Salaat: Technology of the Heart and Soul

Salaah or Salaat or the Islamic mode of Prayer is a gift received from the Holy Ascension of the Prophet.  The word comes from the meaning Connection and in the Final Testament again and again it is commanded to establish Salaat, that is to say, to establish the primordial connection of the human soul to the Supreme Soul, the Source with which the soul must connect to maintain its spiritual milk that nourishes and sustains.

It is a technology of the heart and soul in which transformation of human being while living in ordinary way of life, having family and being engaged and productive in the world does not restrict or limit the possibility of Godly realization. While in many previous sacred traditions of the past, a life devoted to God would mean divorcing the world completely, leaving behind family and society, which by every sign present to us in modern day tells us that such mode of life is no longer sustainable and even possible. A quick glance at the monastic tradition of other faith traditions is a testimony of this fact. Those faith traditions which embody purely monastic path and hold it as the ideal, such as Buddhist and certain Christian traditions are facing a serious crisis (less and less people are pursuing this path and leaving the monasteries in critical mass) and as days go by this crisis will only deepen since such divorcing the world exclusively is no longer attracting devotees to follow it as it were in the past. Also the duality that exists within paths where devotion to God would mean denying the rights of family, loved ones and also one’s own biological, emotional need of family, friends and society gives rise more conflicts in modern time. 

Jesus taught his disciples to be in the world as if one is passing by, be like a passerby or a traveler, not caught up with the world. Another teaching is "to be in the world, but above it." To be in the world is important because that is why human existence and human family is for and to be above the world is equally and more important (depending on soul's evolution). But there needs an appropriate technology to be in the world, perform all the myriads of duties and yet to remain free always. In Romans apostles of Christ taught as they learned from their Master, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." And it is through consistent and organic way of life in which prayer is embodied in an unified fashion is what continuously renews the mind and heart and transform them both within and without.

Islam being the finalized sacred code for complete guidance of life dissolves this duality of being a lay person,, being an ordinary person, being loved and loving to others, living a life of humble human being with all human limitations and existential necessity – and that of a life lived in complete awareness and awe of the Supreme Being and dedicating one’s life in everything one does to God, including the sacred duties and following holy commandments. The material and spiritual life is not in split in Islam, but brought into unity. While as we observe in western life style (and as with osmosis this has also perverse in eastern lifestyle) that the total pre-occupation with material impulse only means a deeply rooted poverty of spirituality for human being, a total cut off from the spiritual currents which nourish the spirit and soul of a human being, gives him a purpose in life, serenity, tranquility and a higher ideal to aspire to. And those who feel close to the call of the Divine equally find themselves caught in the material world and its ways roams like lost soul, unable to attend to the call of the Invisible voice of the Soul.

I AM calling to you from afar;
Calling to you since the very beginning of days.

Calling to you across millennia,
For aeons of time-
Calling-calling... since always...

It is part of your being, My voice,
But it comes to you faintly
and you only hear it sometimes;

"I don't hear", you say,
"what is it and where?"

But somewhere you hear,
and deep down you know.
For I AM that in you which has been always:
I AM that in you which will never end.

Even if you say, Who is calling?
Where will you run? Just tell Me.
Can you run away from yourself?

For I AM the Only One for you;
there is no other,

Your Promise, your Reward AM I alone
Your Punishment, your Longing
and your Goal ...
~ Anonymous ~

In Islam Salaat or daily prayer which are aligned to the natural rhythm of the cosmos in which man find himself in existence, is the greatest technology which enables and ennobles the dissolving of this duality of attending to the world while giving response to the sacred call of the spirit and soul. Salaat is the regular renewal of the connection with the Divine Presence from which in truth we are never disconnect but are veiled by thousands of veils in the world of appearances. Through the Salaat each time we move beyond veils so that the ultimate goal is to remain and subsist (baqa) in that perpetual sacred connection (salaah).

In the sacred tradition of Islam the Prophet said, "Whoever loveth to meet God, God loveth to meet that being" On this earth, Salaat is the response to that call of meeting the Lord while living in this very reality, for truly salaat is the holy ascension for the believer. Salaat, for the believers, is the Valentine with the Real Beloved.

