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The Islamic Law of Worship Rituals
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

The objective of Islam is purification of the soul. Attainment of excellence in this purification relies on a person’s relationship of servitude with the Almighty. The stronger this relationship, the greater a person is able to achieve purification both in his concepts and in his deeds. Love, fear, sincerity, faithfulness and gratitude as an acknowledgement of His innumerable favors and blessings are the inner manifestations of this relationship. In the life of a person, this relationship manifests in the form of the following three: worship, obedience and support. In the religion of the Prophets, worship rituals are prescribed to serve as a reminder for this relationship. The Salāh (prayer) and the Zakāh are worship; the rituals of Fasting and I‘tikāf are a symbolic expression for obedience, while the rituals of Hajj, ‘Umrah and Sacrifice are symbolic expressions for offering support and backing for the cause of Allah.

In the following pages, the directives of the Sharī‘ah regarding these worship rituals will be explained.

The Prayer

إِنَّ الصَّلاَةَ كَانَتْ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ كِتَابًا مَّوْقُوتًا (١٠٣:٤)

Indeed, the prayer is a duty incumbent on the faithful to be discharged at appointed hours. (4:103)

The most important worship ritual of Islam is the prayer. A little deliberation shows that the essence of religion is comprehension of God and an expression of humility and meekness before Him. The most prominent expression of this essence is worship. Invoking and glorifying Him, praising and thanking Him and kneeling and prostrating before Him are the practical manifestations of worship. The prayer is nothing but an expression of these manifestations and, with graceful poise, combines all of them.

It occupies extra ordinary importance in Islam. In order to understand this importance, the following aspects need to be appreciated.

1. The Foremost Directive

The prayer is the foremost directive of Islam. The status monotheism occupies in beliefs is the exactly the same as the prayer occupies in deeds. It is evident from the Qur’ān that the prayer is the foremost consequence of the comprehension of Allah which one gets after being reminded by His revelations and as a result of which the emotions of love and gratitude which appear or should appear in a person. The Almighty says:

إِنَّمَا يُؤْمِنُ بِآيَاتِنَا الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِهَا خَرُّوا سُجَّدًا وَسَبَّحُوا بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ وَهُمْ لَا يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ  تَتَجَافَى جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ (٣٢: ١٥-١٦)

Only those believe in Our revelations who when are reminded through them, prostrate themselves in adoration and give glory to their Lord and praise and thank Him and do not adopt a rebellious attitude; who forsake their beds to pray to their Lord in fear and hope; who spend [in His way] from what We have given them. (32:15-16)

The following verses of Sūrah Rūm also depict the same thing:

فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا فِطْرَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ مُنِيبِينَ إِلَيْهِ وَاتَّقُوهُ وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَلَا تَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (٣٠: ٣٠-٣١)

Therefore, leaving everything aside, turn yourself to this religion. [In this manner] obey [the dictates of human] nature on which God created mankind. No change is allowed in this nature [created by] God. This is surely the right religion, although most men may not know it. Turn to Him and fear Him. [Stand steadfast on it] fully turning to God and fear Him only and diligently attend to the prayer and be not among the Idolaters. (30:30-31)

The Prophet (sws) has called the prayer a pillar of Islam1. Consequently, at all places in the Qur’ān where a compact style is adopted, indeed the words ‘عَمِلُوْا الصَالِحَات’ (righteous deeds) succeed a mention of ‘اِيْمَان’ (faith), but at places where a comprehensive style is adopted it is the mention of the prayer which immediately comes after a mention of ‘اِيْمَان’:

الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاةَ (٣:٢)

These who believe without [seeing] and show diligence in offering the prayer. (2:3)

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلاَةَ (٢٧٧:٢)

Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and are diligent in the prayer. (2:277)

The first thing towards which Muslims are directed in order to attain Tazkiyah (purification of the soul), which according to the Qur’ān is the very objective of Islam, is the prayer as well:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى (٨٧: ١٤-١٥)

[At that time], indeed he succeeded who purified himself and [for this] remembered the name of his Lord and offered the prayer. (87:14-15)

Similarly, in verses where the Qur’ān has referred to the deeds which are essential for success in the Hereafter, the prayer is mentioned the foremost:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ  الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ  وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ  وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَاةِ فَاعِلُونَ  وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَافِظُونَ  …وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِأَمَانَاتِهِمْ وَعَهْدِهِمْ رَاعُونَ  وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلَوَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ (٢٣: ١-٩)

