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 The Virtues of Prayer

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PostSubject: The Virtues of Prayer   The Virtues of Prayer EmptyMon Jan 24, 2011 6:11 pm

The Virtues of Prayer


Salat (prayer) is the main pillar of Islam and at the head of all acts of obedience. There are very many hadith narrated regarding the virtues of prayer and of the one who fulfills its manners and the fearful concentration (khushoo') which it requires.

.. I heard Allah's Messenger (sas) say: "There is no one upon whom the time for one of the prescribed prayers comes and who does well its ablutions and its fearful concentration and its bowing but that it is an expiation for him for all that came before it as long as no major sins were committed - and that is for all time."

From Ibn Shihab that Ataa' ibn Yazid informed him that Humran mawlaa Uthman informed him that he saw Uthman ibn Affaan called for a vessel of wtaer, poured it on his hands three times and washed them. Then he put his right hand into to container and rinsed his mouth and washed out his nose and mouth. Then he washed his face three times and his arms up to the elbows three times then he wiped over his head and washed his feet three times up to the ankle bones. Then he said that Allah's Messenger (sas) said: "Whoever made ablution in the manner of this ablution of mine and then prayed two rakaats without speaking to himself therein, will have his prior sins forgiven."
Maimoon ibn Mahraan said: I never saw Muslim ibn Yasaar distracted in his prayer ever. Once, one side of the masjid caved in such that the people in the sooq were startled by its noise. He was in the masjid praying and did not even glance in any direction. In his house, the people of his household used to become silent when he entered, but when he began to pray, they spoke aloud and laughed.

KNOW that the prayer his pillars, obligatory parts and sunan. The soul of salat is intention, sincerity, khushoo' (a state including humility, fear, concentration and focus) and attentiveness of the heart. Salat contains adhkaar (statements of remembrance of Allah, praise and gratitude), "conference" with Allah and certain actions. Without khushoo', the intention behind these statements of remembrance and this conference with Allah cannot happen. If the meaning of standing is being in service to Allah and the meaning of bowing and prostrating and bowing is humbling oneself before Allah and glorifying Him but the heart is not present and attentive, then the meaning of the prayer and the intention behind it has not been fulfilled. Any action which does not fulfill its intention is just a form or a picture which has no meaning. Allah said, speaking about the animal sacrifices which he commanded during the Pilgrimage:
{There meat will never reach Allah nor their blood. Rather, the piety from you reaches Him. Thus, he put them (animals) under your control in order that you may exalt Allah for the guidance He granted you and give good news to the doers of good.}
Here we see that what reaches Allah Most High is an attribute which takes over the heart until it is motivated to obey the specific order of Allah. Likewise, the heart must be present and focussed in prayer, but the Lawgiver overlooked and forgives minor distractions and moments of forgetfulness. This is because full attention of the heart at the beginning of the prayer applies to the rest of the prayer.

There are many important concepts which make the prayer complete and bring it to life:
Attentiveness of the heart as was just mentioned. It means to empty the heart of all other considerations and concerns. The key to that is concern and what is important in one's heart. If something is important to you then there is no escaping that your heart will be occupied with it. So, there is no way for your heart to be focussed in prayer without prayer being important to you. Distraction of the heart by other concerns increases and decreases according to the strength of ones belief in the hereafter. If you see your heart not being focussed in prayer, know that this is a sign of weakness of faith and work to increase it.

Understanding the meaning of the words being said. This is in addition to the focus of the heart. The heart could be focussed on the the utterances alone without the meaning. You must concentrate also on the meanings. Without this, you will never be able to cut off the distractions from the ******* ofthe prayer. If other matters which distract from the prayer have not been cut off, they will continue to be a distraction.

These distractions are of two types: external and internal. As for the external, it is all sounds or sights which distract from the prayer. As for the internal, it is much more trying since it is any and all thoughts and concerns which enter the heart and distract from the prayer. It cannot be prevented merely by lowering the gaze since there is plenty in the heart itself which can become a distraction.

The cure for external distractions is to avoid all that which is heard or seen which is a distraction. This is by moving close to the front of the masjid and limiting one's gaze to the point of prostration. Also avoiding prayer in places with much decorations or other distractions. When the Prophet (sas) prayed when there were images in the house, he took them down and said: "They just distracted me from my prayer."

If, on the other hand, the distractions are internal in nature, their cure is to take the heart "by force" to the meanings which are being spoken in the prayer and keep it busy with these meanings to the exclusion of all else. You should prepare for that before beginning the prayer by finishing your other business and getting them all out of your heart and your mind in preparation for prayer. Remind yourself of the hereafter and the danger of standing before Allah and the events of that day. If you thoughts are not removed with all of that, know that your thoughts are driven of necessity to that which is important and of concern to you, so you might need to distance yourself from some of that in order to break its hold on your heart and your thoughts.

