Is there a hadith saying, “One hour of meditation (tafakkur) is better that one year of nafilah (supererogatory) prayers.”?

Details of the Question
Is there a hadith saying, “One hour of meditation (tafakkur) is better that one year of nafilah (supererogatory) prayers.”? Does one who meditates at Laylatu’l Qadr (Night of Power) gain thawabs (rewards) as if s/he performed nafilah prayers for thousands of years?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There is a hadith the translation of which is “One hour of meditation is sometimes better that one year of praying” (Suyuti, Jamiu’s-Saghir, 2/127; Ajluni, I/310). It is possible to understand the hadith in the following way:

- It is better than one year of nafilah prayers to occupy the mind with the greatness of Allah, turning to the reflections of His names and attributions on theuniverse, thinking over one’s sins violating about Allah’s law and law of Creator-Creature relations, which are established in accordance with Allah’s orders and prohibitions.

- It does not mean that this collective rule will always give the same result for everyone. What should be deduced from it is the fact that there is a one-hour meditation which earns one more thawabs than one year of nafilah prayers and that door is open for anyone. Individuals’ knowledge, taqwa, reasoning, inspirations and capacity of meditation play an important role in it.

- Suyuti considered that hadith as a weak one. However, scholars agree that one can follow weak hadiths, too, in terms of the virtues of deeds.

- It is not harmful to hope for extra thawabs from Allah. Meditation has got some conditions. Those conditions have to be met. Furthermore, there is such a moment in meditation that if one seizes that moment, it can be equal to prayers performed in one year, ten years or even more. Whoever seizes Laylatu’l Qadr and seizes that moment at Laylatu’l Qadr can expect so great thawabs from Allah.

Meditation has got an important place in a true believer’s life. However, it is necessary to know what meditation exactly means. First of all, meditation depends on initial knowledge. Meditations performed simply and ignorantly are mere dreams and in the course of time, they bore people; then people tend to consider them meaningless. For this reason, one firstly must now what to meditate over, that is to say; s/he must have certain knowledge beforehand.

It is a step forward for meditation to know the rotation of the moon and stars, their relation with human beings and the circulation and flux of atoms, which form human beings. However, it is not meditation to look at the movements of the Moon and the Sun and then overflow with poetic inspirations. There are lots of handicapped, lonesome and poor naturalist poets, who think in this way. They are not meditators, but merely dreamers who lost their spirits and emotions and lost their hearts to Mephistopheles. They can sometimes think and tell about the beauties of the universe, too. Worldly beauties become so legendary with their expressions that anyone hearing those words may feel as if listening about the beauties of Heaven. Sometimes they make up such a legend about flowing of the rivers, pattering of the rain drops, swinging of the trees and singing of the birds that one feels as if he is in the middle of Heaven. However, they are not meditation an they do not make any promises to human beings, either. They could not even move a single step forward and go beyond the trimmed curtain. That kind of meditation is not useful at all. It is a fact that that kind of meditation will earn one nothing no matter how deeply s/he may think.

As explained above, first of all, it is essential to have a concise knowledge in order to meditate. Humankind will make new analyses and syntheses with the help of that initial knowledge - with respect to the level of knowledge they have reached today – and will specialize in them and will come to more various conclusions. And they will use those conclusions as introduction to other conclusions which they will reach in the future, and they will make new conclusions. Eventually, they will deepen in meditation with the help of those new conclusions and upgrade their one-dimensional meditation to multi-dimensional meditation and they will reach twofold meditation. All of them depend on having knowledge. It is impossible for a person without knowledge to meditate. In this sense, reading lots of books is important. Then it is necessary to learn the way of meditation and lastly to study the nature of Islamic rules and proofs of creation so that one will be able to think reasonably and consistently.
If one meditates correctly for one hour, pillars of faith develop in that person. Later, that person loves Allah and a great divine love emerges in his heart. Then, he reaches the spiritual delight and feels as if he has opened wings to set out to the eternity. A person with such meditation sometimes reaches the horizon which a person, who has prayed for a thousand years but deprived himself of meditation, could reach. The distance covered by one who does not turn to Allah with adoration will not be equal to the distance covered through an hour of meditation even though he stays in the same place for a thousand years because he does not think deeply. However, it does not mean that the prayers he performed for a thousand years have gone into waste; because, neither a bowing, a prostrating nor other movements of prayer performed for the sake of Allah go into waste. The verse: “Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it! And anyone, who has done an atom's weight of evil, will see it. (al-Zalzalah, 99/7-8) expresses that everyone gains something according to their deeds. A person who performs prayers is considered to have accomplished his duty of servitude to Allah; yet he cannot gain the deepness offered by meditation. A meditation in this sense can be equal to one year of praying.

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