Significance of Physical Postures in Prayer

Significance of Physical Postures in Prayer (Afzalur Rahman) It is a pity that so much effort is being wasted in transcendental meditation to revive human consciousness (the soul) to the supreme reality of the universe. A cursory study of history shows that this technique was never really effective even in the old days and was only confined to a few hermits and rishis. It was an intellectual exercise of the mind which was practised by a very few individuals of very high calibre to quench their thirst for the Divine Union and was practically beyond the comprehension of the common man in the street. It is a mental exercise which quietens the mind so long as the person is in that state of meditation but has no permanent effect which can give an individual peace of mind in a practical way. Transcendental meditation without any conscious objective cannot bring permanent peace of mind. It is a negative approach to human problems and history bears witness to the fact that such intellectual and mental exercises have never achieved anything permanent. It has, however, a temporary effect. It is true that one experiences a soothing effect when in the state of transcendental meditation, but this effect is not confined to this method alone. Any kind of mental exercise in any form, will affect the body’s physiology and thereby cause changes in an electroencephalogram (E.E.G. or brain waves) and produce similar effects; but it is yet to be proved that such changes do produce any effect of a permanent nature. The human mind is affected by various kinds of creative mental exercises (based on the science of creative intelligence) but such exercises have long been confined to intellectuals or hermits among Hindus or Christians. They are beyond the comprehension of ordinary individuals. Moreover, mental exercises which provide some temporary comfort to an individual cannot be effectively used to solve the complicated problems of mankind. Above all, it is a mental exercise in a vacuum without any conscious objective or goal. One practises transendental meditation without any clear goal before him going from nowhere to nowhere and such an exercise cannot really be expected to produce fruitful and beneficial results of any permanent value. In the olden days, rishis and hermits did practise it, but they had a clear SIGNIFICANCE OF PHYSICAL POSTURES IN PRAYER 25 vision of their objective. They wanted to achieve nearness to their Creator through creative reflections (meditations). It was not an exercise in a vacuum, like modern transendental meditation but even this did not achieve very encouraging results for it remained an intellectual luxury of the few and was never considered a recipe for the ills of mankind. Now the question arises whether we need such mental exercises for fun, or momentary excitement and comfort, or something which may provide a real solution to our problems? Obviously mankind is in need of something positive, practical and realistic that may help to secure peace, and happiness at individual as well as at national level. People have lost peace of mind through over-indulgence in pleasures and neglect of their celestial and spiritual needs. A philosophy of life which can bring proper co-ordination and understanding between the physical and spiritual needs of man could solve many of the problems that face him today. Man has lost his relationship with the Creator and is now wandering around in the wilderness of abstract thinking in search of peace. Surely he can regain his peace of mind through re-establishing his link with his Creator. And the shortest route to renew their relationship is to open dialogue with Him through prayers. It seems very likely that there exists a very intimate relationship between the performance of prayer and Divine favours. Presumably the physical postures and movements of prayer have a deep significance and important function in revitalising and reigniting the potential of enlightenment and energy inherent in every man. Prayer is composed of four main postures or movements of the body, i.e., qiy’am, ruku, sajdah and qaadah. It is very important that these four movements in the prayer are performed exactly in the same manner as taught by the Messenger of God. We offer our prayer to God because the Holy Prophet told us to do so. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that it must be performed in its every detail in the way it was performed by the Messenger of God himself. Prayer is an obligatory duty and mere performance of it will no doubt absolve a believer of his duty to God, but if he wants to nourish and develop his self and soul, he must perform it in the way it was performed by the Messenger of God himself. The Holy Prophet laid great emphasis on the right performance of every act of prayer. Qiy’am must be performed properly; one must not bend forward or backward or lean sidewards but stand straight with eyes fixed at the place of sajdah and not looking around. Ruku must be moderate, neither too low nor too high but in line with the body as taught by the Holy Prophet. There must be a reasonable gap between ruku and sajdah and between the two sajdahs, as advised by the Holy Prophet. The importance of the proper performance of each part of prayer is emphasised by the Holy Prophet. Anas reported God’s Messenger as saying, “perform the bowing and the prostration properly, for I swear by God that I .26 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS can see you behind me”. According to Abu Masud Al Ansari the