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Standing At The Divine Window: A Glimpse Of Eternity In The Serenity Of Salah



The Window in the Prison

We live in a world where windows are more than mere glass: they are silent witnesses to our deepest dreams. Time and time again, our films and literature, across eras and genres, capture characters gazing longingly toward the sky or horizon. Their gazes transcend the mere act of outwardly observing the tapestry of this world. They’re caught lost in the pursuit of something greater. 

“The world is a prison for a believer,”1 Sahih Muslim 2956 our beloved Prophet and Messenger ﷺ tells us. And who understands the blessing of the small window in the encaging walls better than the prisoner, who overlooks the world outside from within? For a prisoner, the austere cell whispers tales of tangible isolation and confinement. Somber realities nestle within the barren walls that have never known the comfort of warmth. Inside, time takes on a rhythm entirely its own as the prisoner paces across the bare floor to break the stillness of the prison room. Life here is reduced to its most fundamental essence.

And yet, the small window frame is a sliver of the world beyond—a sliver of hope to temporarily appease a soul yearning for a freedom that lies just beyond the prisoner’s grasp. Through it, the prisoner can taste light, witness the passing of night and day, spring to winter, and hear a distant symphony of voices. Through it, the prisoner sees the passing of time, which means holding on just a little longer. Resilience is born in the grimmest of spaces as long as there’s a sliver of light. 

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To the Muslim, the vastness of the earth mirrors the cold, confining walls of a prison cell. The pleasures of this world are but faint, fleeting echoes of Paradise. Countless times we reach for the pleasures of this world, only to realize they’re mere mirages eluding our grasp. 

The Return Home

As humans, we’re forever searching to return home. Yet many spend lifetimes without ever understanding where “home” truly lies. Instead, as sloppily as a child building a gingerbread house, we construct fragile illusions of “home,” only to end up unsatisfied before leaving them behind. Home lies in a realm that transcends the limitations of human experience. In the words of the King of kings ﷻ,

“this worldly life is not but diversion and amusement. And indeed, the home of the Hereafter – that is the [eternal] life, if only they knew.” [Surah Al-Ankabut: 29;64]

prayer window

Sweetness of salah [PC: Sinan Toy (unsplash)]

Humans are prisoners awaiting their return home, with a window that opens up for us five times a day out of the mercy of Allah ﷻ, for those who know and believe. The homes of this world, made of brick and mortar, pale in comparison to the homes of the Hereafter. Our Beloved Messenger ﷺ said, Paradise is built from “bricks of silver and gold, its mortar is musk of strong fragrance, its pebbles are pearls and rubies, and its soil is saffron. Whoever enters it will enjoy bliss without despair and eternity without death. Their clothes will not fade, nor will their youth expire.”2Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2526 For the believers, their homes reside in the “Gardens of Eternity; beneath them rivers will flow; they will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold, and they will wear green garments of fine silk and heavy brocade: They will recline therein on raised thrones. How good the recompense! How beautiful a couch to recline on!”3Quran 18:31 For “those who fear their Lord will have high rooms upon rooms built under which rivers flow. [This is] the promise of Allah. Allah does not fail in [His] promise.”4Quran 39:20

In His infinite mercy, Allah ﷻ has given the believer a window—a spiritual escape from the confines of this worldly prison. Five times a day, He ﷻ invites us to stand in prayer before Him ﷻ, allowing us to linger at this window of transcendence for as long as we want, to gaze upon the divine and converse with our Lord ﷻ. In His infinite wisdom and compassion, five times a day, He ﷻ offers us a temporary escape, to catch a whiff of the sweet fragrances of the Gardens of our homes in Jannah (Paradise). The pillar of prayer in the Islamic tradition is a gift to us from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) brought by our beloved Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) after his journey to heaven on the Night of Ascension, the Night of Al-Isra Wal-Mi’raj. He ﷺ said, “When you get up to pray, perform ablution perfectly, then face the qiblah and say: ‘Allāhu Akbar’ (Allāh is Greater). Then recite a convenient portion of the Qur’ān; then bow and remain calmly in that position for a moment, then rise up and stand erect; then prostrate and remain calmly in that position for a moment; then rise up and sit calmly; then prostrate and remain calmly in that position for a moment; then do that throughout your prayer.” [Reported by as-Sab’a and the wording is that of al-Bukhari]

