The Philosophy and Secrets of Prayer (Part 1)
In this concise book we cannot discuss the philosophy and secrets of the Branches of Faith. The Branches of Faith are Divine rules and laws for systemizing man’s personal and social situations. Furthermore, they systemize the connection between the Creator and the creation.
Thus, Jurisprudence has been compiled under forty-eight titles. Each one of these titles contains many chapters. It is not possible to comprehend the obvious philosophy behind the Jurisprudential titles, let alone that which cannot be understood by the intellect. We will briefly discuss some aspects of the philosophy behind the prayer and the poor-rate.
The prayer consists of parts, conditions and rules about what is forbidden: The condition for the permissibility of the place of the prayer informs the performer that he must not breach upon the rights of others. The condition that a person should be clean from physical and ritual impurities guides to the fact that the physical impurities that can be cleaned with water, or the ritual impurities that affect the spirit that are cleaned with ritual bathing, both cause invalidity of the prayers. They hold back the human being from paying attention to the Honourable and the Glorified.
Based on the above, it is possible to visualize the effect of the impurity of the evil deeds that a person intentionally commits, like lying, dishonesty, oppression and extravagance. It is also possible to imagine the impurity of ill manners in depriving from the reality of the prayers, which is the ascension of every believer and immolation of every pious.
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Indeed, the parts of the call for prayer [adhan], the call to the presence of Allah, the Exalted, and the parts of iqamah, the preliminary for the preparation of the spirit for the ascension to the status of nearness to the Glorified, contain the essence of Islamic teaching.
If one ponders upon the beginning of the call for prayer and its end, then by starting with ‘Allah is the Greatest’ and ending with ‘There is no god but Allah’, illustrates the emphasis upon teaching and training in Islam. When the call for prayer begins with the word ‘Allah’ and ends with it as well, then a worshipper can learn that He is the First and the Last.1 Just as the adhan and iqamah begin with the Name of Allah and end with His Name, the recommendation to recite them in the ears of the newborn2 and to direct the dying person to the words of Divine Unity indicate that human life begins and ends in the Name of Allah.
The repetition of ‘There is no god but Allah’ at the end of adhan and iqamah, after having said them twice earlier, reveals the role of this pure word in the intellectual and practical development of mankind.
This sentence has other verbal and conceptual specifications: All the Arabic letters in this sentence [la ilaha illa Allah] are the exact letters used in the word Allah. It is a hidden remembrance which showing off cannot reach, for it is possible for the human being to remember Allah with it and not show anyone.
It contains both negation and assertion, firm faith in the two results in negating the falsehood and asserting the truth in beliefs, ethics and actions.
Thus, the meaning of this holy tradition [hadith al-qudsi] in the report of the Chain of Gold narration [silsilat al-dhahab] becomes clear: ‘There is no god but Allah’ is My fort. Whoever enters My fort is saved from My wrath.3
The depth of the speech of the Noble Messenger reveals: All Say: There is no god but Allah and you shall all have salvation.4 with this negation and assertion, the spirit forms a connection with the light of the heavens and the earth. It moulds to the ethics of Allah, the Exalted. Likewise, the declaration of the Messengership of the Prophet (PBUH) renews the covenant with him and with what he was sent with.
The declaration is not valuable if it is not with sensory perception in perceptible things, nor is it reliable if it is not with intellectual certainty in rational things.
The bearer of the witness of Divine Unity and the Messengership in adhan and iqamah perceives with his heart the essence of Unity and the Messengership. Then he proceeds to salvation by saying ‘hasten to salvation’ and to the best of the deeds by saying ‘hasten to the best deed.’
The beginning and the end in the adhan and iqamah is Allah. The middle of the two is the Right Path, which Allah sent His Messenger with. The servant prepares for the ascension to Allah with pure words that rise to Him and good deeds that Allah elevates.
When the worshipper purifies his spirit by reflecting upon the significance of ‘there is no god but Allah,’ he reaches the level of: Surely I have turned myself, being upright, wholly to Him Who originated the heavens and the earth, and I am not of the polytheists.5
Once the worshipper turns to the Originator of the heavens and the earth, he rises above the earth and the heaven. The seven veils are torn apart by his seven Allahu Akbar(s) 6 [takbir].
