How to be earnest in salat – Part 3
Peak of salah – sajda. This is something very important to understand. Westerners think this is a position in which you are degrading yourself. On the contrary we learn that when we go into sajda saying subhana rabbiyyal aa’laapurified or pure is Allah or perfect is Allah, the most exalted, this is like a physical and verbal declaration that Allah you are the highest, and I am the lowest of the low. You are the creator, you’re the giver, you’re the sustainer, and I am a beggar before you and Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam said ‘the closest that a servant is to his Lord is when he is prostrating so make much supplication’. Its not a degrading position. This is a position in which you are receiving love, mercy, and tenderness from Allah swt. And there is the story of the companion who when he was pouring water for Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam in an excess of love he said to him ‘ask and you will receive what you want’. If it had been us, we probably would have said ‘Oh I am going through some financial problems and…’. He said ‘I want your companionship in Jannah.’ Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam said ‘Help me, against yourself by many many sajdahs.’ Sajda is the key to gaining Allah swt’s love. Now Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam used to recite a dua in sajda aswell – subhanakallah humma wa bihamdika rabbana alhummmaghfirlee The same dua you can also read for ruku that Allah you are perfect, and you are pure and with your praise Allah forgive me. When you sit, before you go into the second sajda there is a dua – dua we should learn and read. Allahumma maghfirlee, wahdeeni wajburne, warzuqni warfaane, wa'afaani Translation: O Allah, forgive me, guide me, protect me and provide me and exalt me and grant me wellbeing
Again and Again, our demands go on and on – after we have repeated one more sajda and we have sat back that’s one rakah that’s complete. In the second cycle we sit down and read attahiyyaat. The background of attahiyaat is so sublime that if we were to remember the history of attahiyyaat every time we read it, our salats would be dynamically different. Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam on the occasion of visiting the seven heavens was taken up finally to Sidratul-Muntaha – the lote tree of the uttermost boundary and that was the supreme moment and there Jibrail AS left him said that even I am not allowed to go beyond this place and he entered and he was the physically closest that any human being has been to Allah swt. He could not see Allah swt but he was the closest anyone has been to Allah swt. And Allah swt asked him ‘What have you brought me?’ and he said ‘Attahiyyaatu Lillahi Was Salawato Wattayyibatu…’. All gifts are for Allah. Attahiyyaatu lillah is like saying the best is for Allah. And we need to ask ourselves that when we say these words before Allah swt, do we mean them. There are people who will not pray and they will read all their prayers in one go at the end of the day saying ‘this was the only time we found’. How then can we read attahiyyaatu lillah …We have not given him our best, we have given him the worst. Do we give him the best of our time, the best of our life, the best of our talents, the best of our energies, or do we keep the residue for Him, that this is for my dunya and whatever is left, Allah swt is welcome to that. That is not Attahiyaat. Attahiyyaatu lillahi is that Allah my best is for you Was Salawaato – and all prayers Wattayyibatu – and all pure things Allah swt replied and said ‘Assalamu Alaika Ayyuhannabi’o’ – peace be on you O messenger Warahmatullahi Wabarka’tuhu – and Allah’s mercy and His blessings. And when we read this, think of all that he did for us. Think of the nights that he prayed for us. Think of the times that he wept for us - his beloved ummah. Have we ever thought of him? Have we ever even done something for him as in done something for the deen that he brought? He pleaded with us – ‘Don’t disgrace me on the day of
judgment’. Have we thought of that? Have we tried to find out what he loved? And then the very we can do is at least read one dua with sincerity, with concentration. Now at that moment, imagine the scene if you can, that Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam, the best of mankind, stands before his creator, receiving this astonishing mercy and love, and at that point he remembers other. This shows his nature, this is really the essence of his nature; that he gave to people, he shared. We are so selfish, no-one likes to share the limelight, but Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam says at that point, ‘assalamu alaina’ not that yes let peace only be on me, - peace be on all of us ‘Wa’ala’Ibadillahis