The Fruits of Worship

We offer our prayers to our Lord ﷻ, but it is we who reap the rewards and benefit. God does not need to see us stand at the window. He ﷻ knows our need for it, and so He commanded it. Every command from Allah ﷻ bears fruit for the believer. Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, a prolific Islamic scholar wrote,

“The fruit of fasting is the purification of the soul. The fruit of zakah (obligatory alms) is the purification of wealth. The fruit of Hajj (pilgrimage) is forgiveness. The fruit of jihad (fighting is submitting the soul) is that Allah has purchased from his servants their lives and their properties in exchange for Paradise. The fruit of salah (prayer) is the turning of the servant upon his Lord and the facing of Allah given to His servant. However, embarking towards Allah with complete devotion in salah encompasses all the aforementioned fruits because the fruits of all good deeds are found when the ‘abd embarks toward Allah with true devotion.”5Al-Jawziyyah 71

He ﷻ loves to see His faithful servant stand to worship Him. And who better to worship than “Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” [Surah Ikhlaas: 1-4] His faithful servant, marked by “the sign [of brightness seen] on their faces from the trace of prostrating [in prayer],” loves to stand to meet their Lord in profound moments of devout love. Indeed, “does not every lover love to be alone with his beloved?”6Penfound

A Meeting With Our Beloved

In the quiet hours of the night, while the world slept, our beloved Messenger ﷺ, whose heart held love for his wife and deep devotion to his Lord, turned to our mother Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) with a question of reverence: he ﷺ said, “O Aisha, would it grieve you if I spend this night in worship to my Lord?” Her reply to the Messenger ﷺ only echoed their love; she said, “By Allah, I love to be close to you and I love what pleases you.”7Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān 620 And thus, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) left the warmth of his bed and the side of his wife, to stand in serene submission before the One who captivated his heart even more than his beloved wife, his Beloved Lord. The entirety of the universe is obedient to Allah ﷻ,

“and to Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and earth. All are to Him devoutly obedient.” [Surah Ar-Rum: 30;26]

Thus, as the universe surrenders to the Lord of the worlds, the believer conforms to the harmony of creation by prostrating to Allah ﷻ. With a head bowed in humility, the believer stands on the prayer mat ready to enter the chamber of prayer with angels, each the size of mountains, standing behind him or her, and to the right and to the left.8Muwatta Malik

In the presence of these celestial beings and before the revered King of all kings, it is a prophetic practice from the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to adorn ourselves in beautiful attire and with pleasant scents. Devotion to Allah ﷻ transcends mere physical ritual or cleanliness. It involves purifying our limbs by performing wudu (ablution) and aligning our hearts solely towards Allah ﷻ. This spiritual orientation is a purification as much as it is a conscious turning of our being away from that which is not our Lord ﷻ. A soul anchored in such intentionality, navigating the world in the name of Allah ﷻ, ascends beyond the prison of dunya, this transient, lower world.9Penfound It does not suffer from the pangs of estrangement or the existential catastrophe of aimlessly existing in this ephemeral world. Instead, it finds peace and familiarity in consistently meeting with the Divine, garnering His pleasure, and beautiful, celestial rewards are blossoming in the Gardens of Jannah

The Sanctuary of Salah

window of salah

Praying in seclusion [PC: Haei Elmas (unsplash)]

When we raise both our hands up in Takbir to commence the prayer with the phrase Allāhu Akbar (God is Greater), we cast away every burden of this fleeting life, affirming with our hearts that Allah ﷻ is greater than these temporary trials. The veil of worldly illusions is lifted and with the eye of our hearts, we are reminded that Allah ﷻ is the “originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.”10Quran 2:117 His authority and power transcend the confines of the austere prison of this world, we only need to ask. In His own words, He ﷻ promised, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you”11Quran 2:186 and He ﷻ is the Keeper of His promises. In this private audience with the Divine, the heart speaks to its Creator knowing that He ﷻ understands and responds to our call. 