Messenger of God said, “A man’s prayer does not avail him unless he keeps his back steady when bowing and prostrating himself.” Abu Qatada reported the Messenger of God as saying, “The one who commits the worst theft is he who steals from his prayer.” When asked how one could steal from his prayer, he replied, “By not performing his bowing and prostration perfectly”. There are details of qiy’am, ruku and sajdah in the hadith to help the believers to offer their prayer perfectly. According to A’isha, “God’s Messenger used to begin prayer with takbir and the recitation of Surah Fatiha. When he bowed, he neither kept his head up nor bent it down, but kept it between these extremes; when he raised his head after bowing he did not prostrate himself until he had stood erect; when he raised his head after prostration he did not prostrate himself again until he was in the proper sitting position.” If there is any slackness on the part of a believer in performance of any part of prayer, his prayer becomes void and he does not gain anything from it. According to Abu Hurairah, a man entered the mosque when the Messenger of God was sitting in it and offered his prayer. He then came and said, “peace be upon you” and God’s Messenger replied, “peace be upon you. Go back and offer your prayer, for you have not prayed.” He returned and prayed, then came and said, “peace be upon you.” The Messenger of God replied, “And peace be upon you. Go back and pray again, for you have not prayed.” On the third or fourth occasion he said, “Teach me, Messenger of God.” So he said, “When you turn to the qibla and say, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ then recite a convenient portion of the Qur’an; then bow and remain quietly in that position; then raise yourself and stand erect; then prostrate yourself and remain quietly in that position; then raise yourself and sit quietly.” This hadith confirms our assumption that performance of each part of prayer properly and perfectly as taught by the Holy Prophet is essential. This great emphasis on the proper performance of prayer, even in minute details, is a testimony to the fact that there is a close relationship between the various postures and movements in prayer and the acquisition of Divine favours and enlightenment. The Holy Prophet emphasised again and again the deep significance of the actual performance of the different parts of prayer. It must therefore be performed exactly in the way it was taught by the Holy Prophet, otherwise it will not be a prayer but an exercise of the body performed to please yourself or just an habitual act. There seems to be an intimate relationship between the movements of prayer and Divine blessings. If it is offered perfectly, then it helps man to benefit from his inner potential energy in the development of his self and his soul. In daily prayer, God has given man the shortest and the quickest method of obtaining His Grace and Blessings. People in the past have spent ages, and SIGNIFICANCE OF PHYSICAL POSTURES IN PRAYER 27 sometimes, all their lives, to obtain a glimpse of His Glory and many have failed and died in the wilderness of disillusionment. A very few have received some form of enlightenment after years of hard and strenuous effort. People have starved themselves to annihilate their physical serf in order to strengthen their soul and receive Divine enlightenment, but without success. Some have spent all their lives with very little food and water in the jungles and in the valleys of mountains in the hope of rekindling and rejuvenating the dying light in their souls but with no, or only partial, success. Prayer is a wonderful gift of God. There is no need in Islam to go to the mountains or jungles to kill your physical self in order to obtain dhyan (unbroken concentration) and through these forms of self-annihilation to reach for salvation. Prayer provides all the essential requisites for preparing the mind and transforming it into an extraordinary state capable of receiving Divine Light. It provides physical as well as mental exercise in such a balanced way that neither is ignored or over-emphasised. This harmonious functioning of body and mind at the correct level and in the most balanced way is achieved only through prayer. All the movements of the body from the standing position to the prostrating position, are the expression of the extreme humility of the body before the Supreme Being. It is, in fact, total submission of the physical self before the Supreme Authority. Recitation of Divine words and praises of God in prayer have a cumulative effect on the mental powers of man. And in this process of submission of the body and the mind to the Divine Will through the synchronisation of movements and recitation of the Qur’anic verses in prayer, the spiritual power of man becomes stronger and gains full control over the physical self and gradually lifts it up to the Supreme Being. This process of the total submission of the body and the mind before the Ultimate Authority is explained in the words of the Holy Qur’an: “When you threw (a handful of dust), it was not your act, but God’s.” (8:17). The action of the Holy Prophet in throwing stones at his enemies was entirely in obedience to the Command of God and there was no personal motive or any realisation of his own physical self. In fact every action of the faithful servants of God, performed in obedience to His Command, can be ascribed to God Himself. According to Abu Hurairah, the Holy Messenger said: “God says, ‘My servant becomes closer to Me by performing those deeds which are obligatory on him. And he gets close to Me through constant observance of optional (nafila) prayer until he becomes My beloved. When he becomes My beloved, I become his ears through which he hears, his eyes through which he sees, and his hand with which he holds, and his feet with which he walks.” 