Comments about the Etiquette of Prayer and the Effects of Deeds
Of course, in reciting this prayer and other such relevant prayers the important thing for a prudent wayfarer is that after having the conditions of the prayer and paying due regards to its special etiquette and codes, it should be recited in a manner the way it deserves to be. By my own soul, the one who appreciates the worth and merit of this prayer would not be least negligent in their proper recital, and would appreciate that those who have taught us this prayer, what a great favour they have done. And what a great favour Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), has done in assigning these saintly persons as our leaders, that if they were not there and would not have taught us the manners and etiquette of prayer recital, then how and where could we have learned the etiquette of speaking to Him, the code of prayers, and the manner of thanking him?
And, if they were not there, then how we could have learned about our negligence and shortcomings as regards to the codes of servanthood, and our helplessness in offering appreciation and thanks? If they were not there and would have not taught us all this, then wouldn't we have been living in state of degradation, ignorance, negligence, deviation, and brutality? The most important condition is that the supplicant reciting such noble supplications during such blessed occasion must understand what is he saying; neither his inner-self should be in contradiction with his outward appearance, nor his self should contradict his tongue, whatever he utters with his tongue should also be confirmed by his heart, should not be a claimant and liar, and his affairs and characteristics should not perceive his sayings as lies. By bringing upon tongue and chewing up the phrases and sentences, which are not confirmed by his heart, rather are perceived as lies, should not treat Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), as a plaything or mockery because, speaking to Him in this manner in accordance with the decree of reason and wisdom is close to blasphemy, rather if one thinks well, it is nothing but blasphemy.
In front of Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), whose vast infinite knowledge comprehends everything, and who is more aware, than our own selves about all of our exoteric and esoteric affairs - do we stand, stretch our hands in prayer, and open our tongue for offering excuse by saying the following:
"O' Allah! Thou commanded me not to sin and transgress, instead I most boldly trampled Your command and stood up in rebellion against You, but in spite of all that You preserved my honour by not exposing my shameful deeds and insulting me before others."
But in spite of saying the above, if our hearts do not believe, our action and deeds do not confirm and certify whatever is uttered by our tongues; crying and shedding tears, earthiness, and humility, which are the prerequisite for uttering the above are not shown by us, or worst than that, we consider our self as righteous and faithful servants, or feel sad regarding what Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), has done with us...etc. Then with such state of affairs would it be appropriate and decent to utter such words by tongue? Do any wisdom and thinking regard such a behaviour reasonable? And the one who behaves in this manner and speaks so, what does he deserve?
Let us take a pause in order to better discover our being ungrateful, unthankful, and disobedient. Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), who is our Lord and Master, has invited us for a feast of His benevolence and generosity allowing us to sit near His favourite saints, i.e., He has required us to stand before Him for benediction and supplication in order to be benefited from the table of His blessings and benevolence. Before hand, He has dispatched prophets and imams, so that they could teach us the codes and etiquette of attaining His feast, sitting upon the table of His blessing, uttering words with Him, and standing before Him for supplication and praise.
Now if, in spite of all this, we stood before Him in benediction and supplication and opened our tongues to utter words with Him, but if our heart was occupied in some other things, our mind and self kept thinking about other affairs, and more often about things which Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), regards as His enemy, remaining amused in those thoughts to the extent, that even forgetting the words uttered to Him, becoming completely naive as to with whom are we talking to and what is being sought? What is going to be the result of such ignorance and negligence?
In this stage, wouldn't He proclaim: O' you poor deviated ones! Didn't you feel ashamed in treating my invitation so lightly with mockery? Didn't you feel ashamed by the way you talk to Me, that if your own servants, subordinates, and even your enemies would have treated you in this manner, you would have never excused them. Didn't you feel sorry for treating Me so lightly, even lighter than your own servants? Because, you will feel ashamed and would avoid to treat them in this manner, but don't feel ashamed with Me. If such reprimand is issued for us from Him would we have any reply?
Glory to Allah (Subhan Allah)! Indeed He possesses wonderful patience and great forbearance, that were it not for his patience, forbearance, greatness, benevolence, and kindness, what would He have done with us for such impudence? Except that he would have shown outburst of his wrath against us, and would have thrown us out from His blessed threshold forever, by confining us into the most horrible and darkest chambers of Hell, in most wretched and humiliating disgrace being inflicted with Hell's most severe punishments?
