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Vanity and solidity

Like ashes are the deeds of those who deny their Lord, which the wind blows away on a windy day.
Ibrahim, 14:18

Some thoughts

The Qur’an says that the deeds of those who deny their Lord will be blown away. But in fact, every deed is blown away on a windy day, for nothing remains. Everything is transient. Yet the difference between the deeds of those who act in a spirit of selfishness, hate, injustice, greed or aggression (and as such deny the principles of the divine) and the deeds of those who act in a spirit of love, compassion, justice, humbleness and peace (and as such remember the principles of the divine) is that the deeds of the first group are burned out. They contain no life. They are useless. Like ashes. The deeds of the second group, however, bring life and beauty. They bring light. They give freedom and restore justice. Like seeds.

What Christians can learn

All over the world Christians have gone through great lengths to offer a variety of services to those in need. From hospitals to development work, from taking care of the poor to supporting handicapped people, from helping lepers to educating children, all strands of Christianity have built out huge networks to do all of it. Yet even all those good works can sometimes be senseless and illusionary. For the question always remains what the motivation behind acts of service truly is. If they are done because it makes one feel great and superior because it gives the feeling of being appreciated and respected, then it is nothing but a trick of the ego to indulge oneself in a different kind of self-aggrandisement. If the service is offered as a way to missionize and win some souls, it is simply a way to cheat people into a religion. And if the service is done simply because one’s community says one should, then it lacks genuineness and honesty.

Service as well becomes ash that is blown away by the wind of history when it isn’t truly focussed on God. Service should not have our own benefits as its aim but should be a true effort to restore balance, justice and equality. Every Christian involved in service should therefore often pose himself the question whether he is doing his service for the sake of himself, for the sake of service itself or to allow more divinity in the world. For service without God-focus is, spiritually speaking, useless.

Questions for Muslims

Many Muslims pray five times a day. As a Christian I can but learn from this and regard it with the utmost respect. Yet what I often see in the prayers in the mosques is that the prayers are very formally performed. Certain words and sentences are said and certain acts are done. Yet the question could be posed whether the prayer often isn’t handled too ‘technically’. As such it sometimes seems a bit like “Say this, do that – and that’s a wrap.” A spiritual danger lies therein, because more than any other act, prayer needs a proper focus on God. Without it, it is entirely senseless. In prayer not only the body, but the soul as well needs to be prostrated before God. The inner devotion to God is essential – with or without words.

Sufism of course knows the practice of dhikr, the remembrance of God by repeating one of his names. This practice exists in many forms. The question can be asked therefore whether such a form of dhikr shouldn’t be an essential form of meditation besides the five formalised moments of prayer.

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Comments

You ask a very common and

Anonymous

You ask a very common and understandable question - the ritualistic nature of the 5 prayers. You are right - it can become robotic for many people. There is a term called 'khushoo' embedded in the religion itself which 'checks up' on the prayers. This is medicine for this spiritual sickness (heedlessness in prayer) already present in the religion. Whether or not people make the effort is up to them. More on 'khushoo:' http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/how-to-taste-the-sweetness-of-pr...

'Woe to those who pray but are heedless of their prayer.' (Surah Maun from the Qur'an - quite a powerful chapter this is for so many reasons).

Some important things to note:
- humans are imperfect and mess up everything, therefore, what prohibits us from making the Sufi form of dhikr any less robotic if it became routine? (FYI, dhikr is a very important part of Islam - goes beyond Sufism). As human beings in general, we are capable of turning everything against its intended purpose. The purpose of the 5 daily prayers was far away from this. The word for human beings used in the Qur'an is 'insaan' which comes from the root verb 'to forget.' We are forgetful.

- the purpose of the 5 daily prayers is not to pray whenever we feel inspired to pray. To sing, dance, and play guitar out of spiritual rush or when we happen to be in the mood to be spiritual for a few moments then go back to our vain affairs of the world. This reminds me of St. Augustine's prayer: 'Lord, make me good, but not now.' :)

- 'Salah' (5 daily prayers) is more than 'prayer' in that sense. It 'drags' us (quite painfully at times - not easy forsaking a comfy bed at 4 am in the cold morning!) to remind us of our purpose, and where we are, and where we are headed. The fact that there are 5 of them throughout the various portions of the day reinforces this fact - it is supposed to be routine-istic (not robotic - that's if we make it so) purposely because we need it. We need routine in our hectic lives. We are habitual creatures. We need the cold splashes of water at 4 am to remind us.

- 'Verily, As-Salat prevents from Al-Fahsha (connotation: sexual immoralities) and Al-Munkar (other great sins)' (Qur'an).
This is a very interesting verse, and I haven't really fully comprehended its meaning. So when the lone man in privacy is engaging in an illicit sin and the adhan reaches his ears, there is an impact; a profound one at times. It's difficult to commit major sins when you have to prostrate to your Creator every something hours. An element of guilt and discomfort breaks sinful temptations and inertia.

Last point: the only consistent part regarding the words in the five daily prayers is the recitation of the Fatiha. We can recite any chapter or parts of the chapter from the Qur'an to our choosing which we resonate with at the time. Putting one's forehead to the ground (2*4*4*3*4 = 384 times a day or so) in a position of surrender of ego and pride (symbolised as the forehead in Semitic and ancient cultures) is possibly among the best feelings in this world.

Whoa that wall of text. On

Anonymous

Whoa that wall of text. On another note, sorry, I realise I blabber way too much. Your blog is simply fascinating that's why.

Your math is wrong. We

dee

Your math is wrong. We prostrate around 17 times per day not 384. You multiplied instead of addition =)

Don't bother about the length

Jonas Yunus

Don't bother about the length of the text. Thanks a lot for your interesting thoughts and reflections.

At this moment in

Charlie

At this moment in Time......your words left me breathless..as I almost feel I know you!!! From where, not sure!! Maybe another life? who Knows? There is so much written, yet so much more hiddenwithin Sufism, for protection, that understanding the words, you wrote, is mysterious..........Sufism you write about, something that no true Sufi can ever admit to.....it is forbidden, as understanding is taken away if ever anyone ever admitted to being a true Sufi......I do know that...I heard it one day!! .It is interesting that you wrote about Sufism. Sufism must be like drinking the right wine.......as the Suif sits and ponders the Universe, hoping that it will open up, so that much more information can be revealed whether ancient or modern!,.....I am not really in the know but that is what I imagine.....I thank you so much for that really truly wonderful opening towards joining Muslims, Christians and Jews and people of all faith, by your being the Halal Monk!!!!!!!!!! with luv from Charlotte xx

I truly enjoy your comments

Anonymous

I truly enjoy your comments and thoughts, and await your posts to find their way into my inbox. One of the hardest things during prayers in a world which constantly tugs and pulls at our attention, work and its responsibilities, chores, taking care of family, is to fulfill the 5 times a day prayers with a true heedfulness and with the notion that it is time out from this world in it being a genuine dhikr. It is one of those things that I personally and I am sure many muslims who want to pray in the way that it was meant to be, struggle with and becomes a jihad of the nafs (self) and mind. It is by no chance that prayers during the fajr, or late at night or outdoors amongst the beauty of God's creation when the world is still, often are the most fulfilling spiritually and focused. And yes I agree that dhikr should be essential as it was and remains to be a practice amongst those who try to achieve a true heedfulness of God. May all our prayers, muslims and christians and all, never be reduced to motions (to get them out of the way and done with) or forms of self-aggrandisement to seek the good opinion of others, forgetting that everything is unto God and should be for God.

"May all our prayers, muslims

Jonas Yunus

"May all our prayers, muslims and christians and all, never be reduced to motions (to get them out of the way and done with) or forms of self-aggrandisement to seek the good opinion of others, forgetting that everything is unto God and should be for God." Nicely put.

I think that's the right way

Adil Kareeem

I think that's the right way to justify the good deeds for ourselves, it is only for the love of Allah, His True Messenger, to please Almighty for we believe in his boundless Mercy and Graciousness other than anything in the world.

`Umar ibn Khattab (Allah be

maryam hameed

`Umar ibn Khattab (Allah be well pleased with him) said:
“As we were sitting one day before the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), a man suddenly appeared. He wore pure white clothes and his hair was dark black—yet there were no signs of travel on him, and none of us knew him.
He came and sat down in front of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), placing his knees against his, and his hands on his thighs. He said, “O Muhammad! Tell me about Islam.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “Islam is to bear witness that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God; and to perform the prayer; pay zakat; fast Ramadan; and to perform Hajj to the House if you are able.”
The man said, “You have spoken the truth,” and we were surprised that he asked and then confirmed the answer.
Then, he asked, “Tell me about belief (iman).”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “It is to believe in Allah; His Angels; His Books; His Messengers; the Last Day; and in destiny—its good and bad.”
The man said, “You have spoken the truth. Now, tell me about spiritual excellence (ihsan).”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “It is to serve Allah as though you behold Him; and if you don’t behold him, (know that) He surely sees you.”
“Now, tell me of the Last Hour,” asked the man.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “The one asked knows no more of it than the one asking.”
“Then tell me about its signs,” said the man.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “That slave women give birth to their mistresses; and that you see barefoot, unclothed, beginning shepherds competing in the construction of tall buildings.”
Then the visitor left, and I waited a long time. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked me, “Do you know, Umar, who the questioner was?”
I replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.”He said (Allah bless him and give him peace), “It was Jibril. He came to you to teach you your religion.” [Sahih Muslim].

In this long Hadith.. the following part that..

The man said, “You have spoken the truth. Now, tell me about spiritual excellence (ihsan).”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “It is to serve Allah as though you behold Him; and if you don’t behold him, (know that) He surely sees you.”

Basically,Prayer is not just offering some certain words or doing some certain steps... one can only achieve the beneits of it if he tries to understand what it really is spiritually... i.e, Ihsan. Muslims today, forget that prayer is actually an accounatibillity five times a day in front of Allah rather than a mere worship.... worship and faith gains spirituality from implementation... and that part is lost among Muslims today....

On the other hand Sufis and Saints did great sevice for Islam through love.... even their concept was misunderstood, Islam does not allow anyone to cut off from world and then perform dhikr... Beauty of Islam lies in performing every worldly task along with Allah's remembrance...and again doing only dhikr might earn you reward..but if on one hand one is doing dhikr and on the other is not good ethically or morally..here the essence of worship or dhikr is lost.

in short... actual meditation

maryam hameed

in short... actual meditation is doing everything for Allah's happiness ... living around people ....keeping in mind ...IHSAN. the hadith above is famous as mother of Hadith... this is actual picture of religion,worship and impementation.