Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen. Was salaatu was salaamu ala ashraful mursaleen sayyidina Muhammadi wa ala aali sayyidina Muhammadi wa ashaabihi ajma’een.
All praise is due to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the entire universe. And the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad (saw) his family and his companions.
The topic which I wish I to speak about today is something that you are probably already tired of hearing about. It is something which is spoken about of often and is repeated a lot, but there is a reason why this is so. It is because it one of the most important fundamentals of Islam: and this is the performance of the Salah.
Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran: “Haafizoo ala salawaati was salaatil wustaa wa qoomoo lillahi qaaniteen – Guard strictly your Salahs especially the middle one and stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind).” The word used in this ayah is Haafizoo which comes from the word hafiza / yahfazu. It means to protect, and safeguard something. So Allah (swt) is telling us here that this is the attitude which we should have towards Salah: it is something that we should take care of, and be careful to see that we always uphold it. Just as if we own something precious we would protect it and guard it, and so too should we be protective of our Salah. We should not let anything else distract us or take us from making Salah on its proper time.
And in this ayah it makes specific mention of one particular Salah, which is the Salatul Wustaa – the middle Salah. There are various opinions concerning which Salah this refers to but the view of the majority is that it is Salatul ‘Asr. This is because it comes in the middle of the five Salahs: before it is Fajr and Zuhr and after it comes Maghrib and ‘Ishaa. It is perhaps emphasised especially because people find this Salah one that is difficult to perform on its time: during this waqt people are busy with work or other worldly activities and so it is easy for this Salah to then be neglected. Allah (swt) also states in this ayah: “wa qoomoo lillahi qaaniteen” meaning that when we stand for Salah we should do so in the proper frame of mind. We should be devout and obedient, concentrating on Him and our minds should not be filled with worldly thoughts.
He (swt) emphasises this point in another ayah of the Holy Quran in which He says: “Yaa ayyuhalladheena aamanoo laa taqraboo salaata wa antum sukaaraa hattaa ta’lamoo maa taqooloon – O you who believe, do not come near to Salah while you are drunk, until you know that which you are saying.” It shows that when we approach Salah, then we should do so with the proper attitude: we should not be distracted by anything to do with the dunya.
Salah is not just an empty ritual of going up and down and reciting certain Arabic phrases: when we perform Salah we are actually communicating with Allah (swt) Most High, the one who created us and everything around us. We should be aware of this and imagine ourselves having a conversation with Allah (swt). It is mentioned in hadith Qudsi that Allah (swt) says: “I have divided prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asked for. When the servant says: Alhamdu lillahi rabbil aalameen, Allah (swt) says: My servant has praised Me. And when he says: al-Rahmani al-Rahim, Allah (swt) says: My servant has extolled Me, and when he says: Maliki yawm al-din, Allah (swt) says: My servant has glorified Me – and on one occasion He said: My servant has submitted to My power. And when he says: Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’een, He says: This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for. And when he says: Ihdina al-sirata al-mustaqim, siratal alladeena an ‘amta alayhim ghayril maghdubi alayhim wa la daalleen, He says: This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.”
There is meaning behind every word and action of the Salah, and we should be concentrating on this while performing our Salah. When we bow down in Ruku’, we should not just regard it as another posture of the Salah, but we should be aware that this bowing down is an act of humility: we are abasing ourselves before Allah (swt). And also with Sujud, when we place our foreheads on the ground, then we should realise that it is a position of humility. We are lowering ourselves before Allah (swt): it shows that we acknowledge that He is the High One, the Exalted while we are lowly and insignificant before Him. So we should try to be conscious of all of these things and bear it in mind while making Salah: our Salah should not just be another meaningless ritual.
Ali bin Husain used to turn pale when he made his wudu. When his family asked him about this he replied: “Do you realise before Whom I wish to stand in prayer?” And Hatim al-Asamm described they way he used to pray and said: “Then I stand up to perform my prayer, placing the Ka’ba between my brows, the Bridge-over-Hell beneath my feet, Paradise to my right and Hell to my left, and the Angel of Death behind me, thinking all the wile that this is m final prayer.” So these are just two examples of the kind of seriousness we should have when making Salah.