Yes! Majority of the people in their supplications behave in such manner, their heart being closed by the lock of negligence, they stand in prayer speaking to Him with the tip of their tongue, while having their heart and soul occupied somewhere else; even worst than this are those, who apparently open their tongue for asking pardon admitting their shortcomings, sins, transgressions, and disobedience, but inside their heart they regard themselves as pious, righteous, and faithful servants, and whatever Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), has done with them about their destinies - they are not pleased with it. A step further than these are those who with their engaging in false supplications, which they do not believe in their heart, make mockery of prayer and benediction. Of course, I don't imagine that such type of persons could be found among Muslims.
Unfortunately, that is the way it is, we stand in prayer in the state of ignorance and negligence, uttering words with the tip of our tongue, while continuously thinking about our worldly affairs from the bottom of our hearts. But as regards to what is He going to do with us and our disobedience with this false supplication and negligence, is described in the following narration in which the Imam [a] points out in the first day prayer of the Month as follows:
"He does not question us for being disobedient, does not expose us, covers up our faults, makes our good deeds apparent, does not deprive us from His blessings and favours, does not hand us over to others, closes his eyes from our faults, does not close the gate of repentance upon us, encourages us to offer repentance for the second time and many more times, promises us acceptance and rewards, treats us the same way as he treats his pious righteous servants, prevents others from insulting and exposing us, and becomes angry upon them if they admonish us, does not turn off His affectionate and kind eyes from us, and does not like to see us in the state of degradation."
Pause and ponder when you recite this prayer of the first day of the Holy month, uttering the following sentence by your tongue:
"I am so hungry for Your love that I would never become satisfied; I am so thirsty for Your friendship that I would never become quenched."
Do you keep a little bit of it within your heart, whatever is being uttered? Do you have any trace of this friendship in your heart, which is being claimed by your tongue? Do you indeed desire meeting Him in the bottom of your heart? If you are really His sincere friend then inevitably you must be infatuated for meeting Him; also, the separation from Him must be painful and you must remain in the state of restlessness and anxiety until your eyes become illuminated your with your beloved's sight. Here it is that Imam [a] after recital of the above, in a sentence saturated with ardent desire, anxiousness, and awaiting says:
"How much infatuated I am for meeting the one Who sees me, but I can't see him."
Yes! It is easy to talk, and uttering very good phrases or sentences with the tongue does not require least trouble (or in other words it does not cost any tax), but whatever is being uttered by the tongue, believing it by heart and having no contradiction between our inner and outer selves is something indeed extremely difficult. And whatever is being uttered by the tongue, having committed to it and paying due respect to all the relevant conditions, codes, and etiquette is indeed difficult. Simply compiling beautiful sentences with the tip of tongue and claiming Lord's friendship is something, and with sincerity being infatuated by soul, being His friend is something entirely a different matter.
Are not the friends, seekers, lovers, and infatuated ones of Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), such as have been described by the Imam[a] in this very prayer of the first day:
"Those who are not pleased only with fasting during day and engaging in night-vigil, rather desire to sacrifice their most precious and dearest thing for Him; want to give up their all possessions; are ready to tolerate the most severe hardships, to walk through the piercing spears, and to embrace the swords and hatchets with open arms; dyeing their hairs and face with their own blood, and falling upon the dirt with their bodies torn to pieces."
And look whether do you possess a little bit of such passions and ardent desires within you? If you are such, congratulations and thousand of congratulations be upon you, but if you are among those who even regard day-fasting and night-vigilance as uncomfortable, then what to say about having zeal and anxiousness for such things in their hearts. Therefore, lest you act impudently and shamefully and stand before Allah, (the Glorious, the Exalted), who controls all of your affairs and who sees things much more clearly than yourself in prayer, while lying and uttering things from the tip of your tongue, which you do not believe by heart as well as are not committed to them.
Another thing which a prudent wayfarer should not forget during the first night of this holy month is resorting (tawassul) to the impeccable ones (Ma'sumin) in that night. It is up to him to stretch his hand sincerely towards the threshold of those exalted saintly personalities, should present their blessed, glorious, and beautiful faces as intercessors for our unblessed and polluted (with sins), faces, thus, looking towards the Lord through their splendour and magnanimity because, it is not appropriate and desirable to look towards Him directly with a face blackened with sins, and cheeks rusted with transgressions. Instead, he should plead with them, should open his tongue full of grief and anxiety, should request them to act as intercessors for pleading his case.
