The Prayer Code : Unveiling the Inner Dimension of Salaah Movements

By Fatima Ariadne

The previous article here, 12 Surefire Ways to Improve Khushoo in Prayer, got a whooping hits, reaching more than 600 views in just 3 days span. I’d like to thank the readers for your support for spreading the words. May it benefits us all. To continue the post, I’d write something that still relevant with salaah.

This would be somewhat different post. I won’t write down all the words myself as usual and instead, taking words from other scholars in the form of long excerpt.

Let’s admit it, sometimes we do salaah movements like a programmed android. We just move this way and recite that invocations like we do to mantra but oblivious of what or why they’re such and such.

In previous article here, I’ve shared how we could develop Divine mindfulness and feeling His presence in prayer. But now in this post, I’ll try to reveal the inner meaning of each prayer rituals movements. Most of this are taken from Abu Hamid Muhammad Al Ghazali’s book “Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship” and William Chittick’s book “Faith and Practice in Islam” as sources.

If I may say, salaah is like a Divine dance! :)

Insha Allah after you grasp this, you’ll never see salaah the same again.

 

(Trivia) The Prayer Code in the Name of “Ahmad”

Okay guys. Ponder about the name of our beloved master :

“…..and bringing good tidings of a messenger that comes after me, whose name is Ahmad (i.e. Muhammad)….” (Suraa 61 : 6)

islamic prayer code

Take note and see how each of the Arabic alphabet that shapes the word “Ahmad” resembles of?

From right to left :

The alif represents a person standing in salaah.
The ha represents a person doing bowing (rukoo) in salaah.
The mim represents a person doing prostration (sujood) in salaah.
The daal represents a person doing sitting in salaah.

And as the name “Ahmad” means “the praised one”, the aim of salaah itself is to PRAISE. Praise who? Of course The Divine, whom we, including our master Ahmad (peace be upon him) are coming from.

Okay nuff ramblings. Begin excerpt! ;) (These words below are no longer mine)

 

The Prayer Code

“And perform a prayer to remember Me” (Suraa Taa Haa : 14)

The ritual prayer has a spirit and a body. The body of ritual prayer is the outward activity made up of pillars and sensory form. The spirit of ritual prayer is presence and humility. Just as a body without spirit has no value, so is a prayer without presence and humility (khushoo) has no worth.

The Qur’an said, “successful are those with faith, those who have khushoo in their prayer” (Suraa Al Mu’minoon 2). In the other hand, prayer without mindfulness, which is done with forgetfulness, is woe. “Woe to those who perform prayers, who are unmindful of their prayer” (Qur’an, Suraa Al Ma’uun : 4).

The purpose of Quranic recitation and expression of remembrance (dhikr) is undoubtedly praise and glorification, supplication and entreaty, addressed to Allah. But the veil of heedlessness screens the heart from Him. Far from witnessing Him, the heedless worshiper is not even aware of Whom he is addressing, as his tongue moves purely from the force of habit!

How remote this is from the purpose of salaah, which was prescribed for refinement of heart, renewal of Divine remembrance, and to secure the knot of faith!

(Fatima Note : Al Ghazali also explained the five stages of achieving khushoo in prayer, namely :

  • Awareness or concentration,
  • Understanding the subtle meaning of prayer’s recitations
  • Reverence,
  • Awe of Allah’s glory,
  • Hope for His blessings,
  • and Shame of one’s sins)

 

1) The Adhaan (Prayer Call)

As soon as you hear the call to prayer, let yourself perceive the terror of the Summons on the Day of Resurrection. Leave aside whatever you are busy with, rise up in happiness, and put on the belt of servanthood.

Prepare yourself inwardly and outwardly to respond, and to do so promptly. Those who are prompt in answering this call are the ones who will be summoned gently on the Day of the Great Review.

 

2) The Ablution (Wudoo)

When attending to ritual purity in the things that envelop you, do so progressively : your room, then your clothes, then your skin. But do not neglect your inner being, which lies at the heart of all these.