When he raises his hands to his ears (to say Allahu Akbar), he places everything other than Allah behind him. When he says Allahu Akbar, he nullifies all the thoughts and imaginations of the human mind before the Greatness of Allah, the Exalted. He admits that Allah is Greater than can be described and confined.
Taken from Branches of Faith (Furu’ al-Din) by Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaykh Hussein Vahid Khorasani
1. Holy Qur’an, 57: 3.
2. It is recommended to recite the adhan in the right ear of the newborn and the iqamah in the left ear.
3. ‘Uyun Akhbar al-Rida (A): vol. 2, pp 135, ch. 37, hadith no. 4; Shaykh Saduq, Divine Unity: pp 63, ch. 1, hadith no. 21; Al-Amali By al- Saduq: pp 306, ch. 41, hadith no. 8; and other Shi’ah sources.
Tarikh Madinat Damishq: vol. 5, pp 462; Yanabi’ al-Mawaddat: vol. 3, pp 122; Al-Durr al-Manthur: vol. 4, pp 293; and other Sunni sources.
4. Manaqib Al Abu Talib: vol. 1, pp 56.
5. Holy Qur’an, 6: 79.
6. Allah is the Greatest.
The Philosophy and Secrets of Prayer (Part 2)
The worshipper then begins his speech with Allah, the Exalted. The prayer is the word of man with Allah while the Qur’an is the Word of Allah with man. However, man starts his word with Allah, the Exalted, with the Word of Allah itself, because it is not possible for man to praise Allah except with what Allah has taught him of His praise. With the sacredness of the Word of Allah, the Exalted, the word of man becomes worthy enough to be heard by Allah. Therefore, the man says: Allah listens to whoever praises Him.
In accordance with the tradition: No prayer is acceptable without the Opening of the Book; 7 it is a must to read the Opening chapter of the Qur’an in the prayer. Just as the Qur’an, being the word of the Creator with the creation, begins with the Opening chapter, the prayer, being the word of the creation with the Creator, begins with the same.
The worshipper must perform the Opening chapter and another chapter of the Qur’an with the intention of the recitation [qir’at]. However, the attainment of the reality of the prayer is only through knowledge of the meanings, subtleties and elegance which are in the actions of the prayer and its words. Here we will indicate some of the qualities of the Opening chapter:
This holy chapter encompasses the summary of Islam. It describes the recognition of the Origin and the Return. It contains Allah’s names and His attributes. This chapter is man’s covenant with Allah and Allah’s covenant with man. According to some reports, the Greatest Name of Allah is carved in it.
The Opening chapter designates that Allah, the Exalted, has divided it between Himself and His servant. Thus, the half of the chapter which ends with Master of the Day of Judgment is for Allah, the Exalted. The other half of the chapter, which starts from Keep us on the Right Path till the end, is for man. The verse, Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help, is common between Allah, the Exalted, and His servants. The service is for Allah and the help is for man.8
This chapter begins with the name of Allah, the Exalted, with which the Messenger ship of Muhammad (PBUH) began. Thus, Allah, the Exalted, said to His Messenger (PBUH: Read in the name of your Lord, Who created.9
Amongst the qualities of Allah’s name is that it is the name of the essence that comprises all of the best names. And Allah’s are the best names, therefore call on Him thereby.10
It is reported from ‘Ali (A.S) that the meaning of the word Allah is: The One who is worshipped and the One who is taken and served as God.11
The limit of mankind in His recognition is that he should know that he does not have the ability to fully understand Him. Allah, the Exalted, has attributed Himself as the Beneficent, the Most Compassionate.
This concise book does not allow explanation of the difference between the two mercies. It is of significance that Allah, the Exalted, made In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Most Compassionate the beginning of His speech with man and the beginning of the speech of man with Him.
Thus, He made this heavenly sentence foremost among the speech and actions of a Muslim. Allah has made it mandatory to repeat this sentence in the daily five prayers. Thus, Allah teaches man that the system of the universe is established upon mercy and that the constitutional and legislative Book begins with mercy.
Even the Islamic legal punishments are a mercy for the ones who contemplate upon them and fully understand them. A clear example can be given from the stages of the obligation of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. If some people in a society avoid righteousness or turn towards corruption, then first they must be treated with kindness and moderation.
