AUDIENCE WITH ALLAH (PART 3) (Capt. M. H. Cheema) 7 (The first two parts of this article appeared in the December 1985 and September 1987 issues of the Review of Religions) The third rung of the spiritual ladder is Duaien (Supplication, prayers). This stage includes both obligatory prayers as well as.other voluntary prayers. Here, we are discussing the latter in detail. Thus supplication, here, means those prayers that one makes in one’s own words and choice to Almighty Allah, as distinguished from obligatory prayer (Salat) In the opening Chapter of the Holy Quran, God Almighty teaches us to pray: “Thee alone do we worship, and Thee alone we implore for help.’ (1:5) The question arises how does prayer or supplication effect the happening of something, and of what use are prayers if one has to work and struggle in order to obtain one’s desired object? Thus, Allah, the Affectionate says it is He: “Who responds to the afflicted person when he calls upon Him, and removes the affliction .. .’ (27:63) This verse of the Quran suggests that a very profound and total belief in the existence of Allah and His powers forms the basis of prayer. Disbelievers, on the other hand, do not enjoy the fruits of prayer as they do not believe either in God or in any of His attributes. Thus the Quran emphasises: ” …. and despair not of the mercy of Allah; for none despairs of Allah’s mercy save the unbelieving people.” (12:88) Man sometimes becomes despondent and frustrated, especially when he finds no way out of his difficulties despite leaving no stone unturned. On such occasions supplication infuses inspiration and courage. This is the spirituality of prayer. In consequence of prayer, the grace of Allah, the Almighty descends upon the supplicant and bestows the fruit of success in diverse ways. 8 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS . Now-a-days most people question thewery concept of God and find it hard to believe in His existence. Yet in every nation, country and community, there have been and are people who, through prayer, have found the eternal truth of the existence of God within the recesses of their minds and hearts. This is the first and best attribute of prayer. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, peace be on him, says in his book Ayyam-e-Sulh: “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.” BENEFITS OF PRAYER: l. It is a means to recognise Allah, the Almighty and to establish communion with Him. 2. It is a source of approach and of attaining nearness to Allah. 3. It leads one to virtue. 4. It enhances the spiritual as well as the physical life. 5. It heals both moral and physical illnesses. 6. It is a powerful weapon as well as a strong shield. 7. It provides such comfort and delight as are not to be found in any worldly pursuit. The Holy Quran repeatedly invites us to pray and gives instances of deliverance achieved through prayer. The whole basis of the lives of the diligent ones, their great achievements and blissful successes, was through their prayers. Therefore, one should be diligent in prayer in order to foster one’s capacity for faith and righteous conduct. It is through prayer that transformation can be achieved; and thereby, a good end of this worldly existence can, by the Grace of Allah, be expected. Prayer is akin to a spring of sweet water. A believer sitting on its bank may drink his fill whenever he chooses. As a fish cannot survive without water, so a believer cannot live without prayer; it is his life giving water. The highest occasion for supplication is during the course of Namaz (prayer). That is the time when a believer is in command of himself, shunning all of his worldly thoughts, and deeply AUDIENCE WITH ALLAH 9 concentrating on one job, namely the performance of Namaz, realising to a degree of certainty that he is present in the court of Allah, the Creator; seeing Him or at least realising that he is seen by Him. I now quote from the paper AI-Hakam, dated 24.5.1904, in which Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, explains how one may feel the presence of God during namaz (prayer): “Y ou should be praying for yourself during the prayer and you should never be pleased with a prayer offered absent mindedly. Try to concentrate, and if you fail in doing that, you should pray to God, in every Rakat of the five daily Prayers in this wise: ‘0 God, who is All Powerful, I am a sinner, and the poison of sin has permeated my heart and has entered into all my views to such an extent that I cannot concentrate during my prayer. Do Thou forgive my sins, and overlook my shortcomings, and make my heart meek, and entrench Thy greatness and fear and love in my heart, so that my heart may not remain hard any more and I may feel Thy presence during my Prayers.” This prayer should not be restricted to the standing position only. You should do the same while in Roku and Prostration and after the recitation of Attahiyyat. It should be said in your own language and you should never get tired of it. With patience and steadfastness you should continue it in your five daily Prayers and