Iqamatus-Salat (Observance of Prayer) – Part I

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Ataul Mujeeb Rashed, Missionary In-charge UK

The topic of iqamatus-salat – the observance of Salat – is based on just two words, yet its subject matter entails a diverse ocean of wisdom and understanding. These two words encompass a fundamental commandment of Allah the Exalted; in fact, they entail the purpose for mankind’s creation and the means of acquiring this purpose.

The first injunction for mankind mentioned in the Holy Quran is to worship Allah. Islam has made it compulsory for Muslims to observe a specified form of worship called Salat, one of the five pillars of Islam and a fundamental requirement of faith.

The topic of iqamatus-salat possesses a major significance in the life of a Muslim. It has been made the responsibility of every Muslim that they firmly act upon this commandment, enlightening themselves with its true understanding and fulfilling this purpose of their life, when they hear the call: 

يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ارْجِعِيْ إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَرْضِيَّةً فَادْخُلِيْ فِيْ عِبَادِيْ وَادْخُلِيْ جَنَّتِيْ

“Thou, O soul at peace! Return to thy Lord well pleased with Him and He well pleased with thee. So enter thou among my chosen servants, and enter thou My garden.” (Surah al-Fajr, Ch.89: V.28-31) 

Significance of observing prayer

The observance of prayer is a fundamental pillar of Islam, the fulfilment of which is obligatory upon every Muslim. In the beginning of the Holy Quran, Allah says that true believing and virtuous people are those who “yuqimunas-salat” – observe prayer. (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.4)

Later on in the Holy Quran, Allah emphatically states: 

أَقِيْمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَلَا تَكُوْنُوْا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِيْنَ

“… observe prayer, and be not of those who associate partners with God.” (Surah al-Rum, Ch.30: V.32) 

On the day of resurrection, when the wrongdoers will be asked what led them to Hell, their answer shall be: 

لَمْ نَكُ مِنَ الْمُصَلِّيْنَ

“…We were not of those who offered prayers.” (Surah al-Mudathir, Ch.74: V.44)

In the sight of Allah the Exalted, beloved and accepted worshippers are those:

الَّذِيْنَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلَاتِهِمْ دَائِمُوْنَ

“…who are constant in their prayer.” (Surah al-Ma‘arij, Ch.70: V.24)

الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ

“Who are humble in their prayers.” (Surah al-Muminun, Ch.23: V.3)

وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ

“And those who are strict in their observance of prayer.” (Surah al-Ma‘arij, Ch.70: V.35)

Consistency in prayer, humility in prayer and the safeguarding of prayers are the fundamental pillars of iqamatus-salat. Similarly, the offering of prayer in congregation and its timely observance, and the fulfilment of all the conditions with firm assiduousness are essential for the fulfilment of iqamatus-salat.

Regarding the consideration of time, the Quran states: 

إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ كَانَتْ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ كِتَابًا مَوْقُوْتًا

“…verily prayer is enjoined on the believers to be performed at fixed hours.” (Surah al-Nisa, Ch.4: V.104)

With regard to the safeguarding of prayer, Allah the Almighty’s commandment is: 

حَافِظُوْا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطٰى وَقُوْمُوْا لِلّٰهِ قَانِتِيْنَ

“Watch over prayers, and the middle prayer, and stand before Allah submissively.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.239)

In other words, the more engagements to which one is tied, the greater the significance becomes of observing prayers on time. Abandoning all other engagements, granting precedence to the prayer and assembling for its observance on time is in actuality the true meaning of iqamatus-salat. This shall be the apparent expression of the oath which every Ahmadi Muslim, by the grace of Allah, undertakes; namely that “I shall give precedence to my faith over all worldly affairs.”

It is mentioned in a Hadith, “One who does not offer his prayers intentionally has committed infidelity” (Majma al-Zawaid, Kitab al-Salat) and in another Hadith, “On the day of resurrection, the first thing one shall be called to account for is the prayer” (Sunan al-Nisai, Kitab al-Salat). Elsewhere in the Hadith, it is mentioned that the thing which separates a believer from an infidel is the observance of prayer. Furthermore, it is stated, “Salat is the pillar of religion.” (Shuab-ul-Iman, Al-Salat)

In other words, Salat is the foundation of Islam, without which the edifice of faith cannot remain erect. 

