The Philosophy of Prayers 2

The Philosophy of Prayers 2

6. The prayer is a tool for the development of moral excellences and attaining spiritual perfection. It hauls man out of the limited confines of this material world, invites him towards the spiritual realms and places him in the company of the angels. Man, without sensing the need for any intermediary, observes himself in the presence of his Lord and engages in communicating with Him.

The repetition of this act several times in a day with special emphasis on the attributes of Allah - His Compassion, Mercy and Greatness - especially by way of reciting the various chapters of the Qur`an after Suratul Hamd, which itself is one of the best inviters towards good actions and pure deeds, has an appreciable effect in the development of moral excellences within man.

The Commander of the Faithful (a.s), mentioning the philosophy of the prayers, said:

الصَّلاَةُ قُرْبَانُ كُلِّ تَقِيٍّ.

“The prayer is a means for the pious ones to attain nearness to Allah.”(1)

7. The prayer imparts value and significance to the other deeds of man, since it revives the spirit of sincerity within man. This is because the prayer is a collection of sincere intentions, pure speech and genuine deeds, and a daily repetition of these aspects sows the seeds of other good acts within the soul of man and strengthens the spirit of sincerity within him. We find that the Commander of the Faithful (a.s), in his testament after being fatally injured on the head by the accursed b. Muljim, said:

اللٌّهَ اللٌّهَ فِي الصَّلاَةِ فَإِنَّهَا عَمُودُ دِينِكُمْ‏.

“Fear Allah so far as the prayers are concerned for they are the pillars of your religion.”(2)

We know that when the pillars of a tent break down, the ropes and nails that are around it - however strong they may be - are of no use, Similarly, when the connection between the servant and Allah, which is established by means of prayers, were to get severed the other deeds too would lose their effect. In a tradition, Imam as-sadiq (a.s) said:

اَوَّلُ مَا يُحَاسَبُ بِهِ الْعُبدُ الصَّلوٌةَ فَإِنْ قُبِلَتْ قُبِلَ سَائِرُ عَمَلِهِ وَ إِنْ رُدَّتْ رُدَّ ساَئِرُ عَمَلِهِ.

“The first thing that a servant shall be reckoned for (on the Day of Judgment) shall be his prayers. If they are accepted, all his other deeds shall be accepted too and if they are rejected, the other deeds shall be rejected too!”. Perhaps, the reason for the above could be that the prayer is the key towards establishing a connection between the Creator and the creation, and if offered correctly, would generate within him sincerity and the intention of attaining nearness to Allah - the two factors that are the means for the acceptance of deeds. But if not, then all his other deeds become tainted, and thus drop from reckoning.

8. The prayer, (not taking into account its contents, for the present) in the light of the conditions necessary for its correctness, invites towards purifying one's life. It is evident from the requirement that the place where the prayers are offered, the clothes of the person offering the prayers, the carpet upon which the prayers are offered and the water and the place utilized for performing Wudu or ghusl should not be usurped or obtained as a result of trampling the rights of others.

How can one, who is polluted of transgression, injustice, usury, usurpation, selling short of weight, taking bribes and earning wrongful income, manage to fulfil the preliminary conditions of the prayers?  Thus, repetition of prayers, five times a day, is itself an exhortation towards exhibiting consideration with respect to the rights of others.

9. In addition to the 'conditions for correctness', the prayers also have 'conditions for acceptance' which, in other words, are referred to as 'conditions for perfection'; these, if taken into consideration, also act as an effective factor in abandoning many sins. Books of jurisprudence and traditions mention numerous things that act as impediments towards the acceptance of prayers - one of them being consumption of intoxicants. It has been reported in the traditions that:

لاَ تُقْبَلُ صَلاَةُ شَارِبِ الْخَمْرِ أَرْبَعِينَ يَوْماً إِلاَّ أَنْ يَتُوبَ‏.

“The prayers of one who consumes intoxicants, shall not be accepted for forty days, except if he repents.”(3).

In several traditions we read that an unjust and oppressive leader is one of those persons, whose prayers are not accepted.(4) Some of the traditions explicitly state that the prayers of one, who does not pay the zakat, are not accepted; other traditions state that unlawful food, vanity and egotism are of the impediments that prevent one's prayers from being accepted. The extent of the constructive effect of endeavouring to fulfil these 'conditions of acceptance' is only too plain and obvious!

10. Prayers strengthen the spirit of discipline within man since they have to be offered at specific times - any advancement or deferment of which would only serve to render them invalid. Similarly, there also exist rulings with respect to intention, qiyam(5), qu'ud(6), ruku', sujud and the like, which, if taken into consideration, instill within man a sense of discipline, thereby enabling him to include this factor in the other affairs of his life, with absolute and total ease.

All the above are the merits that exist in individual prayers without taking into account the issue of congregation, for if we are to consider the merits of praying in congregation - which is, in reality, the soul of the prayers - there would be innumerable additional benefits, explanation of which falls beyond the scope of this book but which are more or less known to us. We conclude this discussion on the philosophy and secrets of prayers by presenting a comprehensive tradition, reported from Imam Reza (a.s).

The Imam (a.s), replying to a letter in which he was asked about the philosophy of prayers, stated: “The prayers have been legislated for acknowledging and attesting the Lordship of the Lord, combating polytheism and idolatry, standing in His presence with utmost humility and modesty, confessing to one's sins, seeking forgiveness for the past disobediences and placing the forehead on the ground, everyday, for the purpose of glorifying and venerating Him.

It is also intended that man always remains alert, his heart does not get clouded by the dust of forgetfulness, he does not become arrogant and heedless, but instead humble and submissive, and becomes more desirous of worldly and religious bounties.

In addition to this, the regular remembrance of Allah throughout the day, achieved as a result of prayers, causes man not to become forgetful and heedless of his Lord, Sustainer and Creator, and he is not overcome by the spirit of rebelliousness. It is this attention towards Allah and standing in His presence that restrains man from disobedience and prevents corruption and depravity.”(7)

Why should we offer prayers at prescribed times?

Some people say: “We do not deny the philosophy behind the prayers and nor do we refute its importance or its educative effects, but what is the need for it to be offered at prescribed times?  Would it not be better if the people were left free - each one to perform this obligation as per his leisure and opportunity, and his mental and spiritual preparedness?”

Experience shows that if educative issues are not regulated by means of strict discipline and stipulations, many individuals tend to become forgetful of them and their very foundation becomes shaky and unstable. Such issues ought to be governed by means of strict discipline and specific timings so that no one possesses any excuse for abandoning them. It is particularly so in view of the fact that the performance of these acts at prescribed times and more especially, when performed in a congregation, possesses grandeur, magnificence and effect, which cannot be denied. They are actually a huge lesson for human development.(8)

NOTES:

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1. I Nahj al-Balagha , saying 136

2. Ibid., letter 47

3. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pg. 317 & 320

4. Ibid., vol. 84, pg. 318

5. Standing in Salat. (Tr.)

6. Sitting in Salat. (Tr.)

7. Wasa`il ash-Shia, vol. 3, pg. 4 and Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 16, pg. 284

8. Ibid., vol. 4, pg. 105