It might be that their hearts would become soft with love for him, with their greatness they might accept him by acting as his intercessors as well as might request Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), that may He accept him and bestow upon him the grace and favour so that he would become the way his Lord desires him to be. Because, Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), being the most Compassionate and most Merciful, undoubtedly would accept the plea and intercession of those compassionate and exalted personalities, especially, those Sinless noble ones, to whom He himself has taught generosity and compassion as well as has allowed them to act as intercessors.
Yes! By resorting sincerely, truly and honestly to these noble exalted personalities one may attain such gains, prosperity, and salvation which can't even be attained through engaging in worship for one complete year. Therefore, it is up to us to make our best endeavours, by treating the time as our best available opportunity; we should extend our hands towards their threshold; by offering salutations and thanks should open our tongues for needs, and saying the following sincerely and honestly:
O' my masters! Tonight you are the support and shelter of everyone, you are the most exalted and generous among all exalted and generous ones, you like inviting guests and want to be generous towards them; Also Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), has commanded you to provide refuge and shelter for the wretched and unsheltered people; now here is one of the Allah's unsheltered servants who has came to attend your as well as Allah's feast; has attached his heart upon your support and well as Allah's support and hospitality; be hospitable and allow him to sit upon the table of your generosity and treat him in the following manner:
Consider him as your friend and supporter and do not deprive him from your best support and endeavours; do not deprive him from your prayer, backing, and intercession; ask Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), not to deprive him from His Forgiveness and Benevolence; shouldn't deprive him from His mercy and compassion; then look at him with love and pleasure; becoming so happy and pleased with him that after that He should never become unhappy and angry with him, should regard him as His sincere friend and worthy servant....
O' my masters! Please beseech Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), to bestow upon me these things; He will accept your prayer and intercession, because your splendour and majesty, and your worth and prestige before Him is far greater than what could be perceived by the human mind and understanding. I swear to you by your splendour and majesty, which Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), has bestowed upon you, to look towards me with kindness and do not deprive me from whatever I have desired; reward me more than whatever I have asked in accordance with your generosity; don't look upon my worthlessness, disobedience, and deviations, because the generosity of the generous ones and the hospitality shown by the exalted ones are in accordance with their generosity and exaltedness and not in proportion with the worth and merit of their recipients.
O' my masters! You are the ones who have taught greatness to the exalted ones, generosity to the generous ones, and benevolence to the benevolent ones; if there is a discussion about the benevolence you are the first and the last as well as the roots and the branches; if there is a discussion about the magnanimity and greatness you are their fountainhead; you are the ones who never returned any one hopeless and empty-handed, as you yourself have proclaimed:
"Your generosity and reward like rain water pour upon the righteous ones as well as upon the bad ones, likewise;" saturate me with the rain of your generosity, do not deprive me from the rain of your generosity, do not deprive me from the pouring of your love because I am thirsty for your generosity and hungry for your love and affection; you don't like that your guests who have taken shelter in your threshold and have tied their hopes upon your benevolence should remain thirsty and hungry.
O' my masters! If you will deprive me from your hospitality I will die with hunger under your shelter sitting upon the side of your tablecloth. No! No! You wouldn't treat me in this manner; you are not the ones who would deprive the guests from your hospitality so that he would return heart-broken, hopeless and hungry. Never! Never!
Yes! It is up to the prudent wayfarer to mobilize all his talents, expertise, strength, and endeavours for resorting towards them; crying and shedding tears, pleading, and requesting for intercession and support with these exalted saintly personalities; so that through resorting for one hour he may earn the prosperity for one year, and through such insignificant efforts might achieve huge gains. Also, he should not forget to repeat this resorting and crying every morning and evening, and by sending salutations (upon them) everyday and resorting to them every night should strengthen his commitment towards them.
The prudent wayfarer who wants to perform recommended deeds (mustahabbat) and supererogatory prayers (nafilah), it would be much better for him first to review his situation, affairs, and work-load in order to find out whether he is in low, moderate, and high mood. After reviewing his situation then he should select the proper program which is suitable for him.
