18 PRAYER (Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) (A brief review of booklets of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan K. C. S. I., called Prayer and its Acceptance and The Principle of Interpretation. This is followed by a discourse on Pleasure in Prayer by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) Syed Sahib sets forth his belief that the acceptance of prayer does not mean that the supplicant should be bestowed what he asks for. If this should be the meaning of the acceptance of prayer two difficulties would be encountered. The first difficulty is that thousands of supplications that are made most humbly and earnestly are not fulfilled which means that the prayer has not been accepted, while God has promised acceptance of prayer. The second difficulty is that which is to happen is determined and also that which is not to happen. Nothing can happen contrary to that determination. If acceptance of prayer means granting the request made, then the Divine promise: “Call on Me, I shall respond to you” (40:61), is not fulfilled concerning supplications the granting of which is not determined. According to this interpretation, the general promise of acceptance of prayer will be falsified inasmuch as only those requests are granted the fulfilment of which is determined, and yet the promise of acceptance of prayer is general and is not subject to any exception. Some verses indicate that those things which are not determined will not be granted and some verses indicate that no supplication is rejected and that all are accepted. The verse: Call on Me, I shall respond to you, shows that God has promised the acceptance of all prayers. Thus, the only way of reconciling this contradiction between the verses that the acceptance of prayer should be interpreted as meaning the acceptance of an act of worship, that is to say, that prayer should be interpreted as a type of worship concerning which threre is a Divine promise of acceptance when it is offered in the sincerity and earnestness of the heart. The acceptance of prayer is, therefore, no more than that it earns merit by being regarded as a type of worship. If the bestowal of something has been determined and it is also prayed for, it is bestowed not because of the prayer, but because it had been determined upon. The great benefit of prayer is that when at the time of prayer the heart is fixed upon the greatness of God and His limitless power that idea overcomes all the apprehensions which were the cause of restlessness and the supplicant REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 19 experiences patience and steadfastness. This condition of the heart is produced by worship and this is the acceptance of prayer. Syed Sahib observes that those people who are unaware of the reality of prayer and of the wisdom that is inherent in it can say that if that which is not determined cannot happen, then prayer is of no use. That is to say, that which is determined will happen in any case whether one offers a prayer in respect of it or not and that a thousand prayers will not help where the matter has not been determined, thus prayer is in vain and useless. In answer to this Syed Sahib says that to supplicate for help in the time of destress is a characteristic of human nature and a person supplicates on account of his natural characteristic without thinking whether what is being supplicated for will happen or not. On account of this characteristic of his nature he has been told to supplicate to God for whatever he desires. This summary of the view held by Syed Sahib indicates that his belief is that prayer cannot be the means of achieving one’s goal, nor has it any effect on such achievement. If by prayer the only purpose of the supplicant is that through his supplication his request should be granted his purpose is vain, inasmuch as no prayer is needed for that which has been determined and for that which has not been determined, humility and earnestness are without avail. He believes that prayer is only a form of worship and it is in vain to adopt it as a means of achieving a specific purpose. We shall show later that Syed Sahib has woefully misunderstood the verses of the Holy Quran. At this stage we would observe with regret that if Syed Sahib’s intellect had fallen short of the meaning of the Holy Quran, had he at the time of writing these booklets overlooked the law of nature which he claims to follow and which he regards as the interpreter of Divine guidance and of the hidden mysteries of the Holy Quran? Is Syed Sahib not aware that though nothing good or ill in this world is free from determination, yet nature has appointed such means for the achieving of the good or the ill, the true and correct effect of which is not questioned by any wise person? For instance, though keeping in mind determination, to have recourse to a remedy in case of illness is the same as praying or not praying for an object, yet would Syed Sahib affirm that the science of medicine is altogether without any basis and that remedies have no effect