Revelation of Mystery (Kashf al Mahjub)

Prayer (al-salat الصلوة)

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Chapter XIX

The Uncovering of the Fifth Veil

Prayer (al-salat الصلوة)


Allah hath said:

وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَاةَ

“And be steadfast in prayer; Practice regular charity;” (Q 2:43).

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

الصلوة وما ملكت ايمانكم

“Look after your prayers and those who are under your care.”

Etymologically, salat الصلوة (prayer) means remembrance (of Allah) and obedience, but scholastics apply the term especially to the known prayers which Allah has commanded to be performed five different times a day. There are certain preliminaries before a prayer is offered. These are:

-          The first and the foremost is purification which involves outward purification from filth and inwardly from lust.

-          The next is the cleanliness of clothes. It should be free of any filth and is obtained through lawful means.

-          The place of worship should be outwardly free from contamination and inwardly free from all sorts of corruptness and sin.

-          The next is turning towards Qibla. The outward Qibla is Kaba and the inwardly Qibla is the Throne of Allah, by which the object is the contemplation of the Truth.

-          Then, standing outwardly in the state of ability and inwardly in the garden of proximity but outwardly the lawful timings are must and inwardly to remain in His presence.

-          To maintain purity of intention at the time of approaching His Court of Audience and  Calling of Takbir i.e. Allah-o-Akbar in the station of awe and annihilation.

-          To stand in the abode of union, and to recite the Quran distinctly and reverently. To bow with humility, and to prostrate with abasement.

-          To recite tashahhud (invocation) with concentration, and to finish the prayer with annihilation of one's attributes.

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed, there were heard a sound from his breast like sound of a cauldron on fire. And when Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was about to offer prayer, his hair stood on their ends and penetrated from his clothes. Shaken and trembling he would say that hour had come to fulfill a trust which the heavens and the earth were unable to bear.

Some elder asked Hatim Asam that how did he say his prayer? He said:

When the time of prayer comes I do outward and inward wadu (ablution). The outward wadu I perform with water and inward with repentance. Then I go to the mosque and perceive that Kaba is in front of me, maqam of Ibrahim in the centre of my eye brows, Paradise on my right and Hell on my left, and bridge Sirat under my feet and angel of death behind me. After this I call Takbir with full pomp, stand with respect, recite Holy Quran with awe, bow with humility, prostrate with lamentation and abasement, observe sitting with calmness and dignity and finally call off my prayer with thanks.

Prayer is such devotion in which novice from beginning to end at each stage finds way to Allah, and he has the vision of these stages. Thus, for novices,

-          purification takes the place of repentance,

-          dependence on Sheikh takes the place of ascertaining the Qibla,

-          standing in prayer takes the place of self-mortification,

-          reciting Quran takes the place of dikr (remembrance of Allah),

-          bowing takes the place of humility,

-          prostration takes the place of self-knowledge,

-          invocation takes the place of intimacy, and

-          salutation takes the place of detachment from the world and escape from the bondage of station.

Hence, when Prophet (peace be upon him) became divested of all feelings of delight in complete bewilderment, he used to say,

ارحنا يا بلال بالصلوة

“O Bilal, comfort us by the call to prayer.”

The Sufi Sheikhs have discussed this matter at length and their every point is praiseworthy. Some hold that prayer is a means of obtaining presence with Allah, and some regard it as means of being absent from self. So one group came into presence from absence and the other got absent from presence. Therefore, in this world at the maqam (station) of vision where the people who have the vision of Almighty Allah, among those who are absent become present and those who are present become absent.

I, Ali b. Uthman al-Jullabi, assert that prayer is a Divine command and it can not be the means of presence or absence, because a Divine command does not become a cause or means of anything. The cause of presence is presence itself, and similarly the cause of absence is also absence itself. If prayers were the cause or means of presence, the absentee because of it would have been present and similarly were it the cause or means of absence the absentee would have been present by neglecting to perform it. As its performance is incumbent on all whether they are present or absent, the prayer is sovereign in its essence and is not linked with presence or absence. The prayer is performed in abundance by those who are engaged in self-mortification and also who are steadfast. Thus the Sheikhs command their disciples to perform four hundred rakaat in their prayer during a day and night that their bodies may get habitual to devotion. Likewise, those who are steadfast perform excessive prayers in thanks giving for the favors which Allah has bestowed upon them.

As regards to those, who hold natural disposition (اهل احوال), act in two ways. The prayer of one of them is in the perfection of ecstasy, correspond to the “station” of union, so that through their prayers they become united. And the prayers of the second group are when the ecstasy is withdrawn; their prayers correspond to the station of separation, so that thereby they become separated. Those who attain maqam of union pray by day and night but those who are at the stage of separation perform no more prayers than what are incumbent on them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

جعلت قرة عيني في الصلوة

“the coolness of my eyes lies in prayer,”

He said so because payer is a source of joy to the steadfast.

On the night of ascension when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was brought nigh unto Allah, and his soul was loosened from the fetters of phenomenal being, and his nafs (lower soul) moved to the place of soul, and soul moved to the place of spirit, and spirit moved to the palace of Mystery and had lost consciousness of all degrees and stations, and was over taken so much by contemplation that all of his human attributes and needs were annihilated. The Divine evidences were manifested and he reached to the depth of the Truth by abandoning ownself and got absorbed in eternal contemplation. He inspired by longing said, “O God, do not return me to the place of affliction, neither let me put in the battlefield of nature and passion!”

