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, The Promised Messiahas elaborates on the true philosophy behind the purpose and acceptance of prayer. This is the third part in a four-part series.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol.I, pp. 210-217.
Four Reasons for Obligatory Prayers
It is also worthy of note that the prayer which has been made obligatory upon Muslims in the Holy Word of God has been prescribed for four reasons. The first is, so that by turning to God Almighty at every time and in every condition, one should be firmly established on the Unity of God, inasmuch as supplicating Him is to acknowledge that God alone bestows one’s objective upon one. The second is, that faith might be strengthened by the acceptance of prayer and the achievement of the objective. The third is, that if Divine favour is bestowed in any other way, knowledge and wisdom might be increased. The fourth is, that if one is informed of the acceptance of prayer through a vision or revelation which is fulfilled, the understanding of the Divine might be promoted and understanding might grow into certainty and certainty into love and through love there might be deliverance from every sin and a cutting asunder from everything beside God, which is the fruit of true salvation.
—Ayyam-us-Sulh, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 14, p. 242
Acceptance of Prayer is a True Means of God’s Recognition
As we have stated already, Muslims have been urged in Surah Fatihah to occupy themselves with prayer and have been taught the prayer:1
And it has been made obligatory that this prayer is to be offered on five occasions every day. It would therefore be a great mistake to deny the spirituality of prayer. The verdict of the Holy Qur’an is that prayer comprises a spirituality and that in consequence of prayer a grace descends which bestows the fruit of success in diverse forms.
Thus every just person can understand that as despite the admission of determination, it is the way of Allah that in hundreds of matters effort and endeavour produce results, in the same way, the effort that is put forth in the form of prayer is not wasted. At one place in the Holy Qur’an, God Almighty has appointed it as a sign of His recognition that He hears the supplication of distressed ones, as it is said:2
As God Almighty has appointed the acceptance of prayer as a sign of His existence, how can any sensible person imagine that prayer does not result in visible signs of acceptance and that it is only a formal matter which has no spirituality in it? I consider that no one having true faith can be guilty of such disrespect. God, the Glorious, says that as by the contemplation of the creation of heaven and earth, the true God is recognised; in the same way, by observing the acceptance of prayer, faith in God Almighty is created. Then if there is no spirituality in prayer, and no obvious grace truly and in fact descends in consequence of prayer, how can prayer be such a means of the recognition of God Almighty as are heaven and earth and heavenly bodies? Indeed the Holy Qur’an shows that the best means of the recognition of God is prayer and that it is only through prayer that the complete and perfect understanding of the existence of God and His perfect attributes is obtained and that it cannot be obtained in any other way. It is prayer which, like a flash of lightning, pulls a person out of the pit of darkness and brings him into the open atmosphere of light and makes him stand before God Almighty. Through prayer thousands of the wicked are reformed and thousands of the corrupt are purified.
—Ayyam-us-Sulh, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 14, pp. 259-260
Divine Determination and Acceptance of Prayers
When the grace of God Almighty approaches, He provides the means of the acceptance of prayer, and a melting and a burning is created in the heart, but when it is not the time for the acceptance of prayer a sense of satisfaction and a turning to God are not generated in the heart. Whatever effort one might make, one’s mind pays no attention. The reason is that sometimes God Almighty accepts prayer and sometimes desires to enforce His determination. For this reason, till I see the signs of Divine command I have little hope of acceptance of prayer and reconcile myself to His determination with greater pleasure than I derive from the acceptance of prayer inasmuch as the fruits and blessings of being pleased with His determination are much greater.
—Malfuzat, vol. 1, p. 460
It is a truth that he who does not do good deeds for the acceptance of his prayer does not pray, but tries God Almighty. Therefore, before making supplication it is necessary to put forth every effort and that is the meaning of this prayer. First a supplicant should check up on his beliefs and actions for it is the way of God Almighty that reform comes in the shape of means which he makes available in some form or another.
—Malfuzat, vol. 1, p. 124
Prayer is a Kind of Death
There is a proverb in Punjabi: ‘He who asks dies a death, so die and then ask.’ The meaning is that it is an afflicted one who prays and that prayer is a form of death. If a person drinks a drop of water and claims that his great thirst has been slaked, he utters a falsehood. His claim would be established if he were to drink a bowl full of water. When prayer is offered in great tribulation so that the soul melts and flows at the threshold of the Divine, that is true prayer and it is God’s way that when such a prayer is offered, He accepts it or responds to it in some other manner.
—Malfuzat, vol. IV, p. 340
When you stand up in prayer, you should know it for certain that your God has the power to do all that He wills. Then your prayer will be accepted and you will behold the wonders of God’s power that we have beheld. Our testimony is based on seeing and is not a mere tale. How should the supplication of a person be accepted and how should he have the courage to pray at the time of great difficulties when according to him he is opposed by the law of nature, unless he believes that God has power over everything? You should not be like that. Your God is One Who has suspended numberless stars without any support and Who has created heaven and earth from nothing. Then would you think so ill of Him as to imagine that your objective is beyond His power? Such thinking will frustrate you. Our God possesses numberless wonders, but only those observe them who become wholly His with sincerity and fidelity. He does not disclose His wonders to those who do not believe in His powers and are not faithful to Him.
