Al-Ghunya li-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq - 6

Concerning the ritual prayer of the spiritual elite [salat al-khassa].

 

As for the ritual prayer of the spiritual elite [salat al-khassa], it serves to alert the wakeful, the humbly submissive, the vigilant, the guardians of hearts, the welcome guests of the All-Merciful [ar-Rahman] (may they enjoy the good pleasure of Allah, and may His peace be upon them all). A good description of it is related in the following report:

Yusuf ibn 'Isam was passing through one of the large congregational mosques [jami' min jawami'] of Khurasan, when he came across an enormous circle [halqa] of people. He stopped to ask someone about it, and he was told: "That is the circle of Hatim. He is speaking on the subjects of abstinence [zuhd] and pious caution [wara'], and about fear and hope." Yusuf then turned to his companions and said: "Come on, let us ask him a question on the subject of the ritual prayer [salat]! Then, if he gives us a satisfying answer, we shall sit with him and join his circle."

He thereupon went up to Hatim, saluted him with the greeting of peace [sallama 'alai-hi], and said:

"May Allah bestow His mercy upon you [rahima-ka 'llah]! I have a question I wish to put to you."

"Go ahead and ask it," said Hatim, and the following conversation then took place between the two of them:

Yusuf said: "I wish to ask you about the ritual prayer [salat]."

Hatim said: "Do you wish to ask me about its significance as a spiritual experience [ma'rifa], or about the discipline [adab] to be observed in its performance? There are two distinct questions here, requiring two separate answers."

Yusuf said: "In that case, let me ask you about the discipline [adab] to be observed in its performance."

Hatim said: "It means that you rise to the occasion, and walk [to the place of worship] with an attitude of total dedication [ihtisab]. It means that you begin the actual prayer with the appropriate intention [niyya], and pronounce the declaration of Allah's Supreme Greatness [by saying 'Allahu Akbar'] in a spirit of glorification [tukabbiru bi't-ta'zim]. It means that you recite [from the Qur'an] with a clear and distinct enunciation [tartil]. It means that you perform the act of bowing with humility [tarka'u bi'l-khushu'], the act of prostration with submissiveness [tasjudu bi't-tawadu'], the testimony with sincerity [tatashahhadu bi'l-ikhlas], and the salutation with a feeling of compassion [tusallimu bi'r-rahma]."

Yusuf's companions then prompted him to ask about its significance as a spiritual experience [ma'rifa], so he went ahead and asked this second question, to which Hatim responded by explaining:

"It means that you set the Garden of Paradise to your right, the Fire of Hell to your left, the Bridge [as-Sirat] beneath your feet, and the Balance [al-Mizan] beneath your eyes, and [that you worship] the Lord as if you could see Him, for, even if you do not see Him, He does see you."

"O young man [ya shabb]," said Yusuf, "how long have you been performing this kind of ritual prayer [salat]?"

"For twenty years," said Hatim.

Yusuf said to his companions: "Come now, let us commit ourselves to peforming such a prayer [salat] for the next fifty years!" Then he turned to Hatim and asked him: "Where did you find out about this?"

Hatim replied: "From those books of yours, which you used to dictate to us!"

The traditional report [hadith] of Abu Hazim al-A'raj ["the Lame"] (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) is highly relevant to this whole topic, so we shall now proceed to recount it. To quote the actual words of Abu Hazim al-A'raj (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him):

"One day, while I was at the seashore, one of the Companions of Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) came up to me and said: 'O Abu Hazim, do you know how to perform the ritual prayer [a-tuhsinu an tusalliya]?'

" 'How could I not know how to perform the ritual prayer,' said I, 'since I am thoroughly familiar with its strictly obligatory elements [fara'id], as well as with the customary observances [ma'stanna] established by Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace)?'

" 'O Abu Hazim,' he then said to me, 'what is required of you, as an obligatory duty [fard], before you stand ready to perform the ritual prayer [salat]?'

" 'There are six requirements,' I replied.

" 'What are they?' he asked.

"I said: 'They are (1) a state of ritual purity [tahara], (2) covering oneself [to conceal the private parts] [istitar], (3) choosing a suitable spot on which to perform the prayer [ikhtiyar mawdi' as-salat], (4) standing ready to perform the prayer [al-qiyam ila 's-salat], (5) formulating the intention [niyya], and (6) facing toward the Qibla [direction of the Ka'ba in Mecca].'

" 'O Abu Hazim,' he asked me next, 'with what intention [niyya] do you set out from your house toward the mosque [masjid]?'

" I said: 'With the intention to visit [the place of worship] [bi-niyyat az-ziyara].'

"He said: 'With what intention [niyya] do you enter the mosque [masjid]?'

" I said: 'With the intention to perform an act of worship [bi-niyyat al-'ibada].'

" He said: 'With what intention [niyya] do you stand ready to perform the ritual prayer [salat]?'

" I said: 'With the intention of servitude [bi-niyyat al-'ubudiyya], acknowledging the state of servitude to Him.'"

Abu Hazim (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) then continued his account of his conversation with the Companion of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace):

"He came closer to me, and said: 'O Abu Hazim, with what do you confront the Qibla?'

" I said: 'With three obligatory observances [fara'id] and one customary practice [sunna].'

" He said: 'And what are they?'

"I said: 'Facing toward the Qibla is an obligatory observance [fard]. Formulating the intention [niyya] is an obligatory observance [fard]. The initial declaration of Allah's Supreme Greatness [at-takbirat al-ula] is also an obligatory observance [fard]. The act of raising the hands is a customary practice [sunna].'