28 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS This hadith shows that all the powers of his body and mind come under the guidance of God and man attains very close relationship with his Lord. This harmonious working of the body and the mind helps in concentrating and thereby activating the latent energies of the physical self. This process gradually transforms the centrifugal (out-going) forces operating in mind and body into centripetal (inward-going) and unifying forces which lift man from the world of matter into the world of spirit and show him glimpses of the boundless spiritual world. In the course of the transformation of the concealed energies of the physical self into active unifying forces, the mind is slowly but surely released from the limitations of the physical self and is then able to conceive and grasp the meaning of the manifestations of the Supreme Being. At this stage, man is fully prepared and ready, provided he maintains the standard of performance of his prayer, to receive the blessings and favours of the Supreme Power. In other words, he has reached the stage where he is in a position to establish close communion with God. And why not? After all, man represents the two important aspects of God’s Creation, as stated by the Holy Qur’an in these words: “That which I have created with both My Hands.” (38:75). “Both hands” refers to the two aspects of God’s Creation. He has a physical body, which makes him one of the animals, and he has a soul, which makes him supreme over all other creation, including angels. When he is at his best in prayer, he leaps towards his spiritual world and establishes close contact with his Lord. And this is confirmed by a hadith, according to which a Muslim achieves audience with God (hudhur) in prayer: “Prayer is Miraj of the believers.” Muslim jurists have taken this hadhur to mean the presence of angels in prayer. This may be explained in another way. The harmonious working of body and mind helps to awaken the spiritual or super-sensory powers in man. The greater the harmony between the former two forces of man, the stronger the awakening of the super-sensory power in man. The proper balance between the triangular forces of body, mind and spirit acts like an electrical wire, which transfers the necessary electrical current from the main generating station to the electrical lamp. Just as it is unthinkable to transfer electricity direct from the main power house to a small electric lamp, similarly it is inconceivable to receive Divine light or communion with God without proper harmony between the aforesaid forces. It may, therefore, be said that an harmonious functioning of the triangular forces in man is absolutely necessary before any progress can be made in this direction. Unless body, mind and the soul are properly functioning in SIGNIFICANCE OF PHYSICAL POSTURES IN PRAYER 29 harmony, it is not possible for man to rekindle his soul from the light of the Power of God or to achieve any sort of close communion with Him. People have in the past adopted various methods to achieve this harmonious functioning of the triangular forces within the self but have often taken years for very little or partial success. Islam has given man a very short but effective recipe in the form of prayer to achieve the required harmony between the triangular forces within him. Just study the form and the words of the prayer and how it is performed, and you will notice the wonderful combination it provides for body, mind and soul which no other religion or system has yet suggested. This process of the activation of spiritual or super-sensory powers in man can also be explained in this way. Man is a psychosomatic organism — he has a body, which is the external part of him and a mind, which is the internal part of him. His body is composed of matter which, in the ultimate physical analysis, consists of atoms. His mind represents the entire world of ideas, beliefs, hopes, fears and aspirations. All these belong to the world of consciousness, i.e., the inner side of man. This consciousness (mind) of man play a vital role in relating the soul of man to his environment. In other words, it is a vital factor in relating spirit to matter. There are thus two worlds in man: the physical, represented by body and, the spiritual, represented by mind. The latter belongs to the invisible world which exists side by side with the visible world disclosed by perception. The latter is dimensional while the former is extra-dimensional. Internally man belongs to the invisible world, that is to say, his soul or spirit belongs to that world, externally he belongs to the visible world, that is to say, his body belongs to that world, but through consciousness man is related to both the worlds. If a man looks within his self he moves towards higher levels of consciousness and a deeper understanding of spiritual values. If, on the other hand, he devotes himself to the external world of matter, he tends to move away from the higher spiritual values to the lower values of the visible world. Regular prayer helps to attain the right equilibrium between the spiritual and the material worlds of man. He lives in the world of matter, works in it for his livelihood and satisfies all his material