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The Importance of Salat and Meeting Allah

By: Ayatullah Mirza Mahdi Isfahani
The highest aim and goal of the divine scholars and those who tread the path of worship is the meeting with Allah and vision of the divine, a meeting which can neither be expressed in words nor penned on paper. For, a vision of the divine is the work of Allah Himself. And the work of Allah, like His Being, does not have any method (kaifiyyah) like other mortals, and therefore it cannot be expressed. He introduced Himself to His servants and manifested His Own Self on their hearts. By setting aside the veils of negligence and forgetfulness, ignorance, disobedience, immorality, evil ethics, etc. a person prepares his heart to receive this divine manifestation. Purity of heart and sincerity in intention, illuminates the divine light further and becomes the cause for the servant to achieve great heights in the field of divine recognition and reach his ultimate goal i.e. meeting with Allah.
Imam Zainul Abidin (‘a) invokes,
“O Allah! Make us tread the path that leads to Your meeting, and make us travel on the road that is nearest to You… attach us with those servants of Yours who are in haste to reach You. Those who incessantly knock on Your door, and worship only You in the night…You have fulfilled their desire by allowing them Your meeting, and You have filled their hearts with Your love, and have quenched their thirst with Your pure drink. Thus, because of You, they enjoyed the taste of Your supplications (munajat) and have achieved their farthest aims (i.e. Allah)… Then only You, O Allah, are my aim. And my being awake and up in the nights is only because of You and not for anybody else. Your meeting is my love and Your sight, my desire. Your vision is my only need.” (Bihar ul Anwar, vol. 94, p. 148)
In another supplication, the same Imam (‘a) pleads,
Nothing can quench my thirst but Your attachment, and nothing can extinguish my burning desire but Your meeting. And nothing can extinguish my craving for you except seeing Your face (wajh), and my restlessness cannot be done away with but by gaining proximity to You…and My sorrow cannot be dispelled except by being near to You.” (Bihar ul Anwar, vol. 94, p. 150)
Imam Baqir (‘a) declares,
“Then surely the Messenger of Allah (‘s) is the gate of Allah, without whom He cannot be approached. He (‘s) is the path, if somebody walks on it, will lead to Allah (Mighty and Glorified be He). After him, the same applied for Amir al Muminin (‘a) and the Imams (‘a) following him, one after the other…” (Usul al Kafi, vol.1, p. 198)
In a Hadith al Qudsi, Allah the Almighty declares,
“O Ahmad! Piety (wara’) opens the doors of worship for a worshipper. Then through it, he is honored in the eyes of the people and gains attachment with Allah (Mighty and Glorified be He).”(Bihar ul Anwar, vol. 77, p. 27)
The aforementioned traditions have discussed about meeting, uniting and vision of Allah that leads to the contentment and softening of the heart. According to Imam Baqir (‘a), treading the path of the Holy Prophet (‘s) and his ahl al bayt (‘a) is the cause of this meeting, uniting and vision.
Therefore, this status cannot be achieved but by following the course charted out by the Messenger of Allah (‘s) and through the mastership of his infallible progeny (‘a). Hence, whoever intends to undertake the journey of the levels and stages of recognition and to reach to its highest grade i.e. meeting and seeing the Truth and finding His Lord, he must fasten on to the Holy Prophet (‘s) and his Ahl al bayt (‘a). He should see to it that his deed conform to the divine commands {which are the medium for following the Holy Prophet (‘s) and Ahl al bayt (‘a)}and should not take a single step without their permission. If he fails to do so, he will never be able to reach to his destination. And if he is steadfast in this path, Allah the Almighty will fulfil His promise and grant him his desire. Evidently, as the manifestation and recognition of Allah increases, humility, modesty, obedience, gratitude, remembrance, attention, glorification, praising, etc. in the service of his Lord and God also increases. His compliance and submission to the divine laws increases and he performs all his actions sincerely and purely in Allah’s way and none else. Obviously, any act that bears the color of Allah and is performed only for Him, will never be ruined. Allah the Almighty declares,
“Everything will be destroyed save His face.” (Quran, 28: 88)
Imam Baqir (‘a) explains this verse thus,
“Allah is greater than to be described with a face. But it (the word ‘face’) means, ‘Everything will be destroyed except His religion and face is by which a thing is approached.” (Tauhid, p. 149)
In the traditions of the Ahl al bayt (‘a), meeting with Allah has also been implied for death. Allama Majlisi (may Allah be satisfied with him) in his magnum opus, “Bihar ul Anwar”, volume 6, page 124, has brought traditions explaining the above concept under the chapter, “The Love of Meeting Allah and In Condemnation of Fleeing from Death”. In some traditions, ‘meeting with Allah’ has also been interpreted as resurrection and being brought out from the graves on the day of judgement for questioning and examination of one’s deeds in this world.
