The Act of Prayer

Allah SWT says in the 37th ayat of Sura Al-Noor:

[Are] men whom neither commerce nor sale distracts from the remembrance of Allah and performance of prayer and giving of zakah. They fear a Day in which the hearts and eyes will [fearfully] turn about.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is a great reminder as most of us are here having taken a break from our work, business or studies. We are here to remember Allah SWT and we are here to carry out the obligation of performing prayer.

We recognize then that prayers have a huge status in Islam. And today’s reminder helps remind us of this through the six points raised.

Firstly, it is the pillar of Islam that holds all others in place. The imam relayed a hadith in relation to this point which is translated to say:

“Shall I not inform you of the head of the matter, its pillar and its peak?” I said, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The head of the matter is Islam, its pillar is the prayer and its peak is jihad.”

Secondly, the status of prayer is second only to the Shahada itself – i.e. the act of testifying belief in Allah SWT and his Messenger SAWS. The hadith mentioned in relation to this point is translated to say:

(The superstructure of) al-Islam is raised on five (pillars), testifying (the fact) that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is His bondsman and messenger, and the establishment of prayer, payment of Zakat, Pilgrimage to the House (Ka’ba) and the fast of Ramadan.

Thirdly, the prayer has a special status in that it is an act that was commanded to us like no other. As the Prophet SAWS taught us, this command was communicated to him directly from Allah SWT during the time he was raised to the heavens. It was ordained upon the Ummah three years before their migration or hijrah to Medina.

Fourthly, prayers remove our sins. They are the cleanser to the soul. The Prophet SAWS is reported to have said:

“Do you think that is there was a river by the door of any one of you, and he bathed in it five Ftimes each day, would there be any trace of dirt left on him?” They said: “No trace of dirt would be left on him.” He said: “That is the likeness of the five daily prayers. By means of them Allah erases sins.”

Fifthly, the prayer is the last of the worship to be lost. And once the prayer is lost, the religion is lost. Dear brothers and sisters, the prayer during the five prescribed times during the day is so critical to our wellbeing that we cannot warn against missing them enough. In fact, the missing of these prayers is paramount to disbelief.

This is based on the hadith of the Prophet SAWS in which he is reported to have said:

Verily between man and between polytheism and unbelief is the negligence of prayer.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must strive to use every technique, tool and method we can to ensure that we are not missing or even delaying our prayers. We should be aiming to complete the prayer at the beginning of it’s time and not rushing to make the prayer towards it’s expiry time.

To be lazy in prayer might suggest that one does not have the necessary level of care or attention placed on it. Tools such as alarms on phones and azan clocks can help also. Our own MyMosque app offers this functionality.

Lastly, prayer is the first that gets mentioned on Judgement Day. The imam relayed the following hadith which is translated to say:

Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: The first of his actions for which a servant of Allah will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order, then he will have prospered and succeeded: and if they are wanting, then he will have failed and lost. If there is something defective in his obligatory prayers, the Lord (glorified and exalted be He) will say: See if My servant has any supererogatory prayers with which may be completed that which was defective in his obligatory prayers. Then the rest of his actions will be judged in like fashion.

Dear brothers and sisters, the topic of this week’s reminder may sound basic on the onset. However, who here isn’t guilty of rushing prayers or praying without focus. Today’s reminder is just a refresh to advice given before but because it is so significant to us in front of Allah SWT, it is worth mentioning again.

Let us be mindful of this, correct our habits and take heed from the last advice given to us by our teacher SAWS in that he taught us to pray our prayers and pray them on time.

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Do’s and Don’ts of Prayer

Dear brothers and sisters, after discussing in last weeks reminder about the concentration and tranquillity in prayers, we will discuss some of the dos and don’ts in prayers, and the mistakes that many Muslims make who do not know or pretend not to know.

 

It is important that recognise that we are always students of learning, regardless of our age and experience. We should aim never to fall into the trap of assuming that we have learnt and mastered our faith as this is arrogance and our path should instead be one of progression and growth.

 

We ought to recognize that any mistakes that we are making in regards to our faith cannot be taken lightly. It is said that ignorance is no excuse and that is also true of us Muslims. We must know that these mistakes carry weight and be serious in fixing them.