whatever? If, despite his belief in determination, he is persuaded that remedies are not without effect, then why does he create a distinction between this law and a similar and parallel law? Does he believe that God had power to invest certain medicines with such powerful effects that their full dose should immediately move the stomach, or that certain 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS poisons should have such powerful effect that a full dose of them should despatch that consumer from this world within a matter of minutes, yet He should leave as dead and without effect the supplications of His elect which are full of resolve and attention and earnestness? Is it possible that there should be a contradiction in the Divine system and that the Divine design which works for the welfare of His’ servants through medicines should not operate in the case of prayer? That is not so. Syed Sahib himself is unaware of the true philosophy of prayer and has no personal experience of its high effectiveness. His case is like that of a person who over a period uses a stale medicine which has lost all its effectiveness and then concludes, as a general rule, that medicine is ineffective. Syed Sahib has reached an advanced age, but the natural system, that determination is closely related to means, has eluded him. That is why he has fallen into the error that anything can happen without the intervention of the means which nature has appointed spiritually and physically. As a general rule, nothing is free from determination. A person who derives advantage from fire, or water, or air, or clay, or corn, or vegetable, or animals, or minerals, does so under the rule of determination, but if a stupid one should imagine that without the help of the means which God Almighty has appointed, and without treading the paths that have been fixed by nature, something might be acquired without the mediation of physical or spiritual means, such a one seeks to falsify the wisdom of God Almighty. The meaning of all that Syed Sahib has put forth is that he does not regard prayer as one of the effective means, the existence of which he admits, and that he has in this matter gone beyond the limit. For instance, if someone mentions the effect of fire to him, he will not deny it and will not affirm that if anyone’s being burnt has been determined he would be burnt without the intervention of fire, then I am surprised that despite being a Muslim he denies the effectiveness of prayer which sometimes lights up the darkness like fire and sometimes burns the hand of an impertinent intervenor. Does he remember determination at the time of prayer and forget it when fire or the like is mentioned? Does not the same determination govern both? When, despite determination, he adheres so strongly to effective means that he has acquired an ill reputation in his exaggeration, then what is the reason that the system of nature which he acknowledges is forgotten by him in the matter of prayer, so much so that while in his view a fly has some effect, yet prayer has none? The truth is that he is unaware of the effect of prayer and has no personal experience of it, nor has he had the advantage of keeping company with those who have such experience. REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 21 MIRA€LES ARE WROUGHT BY PRAYER The subject of the acceptance of prayer is a branch of the subject of prayer. A person who does not comprehend the principle encounters difficulty in comprehending a branch. This is at the bottom of the misunderstanding of Syed Sahib. The principle of prayer is that there is a mutually attractive relationship between a pious servant and his Lord. To begin with, the Rahmaniyyat of God Almighty draws a servant to itself. Then through his sincerity the servant approaches close to God Almighty and in prayer that relationship, when it arrives at a certain stage, manifests its wonderful qualities. When a servant being confronted with a great difficulty leans towards God Almighty with perfect certainty, perfect hope, perfect love, perfect fidelity and perfect resolve, and becoming extremely alert and tearing aside the veils of heedlessness advances far into the fields of the discarding of self, he beholds in front of him the court of the Divine and perceives that He has no associate. Then the soul prostrates itself at that threshold and the power of attraction that is invested in him draws the bounty of God Almighty towards itself. Then God, the Glorious, addresses Himself towards fulfilling the purpose of the supplication and casts the effect of prayer on all those preliminary means which give rise to the means that are necessary for the achievement of the purpose of the prayer. For instance, if the prayer is for rain then on its acceptance the natural means that are needed for rain are created by the effect of the prayer. If the prayer is for famine the All-Powerful One creates the contrary means. It has been proved to the satisfaction of those who have frequent experience of visions that in the prayer of a perfect person