After reciting Tashahhud, Ta‘awwuz and Surah al-Fatihah, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) said that many people ask regarding prayer. Especially today, many people question prayer and God. In fact, it seems that there are organised attacks against God by atheists. People are being taken away from God. In such circumstances, even our people fall prey to such satanic thoughts and make them doubtful regarding prayer, God, and their faith.
Doubts Regarding Prayer
His Holiness (aba) said that in the face of trial or failure, those who are weak of faith or the less knowledgeable think that either their faith is false and there is no truth to it or that God will not have mercy on them and take them out of their sufferings; they feel that God is cruel to them due to their circumstances. They feel that despite having prayed, their circumstances are not improving.
His Holiness (aba) said that such questions and doubts arise in the minds of those who are more inclined to the world. Many such people write to His Holiness (aba) as well, expressing their negative opinions. Instead, one ought to reflect on themselves and evaluate how well they are fulfilling the rights of God, and what the standard of their worship is.
His Holiness (aba) said that today, he would speak about prayer and its philosophy, its etiquettes, our responsibility, the need for prayer and certainty in God in light of the writings of the Promised Messiah (as).
Prayer Must be Performed in Times of Comfort and Distress
His Holiness (aba) quoted the Promised Messiah (as) who said that it is due to the mercy of Allah that one is fearful during times of comfort just as he is fearful during times of distress. He who does not forget God Almighty during times of ease is not forgotten by God Almighty during times of hardship. However, those who spend their time of ease in enjoyment and only resort to prayer in hardship, their prayers are not accepted. When the punishment of God comes, then the doors of the acceptance of prayers are closed.
Truly pious are those who remain in the state of prayer before such punishment comes upon them, who gives alms, fulfils the commandments of God and is kind to God’s creation.
The Promised Messiah (as) further states that a tree is distinguished by its fruits in the same way that a pious person is distinguished by his virtues.
His Holines (aba) said that one should never forget God, and if one is fulfilling this right, then God Almighty says such a person from hardship. Our worldly engagements should not take us away from worshipping and praying to God Almighty.
Praying to God Requires Reverence
Whilst further elaborating on how one should beseech God Almighty, the etiquettes of prayer and how God Almighty has imparted these etiquettes to us Himself, the Promised Messiah (as) states that praying to God Almighty demands reverence. When people ask something of their king, they make sure to revere him. It is for this reason that we call upon the attributes of Allah and praise Him in Surah al-Fatihah. We call him worthy of all praise, Rahman (Gracious) and Rahim (Merciful). Rahim means that he does not allow for true effort to go to waste. Furthermore, we address God Almighty as the Master of the Day of Judgement, for He will be the Judge on that day.
Once we truly recognise God Almighty to be present, then we beseech him to show us the right path; a path that is straight. There is a path upon which people tread, but their efforts are wasted. On the other hand, there is another path upon which all the efforts of the individual are rewarded. Thereafter, we pray to be guided upon the path of those who have been rewarded. Furthermore, we seek protection from the path of those who have angered God Almighty and have gone astray.
The Promised Messiah (as) further states that when we pray for guidance to the right path, it includes all worldly and spiritual paths. For instance, a doctor cannot treat a patient without treading on the right path. Similarly, all professions and success require one to tread on the right path, and this can only be achieved if one has a relationship with Allah.
The Etiquettes of Prayer
When the Promised Messiah (as) was saying this, a person in the audience asked what need the prophets had for such a prayer. Why did the Holy Prophet (sa) have to offer such a prayer? He was always on the right path. The Promised Messiah (as) said that the prophets would offer this prayer to attain a higher rank. In fact, a believer will offer this prayer in the hereafter as well; just as there are no limits to God Almighty, there are no limits to the progress a believer can make.
His Holiness (aba) said that these are the principles and etiquettes of prayer that should be kept in view whilst praying. If one does this, then they are able to experience the closeness of Allah the Almighty and learn how to pray for their needs before Him.
