, by SYED AKBAR HASSAN
When we get closer to the Qur’ān and try to recite and understand it, we find that the Qur’ān has laid down certain traits and qualities for our characters very profoundly in two surahs, Al-Muminoon (ayaat 1-11) and Al-Ma’rij (ayaat 22-35). These are very necessary for our falah (success) in both the worlds. Salah has been prescribed to remind us that we should not become neglectful of Allah by worldly diversions and that we should remember that man is not an unbridled free being but a servant of Allah.
The first and foremost exercise for falah is salat. On making comparative study of both the surahs i.e. Al-Muminoon (ayaat 1-11) and Al-Ma’rij (ayaat 22-35), we find that the description of the merits of the high and sublime character of those who have been declared as worthy of jannah, began with the salat and has been concluded with it too. To be a performer of the salah is the first characteristic, to be steadfast and ever constant with regard to the salah is the second characteristic, and to guard their salah is their last characteristic.
This gives us an idea of the importance of salah. Salah means coming face to face with Allah the Exalted. When we begin our prayer and make the niyah we actually come face to face with Allah the Exalted. Before each and every salah we say inni wajahtu…which means that I have turned my face towards the direction of Allah the Exalted Who created all heavens and earth cutting my connections and relations with whole of the world… That is why the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said if it is salah and if it is coming out of your consciousness and depths of your hearts, it is the meraj (highest ascension) of momin.
This can happen only when we know what we are saying in our prayers which is very important for our concentration level and it is the lack of the same that our mind wanders here and there during prayers and it becomes a mere exercise or ritual. Khushu, Khuzu and Hafizun are the three key words related to salah.
Khushu and Khuzu are the inner quality of salah – we must realise that we are face to face with Allah the Exalted and our ruku and sajdah must not be just physical but we must realise some sort of mental and spiritual attachment with Allah. This can happen only when we understand what we are saying in our salah and make conscious effort to achieve the same. Certainly, this will come gradually.
If we plan what we are going to recite in the salah and just go through its translation before the salah and this process is repeated over and over again then it is but natural that after sometime we will be knowing what we are reciting in our salah.
To begin with, just let’s take a start with the opening surah of the Qur’ān, Surah Al-Fatiha, and try to understand its meaning and some facts related to it. Surah Al-Fatiha is the first complete surah that was revealed to the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be to him). It means the Opening. This is the Opening surah of the Qur’ān and it is also known as Ummul Qur’ān (mother of the Qur’ān) besides having other names as well. It has seven ayaat which is repeated over and over again in every rikah of our salah.
The azmah (grandeur) and fazilah (importance) of this surah could very well be understood with a hadith quoted in Musnad of Imam Ahmed. He recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said to Ubai Ibne Kaab: “Should I teach you a surah - the like of which have not been revealed neither in Taurah, nor in Injeel nor in Zaboor nor even in the Qur’ān as it is quite unique.” Ubai Ibne Kaab showed his curiosity to know about it and said so to the Prophet, who then asked him what he reads in the prayer. To this he recited Surah Fatiha. Then the Prophet said: “I swear by the Allah in Whose hands is my life that the like of this surah was not revealed neither in Taurah, nor in Injeel nor in Zaboor nor even in the Qur’ān itself.” And the Prophet further said that this is the surah regarding which Allah has said in surah Hijr: “And indeed, We have bestowed upon you seven of Al-Mathâni (the seven repeatedly recited Verses), (i.e. Sûrat Al-Fâtiha) and the Grand Qur’ān (15:87)”. So, the above hadith and ayaat is enough to reflect the azmah and fazilah of Surah Fatiha.
We all know that this is the necessary and integral part of our salah as a matter of fact Surah Al-Fatiha is also called the Salah. As recorded by Muslim that Abu Hurayrah said, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said: “Whoever performs any prayer in which he did not recite Umm Al-Qur’ān (Al-Fatiha), then his prayer is incomplete.”
There is another hadith, narrated by Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said: “Allah the exalted said, ‘I have divided the prayer (Al-Fatiha) into two halves between Me and My servant. A half of it is for Me and a half for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.”
If he says, ‘All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of existence’, Allah says, ‘My servant has praised Me.’
When the servant says, ‘The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.’ Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’
When he says, ‘Master of the Day of Judgment.’ Allah says, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’
When he says, ‘You (alone) we worship, and You (alone) we ask for help’, Allah says, ‘This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he sought.’
When he says, ‘Guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom You have granted Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray’, Allah says, ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.’ ”
Al-Fatiha is not only an introduction to the Qur’ān but also a prayer from us to which the Qur’ān is the answer from Allah. Thus it has a relationship of a prayer and a response.
Now, after understanding the meaning, the facts and the importance of Surah Al-Fatiha, when we shall recite it in our very next salah we will find that our concentration level has improved, Alhamdulilah. If we gradually adopt the same understanding as regards to other surahs, Allah will certainly take us to even higher level of Khushu and Khuzu whereby our salah will become acceptable to Him and it will be beyond rituals and mere habit.