a power of fashioning is created. That is to say, by the command of God the prayer exercises control in the lower and higher world and turns the elements and heavenly bodies and the hearts of people to the direction that is desired. THE EFFECT OF PRAYER IS GREATER THAN THE EFFECT OF FIRE There are many instances of this in the holy Books of God Almighty. Some types of miracles are in reality the acceptance of prayer. The source of thousands of miracles that were manifested by the Prophets and the wonders that have been exhibited throughout by the saints was prayer, and it is through the effect of prayer that extraordinary events display the power of the All-Powerful. Are you aware what was the wonderful event that happened in the deserts of Arabia, that hundreds of thousands of the dead became alive within a few days, and those who had been corrupted through generations took on Divine colour, and the blind began to sec, and the tongues of the 22 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS dumb began to flow with Divine insight, and such a revolution took place in the world which no eye had seen and no ear had heard before? It was the prayer during dark nights of one who had been wholly lost in God which created an uproar in the world and manifested such wonders as had appeared impossible in the case of that unlearned helpless one. 0 Allah send down blessings and peace on him and on his people according to the number of his griefs and sorrows for the Muslims and send down upon him the lights of Thy mercy for ever. I have experience that the effect of prayer is greater than the effect of fire and water. Indeed in the systems of natural means nothing has greater effect than prayer. PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL MEANS ARE NOT OUTSIDE DETERMINAT- ION If a question is raised that some prayers are not heard and no effect becomes visible, I would say that the same is the case with medical remedies. Have medicines shut the door of death, or is it not possible for them to fail in their purpose? Yet, despite this, can anyone deny their effect? It is true that determination covers everything, but determination has not wasted or disgraced knowledge, nor has it rendered means unreliable. Careful consideration would show that physical and spiritual means are not outside determination. For instance, if the fate of a patient should be good, the means of a proper remedy become available and the body becomes ready to take advantage of them. In such a case the remedy becomes most effective. The same is the case with prayer. All means and conditions of the acceptance of prayer come together where the Divine design is of acceptance. God Almighty has tied together His physical and spiritual systems in the same chain of causes and effects. It is a great mistake on the part of Syed Sahib that he acknowledges the physical system but denies the spiritual system. I deem it necessary to add that if Syed Sahib does not repent of his wrong assumption and should require proof of the acceptance of prayer, I would be ready to disabuse his mind. I promise that I shall inform Syed Sahib in advance of the acceptance of some of my prayers and will also publish the fact, provided Syed Sahib promises that on my claim being established he will repent of his wrong assumption. MUST ALL PRAYERS BE ACCEPTED? Syed Sahib says that in the Holy Quran God Almighty has REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 23 praised those who are steadfast and at a time of trial confine themselves to committing themselves to God. In this verse prayer has not only been commanded but the verse goes on to describe it as worship and in case of disobedience warns of the torment of hell. It is obvious that in the case of other prayers this warning is not added. Indeed in some cases Prophets were admonished in respect of their prayers. The verse: I advise thee not to act like the ignorant ones (11 :47) is an instance. This shows that if every prayer had been worship Noah would not have been rebuked about his prayer. In some situations Prophets and saints have considered it disrespectful to supplicate and the righteous have followed the dictate of their hearts in respect of such prayers; that is to say, if at a time of distress the heart suggested prayer they turned to prayer and if the heart suggested steadfastness, they were steadfast and turned away from prayer. Besides, God has not promised acceptance of prayer in all cases, but has clearly said that He would accept if He so wills and would reject if He so wills. The verse: In such an event you will call on Him alone, then will He remove that which you call on Him to remove, if He pleases (6:42) clearly indicates this. CONDITIONS OF ACCEPTANCE OF PRAYER Even if we were to concede that the phrase ‘Call on Me’ means prayer, we would have to affirm that by prayer is meant such prayer as complies with all required conditions and that is not within the power of man unless he is helped by God. Humility alone is not enough for prayer, but righteousness, purity, truthfulness, perfect