—Kashti Nuh, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 19, p.21
Three Conditions for Acceptance of Prayer
So far as God Almighty has bestowed upon me the knowledge of prayer I conceive that there are three conditions for the acceptance of prayer.
First, a supplicant should be perfectly righteous, for only that one is acceptable to God Almighty who makes righteousness his habit and adheres firmly to all the paths of righteousness and who is trustworthy and pious and true in his promises and is filled with the personal love of God.
Secondly, his resolve and attention should be so firm and strong that he should be ready to lay down his own life for the revival of another and should be ready to enter himself into the grave to pull another out of it. His accepted servants are dearer to God Almighty than an only child, who is also handsome, is dear to its mother. When God, the Merciful and Benevolent, sees that one who is accepted of Him and is true to Him has, for the sake of saving the life of another, subjected himself to spiritual labours and disciplines to a degree that his own life is in danger, He finds it disagreeable that He should let him perish in that condition. Then for his sake He forgives the sin in respect of which the other person had been seized. If he is afflicted with a fatal disease or is in the grip of some other calamity, then by His power He creates means for his deliverance. Very often it happens that He is determined to ruin or destroy a person, but through the latter’s good luck someone who has a good standing before God intervenes with his earnest supplications so that the record that had been prepared and completed for his chastisement has to be destroyed, for the matter now is transferred from being concerned with a stranger to being concerned with a friend. It cannot happen that God would put His friend to trouble.
Thirdly, there is a condition which is more difficult to comply with than all other conditions, inasmuch as compliance with it is not in the hands of those who are accepted of God, but is in the hands of the person who desires to have a supplication made on his behalf. That condition is that he should be desirous of supplication being made for him with the utmost sincerity and in perfect trust and certainty and perfect goodwill and submission. He should decide in his heart that even if the supplication is not accepted this would not affect his trust and goodwill. His request for supplication should not be as a trial but should be made in full trust. He should fall most humbly at the door of the Being from whom he is seeking supplication and, so far as it is possible for him, he should establish a close relationship with Him by spending his money and rendering service and every obedience whereby He should enter his heart. Along with all this he should think well of Him and should regard Him as possessing righteousness of the highest degree and should regard it as disbelief to entertain a single thought inconsistent with His holy estate. He should prove his full belief in Him through every kind of sacrifice. He should not regard any other in the world as His equal and should be devoted to Him so much as to be ready to lay down his life and his property and his honour for Him and should neither utter nor let his heart entertain anything derogatory of Him from any point of view. He should establish it to his satisfaction that he believes fully in Him and is His follower. With all this, he should wait with patience and even if he should be frustrated fifty times in achieving his objective, he should not let his belief and goodwill be affected in any manner.
Such people have very delicate sensibilities and they can conclude from a person’s countenance the degree of his sincerity. They are tenderhearted, yet they are self-sufficient. They have no regard for any arrogant, selfish and hypocritical person. Only those people can derive any benefit from them who obey them to a degree where they are ready to lay down their lives for them. A person who thinks ill of them at every step and entertains objections in his heart and lacks full love and goodwill derives no benefit from them and only ruins himself.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Part V, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 21, pp. 226-228
God Treats Favourites as Friends
It is true that most of the prayers of those who are accepted of God are accepted. Indeed, their great miracle is the acceptance of their prayers. When their hearts are sorely distressed at a time of misfortune and in their distress they turn to God, at that time their hand becomes, as it were, the hand of God. God is a hidden treasure. Through His perfect favourites He displays His countenance. God’s signs are displayed when His favourites are persecuted. When they are persecuted to the extreme that is an indication that the sign of God is near and indeed it is at the door. No one loves his son so much as God loves those who become wholly His. He displays His wonders for them and manifests such power on their behalf as if a sleeping tiger wakes up. God is hidden and these are the people who make Him manifest. He is behind a thousand veils and these are the people who display His countenance.
But it needs to be remembered that it is a wrong notion that every prayer of those who are God’s favourites is accepted. The truth is that the dealing of God Almighty with them is like that of a friend; sometimes He accepts their prayers and sometimes He imposes His will upon them. That is what happens in friendship. At one time, a friend accepts what his friend proposes and acts accordingly, and at another time makes him accept what he himself wishes. At one place in the Holy Qur’an God promises acceptance of the prayers of believers saying:
That is, Pray to Me, I shall accept your prayer.
And at another place instructs them to accept His determination with pleasure. It is said:
By reading both these verses together, one would know what is the way of Allah in respect of prayers and what is the relationship between the Lord and a servant.
—Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 22, pp. 20-21
1. Guide us on the straight path.
2. Or, Who answers the cry of a distressed person when he calls upon Him?
3. And We will try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and fruits; but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. Who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say, ‘Surely, to Allah we belong and to Him shall we return.’