Endeavor to purify the heart with repentance and remorse for your excesses, and a determined resolution not to commit them in future. Cleanse your inner being in this way, for that is the place to be examined by the One you worship.

“Whosoever performs an ablution and perfecting it, his sins will fell away from his body, they will even fell from his nails” (Sahih Muslim)

“On the Day of Resurrection, my followers will be called “Al-Ghurr-ul-Muhajjalun” from the trace of ablution and whoever can increase the area of his radiance should do so (i.e. by performing ablution regularly).’ ”  (Sahih Bukhari)

 

3) The Covering of Awra (Private Parts)

The inner meaning of covering awra is that we conceal what is ugly and shameful.

You cover the private parts from being exposed to human view. But what about the shameful areas of your inner being, those unworthy secrets of your soul – that only be known and scrutinized by your Lord, Glorious is He?

Be conscious of these faults of yours. You can be discreet about them, but nothing is hidden from the sight of God. Only through repentance, shame and fear, they will be forgiven….

 

4) Facing Qibla

“I have turned my face toward Him who originated the heavens and earth”
(Qur’an 6 : 79)

As for facing the Qibla, in doing so, you turn your external face away from all other directions and toward the House of Allah, High Exalted. Do you then suppose you are not also required to turn your heart away from everything else, directing it towards Allah Almighty?

The inner meaning of facing qibla is that he must exert effort so that the face of his heart is turned only toward the threshold of holiness of Divinity.

“Whoever denies false gods and has faith in Allah, verily has laid hold of the firmest handle” (Qur’an 2 : 256)

The Prophet said: “When a man stands up to pray, directing his desire, his face and his heart towards Allah, he will come out of that prayer as on the day his mother gave him birth.” (i.e. free from sins)

An old poem wrote :

With the two qiblas, you can’t walk straight
in the path of tawheed

Choose, either Friend’s approval
or your own false desire


5) Standing Upright

As for standing upright, it means holding oneself erect – in body and in spirit – in the presence of Allah. Your head which is the highest member of your body, out to be bowed down as a reminder of the need to keep the heart meek and humble, free of arrogance and pride.

 

6) Intention

When forming the intention, resolve to be mindful of Allah by performing the prayer in obedience to His command, by doing it properly, by avoiding things that invalidate it, and by doing all this sincerely for the sake of Allah, in hope of His reward and in fear of His punishment, seeking His grace and favor by His leave.

A servant must face His Lord like a runaway servant, who’s in embarassment in his sins and ashamed before his master.

 

7) Takbir

As for the Takbir (the words: Allahu Akbar), your heart must not gainsay the words on your tongue. If you feel in your heart that there is something greater than Allah High Exalted, though your words are true, Allah will attest that you are a liar.

The meaning of Allahu Akbar is that God is greater than anything in your thoughts and imagination, anything that fits into the creature’s rational faculty. Glory be to Him who alone knows His tremendousness!

The Prophet said, “Oh Allah, I cannot praise You enough, You are as You praise Yourself”. An old poem wrote :

Whatever you set up
with your senses, imagination, and reason,
the stone of futility knocks down,
thrown by His magnificence

Here he should search within his inward self to find anything greater than Him. If Allah is greater in his view than all things, the mark of this is that he obeys Him the most. But if he obeys his lowly desire, hence he has lied in saying “God is greater”. “Have you seen him who has taken his desire to be his god?” (Qur’an 45 : 23)

(Note from Fatima : I always think that the inner meaning of takbir is that we must begin our connection with Divine, with trust in Him, His glory, and submissiveness. Takbir is affirmation of that submissiveness.)

