What does "Prayer is the Ascension (Miraj) of the believer" mean?

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What does "Prayer is the Ascension (Miraj) of the believer" mean?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Prayer means a slave's appearance before his Creator and standing there five times a day. In this high place, he himself presents all of his wishes and needs to Allah without any intermediaries; he takes refuge in Him and asks help only from Him. Thus, the meeting of the Prophet (pbuh) with Allah during Ascension (Miraj) takes place symbolically. Therefore, the Prophet said, "Prayer is the ascension of the believer."

Prayer is a kind of worship performed at certain times with special acts and reciting.  

Prayer is the most important order of Islam after belief; it is the pillar of the religion and the cornerstone of Islam.

Prayer is one of the signs of belief.

Prayer is a high relationship between Allah and His slave, a lofty connection and a decent service.  

Prayer is the expression of respect and admiration by man who understands Allah's power and admires His majesty through the most appropriate words and acts; or, strengthening the feelings of respect and admiration by repeating the same acts.    

Prayer is a concise worship that includes all forms of worship of creatures. According to the expression of the Quran, all of the creatures in the universe mention the name of Allah and glorify him all the time:

"…There not a thing but celebrates His praise; and yet ye understand not how they declare His glory…" (al-Isra, 17/44)

When we look at the living beings other than human beings in the world, we see them in three positions: Those standing upright: Like most of the plants, and animals with two feet. Those standing half leaning: Like animals with four feet. Those crawling and creeping: Like reptiles and some plants. The beings we have listed above perform the kinds of worship mentioned in the verse in their positions. However, when man worships, he combines the worship of those beings in prayer. As a matter of fact, when man prays, he performs some of it, standing, some of it bowing down and some of it prostrating. It shows that prayer is the perfect form of worship containing all kinds of worshipping. Angels also worship Allah in one position like the other beings. They stand, bow down or prostrate as we have mentioned above. As a necessity of his lofty creation, man worships Allah by combining the forms of worship of angels.

Prayer consists of the best forms and words that sing the majesty of Allah and His endless power: Prayer includes takbir, tawhid, glorification, praising, thanking, respect, modesty, invocation and begging, along with wishing good things for believers and salawat for the Prophet.

Reading the Quran is a kind of worship on its own. Some verses of the Quran are also read in prayer. It is also worship for believers to greet and salute one another. There is salutation at the end of prayer.

According to Islam, meditation is one of the greatest forms of worship. In the prayers that are performed in congregation, believers have the opportunity of meditating on the power of Allah. There are also prohibitions related to fasting like abandoning eating and drinking in prayer; so, prayer includes fasting, too. Prayer has some connections with zakah and hajj too. For, prayer is the zakah for the body and life of a person. Turning toward the qiblah in prayer is a sign and example of hajj.

As it is seen, prayer includes all bodily worship and summarizes all of them. These properties of prayer's are indicated as follows in Mawlid by Süleyman Çelebi:

"You ascended and begged; I made prayer the ascension of your ummah. Those who perform this prayer - Will receive the rewards of all of the people of the sky. For, all kinds of worship is in it; Approaching and meeting Allah is in it."

As it is known, prayer is the peak of Miraj – it isSidra al-Muntaha (Lote Tree of the Extremity) leading to Qab Qawsayn (Two Bows’ Length); prayer was rendered fard there. This peak is in question in the ascension of prayer. The peak in actual deeds is the position of prostration.

 “…But prostrate in adoration, and bring thyself the closer (to Allah)” (al-Alaq, 96/19)

As it is stated in the Quranic verse above, the following hadith emphasizes the same reality:

“The place where a slave is the closest to his Lord is the position of prostration.” (Muslim, Salat, 215)

While the peak in actual deeds is the position of prostration, the peak in qira’ah is the position of addressing in the phrase “Iyyaka (only (to) You)” in the chapter of al-Fatiha.