Amir al Muminin Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a) explains,
“And His word, ‘Nay! They are unbelievers in the meeting of their Lord’ (Quran, 32: 10) implies ‘raising’ (ÈóÚúË). Then Allah (Mighty and Glorified be He) has named it as His meeting. And He has remembered the believers “those who expect to meet their Lord,” (Quran, 2:46) means ‘they are sure that they will be raised, brought together and rewarded and punished accordingly. Thus, meeting does not suggest physical vision. Meeting indicates raising. And whenever the word ‘meeting (with the Lord)’ has come in the Book of Allah, interpret it as ‘raising’.”(Tauhid, p. 267)
Hence, from the above, we can draw the following conclusion:
The meeting with the Lord can be achieved both in this world as well as the hereafter. The only difference is that as in the hereafter, all the veils will be set aside, people will rise from the sleep of negligence and there won’t remain any room for disbelief and hypocrisy. But as this world is the abode of examination and test, veils and negligence act as a barrier in this meeting with Allah. And in order to achieve this unison, as mentioned earlier, man has to bear tremendous pains and act with utmost steadfastness so that he may succeed in setting aside these coverings. Summing it up, Amir al Muminin (‘a) says,
“Even if the curtain is raised, my certainty will not increase.” (Bihar ul Anwar, vol. 46, p. 134)

Meeting Allah in Human Mysticism
In the school of Sufism and human mysticism, to reach Allah and meet Him is the last and final of the stages that a mystic treads towards the arch of ascension. According to them, at this stage, the wanderer reaches to the level of self-annihilation, joins with the Absolute existence, i.e. the existence of the Truth and loses his own existence. Now, for him, nothing remains except the existence of the Almighty. It is at this level that claims like ‘I am the Truth’ (An al-Haqq), ‘There is none in my robe except Allah’ (laisa fi jubbati siwallah), etc. are achieved.
Abdur Razzaq al Kashani says:
“Unification (wasl) implies returning after going away and ascending after descent. For each one amongst us has descended from the highest of stages and that is the position of ahadiyyah and unification with the Eternal since eternity to the lowest of positions and that is the world of elements and matter. Then, some of us have fallen to the lowest level and remain in the pits. While others, by treading towards Allah, and in Allah, by attachment to His attributes, and through annihilation in His Being, have returned to the state of unification. Thereby, through this real unison, as it was in eternity, we shall continue to remain so in perpetuity.” (Istihalat al Sufiyyah, p. 52)
Explaining the term ‘sawad al-wajhi fi al-dharain’, he says, “To annihilate ourselves in Allah with all our existence so much so that any form of existence, apparent or concealed, worldly or of the hereafter, does not remain for the mystic. This is true poverty and returning to real non-existence. Thus, the sufis say, ‘When poverty reaches to perfection, it is Allah.” (Istihalat al Sufiyyah, p. 104)
Sayyed Sharif Jurjaani elucidates the three levels of annihilation as follows:
“Mahq is the annihilation of the servant’s existence in the Truth. Mahv is the annihilation of his actions while Tams is the annihilation of his attributes in the Truth.” (al Tarifat, p. 89)
Jami, in Lawa’ih, seventh La’iha, p. 18, writes,
‘In Your Being, make me free of my own existence,
So that I become free of my own existence as well as non-existence,
For annihilation is the method and poverty the ideology,
Neither manifestation, nor certainty, nor recognition nor religion (is right),
He went away from everything, and only God remained,
That is, ‘When poverty reaches to perfection, it is Allah.’
