Lecture by Yasir Qadhi
This lecture is brought to you by the Memphis Islamic Center (MIC). For more information about MIC, please visit www.memphisislamiccenter.org
Last week we talked about ways to increase our khushūʿ in ṣalāh; and I wanted to talk more about this inshā’Allāh today and even in the future as well, because we are praying, alḥamdulillāh, so many rakʿāt every single day and there is a danger of it becoming monotonous or routine, where we do not get the actual khushūʿ of ṣalāh. And among the things that many of us do not actually think too deeply about, even though we should, is the postures of ṣalāh itself: how we are standing, each posture – the significance of each act of ṣalāh. And many of our Scholars – including Imām al-Ghazālī in his Iḥyāʾ ʿUlūm’l-Dīn and Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn Qudāmah and others – have pointed out that each of these postures brings with it a sense of spirituality. Each of these manners of standing and rukūʿ and sujūd, there should come with it an automatic feeling – and this is human nature that when we act in a certain way, or dress in a certain way, or stand in a certain way – [then] automatically it brings about a psychological and a spiritual inner reality.
So, for example, in the army when you are expected to stand straight, with your head erect and everything [at attention] it brings about discipline, of course for us in our Sharīʿah it is not allowed, but for other sharīʿahs and other cultures when the king enters you are supposed to stand up and be with no motion at all, there comes with this an awe or reverence. In this country when the judge enters the [court]room everybody is told ‘all-rise’ and automatically there is a sense of awe that comes out. So all of this, the inner and the outer, are related together and, therefore, even in the postures of ṣalāh there is so much for us to learn.
Again time is limited, however, we will talk a little bit about each particular posture. First and foremost, even before the ṣalāh the fact that we purify ourselves and we are expected to dress in good clothes, Allāh says in the Qur’ān: “Yā ayyuha alladhīna āmanū khudhū zīnatakum ʿinda kulli masjid (Wear your best garment to every masjid).” This is in contrast to many of us who come [to the mosque] in garments in which we play basketball or in pajamas. This is not appropriate – we are supposed to dress up for the masjid and Allāh says, “Take your best clothes to the masjid; dress up when you go to the masjid.”
Also, we prepare ourselves physically by purifying ourselves. SubḥānAllāh when we have a famous or important interview, and we have to go on for example on television for an interview, what do we do? We take a shower, we scrub ourselves, we iron our clothes and we dress our best and we put on our perfume; doesn’t Allāh have more of a right that we get ready for Him? And also, when we get ready that way what happens [is that] psychologically we get pumped up. Imagine in the interview, you are wearing your best suit, you have your best tie on, your best shoes, this automatically brings about a sense of excitement, that you are doing something big, so Allāh is saying that we are supposed to do the same for our ṣalāh: we are supposed to purify ourselves, wash ourselves with wuḍūʾ and put on our best garments.
There are so many stories we could mention. One of the descendants of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), the great grandson of the Prophet – the son of al-Ḥusayn – every time he would stand up and do wuḍūʾ for the ṣalāh he would become white and he would shiver and tremble, so his students said, “What is your problem? Every time you do wuḍūʾ you begin to tremble and your face becomes white!” and he said, “Should I not become anxious and tremble when I am going to stand in the presence of Allāh subḥānahu wa taʿāla?,” so when he does wuḍūʾ he begins to get nervous. Just like when we go to an interview, we wake up, we wear our best garments and we start feeling the adrenaline rush – this is the case of those tābiʿūn and ṣaḥābah when they stood in front of Allāh.