Sa’liheen’ – and on all of Allah swt’s righteous slaves. And then we read the tashaahud; which is the inevitable declaration after you think about all that you have read in salat. ‘Ash’had’u'un La ilahaillallaha’ – this is our creed, this is what we live by, this is inshaAllah what we will die for. ‘Wa Ash’hadu Anna MuhammadunAbd’uhu Wa Rasooluh’ – I bear witness that there is no God but Allah. Muhammad (saws) is his messenger and his slave. Now after this, even then his right is not fulfilled so we read durood. And when we read the durood, think to yourself of all that he did for you. This is the moment where you should imagine Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam and all his favours upon us and then once we have read the durood, durood-eIbrahimi, and this is very significant that Ibrahim AS is also mentioned because he too was Allah swt’s friend and after saying that we have a choice of 12 or 13 duas which Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam used to read. And of course one of the most beautiful is Rabbi jalni muqimas salati wa min dhurriyyati rabbana wa taqabbal dua Rabbana aghfirli waliwalidaiyya wa lil mu’minina yawma yaqumul hisab Allah make me one who establishes salat - you’re reading salat but even then you are asking for this quality to be sustained. And for my children accept my dua, forgive me, forgive my parents and forgive all the believers on the Day of Judgement. That’s all we have done in salat – ask Allah swt again and again and again.
And you turn to the right saying as salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu. This is like saying I am a Muslim and my creed is peace. My tongue, my hands, my actions, will contribute towards peace. Right and left we repeat the same message and our salat is over. Now what do we do the moment salat is over. We start bellowing out ‘Just go and answer that phone right now, what were you doing. Why didn’t you come when I was calling you and I was waiting for this…?’. And the minute salat is over we are bellowing out these instructions and the beautiful dream is over and we are back to reality with a vengeance. This is one of the biggest traps of shaytaan. That the minute you finish your salat he starts reminding you of things you needed to be doing so you need to get up, you don’t have time to read the tasbeehaat, we don’t have time to read Ayatul Kursi. He tells you, you can read it in the car, but by the time you reach the car you have already forgotten. Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam taught us that when you are emerging from this beautiful reverie that you were in, when you are emerging from this spiritual experience don’t do it abruptly. You need to come out of it gradually otherwise the impact of salat will be totally lost upon you. So we find that the first thing you say is Allahu Akbar one more time. You began salat with it, and you are ending salat with it. Allahu Akbar once. And three times Astaghfirullah – Allah please forgive me for the inevitable shortcomings, for the inevitable defects, Allah please forgive me And then you read Ayatul Kursi. The advantages of reading Ayatul Kusi constantly are that you are granted a grateful heart and a remembering tongue and a reward like that of the Prophets and the martyrs but it has to be done constantly. And this is shaytaan’s favourite game. Ok, you have read salat and he couldn’t stop you in that but now he is going to make sure that you mess it up some way or the other. And after reading Ayatul Kursi you read your tasbeehaat. If you ever timed yourself it takes exactly 1.5 minutes or not more than two minutes to read subhanallah 33 times, alhumdulillah 33 times and Allahu Akbar 34 times but shaytaan just convinces us it is too long, I don’t have time I can read it later on. There is a narration in which we learn the angels pray in favour of you so long as you remain in the place where you performed salat in a
state of wudu. The angels say ‘O Allah forgive him, have mercy upon him’. Remember that the point of salat of aqimas salaata li dhikrihi – establish salat so you can get to know me. The moment where you are starting to confide in Allah, the moment where the worker is collecting his wages, why do we let shaytaan delude us into running away? So instead of collecting our wages we return with nothing. There are some beautiful duas that Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam used to read, such as
Rabbi a'inee 'ala dhikrika, wa shukrika wa husni ibadatik – Allah help me to thank you, help me to remember you, and thank you and help me to worship you beautifully There are prayers that you read and you really tried hard but still it just didn’t work, it just didn’t click, you just didn’t feel that connection so then pray to Allah, ask his help and you will see the difference.