One of the recommended acts which has been emphasised a lot in traditions is to perform supererogatory prayers, especially one thousand ra'kats supererogatory prayer which must be offered during this month. If the wayfarer's spiritual condition and mood allow him to perform this special prayer what other grace better than this can he ask for? He should perform it and should not forget its relevant supplications, because those supplication contain very delicate and sublime themes, which are not found in other supplications. Of course, he must do his best to recite these prayers sincerely and honestly with the heart's presence and concentration, in a state of being fully awakened, so that his prayers shouldn't be a thing uttered only from tip of his tongue and chewing of words, rather it should indeed be a confidential and humming communication with his Creator. And truly how much blessing and happiness it contains - the supplicant whose condition testifies his saying; whatever he utters by tongue is also believed by his heart, whatever he brings upon his lips comes out from the depth of his soul, and whatever he says also possesses it.
Such supplicant undoubtedly is righteous, acceptable, and dear in Allah's sight. For example: the supplicant who opens his tongue feeling sorry and ashamed, speaks about his state of helplessness and wretchedness, disobedience and ungratefulness, deviation and wickedness, sins and transgressions, boldness and lowliness, and considers himself among the condemned ones, as has been expressed in some of such supplications:
"That he himself admits that his heart is so much full of filth and his sins are so severe that if the earth would have known about them it would have swallowed him; if the mountains would have learned they would have fallen upon his head; and if the rivers would have become knowledgeable about it, they would have caught him in their whirlpool ....."
It could be derived that if a supplicant says such things, and if these feelings come from the depths of his inner soul and his heart believes in it, even if one happens to be Satan, would become righteous, what to say about a believer and Muslim. Especially, as has been mentioned in parts of these very prayers, that his fear, anxiety, and danger should be because of divine wrath and not because of Hell's punishment.
Yes! If the supplicant in this state as well as in other blessed situations, which have been described in these supplications, whatever he brings upon his tongue also believes in it by his heart, undoubtedly would become righteous, would attain Allah's pleasure, thus, ascending towards the most exalted spiritual stations. But the wayfarer who does not find within himself the required zeal and motivation for performance of such recommended deeds, feels tired and lazy, should take a penetrating look within his heart, and must thoroughly scrutinize his state of affairs.
If he thinks that performance of worship and recommended deeds even if done without interest and willingness would result in his attaining the state of being zealous and happy, certainly he must do it and should engage himself in worship and recommended deeds, lest Satan succeed in taking over his control, thus making him completely deprived from taking advantage of worship and recommended deeds. Because if some one quits the worship and recommended deeds simply taking the excuse of being tired, and not having the required mood, gradually his affairs reach to the limits, whereby, he completely turns his face away from these deeds and worships, thus, becoming deprived from their advantages forever. While on the contrary, it has occurred quite often, that someone became engaged in performance of worships and recommended deeds in the beginning with unwillingness and not much inclination and motivation, but during their performance has attained the state of happiness and willingness far beyond than his expectations.
But if he realizes, that at present he is tired and exhausted, and if by quitting the performance of worship and recommended deeds at the moment will result in his attaining a better mood and willingness, later on, he should quit it and should not allow himself to become habituated in engaging in worship and recommended deeds in a state of being tired and unmotivated. Of course, he must watch himself so that his lazy and easygoing self does not trick him to quit the worship performed in the lazy mood with the hope of performing it later with willingness and motivation.
The most important deeds of this month are recital of the Holy Qur'an and supplications, and it is up to the prudent wayfarer to make his best efforts for their recital. Of course, instead of renouncing one of them completely, he should pay more attention towards the one which is more suitable with his mood and situation and brings more illumination and joy within his heart. He should not forget the supplications mentioned in the traditions as follows:
At the beginning of the first night of the Holy Month, should recite the prayer: "Ya 'Aliyyu ya Adheem", which should then be recited after each prayer. Also one should recite the prayer of "Iftetah", the famous morning (sahar) prayer: Allahuma inni asaaluka min Bahaika", and especially, should not forget the prayer of "Abu Hamza al-Thimali", in accordance with his mood and situation every night or at alternate nights, during the days should recite relevant prayers, and should not forget the recital of Friday supplications and attending the Friday Congregational Prayer.
In his prayers should beseech Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted) a lot for bestowing upon him the grace for appreciation of the Night of Power (Lailatul-Qadr) and Night of Fitr, and during days and nights should pray a lot for the Imam of the Age - Imam Mahdi [a], by reciting the following:
"O' Allah! Please grant his wishes for himself, his progeny, followers, subjects, and the people who are under his guardianship or have some relationship with him. Please fulfill his wishes and let us see this fulfillment, and create a situation whereby the enemies feel scared. O' Allah, please let us join his most intimate followers and old friends, and send salutations and greetings upon him and his impeccable progeny. O' Thou, who are the most generous among the generous ones."