also during Tahajjud prayer. You should ask for the forgiveness of your sins much, because it is due to sinfulness that the heart bec<)mes hardened. If you do this, a time will come when you will achieve the desired aim. You should remember your death and try to realise that the days of life left behind are very few and death is fast approaching. This is the method of feeling the presence of God during the prayers. The fact is that, if there exists such a thing as gist and essence of religion, then it is only the supplication. But supplication is not the name of those few words which are uttered by a person and then he thinks his supplication has been made. Supplication is the name of melting oneself in the presence of Allah; it is the name of accepting a sort of death; to become a true replica of humility and humbleness. A person who just repeats a few words habitually while the state of humility and humbleness does not establish itself within him, whose heart and mind and every particle of his being is not activated with 10 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS the currents of love when praying, is merely making fun of the prayer. He is inviting the wrath of Allah at the cost of his time. Do not, therefore, make a prayer which is merely flowing out of your throat and is not creating a corresponding condition within your self. That is not a prayer, but a Satanic instrument which invites the wrath of Allah. When you pray, then every part of you should bear witness to the Majesty of Allah, the Exalted. Every nook of your brain should be reflecting His power and glory, and each state of your heart, enjoying His bounties. Then, and only then, you are likely to be regarded as a supplicant. It appears difficult to create this condition apparently, but a person whose foundation 'of faith is grounded on the love of Allah (Ishq-e-Illahi), will find that there is nothing more easier than this for him. Indeed, this condition becomes a part of his nature and he is enjoying thereby all the time. It is not necessary for such a person to seek solitude and supplicate on the prayer mat. In fact, he is in the act of praying whether he is alone or is in the company of others. And when his tongue is reciting different words and his eyes envision different scenes, his spirit is prostrating on the threshold of mercy of his Lord and Creator, begging from Him mercy for himself and for the whole world. PRINCIPLES REGARDING SUPPLICATIONS. 1. We should contrive to find ways and means to fulfil all our obligations to our fellow beings, as well as towards our Lord, the Creator. He who defaults on these obligations, is at loss and will find difficulty regarding the acceptance of his prayers. 2. We should try to make full use of the physical means required to achieve the certain object and put forth every effort for that purpose. Follow the laws of nature faithfully and earnestly. That means, we should work for the acceptance of our prayer. It is a truth that he who does not work for the acceptance of his prayer, does not pray, but instead, tries God Almighty. 3. The following are the ten principles to be followed regarding supplications, as described by Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmud Ahmad, (1889 1965), the second Caliph of the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, (1835-1908). The place of prayer and the garment worn should be clean. Every prayer should start with the recitation of Sura Fateha and end with Darood (invoking blessings of Allah on the Holy Prophet.) AUDIENCE WITH ALLAH 11 Start with prayers for the spread of Islam and Tauheed (Unity of God) throughout the world. No action of yours should be contrary to the teachings ofIslam. Ifit is so you would have reduced the chances of your prayer being accepted. Be courteous towards believers. Be courteous, helpful and merciful to all human beings. Try to remove the difficulty of an afflicted person. Remain active and alert while offering your Namaz (daily prayers) adapting correct postures and offer whatever supplications you have to make, during the course of performance of Namaz. If you have a particular and special requirement in mind, invoke the attribute of God most appropriate to your need. Whereas it is advisable to pray in the prescribed wordings as laid down in the Holy Quran, the Ahadiths and the books of the Promised Messiah as it would certainly bring its blessings nevertheless, supplications should also be made in one's own language. This will enhance the earnestness of one's prayers. (When the heart is in ecstacy or in anguish it will not pause for words or phrases in which to pour itself at the footstool of the Almighty, the Creator, the Master, the True Beloved, the Source of all beneficence, solace and comfort. In such moments it does not need to be instructed as to the manner and words of its entreaty or supplication. It was at such a moment that the Holy Prophet's passion found expression in the tumultuous repetition of: "My heart and soul are in prostration before Thee." STEADFASTNESS IN PRAYERS. There is a spiritual force in prayer