Allah commanded: “It is My decree that you shall return to the world for the sake of establishing the religious law, in order that I may give you there what I have given you here.”

When he returned to this world, he used to say as often as he felt a longing for that exalted station, “O Bilal, comfort us by the call to prayer!”

Thus to him every prayer was an ascension and cause of nearness to Allah. The eyes of people would see him in prayer but factually his body was in prayer, heart in dedication, and inwardly he used to be on its way to proximity but his body melting in grief. For this reason he called prayer as coolness of his eyes. Apparently he was present in the human body but his spirit used to be at Heavenly Kingdom.

Sahl b. Abdullah says:

علامه الصادق ان يكون له تابع من الحق اذا دخل وقت الصلوة  يحثه عليها وينبهه ان كان فاءمًا

“It is a sign of man’s sincerity that Allah deputes an angel who urges him to pray at the time of the prayer and wakes him up if he is asleep.” This mark (of sincerity) was apparent in Sahl himself, for although paralyzed and in his old age, he used to recover at the time of prayer and after having performed his prayer, was unable to move from his place.

One of the Sheikhs says:

يحتاج المصلي الي اربعة اشياء: فناء النفس وذهاب الطبع و صفاء السروكمال المشاهدة

“Four things are necessary to him who prays: His nafs (lower soul) is annihilated, loss of the natural desires, inward purity, and has perfect contemplation.”

The performer of the prayer has no way out but annihilation of the nafs (lower soul) and which is attained only by concentration of thought. When he has fully concentrated his thought then he rule over his nafs (lower soul), for his substance is based on separation and can not fall under the expressions of union. The loss of the natural desires is not possible without the affirmation of the Divine Majesty, because His Majesty becomes the cause of the destruction of all that is other than Him. Similarly the purity of inmost heart is not possible without love and excellence in contemplation is not attainable without the purity of the inmost heart.

It is said that Hussein b. Mansur (al-Hallaj) had made it compulsory for him to perform four hundred rakaat of prayer in a day and a night. On being asked that why he took so much trouble though he had attained a very high degree, he answered:

“You see pain and pleasure but the lovers are annihilated to their attributes, what concern they have with pain or pleasure! Beware lest you call indolence maturity and lust search for Allah.”

Some elder narrated that he was praying behind Dhu al-Nun, when he pronounced the Takbir (Allah-o-Akbar), got fainted and fell down like a lifeless body.

Junaid in his old age did not skip any of the litanies (awrad) of his youth. When he was urged to refrain from some of these supererogatory acts of devotion to which his strength was unequal, he replied, “whatever I attained in the beginning was due to these practices, how is it possible that after attainting such a degree I leave them.”

It is well known that the angels are ceaselessly engaged in worship. Obedience is their drink and devotion is their diet, because they are spiritual and have no nafs (lower soul). Whereas it is the nafs (lower soul) discourages men from obedience, and the more it is subdued the easier the worship becomes, and when nafs is annihilated, worship becomes the food and drink of man. And for this reason it is right to say that angels are annihilated of their nafs (lower soul).

Abdullah b. Mubarak narrated that in his teenage he saw a female ascetic who while praying was bitten by a scorpion forty times, but no change of expression was visible in her countenance. When she had finished, he asked her that why did she not throw the scorpion away from her? She answered,  “O son! You are a kid, how it was possible for me to do my own business when I was engaged in Allah’s business?”

Abu al-Khair Aqta[1] had gangrene in his foot. The physician counseled that his foot must be amputated, but he would not allow this to be done. The disciples suggested that his foot to be cut off while he was praying, for at that time he was unconscious. The physicians acted on this advice. When Abu al-Khair finished his prayers he found his foot amputated.

Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) during his prayers at night used to recite the Quran in a low voice, whereas Umar b. Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) used to recite in a loud voice. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Abu Bakr Siddiq why he did recite Quran in a low voice? Abu Bakr replied, “He, to whom I call hears, may it be high voice or a whisper.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) then asked Umar b. Khattab why he did recite Quran in a high voice? He replied, “To wake the drowsy and drive away the Devil.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) suggested Abu Bakr to recite Quran a bit loudly and Umar to keep a low tone, i.e. to act against their habits.

Some Sheikhs perform obligatory acts of devotion openly, but conceal those which are supererogatory in order that they may escape from ostentation. They presume that anyone who desires that others should take notice of his religious practices becomes a hypocrite. Similarly they say that although they do not take notice of their self devotion and mortification, but people do see and this too is hypocrisy. Some Sheikhs however, exhibit both their obligatory and supererogatory acts of devotion, on the ground that ostentation is unreal and piety is truth, therefore, it is absurd to hide reality for the sake of unreality. They say that empty your heart from ostentation and then worship Allah wherever you will. The Sheikhs are aware of the true spirit of the rules of devotional practices, and have enjoined their disciples to preserve them.

One of the elders said that he traveled for forty years, and never missed a single public service of prayer and he used to be in some town on Friday.

The corollaries of prayer belong to the station of love, of which I will now set forth the principles in detail.


[1] Died 340 A.H..


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