[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed on Jun 05, 2016]
قَدۡ أَفۡلَحَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ فِى صَلَاتِہِمۡ خَـٰشِعُونَ
Success is really attained by the believers. Who concentrate their attention in humbleness when offering Salah (prayers) [23:1-2]
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in many places in the Qur’an tells us to establish prayer! Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala didn’t say ‘sallu – pray salah’ or read salah, or recite salah, but He subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us over and over again to ‘establish salah’. Let your salah establish your relationship with Him. Make yourself qa’im and daim (firm and steadfast) on salah. That is the purpose of salah.
Our problem is that although a lot of us pray salah, we are not fulfilling its purpose, we are not firm and steadfast. We offer it haphazardly or lazily or half-heartedly. Maybe some of us are better than that, we are regular, but it is not fully established. If I was to ask you, write down the ten best things you do in your life – most of us won’t write salah. We might write we are good at studying, good as a speaker, good as a doctor – but we will not say we are good at salah.
Many of us take a minimalistic approach to deen – we say ‘we pray and that’s it – don’t ask me to do so much more in my deen’. If someone has reduced their deen to just five daily prayers, then that person should be excellent in their salah all the more. We believe in the pursuit of excellence in everything else – we sit down and lament how we lack excellence in so many acts of society, but nobody ever mentions in prayer.
If I was to ask you to write a list with the top ten problems in Pakistani society, nobody will even think an issue is that people don’t pray salah with quality. People like conferences talking about the ills and issues facing the ummah, but one big problem in the ummah is our core ‘ibadah. Our salah has become weak. We used to tell our students that sometimes when we see non-Muslims write about Islam, they always talk about the five pillars. It’s not possible they don’t mention the five pillars. They always mention salah – you think they would write that the vast majority of Muslims do not pray their salah, but they have never written that. What does it mean? It means Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is as-Sattar.
Fasting is one fardh, and salah is another fardh this Ramadan. In 30 days, you are going to do two things – one is that you are going to have 30 fasts, and another thing you will do is 150 prayers. This is part of the mission. We may have been praying before – but now we are going to pray with proper feeling and concentration. This is a target of ourselves – 30 fasts and 150 salahs.
We keep a track of our fasts; we know exactly when the second, twentieth, twenty-ninth fast is, but like that, we should also keep a track on our salahs. So first, we will start with how we should feel when we recite Surah Fatihah:
Ta’awuz: I seek refuge in Allah from shaytan, the accursed one:
What does this mean? Shaytan just doesn’t attack and make us do sin – he also distracts us when we try to worship Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Whether it’s tilawah or salah, shaytan will distract us, hence, we start off with ta’awuz. Even my listening to adhan, responding to adhan, making wudu, standing inside masjid, my praying salah – no matter how good my intention or ‘amal, it is not enough to save me from shaytan. Only Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala can protect us from shaytan. There is no amount of any sadaqah or anything that can protect us from shaytan; only the protection and mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Here, shaytan is described as ar-Rajim as opposed to Allah swt, who us ar-Rahim. Ar-Rajim means is an outcast, revolted, repulsive – in an absolute sense. He is irredeemable. There is no maghfirah, salvation or mercy for him. We should also be scared, as there will also be people from insan who will be sent to Hell forever. No emancipation, no liberation – we should be scared that we become amongst the people who are rajim. Yes, shaytan is in that category – and we are at risk, threat and danger until we pass away. If we don’t earn Allah’s mercy, we will be ashabush-shaytan. We don’t want to be rajim either. Generally, it also seeking refuge from doing anything that will join us with him or associate us with him.
Tasmiyah: In the name of Allah, the entirely Compassionate, the Dispenser of Mercy:
This comes at the start of every surah, except Surah Tawbah. Is it part of the Qur’an or not? We will not be going into that. First letter ba – one meaning it comes for is ilsaq (to join and connect us to things). The purpose of Qur’an is to join us and connect us to His mercy, guidance etc. Some other meanings are isti’anah (to seek help), barakah, ma’iyyat (to become with something). Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala didn’t teach us billah, He subhanahu wa ta’ala taught us bismillah! We need to connect to His name. One way is by reciting Qur’an (His names are mentioned), but it also shows something interesting – simply being connected to His name means you will be connected to Him.
Which name? Ism a’zam – Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. This name is a unique special gift to this ummah! The mufassirin have written that although this name wasn’t known to any previous ummah, it was known to the prophets. The name and the Being here is the same – sometimes, you can learn something about the Being by the name. Here, it didn’t help. Here, the name doesn’t tell us anything about Allah. Some mufassirin think Allah is derived from ilah with an alif lam added to make it the ilah – the God.
Ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim:
This is the first introduction of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to us. This is like the by-line. The real true introduction and definition is that He subhanahu wa ta’ala is Ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim. This is the first and foremost attribute and introduction.
What is the difference between these two names? There are many opinions to this, but I will just give one. Ar-Rahman means he has all mercy and ar-Rahim means Dispenser of the mercy). For example, someone has all the money in the world – that is one thing, but to also give that money to others, that is another. Only one part of Allah’s mercy is distributed on Earth – and the rest of it will be manifested on the Day of Judgement when
He subhanahu wa ta’ala will forgive His sinning believers and grant them paradise. Imagine how immense our sins are – all health, knowledge, provision to animals and humans, everything we see and witness from the beginning of time is ALL His mercy, and that is only one part. Our sins are so corrupt; it is so absolutely inappropriate for us to enter Jannah with such sins, that it will take so much of Allah’s mercy for us to be forgiven. It will take so much of Him targeting us with His mercy to have our sins forgiven.
Through the barakah of following and living the Qur’an, we will become ‘abdur-Rahman and ‘abd ur-Rahim! Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala wants that we begin with these attributes every time we start praying Qur’an.
Alhamdullilahi Rabbil ‘alamin – All praise belongs to Allah swt, the Rabb of the Worlds:
Now that we know Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim, how should we feel? We say it out of habit, without feeling it. Sometimes people say thank you to us, but we know they don’t mean it. Sometimes, someone says “I love you’, but they don’t have the actual feelings, so we take offence.
We should say it with a heart that is feeling the hamd (praise) of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala at that moment. The meaning in itself doesn’t mean anything; there are non-Muslim professors who can teach the whole Qur’an, but they don’t have hidayah. They don’t have the feelings of Qur’an.
Praise itself befits Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He is ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim, and He subhanahu wa ta’ala allows us to receive that mercy – that one thing is enough to make all praise belong to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Rabbil ‘alamin – he is Our Rabb. Rabb is that Being who is the Nourisher, the Upbringer and Caretaker. We learn that all our life, He subhanahu wa ta’ala will be taking care of us! There are realms, aspects and dimensions that teach us that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is the Creator.
Ar-Rahman ir-Rahim: The entirely Compassionate, the Dispenser or Mercy:
Now our hearts again feel the need to state these two names of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala after declaring the hamd of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Here the feeling is different – first it was an introduction, and now here we are reminding ourselves of these names after declaring His hamd. In simple English, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is everything and I am nothing. If I am something, if I am anything, it is because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gave it to me.
Maliki yawmid-deen – Master of the Day of Judgment:
Up until now Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala was being soft with us, now it is intense. Malik (Master) – now, this is intense. There will come a day when Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Malik.
لِّمَنِ ٱلۡمُلۡكُ ٱلۡيَوۡمَۖ لِلَّهِ ٱلۡوَٲحِدِ ٱلۡقَهَّارِ
To whom belongs the kingdom today? To Allah alone, the One, the All-Dominant. [40:16]
– Whose will be the dominion that Day?” That of Allah, the One, the Irresistible Subduer! We have to be ‘Abdul Aziz, Abdullah, ‘Abdul ‘Azim. That means our life has a certain purpose and a goal towards which we are leading our life.
Yawmud-deen – Deen means religion, but we never see it translated as day of Religion. It is translated as Day of Judgment. Why? Because it is the day of deen. The day when the only thing that will matter is our religion. We will be assessed, judged and examined on the basis of din. Now, when you realise this, you will realise it is better to understand this Qur’an because it is the Book where deen is taught.
Just like when you have a final exam, you realise it is better you read the course material to pass the exam. It also teaches us that we might be malik of our dunya, but not our deen. Secular understanding of God is that you can come to him on your terms, but no, no. We have to come to Him on His terms! When you realise He subhanahu wa ta’ala is Malik, we realise we are ‘abd. Then the next ayah we say, is
Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in – It is You we worship and You we ask for help:
First we had feelings of humbleness and love of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Then we had feelings of shukr when we declared His hamd. Then the feelings of love by repeating ar-Rahmanir-Rahim. Now we should tremble a lit bit. The reason why Surah Fatiha is the opening to the Qur’an is because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala teaches us all the feelings of Qur’an. If you get the feelings of Surah Fatihah, you will get the feelings of the entire Qur’an.