Successful are the believers, who are humble in their prayers; who avoid profane talk, and give Zakah; who preserve their chastity … who are true to their trusts and promises [both with regard to the Almighty and their fellow human beings], and are diligent in their prayers. (23:1-9)

In Sūrah Ma‘ārij, the Qur’ān says:

إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا  إِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعًا  وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعًا  إِلَّا الْمُصَلِّينَ  الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلَاتِهِمْ دَائِمُونَ  وَالَّذِينَ فِي أَمْوَالِهِمْ حَقٌّ مَّعْلُومٌ  لِّلسَّائِلِ وَالْمَحْرُومِ  وَالَّذِينَ يُصَدِّقُونَ بِيَوْمِ الدِّينِ  وَالَّذِينَ هُم مِّنْ عَذَابِ رَبِّهِم مُّشْفِقُونَ  إِنَّ عَذَابَ رَبِّهِمْ غَيْرُ مَأْمُونٍ  وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَافِظُونَ … وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِأَمَانَاتِهِمْ وَعَهْدِهِمْ رَاعُونَ  وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِشَهَادَاتِهِمْ قَائِمُونَ  وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ  أُوْلَئِكَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ مُّكْرَمُونَ (٧٠: ١٩-٣٥)

Indeed, man has been created very impatient. [If he does not discipline himself, then indeed] whenever some affliction befalls him he becomes depressed and when good fortune befalls him he becomes stingy. Not so those who pray, who are always steadfast in prayer; who set aside a fixed portion in their wealth for those who ask and for those [also] who are ashamed to ask; who truly believe in the Day of Reckoning and dread the punishment of their Lord – Indeed, the punishment of their Lord is not a thing to be fearless of – and those who preserve their chastity … and those who keep their trusts and promises [both with regard to Allah and with regard to their fellow human beings] and those who stand firm in their testimonies and those who keep guard over their prayers. It is they who will be in gardens of paradise, laden with honours. (70:19-35)

Ibn Mas‘ūd (rta) narrates that he once asked Prophet Muhammad (sws): ‘Which deed does Allah like the best?’ He replied: ‘Offering the prayer on time’.2

‘Umar (rta) once wrote an epistle to his administrators: ‘The most important thing in your religious affairs is the prayer. A person who protects the prayer, protects the whole religion and a person who squanders it would be the foremost in sqaundering other [directives of] religion.3

2. A Requisite for Muslim Citizenship

The prayer is a requisite for a person to be called a Muslim. The Qur’ān has made it very clear that in an Islamic state only those people can demand the rights of a Muslim who offer the prayer and pay Zakāh. In Sūrah Tawbah, the Qur’ān, while launching an offensive against the Idolaters of Arabia, declared: 

فَإِن تَابُواْ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتَوُاْ الزَّكَاةَ فَإِخْوَانُكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ (١١:٩)

If they repent and be diligent in the prayer and pay the Zakāh, they shall become your brothers in religion. (9:11)

It is evident from the above stated premise that in the Hereafter also, a person be dealt in a similar manner. The Qur’ān has very subtly alluded to this in the following words:

فَلَا صَدَّقَ وَلَا صَلَّى  وَلَكِن كَذَّبَ وَتَوَلَّى  ثُمَّ ذَهَبَ إِلَى أَهْلِهِ يَتَمَطَّى  أَوْلَى لَكَ فَأَوْلَى  ثُمَّ أَوْلَى لَكَ فَأَوْلَى (٧٥: ٣١-٣٥)

But [look at this man]! He neither believed in [the good fate of the Hereafter] nor prayed; on the contrary, he denied and turned away. Then he went to his family conceitedly. Woe be to you, then woe be to you! And again woe be to you, then woe be to you!! (75:31-5)

It is implied from the contrast between the words  ‘صَلَّى’ with  ‘تَوَلَّى’ and ‘ثُمَّ ذَهَبَ إِلَى أَهْلِهِ يَتَمَطَّى’ that this importance has been invested in the prayer because in the sight of Allah a person who does not offer the prayer is showing arrogance and pride and the Qur’ān has made very clear in 7:40 that a camel can enter the eye of a needle but an arrogant person cannot enter Paradise.

