By this struggle, we look for His Light to fill our souls and be reflected in our hearts. Then the Sun will never disappear. It is our aim that, by God's Grace, we get out of darkness to light.



The Significance
of What Should be Said and Done

 

Prayers in the Islamic teachings include hidden spiritual treasures that are revealed and decoded through practicing them with dedication. The general meaning of the gestures and movements in the Islamic Prayers provides also teachings that can be studied and communicated with those who do not follow that spiritual training system. Each movement has its parallel in man's life.

Rak’a is a set of movements, and is a unit that defines the duration of a Prayer. For example, the Morning Prayer consists of two Rak’a(s) and the Noon Prayer consists of four Rak’a(s) and so on.

4.1.3.1 Reading Al-Fatehah

The followers of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are guided to what to say and do on performing ritual Prayers. Reading the opening Sura of the Holy Qur’an al-Fatehah is an essential part of the ritual Prayers. In this Sura we learn how to address Allah by His own words. We praise Him as the Lord of all the Worlds, the overpowering Truth on the Day of Doom. From Him we get support, and to Him we surrender. We ask Him guidance to be in the Righteous Path. This is the only Sura where the beginning "In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and the Most Compassionate" is part of the Sura. glossary

Addressing Allah by His own words helps to remove the false barriers that stand in our way to Allah. It is the divine within us that addresses Allah the Greater. By feeling this attachment to the All Mighty Allah, the process of inner transformation is possible to take place.

Reading al-Fatehah is an essential part of the Prayer. A Muslim reads this Sura while s/he is standing straight, and this is the first posture in the Prayer. A person can extend this posture by reading more verses from the Holy Qur’an after al Fatehah, following the Prophet’s way of praying.glossary

Al-Fatehah, which means "the opening” opens the heart to read the Divine’s words. We read Al-Fatehah and other verse(s) or Sura in a standing position, directing ourselves to al-Quibla. We visualize the Quibla in the symbolic form of al-Ka’ba. This visualization helps us create a situation where we know that we are following the Path of Abraham and Muhammad (PBUH) , in other words, the Path of the Divine Guidance. Interacting with All Mighty by reading Al-Fatehah is another way to witness that there is No god but God. The presence is of the Divine makes our limited existence vanish from the seen.

4.1.3.2 The Significance of al-Rak’a

The first posture, during which we read al-Fateha is while we are standing straight. This posture resembles the number one. It is where we start. All our existence is directed to Allah.

Having finished reading al-Fatehah, we may follow it by another verse(s) or Sura, following The Prophet’s Sunna and then we bow. In this second position in the Rak’a, our upper part of the body forms a ninety degree angle with our lower body. The head as a symbol of the mind and the chest as a symbol of the heart become on the same line, parallel to the ground. The mind and heart both express their subordination to Allah the Greater. The Sunna of The Prophet expresses that meaning clearly, for he was saying during this posture “Allah is Greater”. We stand once more to prepare ourselves to the last posture in a Rak’a. The Prophet used to say during this short time “Allah listens to those who praise Him”, then he said, “Our Lord, Thee we praise and Thee we thank” and then prostrates.

The last posture, al-Sugud (prostration) is a way to express the great gratefulness to Allah and complete surrender to Him. Now the head is on the floor, and the heart is above. It is here where the heart takes the lead. Following The Prophet’s Sunna we say, "O Lord, You are the highest". Having reached that climax, man stands back to perform another set of movements Rak’a. It is a common discipline that after each two Rak’a(s), man sits on the floor in a special posture, and reads what is called al-Taheyat. A person who prays visualizes that he is in the presence of The Prophet; s/he salutes him and prays for him. This particular action emphasizes the meaning of “Muhammad is the Messenger of God” and he is the leader of the way, he is the human Quibla. The Prayer is ended when a person turns her/his head towards her/his right and then towards her/his left, saying: “Al Salamu Alykum wa Rahumtullahi wa Barakatuhu”, “Peace be upon you as well as mercy and blessings of Allah”. It is an implication that with ending one’s Prayer a worshiper is giving salutations to the heavenly presence s/he was in company with, and s/he is coming back to the practical life.

The dawn Prayer consists of two Rak’a(s), the noon of four Rak’a(s) so is the mid-afternoon Prayer and the night Prayers. The sunset Prayer consists of three Rak’a(s).



The Significance
of Prayer in Our Life

 

Each movement we make and each word we utter during the Prayer correspond to certain meanings we cherish in our life. They express several orientations and stands that we should be aware of.

Directing ourselves to the House of Allah represents our stand in life where we are clear about where we are going. One should sail through the earthly journey, knowing her/his way and not drifting astray.

Bowing in the Prayers declaring that “Allah is Greater” can be turned to a general attitude of man in her/his life. This awareness protects her/him from giving an absolute value to the vanishing phenomenal life. Happiness or misery, strength or weakness, wealth or poverty are not to be searched for or avoided for their mere sake. What we are passing through in our life should be evaluated in relation to the deep faith that Allah is beyond all what takes place. In other words any mundane goals should be observed in relation to the spiritual goals. That can be only accomplished when we are assured deeply in heart that Allah is Greater. That training is the essential preparation for the complete surrender to Allah. This preparation is also apparent when we remind ourselves to praise Allah; for He will listen only to those who praise Him. Those who praise Him can see beyond pain or pleasure; they are grateful to Allah for their being. The climax of Rak’a is when we prostrate, and in our life this means complete surrender to Allah and complete freedom. If we succeed to surrender fully, we will be tools in the hands of the Supreme, and to continuously try to act out of the wisdom of heart, not the illusive lower self. The Prophet guided people to consult their hearts as a prime source of guidance. The heart is a symbol of the divine guidance within. Once we surrender truly to Allah, the divine guidance or the inner messenger will be awaken. It is the climax in the sense that it shows complete surrender to Allah where one's heart overrules her/his whole existence.  Next >>>

   


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