We should have fear when we read Malik. Fear of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala isn’t meant to be crippling; it is meant push to a person, to motivate a person to do ‘ibadah, to do ‘iyyaka na’budu – You alone do we worship’, do we submit to, do we take as Malik. We are ‘abd ur-Rahman, ‘abd ur-Rahim, ‘abd ul-Malik. We need to keep praying this to remind us. You have to feel this feeling 40-50 times a day! You don’t just translate it 40-50 times a day, you need to feel it this many times a day.
If we take just the amount of fardh and wajib rakahs, it equals to 20 – so at least 20 times, we should feel like this daily! This feeling should be scattered day and night! We should just not learn the translation, but we should feel the feelings. When we recite iyyaka na’budu, it is a big claim to make. We need His help to do this hence, ‘wa iyyaka nasta’in.’ You should feel, I will need you help every single second of my life to be Your ‘abd. This is a feeling. Iltifat – here, we are moving from third person, declarative statements to addressing Him directly here. Know that you will get help when we make du’a!
Ihdinas-sirat al-mustaqim – Guide us to the straight path:
Now that I’ve connected to Your rububiyyah, to ‘ubudiyyah, I need Your help. Everyone needs help – Sahaba Kiram recited this verse, Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم recited this verse. There are certain aspects in deen where Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has made levels and interpretations, but when it comes to the pillars of Islam, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala levels us.
‘Ihdina’ – O’ Allah, grant us hidayah! We need hidayah. Another thing we learn shouldn’t just supplicate for ourselves, but the na teaches us to supplicate for everyone. There is a unity in Fatihah. The unity of the ummah is going to be through the unity in Fatihah. We might be different in other aspects of life and religion to other believers, but here we ask hidayah for everyone.
If the person felt the feeling of ‘we’ twenty times a day, you will not feel much division with other believers. But we are seeking guidance towards what? As-sirat al-mustaqim! Some secularists make a pun from this and use this to say Islam is a straight and narrow path. Yes, Islam is narrow for their nafs!
There is no concept of narrow in Qur’an. Yes, straight is there, but they give this awful, cynical twist on Qur’an. Mustaqim means so straight – there are no curves; it is direct, there is no obscurity or lack of clarity. Al-mustaqim – it means the firmly established and well-trodden path. It is a path that people have had istiqamah on. It is so well established that it is straight. It is so well established that it is clear. It is so well established that it has no curves, or crookedness.
Islam is a path. It means you constantly have to be moving along. It is dynamic. When someone is praying salah, they are on guidance – but here we are asking for more and more and more and more. We want to go further along the path. We need this feeling twenty times a day. Who is going to give more and more hidayah? Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala!
Just like today, we have the GPS navigation that can guide us from one place to another. We should feel that ya Allah, until we reach this yawmud-deen, I want more and more guidance. So what established this path; who populated this path?
Siratallathina an’amta ‘alayhim – those people who You have sent Your blessings on!
Their establishing on this path made it mustaqim. This is a feeling – this isn’t an abstract deen that you travel on yourself and figure on your own; this is a deen that has been understood, felt and established. The greatest blessing Allah swt has favoured them is hidayah. In another place Allah mentions who exactly the ‘an’amta ‘alayhim’ are:
أَنۡعَمَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيۡہِم مِّنَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَٱلصِّدِّيقِينَ وَٱلشُّہَدَآءِ وَٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَۚ
those whom Allah has blessed, namely, the prophets, the Siddiqin, the Shuhada’ and the righteous. [4:69]
What excellent companions they will be! Nabiyyina – Sayyidina Adam alayhis-salam established this path. Sayyidina Nuh alayhis-salam established this path, Sayyidina Ibrahim alayhis-salam established this path, Sayyidina Musa alayhis-salam established this path, Sayyidina ‘Isa alayhis-salam established this path, Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلمestablished this path. Over 100,000 anbiya’, they established this deen.
And along with the prophets, there are the siddiqin. Siddiqin are the true followers of Allah, Qur’an, sunnah and shari’ah. The truest of the siddiqin is sahabah. Every single sahabi was a siddiq. There are also the great muhaddithin, the great masha’ikh, the great mufassirin, the great awliya’ and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows who else! The prophets are no more, but there will be siddiqin in every generation who will establish this deen.
Wash-shuhada’i, was-salihin: Sahaba became shahid in Badr and Uhud to establish this deen. The blood of martyrs established this deen. It is their sacrifice! The act of following deen uprightly – they become salih and being salih establishes deen.
All feelings of din are inside Surah Fatihah. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is teaching us that hidayah lies in people who He subhanahu wa ta’ala has blessed. However, misguidance can come from angering Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and from people too.
Ghayril maghdub ‘alayhim – not of those who have evoked [Your] anger:
Guide me to sirat of those who you have blessed, and not of those who magdhub (those who have incurred Your wrath and anger). They have a separate culture, separate understanding of legal and illegal, separate lifestyle – they have their own path! Who are these people? The ones who go against the hidayah, commandments and sunnah of Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم..
Wa la-dhallin – and nor of those who are astray:
They are lost and astray. They may not have a clear and defined path, but they are unguided. They have chosen to be unguided. There are people in this life like this. They choose not be guided. They deliberately choose to be unguided. They are astray. Because they are unguided, they cannot be beacons of guidance for us. We have the danger of becoming from these people.
We don’t want to be from those who are openly disobey Him, nor from those who are so careless and lax in din that we just wander around being unguided. That person who 20 times a day they are overweight, they will diet. But the person who only felt it once, they will indulge. The fear of becoming from the above two categories 20 times a day will ensure we do not have a lazy and lax attitude towards deen.
People use Surah Fatihah for their worldly illnesses – it can actually save us from all misguidance and wrath of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. If you feel its feelings twenty times a day, it has the power to make you a true ‘abd of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
We need to fix our salah in this month of Ramadan. If you want to fix your salah, fix your Surah Fatihah. Feel the feelings of Surah Fatihah every day! We need to also feel the feelings beyond this called ihsan! The feelings of Surah Fatihah opens up feelings beyond this which is ihsan.
What is ihsan? Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم described it for us in a hadith;
An ta’budullaha ka’anaka tarahu, fa-il-lam takun tarahu fainnahu yarak …That you worship Allah swt as if you were seeing Allah swr, And if you can’t then He is seeing you.
This is another feeling to get. The feelings of Surah Fatihah is a gateway to that.
Another thing we need to have for salah is purity. There are many levels of taharah – of action, of speech, and there is also a purity of the batin – purity of our thoughts and heart. We will briefly talk about the purity of the batin. Many of you try to feel these feelings, but we get stuck in other thoughts. Sometimes, when we have too many impure thoughts, it continues in our salah, and it’s too difficult to get out of the impure thoughts to feel the pure thoughts of salah.
These impure thoughts can be sinful thoughts (haram), but it can be impure thoughts in the sense they are ghaflah – remembering the next class etc. If you find that this is a problem, then fix this outside salah. You have to work on this; you have to go through exercises and training to get rid of this problem. You need to increase dhikr of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala outside salah. The more dhikr you do outside salah, the more remembrance you will get inside salah. Purity of mind is very important.
Purity of the heart – instead of having love for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, some people have romantic lustful love for creation. This won’t go away in salah. If you are going to bring a heart with unlawful feelings, then it will be near impossible to feel the feelings of Surah Fatihah. These feelings need to be worked on through dhikr, salawat etc.
Wudu has a nur in it, which we fail to get as we treat it as a mundane exercise. The inner reality of wudu is that it is a training exercise to get the dhikr of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. There are some du’as mentioned in books which we cannot trace back to Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم ,but they are from some siddiqin. The ‘amal of salihin and siddiqin can provide additional colour on the path if they resonate with you. They used to make du’as in their heart and feel that they are washing the sins away from their limbs – your wudu will be different if you do it like this. The more feelings you have in wudu, it will open an awareness of feelings for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in salah.
Adhan is also a blessing – you need to ‘listen’ to adhan. Highest adab is that you leave what you are doing, but if this isn’t possible, still lend an ear to the adhan, lend a portion of your awareness and consciousness. When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala told shaytan to make sajdah, he refused the command of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala once. Now imagine the person who doesn’t pray, they refuse 40 sajdahs every single day! The very first thing that will be accounted for on the Day of Judgment is salah!
First things first – did you pray salah? Do you think anyone can say, O’ Allah, I want to skip this question! La hawla wa la quwwata illa Billah. Have you seen the face of the student when they take an exam? It is not easy when you mess up the first question in an exam; it is not easy to go to the next one. The first question will be salah.
Adhan is when you make the choice to pray; you should be thinking these feelings! There will always be an adhan for salah! You should reply to the adhan in the sunnah manner. Imam Ghazali rahimahUllah has mentioned 6 ways on how you can improve your salah, which was mentioned in a previous talk.
There was a great muhaddith whose name was Mawlana Manzur Ahmed Nu’mani (rah) – he wrote the famous compilation of hadith ‘ma’ariful hadith’. He has written a beautiful book in Urdu called ‘haqiqatus-salah – namaz ki haqiqat’ which means the reality of salah. Read this book if you understand Urdu – the book will take you all the way; it will explain the feelings you should have when hearing every line from the adhan, when washing every limb of your body in wudu, when entering the masjid, when saying takbir tahrima, when reciting Surah Fatiha, when reciting a surah, when physically moving in ruku, when saying ‘subhana Rabbiy-al’Azim’.
