The Dignity of Salat (Namaz) inTasawwuf
Salat (ṣalāh) is an Arabic word whose basic meaning is “bowing, homage, worship, prayer”.Translating salat as “prayer” is not usually considered precise enough, as “prayer” can indicate several different ways of relating to Allah; personal prayer or supplication is called dua (literally “call”) in Islamic usage. In many parts of the world, including many non-Arab countries such as Indonesia, the Arabic term salat is used. The other major term is the Persian word namāz (نماز), used by speakers of the Indo-Iranian languages (e.g., Kurdish, Urdu), as well as Turkish, Russian (in an Islamic context), Chinese, Bosnian and Albanian. The chief purpose of salat is to act as a person’s communication with and remembrance of Allah. Allah Rabbul Izzat sates in holy Quran
Translation: Indeed, I am Allah . There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance (Zikr). (Sura:Taha Verse 14)
So it is pretty clear from the above verse that the main purpose of salat is Zikrullah; and zikrullah holds great importance, significance and dignity in the life of a sufi or lover of Allah subhanahu wata’ala as Allah ta’ala sates in glorious Quran:
Translation: So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me. (Sura Baqarah Verse 152)
Salat is the state of comfort for the hearts of lovers of Allah subhanahuwata’ala as it is reported in Kashful Mahjoob, “ When The Holy Prophet Muhammad became divested of all feelings of delight (masharib) in complete bewilderment, he used to say:”O Bilal (Ra), comfort us by the call to prayer.”
It is also reported that when The Holy Prophet Muhammadprayed, there was heard within him a sound like the boiling kettle and when Hazrat Mawla Ali (Ra) was about to pray, his hair stood on end and he trembled and said:” The hour has come to fulfil a trust which the heavens and the earth were unable to bear.” (source: Kashful Mahjoob)
In fact, the practice of Salat is very specific, and forms the most unique and central feature of religious life in Islam and its Sufism. The Holy Prophet Muhammadis reported to have said:
“The difference between a believer in Allah and
a disbeliever in Him, is the performance of Salat.”
The greatest saint of Chishti school of sufism Hazrat Khwaja Gharib Nawaz Moinuddin Chishti Ajmeeri (RA) has commented to his followers on the importance of the Salat in the following manner:
” “The Great and Glorious Allah does not insist upon the performance
of any other devotion as He does on the performance of Salat. Without performing Salat, none can approach God, because Salat is the climax in the process of such approach for the pious.”
“Salat is the ladder leading to the proximity (Qurb) of Allah Subhanahuwata’ala.”
“Salat is a trust committed to human care by Almighty Allah Subhanahuwata’ala, a secret relationship existing between the worshipper and the Worshipped.”
Hazrat Data Gunj Bakhsh Ali bin Usman Al- Hujwiri (Ra: ) in his book “Kashful Mahjoob”, which is unquestionably one of the finest compendia of the Tasawwuf or Islamic Mysticism, mentioned salat as the fifth veil of Tasawwuf. He writes,”Etymologically, Namaz means remembrance (of Allah) and submissiveness (dhikr u inqiyad), but in the correct usage of lawyers the term is specially applied to the five prayers which Allah has ordered to be performed at five different times, and which involve certain preliminary conditions, viz.: (1) purification outwardly from filth and inwardly from lust; (2) that one’s outward garment undefiled by anything unlawful; (3) that the place where one purifies one’s self should be outwardly free from contamination and inwardly free from corruptness and sin; (4) turning towards the qibla, the outward qibla being the Ka’aba and the inward qibla being the throne of God, by which is meant the mystery of Divine contemplation; (5) standing outwardly in the state of power qudrat) and inwardly in the garden of proximity to God (qurbat); (6) sincere intention to approach unto God; (7) saying “Allah-o-akbar” in the station of awe and annihilation, and standing in the abode of union, and reciting the Quran distinctly and reverently, bowing the head with humility, and prostrating one’s self with abasement, and making the profession of faith with concentration, and saluting with annihilation of one’s attributes.”
According to Hadith Shareef The Prophet Hazrat Muhammad said: – “Assalatu Merajul Momineen” means, “Salah is the Meraj of Momineen (Namaz is called as Meraj-ul-Momineen)”
The above Hadith e pak can be better explained from what Data Gunj Bakhsh Ali bin Usman Al- Hujwiri (Ra: ) states,” Prayer is a term in which novices find the whole way to God, from beginning to end, and in which their stations (maqamat) are revealed. Thus, for novices, purification (Wazoo) takes the place of repentance (Tawba), and dependence on a spiritual director takes the place of ascertaining the qiblah, and standing in prayer takes the place of self mortification, and reciting the Quran takes the place of inward meditation (dhikr), and bowing the head takes the place of humility, and postration takes the place of self-knowledge, and profession of faith takes the place of intimacy (uns), and salutation takes the place of detachment from the world and escape from the bondage of “stations”. “
Salat prepares a taleb-e-mawla for Jihad e bin Nafs (struggle against nafs). Data Gunj Bakhsh Ali bin Usman Al- Hujwiri (Ra: ) states,” Salat is mostly performed and prescribed by those who are engaged in self-mortification or who have attained to steadfastness (istiqamat). Thus the Shaykhs order their disciples to perform four hundred bowings in prayer during a day and night, that their bodies may be habituated to devotion; and the steadfast likewise perform many prayers in thanks giving for the favour for which God has bestowed upon them. As regards those who possess “states” (arbab-i-ahwal), their prayers, in the perfection of ecstasy, correspond to the “station” of union, so that through their prayers they become united; or again, when ecstasy is withdrawn, their prayers correspond to the “station” of separation, so that thereby they become separation.”