needs, but, at the same time, he keeps his link with the spiritual world and further strengthens it. Prayer enables him to develop and widen his perception of the extra-dimensional spiritual world to such an extent that he is able to perceive and understand the things of a higher level of consciousness which he could hardly visualise before. Establishment of prayer will strengthen the extra-dimensional powers of man to such a degree that he will be able to establish close relationship with the Ultimate Power. It must, however, be emphasised that this link cannot be maintained without the establishment of regular prayer. Prayer is the means as well as the 30 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS end. It helps man to establish and maintain his link with God. If the institution of prayer or its proper performance is lost, the Irak with the spiritual world will automatically be cut off. Man has not yet known any other effective means of establishing and then maintaining his relationship with God. It is like a wire, as explained before, connected with the main generator. As soon as the wire is disconnected from the main source of power, the light goes off, and all is darkness again. This wire is prayer. Another way of putting the same experience is this. Prayer and the Divine words and phrases recited during the various postures of prayer do have a tremendous radionic effect on the physical as well as spiritual powers of man. The discovery of the Delaware Radionic Camera has shown us some wonderful results in this connection. Unlike ‘Classical science’ which studies matter in its secondary state, that is to say its sensorily perceptible state, radionics is concerned with matter in its primary state, or the fourth dimensional state, the presence of which cannot be detected through the agency of the five senses. The radionic technologist, like the electrical technologist, knows a little about the behaviour, but virtually nothing about the essential nature, of the energy which to some extent he is able by means of his instruments to tap. They took a photograph at the Delawarr Laboratories with a radionic camera of a water tap and then took another picture with the same camera after the water was blessed by the Rev. P. W. Eardley. The picture of the water tap after it was blessed was entirely different from that of the first picture of unblessed water. The pictures show that the blessing ceremony has done something to the water which immediately differentiates it from unblessed water. This effect of blessing on things or of prayer on man cannot be detected through the agency of the five human senses. But certainly Divine words used in blessing or in prayer do have their effect on things and human beings. The existing media for obtaining information about man are very much limited and do not help us much in understanding things or phenomena which fall beyond the scope of the human senses. But lack of knowledge of something does not necessarily mean it does not exist. The Divine words spoken in prayer produce a radionic effect on man. They produce imperceptible energy in the human body which assists in activating the consciousness (i.e., the mind) of man to such an extent that he becomes spiritually conscious of God. The human mind is freed from the chains of the physical body and soars high up in the.world of spirit. It gradually opens up invisible horizons of the spiritual world to the human mind which were quite unknown to it before. This is the first step to nearness to God. As a believer attains perfection in the performance of prayer, he is able to travel through unknown spiritual worlds and unveil some of the mysteries of this realm and gradually establish close communion with his Creator. In other words, prayer SIGNIFICANCE OB PHYSICAL POSTURES IN PRAYER 31 sharpens the extra-dimensional powers of the mind to such an extent that it becomes capable of receiving information which was far beyond its comprehension before. Thus prayer, through multifarious ways beyond human comprehension, acts and reacts on the human mind until the latter is enlightened spiritually with the Nur (light) of the Universe. As all men do not possess similar or equal power, their personal experiences may vary considerably. Each man gains this experience according to his own internal as well as external powers. But regular prayer does provide opportunities to every believer to develop his latent energies within his self according to his potentialities and thereby establish his link with God. The greater the perfection in the performance of prayer, the closer the relationship with God. Communion with the Divine Being is attained when prayer is performed perfectly and properly in body, mind and soul as instructed by the Holy Prophet. This is why the Holy Prophet said that prayer was a mi’raj for believers. It provides an opportunity to believers to have a direct and close relationship with God as did the Holy Prophet during the night of the mi’raj. This is also explained by another hadith when the Holy Prophet said: “When you perform prayer, think that you are standing in front of God and seeing Him with your eyes. And if it is not possible for you to see Him, at least think that He is seeing you.” When one achieves this mi’raj in prayer, he is bound to rise far above the physical barriers of this corporeal world and enter into the world of the unknown, experiencing new and wonderful things which he could never think of in his ordinary state of mind. The Companions of the Holy Prophet often experienced this in their prayer.