Then La ilaha ill-Allahu wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahul mulku wa lahul hamdu wa huwa 'ala kulli shai-in Qadeer wa la' hawla wa la' quwwata illa' billah There is no God but Allah. He has no partners. His is the Kingdom. His is all praise. He has power over everything. There is no strength or power except with Allah. And this is awesome. Before you return to your worldly routine take these words of power back with you. And Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam would also read, right at the end of salat Subhana Rabbika Rabbil izzate amma yasifoon. Wa Salaamul alal Mursaleen Wal hamdu lillahi Rabbil Alameen Glorified is your lord, the lord of dignity and honour, from what they ascribe, and peace be upon the messengers and all praises are for Allah lord of the universe. The thing which makes salat so important and ironically the thing which makes us relaxed about salat is that its happening five times a day; its not like hajj which is once a lifetime compulsory, and not like Ramadan which is once a year so when it happens once a year or once a lifetime you are thinking, its only going to come once so I better do it right this time.
Because salat is 5 times a day, every day of your life, shaytaan tricks you into thinking ‘so what if you didn’t pray today, you can always pray tomorrow. told us, and this is a very important hadith ‘the first of man’s deeds for which he will be called to account on the day of judgment will be salat. If it is found to be perfect, he will be safe and successful but if it is imperfect he will be unfortunate and a loser. If any shortcoming is found in the fard salat Allah swt will command to see if his slave has offered any nafl (voluntary salat) so that the obligatory salat may be made up by it. (so its not a good idea to keep on reading fard without Sunnah’s and nafls. ) ‘…then the rest of his actions will be treated in the same manner’ Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam explained to us that the difference between a mu’min and a hypocrite is salat or the difference between Islam and kufr is salat. Between a man and disbelief and paganism is abandonment of salat. ‘Whoever protects his salat it will be for him a light and a shield and salvation on the day of judgment. Whoever does not protect it, it will not be a light for him, nor a shield, nor salvation and on the day of judgment, he will be with Pharoah and Harman (Pharoah’s Military Advisor) and he will be with Uday bin Khalaf, one of the notorious enemies of Islam. Firaun who is considered one of the arch villains of the Qur’an, mentioned again and again because Pharoah also felt that he did not need to bow down. Pharoah also felt that he did not need to obey. One final warning is that Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam was shown a vision in which he saw a man lying down and another man smashed his head open, crushed his head with a boulder then the boulder would fall to one side, the first man the one who threw it would go and pick it up by which time the second man’s head would be restored to its original shape. This kept on being repeated. When he asked who this was he was told that there were two vices, which result in such a punishment. 1. That he had learnt the Qur’an and then forgotten it 2. That he was a man that used to remain asleep at the times of salat This is what people say – ‘Oh I can’t get up for fajr’ so be careful
The blocks/excuses/ justifications we have made in our mind for not reading salat, or for not reading salat properly o If you are in surroundings which are not conducive to salat, when you’re at a wedding for instance no-one else is praying and you don’t want to look conspicuous. What is the justification – ‘Oh people will think I am showing off – Astaghfirullah, I don’t want that. I’ll go home and pray my good little prayer alone. This is the way, because shaytaan wants us to feel good about ourselves so we won’t even think of the enormity of what we are doing. We’re justified in our minds. o I’m not well today – well enough to watch television, well enough to do what you want to do. When it comes to salat you’re exhausted or not well. o I’ll pray when I’m ready for it. When I pray I can’t concentrate so there’s no point in my praying. I’d rather pray when I’m absolutely focused and directed. That day is not going to come when you wake up and you have a little halo around your head and you float on the prayer mat. So lets wake up from this pleasant little dream. o Wudu – wudu is too difficult, I can’t do wudu. o I don’t need to pray because I don’t hurt people’s feelings. I’m busy doing social work