There are unfortunately some persons parading as pseudo-sufis in the West, who assert that Salat is unnecessary. They make the strange claim that such formal actions as Salat are mere ritual, which the true spiritualist can dispense with. Such mis-guided persons give the examples of Ibn Arabi (RA), Maulana Rumi (RA), Imam Al-Ghazzali (RA) and Mansur Al-Hallaj (RA) as examples of the truly liberated, free-thinking ‘sufis.’ And, they disdain anyone who makes Salat or suggests its necessity, as one who is a backward-thinking ‘fundamentalist.’
It is hoped that the presentation of only some of the deeper aspects of the practice of Salat will inspire people to learn and practice the Salat to learn its truly marvelous effects.
Persons such as Maulana Rumi, Ibn Arabi and the others mentioned above, were the most ardent and sincere followers of the Salat, as are all Sufis.
One December in Konia, Maulana Rumi (RA) had gone into his Hujra (meditation cell) to do his nighttime prayers. When the time for the Fajr (morning) prayer arrived, he did not appear. His followers became quite alarmed, because in twenty years Maulana had never failed to join them in congregational prayer. As time passed, and the mureeds’ alarm grew, someone finally decided to force the door open. Inside, they were startled to find the Maulana with his beard frozen to the ground, struggling to set himself free. In his supplications, he had begun weeping so copiously that a pool of water of tears formed, and his prostration was so prolonged, that the cold air froze the tears, trapping him by his beard!
Mansur Al-Hallaj (RA) became famous in the history of Sufism for his alleged crime of offending the so-called orthodox clergy. However, he actually was tried and convicted on the charge of divulging Divine Secrets, which he had overheard while eavesdropping on his sister, who was a Sufi saint. The trial lasted over eight years. As Mansur Al-Hallaj sat awaiting his execution during the last week of his life, he passed his time by punctually offering his Salat, and is reported to have performed up to 400 rakats per day.
The Sufis are the most strenuous supporters of Salat. There is a story of Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani (RA), who one morning was about to miss the time of the morning prayer. A cat came over to his side as he lay asleep, and began nudging Abdul Qadir, until he awoke. Noticing the lateness of the time, he quickly offered his two Rakats of prayer. When he had finished, he looked at the cat, and with his spiritual insight, he saw that the cat was actually a satan. This puzzled the great saint, as to why a satan would wake him up for prayer. So he asked, “I can see you are a satan, but why on earth did you wake me up for the Fajr prayer?”
The cat answered him, “You are just as pious and clever as my fellow satans said you were. Since you’ve discovered me, I might as well tell you. I knew, that if you missed your obligatory prayer, you would have offered 100 Rakats as compensation, so I woke you up so you would only get the benefits of two.”
Salat is both the first step and the final step for the true believer. It is the real means of uniting one with the whole of humanity, and also with Almighty God. It is never changed, varied or altered in its essential features (and never has been for 1,400 years) and thus becomes the foundation upon which the more refined spiritual practices are built. For anyone who desires to enjoy the most excellent health, harmonizing the physical, mental and emotional and soul life, there is no better medicine than the Salat.
As Hazrat Khwaja Gharib Nawaz (RA) always was remarking to his followers: “Hurry up and perform the Salat, before the Final Hour passes!”
The Quranic aayats regarding the timing of prayers (5 times) are as follows:
Chapter 11, Surah Hud ayaat 114: Establish the Salat at the two ends of the day and in the early part of the night. (implies fajr, magrib and isha)
Chapter 2, Surah Baqarah ayaat 238:Take great care of your Prayers, especially of the middle Prayer and stand before Allah like devoted servants. (implies asr)
Chapter 17 Al-Isra ayaat 78:Establish the Salat from the declining of the sun to the darkness of the night and be particular about the recital of the Quran at dawn for the recital of the Quran at dawn is witnessed. (implies asr, magrib and fajr)
Chapter 30 Surah Rum ayat 17-18:So, glorify Allah in the evening and in the morning; praise is due to Him alone in the heavens and the earth: and (glorify Him) in the afternoon and at the declining of the day. (implies fajr, magrib, dhuhr and asr)