“…establish the prayer…”
After advising Muaadh, RadhiAllahu Anhu, to worship Allah and not ascribe any partners with Him, the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, advised him to ‘establish the prayer’. If we are seeking actions that will secure us a place in Paradise, we must strive to establish the prayer in our lives.
Notice that Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said ‘establish’ the prayer, not merely ‘perform’ it. What is the difference between establishing the prayer and performing it? Interestingly, the only time that the ‘performer of prayer’ is mentioned in the Qur’an is as follows:
“So woe unto those performers of prayers who delay their prayer from its stated fixed time.”
(Surah al-Maa’oon: 4-5)
These ‘performers of prayers’ obviously stand up to pray, but Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, says, ‘Woe unto them’. What are they doing wrong, and more importantly what can we learn from that?
This example shows us firstly that prayers must be established at their fixed times. Those who delay their prayer are merely performers of prayers and not establishers. There is a distinction to be made between the one who performs the prayer in form only, and the one who prays with their heart and soul present and committed to the actions. Those who pray as if they see Allah or knowing that Allah sees them are different from those who perform the actions of the body, but not the actions of the heart. The established prayer therefore, incorporates both inner and outer aspects.
How can we ‘establish the prayer’?
1) We must be in a state of purity for the prayer.
Learn how the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, made wudhu and follow his example. Learn what breaks wudhu and what doesn’t. If you don’t feel certain of this already, I recommend reading Fiqh us-Sunnah by Al Sayyid Sabiq, for a detailed description of the Prophet’s wudhu with accompanying hadith evidences.
2) We must perform the prayer in the proper manner as described in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The Prophet Muhammad, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said in a hadith recorded in al-Bukhari, “Pray as you have seen me praying”. Do we know how the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, performed his salah? Have we read in detail, with evidence, about each of the actions he performed and do we feel certain that we are performing them correctly? If not, I recommend reading The Prophet’s Prayer Described by Shaikh Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaani for a detailed account of the Prophet’s, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, prayer with accompanying hadith evidences.
3) We must pay attention to both the inward and the outward aspects of the prayer.
Once you have established the correctness of the physical actions, work on the inward actions. Remind yourself that Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, is watching you every time you stand to pray.
4) Perform the prayer at it’s earliest time.
Stick the prayer timetable on the fridge. Set the alarm clock. Get an adhan clock. When the alarm goes, the most important and rewardable thing you can do is get ready to pray. Arrange your life around the prayer, not your prayer around your life.
5) For men, the best place to pray is in congregation in the mosque, for women the best place to pray is in the home.
6) Develop kushoo‘ in the prayer.
This means to have an attentive heart that is focussed only on Allah, all praises and glory be to Him. This feeling in the heart should be reflected in the body and you should be still and calm with the gaze lowered. Even the voice can become affected by this feeling in the heart.
Finally, we should remind ourselves of what the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said concerning the prayer:
“The first matter that the slave [of Allah] will be called to account about on the Day of Judgement is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.”
[Recorded in al-Tabaraani]
No matter what deeds we perform in our life, the most important thing is our relationship to Allah, all praises and glory be to Him. This relationship with Allah is demonstrated and put into practice, as well as improved and increased, by the prayer. If we perform the prayer properly, with an attentive heart, it will have a lasting effect on our lives in this world and in the Hereafter.
“… give the Zakat …”
After mentioning the first two pillars of Islam, the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, went onto advise Muaadh, RadhiAllahu Anhu, that he should give zakat, or obligatory charity to the poor.
Linguistically, ‘zakat’ implies purification, blessing and growth. The payment of zakat should purify us by cleansing us of the diseases of stinginess and miserliness, and it should purify our wealth by removing any evil effects from it. It is also one of the keys to establishing the Muslim community and the Muslim State. Zakat plays an important role in the wider society by helping the poor and strengthening the ties of brotherhood and sisterhood. It also shows the believers that all that they have comes from Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, and they will not suffer if they give wealth for His sake. In fact, Allah promises to increase them in reward:
“The likeness of those who spend in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain], which grows seven spikes, in each spike is a hundred grains, and Allah multiples [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is All Encompassing, All Knowing.”
Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, also makes it clear in the Qur’an that withholding wealth is displeasing to Him:
“And let not those who covetously withhold of that which Allah has bestowed on them of His Bounty (wealth) think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them. The things which they covetously withheld shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection. And to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is Well-Aquainted with all that you do.”
“[There are] those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah – announce to them a painful torment. On the Day when that wealth will be heated in the fire of hell and it will brand their foreheads, flanks and backs. [It will be said to them], ‘This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard.’”
There is no question that among the pillars of Islam, the giving of zakat ranks very close to that of prayer. They are mentioned together in the Qur’an on more than eighty occasions, like in the following example:
“But if they repent, offer prayer and give zakat, then they are your bretheren in religion. And We expound the signs for a people who know.”
We can see here that zakat is ranked with prayer as distinguishing a believer from the disbelievers. The payment of zakat is a sign that a person has submitted themselves to Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, and He tells us that paying zakat is one of the keys to receiving His Mercy in the Hereafter:
“The believers, men and women, are helpers and supporters of one another, they enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, they give the zakat and they obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow His mercy on them. Surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.”
What can we learn from this? That we are just as obligated to pay zakat as we are to pray, and that giving in charity will not only benefit the poor, but also ourselves. We should ensure that we understand how to calculate how much zakat we need to pay, and that we pay it once every lunar year. Many people use Ramadan as the reminder and pay it in this time in the hope of seeking extra reward, but it can be paid at any time of the year. It is important to give it with the intention of pleasing Allah and to seek to use it as a means to purify ourselves of the ills of greed and miserliness. And with Allah lies the highest reward.