The Living Prayer

Abridged Translation
Original: Jibonto Namaaz by Professor Golam Azam.
Why is This Book?

Among the five pillars of Islam, Salaat (prayer) comes right after the Shahadatain (The two witnessing).  Those who consider themselves muslims, even though not all of them offer salat, they still consider it as commandment of Allah (SWT). Those who offer their salawat regularly, their number is not meager either. So why is it that the purpose of Salat does not get fulfilled in every musalli’s (those who offer salat) life?

The way we learn our salat is incomplete. We learn how to recite correctly, how to perform rukuu’ and sujood correctly and how to place our different body parts in proper places during salat. Even this much knowledge is not known to many. Just a glance at those who are praying in the masjid makes one realize so.

Those who have learnt how to do their recitation correctly and how to offer rukoo’ and sujood correctly, even they also didn’t get a chance to learn where and how to concentrate one’s mind during different positions of salat. As it is not usually taught, the mind usually remains empty while offering salat. Even though the body remains on the musalla (the prayer carpet), the mind wanders around somewhere else. When the mind is void, it’s only natural for it to be devil’s workshop.

That’s why precisely shaitan (the devil) gets an easy chance to spoil the salat of those whom he can’t prevent from praying. As the mind has not been engaged during salat, shaitan brings thousands of other thoughts in the musalli’s mind while praying.

Whatever we do with our different body parts during salat, that makes the “body” of the salat. Just like a lifeless human body is good for nothing, a lifeless salat also cannot fulfill it’s intended purpose. So we have to bring life to our salawat. Those who want to offer living prayers, this book will come to their aid hopefully. May Allah (SWT) fulfill this hope of mine.

Golam Azam
July, 2002

Content

Living Prayer
Different aspects of learning the Shahadah
Different aspects of learning the prayer
The body of the prayer
The soul or life of the prayer.
Tahajjud Prayer
Examples of Living Prayer
Last Word

Living Prayer
Prayer is the first and foremost practical way of living the teachings of shahadatain in action. Prayer is the training to practically apply those two principles in our lives which we accept verbatim in shahadatain. The relationship between prayer and shahadatain is therefore, intimate. Suppose one person has become a member of muslim society by accepting Islam. By pronouncing the shahadatain, he/she has declared two fundamental policies of his/her life:

I shall always abide by only the commandments of Allah (SWT) in all aspects of my life. I shall reject all authorities that contradict to the authority and commandments of Allah (SWT).

I shall learn how to obey Allah (SWT) only through the methodology shown by the Prophet (PBUH).  I shall reject all other ways and methodologies except that of the Prophet (PBUH).

With this declaration, he/she has become a part of the muslim ummah and has accepted the first of the five pillars of Islam. Now he/she will have to abide by the rest of the four pillars. Prayer or salat is the first among them. If he (in this case, a male) has accepted Islam in the morning, then he will have to participate in congregation at the Mosque for Dhuhr prayers. He/she may need some time to learn the prayer, but he/she cannot miss any prayer due to lack of knowledge on how to offer it. Whatever he is yet to learn, he will only recite ‘SubhanAllah” (Allah is free from all imperfection) instead. Thus, prayer becomes obligatory right after declaring the shahadah.

When the month of Ramadan comes, he/she will have to fast. If he has enough wealth to pay zakat (obligatory poor-due), then he will have to pay that by the end of one year. If he has capabilities to perform Hajj, then he will have to do so during the Hajj season-at least once a lifetime. But prayer is the only act of worship that he/she will have to start immediately as aoon as the next prayer time arrives.

By joining the prayer right after reciting the shahadatain., he has given witness in action of accepting the shahadatain. Based on the two point principles of Shahadatin, he has started obeying the commandments of prayer.  That’s how, prayer is practical living witness of accepting shahadatain.

Different aspects of learning the Shahadah:
The Shahadah has to be pronounced correctly.
The literal meaning has to be understood.
The message has to be comprehended.
The commitment of Shahadatain has to be upheld.

Literal meaning: There is none worthy of worship except Allah (SWT), Muhammad (SAW) is His messenger.

Message of The Shahadah: We have to accept Allah(SWT) as the only Sovereign law-giver in all aspects of our lives, always and under all circumstances. No other entity/authority can be obeyed that contradicts the supreme and absolute authority of Allah (SWT). It is Muhammad (PBUH) who has received the commandments of Allah (SWT) directly and it is the Prophet (PBUH) who has practically taught us through his(PBUH) own living example how to obey those commandments.  Allah has completed HIS chosen way of life for us through Prophet (PBUH) who has fulfilled his mission of completely delivering the message, where no more addition or substraction is necessary.  So, the person accepting the Shahadah will only accept commandments of Allah (SWT) from the Prophet (PBUH).

