It is also the method by which this union is achieved.}
The Positions of Prayer
The movements of the prayer identify the one praying with all other forms of creation, for the prayer’s postures are designed to remind the worshipper of mortality and the traversal through the different stages of life. They also resemble the rising and setting of the celestial bodies, as well as the rotation of the planets upon their axes and the orbits of the moons, planets and suns. These are signs which demonstrate the hierarchical nature of creation and its submission to Divine regulation at every level, for as the Holy Qur’an states:
Among His Signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Adore not the sun and the moon, but adore God, Who created them, if it is Him ye wish to serve.
God further draws our attention to their submissive nature, saying:
Hast thou not seen that before God prostrate whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is on the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the hills, and the trees, and the beasts, and many of mankind…?
The postures of prayer, then, are symbolic of humanity’s relationship to the Divine,
- moving as they do from standing in assertion of existence and strength,
- to the bowing of humility and servitude,
- to prostration in the face of God’s overwhelming Magnificence and Power and the corresponding realization of one’s own utter nonexistence.
- From this station of utter abasement, the worshipper returns to the intermediate position, between annihilation and independence, to sit between the hands of the Prophet Muhammad, greeting the one who is the intermediary between the Divinity and His creation.
- The Prophet stands at the Station of Perfect Servanthood and is the ultimate exemplar of the condition of servanthood to God.
Unlike all other creations, Prophet Muhammad was divested of all selfhood, dissolved in the Presence of God.
Whithersoever ye turn, there is the presence of God.
For God is all-Pervading, all-Knowing.
The Peak of Prayer is Prostration [Meem]
The Prophet said, “Nothing brings the servant of God nearer to the Divine Presence than through his secret prostration (al-khafi).” [ In Prostration the Body is like a Throne and the Soul is the King Sitting at the Highest Point /The Heart ]
The Prophet also said, “Any believer who prostrates himself, will be raised one degree by God.” As for what that degree consists of, know that it is not something small, for each heaven might consist of one degree.
For these reasons, many among the pious observe extra voluntary prostrations to God after completing their obligatory prayers. Whenever they encounter a difficulty, whether spiritual or worldly, they seek refuge in their Lord through prostration to Him.
One must cut down self-pride and make the inner-self prostrate, for one who truly submits to his Lord can no longer submit to his or her self. Once that state is reached, prayer is purely for God.
That is why the Prophet said, “What I fear most for my Community is the hidden polytheism.” He feared for his community not the outward polytheism of idol-worship, for he was informed by God that his community was protected from that forever, but the secret polytheism, which is to do something for the sake of showing-off.
A man came and asked the Prophet, “O Prophet of God, pray for me to be under your intercession on Judgment Day and grant me to be in your company in Paradise.” The Prophet replied, “I will do so, but assist me in that.” The man asked, “How so?” The Prophet said, “By frequent prostration [before God].”
The Prophet related that, on the Day of Judgment, as the believers emerge from their graves, angels will come to them to brush the dust from their foreheads. However, despite the best efforts of the angels, some of that dust will remain. Both the resurrected believers and their angelic helpers will be surprised that this dust cannot be removed. Then a voice will call out,
“Leave that dust and do not try to remove it, for that is the dust of their prayer-niches, thus will it be known in Paradise that they are My [devout] servants.”
This Prophetic Tradition indicates the spiritual value of the prostration of the believers, making as it does even the dust touched by their foreheads hallowed. The power of prayer has a similar effect on the place of prayer itself, as exemplified in the story of the Virgin Mary, as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an:
Whenever Zachariah went into the prayer-niche where she was, he found that she had food. He said: O Mary! Whence cometh unto thee this (food)? She answered: It is from God. God giveth without stint to whom He will.
It was there, in the Virgin Mary’s hallowed sanctuary, where she used to find her daily provision in the form of fruits out-of season, that the Prophet Zachariah went to prostrate himself before God and beseech Him for a child, and it was there that God granted his request.