The best exemplar and the exemplar who is highly praised by none other but by Allah Himself, Glorious is He, is Prophet Muhammad and who is sent with the most beautiful patterns for human embodiment. Thus for the Sufis the archetypal exemplar is the Divine Messenger himself who is a mercy to mankind (rahmatallil ‘alamin). During his holy ascension to the Supreme Presence (miraj) the gift he was bestowed was the daily five times prayer of the heart, which is called Salaat in Arabic. No less than close to eighty times in the Final Testament it is reminded to establish salaat, which means to establish ceaseless prayer in the heart (which is to attain pure awareness of God in every state and in every situation through prayer) and also to establish it in the family, in the society and hence in the world, because the Kingdom belongs to God who is glorified forever. Salaat is the establishment of that very glorification.

The very practice and movement of Islamic prayer which many calls Islamic Yoga has in it preserved all the prayer movement and all the form in which previous great illuminated messengers used to pray to the Supreme Being. The very form of Islamic prayer is an universal prayer form of humanity. From time immemorial human beings were inspired to stand, bow, put their head on the ground in complete awe and adoration of the Being Supreme. Also in the Hebrew tradition, all the Biblical Prophets used to pray in the same manner. In fact Orthodox and knowledgeable Jews still pray in the same way with a combination of standing, bowing and prostration. The Old Testament and New Testament both wherever they mention the ways in which the previous illuminated beings used to pray speaks of standing, bowing, falling down on their face (sujud, prostration) for this has been very form in which even invisible beings in the Kingdom of Power and Kingdom of Command adores God, the Most High. According to the Gospel and account of his close disciples, Jesus Christ (Isa Masih), son of Mary, when prayed, used to pray in the traditional Hebrew way with falling on the ground (prostration) as the ultimate posture of humility and surrender.

Times of the prescribed Five Canonical Prayers | redrawn from Sh. Nooruddeen Durkee's Shadhuliyya Orsions, volume 1

Do you not see how Allah has made the night to merge into the day 
and the day to merge into the night? 
And has subjected the sun and the moon, each running [its course] 
for a specified term. 
Allah is aware of your every action. 
~ The Quran 31:29 ~

The previous messengers had the established habit / ways / command to pray in certain time in sync with the nature. According to the Talmud, prayer is a Biblical command: "'You shall serve God with your whole heart.' (Deuteronomy 11:13) What service is performed with the heart? This is prayer." The prayers are therefore referred to as Avodah sheba-Lev ("service that is in the heart"). For the Israelite, they were commanded to glorify and pray to God during three times in a day and night (morning light, afternoon and nightfall prayers). This practice is still observed by Orthodox Jews.

In Islam, which is the continous chain in the Abrahamic tradition, all the sacred times during the day and night in which people are commanded to pray their obligatory prayer, renewing their connection with that which is their Essence, is a continuation of the preserved times during which holy Messengers used to adore the Supreme because they were commanded and inspired to do so. Man is not disconnected from the nature, neither is he disconnected from the Divine. Thus as the earth moves with its rhythm, as the celestial bodies swims causing day and night, so also man is told to renew his or her connection with the Divine during the organic times of the day and night. This establishes the place of man in the cosmos. The prescribed times for prayer in Islam correspond to previous greatly illuminated messengers of God sent to humanity at different epoch.

For example, the morning prayer (Fajr) which is prayed before the sunrise was the prayer of Adam, the first and archetypal human being. Two cycle of fard (obligatory) prayer of the Fajr was given to him as a trust. Prophet Muhammad added two cycle of prayer before the obligatory.

The noon prayer (Juhr) was brought in by Abraham, which was only two cycle of fard. Our Prophet added two cycle of fard and the rest of the sunnah (practiced by him) in it.

The two cycle of afternoon prayer (Asr) was the prayer of Jacob. Prophet Muhammad added two cycle of fard as well as the sunnah before it.

The sundown prayer (Maghrib) was the prayer of David. Its sunnah and nafl (supererogatory) part added b Prophet Muhammad.

The night prayer (Isha) was the prayer of Jonah. Prophet Muhammad added additional cycles to it to increase awareness and devotion on part of the devotee.

In addition, the night vigil prayer (Tahajjut) was specifically an instruction to Prophet Muhammad and has been the hallmark prayer of many previous Messengers and saints of God.

On Social level the practice of salaat was extra-ordinary in its earlier days as it still remains today. It is literally the only assembly where no difference remains between those who attend here.

Whether one is a head of the state, another is a very small employee, a slave or a master, an educated or an unlettered person, salaat in a mosque is a practical demonstration that all are equal in the eye of God. It remains to be the only living example where equality of humanity is not only given a lip service but lived and embodied in every time a prayer is done in a mosque. All the differences in outward appearance, role in the world, material achievement, worldly temporal power, all are leveled while people stand in salaat.

During the time of the Prophet, about 1400 years ago, even men and women prayed in the same room without any barrier between same. During the Hajj, the Pilgrimage when people go and visit the ancient house erected by Abraham, there is also no separation between men and women. Contrary to the popular misconception and stereotyping, Islam from its very beginning has practically dissolved the boundaries of not only monastic like devotion and lay people, it also dissolved the differences between devotion of men and women – and why it shouldn’t be? Cause in the eye of God, every single human being, both male and female are children of God, His cherished son and daughters and can any loving and caring mother, loving and caring father deny the love and affection of one and reject the other.

There is no one in the heavens and earth but that he comes to the Most Merciful as a servant, an instrument of God (‘abd). – The Quran 19:93

And at Gethsemane Jesus Christ went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

and went away once more and prayed the third time, uttering the same prayer.

For any sincere spiritual seeker, when he or she seek out a true master in the Sufi Path, the first thing that is established after sound understanding of faith and reality that there is but One God and all Messengers, from Adam to Muhammad, all are sent by God (la ilaha illa Allah, maan Adam ila Muhammad Rasululla) , after this comes the Salaat, or heart prayer that renews connection with the Divine. All illuminated masters through their teaching, through their practice and example performed prayer to the Supreme Being. There is no exception. Even elect masters such as Jesus Christ, Muhammad they all exemplify to their disciples and followers that no matter what is one's station with God responding to that longing of the heart through prayer and that humility which is quintessential for the creation before the Supreme Creator. It is the right of the Lord that He be adored and glorified, in this earth, in this very existence, as it is in heaven, as in the hereafter.

Salaat if established in the heart as it deserves to be established, it alone is the sufficient technology to make on ordinary person into a saint and elect friend of God, awliya Allah such is its transforming power.

Salaat has many spiritual benefit all encapsulated in it, since its the culmination of prayer form of all previous Messengers, Elect Friends and beloveds of God. From the sacred tradition of Islam (Hadith) Hazrat Anas (ra) has transmitted, when the servant finish his ablution (islamic baptism) and with pure intention stands at prayer and say “Allahu Akbar”, at that instant that person become innocent as a new born child. When he says “I seek refuge in Allah..” then the blessings of worship in the quantity equivalent of the amount of his bodily hair is written to his book of records.

Then when he says the Opening verses, Surah al-Fatiha, then as if he has performed the umrah Hajj. And when he bows down before his Lord, it is as if he has received gold equivalent to his body’s weight. After he returns from his bowing position by saying, “My Lord listens to His praise” he receives the blessing of freeing a slave. And when he recites Tashahud while sitting towards the end of his prayer, then he receive blessings equivalent of thousand scholars and martyr. And finally when he sends greetings of peace on his right side and on his left side, all the eight doors of the paradise is made open for him. (Dakayekul Akbar)

One of the mystery of Salaat is that it embodies through its movement and postures the very name which is the focus of Divine Presence, Ahmad (the celestial name of the one who is the most praising and most praised) in it. God willing, more on this on the next post.




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Technology of the Heart: Salaat: Technology of the Heart and Soul
Salaat: Technology of the Heart and Soul
Technology of the Heart
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