Prayer Its Significance and Its Benefits

It is pity that so much effort is being  wasted in transcendental meditation (TM) to revive human co- nsciousness (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 compr- ehension 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 (TM) 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 TM in Subud,  or in any other form, will effect the  body’s physiology and thereby cause changes in an electroencephalogrm (EEG 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 with out any conscious objective or goal. One practises T.M without any clear goal before him  going  from nowhere to nowhere and such an exercise cannot re-
ally be expected to produce fruitful and beneficial results of any permanent value. In the olden days, Rishis and hermits did practice it, but  they  had
a clear vision of their objective. They wanted  to achieve nearness to their Creator through creative reflections (meditations)O It was not an  exercise
in a vacuum, like modern T.M. But even this did not achieve very encouraging results for it remained an intellectual luxury of the few and was never cons- idered a recipe for the ills of mankind..

Now the question arises: do 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 indiviual 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 coordination 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  new  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 every intimate relationship between the performance of prayer and Divine favors. Presumably  the  physical postures and movements of prayer have a deep significance and important function in re-vitalising and re-igniting the potential of enlightement 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, absol-
utely 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 o Anas reported God’s Messenger as saying, ” perform the bowing and the prostration properly, for I swear by God that I can see you behind me” According to Abu Masud A1 Ansari the Messenger of God  said, “A man’s prayer do not avail him unless he   keeps his back steady when bowing and prostrating   himself.” (1) 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 Messen-
ger 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 good God.” So he said, “When you turn to the   qibla and say, Allah u Akbar, then recite a  convenient portion of the Quran; 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 performa nce of each part of prayer properly and  perfectly as taught by the Holy Prophet is essential. Any variation or alteration in the performance  of   any part of prayer from what was taught  by the  Holy Prophet renders it a meaningless exercise.

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  enlightenmint. 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 help 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 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 enligh tenment after years of hard and strenuous  effort. People have starved themselves to annihilate their
physical self 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 selfannihilation to reach for salvation. Prayer provides all the essential requisites for preparing the mind and transforming it into an extraordinary state capable of receiving the Divine Light.  It  provides physical as well as mental exercise in such a balanced way that neither is ignored orover-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 hears, his eyes through which he sees, and his hand with which he holds,  and his feet with which he walks.” 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.

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 Quran 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.

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 sense perception. The latter is dimensional while the former is extradimensional.
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 extradimensional 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  extradimensional powers of man to such a degree that he will be able to establish close relationship  with the Ultimate Power.

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