The Promised Messiahas wrote over 80 books in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian. Excerpts of his collected works have been translated into English and organised by topic. The Review of Religions is pleased to present these excerpts as part of a monthly feature. Here we continue the second part of the three-part series on the pillars of Islam.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol.II (pp.293-318)
Supplication during Salat
Salat is the effective criterion of the piety of a worshipper. He who weeps throughout his Salat is bestowed security. As a child weeps loudly in its mother’s lap and is comforted by the love and compassion of its mother, in the same way he who supplicates God with humility and a melting heart in his Salat places himself in the lap of the compassion of Gracious Lord. He who finds no delight in the Salat has not yet truly tasted the pleasure of believing. Salat does not merely mean physical postures and movements. Some people get through the Salat quickly like the nibbling of a hen and then start long supplications, that is to say perform the Salat quickly as if it were a formal ceremony, whereas that is the time for supplicating God Almighty. Having emerged from it without any gain they start their supplications. Make your supplications during the Salat; make the Salat a means of supplication and prayer.
[Malfuzat, vol. II, p. 145]
Recitation of Al-Fatihah in Salat
Prayer is the purpose and spirit of the Salat. How can that purpose be really achieved except by praying during Salat. Such a worshipper is like one who is granted an opportunity of presenting himself before the Sovereign and submitting his petition, but he says nothing at the time and after he leaves the presence he presents his petition. That would not avail him anything. That is the case of the people who do not pray humbly and earnestly during the Salat. Make all your supplication during the Salat and observe it with all its due requirements. God Almighty has taught us a prayer at the very beginning of the Holy Qur’an and has also instructed us in all the requirements of prayer. The recitation of Surah Fatihah is obligatory in the Salat, which indicates that true prayer is offered only in the course of the Salat.
[Malfuzat, vol. III, p. 258]
Salat to be Offered in Arabic
The Salat may not be observed in any language except the language of the Holy Qur’an. But after the prescribed prayers and supplications you may supplicate God Almighty in your own vernacular also. You must not neglect the prescribed prayers. The Christians having departed from this principle have lost everything.
[Malfuzat, vol. III, p. 288]
What is the Salat? It is the supplication made humbly in the form of glorification and praise of God, proclaiming His holiness, seeking His forgiveness and calling down His blessings on the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). When you are occupied with the Salat do not confine yourselves only to the prescribed prayers like heedless people whose Salat is all formality and has no reality behind it. When you observe the Salat, then besides the prescribed prayers taught by the Holy Qur’an and by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), you should set forth your supplications in your respective vernaculars so that your hearts may be moved by your humility and your earnestness.
[Kashti Nuh, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 19, pp. 68-69]
Supplications may be Offered in One’s Own Vernacular
Make your supplications during your five daily prayer services. You are not forbidden to supplicate in your own vernaculars. The Salat is not properly observed except with concentration, and concentration cannot be achieved without humility, and humility is generated by a comprehension of that which is said. Therefore, eagerness and travail of the soul are generated more easily by supplication in one’s vernacular. But this does not mean that you should dispense with the prescribed prayers and offer the Salat in your own language. That is not what I mean. What I have in mind is that after the prescribed prayers you should also supplicate in your own language. There is a special blessing in the prescribed prayers. Salat means prayer. Therefore during the Salat pray for deliverance from the calamities of the here and the hereafter, and that your end may be good. Pray also for your wives and children. Be good and shun all evil.
[Malfuzat, vol. VI, p. 146]
The Philosophy of the Five Daily Prayers
What are the five daily prayer services? They are pictures of your different conditions during the course of the day. You pass through five conditions at a time of trial and your nature demands that you must pass through them. The first of these is when you are warned that you are about to be afflicted with a calamity. For instance, imagine that a warrant has been issued for your presence in court. This is the first condition which disturbs your serenity and contentment. This condition resembles the time when the sun begins to decline, as on the receipt of the court warrant. Corresponding to this condition, the noon prayer (Zuhr) has been prescribed, the time of which begins with the decline of the sun.
You experience the second condition when you are drawn close to the place of the calamity. For instance, when having been taken into custody under the warrant you are produced before the magistrate. At that time you are in terror and the light of security seems as if it were about to depart from you. This condition resembles the time when the light of the sun diminishes and the human eye can fix itself upon the sun and it becomes obvious that the time of its setting is near. Corresponding to this spiritual condition the afternoon prayer (‘Asr) has been prescribed.
The third condition sets in when you lose all hope of deliverance from the calamity. For instance, when after the recording of the prosecution evidence, which is designed to bring about your ruin, you are charged with an offence and a charge sheet is prepared. At this time you almost lose your senses and you begin to think of yourself as a prisoner. That condition resembles the time when the sun sets and hope of daylight comes to an end. The sunset prayer (Maghrib) is prescribed corresponding to this spiritual condition.