Regarding prayer and its etiquettes, His Holiness (aba) quotes the Promised Messiah (as) who further states that prayer is an extraordinary thing. However, it is unfortunate that those who ask for prayers and those who offer prayers in this era are unaware of the ways to attain the acceptance of prayers. In fact, they are far removed from the philosophy of prayer. Some reject prayer from the get go, while others move away from prayer because they are oblivious to the methods of having their prayers accepted. Such people have brought others toward atheism. For successful prayer, one should be patient and steadfast and not think ill of God. It is often seen that when a supplicant is about to attain the object of his prayer, he tires and gives up. Owing to this, they reject prayer and eventually renounce their belief in God. They claim that if God actually existed, then He would have surely accepted the many prayers they offered. Such a person should ponder over their lack of faith and persistence, because that is the true cause of their failure. One must not be hasty and strengthen their faith.
One must Persevere and not Haste in Prayer
The Promised Messiah (as) states that one should never tire. The case of a supplicant is similar to a farmer who plants a seed in the ground. He plants a perfectly edible seed into the ground, yet no one can comprehend that this seed is now taking the shape of a growing plant. Within a few days, that seed begins to sprout. From the moment that seed was planted in the ground, it began its preparations to become a plant. An inexperienced child would question why the seed does not become a plant and produce fruits right away. On the other hand, the farmer, through his experience, knows that this process requires time. The same process is required for prayer. Prayer needs nourishment, but those who are hasty never see the fruit of their prayer.
In regard to the patience of a true supplicant, the Promised Messiah (as) states that many people never witness the result of their prayers because they are unaware of the stages of prayer that must be crossed. They become hasty and are not patient. God Almighty works gradually. It has never happened that a person marries today and has a child the next. Although God Almighty is All-Powerful, yet he has instituted laws to govern the world.
Everyone is aware of the many steps that must be taken to have a child, many of which are painstaking and difficult. Up until four months of pregnancy, nothing is certain. Doctors (according to the technology at that time) could only take scans after 12 weeks.
The Promised Messiah (as) further states that once a child is born, the mother is also reborn. A mother endures many pains to give birth to the child, and only after bearing pain and hardship does she find happiness in her child. In the same manner, in prayer, one must endure and be patient and not be quick to tire. After remaining persistent, one will witness the result of their prayers.
His Holiness (aba) said that only after evaluating oneself can one come to terms with whether they have prayed earnestly or not. The Promised Messiah (as) further states that one must continue to pray for a long period, after which God Almighty manifests to them. It has been observed that when a beggar remains steadfast at someone’s door, is persistent in his begging and emotional, he is able to convince even the most miserly person. Should a supplicant not be at least as persistent as such a beggar? God Almighty can never turn away a supplicant who is persistently beseeching Him.
A person who is hasty is always at a loss, and some even become atheists as a result. There is no power greater than God Almighty. He made the Arabs kings of the world, whereas before they were nothing. If one devotes themselves completely to God, then they can attain anything in the world.
The Promised Messiah (as) further states that it was the sincerity and loyalty of Abraham (as) that granted him the status that he attained. He prayed that a great prophet should emerge from among his progeny in Arabia. No one could tell how that prayer would manifest, but it was fulfilled with grandeur in the form of the advent of the Holy Prophet (sa).
His Holiness (aba) said that keeping this guidance in view, one should not only pray during hardship but also in times of ease and comfort.
The Link of the Body with the Soul in Relation to Prayer
Then, His Holiness (aba) quoted the Promised Messiah (as), who explained that prayer requires a bond between the body and spirit. He states that if prayer and other forms of worship like fasting are devoid of sincerity and honesty, then it is of no consequence. Many mystics and monks perform a great deal of rituals that cause them pain, however there are no results. They perform physical exercises and rituals that have no effect on their soul. For this reason, Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an:
Their flesh reaches not Allah, nor does their blood, but it is your righteousness that reaches Him. (The Holy Qur’an, 22:38)
In reality, Allah the Almighty is not pleased with an empty shell, rather He desires the crux. Prayers must not be empty, rather they must hold a true spirit supplication. The Promised Messiah (as) further states that now the question arises, what is the need for offering prayer when it is only the spirit behind it that reaches God? One could simply offer prayers in their heart with sincerity and there would be no need for ritualistic prayers. The answer to this is that those who cease bodily actions cannot employ their soul and spirit. On the other hand, if one only uses their body and physical means, they too are gravely mistaken. The body and soul are connected; if a person cries artificially, he will eventually become truly emotional, and if one smiles artificially, the one will eventually become happy. Similar is the case of prayer. If the body exhibits humility, the prayer will also embody that same spirit. An empty prostration is futile unless it is accompanied by true humility. It is for this reason that prostration is the pinnacle of prayer. Animals display this as well.
