Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On Bended Knee

I will never forget what a thirteen-year-old said to me in the basement of an inner city party hall.

"I looooove to pray!" she exclaimed as the call to prayer went off during a community function. "I love to spread out my prayer rug and pray, don't you?"

I must not have shared her passion or else her words wouldn't have made such an indelible mark in my memory. I was ten then and loved to watch Smurfs on Saturday mornings and play kickball during recess. But to pray five times a day (salat in Arabic)? That was something I did (or tried to do) because I was supposed to.

Forward to today. Those of us still not feeling the love like we ought to--despite years of going through the motions--need to drastically improve our prayers to attain its true benefits.

Prayers, which were taught to Prophet Muhammad (S) in its current form during his ascension to heaven (miraj in Arabic), are a means for a believer to soar to proximity to God. If they are performed with understanding, concentration and attention, prayers transform an individual and transport him/her to true monotheism and closeness to God's pleasure.

"The prayer is a standard of Islam," the Prophet (S) said. "Whoever loves prayers and observes their timings, limits and methods is a true believer." Indeed, prayers are the most important of the religious acts and if they are accepted by God so will all the other acts of worship and vice versa.

To boost the level of our prayers, we should:
  • Pray on time. "If a person prays the obligatory prayers at the beginning of its time and does not attain lofty stations, he should spit in my face," said one esteemed scholar.
  • Understand the meanings of its recitations and movements.
  • Perform supererogatory prayers in seclusion (away from distractions) and while fresh and alert.
  • Detach ourselves (but not abstain) from the material pleasures of this world to avoid flights of ideas during prayers. Those who are able to focus on God throughout the day should have no problem keeping their attention on Him during prayers.
"Successful indeed are the believers who are reverent during their prayers." (Quran 23:1-2)

To reinforce the idea that all our acts should lead us to Him, God obligated adherence to prayers even in the most dangerous and fearful of times.

Hussain, the son of Fatima (one of the perfect women of all times), coupled salat and resistance forever  on the plains of Kerbala, where he and most male members of the Prophet's (S) family were killed protesting tyranny and corruption.

When apprised of the enemy's plan to attack, Hussain asked his brother to "obtain extension of time from them until tomorrow morning so that tonight we may offer prayers to God. God knows that I love to offer prayers, to recite the Quran, to make supplications and to ask His forgiveness."

"Imam Hussain instilled the Quranic culture and ideology of salat in the entire Ummah [Islamic nation] for all times to come," says scholar Abbas Ayleya.

Eventually, Hussain lost all his comrades and was the last man standing, horrifically wounded from head to toe. But when he heard the call to Asr prayer, he returned his sword to its sheath, slid down from his horse and rested his forehead in prostration on the burning sand.

There he uttered his last words: "O, All Merciful Lord of the Universe, accept the humble sacrifice of Hussain!"


Anonymous said...

Salaams - Your posts are a bit too general and sometimes a bit impractical (although although although - always a good reminder of things). Keep up the good work Sr.!

Anonymous said...

Salaam Anonymous,

I dont normally take the time to comment - though i always enjoy Salina's blog posts - but your comment prompted me to take a few minutes to ask you to clarify your statement.

Im not sure what you mean by "general". This post talks specifically about keeping our focus, and increasing our love for prayer. I think the point of these short, and informative posts is to push us to think about various topics and take the time to research and improve ourselves. I dont think it is the intent of the blog to provide us with rules and regulations.

In addition - i'd be interested to hear which of the previous posts is "impractical". The four perfect women of Islam are a guidance for us. I agree, none of us can achieve their perfection, but hearing stories of their lives and the lives of those around them are reminders for us on how we can improve our lives. Sure, it is difficult to do the "right" thing, but calling it impractical, i feel is unfair.

Looking forward to a response.

Anonymous said...

O Lord! I depend on You in every affliction and am hopeful for Your blessing in every hardship. In every difficulty in which I am faced, You are my only remedy and resort. There have been many embarrassments which weakened my heart and no remedy for it was available. The friends did not assist me and the enemies rejoiced at my misfortune.

