By: Samsul Nizar
Professor and Head of STAIN Bengkalis
Prayer holds a central position within the Islamic faith, serving as a fundamental cornerstone of religious practice. The narration is attributed to the Prophet, who states that Islam is the fundamental essence of all matters, with prayer serving as its foundational pillar. This statement is recorded in the Hadith collections of Tirmidzi and Ibn Majah.
Similar to a residential structure, the absence of a load-bearing pillar might result in the structural failure of the house. The aforementioned principle can also be extended to the domain of religion. If the practice of prayer is not firmly developed, rather than merely performed, it could potentially lead to the disintegration of a servant’s religious beliefs. Prayer is a visible and mandated practice that has been endorsed and demonstrated by the Prophet. The individual said the following statement: “Engage in prayer in the manner that you observe me engaging in prayer” (Hadith narrated by Bukhari).
In contrast, authentic prayer is an internal process that serves as a conduit for engagement and communication between the worshipper and the Divine Creator. The internal dynamics of those serving in a religious context, wherein they experience personal development and derive satisfaction from their devotion to a higher power. The experience of enjoyment eludes discussion, description, logical analysis, and narration. The experience described may only be derived by individuals in servitude who exert efforts to attain the affection of the aforementioned entity, as well as those who are favoured by said entity. Prayer can be understood as a synthesis of both exterior and internal actions, which are harmoniously combined in a shared yearning for the divine.
Undoubtedly, the servant who derives pleasure from prayer is acutely attuned to the various components that contribute to its unfolding, encompassing:
First, the act of standing serves as a representation of the inherently intense and fervent qualities associated with fire. In light of this rationale, it is imperative to exercise restraint in order to prevent the combustion of genuine devotion through the manifestation of conceit and ostentation in religious practices. In the context of the caliphate, assuming an upright position during prayer serves as evidence of a devotee’s steadfastness in their devotion to the Divine and serves as a visible demonstration (tajalli) of Allah’s directive to fulfil the responsibilities associated with the caliphate and obedience. The following excerpt is a direct quotation from the Quran: “Stand before Allah (in prayer) with reverence” (QS. al-Baqarah: 283).
Second, Takbir is an element of glorifying the greatness of Allah and remembering one’s covenant. Allah reminds us: “And (remember) when your Lord issued forth from the tailbone (backbone) the descendants of Adam’s sons and daughters, and Allah bore witness to their souls (saying, “Am I not your Lord?” They replied, “Yes (You are our Lord), we bear witness.” (We did this) so that on the Day of Resurrection you will not be able to say, “We were ignorant of this at the time” (QS. al-A’raf: 172).
Protect oneself against the destructive properties of fire through the practice of istighfar. Assume the role of a humble servant seeking absolution from the Divine Creator. The experience of reciting the takbir evokes a sense of insignificance inside oneself. The sole perception is limited to the observation of His magnificence.
Third, the act of performing Ruku’ signifies the dynamic and energetic essence of the wind, thereby facilitating the process of harmonising and redirecting the wind’s influence towards the realm of divine love. The ability to regulate the movement of wind holds the potential to uphold the dignity of individuals as they serve a higher power. The concept of istiqomah, or steadfastness, is deeply rooted in the adherence to all of His teachings. Nevertheless, in instances where individuals are incapable of exerting control over their own emotions and impulses, they become susceptible to being influenced and manipulated, akin to a propeller being swayed by the force of the wind.
Fourth, the act of Prostrate (sujud) serves as a symbolic representation of the characteristics associated with water, permeating all aspects of worship and bestowing tranquillity and refreshment upon the natural world. The characteristics of water are perpetually influenced by external factors. A prostration is an act that signifies the acknowledgement of one’s subservience to Allah, evoking a sense of humility and insignificance in the face of His boundless mercy and might.