Then, when we stand up in front of Allāh we begin the ṣalāh in the posture of standing because this is the posture which has the utmost adab and that is why even in this country when the judge comes in [and] all rise [is said] we stand up for the judge, of course in our Sharīʿah this is only for Allāh, though it is forgiven when we do it in this land because it is a ḍarūrah / necessity, otherwise [regarding] the actual ruling of standing up Allāh says, “Wa-qūmū li’llāhi qānitīn (and stand up for Allāh in subservience),” and that is why when the ṣaḥābah stood up for the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when he entered the room, he told them not to do this and he said to them that it is not a part of our Sharīʿah and we only stand for Allāh alone. Then we stand up in rows, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Don’t you want to stand up in ranks as the angels line [themselves] in ranks?” and to this day the militaries and armies lineup [form ranks] in this way, showing that they have discipline, that they are part of larger whole, each soldier is but one, but they are together many people. And all are the same in the eyes of Allāh, all of you are the same when you are standing outwardly, not one of you just because of your dress, your ethnicity or your heritage has any priority, no, inna akramakum ʿinda Allāhi atqākum — only taqwā separates you.
And then we stand up in front of Allāh and we move our hands like this [up towards our shoulders] and many of the scholars have commented [on this] that it is as if we are throwing the world behind you and you are entering a private audience with Allāh, you are throwing the world behind you and everything is forgotten. And then this is followed by another takbīr of Allāhu akbar, which means, there is nothing which is greater in my heart than Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla), there is nothing that deserves more worship, more humility, more worship than Allāh. So when you say the takbīr and your mind goes towards your business then you are showing that your business has more haybah, more rights over you, than Allāh. When you say “Allāhu akbar” and start thinking of your family problems, or tomorrow’s work then you are saying the takbīr but you are not meaning it, because if you really meant the takbīr then you wouldn’t think about anything other than Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla).
You are now standing in a private audience in front of Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) and that is why in a ḥadīth this is called munājāt. This is a private conversation and that is why when you say Allāhu akbar, you enter a state which is called (tahrīm) ‘sacred state’, you are prohibited from doing many things after [during] ṣalāh, such as eating drinking, speaking – you cannot speak in the ṣalāh. Why? Because it is a private audience with Him [Allāh], you have no right to speak to anyone else, and if you do speak with somebody else then your ṣalāh goes null and void, isn’t that correct? Yes, right? Why? Because when you say the takbīr, then you begin a private audience with Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) and are standing in front of Allāh. That is why the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that when you stand up for ṣalāh then you are ‘munāji rabbahu’ (in a private conversation with your Lord), so everything else including eating, drinking and speaking, and doing anything like this becomes ḥarām because now you are standing in front of Allāh.
And then you begin as you should begin every gathering by praising Allāh ‘subḥānaka Allāhumma wa bi ḥamdik wa-tabāraka ismuk wa-taʿāla jadduk wa-lā ilāha ghayruk’ and then we recite Sūrat’l-Fātiḥah and we have given tafsīr of this already, and then we show our servitude to Allāh by bowing down and this rukūʿ is done once again by saying Allāhu akbar, the whole ṣalāh has Allāhu akbar in it to remind you that the purpose is that Allāh is deserving of the greatest attention and servitude in your heart; nothing should compete with Him as Allāh is the greatest. Throughout the ṣalāh from the beginning to the end, every time we move up and down we say Allāhu akbar so that we purify our hearts and minds to the next rukn and then we go down and we bow down in front of Allāh to show our servitude to Him, and our humility and to show this we physically bow down and this is something that even we have remnants of this custom in many cultures and you know this culture, in the western world, when they would meet a dignitary or even when a man would see a lady what would he do? He would bow his head down to greet, to show honor and respect, in our Sharīʿah this is only allowed with Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla). However, to lower your head is a sign of respect, to lower your head is a sign that the being you are lowering your head to is worthy of your servitude, of your ʿibādah.