In another ayah, Allah (swt) says: “Inna salaata tanhaa ‘anil fahshaa’i wal munkar – Certainly Salah forbids indecency and immorality.” Meaning that the performance of Salah forbids a person from committing evil deeds and wrong actions. The one who performs his Salah regularly, he will not engage in such things. The ayah then continues and says: “wa ladhikrullahi akbar – but the remembrance of Allah is greatest. It means that the remembrance of Allah (swt) towards his servant when he is praying, is greater than the remembrance which the slave has of Allah (swt). Another interpretation of the first part of this ayah “inna salaata tanhaa anil fahshaa’i wal munkar”is that the performance of Salah wipes out the sins of a person i.e. all the fahshaa and munkar which he committed before he makes his Salah.
And this point is elaborated on by the Prophet (saw) in a hadith in which he asked the Sahabah (ra): “If there was a river in front of someone’s house and he washed himself in that river five times every day, would there be any dirt left on him?” The Sahabah (ra) replied: “No, O Rasulallah.” The Prophet (saw) then said, “In the same way the minor sins of those who perform the five daily prayers are forgiven.” So this is the reward for the one who performs all of his Salah: his sins are forgiven by Allah (swt) the Most Merciful. And what more could a person want besides this? Compared to how much time there is in a day, the amount of time which it takes to perform Salah is very little. It does not take more than a few minutes for each Salah, and yet the reward for it is so great – Allah (swt) forgives the sins committed during the time between Salahs. But despite this we find people being too lazy to make the Salahs on their proper times.
If one’s Salah is not in order then there can be no good for him. He is destroyed and in the Hereafter he will be from amongst the losers. But if ones Salah is correct, then insha Allah, everything else will fall into place. This is what is mentioned in another hadith which states: “Of all a man’s actions, the first to be examined on the Day of Resurrection will the Salah. If it is found to be complete, it will be accepted of him along with the rest of his works, but if it is found wanting it will be rejected along with the rest of his deeds.”
We need to realise that all of us are going to die, if not now then sometime soon. There is no escaping it. And the questioning on the Day of Judgment is also inescapable. So we need to be prepared for that, and the first thing we need to make sure of is that we are making Salah five times everyday. And each Salah needs to done on its proper time, not all of them at once. If someone is not doing this, on a regular basis he is missing out on Salahs, then he needs to reflect and ponder on the shortness of life, and that death could reach him at any time.
The most important thing for him is his intention: at the very least he needs to make a sincere intention that he will at least try to make all of the Salahs on their proper times, even if he is not able to actually carry this out. But if he is in the habit of not making Salah, and he does not have any regret about this, there is no desire in him to change his condition, then there is no way that he is going to change. So the first and most important thing is to at least have a sincere intention to try and make all of ones Salah. Then after that he needs to look at what his condition is and then build on that: if he does not perform any of the five Salahs, then he at least needs to start making one or two of them on a regular basis. Once he gets into the habit of doing this, then he can add another one to his daily routine. And then once that is in place he can work on implementing the fourth and fifth Salahs. There has to be at least be at all times effort and perseverance in doing this.
But please don’t misunderstand what I am trying to say: I am not condoning not performing all five of the daily Salahs. We have to do that. It is obligatory upon us. But if it is that a persons condition is such that he does not perform any Salahs, to then simply order him to start making all his Salahs, and expect him to miraculously change overnight will not work. So if a gradual approach is what is needed, then that is what needs to be done. But it must always be remembered that to miss even one Salah is a major sin and nothing can replace it. So if a person feels that it is possible for him to make a sudden turnaround in his life and start making all of his Salahs, then he should do that.
Wa aakhiru da’waanaa ‘anil hamdu lillahi rabbil aalameen.