Fifth, the act of sitting can be seen as a representation of the inherent characteristics of soil. It serves as a reminder that one’s own existence will ultimately come to an end and return to its original source, which is the soil from where all events originate. When assuming a seated position, it is important to cultivate a heightened sense of mindfulness regarding the proximity of one’s own being to its original state and the eventual destination of eternal existence. Incorporate the Earth’s dimension and its spatial orientation (below) to foster an attitude of humility and a commitment to promoting charity towards the entirety of the natural world. It is important to maintain a clear understanding of the genesis, objective, and culmination of events. To avoid becoming an entity that loses its sense of identity as though it originated from the celestial realm.
Sixth, the salutation gesture represents a servant who always carries out the rahmatan lil ‘aalamin mission. Allah declares, “Muhammad is Allah’s messenger, and those who are with him are harsh with unbelievers but compassionate among themselves.” You see them bowing and prostrating themselves to seek Allah’s blessing and delight. They bear the marks of prostration on their features…” (QS al-Fath 29).
The meaning of lafadz atsar (traces of prostration) in the preceding verse need not be corporeal. Because the meaning of lafadz atsar focuses on commendable behaviour (morals) exhibited in life. In congregational prayer, the meaning of the imam’s invitation (command) to “close and straight” is not limited to the meaning of sharia (physical), but has a very profound significance for life guidelines, such as:
First, meetings provide significance for establishing unity. A unity that is bonded by a sense of religious and human brotherhood. There is no hostility or resentment present. Allah reminds us in His word, “Indeed, the believers are siblings. Therefore, reconcile with your companions and fear Allah so that you may find mercy” (Qur’an al-Hujurat 10).
If prayer teaches to meet as a form of unity, but “meeting” only occurs during prayer (in congregation), then the “meeting’s” significance is unable to leave an impression. Hostility is still strong, grudges are still imprinted, feuds are still fertile, injustice is still righteous, slander is still accustomed to disseminating, a sense of righteous conduct is still customary, and other variations exist. According to Tasawuf, this is detrimental to faith and the meaning of prayer. This is because obedience is not limited to prayer alone. It is a loss if the former prayer cannot be maintained. Because his genuine nature is all that will be revealed.
During prayer, distinctions in ethnicity, customs, race, and comprehension are dissolved by the imam’s recitation of the Takbir. Everyone follows the movements of the imam without exception. When the imam makes an error in prayer, the congregation acknowledges the error with decorum and courtesy. No one is critical of the imam. Therefore, the imam can direct the congregation in a perfect prayer. If the imam feels void, he will resign his position as imam with integrity and good grace. The congregation behind the imam steps forward to assume his position, allowing the congregational prayer to continue without disruption or conflict. Through congregational prayer, Islam teaches humans such exquisite manners.
Second, align (shaf) signifies aligning the intention to venerate Allah with the movements and lafadz taught by the Prophet Muhammad SAW. According to his saying, “Pray as you see me pray” (HR. Bukhari).
This is the explicit guidance provided by the Prophet in order to save the people. If the meaning of straight (shaf) in prayer is performed correctly, without the intention of showing off or seeking human acclaim, the results will be visible in life outside of prayer. Every action of life is a manifestation of the Du’aa’ Al-Iftitah, which is only readable by Allah. When this is effectively implemented, there is no betrayal, injustice, slander, revenge, mutual dishonour, arrogance, or other negative attitudes. When all of these conditions are met, it indicates that prayer has shaped character and self-defence. This is stated by Allah in His words: “Recite the revealed Book (Qur’an) and conduct the prayer. Indeed, supplication prevents evil and forbidden actions. And remember that Allah’s remembrance (prayer) is superior (to other acts of devotion). Allah is aware of what you do” (QS al-Ankabut 45).
Third, from takbir to salam, obey the imam’s instructions. There is neither profanity nor disobedience. If the imam is in error, the congregation should gently correct him without judging or deceiving him. The Imam must be prudent in carrying out his duties by contemplating the circumstances and accepting the congregation’s “admonition” when he makes mistakes or forgets. A knowledgeable Imam is aware of his duties, and a knowledgeable mother is aware of her son’s position. A civilised Imam and congregation must both possess knowledge. So exquisitely does Allah educate humans, and so eloquently did the Prophet demonstrate proper behaviour. The teaching procedure is designed to accustom humans to worshipping outside of prayer. The genuine quality of the right prostrate (former prostration) will be revealed. Similar to an inscription of servitude on stone, not limited to inscriptions on water or clouds.
