Quranic Reflection No. 487. Āyat 29:45 – Establishing the Salāt
وَ أَقِمِ الصَّلاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلاةَ تَنْهى عَنِ الْفَحْشاءِ وَ الْمُنْكَرِ وَ لَذِكْرُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ
Wa-aqimisalāta innasalāta tanhā ‘anil-fahshāi walmunkari waladhikullahi akbar
And maintain the prayer. Indeed, the prayer prevents indecencies and
wrongs, and the remembrance of Allah is surely greater
(Surat al-‘Ankabūt, no.29, Āyat 45)
As we approach the Day of ‘Āshurā’, we send our heartfelt condolences to the Imam of our time (‘ajjallāhu farajah) and to all the believers whose hearts weep and lament over the tragedy that befell the Ahlul Bayt (a) in Karbala. Our responsibility is to utilize this sorrow as motivation to become better believers.
One of the many lessons that we can take from Karbala is the importance of establishing salāt. We see that on the Day of ‘Ashura, in the peak of the battle, Imam al-Husayn ‘alayhis-salām and his companions did not miss their salāt, rather they established it by reciting Salātul-Khawf (Prayer of fearful/insecure time). Two companions, Zuhayr Ibn Qayn and Sa‘īd bin ‘Abdullāh Hanafī stood in front of the Imam (a) shielding him from arrows with their own bodies. History tells us that Sa‘īd bin ‘Abdullāh had 13 arrows pierce his body and when he fell to the ground, he asked Imam al-Husayn, “Have I carried out my obligation, O son of the Messenger of Allah?” “Yes,” said the Imam, “and you shall reach Paradise before I do” (Muqarram, Maqtal al-Husayn, p. 198).
What an amazing and inspiring lesson! We are not in the same battlefield as Imam al-Husayn (a) nor are we experiencing anything close to what he experienced, yet we are being tested every day by Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā to see how much value we give to our salāt. When we look at the Quran, we find that Allah (swt) does not order us to pray, rather He orders us to establish our prayers. To put it simply, establishing our prayers means that we do not try and fit our prayers into our lives, rather we arrange our lives around our prayers.
We have been given a foolproof method of gauging whether we have established our prayers. In this verse we read, …and maintain the prayer. Indeed, the prayer prevents indecencies and wrongs, and the remembrance of Allah is surely greater… The effect of prayer, if it is correctly established, is that it prevents us from wrong. We would not do things that are detested and forbidden by Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā.
Imam al-Sādiq (a) is reported to have said: If there was to be a river outside one’s house into which he bathed five times a day, would there remain any dirt on his body? Similarly, prayer is the river which purifies [one’s soul] – every time one performs a prayer it acts as atonement for one’s sins, except for that sin which takes him and keeps away from his faith. (Bihār al-Anwār, 82:236, H 66). Each one of us should introspect to see how much we engage in things which are indecent and/or forbidden. That will make us realize if we have truly established prayers in our lives.
Below are a few things we can do to establish prayers:
· Pray on time: The Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam is reported to have said: The worth of a man with respect to his religion is measured by his diligence in keeping up his daily prayers. (Tanbīh al-Khawātir, 2:122). Of course, there will be times when we cannot pray on time, for example when travelling or sick. However, at other times we should make every effort to pray our prayers on time, even when at work by scheduling our breaks at salāt time.
· Know what you are reciting: Imam al-Sādiq (a) is reported to have said: Whoever performs a two unit prayer fully knowing what he is saying in it, gets up from it with not a single sin left [unforgiven] between him and Allah. (al-Kāfī, 3:266, H 12). Many of us have been praying for decades yet we may not know what we are saying to Allah (swt). Imagine how powerful and effective our prayers would become if we knew what we were saying to Allah ‘azza wajall.
· Recite the Tasbīh of Sayyida Fātima (a) after each prayer: Imam al-Sādiq (a) is reported to have said: We command our youngsters to recite the Tasbīh of Fātima (a) just as we command them to perform salāt, Therefore, be cautious in performing it, since indeed whichever servant is not attentive to it will become unfortunate. (Al-Kāfī, 3:32, H 77).
These are just a few examples of simple things we can implement into our lives to begin the process of establishing our Prayers. Once our salāt is established it will yield the effect that Allah (swt) has promised, i.e. it will keep us away from indecencies and wrong. This will also be a way to show Allah that the sorrow we feel for Imam al-Husayn (a) had an impact on us. We were able to a take a lesson from it and apply it into our lives. Establishing our salāt will be our contribution to keep the message of Imam al-Husayn (a) alive.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī, Al-Amthal fī Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal, ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān.