I recently attended a gathering at the Islamic Society of Algester to commemorate the Isra wal Mi’raj, or Night Journey and Ascension of The Cream of Creation, Prophet Muhammad, in whom abundant peace and salutations of Allah abide. I’ve provided an infographic that summarises the main aspects of this miraculous journey:
Our respected Imam Abdul Qadir al-Jilani (a descendent of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) here in Brisbane, spoke on various lessons that can be derived from this miraculous event. His talk prompted me to think a bit more critically about my relationship with Allah the Most High.
Essentially, the talk was focused on one theme: the importance of the gift of Salaah and its blessings (obligatory prayer for Muslims). The key words of which we need to take note have been chosen carefully: importance, gift, Salaah, blessings.
Definition: The state or fact of being of great significance or value (Oxford)
Origin: early 16th century: from French, from medieval Latin importantia, from important – ‘being of consequence’
Islam as a way of life teaches us to prioritise those aspects of life that yield the most reward. For instance, an authentic hadith in Tirmidhi states “The key to Paradise is prayer and the key to prayer is cleanliness (Ablution)”. Why is ritual purity important? Not only is it a physical cleaning, but also a means of spiritual cleansing whereby the Muslim, whilst washing or wiping certain regions of the body, focuses on turning away from the sins committed by those very regions. It serves to emphasise that one must approach God only in the cleanest of states, and in this way, we will gain maximum reward. This is how we set our spiritual priorities straight.
Similarly, regarding our relationship with Allah, it is based on our obedience to His Command and submission to His Divine Will. As such, prayer, being a defining factor of a Muslim, requires us to devote to it the attention it deserves, namely in the way we prepare for it, look forward to it, perform it, concentrate within it, and monitor our transformation through it.
Gift, Salaah, Blessings
As we all know, the Salaah (obligatory ritual prayer) was gifted to Muhammad The Final Messenger (in whom God’s choicest peace and blessings abide) during the Isra wal Mi’raj (Night Journey and Ascension). The most strikingly beautiful thing about this is that every command and regulation was issued to the Cream of Creation, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, whilst on earth, except Salaah. The institution and blessings of Salaah are so sacrosanct that it had to be delivered in the Intimate Presence of Allah in the Heavens! Subhanallah! (Glorious is Allah) This is indeed a blessing of immense proportions upon the Ummah of Nabi Muhammad (in whom Allah’s choicest peace and blessings abide) for their safe entry into Paradise rests heavily on their sincere performance of this heavenly delivered gift.
Returning to Earth, there are countless benefits associated with routine prayer. This was noted and emphasised by our Master Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) as recorded by Imam Bukhari:
Narrated Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him):
A man entered the mosque while Allah’s Apostle (SAW) was sitting in one side of the mosque. The man prayed, came, and greeted the Prophet. Allah’s Apostle (SAW) said to him: “Wa ‘Alaikas Salam (returned his greeting). Go back and pray as you have not prayed (properly).” The man returned, repeated his prayer, came back and greeted the Prophet. The Prophet (SAW) said, “Wa alaika-s-Salam (returned his greeting). Go back and pray again as you have not prayed (properly).” The man said at the second or third time, “O Allah’s Apostle! Kindly teach me how to pray”. The Prophet (SAW) said:
“When you stand for prayer, perform ablution properly and then face the Qibla and say Takbir (Allahu-Akbar), and then recite what you know from the Qur’an, and then bow with calmness till you feel at ease then rise from bowing, till you stand straight, and then prostrate calmly (and remain in prostration) till you feel at ease, and then raise (your head) and sit with calmness till you feel at ease and then prostrate with calmness (and remain in prostration) till you feel at ease, and then raise (your head) and sit with calmness till you feel at ease in the sitting position, and do likewise in whole of your prayer.”
My understanding of this, from a practical standpoint, is as follows:
Recognise each action in Salaah as a means of calming yourself. The first takbeer we make when we begin our prayer is known as Takbeeratul Ihraam, meaning the takbeer that forbids you from doing anything else within the prayer, except what is prescribed for and allowed in the prayer. Let your initial takbeer truly negate all else in your heart and mind except your goal of Allah, and follow through with your recitation of His Divine praises as revealed in the Glorious Qur’aan. The level of concentration you maintain during that recitation – and throughout the rest of the prayer – is at least a partial indicator of how much you understand and appreciate His blessings in your life.
Then, out of sheer awe of Him, bow into the state of Ruku’, again immersing yourself in His praises. Remember you are submitting in totality to His Will, so take care to perform each action meticulously. Thereafter, rise in the temporary Qiyam state whilst acknowledging that “Allah listens to those who praise Him”, affirming that your prayer, your life, death, soul, exist only for His worship and servitude. This realisation is of utmost importance, and as one strengthens their internalisation of this, your whole being will naturally, without choice nor hesitation, humble itself in complete submission to, and glorification of, His Mercy, and the body manifests this state in the prostration. It is here that the highest point of the human is humbled to the lowly Earth, in order to remind humankind of their nothingness before Allah, and complete dependence on His Compassion.
Transcending to greater spiritual heights is achieved through greater appreciation of Salaah’s purpose in our lives. Let’s begin to truly understand the reality of Salaah in light of its miraculous revelation in the Heavens. If that is its source, then surely that is the reward if we perform it sincerely.
Wassalaam (with peace),