 

8) Opening Invocations

When making the opening invocation be very wary of hidden shirk (polytheism) in yourself. It was concerning those who worship for the sake of human as well as Divine approval that Allah revealed in the Koran:

“…whoever seeks to meet his Lord, then let him do righteous deeds, and never associate any other in worship with his Lord” (Qur’an 18 : 110)

When you say: “I take refuge in Allah from accursed Satan,” you should be aware the devil is your enemy and that he is waiting for an opportunity to alienate you from Allah. Satan is envious of your ability to commune with Allah, and to prostrate yourself before Him.

 

9) Reciting Al Fatihah

Then, he begin by reciting “In the name of Allah, boundlessly merciful, boundlessly compassionate”. He should mindful that everything is only from Him and their accounts belong to Him.

“Praise be belongs to Allah” is for gratitude of His boundless blessings

“Lord of the Worlds”, he should see all creatures in need of Him at every instant for existence, subsistence, and order

“The merciful, The Compassionate” : he witness the varieties of His kindness and mercy toward His servants

“Master of the Day of Judgment” : he makes present the magnificence and independence of God so that the motivation of fear shows its head. Through fear and hope he will be delivered from the severity of God in day of accounting and recompense.

“You alone we worship” : (not just affirming tawheed), he should renew his ikhlas (sincerity) and seek His assistance in his own worship and sincerity. He should know there is no power against disobeying God without God’s protecting Him, and no strength to obey God without God giving him success.

When he finishes declaring God’s unity (tawheed), praising Him, calling Him holy, renew his sincerity, and seeking help, he is in the presence of the Most Generous of the generous.

“Guide us to straight path” : What is that? Wayfaring on a path that brings about the arrival at God. He remembers the path of friends of Allah (awliya) who were singled out for this blessing and honor. He asked for their companionship “The path of those whom You have blessed”.

And then he seeks refuge from tha companionship of outsiders who are deprived of this blessings, the misguided – “not those against whom You are wrathful on, nor those who are astray”.

Then he asks that his supplication be answered by saying “Ameen”

 

10) Bowing Down

According to Ikrimah, Allah is referring to the postures of standing, bowing, prostration and sitting when he says: “The One Who sees you when you stand in prayer, *And when you pray among those who prostrate.” (Qur’an 26 : 218-219)

Bowing (ruku) and prostration (sujud) are accompanied by a renewed affirmation of the supreme great of Allah. In bowing you renew your submissiveness and humility, striving to refine your inner feeling through a fresh awareness of your own impotence and insignificance before the might and grandeur of your Lord.

To confirm this, you seek the aid of your tongue, glorifying Allah and testifying repeatedly to His Supreme Majesty, both outwardly and inwardly.

Then you rise from bowing, hopeful that He will be merciful towards you. To emphasize this hope within you, you say: “Allah hears those who give thanks to Him.”

Acknowledging the need to express gratitude, you immediately add: “Grateful praise to You our Lord!” To show the abundance of this gratitude, you may also say: “As much as the heavens and earth contain.”

 

11) Prostration

Then you go down in prostration. This is the highest level of submission, for you are bringing the most precious part of your body, namely your face, down to meet the most lowly of all things, the dust of the earth.

If possible, you should make your prostration directly on bare ground, this being more conducive to humility and a sure sign of self abasement. When you place yourself in this position of lowliness, you should be aware that you belong there. You are restoring the branch to its root, for of dust you were created and to dust you shall return.

At the same time you should renew your inner awareness of Allah’s majesty, saying: “Glory to my Lord Most High!” Repeat this thrice to add confirmation, for saying it only once is not sufficiently emphatic.

When your inner feeling has clearly been refine, be confident in hoping for Allah’s mercy. For His mercy quickly flows towards weakness and lowliness, not towards arrogance and vanity.

As you raise your head, say “Allahu Akbar!” and ask for what you need, making the supplication of your choice, e.g. “My Lord, forgive and have mercy! Overlook my faults of which You are aware!”

You then make a second prostration, reinforcing your submissiveness.

 

12) Sitting and Testifying

When you sit to make the testimony (tashahhud), sit decorously. Declare that all the prayers and good works you perform are for the sake of Allah, and everything belongs to Him.

