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The Pillars of Islam

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 third part of the three-part series on the pillars of Islam.

Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol.II (pp.293-318)

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Salat Means Relationship between Man’s Servitude and God’s Providence

The Holy Qur’an mentions two gardens; one of these is the garden that is bestowed in this life and that is the delight of the Salat.

The Salat is not a burdensome tax but is a permanent relationship between man’s condition of servitude and God’s Providence. God Almighty has prescribed the Salat for the establishment of that relationship and has charged it with delight which serves to maintain the relationship. For instance, if a married couple do not find delight in their relationship, the relationship is likely to be disrupted. In the same way if there is no delight in Salat the relationship between the servant and the Master is disrupted. Supplicate behind closed doors that that relationship may be continued and may become a source of delight. The relationship between man’s servitude and God’s Providence is very deep and is full of light, the reality of which cannot be expressed in words. Until that delight is experienced man continues in a state which resembles animals. Even if that delight is felt only two or three times the worshipper experiences a taste of it, but he who has not even that much experience continues blind:

[Malfuzat, vol. VI, p. 371]

Istighfar [asking for forgiveness for one’s sins from God] means that the light has been obtained from God Almighty may be safeguarded and may be fostered. The Salat is prescribed for this purpose so that five times daily this light may be repeatedly sought from God. He who possesses insight knows that the Salat is a spiritual exaltation and that the only way of deliverance from spiritual ills is repeated supplication in Salat which is charged with earnestness and melting of the heart.

 [Malfuzat, vol. VII, pp. 124-125]

The believer should try to find delight in Salat, and if they cannot, they should supplicate God to be able to experience that delight.
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If a worshipper finds that he has lost the eagerness and delight that he used to experience in the Salat he should not become weary, nor be discouraged. He should seek to recover with great eagerness that which has been lost; the appropriate means for which are repentance, Istighfar and earnestness. Salat should not be neglected because of lack of delight in it, but should be on that account multiplied and intensified, as an alcoholic does not give up drinking because he cannot get drunk but goes on drinking till he begins to feel the effect and delight that he desires in liquor. Thus a worshipper who finds the Salat insipid should multiply the Salat and should not become weary of it. In the end his insipidity will be turned into delight. A person who starts digging a well in his search for water has to continue digging till he reaches water. Those who give up digging before water is reached deprive themselves altogether, but those who persist and do not become weary reach water in the end. To find delight in Salat what is needed is Istighfar, regular Salat, persistent supplication, eagerness, and steadfastness.

[Malfuzat, vol. V, p. 432]

The weapons for our achieving supremacy are Istighfar, repentance, knowledge of the faith, the upholding of the Majesty of God Almighty and observance of Salat five times a day. Salat is the key to the acceptance of prayer. Supplicate throughout Salat and do not be neglectful. Shun every vice whether it relates to the obligations due to God or to the obligations due to your fellow beings.

[Malfuzat, vol. V, p. 303]

In order to estimate the degree of a person’s fear of God it is enough to observe his regularity in Salat. I am convinced that a person who observes Salat diligently and is not held back from it by fear or sickness or worldly trials undoubtedly believes truly in God Almighty. But this degree of faith is bestowed mainly upon the poor. Few of the wealthy partake of this bounty.

[Izala-e-Auham, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 3, p. 540]


Both fasting and Salat are forms of worship; while fasting affects the body, Salat affects the soul.
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Both fasting and Salat are forms of worship. The fast affects powerfully the body and Salat affects powerfully the soul. Salat generates a condition of burning and melting of the heart, and is, therefore, a higher form of worship than fasting. The latter fosters the capacity for visions. 

[Malfuzat, vol. VII, p. 379]

Salat Purifies the Spirit and Fast Illuminates the Heart

This verse indicates the greatness of the month of Ramadan. The Sufis have recorded that this is a good month for the illumination of the heart. One who observes the fast has frequent experience of visions in this month. The Salat purifies the spirit and the fast illumines the heart. The purification of the spirit means that one may be delivered from the passions of the self that incites to evil; and the illumination of the heart means that the gates of vision may be opened so that one may be able to behold God.

[Malfuzat, vol. IV, pp. 256-257]

On one occasion I began to reflect on the purpose of the prescribed expiation of missing a fast and I conceived that the expiation is prescribed so that one may be bestowed the capacity and the strength to observe the fast. God Almighty alone can bestow such strength and everything should be sought from God Almighty. He is the All-Powerful; if He so wills He can bestow the strength for observing the fast on one who is afflicted with tuberculosis. The purpose of the prescribed expiation is that one may be bestowed the strength for the observation of the fast, and this can be achieved only through the grace of God Almighty. One should supplicate:

Lord! this is Thy blessed month and I am being deprived of its blessings. I know not whether I shall be alive next year, or would find the opportunity of observing the fasts that I am missing. Do Thou bestow upon me, by Thy grace, the strength that should enable me to observe the fast.

I am sure that one with such a heart would be bestowed the needed strength by God Almighty. If God Almighty so wished He would not have prescribed limitations for the Muslims as He had prescribed for earlier peoples; but the purpose of the limitations is the promotion of the welfare of the people concerned. According to me the principle is that when a person supplicates God Almighty with perfect sincerity that he should not be deprived of the blessings of the month of Ramadan, he is not so deprived, and if such a one should become ill during the month of Ramadan his illness becomes a source of mercy for him, inasmuch as the value of every action is determined by the motive that inspires it. It behoves a believer that he should prove himself brave in the cause of God Almighty.

He who is heartily determined that he would observe the fast but is held back from doing so on account of illness while his heart yearns after the observation of the fast would not be deprived of the bounty resulting from the observation of the fast and angels would observe the fast in his place. This is a subtle matter. If a person finds the observation of the fast difficult on account of the slothfulness of his spirit and imagines that he is not in good health, and that if he misses a meal he would suffer from various types of disorders, such a one, who imagines that a Divine blessing would sit heavy on him, would not deserve any spiritual merit. On the other hand, a person who feels happy at the approach of the month of Ramadan and is eager to observe the fast, but is held back by illness from doing so, would not be deprived of the blessings of Ramadan.

Many people merely seek excuses and imagine that as they can deceive their fellow beings they can also deceive God. Such people make their own interpretations and deem them correct, but they are not correct in the estimation of God Almighty. The field of such interpretations is vast and a person given to them might become accustomed to the performance of the Salat throughout his life in a sitting posture and may abstain altogether from observing the fast. But God is well aware of the motive and design of a person whose conduct is inspired by sincerity and devotion. God Almighty knows that his heart is eager and He bestows plentifully upon him, for the eagerness of the heart is valuable in the estimation of God.

Those who seek excuses rely on their interpretations, but such interpretations have no value in the estimation of God Almighty. On one occasion when I continued observation of the fast for six months I met a company of the Prophets in a vision who admonished me against imposing so much hardship on myself and directed me to desist. Thus when a person imposes hardship upon himself for the sake of God, He takes pity on him like the parents of a child and directs him to desist.

[Malfuzat, vol. IV, pp. 258-260]

The Purpose of Fasting is Purification 

Moderation in eating and drinking is the path to purification of the soul and spirit.
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I have already spoken of the Salat. Next in order is worship in the shape of the fast. It is a pity that some who call themselves Muslims at this time desire to modify these forms of worship. They are blind and are not aware of the perfect wisdom of God Almighty. These forms of worship are essential for the purification of the spirit. These people seek to intervene absurdly in a sphere of which they have no knowledge and devise false schemes for the improvement of a territory that they have not visited. Their lives are devoted to worldly affairs; of spiritual matters they have no notion. To be moderate in eating and drinking and to bear hunger and thirst are necessary for the purification of the spirit and promote the capacity for visions. Man does not live by bread alone. To discard all thought of eternal life is to invite Divine wrath.

It should be remembered that the fast does not mean merely that a person should abstain from food and drink over a certain period. During the fast one should be occupied greatly with the remembrance of God. The Holy Prophetsa occupied himself greatly with worship during the month of Ramadan. During that month one should discard one’s preoccupation with eating and drinking; and cutting asunder from these needs should address oneself wholly towards God. Unfortunate is the person who is bestowed material bread and pays no attention to spiritual bread. Material bread strengthens the body, and spiritual bread sustains the soul and sharpens the spiritual faculties. Seek the grace of God, as all doors are opened by His grace.

The Institution of Hajj

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Another form of worship is Hajj – the pilgrimage; which does not mean that a person should carry out the formality of the Pilgrimage by providing for his journey across the ocean with money lawfully or unlawfully acquired, and having repeated the prayers and formulas according to the directions of the servitors of the Ka‘bah, should come back and boast that he has performed the pilgrimage. The purpose that God Almighty has appointed for the pilgrimage is not achieved in this manner. The truth is that the last stage of the seeker’s journey is that, withdrawing himself altogether from the demands and desires of self, he should be completely engulfed by the love of God and complete devotion to Him. A true lover sacrifices his soul and heart; and the circuit of the House of Allah is a visible sign of such a sacrifice. As there is a House of Allah here below on the earth, so there is one in heaven. Until a person performs the circuit of the House above, his circuit of the House below is not truly performed. One who performs the circuit of the House below puts aside all garments, retaining only one of them to cover his body, but he who performs the circuit of the House above discards all garments altogether and becomes naked for the sake of God. The circuit is a sign of the lovers of God. They go round the Ka’bah as if they have no will of their own left and they are devoted wholly to Him.

The Paying of Zakat 

Another form of worship is Zakat. Some people pay the Zakat but take no care whether that which they pay as Zakat was lawfully or was unlawfully acquired. If a dog is slaughtered and at the time of its slaughter the name of Allah is pronounced upon it, or a pig is slaughtered in the same way, would the eating of the flesh of the dog or the pig become lawful? That which is unlawful will remain unlawful in all circumstances. The root of the word Zakat means purification. When a person who acquires something lawfully and out of it spends in the cause of the faith, the rest of it is purified. Many people are involved in these errors and they do not recognize the reality. All this must be discarded.

All the ordinances of Islam are means of salvation, but through their errors people go astray. One should not take pride in one’s good actions, nor be pleased with them until such sincere faith is achieved that no one is associated in one’s worship of God Almighty and one is enabled to worship righteousness all the time.

[Speeches to Jalsa Salana, 1906, pp. 20-21]

Endnotes

  1.   ‘Whoso is blind in this world will be blind in the hereafter.’— Bani Isra’il, 17:73
  2.   ‘The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down.’—Al-Baqarah, 2:186

 

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