which is beyond the comprehension of those whose horizon is limited only to physical means. There is a whole system of imperceptible means which come into play as a result of prayer. When people find themselves helpless in the face of prevailing hurdles, confusion and disorder, then Allah, the Most Gracious, bestows such faculties upon His favorite ones that by the aid of which everything is set right. No one can derive any benefit from supplications unless he carries on steadfastly to the end, never thinking ill of Allah, and believing Him to be All Powerful, the Wisest of planners and the Master of His Decree and Designs. It one carries on praying in this spirit, a time will come 12 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS when Allah, the Affectionate will hear and respond to the prayers of His servant. Some people are impatient and desire that everything should be accomplished instantly like a magician's trick. They can do no harm to God but by being impatient they can only harm themselves. It is most essential that a supplicant should never give up prayer in despair and think unworthy of Allah, the Almighty that nothing can be achieved through prayer. Sometimes a supplicant carries on praying to the point when the prayer is about to be granted, but he falls back short and gives up praying, with the result that nothing is left except frustration and despair. It should be remembered that a prayer has to pass through'several stages. The lack of knowledge of this procedure often deprives the supplicant of its fruits. They are in hurry and lack patience. They do not understand the natural process of gradualness in divine designs. The Prophet Jacob, peace be on him, lost his son Joseph but he did not lose the hope of finding him. He prayed continuously for his safe return over a period of about 23 years. 'It behoves me to be steadfast', he said, and made the supplications: 'Lord, I appeal to Thee again in the matter of Joseph'. (12:84) His eyes welded up with tears but he did not permit his sorrow to be witnessed by others, He said: 'Go my sons, and enquire after Joseph and his brother and despair not of the mercy of Allah; for none despairs of Allah's mercy save the unbelieving people.' (12:88) Patience and steadfastness are, in themselves, great virtues; and it is often mentioned in the Holy Quran that Allah loves those who are patient and steadfast and that He is with them. In this context we may learn a lesson from a mendicant who goes to the door of an affluent person and begs piteously and is rebuked and repulsed but does not bear a grudge and goes on begging then, even a miserly person yields in the end and gives him something.God, on the other hand, is so Beneficent, Loving and Compassionate that he desires to be called upon. He informed His noble Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah he upon him: "And when My servants ask you about Me, say I am near. I answer the Prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me ... " (2: 187) AUDIENCE WITH ALLAH 13 Allah, the Almighty, means that He is always there to help when a person needs Him; but as it is mentioned above, prayer needs complete faith in Allah, the Almighty, and the logical result of that faith is that in moments of apprehension and extreme grief, one would turn to Him. Patience and perserverence are two corner stones in the course of the acceptance of prayer. The Holy Quran mentions numerous benefits and rewards resulting from patience and perseverance: " ... Allah is with those who patiently persevere." (2: 154) " ... Allah is with the steadfast." (2:250) " ... but if you show patience then, surely, that is best for those who are patient." (16: 127) " ... and exhort one another to be steadfast." (103:4) Before the conclusion of the third part of my article "Audience with Allah", I would say that this worldly life is certainly full of trials and tribulations. We should always think positively and look at the sunny side of everything and make our optimism come true. When our nights (period of trials and tribulation) are long, let us be patient. Soon the easy days (period of success and happiness) will come. Allah, the Most Gracious encourages us: "Surely there is ease after hardship. Aye! Surely there is ease after hardship." (94:6-7) When a person joins the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam he or she undertakes, in the following words, to remain steadfast in faith: "In all circumstances, be they moments of grief, comfort, hardship or affluence, I will remain faithful to Allah, The Almighty." In the end I pray that may our Lord, the most Gracious and ever Merciful, hear our prayers and grant us steadfastness in faith. I now list some prayers of the Holy Quran and of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). PRAYERS IN THE HOLY QURAN 1. Our Lord, grant us steadfastness and make our steps firm in the battlefield and help us against the disbelieving people. (2:251) 2. Our Lord, grant us the best in this world as well as the best in the world to come and safeguard us against the torment of the fire. (2:202)