However, when I ceased to seek assistance from everyone except You and sought the remedy only from You, You provided me solace and relief and removed the difficulty. Every blessing and goodness reaches us from You and everything should be sought from You only.

--Imam Hussain (as) on the morning of Ashura

Anonymous said...

I remember what it was like to not pray: To be unable to remove the arrogance of myself, unable to leave the world behind and go to bed with a void bigger that my heart could bear. I remember what it was like to be away from Him, to neglect my own soul and drive pain into it from my body. I remember being utterly alone because I didn't know the joy of prayer. Then I became Muslim and found what I had been missing.

During the middle of Ramadhan last year, overcome with heartbreaking emotion amongst a crowded prayer hall, I walked outside after maghrib and broke down emotionally. After a few minutes I gathered myself and encountered one of my Muslim brothers. He looked at me and asked, "Are you ok?" I hugged him, began to cry again and said, "I'm just so happy to be here."

Months before, I had prayed to Allah (swt) for guidance and He answered me. Perhaps every tear I can shed through humility can be of some gratitude that I can repay to Allah (swt). For all the years that I couldn't bend down, I ask for forgiveness. And for every breath I take now, I pray and wonder why He chose such a poor slave like me?

Thank You my Lord! Thank you for showing me how to pray. I hope that when I do stand in front of You, that I am worthy. I love You.

Anonymous said...

Imam Zain-ul Abideen:

My Lord, my sins have silenced me,and my words have been cut off.I have no argument,for I am the prisoner of my own affliction,the hostage to my works,the frequenter of my own offense,
the confused in my intended way, the thwarted.
I have brought myself to a halt in the halting place of the abased sinners,the halting place of the wretched and insolent, those who think lightly of Thy promise.
Glory be to Thee!What insolence I have insolently shown toward Thee! What delusion with which I have deluded myself!
My Master, have mercy on my falling flat on my face
the slipping of my foot,grant me my ignorance through Thy clemency,and my evildoing through Thy beneficence,for I admit my sin and I confess my offense:
Here are my hand and my forelock!I am resigned to retaliation against my soul!
Have mercy on my white hair,the depletion of my days, the nearing of my term, my frailty,my misery,and the paucity of my stratagems!
My Master,and have mercy upon me when my trace is cut off from this world,my mention is effaced among the creatures,and I join the forgotten, like the forgotten ones!
My Master,and have mercy upon me at the change of my form and state when my body decays,my limbs are scattered,and my joints are dismembered!
O my heedlessness toward what was wanted from me!
My Master,have mercy upon me at my mustering and uprising and on that day, appoint my standing place with Thy friends,my place of emergence with Thy beloveds,and my dwelling
in Thy neighborhood!O Lord of the worlds!

Anonymous said...

Imam Ali (as):

Salina Khan said...

Thank you Anons for your comments. Much food for thought :)
Thank you Anon 4 for sharing your experience..very inspiring!

Sarosh said...

Salam Salina,

Jazaki- Allah Khair for another beautiful blog! Subhan- Allah this one moved me to tears because of Imam Hussain's act on the grounds of Karbala....insha' Allah HE will guide us and enable us to emulate these great people.

I love your posts and look forward to them. They are never impractical. They try to teach the truth and Subhan- Allah, they always aim at improvising and reflecting on our inner self so we can follow the path shown in the Quran that was strictly adhered by our beloved prophet (S.A.W).

May Allah bless and reward your efforts, give more barakah in your time, enhance your knowledge and grant you success in both the lives.

Jazaki- Allah Khair again!

Salina Khan said...

Thank you, Sarosh! Unfortunately, I was taught very little about the four perfect women and their near ones while growing up (though I attended Sunday schools and summer schools religiously) and am really enjoying learning about them now. May Allah guide us all to be able to follow in their footsteps iA!