|The visage of worship [‘ibadah]|
Worship [‘ibadah] and servitude [‘ubudiyyah] brought the Messenger of Allah (s) to ascension [mi‘raj]:
“Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant Place of Worship.”
Worship paves the ground for the descent of angels:
“We have sent down (the revelation through angels) to Our servant.”
Worship causes the supplication of man to be granted, for prayer is the covenant of God and whoever fulfills the covenant of God, God in turn will also fulfill his covenant:
“And fulfill My covenant that I may fulfill your covenant.”
The person who does not worship God is more abject than stones and other inanimate objects, for the Qur’an reveals:
“And indeed there are some of them (stones) that fall for the fear of Allah.”
This is while some people do not submit to the Fountainhead and Creator of the universe.
Worship is the symbol of the will power and the personality of man. The person who is in the midst of his own desires and instincts, if he would wish and decide to move toward God, that act is valuable. If not, the angels who have no desire [shahwah] and wrath [ghazab] are perpetually in the state of worship.
Worship makes the most unknown person on the earth the most renowned person in heaven.
Worship links the small island of man to the Spring of existence.
Worship means to take a glance at all of existence from above.
Worship means the blossoming of the dormant, mystical and spiritual faculties in man’s being.
Worship is a value acquired by man through resolution and will power. It is different from value attained because of family status or because of innate talents which are inborn and not acquired by choice.
Worship is the renewal of allegiance to God and the new fostering of spiritual life.
Worship is the barrier to sin and the extinguisher of its effects. It is remembrance and consciousness of God that prevents man from committing sin, and not man’s knowledge of the sin.
Worship is filling the vessel of the soul with the remembrance of God, which if it is filled with other than Him, is an act of injustice to the essence of humanity.
Worship is so valuable for the earthly ground in that entrance to this sacred ground without ritual purity is not permissible, such as entrance to the mosque, the Ka‘bah and Quds.
Worship and servitude to God is itself a value even if our supplications and requests are not granted.
Worship is expressed both in the state of happiness and sadness. When God gives the glad tidings of Kawthar to His Prophet (s), He exhorts him to pray:
“Indeed We have given you abundance. So pray to your Lord.”
God also enjoins prayer in facing difficulties and painful events:
“And take recourse in patience and prayer.”
Prayers that relieve difficulty
Whenever we encounter difficulty or want to ask for something, Islam enjoins us to pray to God particularly for the removal of our difficulty or the granting of our request. At this point, it is appropriate to mention one example of these prayers:
The prayer of Ja‘far at-tayyar
Ja‘far at-tayyar is a brother of H?adrat ‘Ali (‘a) who, during the emigration [hijrah] to Abyssinia, was able through his apt argument and behavior to draw the attention of King Negus and many others toward Islam, and to become the pioneer of Islamic propagation in the continent of Africa.
During the Battle of Mu’tah, he lost both his hands in the way of God and in lieu of hands God gave him two wings in paradise. He, therefore, became well-known as at-tayyar [the winged one].
When Ja‘far went to Medina from Abyssinia, the Prophet (s) said: “Would you like me to offer you a precious gift?” The people imagined that the Prophet (s) would give him a certain amount of gold or silver and thus they thronged forward in order to see the Prophet’s (s) gift. But the Prophet (s) said: “I shall teach you a prayer as a gift which, if you perform it daily, it will be better for you than the whole world and what is in it, and if you perform it everyday, every Friday, every month or every year, God will forgive your sins during the interval of the two prayers (even if it is an interval of one year).
Imam as-sadiq (‘a) said: “Whenever you have a problem or something to ask, supplicate after saying the prayer of Ja‘far (at-tayyar) [salah ja‘far] and it will be granted, God willing.”
This prayer has been narrated with reliable Sunni and Shi‘ah chains of transmission [isnad], and it has acquired the name, Iksir al-A‘zam and Kibriyyah al-Ahmar.
The manner of performing this prayer has been recorded in the first part of Mafatih al-Jinan under the deeds [a‘mal] for Friday after the prayers of the infallible Imams (‘a).
Of course, this prayer is one of the tens of recommended [mustahabb] prayers for the removal of difficulties which have been transmitted. Recently, a book entitled, Namaz-ha-ye Mustahabb [Recommended Prayers], has been written, which has mentioned approximately 350 recommended prayers with their particular names and manner of performance. This diversity itself attests to the importance of prayer, and a prayer for every occasion has been recorded.
