What is the inner meaning of the chapter of al-Fatiha’s being read in every rak’ah and performing ruku’ and sajdah?

The Details of the Question

- Will give information about the inner meaning of prayer?
- I have heard this statement: The prayer (salah) is the ascension (miraj) of the believer. Will you explain it?  

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Prayer (salah) in the presence of the Creator – addressing Him – can be summarized as follows:

Worship (Servitude): It means to realize that one is always in the presence of Allah and to act accordingly. It means to reach the doer/artist from the work/art.

Worship (Servitude): It means to realize that Allah, who has infinite generosity and grants, treats people to blessings, addresses man’s material and spiritual senses and wants to inject pleasure and flavor in his palate and brain; in return man needs to praise and thank Him with his deeds, words, attitudes and even all of the particles of his body and soul if he can.   

Prayer is a spiritual line of communication extending from the Throne (Arsh) to the Earth

It is a misfortune to be deprived of this line, which enables one-to-one communication with the Almighty Creator.

Prayer is a luminous bond connecting the earth to the sky and the heart to the Almighty Creator. It is a necessity of common sense for those who want to attain the enlightenment of the divine presence to hold on to this bond tightly.

God Almighty gave prayer as a gift to His slave in Sidra al-Muntaha, the holy peak of the universe, through Muhammad (pbuh), the holiest prophet, as a deed of worship reflecting the holiness of His name al-Quddus. Can there be an act of ingratitude and an attitude worse than rejecting such a holy call/talk and - so to speak - this holy appointment Allah grants to His slaves?

Prayer, which is a summary of all duties of worshipping, means to stand, to abide in awe, to bow down and to prostrate in the presence of Allah by saying “Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu akbar” for His attributes of beauty and majesty, whose reflections are seen on everything, from atoms to galaxies - as a debt of gratitude.    

- Prayer represents both the material and spiritual aspect of servitude since it is in a position of being an index of all deeds of worship. From this point of view, it will be seen that it is necessary for the spirit to accompany the body and the words to accompany the deeds.

- Prayer means mentioning Allah (dhikr).

“Verily, I am Allah: There is no god but I: So serve thou Me (only), and establish regular prayer for celebrating My praise.” (Taha, 20/14)

It is stated clearly in the verse above that prayer is a dhikr.

Dhikr means to mention Allah and to remember Him; it means to express one’s respect and love toward Almighty Allah through extolling, praising and glorifying Him with both words and deeds and to declare one’s thanking and gratitude by thinking of the beauty and majesty of His perfect names, attributes and deeds.  

All of the shapes formed by the movements of the body that are obligatory in prayer aim to accompany the meaning of the dhikr – like the Quran that is read and glorifications – in those positions. We can explain them as follows:

- Takbir al Iftitah, that is, the takbir of starting a prayer that has to be uttered at the beginning of the prayer is “Allahu akbar”. This phrase states that Allah is the greatest, the loftiest being. That hands being raised during this takbir accompanies the meaning of “greatness” of the takbir and attests to it. It means to present one’s respect to the greatness of Allah, whom the whole universe respects and extols, with both words and deeds. In addition, it means to present the humility of servitude by standing and abiding in awe after takbir.

- Qiyam (standing) means the one that created the whole universe, that trains, manages and maintains the universe; it accompanies the phrase “Allah, who is the Lord of the realms” in the chapter of al-Fatiha.  

The chapter of al-Fatiha is a kind of a summary of the Quran, a unique secret of Allah’s greatest names like Allah, ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim and Maliki yawmiddin, the index of the deeds of worship done for Allah, who is the only authority of servitude and supplication, an unerring compass of the route drawn by Islam, a supplication representing the slave’s servitude to his Lord and a spiritual line of communication connecting the earth to the sky; therefore, it is an obligatory dhikr existing in all qiyams of all rak’ahs.

- Ruku’ means to bow down in the face of the greatness of Allah. This position accompanies the dhikr “Subhana rabbiyal-azim”, which means “My Lord, who is great, is free and away from all deficiencies” said in that position.  

- Sajdah means to place one’s face, the most valuable and loftiest organ of man, and forehead on the ground in the face of the loftiness of his Lord, displaying an actual posture. This posture, displayed in humbleness, accompanies the dhikr “Subhana rabbiyal a'la”, which means “My Lord, who is sublime, is free and away from all deficiencies” and which is said in that position.

Similarly, the bodily movements of the prayer and the verbal readings and dhikrs express and declare the respect and love the slave shows toward his Lord in great harmony; a harmony of servitude is performed accompanied by the organs along with the heart and mind.   

- The statement “The prayer (salah) is the ascension (miraj) of the believer” exists widely in the Islamic literature but we have not been able to find a chain of narrators showing that it is a hadith. Therefore, scholars have expressed it without using the word “hadith“. (As examples, see al-Munawi, Faydul-Qadir, 1/497;  al-Qari, Sharhul-Mishkat, 2/523; al-Alusi, 6/361)

However, it is recorded as a hadith narration in some narrations though it does not have a chain of narrators. [see Razi, Mafatihul-Ghayb, 1/226; Suyuti (and others), Sharhu Sunani Ibn Majah, Qaratishi, nd, 1/313; Nizamuddin al-Hasan al-Qumi, an-Naysaburi, Gharaibul-Quran wa Raghaibul-Furqan, Beirut, 1416, 1/114].

Although it is not definite that ‘the prayer (salah) is the ascension (miraj) of the believer’ is a hadith, it is a reality that is accepted as a fact by Islamic scholars in terms of its meaning because prayer was rendered fard in Miraj. Miraj is the point where the Prophet (pbuh) was closest to Allah spiritually - in terms of his great sainthood.  

Every believer enters the path of Miraj - based on his level - by performing the prayer rendered fard in Miraj. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) said,

“The position when a slave is closest to his Lord is sajdah (prostration.” (Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasai / Kanzul-Ummal, h. no: 3328)

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