If the imam and congregation do not observe the rules established by Allah and the etiquette exemplified by the Prophet, then the congregational prayer will be damaged (nullified) and reduced to mere external activity. This is due to the fact that hubris, envy, spite, slander, a sense of being the most righteous and religious, and other variants remain potent. If the meaning of prayer can be comprehended and imprinted on the self, this should not occur.
Without the proper knowledge and understanding, prayer (including congregational prayer) appears to be limited to meaningless and lifeless charity. After prayer, the servant’s demeanour and appearance reveal, among other things, that the tradition of blaming each other and finding fault (scapegoats) remains as strong as a favourite “delicious food.” In actuality, congregational prayer teaches manners. If you have not been able to tell the truth and build civilization, do not accuse each other.
When humans are unable to comprehend the meaning of prayer in their natural environment, prayer is restricted to physical activities that have no spiritual component. As a consequence, there is no correlation between the two dimensions and the formation of self-character. In actuality, prayer involves both corporeal (sharia) and spiritual (essence) actions. Only prayer that touches on sharia and the true and lasting essence will lead servants to appreciate the sweetness of communication with Allah the Most Great (makrifat). When this is attained, its traces will spread throughout human existence outside of prayer (life) and bestow mercy on all of nature.
Fourth, the recitation of iftitah is a pledge of submission, which is the fourth point. A commitment (promise) that must be kept. Every word sworn should serve as a “compass” for living one’s existence. This is because every pledged word is the substance of “servant clothing” that Allah, the All-Seeing, will observe. If the garments brought before Allah are attractive, clean, and fragrant, then glory will be achieved. However, if the clothes that will be used to confront Allah are filthy, unsightly, torn, and smelly, then they are a reflection of poor manners. Such is the sanctity of the oath that must be presented in all of life’s activities.
Fifth, the recitation of the prayer (al-fatihah) is a conduit of communication and hope between the servant and Allah the Most High. To accomplish His love, we must have a hope that is congruent with our practices. All of a servant’s actions and personality are coloured by their commitments and optimism. Its existence is not merely a meaningless recital. If the recitation of prayer is limited to words, then a parakeet is also capable of doing so. If the recitation is merely a melodious measure, then bird song is even more melodious. If the promise is not kept, then duplicity has begun to manifest itself. If the promise is misunderstood, it indicates the characteristics of a “parrot” who cannot comprehend what is being communicated.
In fact, such is the breadth and depth of meaning conveyed in the collection of prayers. With limited knowledge, the author only peels “a grain of dust” off the immensity of the edgeless pearl that is the secret of prayer. If Allah were to reveal the full significance of prayer, the entire natural world would be devastated in its pursuit. It is a tragedy for humans who are unable to comprehend and engage in (solo or congregational) prayer. Allah recalls this loss in His words: “So woe to those who pray, (i.e., those who neglect their prayers)” (QS. al-Ma’un: 4-5).
The word negligence in the preceding verse can be interpreted in two ways: (1) material negligence for servants who are hesitant or delayed in praying. Or (2) non-material negligence for servants who pray but are unable to uphold and implement all the values and essence of prayer (during and after prayer). Indeed, prayer furnishes the servant with clothing. When spiritual beauty emanates from the profundity of knowledge and attitude. The inhabitants of the heavens always anticipate this beauty, whereas the inhabitants of the earth do not care. Physical beauty is determined by the condition of the clothing worn on the body. It will dazzle the vision of earthlings, but will never be able to blind the inhabitants of the sky. Those who have self-respect and practise proper prayer are the only ones who will experience the warmth of His love and choose the correct response.
Wa Allahua’lam bi al-Shawwab.
Translated by Riska Saputra
Alumni STAIN Bengkalis