 

Alongside that, many Muslims choose to leave many of the Sunnahs that have been prescribed which means a lot of good deeds are wasted, and great rewards missed out on.

In fact, on occasions our actions which we think are part of the Sunnah could fall into the impermissible and therefore the sins of not doing a certain act.

 

We spoke last week of the need to focus in our prayers. The need to disconnect with this outside world, this matrix, this illusion and reconnect with the reality of our existence and that is the preparation for the actual existence in the next life.

 

This week, we focus on the practicals and so with the remainder of this weeks reminder, we conclude with 10 practical acts that we should be mindful of.

  1. The item of clothing we wear for salat. Whether it is wearing figure-hugging clothes, or those that can be seen through. We need to be mindful that what we wear is permissible generally or practical during the salat.

Obviously clothes for brothers that do not protect the navel to knee area is out of bounds but alongside that we need to be mindful of the practicality of the clothes we wear. For example, if you are wearing a t-shirt and jeans in the warmer months then this is OK but have you considered what happens when you go into Ruku or Sajda? Remember the back of your top rides up in these positions and if it exposes your body in this positions then you are at a danger of invalidating your prayer.

  1. It is obligatory to perform sajda or prostration with 7 parts of the body touching the ground. The imam mentioned a hadith in which the Prophet SAWS commanded others to perform this action correctly. It says:

I was commanded to prostrate myself on seven bones and not to fold back clothing or hair.

The 7 parts are your forehead including your nose, your two hands and not your forearms, your two knees and your toes.

  1. Do not pray in clothes that has picture on it. The imam spoke of a hadith in which Aisha (may Allah SWT be pleased with her) reported:

 

The Messenger of Allah SAWS stood for prayer with a garment which had designs over it. He looked at these designs and after completing the prayer said: Take this garment and bring me a blanket for it has distracted me just now.

Dear brothers and sisters, current fashion has pictures as being the norm. We also have phrases and quotes written on our clothes and this is also considered OK. However, as mentioned last week, if we are fighting to keep focus then surely we should help one another by covering anything that can distract others around us?

  1. To protect our prayer from being invalidated by someone walking in front of us. Some scholars argue that it is even compulsory to put something in front to protect such as a chair or a bag. In the masjid we have wooden poles which are at the windowsill to put in front of us when praying but alongside that we can help by picking a row that does not block others wishing to walk past.

Instead of praying in the back row and blocking it for others, move towards the front of a room so that it is easier for people to move past you by going behind you.

  1. Read at the correct volume. Reading prayer loudly so it distracts others is impermissable as is reading in the heart. Not moving the lips is a mistake and so the correct method is a whisper so that your ears strain to hear it but nothing more.
  2. Read as early as you can in the time permitted. Unless you are going to congregation, you should read asap when the time permits for a prayer. This is because life will always distract you. Even when you think that you could pray now or pray later too, choose the now because something will most likely come up and cause you to miss the prayer later.
  3. Understand that prayer is a two-way conversation with Allah SWT. It is not simply about zooming through the prayer, doing the salaam and running back to the world. The prayer should be your 5 times a day, reconnection back to Allah SWT in which you speak of anything that has worried you, upset you, caused you to commit a sin, caused you to want for something or anything to that effect. It’s your opportunity to speak in a one-to-one with Allah SWT so cherish your prayers for this reason and make the most of it.

Dear brothers and sisters, prayer is a key part of our day. A common misconception is that we do it because it is something that is asked of us. However, if we perform with focus and perform it correctly, we will find that it isn’t something that is asked of us, it is something that is given to us as a gift and a blessing from our Creator. Once that fact is realised, our prayers will be cherished and a highlight for our day.

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Prayer

Dear brothers and sisters, the Salah is the first thing we will be asked about on the day of Judgement. The Prophet SAWS has said the most important reality is Islam, and its spine is Salah.

The prayer itself is a worship of Allah SWT and its benefits in this life also are many as is mentioned by Allah SWT in the Glorious Quran.