The places where a Sufi prostrates will bear witness to his or her devotion on the Day of Judgment. It is for this reason that one often sees Sufis changing the location of their prayers, praying the obligatory cycles in one spot and then moving to another area to observe the voluntary cycles (sunnah).
Ibn Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet and the greatest early exegete of the Qur’an, said, “When God commanded Adam to descend to Earth, as soon as he arrived, he went into prostration, asking God’s forgiveness for the sin he had made. God sent the archangel Gabriel to him after forty years had passed, and Gabriel found Adam still in prostration.” He had not raised his head for forty years in sincere and heartfelt repentance before God.
The Holy Qur’an tells us that, after God created Adam, He ordered the angels to prostrate before the first man.
When We said to the angels, “prostrate yourselves to Adam”, they prostrated themselves, but not Iblis [Satan]: he refused.
Imam al-Qurtubi, one of the great commentators on the Holy Qur’an, writes in his exegesis, at-Tadhkira, that one of the four Archangels, Rafael, had the entire Qur’an written on his forehead.
God had given Rafael knowledge of the Holy Qur’an and wrote all of it between his eyes, and he is the angel who inscribed the destinies of all things in the Preserved Tablets before they were created.
Rafael’s name in Arabic, which differs from his Assyrianic name Israfil, is Abdur-Rahman, servant of The Merciful. This theme of mercy pervades Islamic thought, for it was through God’s Mercy that the Holy Qur’an was sent down to the Prophet, about whom The Merciful
said: We sent thee not but as a Mercy for all creatures.
When God ordered the angels to make prostration to Adam, Rafael was the first to obey, making prostration and placing his forehead, containing the entire Qur’an, on the earth, out of respect and honor for Adam, for he perceived the whole of Qur’an written on Adam’s forehead. [Nur Muhammad (S)]
Other commentators say the angels fell prostrate before Adam for they perceived the Light of Prophet Muhammad shining from his form. There is in reality no discrepancy here, for God said in the Holy Qur’an:
Yasin, By the Qur’an, full of Wisdom.
The Prophet Muhammad said that Yasin, the thirty-sixth chapter of the Holy Qur’an as well as one of his own blessed names, is the heart of the Holy Qur’an, the very Qur’an that the Prophet was carrying in his breast.
Thus, the light that shone forth from Adam was the Light of the Prophet within him, who in turn was blazing with God’s Holy Words.
The Inner-Meanings of the Different Positions of Prayer
Shah Waliullah ad-Dihlawi said:
Know that one is sometimes transported, quick as lightning, to the Holy Precincts (of the Divine Presence), and finds one’s self attached, with the greatest possible adherence, to the Threshold of God.
There descend on this person the Divine transfigurations (tajalli) which dominate his soul. He sees and feels things which the human tongue is incapable of describing. Once this state of light passes away, he returns to his previous condition, and finds himself tormented by the loss of such an ecstasy.
Thereupon he tries to rejoin that which has escaped him, and adopts the condition of this lowly world which would be nearest to a state of absorption in the knowledge of the Creator. This is a posture of respect, of devotion, and of an almost direct conversation with God, which posture is accompanied by appropriate acts and words…
Worship consists essentially of three elements:
(1) humility of heart (spirit) consequent on a feeling of the Presence of the Majesty and Grandeur of God,
(2) recognition of this superiority (of God) and humbleness (of man) by means of appropriate words, and
(3) adoption by the organs of the body of postures of necessary reverence…
Still greater respect is displayed by laying down the face, which reflects in the highest degree one’s ego and self-consciousness, so low that it touches the ground in front of the object of reverence.
[ We are Created in Gods Image and Granted The Highest Esteem in Divine Presence all that is asked of this Honor is in Gods Presence Bow Down subject the Holy Head to the Essence of the Divine Mirror from which you were formed]
The secrets and inner-meanings of prayer are uncountable so what is mentioned here is limited for the sake of brevity.