The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

بين الرجل بين والكفر و الشرك ترك الصلاة (مسلم رقم ١٣٤)  

The line which demarcates disbelief and polytheism in a person is abandoning the prayer. (Muslim, No: 134)

Similarly, at another occasion, he remarked:

خمس صلوات افترضهن الله تعالى من أحسن وضوءهن وصلاهن لوقتهن وأتم ركوعهن وخشوعهن كان له على الله عهد أن يغفر له ومن لم يفعل فليس له على الله عهد إن شاء غفر له وإن شاء عذبه)  ابو داؤد:رقم ٤٣٥ (

These are the five prayers which the Almighty has made obligatory on people: a person who did ablutions in a befitting manner, offered the prayers on time and prostrated both his inner and outer selves before he Almighty, has been promised forgiveness by Him. And a person who does not do these things is not promised anything. If He wants He will forgive him and if He wants He will punish him. (Abū Dā’ūd, No: 435)

3. Means of Strong Adherence to Islam

The prayer is a means to remaining steadfast on Islam. The Qur’ān has informed us that a devil is deputed on a person who becomes indifferent to remembering the Almighty and evades Him: ‘وَمَن يَعْشُ عَن ذِكْرِ الرَّحْمَنِ نُقَيِّضْ لَهُ شَيْطَانًا فَهُوَ لَهُ قَرِينٌ’ (We shall impose a devil on the person who does not heed the warning of the Merciful and he shall be his companion, (43:36)). This devil then becomes his permanent companion. The prayer saves a person from this indifference and evasion and protects him from the devil. It can be seen from the verses of Sūrahs Mu’minūn and Ma‘ārij quoted earlier that the directive of prayer encircles all directives that were mentioned there: they begin with the prayer and end with it. It is obvious from this that it is safeguarding the prayer which ensures a person’s adherence to Islam. No doubt, the onslaughts of Satan continue even after this but he cannot dwell permanently in the heart of a person who is punctual and ever vigilant in offering the prayer. Like a citadel, the prayer continues to ward off Satan and protects a person’s mind and heart from his offensives. It is precisely for this reason that it has been emphasized that a person should offer it in all circumstances: in times of danger also he should offer it in whatever way he can while on foot or while riding. In Sūrah Baqarah, where the section on the Islamic Sharī‘ah ends, it is said:

حَافِظُواْ عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ والصَّلاَةِ الْوُسْطَى وَقُومُواْ لِلّهِ قَانِتِينَ فَإنْ خِفْتُمْ فَرِجَالاً أَوْ رُكْبَانًا فَإِذَا أَمِنتُمْ فَاذْكُرُواْ اللّهَ كَمَا عَلَّمَكُم مَّا لَمْ تَكُونُواْ تَعْلَمُونَ (٢: ٢٣٨-٢٣٩)

Be watchful over your prayers, especially the one which comes in the middle [of the morning and evening prayers when it is not easy for you to take out time from your involvements], and stand before Allah devoutly [leaving aside everything]. Then if you fear any danger, pray on foot or while riding, as may be most convenient, but when there is security, remember Allah in the very manner He has taught you, which you knew not. (2:238-9)

On these very grounds, the Qur’ān has referred to indulgence in lust and desires as if it was a consequence of wasting the prayer: ‘فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ أَضَاعُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَاتَّبَعُوا الشَّهَوَاتِ’ (But after them there followed a posterity who missed prayers and followed after lusts (19:59)).

In Sūrah ‘Ankabūt the words are even more explicit:

وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاء وَالْمُنكَرِ (٤٥:٢٩)

Be steadfast in the prayer because it stops lewdness and evil. (29:45)

The verse says that like a preacher, the prayer cautions a person that in spite of the onslaught of desire and emotions he should not forget the fact that one day he will have to face the Almighty and present an account of his deeds before Him. While explaining the above quoted verse, Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī has written:

Those who offer the prayer, whether in public or in private, giving due regard to its etiquette and conditions, the prayer with both its inner and outer aspects reminds them of all those realities which are necessary to keep them on the right path in life. In particular, the prayers offered in seclusion influence the life of a person a lot. A person who does not offer the prayer is like the driver of a car who is driving the car of his life with speed but who is totally indifferent and unaware of the landmarks which appear on the road to guide him and protect him from danger. It cannot be said when such a driver may fling his car in some pit.4

4. The Prayer Blots Sins

When a person stands in prayer he revives his commitment with God that he would try to refrain from disobeying Him. As a consequence of this, he necessarily feels ashamed of the sins he has committed in between two prayers and with new vigour and determination returns to the busy routine of life to protect himself from indulging in them. A little deliberation shows that this is the very essence of repentance and it is known that repentance cleanses a person. It has thus been said:

وَأَقِمِ الصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَيِ النَّهَارِ وَزُلَفًا مِّنَ اللَّيْلِ إِنَّ الْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ ذَلِكَ ذِكْرَى لِلذَّاكِرِينَ (١١٤:١١)

Attend with diligence to your prayers at both ends of the day and in a portion of the night too. No doubt, good deeds make amends for sins. That is an admonition for thoughtful men. (11:114)

Abū Hurayrah (rta) narrates from the Prophet Muhammad (sws): ‘Tell me if there is a stream flowing near your door in which a person bathes five times a day, then will he still have a stain of dirt on him?’ The people replied: ‘In this case, no speck of dirt would remain on him’. The Prophet remarked: ‘This is an example of the five prayers; through them, the Almighty in a similar manner blots sins’.5

5. Means of Countering Hardships

When the Jews were invited by the Qur’ān to revive their covenant with the Almighty, it advised them to seek help from the prayer to discharge its responsibilities.6 The same advice was given to the Ismaelites as well:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ (١٥٣:٢)

Believers seek help from perseverance and from the prayer. Indeed, God is with those who persevere. (2:153)

The Prophet (sws) too was advised to adhere to the prayer in order to bear with perseverance the mischief and torments of the miscreants:

فَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ الْغُرُوبِ  وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْهُ وَأَدْبَارَ السُّجُودِ (٥٠: ٣٩-٤٠)

Bear then with what they say. Give glory to your Lord and praise Him before sunrise and before sunset. And glorify Him in the night also and also after the sun bows down. (50:39-40)

This means that the prayer is the most effective means to draw the blessings of the Almighty. Consequently, it is evident from a study of the life of the Prophet (sws) that whenever he would encounter an important issue he would stand to pray.7 When people requested him to invoke the help of Allah for rain, the Prophet (sws) first offered the prayer and then put his hands up for invocation. At the time of solar and lunar eclipses, when it was felt that the Almighty might send His punishment, the Prophet (sws) offered the prayer. In the battles of Badr and Ahzāb when the Muslim forces were arrayed against their opponents, the Prophet (sws) resorted to the prayer to seek help from the Almighty through it.

6. Symbol of true Da‘wah

We are told by the Qur’ān that true reformers are the ones who hold steadfast to the divine book as the covenant of the Almighty and consider it to be the distinguisher of good and evil and are diligent in the prayer:

وَالَّذِينَ يُمَسَّكُونَ بِالْكِتَابِ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلاَةَ إِنَّا لاَ نُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُصْلِحِينَ (١٧٠:٧)

And those who hold tightly the book of God and who are diligent in the prayer [are the righteous and], We shall not deny these righteous their reward. (7:170)

While explaining these verses, Imam Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

This declaration of the Qur’ān is a benchmark to judge all movements and undertakings that aim at reforming the Muslims and calling them to Islam. It is evident from this that only that movement of calling people to Islam is on the right path in whose basic ideology, program, objective – in short, in all its spheres the prayer and adherence to it is the foremost and is of the same importance which according to the Qur’ān it occupies in the covenant with God and in the struggle for its enforcement. Movements and undertakings that aim at the revival of the Muslims and their reformation in which the prayer is not the foremost and does not hold due significance are fruitless and devoid of any blessings of Allah. The reason for this is that they are without the backing and support on which the edifice of such movements rest and also bereft of the spirit which this edifice needs to take life from.8

7. Means of Perseverance on the Truth

It is obvious that it is only in the companionship of the Almighty that one can persevere on the path of truth and the prayer is so close to the Almighty that it is His stand-in for us in this world. The verse (٩٦ :١٩) ‘وَاسْجُدْ وَاقْتَرِبْ’ (prostrate and attain my nearness) refers precisely to this aspect. Therefore, if one wants to attain the companionship of the Almighty while striving in His cause, he should adhere to the Book of God and to the prayer. The most important way to achieve this end is through the late night prayer of Tahajjud. So, when the Prophet (sws) was directed by the Almighty to expand his sphere of Indhār, he was told to adhere to this prayer to get the help needed to bear the heavy burden of responsibilities of this phase. The reason for this, as informed by the Qur’ān, was that the time of Tahajjud is a time when one’s heart and mind are fresh and receptive and is a time that is very appropriate to understand the Qur’ān. In the words of Imam Amīn Ahsan Islāhī: ‘Since this time is the very time at which the mind is at rest and the heart fully conscious, hence the words that emanate from the tongue are very effective and make room in one’s heart. The reciter himself receives them as if they were the testimony of his own heart and to other listeners the words are also very stirring.’9