The rank (position) of Ihsan

The rank of addressing in the phrase “Iyyaka” is also the rank of ihsan. It is the rank of being saved from loneliness and attaining peace by entering into the presence of Allah. It is the rank of reaching oneness from multitude. As the Prophet (pbuh) puts it,  

“Ihsan means to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you cannot see Him, He sees you all the time.” (Bukhari, Iman, 37)

From this point of view, a person who performs a prayer should think that he will ascend to the sky and should concentrate on two things he should do in Sidra al-Muntaha. 

Firstly, he should make a mental effort to ensure the togetherness of his heart and tongue.

“The (Prophet's) (mind and) heart in no way falsified that which he saw.” (an-Najm, 53/11)

Within the framework of the lesson given by the verse above, which describes the state of the Prophet (pbuh) at the peak of Miraj, when we read all of the qira’ah and tasbihat, primarily the supplication “Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek”, which addresses Allah directly,with our tongue, our heart should follow and approve its meaning. When a person is busy with other things at this rank, the supplication of the tongue, for instance, “Thee do we worship”, will be suspending in the air. If the heart does not follow what the tongue says, it means the tongue denies it, and the seriousness of the state is broken.  

Secondly, one should try to lead the eyes in the body and in the heart to their targets.

“(His) sight never swerved nor did it go wrong.” (an-Najm, 53/17)

As the verse above about Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) teaches us, one should not turn the eyes in the face away from the prayer mat and the eyes in the heart from his Lord, to whom he will prostrate. Thus, he will receive special grace and compliments of Allah, who is ar-Rahman(the All-Compassionate) and ar-Rahim (the All-Merciful), into whose presence he will enter and whom he will beg by saying, “Show us the straight way” and will

“see of the Signs of his Lord the Greatest.” (an-Najm, 53/18).

Debt of Gratitude

Prayer means thanking Allah, who is ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim and who gives us plenty of boons. There is nothing that will relieve our conscience more than offering our verbal, actual, mental and cordial thanks to Allah, who is ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim and to whom we owe our existence, life, survival, the food, water, light and breath that we need to live. From this point of view, it is understood that prayer is a natural duty, and a yeast of life that exists in the dough of the creation. The supplication“Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek” is a request and begging that a slave needs to offer to his Creator.

Real reunion

"Salah", which is the Arabic word for prayer, has the same root letters –though the verbs are different- as sila, which means meeting/reunion, reminding meeting/reunion. This shows that prayer is a holy means of making man, who is a weak slave, meet the real friend who has power over everything, the lofty Creator, and that it is even a reunion on its own. Therefore, the begging “Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek” is a window of dialogue opened by the slave toward his Lord.

Stand in Silence

Prayer is a stand in silence toward our Lord, to whom we, with all of our being, owe gratitude.

No love and respect greater than man, as a conscious being, feels toward his Creator can be thought. There cannot be a reality more valuable than understanding that we owe gratitude to our Lord, to whom we owe everything. When we look at man’s conscience from the viewpoint “man is a slave to goodness/grants”, we can see what a deep love and respect he has and how grateful he is to his sublime Lord. From this point of view, the supplication

“Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek”

is the most concise and comprehensive expression of a slave showing his sincerity to his Creator and offering his love and respect to his Lord, whom he needs by all means.

Prayer is a Guarantee of Ethical Value

It is doubtless that the worldly deeds of a person who fulfills the duty of prayer, which is a guarantee of ethical value in terms of spirit, intellect and conscience, and which is like a key to Paradise, is regarded like worshipping if he has a sincere intention. However, he needs to display his high ethics that he shows for Allah in mosque also in social life.

It is possible to show how important prayer is in the life of a person who believes in Allah and life in the hereafter through the following example:

Of the two people who work eight hours a day and do the same work, the one who performs prayers and worships attains Paradise, which is endless bliss, along with the wages he gets. The one who does not fulfill his duties toward Allah will not get much money when he does not worship but he will face the risk of losing Paradise, which is a great wealth. 

As it is stated at the beginning of the chapter of al-Mulk, Allah does not take into consideration whether what is done is much or little but is of good quality or not based on the criteria He determined. Prayer is the most important value criterion that ensures this quality and a sound control mechanism. 

If the reflections of the supplication “Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek” by a person who performs prayers are also seen in social life, a synergy will be formed in the format of “total quality”.

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