As we see in the story of the Prophet of Allah Musa (A.S), when Allah sends him and his brother with nine clear signs to a tyrant like the pharaoh, He says: Then speak to him a gentle word haply he may mind or fear.12
The purpose of sending Messengers is not supremacy and power; rather, it is guidance, reminder and fear of Allah.
As long as an injured part of the body can be treated with medicine, it is not permissible to perform surgery on it. In fact, it is obligatory to protect it. However, if it cannot be treated even with surgery, then it is removed for the betterment of the other parts of the body.
Likewise, if a corrupt person is incurable, legal punishment is a mercy for him to reduce his involvement in criminal offences that would corrupt his world and the hereafter. It is also a mercy for society, because it closes the door of spreading corruption to the rest of the people.
Taken from Branches of Faith (Furu’ al-Din) by Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaykh Hussaein Vahid Khorasani
7. ‘Awali al-Liali: vol. 2, pp 218, hadith no. 13.
8. Al-Tibyan: vol. 1, pp 46; Majma’ al-Bayan: vol. 1, pp 48.
9. Holy Qur’an, 96: 1.
10. Holy Qur’an, 7: 180.
11. Shaykh Saduq, Divine Unity: pp 163, ch. 4, hadith no. 2.
12. Holy Qur’an, 20: 44.
The Philosophy and Secrets of Prayer (Part 3)
After the first verse, the worshipper reads: All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe. Thus, he establishes that every praise and extol is for Allah, the Exalted, because He, the Glorified, is the Lord of the Universe. Every perfection and beauty is a manifestation of His upbringing. When the worshipper reads this verse and sees the signs of Allah’s Lordship and nurture in his own self and the world, the heaven, the earth, the minerals, the plants, the animals and the human beings, he realizes that the praise is relevant to Him.
The presence of the signs of His nurture in all creations, from the lowest being to the highest, shows that His mercy is for both the ordinary and the special. Hence, the worshipper says a second time: The Beneficent, the Most Compassionate.
After absorbing Allah’s favour and His mercy, the worshipper remembers His justice and says: Master of the Day of Judgment.
The compensation of the servants on the Day of Judgment is necessary for the establishment of justice, because man’s disobedience to Allah exceeds His sacredness. Exceeding the sacredness of the Endless cannot be compared with the disobedience of others. Thus, the Possessor of eternal greatness must possess eternal sacredness.
The disobedience of the One Whose right and favour upon humanity is countless and unlimited must be penalized with what is suitable.
The sin which a man commits against his Lord is not a simple matter as some think, because the strength a man exhausts in it is a result of the world, since his life is connected to the world. Therefore, the sin a man commits implies dishonesty against what the whole universe is striving for.
Hence, it is necessary that there must be record, accountability and compensation with justice on that Great Day, which Allah has described as: O people! Guard against (the punishment from) your Lord; surely the violence of the hour is a grievous thing. On the day when you shall see it, every woman giving suck shall quit in confusion what she suckled, and every pregnant woman shall lay down her burden, and you shall see men intoxicated, and they shall not be intoxicated but the chastisement of Allah will be severe.13
Nonetheless, His justice is absolute mercy, because the punishment from the Beneficent over disobedience cannot be compared with what the servant deserves over the tyranny, due to his insolence against the Lord of the Great Throne. Glory be to Him, Who is Generous and Honourable in His obedience and His disobedience.
Indeed, when a gnostic worshipper reads: Master of the Day of Judgment, his being trembles. This is why when the Imam of the Gnostics, the Beauty of the Worshippers, ‘Ali ibn al-Hussein (A.S) used to reach here, he would repeat this verse and cry until he almost died.14
Surely, the two verses: The Beneficent, the Most Compassionate and Master of the Day of Judgment, give the worshipper the two wings of fear and hope. With these two he comes to know the mercy of Allah and His honour. With the first one he perceives the compensation and punishment, while with the second one he desires forgiveness and reward.
Taken from Branches of Faith (Furu’ al-Din) by Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaykh Hussein Vahid Khorasani
13. Holy Qur’an, 22: 1-2.
14. Al-Kafi: vol. 2, pp 602.