Sadruddin Shirazi says,
“Till the he-ness (ego) of the servant remains, he will continue to remain in the veil of his existence and being. Perfect unison is not possible for him to reach…But when he annihilates his being and destroys the mountain of his I-ness, only then will he realise the Truth with Truth. For his being immersed in Him, he becomes concealed and unknown from everything including himself, his immersion and his observation. For if he looks at his observation and gives preference to his cognition,…his observation will conceal him from the Observed one and his cognition will veil him from the Recognised one. Thus, he will not be able to achieve the desired unison.” (Sharh Usul al Kafi, vol. 3, p. 62)
Jaami is of the view that annihilation (fana) implies that nothing is understood except him, through domination of the apparent being of Truth over the concealed. And annihilation of annihilation (fana-e-fana) is that even this understanding ceases to exist. It should be known that fana-e-fana is within fana. For, if the annihilator understands his own annihilation, then he will no longer be in a state of annihilation because the attribute of annihilation and its described one is other than God, the Glorious. Thus, its comprehension will be contradictory to annihilation.” (Lawa’ih, 8th La’iha, p. 19)
To sum up, the Sufis are of the view that there is no existence except that of God and He is the Absolute Existence. The existence of the creatures is a display of non-existence. It is only imagination and in reality, being is only the Truth. Apparently, the creatures possess existence but in the concealed form, ‘there is none in the house except the owner of the house’ (laisa fi al-dar ghairuhu dayyar). These limitations and determinations are sheer imaginary and whimsical that have been imposed on the Absolute Being and conceal the mystic from the Truth. When the mystic does away with these illusory and imaginary determinations and limitations, Truth becomes manifest. Therefore, the unawareness of the mystic from the Truth, is due to the veil of I-ness, determinations and limitations. When these veils are dispensed with, unawareness turns to recognition, duality to unity and unison with Truth is achieved. Recognition of Truth is achieved with the Truth itself.
In the book ‘Muhr e Taban’, at the end of the interview between the student and Allamah regarding the survival of the stable archetypes (a’yan e thabithah) in the annihilation of the being, the former opines:
“Annihilation of people in the Truth takes place in two ways. One is that their natural lives and material existence remains and in this very condition, they get the opportunity of annihilation. This type is achieved before death. In this form, the sincere believers, who have tread the path towards Allah, notwithstanding their worldly lives, attain annihilation. Thus, for them annihilation is one of the various conditions which they undergo. We can say that Zaid finds himself in a state of annihilation just as we can say that Zaid does not find himself in a state of annihilation. In this form, annihilation and non-annihilation are two distinct states of Zaid. Of course, as we said that Zaid finds himself, it is known that these states are for Zaid and his determinations and limitations. But in this form, the stable archetypes remain. The annihilation of all the creatures from the stones, trees, mountains, skies, earth, stars, etc. in the Truth is from this very category. For, by the survival of the stable archetypes and their own existence, they are in a state of annihilation and of humility and lowliness….
The second type of annihilation is for the one who loses his material life and physical existence. He will inhabit the worlds of Barzakh and Qiyamat after this world, is from the proximate and sincere ones and remains in the Being of the Truth in a state of annihilation. He has freed his body, exists sans physique, has left barzakh and qiyamat, is without any form or spirit, has entered the Essence of the Almighty and has dispensed with all the limitations and determinations. Even his stable archetype does not exist anymore. There is no I-ness, limitation, name or form…The change and transformation to this state of annihilation is like the annihilation of a moth in a flame and the dissolution of sugar into water. Thus, this change and transformation is of essence and existential. It belongs to the being just as a dog is transformed into salt in a salt pan and there remains no sign of his being a dog. Similarly, for the one who treads the path of the Almighty, there remains no sign of his existence whatsoever after his death.” (Muhr e Taban, p. 200)

Meeting with Allah: Divine Cognition vis a vis Human Mysticism
After understanding the meaning of ‘meeting with Allah’ (liqa Allah) in the school of divine revelation and human mysticism, we shall proceed to understand the difference between the two. Meeting with Allah in the school of revelation, as stated earlier, is a level higher than divine recognition that is gained by Allah’s introduction and His manifestation on the hearts of His servants. Moreover, this definition is the action of Allah and the servant does not have any role in it except to put himself in the place of this recognition through obedience, obeisance and acting on the obligatory and recommended commands.