certainity, perfect love and perfect attention are all needed, and it is also necessary that the object prayed for should not be opposed to the Divine design for the welfare in this world and in the hereafter of the supplicant, or on the one on whose behalf supplication is made. Very often, despite all other conditions being fulfilled, the object for which supplication is made is opposed to the Divine design and there is no good in its fulfilment. For instance, if a child should cry that his mother should hand over to him a burning brand, or a serpent, or should feed him a poison, which appears agreeable, the mother would not comply with his wish. Were she to do so, and though the child might escape with his life some limb of his should become useless, then arriving at years of discretion the child would have a grievance against his foolish mother. There are many other conditions in the absence of which prayer does not deserve that name and so long as prayer is not inspired by full spirituality and there is not a close connection between him who supplicates and him on whose behalf supplication is made 24 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS there is little hope of the acceptance of prayer. Unless there is Divine willingness for the acceptance of prayer all these conditions are not fulfilled and full attention remains lacking. Syed Sahib acknowledges that the good fortune of the hereafter and its bounties and delights and comforts which constitute salvation, are the result of faith and sincere prayers. That being so, Syed Sahib would be compelled to acknowledge that a believer’s prayers have effect and become the cause of the removal of calamities and the achievement of objectives. If that were not so, then how would they be of help on the Judgement Day? If prayer is truly a vain thing and cannot be the cause of removal of any calamity in this life, then how will it become a cause for their removal on the Judgement Day? If our prayers truly possess the effect of safeguarding us against calamities that effect should be manifested in this world also, so that our faith and hope might be fostered and we should pray more earnestly for our salvation in the hereafter. But if prayer amounts to nothing and that which is written is bound to happen, then as, according to Syed Sahib, prayer is vain for the calamities of this world, it will be vain for the hereafter also and no hope could be placed in it. (Barakatud Dua pp. 5-14) PLEASURE IN PRAYER I am extremely sorry to find that man has, nowadays, no love of devotion. This lack of love is due to the poisonous effect of too much attention to forms or outward observance of prayer. It is on account of this formalism or devotion to outward forms that love of God is on the wane, and man, therefore, does not find in his prayers the pleasure he ought to find. There is no such thing in the world which has not been provided with some taste or special flavour. Those, who do not experience any pleasure in their prayer, are like the patient who cannot relish even the most delicious food. To them, even the most palatable dishes are either bitter or entirely tasteless. Such people should have much concern over their disease. As I have already stated, nothing in this world is devoid of some taste. Now, as God has created man for His worship, how can it be possible that He has provided no taste and pleasure for him in such worship or prayer? Taste and pleasure certainly there are, but one must have the aptitude for it. God says: REVIEW OF RELIGIONS ‘And I have no other purpose in the creation of jin and man save and except that they should worship Me.’ (Ch. 51:57) 25 Now, as God has created man for worshipping Him, He must have made provision for pleasure and satisfaction in it. This truth is brought home to us by our daily experiences. Take, for example, the case of the articles of food and drink that have been provided for man. Does not man find relish and flavour in them? Has not man been provided with a tongue to taste them and enjoy their flavour? Does he not find pleasure at the sight of some beautiful thing-vegetable or mineral, animal or human? Does not his ear enjoy fascinating and melodious sounds? Is any more evidence required to prove that there should be some pleasure in worship? From what I have already stated, you can fully realize that worship or prayer, is not a burden nor a tax. In worship too there is a bliss and pleasure which is far superior to all the other pleasures and enjoyments of the world. Just as sexual pleasure cannot be enjoyed by an impotent person, or one who has not the required power for it, and just as a diseased person cannot relish the daintiest food, similarly, an unlucky man cannot find any pleasure in worship or prayer. WHY PEOPLE FIND NO PLEASURE IN PRAYER The reason why people are negligent and slack in prayer is that they are not aware of the pleasure and bliss to be found ~n prayer; and this is the main reason of this neglect and slackness which is to be found in a greater degree in towns and villages, where even fifty