KNOW that when any illness becomes well established, it cannot be overcome except with strong medicine. And when a sickness becomes extreme, it pulls on the one trying to pray and he struggles against it until his entire salat is consumed in this struggle. It is like a person under a tree who wishes complete concentration. The chirping of the birds keeps distracting him and in his hand is a stick for chasing them away. So, his thoughts become clear, but only until the birds return and then his thoughts are once again busy with them. So, it was said to him: this will never end so if you want complete concentration, cut down the tree (or move to another place). Likewise with the "tree" of desires. If it grows large with many branches, thoughts are drawn to it like birds to the branches of a tree or flies to garbage. Then, precious life is wasted attempting to repel that which cannot be repelled. The cause of these desires which bring about these thoughts and distractions is excessive love of this world.

KNOW that removing love of this world from the heart is very difficult and removing it completely is near impossible. So, let your efforts be in that which is possible and Allah is the aid and the grantor of success.
Exaltation of Allah and reverence and awe in the heart of Allah. This is born out of two things: knowledge of the might and greatness of Allah Most High and knowledge of the lowliness of the human being and that he is only a slave before Allah. From knowledge of these two issues comes true surrender and fearful focus (khushoo'). Hope (rajaa) is part of this same subject. It is in addition to fear of Allah. It is incumbent upon the one praying to Allah to HOPE by means of that prayer for Allah's mercy and His reward just as he fears Allah's punishment should he become negligent in his prayer.
When one prays, he should have his heart present and focussed in each and every part of the prayer. When he hears the adhaan being called, he should remember the call on Qiyama and prepare himself and respond. And let him look at that to which he is responding and with which body he is responding. As Allah said:
{And they ask you about the mountains, say my Lord will pulverize them completely. (105) And leave them a huge flat plain. (106) You can see no curve nor any elevation therein. (107) On that day they will follow the caller of no crookedness and all voices will be humbled to the Merciful such that you hear nothing but the shuffling of feet. (108) On that day no intercession will avail except [from] he to whom the Merciful has granted permission and has accepted from him his statement. (109)}
When you cover your nakedness in preparation for prayer, know that the intention behind that is to hide the shameful parts of you r body from Allah's creation. Then remember the "nakedness" of your inner self and your "shameful parts" which no one in the creation can see. They have nothing to hide them from Allah, but they can be expiated by regret, modesty and fear.
When you face the qibla, you have turned your face away from all other directions except the direction of Allah's house. Turning your heart toward Allah is clearly more important than that. Just as you cannot face the direction of Makka without turning away from all other directions, likewise the heart. It cannot be turned toward Allah until it turns away form all else.
When you magnify Allah with "Allahu Akbar", do not let your heart make a liar out of your tongue. For if there is anything greater in your heart than Allah Most High, then you have lied. Beware lest your desires be in reality greater to you than Allah which is evidenced by giving their satisfaction priority over obedience to Allah Most High.
When you seek refuge in Allah saying "Audhoo billahi min ash-shaitaan ar-rajeem", know that to say this is to seek sanctuary with Allah the Exalted. If your heart is not truly seeking refuge in Allah, then what has come out of your mouth is nothing but laghwu - frivolous and meaningless speech. Know the meanings of any Qur'an you recite in salat and have this understanding present in your heart when you recite. So be mindful of gratitude and praise toward Allah when you recite: Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil 'aalameen. And remember Allah's great compassion and mercy when reading Ar-rahmaan ar-raheem as well as His greatness and power when reading Maaliki yaumiddeen. And likewise with everything you recite in your paryer.
We have reported regarding Zarara ibn Abi Awfaa that after reciting the eighth verse of Al-Mudath-thir: {And, when the horn is blown}, he fell over dead. This is because hepictured the day of the sounding of the horn when all will be ressurrected and stand before Allah for their accounts and the effect of that brought about his death.
Feel your humility when you go into ruku' (bowing) and your even greater subjugation when in prostration. When in these positions before Allah, you have returned the self to its proper position and returned it to its origin by making postration on the dirt from which it was created. And be sure to understand the meanings of all of the adhkaar of salat as you are saying them.
KNOW that to perform salat with all of these internal conditions is the way to cleanse the heart of the rust which has collected on it and to fill it with the light which enables it to comprehend the greatness of the One it worships. And none shall understand this but those given knowledge. As for the one who merely goes through the motions of prayer without its meanings, he sees nothing of that and in fact denies its existence.

TO BE CONTINUED
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