Of course, it should be borne in mind that this recognition is gained by preserving the levels of the creature and the Creator (i.e. the creature remains a creature and a distinct entity from the Creator). For, if the creature loses his identity as a creature and merges with the Creator’s existence, there would not remain any duality for which recognition would be called for. Basically, such talks that existence is one and that of the Creator, and the only difference between the Truth and His creatures is that of determination and non-determination, limitations and absoluteness, etc. do not hold water at all in the school of revelation. The Holy Quran and traditions of the infallible Imams (‘a) have clearly refuted such concepts and called for a distinction between the Creator and His creatures and that there exists no similarity whatsoever between the two. The school of revelation considers the existence of creatures bonded to the Creator’s Will (mashiyah) and Intention (iradah), both of which are the actions of Allah. By His Intention, He initiates a creation that did not have any prior existence and brings it forth from the realm of non-existence. Similarly, whenever He pleases, He destroys this creature which He had granted existence.
But in the school of mysticism, the Creator’s existence has worn the robe of multiplicity. Every moment He takes a form and on losing that form, He returns to His state of Oneness (Ahadiyah). That is, first He descends and then He ascends. In reality, Creator and creature, Lord and servant, do not exist. Rather, whatever exists is actually Him. The difference lies in the levels of His Existence which, sometimes is in the level of multiplicity (Kasrat) and sometimes in the level of unity (Wahdat). In multiplicity, He is One (Wahdat dar Kasrat) and in unity, He is many (Kasrat dar Wahdat).
Therefore, in the school of revelation, as the recognition of a person increases, he realises even more his own servitude and the Lordship of his Creator. Consequently, his humility, modesty, feeling of lowliness and worship increase; he becomes engrossed in the remembrance of his Lord with his entire existence, fulfils the duties of servitude with all seriousness and earnest and considers the slightest disobedience of Allah as inappropriate. At this level, he considers leaving the abominable (tark-e-awla) as a capital crime. For, those who become proximate to the Almighty, regard Allah’s esteem with such veneration that they strive never to repeat their previous sins and in fact, consider them as highly detestable. ‘Hasanatul Abrar Sayyi’atul Muqarribin’ (The good deeds of the righteous ones are considered as bad by the proximate ones).
But in human version of mysticism, when a mystic reaches to the state of ‘divine meeting’ and annihilation, for him all existence cease to occur except the Truth. Neither there is any worshipper nor any worshipped one for worship to take place; duality is removed and there remains no existent save the Lord.
In this regard, Qaisari opines, “A person who reaches to the state of unison observes that only Allah is existent. There is neither the one who treads, nor the one whom towards whom the journey is undertaken nor treading itself. The existence of the worshipper and his I-ness, although present in the abstract self (nafsul amr), does not observe anything except His existence because the Light of Truth engulfs him. Thus, for him neither the Lord nor the servant holds any meaning. Only the One Lord exists. At this juncture, if the divine illuminations that dominate the intellects and imagination attract the mystic, and this attraction continues, he joins those enamoured by the Lord’s beauty. And if this attraction does not continue, he will receive the illuminations proportionate to its duration. Prayers, fasting and all other religious obligations cease to become obligatory on receipt of this illumination.”
(Risalah al-Tauhid wa al-Nabuwah wa al-wilaya, p. 32 narrating from Falsafa e akhlaq, p. 141.
