Friday, 12 April 2013

A Crow, A Wild Beast or A Camel?

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”  Mahatma Gandhi

Believe it or not, one of the most difficult things to do is to pray. It does not matter what religion a person profess to be but praying is something not everyone has the will-power or discipline to do, especially everyday.

When I was younger, praying was such a chore that I would skip it most of the time. At that time, I didn’t know the true meaning of prayer or its value. I thought it was just a ritual I had to do because I am a born Muslim.

Even when I do perform my prayers, it will as fast as the speed of lighting! Even superheroes would be thoroughly impressed by my speed.  Truth is, I just wanted to get it over and done with.

A couple years ago, I came across these following hadith.

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The worst type of thief is the one who steals from his prayer.” The people asked, O Messenger of Allaah, how can a person steal from his prayer?” He said: By not doing rukoo’ and sujood properly.”
(Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 5/310)

“The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A man’s prayer is not good enough until his back is straight in rukoo’ and sujood.” (Reported by Abu Dawud, 1/533; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7224).

“Narated By AbdurRahman ibn Shibl : The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) prohibited to peck like a crow, and to spread (the forearms) like a wild beast, and to fix a place in the mosque like a camel which fixes its place.”
Hadith Abu Dawood Book 002, hadith No.0861

O.M.G.!!! I was guilty of stealing from prayers. I wonder if I plead ignorance, God would let me off the hook? Eerrr…I think..NOT!!!!.

The Wise Owl once told me that, prayer or salat, is like a private conversation between the Creator and His creation. A private meeting, between the Master and His servants. For some people, the meeting is all seriousness or sombre and for some, it is like a lover tryst, full of meaningful whispering and exchange. There are also some, where the meeting is most dreaded and often skipped.

“Abu Musa reported Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: He who loves to meet Allah, Allah too loves to meet him, and he who dislikes to meet Allah, Allah abhors to meet him.”
Sahih Muslim

When we perform sujud, that is when we are closest to Allah SWT.

"The closest any worshipper can be to his Lord is while he is in prostration, so increase your duas in it." [Muslim]

For some people, (whom I very much envy !), prayer is extremely special in that it is an intimate conversation between them and God Almighty. When they are praying, everything else becomes unimportant. They are lost in their own world where nothing exists except God and them. When they are not praying, they feel an acute longing towards God and they look forward to be able to perform their salat again. Their feelings are reciprocated in that, each time after they complete their prayers, they feel a sense of peace and tranquility. Their inner happiness is reflected in the radiance of their faces. 

Why do I envy them? Well because they have managed to attain ‘khusyu’ or ultimate concentration in their prayer. Whenever I pray, my mind will be wondering off somewhere and at times it had made me lose track of my prayers.

I realize that I am being rude to my Creator. It is like someone talking to you but you are not paying attention to this person. I get offended when it happens to me so I shouldn’t be doing it to my Creator. It takes discipline to attain ‘khusyu’ and I know why I am lacking. You see, when someone is talking to me, the person is right in front of me so I can see and hear him or her clearly and it makes it easy for me to have a focus point.

When I am praying, I can’t physically see or hear God, hence I don’t have a focus point.  I know that we see and hear God with our heart. We feel Him, that is why my task now is to avert my focus point from my eyes to my heart. I need to sharpen my ‘God consciousness’. Just because I can’t see Him, it does not mean that He doesn’t see me. God Al Mighty is ever so merciful and will always forgive His errant servants but it does not me that I should take advantage of it.

The beauty of salat is that it is not difficult to perform. We just need to observe the basic acts or ‘rukun’ that validates the prayer. We don’t even need to recite all the verses in the Quran. If surah Al-Fatiha is the only verse we know, then so be it!  Our prayer is still valid and In Shaa Allah, accepted.

Hhhhmmm…. if we only need to perform the basic acts, to validate our prayer, then why do we need to perform other acts which are sunnah, in our prayers?  I gleefully posed this very question to the Wise Owl. 

This is what he explained to me, “ Sister, a salat that just fulfills the basic tenets is like a skeletal house with a roof. Whilst you can live in it, it may not be very comfortable or luxurious.”

So basically, what the Wise Owl is saying is that the ‘rukun’ are the main ingredients and the sunnah are the accessories. Ok, consider this, if we are meeting with someone extremely important and influential, would we go garb in our normal plain clothes or do we adorn ourselves with our best clothes and accessories, so that we appear pleasing and more attractive to the person whom we are meeting? Do we also go bearing gifts to capture the heart of that important person?

Similarly with salat. If we merely perform our prayers with just observing the basic steps, it is still acceptable but if we add in the accessories i.e. sunnah acts, then, we will be pleasing God Al Mighty. A prayers packed with sunnah acts will appear majestic in the eyes of our Creator, In Shaa Allah.

I need to pull my own ears and really listen to the Wise Owl. Sometimes, whatever knowledge that he shares with me seems to enter through my right ear and exit to my left! Lucky for me, the Wise Owl never gets tired of sharing. Still, I shouldn’t make excuses for my own weaknesses. I must work hard to turn my own ‘meeting’ into a lover tryst. It won’t be easy but try I must!.........

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