The books of the Promised Messiahas are replete with resounding instructions pertinent to the observance of prayer. For entrance into the Jamaat, in the ten conditions of Bai‘at (initiation) formulated by the Promised Messiahas, the third condition states that every individual who does Bai‘at: 

“Shall regularly offer the five daily Prayers in accordance with the commandments of God and the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa.”

Then the Promised Messiahas writes: 

“Whosoever does not observe the five daily prayers, is not of my community.” (Noah’s Ark, p. 31)

The Promised Messiahas further states: 

“Prayer is the Right of Allah; fulfil it well … Even if the entire house is destroyed, let it be, but do not discard the prayer. The Holy Quran speaks of two paradises, one of which is the paradise of this world, which is the prayer”. (Malfuzat, Vol. 6, p. 370)

Significance of prayer

The entire Holy Quran is full of the emphatic mention of prayer. Prayer possesses central significance in the prophetic traditions, the Sunnah and there is abundant mention of prayer in the Hadith of the Holy Prophetsa as well. Benefitting from all three of these means of guidance, and becoming saturated by that fountain of knowledge and understanding, the beautiful manner in which the Promised Messiahas, the Imam of the Age, has mentioned prayer is a faith-inspiring exposition and one that should be pondered upon. 

The Promised Messiahas has stated: 

“In reality, Salat is but a name for plunging into a fire, and after plunging into a fire of Divine love and fear of Allah, to burn one’s being and burn everything except Allah; and it is but a name for such a state wherein God, and only God remains in sight; and man progresses to such a state wherein he speaks when God wishes, and walks when God wishes; the whole of his moving or remaining still, his performing an action or abandoning an action begins to conform to Allah’s will and the ego is annihilated.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 10, p. 314)

The Promised Messiahasstates on another occasion: 

“Prayer does not imply that prayer which is observed by the common people as a mere tradition, rather, prayer is that by which the heart of a person is tendered and falls before the Divine threshold becoming so immersed that it begins to melt”. (Malfuzat, Vol. 5, p. 402 [new edition])

Then he states: 

“What is meant by prayer? It is a supplication that is humbly entreated by extolling His holiness [tasbih], praise [tahmid] and sanctity [taqdis], and seeking his forgiveness [istighfar], and by invoking salutations upon the Holy Prophet [Durood].” (Noah’s Ark, p. 110)

Furthermore, the Promised Messiahas writes: 

“What is prayer? It is to present one’s humility and supplications and weaknesses before God and to desire the fulfilment of needs from Him; at times, to stand before Him respectfully, to pay homage to His magnificence and fulfil his commandments; at times, to fall before him in prostration with complete humility and modesty, to implore one’s needs from Him – this is Prayer. Just like a beggar, to praise Allah saying, ‘You are like so and you are like such and such.’ To express His magnificence and majesty and inducing His mercy, then imploring of Him.” (Al Hakam, 31 March 1903, pp. 7-8)

He then states: 

“A prayer in which there is no humility, no attraction towards God the Exalted, no weeping supplication before God the Exalted, is in itself a deficient prayer. Prayer is that in which one feels pleasure in supplication. Stand before God the Exalted with such attention that a state of emotion overcomes you, as if an individual is detained in a dreadful lawsuit and a verdict of imprisonment or hanging is to be announced. What is his state before the judge? Similarly, one should stand before Allah with a fearful heart. A prayer in which the heart is at one place, while the thoughts are somewhere else, and the mouth says something, is a curse, which is thrown back in the face of man, and is not accepted. Allah the Almighty says:

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّيْنَ۔ الَّذِيْنَ هُمْ عَنْ صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُوْنَ

‘So woe to those who pray but are unmindful of their prayer [Surah al-Ma‘un, Ch.107: V.5-6].’ True prayer is that which feels pleasurable. It is this very prayer, in the description of which, it has been said that prayer is the spiritual apex – Mi‘raj – of a believer. Prayer is the means of spiritual progress for a believer.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 5, pp. 44-45 [new edition])

True meaning of iqamatus-salat

The phrase used in the Holy Quran for the observance of prayer is iqamatus-salat. This phraseology has not been used in the Holy Quran merely once or twice; rather, it has been used 47 times, by which one can fathom its significance and greatness. The word “iqamah” is a complete and eloquent word that houses a world of meanings.