If you teach a parrot the words of the Shahadah, it will be able to repeat those words-without comprehending it’s meaning ofcourse. That’s why a parrot will not be considered as somebody who has willingly accepted the Shahadh-inspite of repeating those words. The demand of faith is that, muslims accept the message of Shahadah in totality along side vocal pronunciation. There has to be “Tasdeeq bil Jinaan” along with “Iqraar bil Lisaan”-means we have to accept the message in our hearts along with pronouncing through our tongues.

Example: “Water” is a word, but there is no water in the word itself. Water is something else which is denoted by this word. We have to drink water in order to quench our thirst. If we just keep on repeating the word, “water”, our thirst will just increase. Similarly, the words of the shahadah are not the real shahadah-rather it’s message is the essence of Shahadah.

The Covenant of Shahadah: By accepting the essence of Shahadah, one makes this covenant that I shall only abide by the commands of Allah (SWT) and shall not obey any other commandments that are contradicting to the cammandments  of Allah (SWT).  I shall follow all commandments of Allah (SWT) only as shown by The Prophet (PBUH). I shall not learn from anybody else how to follow the commands of Allah (SWT).  Without this covenant, acceptance of Shahadah becomes meaningless.

Different Aspects of Learning Salat

We have to offer our salawat just as shown by Prophet (PBUH).

Whatever He (PBUH) recited in different positions of salat, we have to learn how to recite them correctly and we have to recite that using our lips and tongue ( we cannot just read in our minds).

We have to offer salawat as a training of fulfilling the covenant of Shahadah. We have to use almost all body parts during salat, we have to put our hands, our eye sight in different places during different positions of Salat and do Rukoo’ and Sujood following special rules as taught by Prophet (PBUH).  Salat teaches us that as we use our body parts according to commandments of Allah in salat, we have to do the same outside salat as well-not according to our own whims. Thus, we have to establish the teachings of salat in our practical lives. The Qur’an commands us to establish slat, not just to observe it.

The most important training in salat, is the training of mind. We have to remember that Allah (SWT) has regulated the 24 hrs routine of a believer’s day through the five salawat. This routine starts with salatul fajr and ends with slatul Isha. In between, you have to leave whatever you have been doing for three times and come to the call of Allah (SWT). Men have to gather in Masjid to establish salat in congregation. Salat can never be postponed for any other work, in other words, nothing else can be given preference over salat. Thus, by regulating our 24hr routine through salat, Islam teaches us that we cannot live our lives as we wish, we are slaves of Allah (SWT). As we have to offer salat as commanded by Allah (SWT) and shown by the Prophet (SAW)-we have to do the same in life outside salat. After praying fajr, we have to leave our hearts hanging in the masjid as we go forth for our daily business so that our hearts are cognizant about the timings of salah.  Everything has to be recited in Arabic during salah, Those who don’t understand Arabic, can still learn the message of everything they are reciting. Just like an illiterate person can recognize a currency even though cannot read the exact number or sentence written on it.  As he recites with his tongue, he/she should focus on the meaning and message.

Just like there is covenant in shahadah, there is also strong covenant in salah. When we bow down our heads before Allah (SWT) in rukoo’, we are committing to Allah (SWT) that we will never bow down before any other power and authority and thus humiliate that head which has been honored by bowing down before Allah (SWT).  In sujood, we submit our whole beings to Allah (SWT). We only seek HIS shelter and protection, we must not seek protection and shelter from any other power or authority. As we cannot do anything nor can use our body parts as we wish during salah, similarly we cannot use these body parts outside of salah as we wish or according to our own whims and desires-independent of the commandments of Allah (SWT) and His messenger (PBUH). The more we are cognizant of our relationship with Allah (SWT) outside salah, the more we can bring “khushoo”, life and quality inside salah and the more we can offer living salah the more it will mould our lives outside salah according to the pleasure of our Great Creator. Thus, we can safely say that we get the report of life outside salah while we are in salah and we get the report of our salah while we lead our lives outside salah. Salah teaches and trains us to spend the time between two salawat in complete obedience to Allah (SWT) as we do during salah. Our biggest asset is the closeness that we feel to Allah (SWT) in sujood. We must seek to be accepted as slaves in the eyes of Allah (SWT).

“Waj’alni Minas saliheen wal mukhliseen was sabiqeenal muqarrabeen.”