"He said: 'In how many instances is pronouncing the declaration of Allah's Supreme Greatness [takbir] required of you as an obligatory observance [fard], and how often as a customary practice [sunna]?'

"I said: 'The basic principle of takbir [the affirmation of the Supreme Greatness of Allah] is expressed through ninety-four takbira's [utterances of the declaration: "Allahu Akbar (Allah is Supremely Great!)"]. Five of these are strictly obligatory [fard], while all the rest of them are customary [sunna].'

"He said: 'With what do you mark the opening of the ritual prayer [bi-ma tastaftihu 's-salat]?'

"I said: 'With the affirmation of Allah's Supreme Greatness [bi't-takbir].'

"He said: 'And what [element of the prayer] is its manifest proof [burhan]?'

"I said: 'Its Qur'anic recitation [qira'a].'

"He said: 'And what is its jewel, its very essence [jawhar]?'

"I said: 'Its glorification [of the Lord] [tasbih].'

"He said: 'And what is its animation [ihya']?'

"I said: 'Its humble submission [khushu'].'

"He said: 'And what is its humble submission [khushu']?'

"I said: 'Fixing one's gaze on the spot where the act of prostration [sujud] is to be performed.'

"He said: 'And what is its solemn dignity [waqar]?'

"I said: 'Its state of calm tranquillity [sukun].'

"He said: 'And what is its consecration [tahrim]?'

"I said: 'The [initial] declaration of Allah's Supreme Greatness [takbir].'

"He said: 'And what is its deconsecration [tahlil]?'

"I said: 'The [concluding] salutation [taslim].'

"He said: 'And what is its emblem [shi'ar]?'

"I said: 'The glorification [of the Lord] [tasbih] when its performance has been duly completed.'

"He said: 'And what is the key to all of that, O Abu Hazim?'

"I said: 'The ritual ablution [wudu'].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to the ritual ablution [miftah al-wudu']?'

"I said: 'The invocation of Allah's Name [tasmiya].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to the invocation of Allah's Name [miftah at-tasmiya]?'

"I said: 'The intention [niyya].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to the intention [miftah an-niyya]?'

"I said: 'Certitude [yaqin].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to certitude [miftah al-yaqin]?'

"I said: 'Absolute trust [in the Lord] [tawakkul].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to absolute trust [miftah at-tawakkul]?'

"I said: 'Fear [khawf].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to fear [miftah al-khawf]?'

"I said: 'Hope [raja'].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to hope [miftah ar-raja']?'

"I said: 'Patience [sabr].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to patience [miftah as-sabr]?'

"I said: 'Contentment [rida].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to contentment [miftah ar-rida]?'

"I said: 'Worshipful obedience [ta'a].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to worshipful obedience [miftah at-ta'a]?'

"I said: 'Acknowledgment [of truth and reality] [i'tiraf].'

"He said: 'And what is the key to acknowledgment [of truth and reality] [miftah al-i'tiraf]?'

"I said: 'Acknowledgment of the Divine Oneness and Lordship [al-i'tiraf bi'l-wahdaniyya wa 'r-rububiyya].'

"He said: 'And by what means did you become acquainted with all of that?'

"I said: 'Through knowledge ['ilm].'

"He said: 'And by what means did you acquire knowledge ['ilm]?'

"I said: 'Through the process of learning [ta'allum].' "He said: 'And by what means did you pursue the process of learning [ta'allum]?'

"I said: 'Through intelligence ['aql].'

"He said: 'And by what means did you acquire intelligence ['aql]?'

"I said: 'There are two kinds of intelligence [al-'aql 'aqlan]. For the making of one kind of intelligence, Allah is solely responsible, to the exclusion of His creatures. The other kind of intelligence is one that human beings can develop, through the discipline of training and education. When the two kinds are combined together as a team, each of them assists and supports the other.'

"He said: 'And by what means did you accomplish all of that?'

"I said: 'Through the enabling grace [of Allah] [tawfiq]. May Allah enable us, and you, to succeed in achieving that which is worthy of love and approval.'

"Then he said: 'By Allah, you have already perfected the keys to the Garden of Paradise! So let me hear your answers to the following questions:

(1) What is the obligatory duty [fard] that you must perform?

(2) What is the obligatory duty of the obligatory duty [fard al-fard]?

(3) What is an obligatory duty that leads to an obligatory duty [fard yu'addi ila fard]?

(4) What is the customary practice [sunna] that is included within the obligatory duty [fard]?

(5) What is a customary practice [sunna] by which the obligatory duty [fard] is completed?

"I answered his questions as follows:

'(1) As for the obligatory duty [fard], that is the ritual prayer [salat].

(2) As for the obligatory duty of the obligatory duty [fard al-fard], that is the state of ritual purity [tahara].

(3) As for an obligatory duty that leads to an obligatory duty [fard yu'addi ila fard], that refers to your taking water in your right hand, and using it to wash your left hand.

(4) As for the customary practice [sunna] that is included within the obligatory duty [fard], that refers to your making water flow between your fingers and toes [when performing the ritual ablution].

(5) As for a customary practice [sunna] by which the obligatory duty [fard] is completed, that is circumcision [khitan].'

"He said: 'You have not left yourself vulnerable to any charge that might be brought against you, O Abu Hazim!

 

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