Also, he should pray for parents, teachers, fellow brother believers, next of kin, neighbours, whoever has a right upon him, all the believers, and should include them in prayers which he makes for himself.
Another important deed of this month is to take bath (ghusl) during the first night, all the odd nights, and first day. It has been narrated in tradition that:
"Whoever undertakes a bath in a running water during the first night of the Holy Month, and pours at least thirty handfuls of water upon his head, would remain in the state of cleanliness (taharat) till the next Ramadhan."
And in another tradition taking bath in the above manner has been described as medicine for the whole year.
Comments about the Effects of Deeds
Perhaps acceptance of such narrations which contain matters requiring pause and thinking might be harder for some people and they might interpret them as being incorrect. Such behavior is nothing except not understanding properly about the actions and effects, especially, if they happen to be smaller and insignificant. Otherwise from the point of view of origin and basis what is the difference between the effect of fire which every one believes and does not feel surprised than the effects of deeds and actions? Or what is the difference between the effects of movement of heavenly bodies than the effects of action and movement of human beings?
Except that, since human beings have heard a lot about the effects of movement of heavenly bodies, and have become used to it, they do not feel astonished and surprised, but since they have heard and known very little about the effects of human actions and movements, and are not familiar with it, feel surprised, astonished, and are at war. Because the less people know about a thing, and the less they are familiar with it, the more antagonised and disgusted they are. And the more knowledgeable and familiar about a matter they are, the less antagonised and disgusted they feel. How come no one feels antagonised about the impact of great and wonderful words or orders relevant to world affairs?
Didn't sometimes a word, for example, a word uttered by a tyrant emperor produce thousands of effects like devastation, murders, bloodshed, and plundering ...etc., that their remnant effects remained for quite some time or forever? Why no one rejects the effects of these things? Is it not because they understand these effects and can discover the secret and mysteries of these things through their faculty of reason and mind, therefore, accept them without any antagonism?
The prophets and the saints who possess a better sense of recognition than our own senses and whose sight is much sharper than our own, see, identify, and report to us the effect and impact of things like taking bath (ghusl) which cannot be seen and identified by us. Therefore, whoever believes in Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), divine prophets, and considers them as His righteous and exalted servants, should not show any slight doubt about the traditions which have been reported by them, even though they cannot comprehend them through their sense of limited appreciation. Because contradictions and doubts shown about their sayings is a branch of blasphemy which is not compatible with their righteous belief.
Also, it must be understood that to accept and obey these traditions and relevant commands which are far deeper than to be comprehended by our limited sense of perception and level of understanding deserve more worth and merit as compared to acceptance and obedience of those traditions and commands which could be easily understood by our knowledge and thinking. Likewise the sincerity relevant to such deeds which are beyond comprehension through human mind is far superior than the sincerity related to other usual deeds. Therefore, from these considerations we should not act negligently in their performance or may wish to quit them, instead, we should make our best endeavours in their commitments much more than the performance of other deeds.
Yes! the Holy Qur'an and traditions have confirmed the authenticity of the effects of ablutions (wadhu) and bath (ghusl) upon the behavior and affairs of human beings, and it was from this consideration that in proportion to their effects, some of them were made compulsory while others were proposed as recommended deeds.
From some of the traditions it can be derived that some of these rituals of cleaning (taharat) contain celestial illumination which would be beneficial to their owners especially on the Judgement Day. In accordance with some of the traditions, they possess celestial physical existence like the physical existence of human beings and things, who would become manifested to their own masters, would approach them and would release them from Hell's punishments as well as from other hardships on the Judgement Day. It has been mentioned about a perfect gnostics that his celestial illumination of ablutions (noor-e-wadhu) became manifested for him in this world, and he had seen it in the form of a wonderful illumination.
Yes! There are plenty of traditions confirming the actions and deeds of a human being acquiring features, body, life, conscience, and awareness in the hidden world; they visit their masters, speak to them, become affectionate with them, interceded for them, and encourage them reducing their fear...etc. And the one who believes in Allah (the Glorious, the Exalted), the Holy Prophet [s], the Judgement Day, and believes whatever has been told about the Psychic-world (Barzakh), must also believe about such effects of human's actions and deeds which have been reported in traditions.
Spiritual Journey of the Mystics (Suluk-i Arifan)
Haj Mirza Javad Agha Maliki Tabrizi (R.A.)