The Body of Salah

Every one of us wants to present themselves nicely and smartly. We should also try our best to present nicely before Allah (SWT) as we stand in salah. The physical beauty of salah is: we have to engage our body parts during salah as per teachings of Prophet (SAW) and we have to recite correctly our portion of recitation in salat. Salat has to be offered with complete peace of mind and with ease and tranquility. Allama Hafidh Ibnul Qayyim ( R)’s book “How did Prophet (SAW) use to pray” tells in details on how to perfect our prayers according to sunnah.

The Soul of Salah
Depending on our mental state during salah, the soul of the salah is created. At the beginning of salah, it is not necessary to pronounce the intention or niyyah with tongue. Intention is matter of the heart, not tongue. When we raise our hands for Takbir At Tahreema (at the beginning of salat), we have to feel that we’re leaving this dunya behind and standing before our Lord and Master. With this takbeer, those things which were halal before slat now became haram. That’s why it’s known as Takbeer at Tahreema.

Our Qalb or heart is on the left side of our chest. We have to focus our complete attention on our qalb. Shaitan will try again and again to divert our attention-we also have to bring back our attention again and again. This war will continue with shaitan.

It is mentioned in hadith-that Allah (SWT) responds to every sentence uttered by the musalli (the one who prays) as he/she recites suratul Fatihah. The wordings of this hadith touches the heart of the believer.

On the authority of Abu Huraira (RA), hes ays that I have heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying, “Allah (SWT) says I have divided the prayer between me and my slave. When my slave recites, “Alhamdu Lillahi Rabbil Alamin”, I reply, “hamidani Abdi” means my slave has praised me. Whe he says, “Ar Rahmanir Raheem”, I say “athna ‘alaia abdi” (my slave has praised me through my beautiful names and attributes.” When he says, “maliki yawmid Deen” I say, “majjadani ‘abdi” (my slave has declaredmy majesty). When the slave says, “I’aka na’budu wa I’aka nastayeen” I say, “this is between me and my slave and my slave will get what he asks for.” Then when the slave recites until the end (of Fatihah), I say ” this is for my slave and he will get what he asks for.” (Reported in Sahih al Muslim).

There is such a spark of love in this hadith-that the believer’s heart gets sparked with the love of Allah (SWT) while reciting suratul Fatihah with presence of heart and the believer feels real closeness to Allah (SWT).  In order to achieve that closeness, one has to recite suratul fatihah slowly one ayah at a time and pause to hear the answer of Allah (SWT) through the ears of the heart.

Then when we go to rukoo’ and recite “subhana Rabbial ‘Adheem” (my great Lord is high above all imperfections), then the address “my Lord” should create emotional closeness between the slave and his/her Lord. Allah is Rabbul ‘Alamin-Lord of anything and everything, not anybody’s personal lord only. But addressing HIM as “my lord” creates that special emotional initimacy of personal relationship with Rabbul ‘Alamin.

One of the touching do’as that Prophet (PBUH) used to recite while at rukoo’ was, “O Allah! I have bowed down before you, believed in you, submitted and surrendered to you, depended and put my entire trust upon you, You are my Lord.  My hearing, sight, brain, bones and veins have bowed down before you in rukoo’.”

Similarly when we go to sujood, we have to recite with utmost humility, “Subhana Rabbial A’ala.” (My Lord is the Highest). Prophet (SAW) taught us that when we are in sujood, we are the nearest to Allah (SWT) and we should increase in our supplications enormously when we are in that state of submission and closeness to Allah (SWT). Just like when an infant or child takes shelter in it’s mother’s lap, doesn’t want to leave that abode of love, tranquility and security-similarly when a believer takes refuge and finds abode in his Most Merciful Lord by submitting his entire being in sujood, can never be in a state of hurry to get up.

Then what we recite in tashahhud, it has been narrated by a wek chain of transmission that it was the conversation between Allah (SWT) and His Prophet (PBUH) which ended by witnesses given by the angels in Divine presence during Mi’raaj or the ascension of the Prophet (PBUH). This recitation arouses within the believer a sense of being part of that esteemed gathering as if he/she is witnessing that great event. This co-oncides with the saying that compares salat with the spiritual ascension or mi’raaj of the believer.

Then if we talk about the do’a that is recited during witr, a believer expresses his/her utter submission to Almighty by asking HIS help, refuge, protection and guidance which brings the believer closer to Allah (SWT) and makes his/her salat a spiritual journey every time he/she undertakes it towards the ultimate goal of receiving forgiveness, love and mercy of the Divine Being.

According to many ahadith-there are many angels worshipping Allah (SWT) in different positions of salah, some are always standing (in qiyam), some in rukoo’, some in continuous sujood and so on. But we haven’t come across any hadith that says that the angels offer complete prayer like we humans do. Thus we see that Allah (SWT) has given us honor over the angels by granting us the favor to offer complete salah or prayer.

