Nermin Abd El-Moniem at IslamToday
Prayer is the second pillar of Islam. The Arabic word for prayer (salâh) derives from the word (silah) which means "a connection". Prayer is the best way that we can make contact with our Creator and seek His guidance and support. Essentially, prayer is our main route to attaining Allah's pleasure, and it is the first thing we will be asked about after death.
Since Islam is the religion of all humanity, it encourages us to be successful and ambitious and to work hard in order to achieve the best for ourselves, our communities, and for humanity as a whole. Also, Islam urges us to better ourselves in the various aspects of our daily lives, including our worship of Allah. On the Day of Judgment, Allah will ask us about our deeds, and we will be punished or rewarded according to the quality of those deeds.
Allah says: "To any of you that chooses to press forward, or to follow behind – Every soul will be (held) in pledge for its deeds." [Sûrah al-Muddaththir (74): 37-38]
In light of this, all Muslims are obligated to try to be proficient and successful in their various walks of life – as students, workers, doctors, craftsmen…etc. Moreover, we should remember that we do not seek success for our worldly lives only, but also for our lives in the Hereafter. Likewise, we have to try hard to attain higher degrees of excellence in our worship.
Accordingly, the five daily prayers are not just a duty or a habit for Muslims, but they are a daily and direct connection between us and Allah. In other words, they are our helpline that we use five times a day to give our hearts and souls the guidance that they need.
It is not easy for me, or for any of us as Muslims, to train ourselves to wake up daily before dawn in order to pray the Fajr prayer. It is also not easy to drag ourselves away from life's hectic schedule so we can always pray the rest of the five prayers on time. Yet, do we ever ask ourselves if Allah has accepted our prayers or not? Do we ever ask ourselves how we might improve the performance of our prayers?
In fact, I had never asked myself any of these questions until after reading the following words of Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullâh). He writes:
Mankind, with regard to the performance of their prayers, are on five levels:
- The First: This is the level of one who is negligent and wrongs his soul. He is the one who falls short in performing wudû' properly, performing the prayer on time and within its specified limits, and in fulfilling its essential pillars.
- The Second: This is the level of one who guards his habit of offering his prayers on time and within their specified limits, who fulfils their essential pillars and performs his wudû' with care. However, his striving (in achieving the above) is wasted due to disturbances in his thoughts during prayer that distract him and turn his attention to other preoccupations and concerns.
-The Third: This is the level of one who guards his prayers within the specified limits, fulfils their essential pillars and strives within himself to repel the disturbances in his thoughts and extraneous concerns. He is busy struggling against his enemy (Satan) so that Satan does not steal from the prayer. Because of this, he is engaged in (both) prayer and struggle (jihad).
- The Fourth: This is the level of one who carries out the prayer, completing and perfecting its due rights and essential pillars, who performs it within its specified limits and with his heart fully engrossed in safeguarding its rights and specified limits, so that nothing of his prayer is wasted. His whole concern is directed towards its performance, its completion and its perfection – as it should be. His heart is immersed in the prayer and in servitude to his Lord, the Exalted.
- The Fifth: This is the level of one who carries out the prayer like the one mentioned above. However, on top of this, he has taken and placed his heart in front of his Lord, looking towards Him with his heart in anticipation, filled with His love and His might, as if he sees and witnesses Allah. The misgivings, thoughts and preoccupations have vanished and the veil between him and his Lord is lifted. The difference between this person and others with respect to the prayer is greater than the distance between the heavens and the Earth. This person is busy with his Lord, delighted with Him.
The people whose performance of prayer is at the first level will be punished, those at the second will be held to account, those at the third will have their sins and shortcomings expiated, those at the forth fourth will be rewarded, and those at the fifth will be close to their Lord, because they will receive the portion of the one who makes his prayer the delight and pleasure of his eye. Whoever makes his prayer the delight and pleasure of his eye will have the nearness of his Lord made the delight and pleasure of his eye in the Hereafter. He will also be made a pleasure to the eye in this world, since whoever makes Allah the pleasure of his eye in this world, every other eye will become delighted and pleased with him.
From that time on, I started to ask myself: Where am I? Will I be punished or rewarded? How can I reach the 5th level?