Such is the meaning of al-tahiyyat. Be inwardly aware of the Prophet, and on his noble person, as you say: “Peace be upon you, O Prophet, as well as Allah’s mercy and blessing.” Be sure that your salutation will reach him, and that he will return an even more perfect greeting to you.

Then salute yourself and all Allah’s righteous servants. Then testify to the Unity of Allah, High Exalted, and to the mission of Mohammad, His Messenger, on him be peace and prayers. By repeating this two-fold testimony, you reaffirm the covenant of Allah, and assure yourself of its protection.

 

13) Salutation

Finally, and with the intention of concluding your prayer, address your salutation (salam) to the angels and the others present. Feel a sense of gratitude to Allah, High Exalted, for having enabled you to complete this act of worship. Imagine that you are saying farewell to this prayer of yours, and that you may not live to see another like it.

(Note from Fatima : in an Islamic lecture once, a suyookh told us that another inner meaning of salutation or salaam is that after we connect with our Creator, we should connect with the outer world by giving it love and blessings. Since our relationship in this life is with Allah and with His creations, Salaam symbolizes that we must spread harmony and blessings within His creations).

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6 Comments
  1. 371 days ago
    casque dre

    Its such as you read my mind! You appear to understand so much about this. great blog. fantastic read. I will certainly be back.

    Reply
  2. 370 days ago
    Brent

    There is something so magical about putting the highest point of your body on the lowest area (the ground). I just want to suggest something to you; not to be rude, but I believe the proper way to salute the prophet in tashaddud is “asalam a’la nabi wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu”, which means “peace be upon the prophet and the mercy of God and blessings”. When one says “peace be upon you, o prophet”, that is minor shirk, because you are calling on the prophet and that must be avoided. I learned this from a sheikh named Bilal Phillips.

    I appreciate everything you do here and I’m glad the site traffic on your last blog post was high. God bless you. :)

    Reply
    • 370 days ago
      Ariadne

      thank you for coming, brother :) . And wow I think that’s just odd to quickly claim “minor shirk” to a recitation that’s actually been taught by Rasulullah (pbuh) himself and his companions :/ as the recitation “peace be upon you o Prophet” was recorded in various authentic hadiths, in Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, An-Nasai, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Mahjah. And by strong narrators like Umar ibn Khattab, Ibn Umar, Aisha, Ibn Abbas, etc.

      The scholarly writing on tashahud matter :
      http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=7&ID=4586&CATE=120
      http://www.islam-qa.com/en/34535

      (so if reciting “salaam alayka” is minor shirk, hence the Prophet’s companions like Umar had committed minor shirk? And Prophet had committed shirk because he’s the one teaching the recitation? Audhubillah, that’s why we must be careful on claiming kufr/shirk on a matter before we know it fully what it’s all about…:O. Anyway thanks for bringing this up, brother! :) )

      Reply
      • 369 days ago
        Brent

        Well, I have to say that I disagree with IslamQA’s ruling on this on the basis of what a dua is. The people who run the site are salafis, so if they say it’s NOT shirk to address the prophet personally, by saying “peace be upon you, O prophet”, then what basis is there for their disapproval to duas to sufi saints or to Imam Ali?

        I see an inconsistency. I intend no malice to you or to IslamQA; I just disagree– that’s all. I will research this further, though, inshallah. Thank you for your reply. Jazak Allah Khair.

        Reply
        • 369 days ago
          Ariadne

          Hahahaha, talking about Salafi, Shaykh Bilal Phillips that you talked about IS a Salafi. May Allah forgive the Shaykh, though, he had claimed “minor shirk” on something that actually was prescribed by Prophet and done by ahlus-sunnah wal jama’ah for thousands of years. (Sunnipath is more to Shafi’i Fiqh, if I remember correctly, and what I actually browse in regular basis)

          Reply
  3. 356 days ago
    Woodley

    This article could not be written any better!
    Thank you for sharing!

    Reply

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