However, our worship is not transactional. It is not to have our calls answered. It is to answer the call of Allah ﷻ that we stand to worship Him. We recognize Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Majesty and fulfill the purpose for which we were created. Allah ﷻ says,

“I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Surah Adh-Dhariyat: 51;56]

As part of the prayer, the believer, who knows and loves Allah ﷻ, glorifies His Majesty “profusely for His Attributes and Perfection.”12Al-Jawziyyah 67

The essence of recitation of the Quran in the prayer is an “endeavor to learn about Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) through His words as if trying to see Him through His Revelation.”13Al-Jawziyyah 68 The Quran is a divine love letter, sent to us from our Beloved ﷻ, to know Him, love Him, and to guide our hearts to Him. One of our righteous Salaf (predecessors) said, “Allah manifests Himself to His slave through His speech [the Quran].”14Al-Jawziyyah 68 Thus, we are guided by the divine mercy and light of Allah ﷻ, for “everything which gives light and illuminates other things has received its light from Him; it has no light of its own.”15Ala-Maududi He ﷻ “is the light of the Heavens and the Earth.”16Quran 24:35 And the creation is a mere reflection of the Creator. The believer is a conduit of His light: reflecting the light of Allah ﷻ and dispelling the shadows of ignorance and corruption in this world. With every prayer, we present our hearts before our Lord ﷻ, seeking to polish and align them with His guiding light.

When we place our hands over our chests and speak to Him from the depth of our hearts, or bow our heads in humility and our intellect yields to His reverence, Allah ﷻ sees the sincerity of our hearts. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ taught us that

“Allah does not look to your faces and your wealth but He looks to your heart and to your deeds.”[Sahih Muslim 2564c]

As we press our faces to the earth, from it we came and to it we will return,17Quran 20:55 our hearts ascend above our intellect and the masks we wear for the world fall away. In the state of sujood (prostration), our burdens lighten, forgiveness is found, and our whispered dua’s (supplications) for mercy are heard and answered by Allah ﷻ. Every word and movement of the prayer draws us closer to Him ﷻ, elevating our spiritual standing, bringing us closer to the Abode of Eternity. This stillness in salah is a sanctuary, fulfilling our deepest psychological, spiritual and emotional needs—needs that no creation can address. We stand with conviction, knowing Allah ﷻ, the Keeper of promises, will accept our sincere devotion out of His boundless mercy:

“And worship your Lord until the certainty [of death] comes to you.” [Surah Al-Hijr: 15;99]

Gazing Towards Eternity

Five times a day, the people of salah “rise to prayer, rise to success” upon the echoing divine calls of Allah ﷻ. We gaze wistfully from inside the enclosure of this worldly prison through a small window to catch a mere glimpse of the eternity of the Hereafter. Each prayer brings us closer to seeing the majestic face of Allah ﷻ and returning to the true home of Jannah. In a land of thornless lote trees18[Al-Maliki 48] and sprouting fruits of seventy-two different colors, and endless “rivers of fresh water, rivers of milk never changing in taste, rivers of wine delicious to drink, and rivers of pure honey”19[Al-Maliki 58], the dwellers of Jannah will  reside in mansions with “exterior[s] [that] can be seen from inside and interior[s] [that] can be seen from outside.”20Al-Maliki 36 They will visit one another “on white, high-bred mounts that resemble sapphires.”21Al-Maliki 98

In the deepest crevices of our hearts, we long to be among the People of the Right, who see the celestial gates of Jannah open for us, as its keepers say, “Peace be upon you! You have done well, so come in to stay forever,”22Quran 39:73 as we’re called to return home. The people of salah will be summoned to enter through their own gate: Baab As-Salah, the Gate of Salah. They will leave behind the ephemeral for the eternal. The pillar of prayer in the Islamic faith is a scent of Paradise that reached the temporal prison of dunya, as it can be smelt from the distance of “seventy autumns.”23Al-Maliki 44 Through the serenity of salah, humanity knows Allah ﷻ, which is a gift unmatched. For “the one who knows Allah, what does he not know? And the one who does not know Allah, what do they know, really? If you know everything else, but do not know Allah, you know nothing.”24Musab Penfound

May Allah make us of the ones who know Him, love Him, and always strive to please Him with every moment of our existence. May Allah make us from amongst the dwellers of Jannat al-Firdous and use us to guide others to His path. Allahumma Ameen.



– Conversing with Allah: Reflecting On Surah al-Fatihah For Khushoo In Salah

The Sacred Elixir: The Night Prayer And The Ordinary Muslim

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Sarah Aly is a software engineer by day, and a Mishkah student by night. She graduated from NYU with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with a focus on web development and design. When she’s not lost in deep thought or writing about the unseen, she’s looking for beauty in the stories of others.

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