The fourth condition is when you are afflicted by the calamity and its deep darkness envelops you completely. For instance, when after the close of the evidence you are convicted and sentenced and are committed to the custody of the police. This condition resembles the time of nightfall, when everything falls into deep darkness. The evening prayer (‘Isha) is prescribed corresponding to this spiritual condition.
When you have spent a certain time in the darkness of the affliction, Divine mercy surges up and delivers you from the darkness, as the dawn succeeds the darkness of the night and daylight begins to appear. The dawn prayer (Fajr) is prescribed corresponding to this spiritual condition. God Almighty in view of your five changing conditions has prescribed five prayer services for you. You can thus understand that these services have been prescribed for the benefit of your soul. If you desire security against these calamities you should not neglect the five daily services, as they are a reflection of your inner and spiritual conditions. The Salat is a remedy for the calamities that may threaten. You know not what type of circumstances the new day might confront you with. So before the beginning of the day supplicate your Divine Master earnestly that the day may prove to be a source of benefit and blessing for you.
[Kashti Nuh, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 19, pp. 69-70]
Salat Protects from Sin
Salat is an instrument for delivery from sin. It is a quality of the Salat that it makes a person secure against sin and vice. So seek a Salat of that type and try to make your Salat such. Salat is the soul of bounties. The grace of God Almighty is received through the Salat. Then observe it duly so that you might become heirs to the bounties of God Almighty.
[Malfuzat, vol. V, p. 126]
Significance of Postures in Salat
What is the Salat? It is the submission of one’s humility and one’s weakness to God and to seek the fulfilment of one’s needs from Him. In the course of the Salat the worshipper sometimes stands before God with folded arms signifying his consciousness of the glory of God and his eagerness to carry out His Commandments; at other times he falls into prostration in complete humility and devotion and seeks the fulfilment of his needs. Sometimes like a beggar he praises Him from Whom he begs and proclaiming His greatness and His glory seeks to move His mercy and supplicates Him. A faith that has nothing comparable to the Salat is altogether empty…Salat means the love and fear of God and the preoccupation of the heart with His remembrance. That is faith. He who seeks escape from Prayer is no better than an animal. To eat and drink and sleep away the hours like an animal is not faith. This is the practice of the disbelievers…for him who desires to meet God and is anxious to reach Him the Salat is a conveyance by climbing into which he can arrive at his goal speedily. He who gives up the Salat, how shall he arrive?
Since the Muslims have abandoned the Salat or have given up observing it with the serenity and comfort and love of the heart, being neglectful of its true reality, Islam has begun to decline. The time when the Salat was observed properly was a great time for Islam, when it had become dominant in the whole world. Since the Muslims have given up the proper performance of the Salat they themselves have been abandoned. It is the Salat performed with heartfelt earnestness that delivers a person from all difficulties. It is my repeated experience that I pray for the resolving of some difficulty and while I am still occupied with the Salat God resolves the difficulty.
What happens in the Salat? One raises one’s hands in supplication and the Other listens to him well. Then a time comes when He Who listens speaks and responds to the supplicator. This is the situation in the Salat. The worshipper falls into prostration before God Almighty and submits his difficulties and his needs to Him. The result of true and real Salat is that soon the time comes when God Almighty responds to the supplicant and comforts him with His words. Can such an experience be possible without the true observance of Salat?
[Malfuzat, vol. V, pp. 253-255]
The Real Salat
Salat is truly so called when a sincere and holy relationship is established with God and the worshipper becomes so devoted to the pleasure of God Almighty and His obedience and so upholds his faith above all worldly values that he is ever ready to lay down his life in the cause of God. It is only then that it can be said that his Salat is worthy to be called by that name. So long as this condition is not established and the worshipper does not become a model of sincerity and faithfulness his prayers and other actions are without effect.
[Malfuzat, vol. VI, p. 240]
Salat, Supplication, and Certainty of Faith
Do not perform the Salat as a mere ceremony, but observe it with the burning and the melting of the heart and supplicate continuously in the Salat. It is the key to the resolving of all difficulties. In addition to the prescribed prayers and glorification supplicate much in your vernacular so that your heart should melt, and continue this effort till you arrive at that condition for that is the means of the achieving of all true objectives. All physical postures during the Salat should represent the condition of the heart also. When the worshipper stands in the Salat his heart should also be standing erect for God’s obedience; when he bows down the heart should also bow down; and when he goes into prostration the heart should also prostrate itself, which means that the heart should not let go of God at any time. When he reaches that condition he will begin to get rid of sins.
[Malfuzat, vol. VI, pp. 367-368]