So Allāh tells us that we do rukūʿ and that rukūʿ is so important that every unit of prayer is called a ‘rakʿah’ because of the rakʿah, every unit of prayer is called the rakʿah because the rakʿah [rukūʿ] is one of the most important pillars and it is called after it, and that is why if you catch the rukūʿ then you have caught the rakʿah, as this is really where the essence of servitude lies and in this posture of rukūʿ – of course Allāh has praised the action of rukūʿ in the Qur’ān several times. Allāh commands our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) that “wa irkaʿū maʿa al-rākiʿīn (and bow down [before Allāh] with those who are bowing down),” and Allāh commanded Ibrāhīm (‘alayhi’l-salām) to “purify My house.” For whom? For li al-ṭāʾifīn wa al-ʿākifīna wa al-rukkaʿi al-sujūd (I want you to purify My house and the only people in My house should be those doing ṭawāf and those doing worship and those doing rukūʿ and those doing sujūd. It is that important, that the Kaʿbah has to be purified and the only people around the Kaʿbah should be one of those four people: the ṭāʾifīn those doing ṭawāf, ʿākifīn those who are there for worship in dhikr and Qur’ān and those in rukūʿ and sujūd.
And when we go down in sujūd, we say subḥāna rabbī al-ʿaẓīm – we have already mentioned what subḥāna rabbī and subḥānAllāh mean, and when we go down we say Allāh is ‘al-ʿaẓīm’ (the Great and the Majestic) and in this rukūʿ, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that when you are in rukūʿ and sujūd then do not recite the Qur’ān, because the Qur’ān is too noble to be recited in rukūʿ and sujūd. The Qur’ān is the kalām of Allāh. It is the speech of Allāh and when we humble ourselves in front of Allāh then we do not do tilāwah; we do adhkār, we do tasbīḥ, we do taḥmīd, we do takbīr, we say praises to Allāh but we do not recite the Qur’ān in rukūʿ and sujūd.
And then we take a pause before we go to the main gist of the rakʿah, which is the sajdah. How do we take the pause? We stand up, and this is the only time we change ‘Allāhu akbar’ to something else, and in its stead we say ‘samiʿ Allāhu li-man ḥamidah’. Why? We are setting the stage for the sajdah, we are getting ready, and psychologically for the big event of every rakʿah that is the sajdah. So we take a pause. Why? Because we want to build up that excitement to do the sajdah, and we do this any time, anytime there is a main event – and astaghfirullāh, I am not comparing but even the most mundane of items such as going to a fancy dinner. They begin with the smaller things until the main dish comes. Why is this? We whet our appetites, making it ready for the big event, and then the big event comes.
Likewise, if there is a main speaker coming then first there will be an introduction, a note of thanks and then the main speaker will come. The main speaker does not come on as soon as the event begins, isn’t that the case? We need to become psychologically prepared and we work our way up and the ṣalāh is no different. We are working our way up to the main aspect of the ṣalāh itself, and that is the sajdah, and we do this by taking a pause from the rukūʿ, and we get back up and psychologically prepare ourselves by saying, “Allāh hears those who praise Him.” We are about to praise Him and we need to remind ourselves that Allāh hears those who praise Him and when we say this even before the sajdah, we implement what we are saying and immediately we say “rabbanā wa laka al-ḥamd.” We follow exactly what we just said, saying, “O Allāh to You belongs all praise.”
Once the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), in one of the first prayers he led in Madinah when he said “samiʿ Allāhu li-man ḥamidah” and he went up, one of the ṣaḥābah heard this phrase and from his fiṭrah, without being taught this, said, “rabbanā wa laka al-ḥamdu ḥamdan kathīran, ṭayyiban, mubārakan fīhi (O Allāh you have every ‘ḥamd’, multiple ḥamd, lots of ḥamd (kathīra), pure ḥamd (ṭayyiba), blessed ḥamd (mubāraka))”. So he came and he just said it and he said it in a beautiful way: rabbanā wa laka al-ḥamdu, ḥamdan kathīran, ṭayyiban, mubārakan fīh. When the ṣalāh finished, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Who amongst you said that phrase?” The ṣaḥābī raised his hands and said, “Ya Rasūlullāh, it was me. I only wanted good.” He got scared [and thought] what did I do wrong; I only wanted to do good. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Wallāhi I saw thirty angels racing to take your phrase and reach Allāh the first – who is going to reach Allāh first with the phrase that you have just said?”