so I’m so good anyway that Allah swt doesn’t need me to become better. All of these blocks, and there are many more aswell, all of these are like the foam on a swiftly flowing river. It seems like it’s a lot but there’s no substance to them whatsoever. And they can all be solved by one simple method taught to us in the Qur’an. Allah, whenever he tells us about prayer he says ‘Aqimas salat’ – establish salat. Aqimu – this is the word that teaches us how to pray successfully. Aqimu – iqamat lets understand it. Lets think of a very simple everyday image – that of building a house. When you build a house, whats the first thing you do? Foundation, you lay the foundation, and in the same way before you start saying ‘oh I can’t pray because I can’t concentrate or I can’t pray because its too difficult, remember you need the foundation within your heart. And how do you get that foundation of imaan; through the Qur’an. The more Qur’an you listen
to, the sort of people you hang out with, all part of your foundation of your salat. Then whats the second thing you do after laying the foundation. Then we raise the walls, we raise the pillars and this is your knowledge on salat. This is the way you improve your salat and this is the way you overcome these barriers. The first thing you need to do is improve your imaan by reading the Qur’an, especially verses to do with salat, and the second is improve your knowledge on salat. Read up on the Sunnah. Find our how you are supposed to pray Sunnah’s, which surah’s he used to recite in the different rakah’s and every bit of knowledge you get will be like the wall you are adding onto. Finally, you’ve laid the foundations, you’ve raised the walls, now what comes on top, the roof, that protects you and that shelters the house and this roof would be dua. Pray to Allah swt. Ask for Allah swt’s mercy so He covers you. He encompasses your building of salat with his mercy and He protects it. He protects it from the storms of shaytaan and He protects it from falling down or collapsing. And once your house is ready, only then do you buy the furniture and the ornaments and the little nik naks you put up in your house. People who do not have any knowledge on salat, who’ve never bothered to read up on the Qur’an can’t complain ‘I can’t read salat because I find it boring’. That’s like going out and buying ornaments for your house when you haven’t even laid the foundation. So its all part of a process, and it’s a process that takes sometimes a lifetime but the reward at the end is so immense that there cannot be any two ways about considering whether we should do this or not. Extract from Jeffrey Lang’s book, Even Angels ask in which he describes his first prayer: ‘On the day I converted to Islam, the Iman of the Masjid gave me a manual on how to perform salat. How hard could it be to pray I wondered. That night I decided to start performing the five prayers at their appointed times. Much of what I was saying was in Arabic so I had to memorise the Arabic transliterations and English interpretations. I pored over the manual on salat for a couple of hours before I felt confident enough to attempt my first prayer. I walked into the bathroom and opened to the section describing how to perform wudu. Like a cook trying a recipe for the first time, I followed the step by step instructions, slowly and meticulously.
Standing in centre of the room then, I aimed myself in what I hoped was the direction of Makkah. I glanced back over my shoulder to make sure that I had locked the door to my apartment. Finding that it was I then looked straight ahead, straightened my stance, took a deep breath and in a hushed voice I pronounced ‘Allahu Akbar’. I felt a little anxious. I couldn’t rid myself of the feeling that someone might be spying on me. So I stopped what I was doing and went to the window. I glanced around outside to make sure no-one was there. Then I carefully pulled the curtains closed and returned to the middle of the room. Once again I stood straight and whispered Allahu Akbar. In a barely audible tone I slowly and clumsily recited the first surah of the Qur’an and another short surah in Arabic. I then bowed with my back perpendicular to my legs. I’d never bowed to anyone before and I felt embarrassed. I was glad that I was alone. I stood up and recited Sami 'allahu liman hamidah and then I felt my heart pounding and anxiety mounting as I called out another Allahu Akbar. I had arrived at the moment when I had to perform a sajda. Petrified I stared at the area of the floor. I couldn’t do it. I could not lower myself to the floor like a slave grovelling before his master. It