Our beloved Prophet (PBUH) succinctly describes the soul of salah (prayer) in a small hadith. He (PBUH) says, as narrated by Bukhari: “When any one of you stands in prayer, he/she silently converses with Allah (SWT) and his Lord is between him and his qibla.” This is really the example of living prayer that we all should strive to achieve.

Tahajjud Prayer
It’s difficult to do our best in perfecting our salawat while we are in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives durimg the prescribed congregational prayers. The best time to work on perfecting our prayers by feeling closeness to Allah (SWT) in during the Tahajjud prayer (Salatut Tahajjud). Hujd means sleep. Tahajjud is that prayer which has to be offered by breaking one’s sleep. The timing (waqt) of this prayer starts from after midnight until Fajr (the last time of suhoor). The timing has been chosen in such a way so that one has to leave his/her sleep at a time when the world is sleeping and the slave stands in front of his/her Lord for silent, intimate conversations. Allah (SWT) mentiones that HE is our lord, king and supreme sovereign (as He mentiones in the last chapter of the Holy Qur’an). There is another special relationship between Allah (SWT) and the believers which is very much personal and touching-that Allah(SWT) is their only wali (protector, guardian, friend) in this world and in the hereafter. All these relationships get solidified through the supererogatory Tahajjud Prayer. There are many merits mentioned of Tahajjud in Qur’an and Sunnah. It suffices to mention one hadith that comprehensively deals with this topic:

“‘Alaikum bi Qiyamil Lail, fainnahu da’bus saliheena qablakum, wa hua qurbatun lakum ila Rabbikum wa mukaffirun lis sayyiat wa manhatun ‘anil ithm” (Tirmidhi)

“You should get up at night, because that was the practice of the righteous before you, it’s a means to get closer to your Lord, it’s expiation for your past sins and a protection from future mistakes.” (reported by Tirmidhi).

Some Examples of Living Prayer

  • Peace of mind: “Allah has made prayer the coolness of my eyes.” (Al hadith).
  • Our beloved Prophet (PBUH) used to seek solace through prayer during times of difficulty, “Seek help through sabr and salat.” (Qur’an).
  • Prophet (PBUH) said, ” Allah has created a desire for every prophet, my desire is the night prayer (tahajjud). Allah has given sign of dignity to every prophet, my sign of dignity is the five daily prayers.”
  • Due to standing for a long time in night prayer, His (PBUH) feet would swell and his knees would get numb.”
  • Abu Bakr (RA) used to stand still in prayer as if an inanimate wooden post.
  • Omar (RA) got his consciousness back being reminded of prayer in his death bed.
  • Uthman (RA)’s wife told his killers, “you have killed somebody who used to finish the Qur’an in his night prayers.”
  • The arrow stuck in the legs of Ali (RA) was removed easily while he was in a state of sujood. After finishing prayer, he asked, “where did this blood come from?”.
  • Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA) stopped his eye treatment because the doctor suggested him to stop making sujood until his eyes get well.
  • Abdullah ibn Zubair (R ) used to stand still in prayer like his grand father (Abu Bakr (RA ) ) and used to say, “this is khushoo’.”
  • Abu Talha Ansari (RA) lost his concentration in salah due to being distracted by some birds in his garden. As a compensation, he donated the entire garden for the sake of Allah (SWT).
  • Once a man asked for advice to the Prophet (PBUH). He (PBUH) advised, “When you stand in prayer, stand as if  this si your last prayer.”

Last Word

Allah (SWT) says, “Establish salah for my remembrance.” (Surat Ta Ha). That is really the purpose of salah. It is mentioned in Hadith that, the inhabitants of paradise will not have any sadness except one sadness. That sadness will be for that amount of time that they spent in this world without remembering Allah (SWT). Jannah or paradise is that abode where there is no sadness nor any need or want. But this subtle form of sadness will remain. It may not be true for everybody, but for whoever it may be true, the existence of this form of sadness is true.

If we try to find the reason behind this sadness, we find the answer in a different hadith. Among all the blessings of jannah, the greatest blessings is being at the presence of Allah (SWT) and being able to look at the exalted face of The Divine Almighty. That is such a joy and blessings which will make the people of paradise forget all other joys they will be enjoying there. But not all inhabitants of paradise will be able to see Allah (SWT) the same amount of time. Those who used to remember Allah (SWT) the most in this world, will be able to see the countenance of The Divine Almighty the most. Here comes the importance of living prayer.

Don’t forget that “Hearts find peace in the remembrance of Almighty” (Surat Ar Ra’ad). Is there a greater treasure that a blissful heart and soul in this world?

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