This shows us that samiʿ Allāhu li-man ḥamidah Allāh is hearing those who praise Him. And the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) added: rabbanā wa laka al-ḥamdu, ḥamdan kathīran, ṭayyiban, mubārakan fīh milʾ al-samāwāti wa milʾa al-arḍi wa milʾa mā baynahumā wa milʾa mā shiʾta min shayʾin min baʿd, ahl al-thanāʾ wa al-majd, aḥaqqu mā qālahu al-ʿabdu wa-kullunā laka al-ʿabd – and there are so many other phrases, and this is another point as well, perhaps another talk I’ll give, we should memorize the different things the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would say to have a little bit of variety.
And then when we have praised Allāh and have given Him ḥamd, then we fall down and we do the single greatest act of worship humanly possible and that is we lower the most noble part of our bodies, the most protected part of our bodies, and the most precious part of our bodies, we lower it to where we put our feet, to where we walk. Why? Because we show Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿāla) that: O Allah, You are worthy of this servitude, and for You and only for You, I will take my head and I will put it in the sand and in the dust in order to praise You and show glory to You.
And our Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said ‘the closest that servant will ever be to his Lord is when he is in sajdah (aqrabu mā yakūn al-ʿabdu ilā rabbihi wa huwa sājid). There is no posture that you will be closer to Allāh in than sajdah, there is no posture that you will come closer to Allāh by than the posture of sajdah. So that is why the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “When you are in sajdah, increase your duʿā’s, increase your pleas from your heart.” Here is where Allāh will respond to you. When we fall down in sajdah and we lower our heads, we say “O Allāh, You are the highest.” We lower our head and we say subḥāna rabbi al-aʿla – we are low, You are al-Aʿla (the Highest the most Exalted). As we lower our head, this is the ultimate sign of humility, khushūʿ and taʿabbud.
And subḥānAllāh many of us, we feel a sense of disdain and we do not want to do sajdah on something that might be dusty or sandy. If we are going to pray then we look for a sheet or something to pray on. Technically there is nothing wrong with that and it is permissible, so we have sajjādahs and things to pray on. Let me tell you one thing though: our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was too eager to get into sajdah that [he would not] worry over what he would do the sajdah on. And there is ḥadīth in Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī from Anas b. Mālik that on the 23rd of Ramaḍān, it rained so much that the roof of the masjid collapsed and the rain was pouring in and the whole masjid floor became muddy with the water and mud. They did not have carpet obviously; it was sand and gravel.
Now can you imagine – imagine us when we pray on dry sand or the grass, how do we feel? Imagine if we were to pray outside where the shoes are put, how do we feel? There is nothing wrong with praying on a sajjādah – I am not saying that. Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was thinking of other things, he didn’t care where the head goes. Anas he was looking at what is going to happen: is he going to do sajdah in this mud? He said, “Wallāhi I saw athar al-ṭīn [traces of mud] on the nose and forehead of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as he went into that mud and came back out.” He was in a different world, and he wanted to show Allāh servitude and humility, that O Allāh this is where we originate from. “Wa minhā khalaqnākum (I created you from this),” so now I am turning to this, I am lowering myself in the sand to show You O Allāh my humility and servitude.
Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Never does a servant of Allāh fall down in sajdah except that Allāh forgives one sin and exalts him one level.” Every sajdah forgives you one khaṭīʾah and one darajah in Jannah is raised and the famous ḥadīth of Rabīʿah (the servant of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)) when he had been serving the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) for many years, one time the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “O Rabīʿah, what can I give you? Ask.” He was expecting a request for money, a house, something along this after all these years of service the Prophet asked him what he could give him. Rabīʿah thought for a while, and he thought and thought, and he said, ‘O Messenger of Allāh, I have but one request: innī urīdu murāfatuqa fi’l-jannah (I want to be your rafīq (your companion) in Jannah just like I am your companion in this world).” The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said to him, “Help me to help you [get to that level] by increasing in your sajdahs’ (fa-ʿaʾinnī ʿalā nafsik bi kathrati al-sujūd).” How can one get to the highest level of Jannah? Allāh will do this; Allāh will give it to you but you to do something, and what is that? It is more sajdahs.