The sanctity of prayer
The sanctity of prayer is such that it has been recommended that the time for the execution of some deeds such as making a vow [qasam] or giving testimony [shahadah] should be after the recitation of prayers.
In Surah al-Ma’idah 5:106, the Qur’an states:
“O you who have faith! The witness between you, when death approaches any of you, while making a bequest, shall be two fair men from among yourselves—or two from among others, if you are journeying in the land and the affliction of death visits you. You shall detain the two of them after prayer, and, if you have any doubt, they shall vow by Allah, ‘We will not sell it for any gain, even if it were a relative, nor will we conceal the testimony of Allah, for then we would indeed be among the sinners’.”
It is widely practiced nowadays that oath-taking ceremonies are done in the presence of the Qur’an and by putting the hand on the Qur’an, but the Qur’an itself in this regard states that taking an oath should be done after the performance of prayer!
The universality of prayer
Both in cosmic creation [afarinesh-e takwini] and in religiously legal precepts [dasturat-e tashri‘i], God has applied the loftiest and most perfect programs. For example, in the creation of mother’s milk, He has accumulated all the nutrients, which are needed by the infant.
If we take a glance at the creation of man, we realize that whatever is present in nature has also been placed in man.
If there is the sound of thunder in nature, there is the voice (shouting) in man.
If there are plants and herbs in nature, there is growth of hair on man.
If there are rivers in nature, there are veins both large and small in man.
If there are fresh and salty waters in nature, there are salty tears and fresh saliva in man.
If there are many minerals in nature, there are also abundant talents latent in man.
There is a poem attributed to H?adrat ‘Ali (‘a) which states:
ÃóÊóÒúÚóãõ Ãóäøóßó ÌõÑúãñ ÕóÛöíÑñ
æóÝöíßó ÇäúØóæóì ÇáúÚóÇáóãõ ÇáÃóßúÈóÑõ
O man! You imagine that you constitute a small body where in fact a big world is placed in you.
Prayer is also a divine handiwork in which God has somehow placed all values.
Which perfection is it that is valuable to man and cannot be found in prayer?
Remembrance of God is a value and it is the only means of giving tranquility to the heart, and prayer is a remembrance of God—
[Allah is greater].
Remembrance of the Day of Resurrection is a value and it prevents the commission of sin and corruption, and prayer is remembering the
[Day of Judgment].
To be in the ranks of the prophets, the martyrs and the righteous is a value, and in prayer we beseech God for us to be in the
“sirat alladhina an‘amta ‘alayhim”
[the path of those whom You have blessed].
We declare our aversion and disavowal [bara’ah] of the tyrants and deviants by saying:
“ghayri’l-maghzubi ‘alayhim wa la’z-zallin”
“such as have not incurred Your wrath, nor are astray”.
Justice which is the foremost of the values has been considered a necessary prerequisite for the leader of the congregation [imam al-jama‘ah]. Following the leader of the congregation in prayer is a valuable social principle, which stipulates that instead of obstinacy and individualism, we have to follow a just leader.
In selecting the congregational leader, qualities which are valued are always taken into account: the most just, the most knowledgeable, the most eloquent, etc.
Standing while facing the qiblah calls to mind many values. Mecca is the torture site of Bilal; the place of sacrifice of Isma‘il (Ishmael) (‘a); the birthplace of ‘Ali ibn Abi talib (‘a); the base of the uprising of al-Mahdi (‘a); the testing ground of Ibrahim (Abraham) (‘a); and the place of worship of all prophets and saints.
Everything is movement in prayer—every day and night; in bowing down [ruku‘], prostration [sujud] and standing straight [qiyam]; and movement in going to the mosque and the place of prayer. Therefore, do not be static, silent and solitary. Rather, always strive and move; of course, for the sake and in the way of God.
In prayer the spirit and soul of man is purged. Prayer removes the dust of pride and vanity because every night and day for many times man places the most sublime part of his body (forehead) on the ground, and prostration on the earth is better than on a stone because lowliness is placing oneself on the ground.
Prostrate on the ground and what grows in it provided that it is not edible so that you would not think of your stomach!
Prostrate on pure earth for traversing impure paths will not lead to purity and the Fountainhead of Purities!
Crying for fear of God is a value, and the Qur’an has praised prostration accompanied by weeping:
“(They would fall down) weeping in prostration.”