The imam mentioned Sura An Nisa, ayat 103 which says:

And when you have completed the prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting, or [lying] on your sides. But when you become secure, re-establish [regular] prayer. Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times.

Dear brothers and sisters, this ayat is telling us that Salah is the absolute bare minmimum task you commit to in the day. We can abstain from food, drink, relations, interactions with others, work, school etc but prayer is something we cannot miss out.

The Imam also spoke of the following hadith in which the Prophet SAWS is reported to have said:

“The first thing for which the Muslim will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be the prescribed prayers. If they are complete, all well and good, otherwise it will be said: ‘Look and see whether he has any voluntary prayers.’ If he has any voluntary prayers, his prescribed prayers will be completed from his voluntary prayers. Then the same will be done with regard to all his obligatory deeds.”

Dear brothers and sisters, we live in a time and a place where it is becoming increasingly difficult to carry out Salat. The temptations are ever present and they tempt us to spend our time away from this important act. How many of us say to one another that there simply isn’t enough hours in the day. And yet, it is a question of priority and this is to be placed at the top.

We ought to remind one anther that the first step to rehabilitation from the temptations of this life comes from returning to the Salah. This is the SOS that our souls are giving out being answered, it is the mechanism that our Creator has given us to keep steadfast on the right path and to both avoid evil and leave evil if we have fallen foul to it.

Dear brothers and sisters, the prayer is vital to our success and happiness in this life and the next.

However, there is another part of salah that needs to be addressed in this reminder as it is something that people, especially those born in the west, are part of and that is the quality of prayer.

For a lot of people who pray the act of prayer is a tick in the box and it is a cardio exercise but it lacks a secret ingredient and that is the “khushoo” in Arabic which is humbleness in prayer.

And for those unsure whether they have khushoo or not in prayer, it’s one of those things that if you don’t have it, when you are in salat, your mind does not switch off and your worldly thoughts still continue as you pray. This causes us to lack focus in our prayer and thus risking it’s validity.

This reminder concludes with 4 practical tips we can all take away to help us gain focus in prayer.

Preparation. Give yourself 60-90 seconds before the start of each prayer to flush all your thoughts out of your head. Whether this is about work, wife, kids or something else, your brain is one of those things which betrays you in prayer so get into the habit of leaving no thought outstanding before prayer begins.

Visualisation. Always try to remind yourself that you are standing in front of Allah SWT. Another way to look at this is, if you are standing in front of your boss or your teacher then you don’t fidget, yawn or mindlessly think of anything else but the meeting you are having. You give that person the respect because they are a position of authority over you. The same applies here. You are stood in front of your Creator, the Creator of everything you know and He can see you at that very moment and is aware of your Salah. Use that knowledge to maintain etiquette and focus as you recite in front of Him.

Persistence. During the salat, you are in a constant battle with your mind to remain focused on what you are doing. It is the role of Shaitaan to distract you away from this focus so counteract this by doing things that keep your focus. One example is staring on the ground in the same square inch roughly where your head touches when you are in sujood. Don’t close the eyes or let them wander onto what coloured socks the brother next to you is wearing. Another is learning the word-for-word meaning of Sura Fatihah and at a minimum the couple of ayats you read after Sura Fatihah so that when you read each and every word, you can hear it’s meaning in your head and again visualise what you are saying to your Lord.

And lastly, you should pace your recitation, it’s not a race to the finish and by the way the difference between the fastest recitation of salat and the normal-paced, pleasant and focused recitation is only a minute or two, surely your time isn’t that precious outside of your meeting with Allah SWT that you can’t spare that extra minute to recite with a good pace and focus? The imam mentioned a hadith in reference to this which is translated to say:

A man entered the mosque and started praying while Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was sitting somewhere in the mosque. Then (after finishing the prayer) the man came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and greeted him. The Prophet (ﷺ) said to him, “Go back and pray, for you have not prayed. The man went back, and having prayed, he came and greeted the Prophet. The Prophet (ﷺ) after returning his greetings said, “Go back and pray, for you did not pray.” On the third time the man said, “(O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)!) teach me (how to pray).” The Prophet said, “When you get up for the prayer, perform the ablution properly and then face the Qibla and say Takbir (Allahu Akbar), and then recite of what you know of the Qur’an, and then bow, and remain in this state till you feel at rest in bowing, and then raise your head and stand straight; and then prostrate till you feel at rest in prostration, and then sit up till you feel at rest while sitting; and then prostrate again till you feel at rest in prostration; and then get up and stand straight, and do all this in all your prayers.”

