Ascension Journey: Prayer (Salah)
One who does not perform prayers leads a life, unaware of himself, in the middle of daily works, problems and conflicts, and almost forgets that he is a servant of Allah, a traveler to the hereafter and a guest in this world.
He starts to become arrogant and boastful once he succeeds in something. He wants everybody to talk about him, praise him and respect him.
He believes that he has got a perfect personality, and does not ever think that he has got some lacking points.
As for the one who performs prayers, he says, “for Allah’s consent” when he starts prayer. Thus, he remembers that the real honor is not other people’s having high opinion of him, but gaining Allah’s consent with him.
He starts prayer with “takbir.” He says, “He is only Allah who is the most supreme, the only supreme, so supreme that minds cannot comprehend and who is out of imagination.” Therefore, he saves himself from the danger of being arrogant amongst people.
Then he recites surah al-Fatiha. The first verse of this surah states, “all praise, that is all extolment and glorification, is for Allah only”. Scholars explain this verse as “Thankfulness for all things, no matter what and from whom they may be, is to Allah.” And they state that it is the shortest meaning of “Alhamdulillah”. When we extol the beauty of spring, greatness of seas, clearness of the sky, singing of nightingale or honey of bees, all of our extolments go to Allah. That is to say, by extolling them, we are indeed extolling the works of Allah.
When you extol the dome of Suleymaniye Mosque, or its mihrab, its minbar or minarets, you are indeed extolling Sinan, the architect of the mosque.
Unfortunately, when this palace of universe and beauties in it are extolled, this fine meaning is usually forgotten and the extolment is made directly to the thing itself.
In order to escape failure, one mentions the name “Rabb al-alamin”. He is Allah who disciplines all things; who firstly creates them in the form of a particle, a seed, an ovum, a genetic code and then turns them into a human being, a tree, an animal or something else by disciplining them gradually.
The creation of human beings as intelligent beings is a part of this discipline. That is to say, just as a bee was disciplined to produce honey, so too was a human being disciplined to perform innumerable works. Yet the difference is that human beings were set free to fulfill or not to fulfill the requirements of this perfect creation. Those who know where to use their talent succeed many good things and produce many good works.
Sometimes, man wants to sell his good choices very expensive and expects everyone to extol him and talk about him.
Let us think:
The sky, forests, seas, plains… how beautiful they are!
How beautiful are our eyes watching them!
What a beautiful boon for us is our mind which appreciates these beauties and wonders!
All our foods are offered to us, as they have been disciplined.
A sheep is a factory, which turns grass into milk. Or rather, grasses are processed in that factory and turns into meat and milk.
And all fruit trees resemble factories.
And earth is both the place and factory of all those perfect and magnificent works and products.
Let us think about the fish filling the seas. All of them are created out of water. Neither is there a factory, nor a field or garden.
One who watches all these actions of disciplining comprehends that all praise is only to Allah.
When a prayer-performer recites the names of ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim, he thinks that all of these acts of disciplining are also blessings for him and his heart is filled with happiness.
Later, the sura continues with the name “Malik-i yawm-id-din”, meaning “the owner of the day of accounting”.
This Divine Name - which reminds one that he is going to lose all boons that he tasted and benefited, and all kinds of beauties and delights that he admired, and that he is going to depart this world one day - also gives the news that death is not nothingness and there is life after death, and – on the other hand – it warns that this worldly life should be organized in accordance with “the day of religion”, “the day of accounting”. It advices that, by saying that the journey on earth is going to end up with the day of accounting, the capital of life should be spend within the framework of Allah’s permission.
When one thinks of that day of accounting, he clearly comprehends that how meaningless it is to fall in love with appreciation and applauses from people, whom he will have to leave with death. He then thinks to himself, “I should worship only Allah who is the only one to deserve all praises and extolment, who is both Rahman and Rahim, who is going to resurrect people and call them to account after death, and I should ask for help for all my needs and troubles only from Him.” Then he addresses his Lord, saying, “You only we worship and from You only we seek help”.
The Messenger of Allah describes prayer as “the ascension of believers.” One who turns towards qiblah in order to perform a prayer opens his heart to his Lord and takes his first step for his own ascension. This journey continues until the word “iyyaka…” Until this point, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh)’s ascension journey passing through all levels of the sky and watching many manifestations of Allah’s mercy, and watching the hereafter in a way is summarized in a sense. With the word “iyyaka…” one elevates to the position of “qab al-qawsain” and is honored of talking to Allah directly.
Such a person is on the right way from then on; nevertheless, he still asks his Lord to guide him to the right way because it is a very long way with lots of obstacles and dangers. There are many interior and exterior enemies which want him to stray from that right way. It can be possible only with Allah’s help and guidance to walk on the right way despite all obstacles from lower-self (nafs) to Shaitan, to bad friends and from streets full of harams to negative publications and TV programs which evoke one’s bestial feelings.
One’s both belief and his words, eyes, trade, works, love and fear must be in line with each other on the right way. In order to achieve this all, he seeks refuge with his Lord and supplicates saying, “Guide us to the right way”.
It is stated in another Quranic verse that the right way is the way of “prophets, loyal believers, martyrs and saintly people.” By asking for being guided to this way, one actually wishes to follow those spiritual and blessed people.
Straying from this way is very dangerous. One may be included into those who have deserved Allah’s wrath (maghdub) or those who have gone astray (dallin).
A true believer seeks refuge with the Lord in order to avoid both of these dangers and says “amen” at the end of his supplication.