His Holiness (aba) states that the body also manifests what is being felt by the soul. If the soul is distressed, then the body also shows signs of fatigue and weariness. The Promised Messiah (as) further states that the physical and spiritual realms run in tandem. Therefore, it is necessary that whilst praying, one should demonstrate their humility through their actions. Even if at first it is artificial, yet it slowly develops into something sincere. As a result, one will not only go to God Almighty in a time of need, but will remain at God’s threshold all the time.
Sacrificing One’s Comfort to Attain Delight in Prayer
The Promised Messiah (as) further states all pleasure and comfort comes after pain. It is for this reason that the Holy Quran states:
Aye, surely there is ease after hardship. (The Holy Qur’an, 94:7)
Thus, if one does not find pleasure in prayer, they should evaluate whether they have endured hardship and pain for their prayers. One should be mindful of all the requirements of prayer and offer them on time. Furthermore, one should sacrifice their sleep for prayer.
His Holiness (aba) stated that sometimes, people do not put effort into their own prayers and think that their problems will be solved if they request others to pray for them. Such people do not even offer their five daily prayers regularly. In this regard, a son asked for the Promised Messiah (as) to pray for his father. In response, the Promised Messiah (as) advised that he should pray earnestly himself. If he prayed himself, only then would the prayers of the Promised Messiah (as) be of benefit to him.
The Promised Messiah (as) further states that when a person takes pain upon himself and forsakes the things that displease God, then such a person will be able to impact their soul. Such hardships endured for the sake of God will impact the soul, and this will allow for the soul to truly supplicate to God. Some people play instruments or dance around as worship. Although these things are enjoyable, they have no impact on the soul. Other nations are oblivious to this because they have not understood the true philosophy of prayer.
Furthermore, the Promised Messiah (as) states that Abraham was loyal and sincere to God, thus he was rewarded with a high rank. Sincerity to God requires a sort of death, and only after accepting that death can one be devoted to God. Idolatry is not limited to worshipping a tree or stone, rather, anything that impedes us from attaining the love of God leads to idolatry. Everyone has made idols within themselves, and it is only when one forsakes everything for God that they are able to free themselves from idolatry.
When Abraham (as) agreed to sacrifice his son for God Almighty, then God Almighty protected him from all sorts of pain. He was thrown into the fire but it could not burn him. All of this is the result of both the body and soul; there must be a connection, otherwise prayers devoid of this are in vain.
The Promised Messiah (as) further states that everything has its own time. One who tries to achieve something in a time that is inappropriate will certainly fall to failure. At the time of hardship, when one resorts to prayer, it is certainly possible that more trials come upon a person. The case of Moses (as) is a prime example of this. When he sought to ease the struggles of his people, they were increased manifold. Moses (as) advised his people to be patient, but they became even more restless. FInally, they were commanded to migrate. At that instance, the Pharaoh pursued them, and the people fell into despair thinking that they would be caught. However, Moses (as) had faith that his God was with him. They were made to cross the Nile River safely, and the Pharaoh met his end. This is the way in which Allah the Almighty helps His true supplicants. Nonetheless, before such help appears, one is subjected to trials that at times seem unbearable.
The Promised Messiah (as) states that one should be humble and supplicate to Allah the Almighty with pain and restlessness. In fact, praying with pain and emotion is a sign that one’s prayer will be accepted. Thus, one should not think ill of God and fall into despair. Rather, one should try to pray and supplicate with pain and humility even in times of ease and comfort, instead of only in times of hardship.
The Promised Messiah (as) states that a believer should always be active and not fall prey to laziness. One should be passionate about performing good deeds and excelling in virtues.
In the end, His Holiness (aba) said that we should pray for the Ahmadis in Pakistan and in other parts of the world such as Algeria who are facing cruelties and discrimination. His Holiness (aba) prayed that may Allah protect Ahmadis all across the world and nullify the attacks and efforts of the enemy.
Summary prepared by The Review of Religions.