Dear brothers and sisters, Salah is the mechanism through which we connect with connect to Allah SWT. By perfecting this correctly we can impact the rest of our lives and be a testimony to the call to prayer which testifies “come to prayer” and “come to success” insh’Allah.

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Prayer – Pillar of Islam

Dear brothers and sisters, we all know that Salat or Prayer is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. It is something that every eligible Muslim should perform 5 times every day.

But why? Have we ever asked ourselves why do we perform prayer? After all, we all live busy lives striving to achieve for ourselves, our families and so on.

What is it about this action that makes it such an important part of our lives and such a key activity on the day of Judgement?

We all know that the prayer is the first action that will be asked about on the day of Judgement. We all know therefore the importance that Allah SWT has placed upon prayer.

So to understand prayer is to understand who we are as creations of Allah SWT. The same creations of Allah SWT that are here, living and breathing and enjoying all the blessings of this life He has given us due to his mercy and his love for us.

Regardless of whether one is Muslim or not, in this world, we openly believe in the moral values of thanking someone when they do us a favour or help us in some way.

So knowing all that Allah SWT has done for us, are we grateful for it? And if we are truly thankful then is there some way in which we can demonstrate this that he has specified for us? That is prayer.

But prayer is more than just a demonstration of gratitude. Just like a doctor who completes his degree but occasionally carries out refresher courses, prayer for a Muslim is also an opportunity to refresh oneself.

Prayer gives you the opportunity to revise the faith, to feel reinvigorated after a barrage of temptations from Shaytaan, to reconnect to Allah SWT.

However, in order to do this one needs to engage with the Salat. And this leads us onto one of the biggest tragedies of our Ummah today.

Dear brothers and sisters, we are living in a time and place where there exists a miracle that is outside of this world.

The Quran is the direct word of Allah SWT and within it lies treasures that can assist us in our everyday lives.

And remembrance of Allah SWT comes from connecting with the Quran. As Muslims, we were given this opportunity at least five times every single day through the Salat. But for those of us especially born here or from a non-arab home, the salat has become nothing more than a CV exercise.

Dear brothers and sisters, when the salat is empty it impacts us as individuals and as an Ummah. When we can’t take lessons from the recitation of the Quran in our daily salat, then there is a problem that is so severe that we ought to be talking about it every single day until it is resolved.

So what follows are 3 practical steps to implement this pillar into our everyday lives.

  1. Perfect your manners in Salat. For example, perform ablution or wudu correctly. Allah SWT has mentioned this in Sura Ma’ida ayat 6 which translates to:

O you who believe! when you rise up to prayer, wash your faces and your hands as far as the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet to the ankles; and if you are under an obligation to perform a total ablution, then wash (yourselves) and if you are sick or on a journey, or one of you come from the privy, or you have touched the women, and you cannot find water, betake yourselves to pure earth and wipe your faces and your hands therewith, Allah does not desire to put on you any difficulty, but He wishes to purify you and that He may complete His favor on you, so that you may be grateful.

  1. Dedicate a time and place for Salat.

Take a few breaths if you need to. Go to the masjid or find a place of contemplation and solace without distraction and visualize what you are about to do. This is the time where you are standing in front of Allah SWT so give it that respect.

  1. Learn the meaning of the Salat.

This point is the vital key and is especially important to all the UK-born brothers and sisters here today. Most of us have been guilty at some time or other in reciting the prayer as if we are a newsreader on fast-forward. And this is down to the fact that we do not know the words that we are reciting. Let’s make it a project today to learn the meaning of the words of the salat because when we do, prayer will become something we yearn for 5 times a day as we will be communicating with Allah SWT with feeling and from the heart.