was as if my legs had braces on them that would not let me bend. I felt too ashamed and humiliated. I could imagine the sniggers of friends watching me make a fool of myself. Poor Jeff I could hear them saying. Please, please help me do this I prayed. I took a deep breath and forced myself to the floor. Now on my hands and knees I hesitated for a brief moment and then I pushed my face to the carpet. Ridding my mind of all other thoughts I mechanically pronounced three times subhana rabbiyyal aa’laa Allahu Akbar I called and sat back on my heels and put my face again to the carpet. I was determined to finish this no matter what. Allahu Akbar I called and lifted myself from the floor and stood up straight. Three cycles to go I told myself. I had to wrestle with my emotions and try the rest of the prayer but it got easier with each cycle. Finally I recited the tashahud and then ended the prayer. Spent, I remained on the floor and reviewed the battle I had just been through. I felt embarrassed that I had to struggle so hard to get through the prayer. With my head lowered in shame I prayed ‘Please forgive me my arrogance and stupidity. I have come from very far and I have so very far to go’. At that moment I experienced something I had never felt before. A wave of coldness swept through me which seemed to radiate from within some point in my chest. It was intense and it was much more than a physical sensation. It was as if mercy had
taken on an objective form and was now penetrating and enveloping me. I cannot say why, but I began to cry. Tears began to run down my face and I found myself weeping uncontrollably. The more I cried the more I felt the embrace of a powerful kindness and compassion. I remained on my knees crouched to the floor, with my head in my hands, sobbing for some time. When I finally stopped crying I was completely exhausted. But one thing I realised; I needed Allah and prayer desperately. Before getting up from my knees I made one last dua – ‘O God if I ever gravitate towards disbelief again then please kill me first, rid me of this life. It is hard enough living with my imperfections and weaknesses but I cannot live another day denying you. Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam’s last exhortation was for salat. The last moments of his life, when he was so ill, three times he got up and he said ‘Have the Muslims prayed?’. Aisha Radi Allahu anhu said ‘No they are waiting for you’. He would bathe and then he would faint. Three times this happened and finally he appointed Abu Bakr Radi Allahu anhu to lead the prayer but that final moment when Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam went out supported by two men for the zuhr prayer when Abu Bakar Radi Allahu anhu saw him he started to move back but the Prophet Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam indicated to him that he should not move back and he said to the two men ‘sit me at his side’. They sat him down beside Abu Bakr and Abu Bakr prayed standing. And the people prayed following the prayer of Abu Bakr. And amongst the last words of Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhi wa Aalihi wa sallam were ‘as salat, as salat (the prayer, the prayer)’ and ‘fear Allah with regard to the slaves your right hands possess. This is Islam; haqooq Allah and haqooq-ul-ibad Hadith Qudsi – I accept the salat of one who humbles himself during it, to my greatness and who does not perform the salat just for show, and who does not spend the night in disobedience to me. And who spends the day remembering me and who is merciful to the poor, the traveller and the widows. And who is merciful to one who is suffering from a disease. He has a life like the light of the sun; I protect him by my glory and the angels guard over him. I give him light in darkness and dignity in the presence of ignorance. And his example in my creation is like firdaus in Jannah. Wa akhiru dawana anilhamdu rabbil alamin
Subhanaka allahumma wa bi hamdika wa tabara kasmuka wa ta'ala jadduka wa la ilaha ghairuka Rabbana taqabbal minna– Allah please accept from us innaka antas Sameeaul Aleem – You are the all hearing all the knowing wa tub 'alayna 'innaka 'antat-Tawwabu-Raheem – You are the most relenting, the repeatedly merciful Allah grant us all the tawfiq to read all five prayers with sincerity, with fervour and with conviction only for you. Allah beautify our salat, make it beautiful in your eyes, beautify our ruku’s, beautify our sujood’s, beautify our qiyam and beautify our duas and accept it from us, and make our hisaab easy. Subhanakallahumma wa bi hamdika laa ilaha illa anta, astagh-firuka wa atuubu ilaik