In Tafsir-e-Kabir, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, the Second Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, has mentioned various meanings of Iqamatus-Salah

1. Regular observance of prayer 

“The meaning of iqamatus-salat is to observe prayer regularly because the meaning of Qama ‘alal amri means to remain constant in something. Therefore, the meaning of yuqimunas-salat would be that ‘they do not desist in offering their prayers’. A prayer wherein there is a discontinuation is not considered true prayer in Islam, because prayer is not of temporary deeds, rather, it is considered a complete deed if there is no cessation from the first prayer after repentance or after reaching an age of maturity, until the last prayer before one’s demise. All the prayers of those people who tend to miss their prayers in between are rejected. Therefore, it is the obligation of every Muslim that when they reach an age of maturity, or when Allah enables them to do so, from that time until their demise, they should not miss a single prayer, because prayer is equivalent to meeting Allah, and he who refrains from meeting his beloved, passes a judgement contrary to his so-called claim of love by himself.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 1, p. 104)

2. Observance along with the fulfilment of all requirements 

“The second meaning of iqamah is of equilibrium and rectitude, i.e., the virtuous offer their prayers according to its apparent conditions, and do not break the rules set for it. For example, in a state of health or in the availability of water, they offer their prayers after performing ablution, and even then, they perform their ablution properly according to the conditions set by the Shariah. Similarly, they offer their prayers at the appointed time, and perform the actions of qiyam, ruku, sajdah and qa‘dah correctly. They recite the appointed passages and prayers upon their proper place properly and correctly. Therefore, they pay consideration to all the apparent conditions and fulfil them properly. 

“At this place, it should be remembered that although the Shariah states that the prayer should be offered with its set conditions, this does not mean that when the fulfilment of these conditions is not possible in extreme circumstances, one should abandon the prayer altogether. The prayer itself is in any case precedent to the conditions. If someone does not have clean clothes, they may offer their prayers in dirty clothes, and especially, to abandon the prayer on the basis of suspicion is completely illogical … Until the fulfilment of the conditions is possible, to disregard them is a sin. However, when it is impossible to fulfil the conditions, to abandon prayer due to their unavailability is a sin, and such a person shall not be considered excused, rather they shall be considered those who abandon the prayer.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 1, p. 104) 

3. To erect a falling prayer 

“The third meaning of iqamah is to keep something upright, i.e. the worshipper does not let their prayer fall. They remain forever adamant in offering their prayer correctly and as per the stipulated conditions. If in one’s prayer, someone … is assailed by thoughts of difficulty, they should not be dismayed and should not consider their prayers useless, because Allah the Exalted only expects sacrifice from His servant to the extent of their capacity. Therefore, those worshippers whose thoughts remain dispersed, if they continue to try and beautify their prayers and remain attentive, they will be striving to keep their prayer upright whenever it stumbles. Allah the Exalted shall not waste their prayers, rather He shall accept them and shall include one who endeavours to erect their prayer among the virtuous.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol.1, p. 105)

4. To encourage and motivate others for prayer 

“Another meaning of ‘yuqimunas-salat’ is that the virtuous encourage others to pray, because one manner in which to erect something is to make it common and to encourage others to it. Therefore, the virtuous who act upon yuqimunas-salat are those who, in addition to praying themselves, keep instructing others to pray as well, and make those who are negligent prompt and vigilant.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol.1, p. 105)

5. Prayer in congregation 

“Wherever the Holy Quran has enjoined prayer, it has instructed for prayer to be offered in congregation. Nowhere is it ordered that one simply offers prayers alone. It is evident therefore that prayer in congregation is a significant principle of faith, rather the Holy Quran … states that prayer is only observed correctly if offered in congregation, unless there is an uncontrollable restraint. As such, an individual who abandons prayer in congregation, except in the case that they are ill, out of town or other Muslims are not present, even if they offer their prayer at home, it shall not be accepted, and they shall be considered as one who abandons the prayer. 

“In the Holy Quran … the actual instruction is that the compulsory prayers be offered in congregation, and prayer in solitude is permitted only under extreme circumstances. If one cannot offer the prayers standing, they are permitted to do so whilst sitting. However, just as if someone who possesses the ability to stand and pray but does so whilst sitting, they shall be considered a sinner, similarly, one who can offer the prayer in congregation, but does not offer their prayer in congregation, they too shall be considered a sinner.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 1, pp. 105-106) 

6. To offer prayer with complete attention, togetherness and vigilance 

“Another meaning of ‘yuqimunas-salat’ is also that the prayer be offered in a lively manner and with vigilance, because thoughts are dispersed as a result of laziness and negligence, and the essence of prayer is lost.” (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol.1, p. 106)

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