And my dear brothers and sisters, let me be very frank here, if you do not taste the sweetness of the worship of Allāh in the sajdah then there is no other place where you will taste it. If you are deprived of tasting the ḥalāwah of ʿibādah (the sweetness of worship) in this state of sajdah, then really there is no other state in which you will feel this sweetness and, therefore, when you go down in sajdah, you should lower not just your face but your body and your heart – lower them and humble them in front of Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) and realize [in this] that you are doing exactly what you have been created for and that is to worship Allāh.
You cannot do anything that is more precious than lowering yourself to Allāh and as you lower your head increase your adhkār, increase your duʿā’s as that is when your duʿā’s will be responded to. Open up your heart and start pleading to Allāh, begging with Allāh, and beg Allāh for the khayr of this world and the khayr of the next. So much so, that our scholars said – and this is a fiqh point here – that you are not supposed to recite the Qur’ān in sajdah of course, however were you take a phrase of the Qur’ān which is a duʿā’ and were to say it as a duʿā’ and not as tilāwah then it is allowed. So if you say in sajdah “rabbanā ātina fi al-duniya ḥasana wa fi al-ākhirati ḥasana [(Our Lord grant us good in this world and grant us in the hereafter good)],” then this is allowed, however, if you were to recite the whole verse then this is not allowed. If you were to say “rabbi zidnī ʿilma [(My Lord increase me in knowledge)],” this is allowed, but you do not recite the whole verse, because you are not doing tilāwah, rather you are making duʿā’ and duʿā’ is allowed with the phrases of the Qur’ān.
Now, the posture of sajdah is so important that every rakʿah has two of it, and it has two of nothing else – it has two of nothing else. Every rakʿah has two sajdahs. And in order to give you that pause, once again you sit up again, you take a break – we are human beings, we get tired – let the blood flow to the brain, take a few breaths and praise Allāh, say like the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), what would he say between the sajdahs? Rabbighfirlī, rabbighfirlī [(My Lord forgive me, My Lord forgive me)], say it and take a pause and ask Allāh for forgiveness and get the inner strength to do the second sajdah and then go down in the second sajdah, and once again when you are down praise Allāh saying ‘Allāh is the Highest [and the Most Exalted, and I am the one humbled in front of Him]’ and once again open your heart to Him and beg and plead to Him (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) and you go on and on.
And that is why my dear brothers and sisters, as Imam Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (raḥimahullāh), the famous scholars of the past, the greatest scholar of the tābiʿūn said, “There are three places [wherein] you will find ḥalāwat al-īmān (the sweetness of īmān) and if you do not find the sweetness of īmān in these three places, then the door to īmān has been shut [for you], you are not going to find it anywhere else.” What are these three things? He said: (i) al-ṣalāh, (ii) dhikr of Allāh and (iii) qirāʾat al-Qur’ān. Three things he said were the doors to taste the sweetness of īmān [by], if you are not going to find ḥalāwat al-īmān in these three things he said abwāb ghulliqat (the doors have been closed [for you]), i.e. you have no hope besides these three.
Therefore as we stand up for so many rakʿāt and we go on and on do not let these rakʿāt become monotonous routines. No – every rakʿāt, wallāhi, is a door to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla), it is an opening up, a private conversation [with Him] and the more rakʿāt we have, then the higher we will go in this world and the next.
May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) make us among those whose ṣalāh is accepted. may Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) make us among those who are continuous in their ṣalāh – alladhina hum ʿalā ṣalāhihim dāʾimūn. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) make us among those who have khushūʾ in their ṣalāh (qad aflaḥa al-muʾminūn, alladhīna hum fī ṣalāhihim khāshiʾūn). May Allāh make us among those whose ṣalāh are accepted totally, one hundred percent; as our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, some of you only nine tenths of their ṣalāh will be accepted, others eight tenths and others all the way going down to one tenth, because they were not paying attention. May Allāh make us among those [who get reward for the] full ten out of ten, one hundred percent. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) bless us in this world and the next wa jazākum Allāhu khayran.