Under this discussion, one can refer to Sharh e Gulshan e Raz, p. 304, the fifth daftar of Mathnavi e Maulvi and Al Isharat wa al-tanbihat, p. 394).
Therefore, the difference between the two schools is basic and fundamental. Here, this discussion will suffice and leaving the details for some other place, we proceed with our main discussion.
The subject of our discussion was the importance, status and significance of Salat. And before coming to the main topic, we discussed the importance of meeting with Allah (leqaaullah) and also stated that for a believer, there is no aim and goal higher and greater than it. Now, let us proceed to the importance and significance of Salat.
Salat which has been made obligatory on His servants by Allah the Almighty and has not allowed them to forsake it in the worst of circumstances, is the moment of ‘divine meeting’ and proximity with Allah. It is during Salat that a pious and abstentious believer attains great heights of divine recognition. Salat is attention towards Allah and His remembrance. He says,
“You remember Me, I will remember you.” (Quran, 2:52)
In fact, Allah remembers more those who worship Him than they remember Him. Under the verse
‘And Allah’s remembrance is the greatest.’ (Quran, 29: 45),
Imam Baqir (‘a) says,
“Allah’s remembrance of those who worship Him is greater than their remembrance of Him.” (Tafsir, al Qummi, vol. 2, p. 150)
If a worshipper turns towards Allah only once, bows in front of His greatness, feels humble and lowly in His presence, Allah the Almighty will attend to him a number of times with grace, mercy and honour. How sweet, important and honourable it is for a lowly, needy and degraded servant that a Lord, High and Mighty that He is, turns to him and casts His merciful glance and also remembers him! Thus, O servants of Allah! Don’t consider your Salat as insignificant and do not be negligent in its performance. For Salat it is that helps a servant to reach unto his Master and provides satisfaction to him. Amir al Mominin, Ali (‘a) explains the meaning of ‘Indeed the prayers have been established’ (qad qamat al-Salat) thus:
“The moment of visitation, invocation and fulfillment of needs, achievement of desires, and reaching to Allah (Mighty and Glorified be He) and His honour, pardon, satisfaction and forgiveness has indeed arrived.” (Ma’ani al akhbar, p. 41)
The Messenger of Allah (‘s) has said,
“Salat is from the fundamentals of religion and the satisfaction of Allah, the Almighty lies therein. Salat is the method and path of the Prophets (‘a). The one who prays, for him is the love of the angels, guidance, belief, light of recognition, abundance in sustenance, physical relief, hatred for the devil, conflict against the unbelievers, acceptance of supplications and deeds. Salat is the provision of a believer from this world for the hereafter and is an intercessor for him in front of the angel of death. Salat is his companion and mate in the grave and his reply for the questions of nakir and munkar. The Salat of every believer is his crown on the day of resurrection, light on his cheeks, robe for his body, a barrier between him and hell, a help to cross the bridge of sirat to reach paradise and is his dowry for the fairies (hur) and bounties of paradise. It is through Salat that a person attains great heights. For, Salat is the purification of Allah the Almighty, confessing ‘there is no god but Allah’, praising the Creator, glorifying Him, respecting Him and honouring Him, conversing with Him and to invoke Him and turn towards Him.” (Al Khisal, p. 522)
Explaining the reason for imposing Salat as an obligation, Imam Raza (‘a) said to Ibn Sinan, “Salat is the confession of Allah’s Lordship and purifying Him from any similarity or likeness. Salat implies standing before Allah, the Powerful, with a feeling of lowliness, poverty, confessing and seeking forgiveness for the past sins. A worshipper places his forehead five times a day on earth in front of his Lord to express his respect for his Lord so that he does not forget his Master and his Creator lest he becomes ungrateful and unmindful. Moreover, while praying, a servant keeps away from sins and vices and continues with the remembrance of Allah day and night. For, being engrossed in the remembrance of his Lord and standing before Him, keeps him away from the various types of sins and indecencies.” (Ilalush shar’ia, p. 317)

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