And our masjid website has a guide that explain each part of the Salat and what exactly it is that you are reciting. Download it and print it off so that you can memorize this or at the very least make it part of your daily reading until it is. Use commutes, lunch breaks etc because really, dear brothers and sisters, nothing is more important.

My dear brothers and sisters, this may appear to be a daunting task but Allah SWT has mentioned of great rewards for those who acquire knowledge for His sake.

And for those who want to feel tranquillity and peace unmatched by anything that this world can provide, this is the key to achieving that. Salat may be a requirement for us Muslims but you will find once you sincerely engage in it, that it is also Allah SWT’s biggest gift to us.

May Allah SWT give us the ability to engage through Salat. May Allah SWT develop the yearning to perform Salat. And may Allah SWT reward us for learning and performing Salat.

Ameen Walhamdullilahi Rabilalameen.

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Direction of Prayer (Qibla)

As muslims, we are united in that wherever we are in the world we aim to offer our prayers facing the same point on Earth.

The Qibla, which is Arabic for direction, is the direction that should be faced when a muslim prays during salat. It is fixed as the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

All over the world, mosques identify the direction of the Qibla through indications on the wall called mihrab. Even multi-faith rooms in Airports and Shopping Malls have the direction of the Qibla marked in this way.

Other than offering salat, other occasions warrant the use of the Qibla also. The head of an animal that is slaughtered using halal methods is aligned with the Qibla. After death, muslims are buried with their heads turned right towards the direction of the Qibla.

However, the Qibla wasn’t always the Kaaba in Mecca. Shortly after the relocation to Medina, Allah SWT ordered the muslims to pray towards the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

This was to last for around 17 months and in that time both Jews and Muslims of Medina prayed in the same direction.

Despite this being a sort of collaboration between the two religions, after a while claims began to surface from the Jewish contingent in Medina.

They began to claim that the prayers being offered were to the ‘Qiblah of the Jews’.

Allah SWT provided revelation in Sura Al-Baqarah ayat 142:

“The fools amongst the people will say, “What has turned them from their Qiblah to which they used to face in prayer”. Say, “To Allah belong both, east and the west. He guides whom He wills to a straight way.”

So why did Allah SWT, order the change in the Qibla? The Prophet SAWS would spend the night praying for revelation in this matter during the 17 months. This is referred to in ayat 144 of Sura Al-Baqarah:

“Many a time We have seen you turn your face towards heaven. We will make you turn towards ‘Qiblah’ that will please you.”

My brothers, for most of us here we have seen first hand account of Allah SWT’s wisdom and mercy in our everyday lives. In this occasion he reveals through the Glorious Quran the reasoning behind the 17 month change in the Qiblah and demonstrates His divine wisdom for us all to reflect upon.

In ayat 143 of Sura Al-Baqarah, Allah SWT says:

“We decreed your former Qiblah only in order that We might know the Prophet’s true followers and those who were to disown him. It was indeed a hard test, but not for those whom Allah guided.”

My brothers, if you reflect then this verse is explaining that the change in Qibla to Jerusalem and then to Makkah was to identify the hypocrites amongst the prophet SAWS as they struggled to face Makkah at the end of the 17 month test.

As muslims, we face the Qiblah five time every day and often we are caught in a situation where we may be on the road and aren’t aware of the direction of Qiblah.

In these situations, the following tips are useful for working out the direction of Qiblah:

  1. There are over a dozen smartphone apps that use GPS to assist the muslim in locating Qiblah. Mostly they are free and are available in both Google Play store and Apple’s App store.
  2. For those who don’t have access to that technology, the UK is unique in that there is a fool-proof way to establish Qibla by just looking at the Sky satellite dish connected outside homes. All Sky satellite dishes face in the general direction of Makkah in the UK so they provide a useful tool to determining which direction to offer the Salat.

My brothers, we have been given a direction from Allah SWT specifically for our nation and in answer to the duas of our prophet SAWS. Let’s not let it become an abandoned direction.

May Allah SWT make us appreciate this lesson from the Quran. May Allah SWT make us revere the Qiblah given specifically to the Muslims. And May Allah SWT be pleased with each and every salat we offer facing the Qiblah.

 

Ameen wal hamdullilahi rabilalameen.

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