Prayer is a divine code of life which has been prescribed for us from the moment of birth till the point of death. When a baby is born, recite the adhan and iqamah in his right and left ears, respectively, as it is an admonition for prayer (when he grows up):
Íóíøó Úóáóì ÇáÕøóáÇóÉö
“Come to prayer”.
At the time of his death, you also bury him with the performance of the “prayer for the dead” [salah al-mayyit]. Throughout your life you should always be in a state of worshipping and glorifying God:
“And worship you Lord until certainty (or death) comes to you.”
Prayer is man’s union with nature. In determining the prescribed time for prayers particularly the dawn [subh] and noon [zuhr] prayers, you have to look at where the sun is; in order to determine the direction of the qiblah, we have to look at the stars; in performing the recommended prayers on auspicious days, you have to monitor the movement of the moon (in order to determine the exact day). In taking a bath and performing ablution, you have to utilize water, and in performing prostration [sujud] and dry ablution [tayammum], you have to touch the ground.
Which Wise Designer has designed this relation of the prayer with the sun, the moon, the stars, water, and the ground?
In one way or another, the other obligatory religious acts are also present in the prayer:
Like the person fasting, the person praying has no right to eat, drink and engage in sexual activity.
The Ka‘bah is the qiblah and the axis of activity of the person praying, just like a person performing Hajj.
Like someone engaging in jihad, the person praying is also engaged in a jihad—the greater jihad [jihad al-akbar] which is combat with the self [jihad an-nafs].
Prayer is itself the highest form of the enjoinment of good [amr bi’l-ma‘ruf] and the forbiddance of evil [nahyi ‘ani’l-munkar].
Migration [hijrah] is one of the most important values in our religion. H?adrat Ibrahim (Abraham) (‘a) migrated on account of prayer, bringing his wife and son to the Ka‘bah and saying:
“O Lord! I have settled part of my descendants in a barren valley, by Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may maintain the prayer.”
What is interesting is that H?adrat Ibrahim (‘a) does not say: “I made hijrah in order to perform Hajj pilgrimage.” Instead, he says: “Saying the prayer was my aim in hijrah.”
In any case, God has encapsulated all values in prayer, with prayer and for prayer.
If adornment and hygiene constitute a value (as they do), Islam thus enjoins:
“Put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer.”
That is, put on your clean and perfumed garments when going to the mosque.
At the time of prayer, women are also enjoined to wear their jewelry with which they adorn themselves. Even the issue of cleaning the teeth is given attention, and we read in the traditions that praying with cleaned [miswak] teeth is equivalent to praying 70 times without miswak. And it has been said: “Do not eat onion and garlic before going to the mosque” so as not to annoy others with the odor of your mouth and drive the people away.
In any case, this is the prayer of Islam, but our prayer is the prayer which we do not perform, or perform carelessly and incorrectly, or perform without being in congregation, or which we perform at its last moments!
The mosques whose custodians were once Ibrahim, Isma‘il and Zakariyya (Zechariah) (‘a), and the place where the mother of Maryam (Mary) had made a vow in asking God to let her child be its custodian, become places whose custodians in most cases are disabled, aged, sickly, uneducated, and sometimes even bad people! Why is it that being a custodian of the holy shrine of Imam ar-Rida (‘a) is an honor, but being a custodian of the House of God is not?!
Why should our mosques be such that anyone who comes inside will get sad, melancholic and indolent? Is the mosque a house of mourning? An assembly convened to pray for the dead and on whose door black banners should be hung? Of course, thanks be to God, in recent years a movement has been initiated in the mosques (in Iran) and most of them are now equipped with libraries and provide such other service-oriented activities as interest-free loan funds.
What a beautiful hadith it is, which states: “On the Day of Resurrection, these three shall complain against the people: The ‘alim [scholar] to whom the people would not refer; the Qur’an which was in the house but was not read; and the mosque to which the people paid no attention.
There are many thing that can be said about the mosque and recently, a book entitled, Sima-ye Masjid [The Visage of the Mosque] that explains the status of mosque in Muslim society has been published.
Nevertheless, in a nutshell, the mosque during the early period of Islam was the venue Muslims to gather to make decisions and conduct consultations, in acquiring knowledge and information; it was the base for combatants and strugglers on the Path [mujahidun]; the place to attend to the needs of the poor and sick; and the base for rising up against tyrannical governments and delivering fiery sermons against them.
It has been this same sublime status of the mosque that prompted Muslims throughout history to apply the best architectural designs in building them and to endow huge amounts of wealth for their administration so that they could keep on flourishing and thriving. ?