Amir Masood Ahmad, Canada
With all the current rave on meditation, breath work and yoga, I thought it would be interesting to present an Islamic perspective.
After taking a plethora of self-help and self-development courses and training throughout the years, I have found many of these things to be extremely beneficial. After some reflection, I came to the realisation that I had already implemented many of these practices for a long time, inadvertently.
These and many other benefits are achieved in observing the Islamic act of worship; the daily Salat. The whole experience permeates a number of positive benefits.
The pre-prayer ritual of wuzu, physical cleaning of oneself through ablution, revitalises me as I make myself presentable for communion with the Omnipotent, Supreme Being. When I run my wet hands across the back of my neck, a refreshing alertness kicks in releasing me from any fatigue or restlessness being experienced at the time.
Just as the ablution is physical cleansing, the actual prayer is spiritual cleansing. Hazrat Abu Hurairahra relates that he heard the Holy Prophetsa say, “Tell me, if one of you had a stream running at his door and he should take a bath in it five times every day, would any dirt be left on him?” He was answered, “No dirt would be left on him”. The Holy Prophetsa observed, “This is the case of the five Prayers. Allah wipes out all faults in consequence of them.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
When my feet hit the prayer mat and I make my intention, I drift into a heightened state of consciousness which allows me to be mindful of the presence of the Lord, Who is the ultimate Judge and Jury. The All-Seeing, the All-Hearing, the One Who has the power to forgive my every shortcoming, answer my prayers and make all my desires come true with a simple “Be! And it is”.
My breathing is controlled and every worry, thought and worldly distress has been pushed to some corner of my being and my mind is in full focus. “Alhamdulillahi Rabbil-Alamin.” – “All praise belong to Allah Lord of all the worlds.”
In his book, Code of the Extraordinary Mind, Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of the world’s leading self-development platform Mindvalley, in the chapter titled “The Power of Gratitude,” writes:
“Perhaps no single exercise leads to as big a happiness boost as the practice of gratitude. So much so that gratitude is getting significant notice in research and scientific circles. The list of scientifically prove benefits for the practice of gratitude includes:
More forgiving attitudes
More feelings of being socially connected
Surah al-Fatihah, recited in prayers by Muslims, dozens of times throughout the day, is so much more than a simple gratitude statement. The Promised Messiahas teaches us:
“Allah commenced His Book with hamd [glorification] and not with shukr [gratitude] or madh [praise] for hamd comprises the sense of the other two and is their substitute par excellence, in that it also comprehends correction, adornment and beautification.”
He further states, “Hamd is verbal praise which is offered to honour a mighty and noble being of His acts of beneficence.” (www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2012-02-10.html)
This is just a minute glimpse of the beauty of al-Fatihah, the full commentary would be too deep and voluminous to articulate here. The worshiper aptly stands with hands folded across the chest, head bowed down in a state of humility and submission whilst reciting.
The qiyam (standing) is followed by the ruku (bowing) and then the epitome of the prayer, the sajdah (prostration), where the believer is closest to his Creator, prostrating before Him in all humility and meekness, expressing his gratitude and imploring for forgiveness.
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, explaining the importance and philosophy of the postures performed within the prayer, writes:
“Various postures of humility have been adopted by the world. In some places humility is expressed through the act of bowing, while in others standing with folded hands is a sign of meekness, and still in others through kneeling or prostration. Islam, which originates from the Creator of [human] nature, has kept in mind all types of dispositions and diversity of expression and combined all these acts in the prayer. Accordingly, people of various dispositions find an expression of humility within the prayer which accords to their temperament. (The Islamic Mode of Worship, p. 5)
The supererogatory Tahajjud prayer offered during the middle of the night is a different experience all together. One sacrifices their precious sleep for the chance of an audience with the Lord of all the worlds. In the peaceful shadow of the night whilst the world sleeps, one has the time and the quiet to engage in long conversations of self-reflection and compelling gratitude towards the Benefactor, making affirmations to the favours that He has bestowed on us and, in full humility, seeking forgiveness for any pain or wrong that one may have caused during the day.
The congregational prayer at the mosque is yet another dimension to the act of worship. The worshiper enters the mosque and stands shoulder to shoulder with the other worshipers on either side, removing the robe of status, position, ethnicity or age. Rich or poor, black, Asian or White, CEO or janitor everyone is equal in the sight of Allah except in righteousness and piety. A person attending the mosque five times a day for the congregational prayer should have no room for prejudice in their heart.
The observance of prayer also teaches Muslims about time management. Allah says in the Holy Quran:
“Verily prayer is enjoined on the believers [to be performed] at fixed hours.” (Surah al-Nisa, Ch.4: V.104)
For me personally, the five daily prayers segregate blocks of time in my calendar and my whole day revolves around this schedule. This has taught me to be punctual as well as effectively manage my time making me efficient in my work.
As you can see this multi-faceted mode of worship offers a whole range of benefits from humility to gratitude, from seeking forgiveness to forgiving, from equality to meaningful postures. It provides the worshiper an escape five times a day from the stresses of the material life to focus on self-reformation and spiritual development. Having experienced all of these benefits, they have helped me immensely in my professional and personal life.