Then what you should feel when physically rising up from that, how you should feel when you say rabbana lakal hamd, what should you feel in the physical act of going down into sujud, how you should feel when you say ‘subhana Rabbiy-alA’la’, how you should feel when you raise your heard from sujud, how you should feel when you say tashahhud, when you say durud, when you make du’a and how you should feel when you make salam!
He says a person should listen to the adhan with adab and feel as though Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is giving me an invitation to express my need and love for Him, and He is inviting me to express His love for me. When you enter salah, you become the beloved of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. When you think of like that, it is hard to say no!
For the men going to the Masjid, you should feel the greatness of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and should pray the sunnah du’as. Feel that He subhanahu wa ta’ala has opened up the gates of mercy for you when you enter the Masjid.
When you stand for salah, you should feel how you would feel on the Day of Judgment. All three physical postures are done in salah. You should feel the qiyam; it is a different standing to normal standing. This is qiyam in front of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
وَلِمَنۡ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِۦ جَنَّتَانِ
And for the one who is fearful of having to stand before his Lord, there are two gardens [55:46]
وَأَمَّا مَنۡ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِۦ وَنَهَى ٱلنَّفۡسَ عَنِ ٱلۡهَوَىٰ فَإِنَّ ٱلۡجَنَّةَ هِىَ ٱلۡمَأۡوَىٰ
Whereas for the one who feared to stand before his Lord, and restrained his self from the (evil) desire, (40) The Paradise will be the abode. [69:40-41]
It begins with the standing. Sajdah is more love (physical submission), and when we are standing, we should feel fear. Just like I’ve orientated my body to ka’bah, ya Allah, orient my heart to You. When we make takbir tahrima, we have made other things haram. You should now feeling you are entering the zone! All other feelings, all other thoughts besides Allah should now stop. Allahu akbar – Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is the Greatest! The raising of the hands shows our helplessness, and shows we are casting everything else besides Allah behind.
SubhanakAllahumma, wa-tabarakasmuka (full of barakah is your name), wa ta’ala jadduk (and High is your Rank) wa la ilahu ghayruk (and there is no other God besides You!)
Ruku’ – subhana Rabbiy-al’Azim’ The Allahu akbar before this – you should feel Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is greater than what I just recited. What can Ido next? Let me bow down to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Mawlana Manzur Ahmed Nu’mani writes al-‘Azim is greater than ‘Akbar; hence we don’t need to say Allahu Akbar after ruku’.
Sami’Allahu liman hamidah – Rise up from your humility and bowing, rise from your glorifying of Your Rabb and know that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala hears your praise of Him! So now we realise Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is listening, so we praise Him – Rabbana lakal-hamd.
Now we do an Allahu Akbar in celebration and happiness. Then we go into sajdah – subhana Rabbiy al-A’la! This is where we get the qurb. Don’t get up from a sajdah, until you feel it. Change the objective – we get up after we’ve recited it three times at the fastest speed we can. Now change it – don’t get up until you’ve felt the qurb. Sajdah comes twice. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala makes us come back again! And we repeat all this again. This is the feeling.
Tashahhud: At-tahiyatu lillahi was-salawatu wat-tayyibatu – everything of mine, my blessings, salutations, all good things are for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. As-salamu ‘alayka – say it with so much happiness. Without Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم ,we wouldn’t have salah. The salawat inside salah that is also taken to Madinah by the Angels. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala accepts this this so much, that we also say ‘as-salamu ‘alayna!’
You would think we should should start salah with kalima, but we are ending with it. We are reaffirming the truth of the deen of Islam because of this experience of salah. Salah increases our faith! All deen came to us via Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم .Allah taught us durud ibrahim! We say our deen came from him, and he out of humility attributes it to Ibrahim ‘alayhis-salam.
Then after that we make du’a – there are many du’as we can make. Many make istighfar! Then we end with salam. When a believer prays, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sends angels to line up next to you. Imagine that human being who feels he prayed with the angels 20 times a day, their day will be different!
After salah, again we should say Allahu Akbar and Istighfar three times (seeking forgiveness for the shortcomings in our salah). We should KEEP doing this; we should keep trying in this month of Ramadan. When we fix the foundations, our deen will open up for us. Sometimes it is really about going back to basics. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala give us tawfiq this Ramadan to fix our basics.