By Haluk Nurbaki
Salah (ritual prayer) is unarguably the foundation of Islam. Having been commanded during the Night of Ascension (Mi‘raj), it is a blessing granted to Muslims by Allah. Muslims approach the wisdoms of Mi‘raj through a genuinely felt and performed prayer, and thereby reach the zenith of servitude before Allah.
Our daily prayers constitute training grounds for such a glorious exaltation; all believers purify their morals and attain the dignified state of humanity through prayer no matter how it is performed. Although hundreds of millions of people perform the prayer with many mistakes, all with the exception of insincere prayers are accepted by Allah.
Hence we should have a longing for and attempt to have a moral exaltation during the performance of prayer. Performing a prayer which merits the approval of Allah naturally necessitates a difficult process of purification. Yet avoiding this beautiful training results in the loss of more exquisite blessings waiting to be granted by Allah.
The motifs of a proper prayer are the physical movements, the prayers said, the verses and dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Whether it is heartfelt or not, we still apply these basic steps in the course of a prayer. There is in fact not much need for deep knowledge to understand and describe a genuine prayer. However, if we understand the meaning of our physical movements and the things we say to Allah during the prayer, we can more profoundly fathom its true glory.
In this case, the first condition of understanding the prayer is to acknowledge that it is not a firm mould, but an activity that ascends the performer from point zero to the most elevated levels. Apart from those prayers we perform in peace and full concentration, there are many others in which our minds wander off to worldly concerns.
This statement can be illustrated with an allegory; if the act of prayer is likened to the unopened bud of a rose, we can say that many layers of rose layers have to be opened or passed until we reach the more worthy inner leaves of the rose, or the prayer.
In fact, the man resembles a point that oscillates between worldly desires and the heart. As we are taken by our worldly desires, the prayer remains on the surface level; as we turn to our heart, the conduct of prayer becomes deeper and more meaningful. In this respect, prayer is at the same time a measure for us in assessing our maturity.
If we are continuously performing the prayer on the outer level without getting to the gist of it, this shows that our point of departure is interwoven with desires. On the contrary, if we are increasingly becoming purified and find ourselves enjoying the prayer, this indicates that we are getting closer to feeling it in our hearts.
Prayer is a worship which must be observed by believers throughout their entire lives. For that reason, prayer is the most influential factor that shapes our characters. Some people reject the practice of prayer after observing some unethical behavior of those others also performing the prayer.
This can be likened to having an ignorant foreman construct a building after getting angry at an engineer who built a defective building. An important reason for this image is our mistake in trying to practice prayer without knowing or trying to understand its true nature. Recognizing the prayer as an integral experience of morality will thoroughly eliminate these dilemmas.
Prayer reveals the secret of the most beautiful creation in humans.
Prayer is a joyful journey along the road that leads to Allah.
Prayer is a divine feast that gives strength to the body, freshness to the breath, peace to the soul and that rejoices the heart.
Prayer is a limitless gratitude of the servant before His divinity, and an enjoyment to live his nothingness before the power of the Glorified Allah.
Prayer is the vibration of the servant in the magnetic area of the hardships impossible to endure.
Prayer is a miracle of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in which the secret of Al-Fatihah is revealed and that purifies us before His divinity.
Prayer is also the Mi‘raj in which Allah watches His spectacular art in the heart of the believer. Prayer is the sultanate of Muhammad (peace be upon him) in which people are transmitted to the meaning in their entirety and the infinite universes with their bodies.
Performing this dhikr even at a surface level gains a divine content. Undoubtedly, we must be aware of the anticipation of such a dhikr which is beyond our perception before His divinity. The fact that prayer is a very important worship necessitates a thorough preparation.
An unchanging rule is that a genuine prayer is the real objective of any prayer. However, it is a fact that every prayer which is not hypocritically performed is approved by Allah. How can we be worthy of prayer by developing a system that is appropriate for the morality of our Lord in prayers that we perform five times a day throughout our entire lives?
If a servant quits performing prayer saying that he is unable to perform a genuine one, he falls into heedlessness like resigning from the servitude. If a servant only imitates the pattern of prayer until his death without tasting its pleasure thinking that every step of the prayer is approved, this means that he rejects the secret of the most beautiful creation within him. Therefore, we will not quit performing the prayer even if it is superficial. However, we will try to conceive the true nature of the prayer every passing day.
There are many stages between the prayer performed merely in form and the genuine prayer. In other words, it is impossible to say that a prayer is “either an imitation or a genuine one”. If we take the imitational prayer as the outer shell, there are thousands of prayers until we reach the genuine one. We must try to pass these stages slowly and approach the real prayer.