Prayer is a symbol of the uniqueness of the Divine Reality (al-Haqq), and the
[position of The Alif ] standing in it is a symbol of the establishment of the uniqueness of mankind in possessing something from the Divine Names and Attributes, for as the Prophet said, “Verily God created Adam in His Image.” [Alif is Upright and symbolizes the Heavens, in the beginning there was the essence and then an opening of Creation of heavens- Alif opens to Alif, Lam/kingdom, Fa/Fatiha.]
- Then the standing towards the Qiblah is an indication of the universal direction in the quest of the Divine Reality. [ We are Like the Electrons Curcumbulating the Center Nucleus, we are under the authority of these 4 forces of the atom/adam that is why 4 Takbirs. Nucleus is Kabah and we are electrons]
- The intention therein is an indication of the connection of the heart in this direction. The opening magnification of God’s Greatness (takbir) is an indication that the Divine Proximity is larger and more expansive than what may manifest to him because nothing can limit its perspective. Even so, it is vaster still than every perspective or vision that manifests to the servant for it is without end.
The recitation of the Opening Chapter, al-Fatihah,
- is an indication of the existence of His Perfection in man because man is the opening of creation, for God initiated creation by him when He brought from nothingness the first creation.
- What al-Jili is referring to here is the Light of Muhammad, known also as the First Mind, the Universal Man, and the Microcosm of the Macrocosm.
[Ha Al-Hayat ]Then there is bowing, which is an indication of acknowledging the nonexistence of all creation under the existence of divine emanations and power. [ Fana and Hamd/Praise]
Then Re-standing in the prayer is an indication of the station of subsistence (al-baqa). [Alif is Upright and symbolizes the Heavens, in the beginning there was the essence and then an opening of Creation of World of Form- Alif opens to Alif, Lam/kingdom Fa/Fatiha.]
Therefore, one says in his prayer,
“God hears the one who praises Him,” …
an indication of subsistence in that he is the Vicegerent of the Divine Reality. In this way, God relates about Himself by Himself by relating on hearing its truth through the praising of His creation. [ Prophet is Li wal Hamd /Flag of Praise]
[Meem] The prostration is an expression of pulverization of the traits of humanness and their extermination before the unending manifestation of the sanctifying essence.
The sitting between the two prostrations is an indication of obtaining the realities of the Divine Names and Attributes. This is because the sitting is being firmly positioned in a place as indicated by the verse where God says:
The Merciful was established on the Throne
The second prostration is the indication of the station of servanthood and it is the returning from the Divine Reality to creation.
The salutations [upon the Prophet] are an indication of the attainability of human perfection, for they are an expression of praising God, His Messenger and His righteous servants. This is the station of perfection, for the saint is not complete except by his attainment of the Divine realities, by his accord with the Messenger and accord with all of the servants of God.
The two sections of the testimony of faith are La ilaha ill-Allah, “there is no diety except the one God” and Muhammadun rasulullah, “and Muhammad is the Prophet of God.”
Scholars say that La ilaha ill-Allah represents the Creator and Muhammadun rasulullah symbolizes the entirety of creation.
The prayer is considered a dual communication: one is between worshipper and God, the second is between the worshipper and God’s perfect servant, Prophet Muhammad, the archetype of all the prophets and messengers. Thus one part of the prayer is a communication with the Divine, by means of God’s Holy Words revealed in the Qur’an and through bowing and prostration, reciting God’s glorification, magnification and praise.
The other part is the salutation on the Prophet, in which the worshipper addresses the Prophet personally and directly, as leader of the worshippers and the believers, followed by invoking the Lord’s blessings on him and on his family.
These realities in fact reflect the doctrine of the Prophet’s having attained the zenith of servanthood (‘ubudiyyah) to God, and thus the entirety of prayer in itself is built around his person. For the Words of God recited are the words revealed to the Prophet and the remainder of the prayer is acknowledging his leadership and spiritual primacy in both this life and the next.
Thus scholars assert that even the positions of the prayer are an indication of the Muhammadan Station, for the physical positions reflect the shapes of the letters of the Prophet’s heavenly name, Ahmad, where the first letter Alif is represented by the standing position, Ha by the bowing stance, Mim in the prostration and Dal in sitting for salutation.