يَاأَيُّهَا الْمُزَّمِّل.قُمْ اللَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا ..نِصْفَهُ أَوْ انْقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا  أَوْ زِدْ عَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلْ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلًا إِنَّا سَنُلْقِي عَلَيْكَ قَوْلًا ثَقِيلًا  إِنَّ نَاشِئَةَ اللَّيْلِ هِيَ أَشَدُّ وَطْئًا وَأَقْوَمُ قِيلًا إِنَّ لَكَ فِي اَلنَّهَارِ سَبْحًا طَوِيلًا وَاذْكُرْ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ وَتَبَتَّلْ إِلَيْهِ تَبeْتِيلًا )٧٣ :١-٨)

O you enfolded in your shawl! stand [in prayer] by night, but not all night. Half the night, or even less or a little more and [in this prayer of yours] recite the Qur’ān in a slow measured tone. Because soon We shall lay on you the burden of a heavy word [the burden of open warning]. Verily, this rising by night is very suitable for the mind’s peace and the heart’s resolve and for the speech’s correctness. Because during the daytime you will be hard-pressed with [this task; so pray at this time] and remember the name of your Lord and [in this loneliness of the night] devote yourself entirely to Him. (73:1-8)

It is evident from certain narratives that the Almighty directs His special attention to this world at this time. Abū Hurayrah (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): ‘Every night the Almighty descends to this nearest sky. When one-third time of the night remains He says: “Who is offering supplications that I may accept them? Who is asking that I may give him? Who is calling for forgiveness that I may forgive him”.’10

8. As the Nature of every Object of the Universe

If only a person has eyes through which he can really see, there is a doubtless reality that every particle of this universe glorifies and praises the Almighty, offers his gratitude and bows down before Him. He may not be able to understand this praise and glorification, but he can readily observe that just as the outer self of a thing bows down before the Almighty and is ever obedient to Him, the inner self too can be no different. Animals which walk on the earth, trees which flourish in the orchards, birds which chirp in the sky, fish which swim in the seas, the sun, the moon and the stars which shine in the sky all bear testimony through their very existence:

تُسَبِّحُ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَالأَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهِنَّ وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدَهِ وَلَكِن لاَّ تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حَلِيمًا غَفُورًا (١٧:٤٤)

The seven heavens, the earth, and all who dwell in them give glory to Him. There is not one thing that does not give glory to Him while praising and thanking Him. Yet you cannot understand their praises. Benevolent is He and forgiving. (17:44)

All these are fully aware of their prayer and glorification of the Almighty. If a person has a keen eye, he can see that when birds with their wings outstretched fly in the sky they are in fact bowing down in humility to the Almighty:

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالطَّيْرُ صَافَّاتٍ كُلٌّ قَدْ عَلِمَ صَلَاتَهُ وَتَسْبِيحَهُ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ (٤١:٢٤)

Do you not see how God is glorified by those in the heavens and those on earth and the birds as they wing their way [across the sky]. Each knows his prayer and glorification of the Almighty and God has knowledge of all they do. (24:41)

Writes, Amīn Ahsan Islāhī:

Every object of this universe in its nature has an Abrahamic temperament. The sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains the animals that tread the earth all follow the divine law on which they have been created. None of them deviates from this law in the slightest manner. The sun whom some foolish people worship bears testimony from its very existence that it stands and bows before the Almighty every day. It raises his head at the time of sunrise and then stands before the Almighty till noon. After midday it kneels before Him and at sunset prostrates before Him and remains in this state all night. It is to this reality which the waxing and waning of the moon and the rising and setting of stars point. The same is true for the mountains, trees and animals. Their shadows at all times stand, kneel or bow down before the Almighty and a little deliberation shows that such is the Abrahamic temperament of this shadow that it always remains opposite to the sun. If the sun is in the east, the shadow will stretch in the west and vice versa. In other words, the shadow of every object from its very existence tells us that it is not the sun but its Creator who is worthy of prostration.11

The Qur’ān says:

أَوَ لَمْ يَرَوْاْ إِلَى مَا خَلَقَ اللّهُ مِن شَيْءٍ يَتَفَيَّأُ ظِلاَلُهُ عَنِ الْيَمِينِ وَالْشَّمَآئِلِ سُجَّدًا لِلّهِ وَهُمْ دَاخِرُونَ  وَلِلّهِ يَسْجُدُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ مِن دَآبَّةٍ وَالْمَلآئِكَةُ وَهُمْ لاَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ (١٦: ٤٨-٤٩)

And have they not seen that whatever the Almighty has created casts its shadow right and left, prostrating itself before God in all humility? To God bow all the creatures of the heavens and the earth, and the angels too. They are not disdainful. (16:48-49)

Consequently, when a person stands in prayer, he in fact prays, prostrates and glorifies on behalf of every object of this universe. He brings his deeds in harmony with his nature and declares thereby that he would not lag behind anyone and will prostrate not only his body but also his soul before the Almighty who created Him. He will never take a separate route from the rest of the creation in which he has no companion and if there are such people then they are the ones for whom the wrath of the Almighty has become certain:

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَسْجُدُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ وَالنُّجُومُ وَالْجِبَالُ وَالشَّجَرُ وَالدَّوَابُّ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنَ النَّاسِ وَكَثِيرٌ حَقَّ عَلَيْهِ الْعَذَابُ (١٨:٢٢)

Do you not see that those in the heavens and the earth, the sun and the moon and the stars, that mountains and the trees, the beasts, and countless men – all prostrate before God? Yet many have deserved the punishment. (22:18)

9. The Prayer is Real Life

The call of the Messengers of Allah has been called life by the Qur’ān: ‘يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اسْتَجِيبُواْ لِلّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُم لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ  ;’ (O you who believe! respond to Allah and His Messenger when He calls you to that which will give you life, (8:24)). The reason for this is that no doubt every living person has a life to live but real life, which has been called as light, inner calm and faith, is only secured through the remembrance of the Almighty. The Prophets of Allah summon people towards this remembrance of Allah and for this purpose they call them foremost towards the prayer. What is the prayer? When the remembrance of God, His comprehension and the sense of nearness to Him reaches the level of excellence then this becomes the prayer. All the sages of the world are unanimous that real life is the life of the soul and this life is nothing but the remembrance of God, His comprehension and the sense of nearness to Him. Only the prayer can furnish such a life to man. The Qur’ān has made a subtle reference to this at one place by placing ‘the prayer’ parallel to ‘life’ and ‘sacrifice’ parallel to ‘death’:

قُلْ إِنَّ صَلاَتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (١٦٢:٦)

Say: ‘My prayers and my sacrifice and my life and my death, are all for God, Lord of the Universe’. (6:162)

If a person grasps this reality, then he keenly awaits the time of a prayer the way he awaits the time of food each day. His eagerness for prayer is the eagerness of a thirsty person for water and that of a hungry person for food. The prayer becomes his subsistence from the Almighty. It instils happiness in him and invigorates him. The Prophet Jesus (sws) is reported to have said: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew, 4:4). Just as people eat various types of food to savour their taste, he nourishes his soul by reading various passages of the Qur’ān, different supplications and liturgies. It is the prayer which enlivens and freshens up a person when hardships bog him down. It is the prayer which like a breath of fresh air cleanses the filth of sin. In the autumn of frustrations, the prayer is the hope of spring and when adversities embrace a person from all sides, it is the prayer which is his rock of asylum. These lines should not be counted as some poetical utterance. It is towards these feelings that the Prophet (sws) has alluded by the words: ‘قُمْ يَا بِلَال فَاَرِحْنَا بِالصَّلاةِ’ (Rise  O  Bilal!12  And  soothe us through the prayer!)  and  ‘جُعِلَتْ قُرَّةُ عَيْنِي فِي الصَّلَاةِ ’ (The coldness of my eyes has been placed in the prayer.)13

(Translated from Ghamidi’s Mīzān by Shehzad Saleem)



1. Tirmadhī, No: 2616

2. Bukhārī, No: 527

3. Mu’attā, No: 6

4. Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 6, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 53

5. Bukhārī, No: 528

6. Qur’ān (2:45)

7. Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qur’ān al-Azīm, vol. 1, (Beirut: Dāru’l-Ahyā wa al-Turāth al-‘Arabī, 1969), p. 87

8. Islāhī#, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 203

9. Ibid., vol. 9, p. 25

10. Bukhārī, No: 1145

11. Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 5, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 229

12. Abū Dā’ūd, No: 4986

13. Nisā’ī, No: 3940

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