percent of the people do not prostrate before their True Lord with true and perfect sincerity. Now, the question again arises: Why is it so? The reason, as already stated, is that they are not conscious of the pleasure of prayer, and they have never tasted or experienced it. In religions, other than Islam, there is no provision or injunction for such prayer or worship. It, sometimes, happens that when the Muazzin, ( one who calls to prayer), chants the Azan (call to prayer), some people remain engrossed in their work, and they do not even care to hear the Azan; they are, as it were, aggrieved to hear it. The condition of such people is extremely pitiable. Even here, (referring to Qadian), there are some persons whose shops are situated adjacent to the mosque, but still they do not care to join the prayer. I, therefore, enjoin my followers to pray to God with great pathos and fervour that He may enable them to experience, for once, the bliss and pleasure of prayer and devotion, even as He has blessed them with 26 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS the relish of various fruits and other things. The thing once enjoyed is remembered. If a person has the pleasure of seeing a beautiful thing, he remembers it well. Again, ifhe sees an ugly and loathsome object, it also appears before his mind’s eye in all its features. Without any connection or experience nothing is remembered. Hence, to a person who does not offer prayer, prayer is a burden to him, for he has, for nothing for which to get up early in the morning, perform ablution in the cold, abandon his sweet sleep and forego many other comforts. The reason is that he harbours an aversion to prayer because he cannot realize its worth or utility. He is not aware of the pleasure and bliss that underlies prayer. Now, the question is: What means can a person adopt to achieve pleasure in prayer? We find that when a drunkard does not get satisfaction in drinking, he goes on drinking glass after glass of wine, till he gets intoxicated. A wise man or a saintly person may derive a lesson from it. That is, he should continue his prayer, and go on praying, till at last, he experiences a bliss or satisfaction in it. Secondly, he too, like one given to drinking, whose main purpose is to derive pleasure from it, should keep in view and have all his efforts riveted to the acquisition of pleasure. Thirdly, he should pray to God for that pleasure fervently and sincerely, at least with the ardour and fervour of a drunkard. If one does so, I am sure, he will certainly find that pleasure. Fourthly, while offering prayers he should have in view the benefits that result from prayer. God says: “Good actions drive away evils.” (Ch. 11: 115) So pray to God with a view to having all these good things or blessings (Hasanaat), so that you may be favoured with ability to pray like those true lovers and true worshippers of God who, while praying, feel that they are seeing God or are being seen by Him. God says in one place: “Hasanaat, or good actions, or prayers, keep one away from vice and sin”, and at another place He says: “Surely, prayer saves one from manifest evil and sin,” (29:46), and yet we find that some persons, in spite of offering prayers, commit vice or sin, it is due to the fact that their prayers are devoid of essence, fervour or sincerity, and are mere ceremonial performances or habitual movements of the body without life in them. Such prayers cannot be called Hasanaat. The reason why the word Hasanaat and not Sa/at has been used here, although both have the same meaning, is to draw attention to the beauty, utility and blessings of prayer, and to emphasize the fact that onl>, such prayers remove evil REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 27 or vice and sins, as have the spirit of truth or sincerity in them, and are productive of good. Such prayers do, certainly, wipe out evil. Prayer does not mean mere sitting and standing. The essence or soul of Namaz is the prayer which is attended with pleasure and bliss or satisfaction. (Ma/fuzat, pp. 152-157) HEARTFELT PRAYER Beloved Lord, come to our help. Make firm our convictions and our faith so that we should incline wholly towards Thee with all our hearts and all our desires and our full understanding, and with all our limbs and our lands and our cultivations and our commerce and our industry and our professions. Make us turn away from everything that is besides Thee. Let nothing beside Thee have any existence in our estimation. We should obey and follow Thee alone. 0 Creator of all and Master of all, why should we take any pride in wealth or in the owner of wealth, and why should we be deceived by them? We present ourselves in Thy court of honour in the guise of the humble and the meek. We reject the world and part from it. We love the hereafter and desire that alone. 0 Lord of perfect powers, our full trust is placed in Thy Beneficent Being. 0 Gracious One, every particle of ours is devoted to Thee. Illumine us with Thy light. Amen. (Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad)