Without moving, life turns into death and without glee, it is not regarded as life anymore. Glee, joy, endeavor and striving are significant and inextricable parts of life. Praying and serving God represent adoring prayers, revealing the highest level of insight and wisdom. Saying prayers is the representation of craving for perfection, modesty, ultimate level of purity and sincerely revealing the love of God. Saying prayers is a conscious confirmation of God’s lordship and it is in line with the mysteries of the creation.
Saying prayers is serving God, praising all goodness, saying no to the impurities and responding positively to a natural need with which one can communicate with God. Praying enriches man’s inner conscience, awakens his hidden treasures, develops his inner potentials, increases his tendency to work, quenches man’s self and animal desires, washes the sins away and enlightens the hearts of the seekers who wend the righteous path in God’s glow. Thus, the philosophy of life, praying, is summed up in a word by God:
وَ مَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَ الْانسَ إِلَّا لِیَعْبُدُونَ
I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me.
The problems and predicaments in Man’s life stem from three factors: Dependency on worldly possessions, the thoughts which counter God’s grand scheme, and the obsession with behaviors that defy divine order and which amuse Man. If Man’s wicked and rebellious self is left alone, it will do nothing but perpetrating evils, sedition, temptation and corruption and its result shall only be regret, remorse, deprivation and loss. For that reason, God has put among humans the twine of worship by which earthly Man can hang onto to reach the highest peaks of perfection and enter the strong fortress of God. Imam Reza (A.S.) quoted his venerable grandparents as saying what the Last Prophet (P.B.U.H.) had stated in a beautiful Hadith:
“The trustworthy Gabriel, informed me of what God the Almighty had stated: Indeed, I am the only God; there exist no other gods; my servants! Pray for me. One who will meet me with great purity and one who has already witnessed to my oneness will enter my strong fortress and will be rescued from the divine punishment.”
The truth of praying is to be obedient to the Creator of the Universe, to be content to His wills and to follow God’s Prophets and Imams (P.B.U.T.).
Imam Reza (A.S.) stated in an interesting Hadith that praying has seventy aspects, sixty nine of which are to be content and surrendered to the wills of God and His prophets and Imams:
“Indeed, praying has seventy aspects, sixty nine of which are to be content and surrendered to the wills of God, His prophets and those charged with authority.”
Conditions for praying are determined in an enlightening remark by Imam Reza (A.S.) which will be expressed here briefly:
1) The Conditions for Serving God
Serving God has conditions and benefiting from its results is closely linked with observing them. Having purity of the heart and taking a comprehensive look at praying is one of the conditions for praying.
a) Purity of the heart
The deeds of Man are voluntary and all voluntary deeds take place intentionally. Intention is the driving force that accelerates the behavior and determines its orientation. For this reason, intention plays a significant role in acquiring perfection or imperfection. Imam Reza (A.S.) quoted the Prophet (P.B.U.H) as saying in a beautiful Hadith in which he elucidates the relationship between intention and deed. The Last Prophet (P.B.U.H) said:
“No word is valuable without deed; No word and deed are valuable without intention; and no word, deed and intention are valuable without accepting the traditions. ”
Praying unveils the dark walls between Man and God as long as it is accompanied by pure intentions. Thus, in all deeds of life, purity has received much attention by Imams (A.S.). Imam Reza (A.S.) said:
“Do not consider one who is renowned for praying “pure” in his religion; God detests being renowned for praying and status.”
Purity is one of the secrets of God and is one of the characteristics of his servants whom he loves. God assists his servants by means of the blessings in prayers and purity of the heart. One must not be afraid of the paucity of deeds because even if a small deed is done with purity of heart, it will be accompanied by cornucopia of blessings. The person who purifies his heart forty days for the sake of God, in return God will open the doors of wisdom in his tongue. Imam Reza (A.S.) quoted the Prophet (P.B.U.H) as saying:
“One who purifies his heart forty days for the sake of serving and praying God, in return, God the Almighty will open doors of wisdom in his tongue.”
The secret of praying is purity of heart
The servants of God pay attention to nothing but to dissolve for the sake of God’s essence and purity of deeds for his Love. They have placed the basis of their prayers on the love and on taking a step toward God. Getting close to God is their basic intention and they pray God because He is worthy of praise. Imam Ali (A.S.) said:
“Dear God! My prayer is not due to my fear of punishment, neither is it for the greediness in oblations; I pray for you because I have found you worthy of praise; therefore, I pray for you.
b) A comprehensive look at praying
One of the significant issues about serving God is the comprehensive attention to the prayers, rules and religious duties. Islam has presented a comprehensive set of rules and orders all of which are explained based on the evil and good acts for humans. For this reason, spiritual life will be achieved only through a comprehensive and not a quick look at praying. Imam Reza (A.S.) mentioned this fact beautifully in a Hadith and demonstrated the link and showed the continuity of the divine rules. He said:
“God has commanded three orders only if they are accompanied by three other issues. Prayers is commanded only it is accompanied by Zakat ;therefore, if someone says prayers without giving Zakat, his prayers will not be accepted; He has commanded to be grateful for Him only if people are thankful for their parents. Therefore, if someone does not thank his parents, he has not thanked God; He has commanded on Taqva and has it linked with visiting the relatives. Therefore one who does not visit his relatives has no Taqva.”
Therefore, it is worthwhile that the servant pays close attention to all these orders in his prayers and abides by the divine rules wholeheartedly. Imam Reza (A.S.) stated on the philosophy of doing or avoiding some deeds (do’s and don’ts) in the religion:
“The survival and the benefit of humans depend on the orders of God. Moreover, prohibitions are set by God to avoid trampling people’s rights and to avoid corrupt behaviors.”
Imam has an interesting remark on the philosophy of praying and serving God and on the rules set by God
“[God the Almighty has determined in every moment and place] prayers so that he will be remembered and that people do not forget being in His presence and do not stop obeying His doe’s and don’ts because without prayers, long time will pass and their hearts will become as hard as rocks.”
2) Aspects of serving God
Serving and praying God have many aspects to it which are mentioned in the verses of Quran and Hadiths of Infallible Imams (A.S.). Here, they will be discussed, from the perspective of Imam Reza (A.S.), some aspects of serving and praying God which play a significant role in making the basis for the spiritual life:
Because of his fondness for the worldly materials, Man evaluates everything based on his material mind. For this reason, he, voluntarily or involuntarily, downgrades many spiritual values and sublime human virtues.
Remembrance of God is a clear example of these sublime values, which have been regarded as one of the great divine blessings, but have received little attention by the worldly humans. Imam Sajjad (A.S.) said in a prayer to God:
“One of the great blessings which you have bestowed upon us is that you have us remember you and you have permitted us to call on you and pray for you.”
Remembrance of God is the source of all the benefits and goodness. Remembrance of God purifies the self, illuminates the heart and comforts the soul. Negligence in remembering God is a sheer waste of life. Imam Reza (A.S.) said:
Everything that prevents you from remembering God is a gamble.
Remembrance of God polishes the soul and emancipates the self from being captivated by worldly matters, the source of all flaws. Therefore, Imam Reza (A.S.) advises his followers to remember and pay more attention to issues that deprecate worldly pleasures:
“Remember the destroyer of pleasures (death) frequently.”
Spiritual life is brimmed with remembrance of God. Man must remember God every hour and second when he is in the middle of business, when he is having a conversation with people, when he is eating and drinking, he must remember God and must not neglect Him whatsoever:
رِجَالٌ لَّا تُلْهِیهِمْ تِجَارَةٌ وَ لَا بَیْعٌ عَن ذِکْرِ اللهِ وَ إِقَامِ الصَّلَو1ةِ وَ إِیتَاءِ الزَّکَو1ةِ یَخَافُونَ یَوْماً تَتَقَلَّبُ فِیهِ الْقُلُوبُ وَ الْأَبْصَار
“By men whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert from the Remembrance of Allah, nor from regular Prayer, nor from the practice of regular Charity: Their [only] fear is for the Day when hearts and eyes will be transformed [in a world wholly new]”
Work is not be abandoned in a spiritual life; however, remembrance of God will overshadow it as if people were only familiar with Him and nobody else; they have His right rules and orders set in front of their eyes and regulate their behaviors according to His will. Imam Reza (A.S.) quoted his venerable grandparents as saying in an interesting remark from Moses (P.B.U.H): Moses (P.B.U.H) whispered to God one day and said: “Oh Lord! Shall I call on you aloud because you are afar or shall I whisper to you because you are near?” God the Almighty addressed Moses (P.B.U.H.):
“I am the companion of one who remembers me.”
“Oh Moses! Remember me all moments.”
b) Saying prayers
In several cases, Quran mentions the characteristics of people who have benefited from the spiritual life; those who are regarded as people of salvation, redemption and rescue are introduced in Quran as Muflehin and Fa’ezin. A remarkable point to mention here is that there exists a common characteristic among these two groups and that is saying prayers or Salaat. In the beginning verses of the Surah Al-Mu’minun, Quran emphasizes on this issue twice. Once in the beginning of the Surah as a common characteristic of those who have reached Salvation and Redemption,
الَّذِینَ هُمْ فىِ صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُون
Those who humble themselves in their prayers
And once again in the ninth verse of the same Surah focusing on the significance of saying prayers [Salaat] for the sake of achieving the Salvation:
وَالَّذِینَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلَوَاتِهِمْ یُحَافِظُونَ
And who [strictly] guard their prayers
Likewise, the same issue is brought up in the Surah Ma’arij. First, Quran speaks of continuity in saying prayers:
الَّذِینَ هُمْ عَلىَ صَلَاتِهِمْ دَائِمُون
Those who remain steadfast to their prayer
Then after mentioning some other characteristics, it focuses on holding fast to saying prayers:
وَالَّذِینَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلاتِهِمْ یُحَافِظُونَ
And those who guard [the sacredness] of their worship
Repeating the word Salaat [saying prayers] and focusing on it suggest that saying prayers has a significant role in Islamic context and plays a vital role in the prosperity of Man. For this reason, Quran sometimes focuses on the quantity of Salaat and says «الَّذِینَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلاتِهِمْ دَائِمُونَ»and sometimes focuses on the quality of Salaat that leads to perfection such as the case in
«الَّذِینَ هُمْ فی صَلاتِهِمْ خاشِعُونَ» . A review of the verses of Quran on saying prayers raises the following topics about this divine duty for us:
• Saying prayers is a medium to receive assistance from God the Almighty.
• Saying prayers and giving Zakat [religious charity] have inextricable links.
• We must hold fast to and guard [the sacredness] of saying prayers.
• Saying prayers is bound to particular times.
• Saying prayers suggests the modesty of people who have faith.
• Salaat is a prayer which hypocrites do not benefit from and they do it carelessly.
• Salaat is the wills and prayers of prophets.
• Saying prayers is the best medium for remembering God.
• Saying prayers prevents Man from doing evil and inappropriate deeds.
• Quitting Salaat will lead to death and torments of the Hell.
Various verses of Quran mention one of the important philosophies of Salaat as a medium to remind Man of God, the Doomsday, the Prophets’ Invitation, and the purpose of creation in different times of the day so as to prevent Man from drowning in the negligence and oblivion. Saying prayers carries this responsibility. Imam Reza (A.S.) said on the philosophy of saying prayers:
“Saying prayers is the avowal of God’s Lordship; this is a general and widespread benefit because different aspects of God are set aside in it and with great humility and modesty the Servant stands in front of Him and supplicates so that his previous sins be forgiven; he places his forehead on the ground every day to remember God the Almighty so as not to forget Him while showing his humility, modesty, fear and pettiness. Moreover, in His service, he asks for the benefit of both the world and the religion; he demands the increase in each of them and beseechingly asks for the condition in which he is detached from corruption.”
Humans are commissioned to say prayers. Saying prayers means that one must perform the deed in the exact sense of the word, i.e. prayers shall not be said in a spiritless fashion, but by remembering Allah it should draw the Servant’s attention toward God which is mentioned in the following verse:
أَقِمِ الصَّلَو1ةَ لِذِکْرِى
Establish regular prayer for celebrating My praise
The lifestyles and traditions set by Imams (A.S.) and their attentions to the quality of their presence in front of God suggest the significant and unique role of prayers in the spiritual lives of humans.
When Imam Hassan (A.S.) washed his hands and prepared himself for saying prayers, his face would turn pale and his body would start trembling. When asked why this happened, he said:
“It’s valuable for the Man to go pale and start trembling when standing in front of God, the Owner of the Throne.”
Similar story has been quoted from Imam Zain Al-Abidin (A.S.). Moreover, it is quoted that when Imam Sajjad (A.S.) was saying prayers, he looked just like a stem of a tree without moving.
In another quote, it is mentioned that one day Imam Sajjad (A.S.) was saying his prayers and the cloak on his shoulder fell on the ground but he paid no attention to it. When he was done with praying, one of his followers told him: “Your cloak fell on the ground and you kept on saying your prayers without noticing.” Imam Sajjad (A.S.) said:
“Shame on you! Do you not realize in front of whom I am standing? By God! Having this thought in mind prevented me from noticing the cloak. Didn’t you know that only those parts of the prayers that are said wholeheartedly will be accepted? The man said, “Oh the son of the Messenger of Allah! Given that, we will go to hell for sure.” Imam replied, it is not as you think; by means of the recommended prayers God will make up for the obligatory prayers.”
It is quoted that when Imam Ali (A.S.) started saying prayers, he began trembling. When he was asked why he was so, he said “the time of keeping the promise has arrived; God has asked the skies and mountains but they rejected and shunned from taking the responsibility and were afraid.”
Imam Ali (A.S.) spoke about the Last Prophet (P.B.U.H.): “The Great Messenger (P.B.U.H) talked to us and we too talked to him. But when he started saying his prayers, he changed dramatically due to the attention he paid on the grandeur of God the Almighty and acted as though he never knew us and we never knew him.”
Imam Reza’s (A.S.) lifestyle too revealed truths about the sublimed position and significance of prayers. Once, Ma’mun arranged a meeting for the leaders of all religions to meet Imam Reza (A.S.). In the middle of the debate, Imam (A.S.) asked Ma’mun, “Isn’t it the time of prayers?” Omran who was listening to Imam’s words asked him to answer his question completely but Imam said in response that he will do so when he returns.
One day Imam Reza (A.S.) gave a green fur garment to a poet named Deaba’l and said:
“Try best to keep this clothing because I have said thousands of prayers and read Quran thousands of times wearing this clothing.
Also, there have been many reports on the extended prostrations by this holy Imam (A.S.) and his spiritual and heavenly status at the time of prayers.
First) Prayers’ effects
Surveying Imam Reza's (A.S) words about prayer reveals nice points on the importance of worshipping.
Prayer is an effective way to communicate with the Lord and if it is done in the right condition, the heart will be filled with the love of the Lord. In the light of prayers, the ground for inner purifying from corruption is provided and Man's soul and body will be purified. The Holy Quran states this excellent fact as:
إِنَّ الصَّلَو1ةَ تَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَ الْمُنکَرِ
"For prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds"
"Shameful" refers to great hidden sins which are the result of getting trapped by the overcoming lust force and "unjust" represents major obvious sins which are the result of being overcome by Man’s anger power. Prayers has the characteristic to remind humans the most powerful preventing factor which is the belief in origin and Resurrection; hence, it has a preventing impact on lewdness and sinful deeds.
Remembering Lord equals to forgetting any non-Lord
Sometimes, Man stands in the worshipping altar and praises the Lord and describes Him as the lord, the Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Single and the Unique. Devotional praying results in the highest impact and trains his soul and life based on the Islamic School of Thought. Prayer is the song of Monotheism, virtue and innocence which preventing thought and spirit against corrupted factors of routine life. If the presence of prayer fades away in life and remembrance of the Lord is forgotten, the ground for Devil’s parade will be provided. Imam Reza (A.S) narrates the Holy Prophet:
“As long as a believer prays the five daily prayers, Devil is gloomy. If he leaves his prayers, Devil will dominate him and he will be involved in sins and corruption. “
Life is associated with many ups and downs. Sadness and happiness are mixed together; hardness along with easiness is the fact of humans’ lives. When the Man is struggling with the difficulties of life, the best way of seeking shelter into Creator is prayer and worshipping.
Maqatel says: "One day, I asked Imam Reza (A.S.) to teach me a prayer for eliminating plight and fulfilling my needs." The Imam thus prescribed me:
“Perform ablution, wear clean clothes, use perfume and under the sky pray a two-unit prayer. Then, ask the Lord.”
Someone doubted whether to travel by sea or land since both of them had its own dangers. Imam Reza (A.S.) said him: "Go to the mosque when it is not prayer time and say a two-unit prayer. Then, ask the Lord your personal weal a hundred times. Then refer to your heart and act as what you feel.”
Second) Rules of Prayer
Being in the presence of the Lord has its own rules, parts of which relate to the inner and the others are associated with the appearance.
A worshiper should draw any issue out of his mind and thought and pay all his attention and senses towards the Lord. Man by saying "the Lord is great" (Takbirat-al-Ahram) forbids himself of any thought except the Lord, like a poor man needs to present in the presence of the Almighty, he prostrates sincerely through all his senses in the presence of the Lord.
Being in the presence of the Lord has another rule which is related to the appearance. One who wants to talk to his beloved Creator must also adorn his appearance. Imam Reza (A.S.) in his luminous words refers to two cases of appearance in prayer time.
Adorned and beautiful dress
The Lord commands human beings in his last guidance letter to carry their adornments when going to the mosque:
یَابَنىِ ءَادَمَ خُذُواْ زِینَتَکُمْ عِندَ کُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ؛
"O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer."
The verse may also refer to physical adornment which includes neat and clean dress, combing hair and using perfume as well as the spiritual adornment such as human traits, moral habits, purity of intention and sincerity.
In fact, the aforementioned verse criticizes a wrong deed in pre-Islamic times of by a group of Arabs who entered Masjed al-Haram and circumambulated Kaaba naked and bare-foot. It also advises those who enter the mosques or attend congressional prayers with dirty and worn-out clothes.
One who finds the success of being in the presence of the Lord must be in adorned appearance. One of the companions of Imam Reza (A.S.) has said: "I saw the Imam prayed in fur garment which was an adorned and nice dress."
Brushing the teeth
Another rule of being in the presence of the Lord is clean appearance. Imam Reza (A.S.) thus states the philosophy of obligatory ablutions before saying prayers:
“When a servant stands before the Mighty Lord in prayer time, he should be pure and clean; furthermore, obey the commandment which is issued for avoiding evil and corrupted things, and also he should be free of boredom and nap so as to refine his heart from any spiritual and inner impurities. As a result, the servant stands for worshipping the Lord in a purified heart and clean body.”
When cleaning the body is done in the cause of the Lord, it will entail purity of the heart and the inner self; therefore, more attention to appearance and clearing out the polluted body is concerned by religious leaders. Imam Reza (A.S) paid a special attention to cleanliness and also dental health in prayer time.
In a quotation it is narrated that Imam Reza (A.S) had a container with five toothbrushes which each of them had a name on it for the five daily prayers and Imam brushed his teeth in certain times.
Muamar Ibn Khalad says: "In Khorasan, when Imam read the dawn prayer, he sat down at his prayer place until sunrise. Then he brought his toothbrush container and brushed his teeth."
Hajj is cutting off the people and approaching the Lord, it is the journey from people toward the Lord and avoiding any non-Lord ones. Man tastes one of the divine tastes through Hajj pilgrimage. He is a silent man who finds his path to the court of light, happiness and cheerfulness. The Hajj Pilgrim flees towards the Lord. Hajj has its own status and position the peak of which is meeting the Lord. Hajj is the path of deliverance and great victory.
Each worshipping has a special ceremony for its own, yet Hajj is the only worship which encompasses all worships.
Hajj embodies the true meaning of prayer, repentance and piety; it reveals the philosophy of shedding tears and it reaches the highest peak through worshipping, whispering and associating with the Lord at His home. The pilgrim shines like a bright star in a dark sky, and his name is recorded in the Lord's book.
The man who goes on a pilgrimage meets his Lord and will be the Lord's guest. Going on the pilgrimage in the Lord's house, picking up gravel, going to Arafat, entering Masha'ar desert, stepping on the mysterious land of Menna as well as circumambulating around His home are the foods that the Lord has placed on His table so that the divine pilgrim can take their benefits.
The obedience's philosophy reaches to its highest perfection in Hajj. Hajj is meant to forgive the sinners, test human beings and a sign of the Lord's infinite greatness.
The religion of the Lord is alive with Hajj. Recollection of Lord's Messenger, land of revelation and Ahl al-Bayt is formed in Hajj. Hajj is the praise of the Lord and it is His bazaar. The Hajji makes a deal with the Lord in His bazaar and the Lord pays him the wages. The one who abandons Hajj is like a blind man in the Resurrection day. He will be resurrected blind. Hajj is the Jihad of the poor, accepting the Abraham's invitation and meeting the Lord. Imam Reza (A.S.) states:
Hajj and Umrah eliminate poverty and sins.
The Hajj pilgrim is accepted to the divine presence and he is the Lord's guest.
The Lord hosts the pilgrim and supports him by securing him. In the Lord's meeting, the pilgrim sits at the divine spread table and the Lord feeds him with heavenly foods. The guest meets his host and the Lord bestows on him His generosity and gifts. The result of Lord's meeting is Heaven and fulfilling the devotional deeds makes the ground for his spiritual life. Imam Reza (A.S) thus states about Hajj's philosophy:
“The reason why people are obliged to do pilgrimage is to turn to the great Lord and demand His increasing favors; so that, they do not commit sins and repent for their past sins so as to follow piety and commitment in future. They also spend their money in Hajj pilgrimage, suffer from hardness and discomfort, leave their wives and children behind and put away the pleasures; they set their foot firmly on this trip in hot or cold weather and they constantly live in a humble manner along with paying attention to the Lord. In Hajj, religious awareness and news of Imams are narrated so as to be spread in other regions and countries.”