After intention (niyyah) which is the decision to perform the act of worship for the sake of God and to establish prayer with the aim of seeking nearness to Allah, we embark on the prayer itself. Along with “presence of heart” (hudhur al-qalb), mental preparation and total attention to the Lord, we recite the takbir, “Allahu akbar” (God is the greatest). This attentiveness and presence of heart serves as the spirit of prayer.
God is superior and greater than we think and imagine, and superior than what our pens and tongues can describe. His grandeur is beyond our understanding, cognition and comprehension.
Whatever He wills is realized immediately. His command is obeyed. He created the universe with its natural phenomena and human beings from nothing. He nourishes and guides everything, and the life and existence of all living species (plants and animals) are in His hand. To Him is the return of all things created by Him.
It is He who dispenses with honor and disgrace. He is self-sufficient but everything depends on Him. He fashions man in the womb of his mother. He endows guided instincts in his nature (fitrah) as a trust. He heals the sick. He gives strength to the weak. Everything is perishable and passes away except His Essence.
On the Day of Resurrection, the reckoning, book account, reward, and punishment are done by Him. It will be manifest on that day that power belongs to Him and all others can do nothing, and those who turned their faces to other than Him are lost and defeated.1
Our prayer commences with the Name of that Magnificent Lord.
After the intention, we recite the takbirat al-ihram,2 which signifies the commencement of our prayer.
Allahu akbar is the crux of our school’s (maktab) belief (‘aqidah).
Prayer begins with Allahu akbar and ends with rahmat Allah (mercy of God).
Prayer needs attention of the heart as well as eulogy and salutation of the tongue. We listen to the praises and invocations, while we worship with the movements of our bodily limbs and organs.
Prayer begins with the Name of Allah, and it is not like the idol-worshippers, taghutis and Christians who begin their activity with the name of their idols, the taghuts and kings or Jesus (as).
Prayer is accompanied by Allahu akbar, which announces, the invalidity of all falsehoods and futile powers, and is repeated eighty five times throughout the daily obligatory and recommended prayers.
It is also uttered as a recommended act under various labels.
This slogan is repeated during prayers and the secret behind our growth in spiritual dimensions lies in the very repetitions.
God is greater than everything!
God is greater the one who is compared with others.
He is greater than human comprehension, the claims of others, the insinuations of Satan, and the visages of the world.
If Allahu akbar springs forth from the depth of our souls and on the basis of faith and belief, the world and its temptations, the splendor of power and its manifestations, will become trivial and insignificant in our sight.
His Pleasure will become superior to everything else.
Imam as-Sadiq (as) says that when you utter takbir at the beginning of prayer, everything except God must be insignificant in your sight, and if not, it shall be said: ‘You are a liar!’
If in the mind of the one praying there is someone greater, he will be considered a liar, just as the hypocrites (munafiqun) used to verbally bear witness to the apostleship of the Messenger of Allah (S), but they had no faith in what they were saying. God described them as liars:
“And Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are indeed liars.”3
Because such duality of speech and belief is hypocrisy. As such, the same Imam (as) says: “God addresses such worshippers, saying: “Are you deceiving and duping Me? By My Honor and Glory! I shall deprive you of nearness to Me, the sweetness of remembering (dhikr) Me, and the pleasure of My litanies.”4
After narrating this hadith, the late Faydh Kashani says:
Whenever you attain the pleasure and sweetness of litanies during prayer, be aware that your takbir is accepted and confirmed by God, the Exalted, and if it is not, you will feel that God has expelled you from His Court, does not confirm your utterance, and regards you as a liar.”5
Yes, God is the greatest!
Anyone who professes such belief will, like the Great Leader of the Islamic Revolution (Imam Khomeini) (may his soul be sanctified), says even to the US as such: “It cannot do a damn thing.” ‘Ali (as) considers it as part of the attributes of the pious ones (muttaqin):
عَظُمَ ٱلْخَالِقُ فِي أَنْفُسِهِم فَصَغُرَ مَادُوْنَهُ فِي أَعْيُنِهِم.
“The greatness of the Creator is seated in their heart, and so, everything else appears small in their eyes.”6
In every prayer, the recital of Surah al-Hamd (or al-Fatihah) is necessary. It is the surah (chapter) that describes God as the Creator and Nourisher of the universe, Most Beneficent and Most Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgment, followed by a declaration of worshipping only Him, and beseeching only Him for His help and guidance in treading the straight path.
Now, we shall discuss the highlights of this surah:
We begin with the name and help of the All-beneficent and All-merciful God.
He is the Lord whose compassion encompasses all and whose kindness is universal and everlasting. Others have either no compassion, or their compassion is limited, or their aim is not to be compassionate. But in the case of God, even His act of creating all beings is based on grace and kindness:
إِلاَّ مَنْ رَحِمَ رَبُّكَ وَ لِذٰلِك خَلََقَهُم
“Except those on whom your Lord has mercy—and that is why He created them.”7
Whoever loses the mercy of the Lord is himself responsible.
Divine mercy is all-encompassing, but sometimes, people close the door of mercy for themselves through their false thinking and actions.
Bismillah (In the Name of Allah) at the beginning of every action is the secret code of love for God, reliance on Him, seeking help from Him, and depending on Him.
Bismillah means holding fast and clinging to the inspiration-giving Name of God and fleeing from the insinuations of Satan.
Bismillah has been at the beginning of all heavenly scriptures,8 and the prophets (as) also used to start all their work with the name of Allah.9 This act sets man under the protection and care of God and anyone who sincerely seeks refuge in God will be guided on the straight path:
وَمَن يَعْتَصِم بِاللّهِ فَقَدْ هُدِيَ إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ
“And whoever takes recourse in Allah is certainly guided to a straight path.”10
Bismillah is the sign of servitude to God and dependence on Him. It is like saying: “O Lord! I have not forgotten You. I begin every activity with Your Name. I take You as my Protecter and drive away Satan through Your assistance.”
Imam as-Sadiq (as) said: “Bismillah is the crown of all surahs,”11 and it is the sign of security and mercy. And there is no bismillah at the beginning of Surah al-Bara’ah (or at-Tawbah) because this surah is a declaration of disgust and disavowal for the infidels and polytheists, and this act must not be accompanied by mercy.12 It is stated in the hadith that every action, be it writing a single verse of poetry, must begin with bismillah, and that every action that is devoid of His remembrance will not reach its conclusion.13
Praise and eulogy belong exclusively to God who nourishes all creatures. For the nourishment of the physical realm, He has set the order of creation, the movement of the earth, the sun, air, plants, seas, and material blessings.
And for the nourishment of the soul, He has designated the prophets (as), heavenly books, pleasant and unpleasant instructive events, etc.
For the guidance of humanity, He has sent down religion and laws based on the natural disposition (fitrah) of man, and founded on reason (‘aql). He has not left the earth without a guide nor placed it at the disposal of man with all its apparent and hidden blessings, but ensured the presence of a proof (hujjah) of His Ownership and Watchfulness. If a minute change and disorder occurs in the order of creation, everything will perish.
The firm and fixed order of creation in the mountains and plants, atoms and galaxies, water and soil, the four seasons, day and night, organs of the body, diverse instincts, and the different sets of guidance is a perfect manifestation of His Lordship (rububiyyah) for the entire universe.
Our body organs and limbs have such wonderful precision, complexity and order that it is amazing. The quality of the eye, ear, heart, respiratory organs, veins, nerves, the five senses, reflects the wonderful divine design.
It is lamentable that instead of giving thanks, man is most ungrateful:
و كان الانسانُ كفوراً
“For man was ever thankless.”14
Instead of seeking nearness to God, he turns away from Him:
اِذآ أنْعَمْنَا علی الانسانِ اَعْرَضَ
“When We bless man, he is disregardful and turns aside; but when an ill befalls him, he is despondent.”15
And instead of loving and worshipping God, he expresses enmity and insolence:
فَاذا هُوَ خَصيمٌ مُبينٌ
“Behold, he is an open contender!?”16
It is regrettable that instead of showing humility and reverence, he assumes an air of dignity:
يَا أَيُّهَا ٱلإِْنْسَانُ مَاغَرَّكَ بِرَبِّكَ ٱلْكَرِيمِ
“O man! What has deceived you about your generous Lord?”17
A false feeling of self-sufficiency makes him rebel (against God):
كَلَّا إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَيَطْغَى ٭ أَن رَّآهُ اسْتَغْنَى
“Indeed man becomes rebellious when he considers himself without need.”18
And he thinks the divine blessings are the result of his own efforts:
انما اوتيتُهُ علی عِلم
“I have indeed been given (all) this because of the knowledge that I have.”19
And he does not pay heed to the sounds of awakening:
وَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا لاَ يَذْكُرُون
“And (even) when admonished do not take admonition.”20
This ungrateful man extends gratitude to all people for the least goodness done to him, but he forgets God who is the main “Bestower of Favors” (wali an-ni’mah). It is a pity that man loses the way, puts out the light of thought (fikr) and natural disposition (fitrah), shuts his eyes, attaches his heart to so-and-so, and relies on human and satanic powers instead of trusting God.
The sentence, “Al-hamdulillahi rabbi’l-’alamin” extinguishes these complacencies, reminds us of the blessings of the Divine Lordship (rububiyyat al-ilahi).
God is the Lord of the worlds. He is the Lord of the entire universe, all creatures, and all things: “He is the Lord of all things,”21 and not in the sense of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance (yawm al-jahiliyyah) where there was a lord and cherisher for every kind of thing (rabb an-Naw’). God is the Master, Manager and Administrator of all. He creates, regulates, as well as trains.
The extent of His universal Beneficence surrounds everything. His mercy precedes His wrath.
He has paved the way of repentance (tawbah) for the sinners, promising that He accepts repentance even on the verge of death of the repentant, and He loves the penitent ones:
إِنَّ اللهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلْتَوَّابين
“Indeed Allah loves the pertinent.”22
And He has made it incumbent upon Himself to be merciful and oft-forgiving:
كَتَبَ رَبُّكُمْ على نفسِهِ الرَّحمة
“Your Lord has made mercy incumbent upon Himself.”23
He has also made everybody hopeful and called upon them toward His mercy:
لاَ تقنَطُوا مِنْ رَحْمَةِ اللهِ إِنَّ اللهَ يَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنوبَ جَمِيعًا
“Do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed Allah will forgive all sins.”24
Among the manifestations of the mercy of the Lord is that He transforms into good even the evil deeds:
يُبَدِّلُ اللهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِم حَسَنَاتٍ
“Allah will replace their misdeeds with good deeds.”25
Even trials, afflictions and difficulties are signs of His mercy that arouse man from the slumber of negligence and urge him to search. Enduring the difficulties is pleasurable for the saints of God who thank Him for those pains.
He is the Master of the Day of Retribution. This is another Attribute of God which is exclusively His.
Man mostly gives thanks in three cases:
1. Attention to past favors;
2. Attention to present love; and
3. Attention to future grace.
Keeping this in view, all praise must be solely for God because He has safeguarded our past; blessed our present with His mercy and grace; and in the future on the Day of Resurrection, all our accounts will be with Him, so we pray for His favor and compassion.
He is the master—the Real Master!
Although human beings in the world are captives in the webs of open and hidden polytheisms, on the Day of Judgment all will realize that the universe and everything in it belongs to Him, and that He is the Master of the universe, Absolute Sovereign and Real Ruler:
“And all command that day will belong to Allah.”26
On the Day of Resurrection, the people will be asked:
“To whom does the sovereignty belong today?”27
They will answer, thus:
“To Allah, the One, the All-paramount.”28
The phrase, “Maliki yawmi’d-din” reminds man of the reckoning on the Day of Judgment so that while he still has time he needs to improve himself.29
Every time Imam as-Sajjad (as) would reach this phase in prayer, he would repeat it to such an extent that it seemed his soul would separate from his body.30
“Din” (in “Maliki yawmi’d-din”) means retribution (jaza’). God is the Master of the Day of Retribution, and Reward. In this surah, both His mercy and His wrath and justice are pointed out so as to make clear the code of proper living, which is between fear of His Wrath and hope of His Mercy.
“Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in” (You (alone) do we worship and to You (alone) do we turn for help)
Up to that point, the one praying verbally expressed his beliefs regarding the genesis and final destination as well as the Attributes of God. So, the outcome of these beliefs must be sincere servitude and asking succor from God.
Even if the one praying is alone, he recites the sentence in the plural form so as to relate himself to the other worshippers. Perhaps, his defective worship would be accepted and considered along with the acts of worship of the perfect, sincere and upright ones.
The collective description gives the lesson that the “I’s” must become “we”. The edifice of worship, prayer in particular, is founded on congregation, while individualism, isolation and segregation are worthless.
In the same ayah, worship of Allah alone has been coupled with seeking help from Him alone, so that side by side with servitude, we also beg for immunity from deviation of thought, arrogance and self-admiration, ostentation and sluggishness. One must seek assistance from Him, because He and only He can grant us with faith and recognition of Truth.
Waking up in the morning, performing ablution with water, moving and standing, all emanate from Him. The acceptance of prayer and our immunity from arrogance and ostentation are in His hand.
We owe even our interest in worship to His grace.
Worship is solely for God. Neither worship of the West nor worship of the East; neither servitude to force or position; neither submission to carnal desire, nor seduction by woman; neither enamored by offspring nor obsessed with wealth.
This sentence in prayer condemns serving any kind of interest more than God. It negates every sort of assistance from false powers. It teaches the worshipper the lesson of “honor under the auspices of servitude to God”, not become a slave and servant of other than God, not to be afraid of the threats and warnings of others, and not under any circumstances abandon the way of God.
Our first request to God after praising and eulogizing Him, sincerely expressing our servitude to Him, and begging Him for help, is the request for guidance along the right path. In the theoretical and practical issues of life, beliefs, behavior, and attitudes, recognizing the correct path is so important, yet so difficult. As such, we implore God to guide us to the “straight path” (sirat al-mustaqim).
When the right path is talked about, non-straight paths will also be touched. Once we identify these “byways” we will also recognize better “the way”. Below is a list of non-straight paths:
1. The path of one’s passions that appear at the time of anger, sensual desire and instinctive outbursts;
2. The path of others’ passions;
3. The path of disbelief, extremism and bigotry;
4. The path of satanic insinuations and their manifestations;
5. The path of the taghuts that draw people through threat and temptation;
6. The path of worldliness in which wealth and position make man strive for the pleasure of so-and-so;
7. The paths lacking proof and logic, and based on false fads and tendencies;
8. The path chosen by man for being unmindful, inexperienced and heedless;
9. The path that drew those who tread it toward perdition (the path of those who earned God’s wrath and those who go astray);
10. The path of personal tastes and opinions, as well as improper habits.
Now, let us find the straight path?
The path of God:
إِنَّ رَبِّى عَلىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ
“Indeed my Lord is on a straight path.”31
The path of the prophets (as):
إِنَّكَ عَلىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ
“Indeed you are on a straight path.”32
The path of servitude and worship:
وَ أَن اْعْبُدُونى هذا صِرَاطٌ مُسْتَقِيمٌ
“Worship Me. This is a straight path.”33
The path of the infallible Imams: Imam as-Sadiq (as) said: “Verily, we are the ‘straight path’.”34
The path of clinging and holding fast to God and His law:
وَمَن يَعْتَصِم بِاللّهِ فَقَدْ هُدِيَ إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ
“And whoever takes recourse in Allah is certainly guided to a straight path.”35
1. The straight path is different for different individuals, in different periods and under different circumstances. At one time, it assumes the form of silence, while voicing out at another. It is sometimes spending wealth, while sacrificing life at another. It is studying for one person, while working for another, etc. (These statements must not be taken as an excuse to escape from social and religious responsibilities for personal comfort.)
2. Those that are on the straight path and possess congenial conditions and facilities must not criticize and find fault with others (who are also busy in other activities in the way of God) because the ways to attain the pleasure of God are diverse, and every individual’s actions vary in degree from those of another. In many cases, all are treading the straight path under a single banner through diverse methods.
3. Persistence of movement along the straight path is imperative, for humans are inclined to err and deviate. In a hadith from ‘Ali (as) concerning the meaning of the verse, he stated that “set The future of our life, too, on the right path.”36
4. The person who is in the highest degree of perfection (including even the degree of infallibility (‘ismah)) must continue praying to God for the straight path, because this path has various angles, and like light, knowledge, and movement, it is evolutionary and creative. Regarding further guidance of the guided ones, the Holy Qur’an states:
وَ يَزِيدُ اللهُ الَّذِينَ اهْتَدُوْاْ هُدىً
“Allah enhances in guidance those who are (rightly) guided.”37
And in the initial part of Makarim al-Akhlaq Supplication, Imam as-Sajjad (as) beseeches God to make his faith, certainty, desires, and goals attain the perfect degree of sublimity.
5. To identify the straight path is difficult and to stay on it is even more difficult, like passing through a narrow and slippery pass, narrower than a string of hair and sharper than a sword. Most of the people either fail to recognize it or go astray after treading it. One will be misguided in belief while another in practice. One will become a proponent of predestination (jabr) while another that of Divine Resignation (tafwidh).38
One will elevate the infallible leaders to the level of divinity and commit extremism in belief,39 while another one regards them as common people, and even as insane, or soothsayers. Yet another considers paying homage (ziyarah) to the Imams and martyrs as an act of polytheism.40
There is one who worships trees and walls, while another leads a monastic life. One wastes his wealth and faces poverty, while another suffers from laziness. One does not even mention the name of his wife out of excessive (and misplaced) possessiveness, while another sends his spouse onto the streets without observing the Islamic dress code (hijab).
Islam invites the people to the right and straight path, which is the middle way, the path of equilibrium and moderation in all affairs—including devotional affairs. In the hadith, there is a section called “Al-Iqtisad fi’l-’Ibadat” (Moderation in the Acts of Worship).
Concerning this part of the ayah, Imam al-’Askari (as) says: “With this phrase, the worshipper prays for obedience and servitude in the future just as in the past, and the straight path is a way which is higher than shortsightedness and lower than extravagant opinions.”41
Imam as-Sadiq (as) says: “The straight path is that which drives man to love God and His religion, discourages partisanship, and hinders following one’s desires and personal views about religion.”42
In the book, Bihar al-Anwar, there are 56 hadiths about it—that the ‘straight path’ means the pure Imams, the infallible saints of God and their true followers.
It is because they are the embodiment of the path of truth, and their wrath and benevolence, war and peace, worship and deed, thinking and action are based on the command of God and in the straight way. Following them in this world is a difficult task and full of responsibility, like the sirat (path) in the hereafter which is above hell, narrower than a strand of hair and sharper than a sword.43
Anyone who has been on the straight path in this world will easily and quickly cross that sirat. And those who engage in immoderation and excess will face problems in crossing the sirat.
Imam ‘Ali (as) has described those who have deviated from the straight path thus:
If he sees even a tiny gleam of success, then greed forces him to humiliate himself. If he gives way to avarice, then inordinate desires ruin him. If he is disappointed, then despondency almost kills him. If he is excited, then he loses temper and gets angry. If he is pleased, then he gives up precaution…
If he acquires wealth, then he becomes haughty and arrogant. If he is plunged in distress, then his agitation, impatience and nervousness disgrace him. If he is overtaken by poverty, then he finds himself in a very sad plight. Hunger makes him weak, and over-feeding harms him equally.44
And such excess and licentiousness stem from ignorance (jahl) about which the Commander of the Faithful (as) has said:
لاَ تَرى الجَاهِلُ إِلاَّ مُفْرِطًا أَوْ مُفَرِّطًا.
“An ignorant person will always overdo a thing or neglect it totally (That is, he will be at one extreme or the other).”45
Of course, to identify immoderation and profligacy is difficult, as every person regards his own conduct as reasonable and just accusing others of extremism and shortcomings. Being ignorant, he tends to commit immoderation in this act of attributing things to others. The divine saints and those who are trained in the school (maktab) of the prophets (as), however, still act according to the truth even in their judgments.
Numerous cases of deviation from the straight path have been stated in hadiths. We shall cite below some of these cases of immoderation and profligacy:
1. Regarding appreciation of others, Hadhrat ‘Ali (as) says: “To praise more than entitlement is sycophancy; to do less is either because of inability to express or of envy.”46
2. With respect to extremism in reproach, the Imam (as) says: “Immoderation and excess in reproaching someone kindles the fire of obstinacy.”47
3. Concerning the criterion of spending, the Holy Qur’an says:
وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَنفَقُوا لَمْ يُسْرِفُوا وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُوا وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ قَوَامًا
“Those who, when spending, are neither wasteful nor tightfisted, and moderation lies between these (extremes).”48
The Glorious Qur’an clearly describes the people who have been blessed by God, saying:
وَ مَنْ يُطِعِ اللهَ و ٱلرَّسُولَ فَأُولئِكَ مَعَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللهُ عَلَيهِم مِنَ ٱلنَّبِيِّينَ وَ ٱلصِّدِّيقِينَ وَ ٱلشُّهَداءِ وَ ٱلصَّالِحِينَ وَ حَسُنَ أُولٰئِكَ رَفِيقًا
“Whoever obeys Allah and the Apostle—they are with those whom Allah has blessed, including the prophets and the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous. The best of company are they!”49
We recite this verse many times day and night as it is our request to God to be included in the company of the four categories.
In Tafsir al-Nemuneh, we read the following:
The four categories (the prophets, the truthful (siddiqin), martyrs, and the righteous (salihin)) are perhaps necessary to build a sound, advanced and religious human society, and the prophets and true leaders must enter the scene of action. Next to them are the truthful and upright propagators whose words and actions promote the mission of the prophets in all places.
Following this period of intellectual reformation (the Islamic Revolution in Iran), the corrupt elements and those who obstruct the path of truth will naturally express their opposition, and in confronting them there must be a collective uprising. As a result, some will be martyred and through their pure blood, the tree of monotheism will be irrigated.
In the fourth stage, the product of these efforts and struggles is the sprouting of the righteous ones, as well as a pure and meritorious society full of spirituality!50
What is interesting is that in Bihar al-Anwar, the same infallible Imams (as) have been presented in numerous traditions as the perfect embodiments of the martyrs, the truthful and the righteous.51
Such a request in prayer demands a fellowship of these four groups in thought and action. Anyone who is endowed with the grace and favor of God will neither accept oppression nor support the oppressors. In this connection, Hadhrat Musa (as) said:
رَبِّ بِمَا أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَىَّ فَلَنْ أَكُونَ ظَهِيرًا لِلْمُجْرِمِينَ
“My Lord! As You have blessed me, I will never be a supporter of the guilty.”52
At this point, the intellectual and practical orientation of the worshipper will be clear when he asks God to let him tread the path of those exalted personages.
It is not the path of the accursed Pharaohs and powerful ones who were drowned and perished on account of their infidelity and stubbornness.53
It is neither the path of the Qaruns and stony-hearted capitalists who incurred the divine wrath and were swallowed by the earth on account of their obstinacy in dealing with the men of God.54
Neither is it the way of the worldly scholars and ‘ulama’ who did nothing but create dissension and earned the anger of God.55
In order to identify those who incurred the divine wrath, one must study the history and fate of individuals and communities that earned the anger of God and were chastised and ruined, such as the Jewish community, the people of Lut (Lot), the followers of the taghuts, hypocrites, murderers, etc.56
While declaring disavowal of such groups, the worshipper asks God not to let him tread their path, nor follow the way of the misguided ones (adh-dhallin).
Those who are misguided in thought and action, and fanatically entangled in the incorrect polytheistic beliefs of their forebears, they are a manifestation of those who have gone astray (dhallin).
Surah al-Hamd ends here—the surah that begins with hamd (praise) and ends with du’a’ (supplication); the surah which heals and is the prologue to the Holy Book.
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ ٭ اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ ٭ لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ ٭ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ
“Say, ‘He is Allah, the One’. Allah is the All-embracing. He neither begat nor was begotten. Nor has He any equal.”57
Although after Surah al-Hamd, any other surah may be recited in prayer, Surah at-Tawhid is more meritorious. It is also recommended to the leader of the congregational prayer to take into account the situation of others by selecting a short surah.
The surah also begins with the Name of Allah. With the exception of Surah at-Tawbah, Bismillah (In the Name of Allah) is the beginning of all surahs and is considered one of the verses of each surah.
As Surah at-Tawbah contains criticism and disavowal of the infidels and polytheists, it does not have bismillah because disavowal and disgust are incompatible with the “All-beneficent” (ar-rahman) and “All-merciful” (ar-rahim) Attributes of Allah.
Starting with the Name of Allah is meant to bestow divine color, divine orientation and divine motive to the works and programs in hand, and is an educative point in the culture of Islam. One must pay attention to God at both the beginning and end of any action, including the slaughtering of animals!
Any act without bismillah is void, and sometimes, because of heedlessness to God, terrible consequences are faced. It happened to someone that at the moment of sitting down, the legs of his chair collapsed and his head broke as he stumbled upon the ground. Hadhrat ‘Ali (as) said: “The reason behind this unpleasant happening is that you did not utter bismillah.”58
Surah at-Tawhid is singular in presenting the oneness of Allah. God is One and Unequal in every aspect because His Being and Attributes are unlimited, and the Unlimited Being cannot be but only one. For example, if a house wants to be unlimited and infinite in terms of area, no land and space will remain for other houses, and this house will not be more than one.
God is One and He is such in everything:
He is One in creation:
“Say, ‘Allah is the creator of all things, and He is the One, the All-paramount’.”59
He is One in giving nourishment:
“And He is the Lord of all things.”60
He is One in ownership:
“To Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth.”61
He is One in Sovereignty:
“The decision is for Allah only.”62
He is One in providing assistance:
“Is He who answers the call of the distressed (person) when he invokes Him?”63
And He is peerless in all Attributes.
He is samad (All-embracing).
He is the Self-sufficient Being of whom all are in need and to whom all pay attention. He is samad; that is, He is free from food, sleep, change, transformation, partner, negligence, tiredness, begetting and being begotten, etc.64
Imam ‘Ali (as) said: “Samad means that He is not a body, a similitude, nor form; and neither has He any semblance, location, time, boundary, limitation, and form. He is neither empty nor full.”65
He has neither offspring not parent. He is not taken from anything nor can something be taken from His Essence. He is not a fruit that can be separated from the tree, or a tear that flows from the eye, or a pebble that comes from a rock.
This statement negates the doctrines of people such as the Christians and the Jews who used to recognize ‘Isa and ‘Uzayr (Ezra), respectively, as son of God, or the idol-worshippers who used to assume the angels to be daughters of God.
He has no equal. He has no resemblance in Essence (dhat), Attributes (sifat) and Actions (af’al):
“Nothing is like Him.”66
Surah al-Hamd and another surah must be recited while the body is at rest. The recital must be done correctly and the pronunciation of the words which are in the Islamic international language (Arabic) must be flawless. Of course, learning the correct pronunciation is not as difficult as presumed. It only needs a bit of effort and dedication.
Arabic is the language of Islam and the Qur’an. Just as every pilot anywhere in the world must speak in English while communicating with the airport’s control tower, in prayer, which is a psychic flight and spiritual ascension of the believer, the communication with the Creator must be made in the language used by Allah to communicate with us.
At the moment of prayer, presence of heart and mind is essential. It is good for one while standing to look at the spot of prostration on the prayer mat and to perform the prayer with humility. The Holy Qur’an reckons as successful the believers who are humble in their prayers;67 that is, they are heedful and conscious of God, His grandeur and His magnificence, while in that particular spiritual and physical state.
The Messenger of Allah (S) saw a person who was playing with his beard while praying. He said: “If he is truly humble and attentive to his prayer, he will not perform such a prayer.”68
Of course, with respect to the correctness of prayer, humility and presence of the heart is just one aspect. Keeping the trust in relation to the rights of others is another.
Imam ‘Ali (as) said to Kumayl:69 “Be watchful of the location where you are praying and what clothes you are wearing. If your clothes and place for prayer are earned from unlawful income, your prayer will not be accepted.”70
Ruku’ means that after finishing the recital of the surah after Surah al-Hamd, we bow down to a certain extent with the intention of glorifying God and being obedient to His command and majesty, while our hands are placed on the knees, with our back evenly extended horizontally, and our neck equally stretched as if the worshipper is willing to be beheaded in the way of Allah.71
In every rak’ah, one ruku’ is required with the exception of salat al-mayyit (ritual prayer for the dead) which has no ruku’ and salat al-ayat (prayer for natural phenomena or signs) whose every rak’ah has five ruku’s.
Ruku’ is one of the pillars of prayer, and excess or decrease in its number, done consciously or unconsciously, renders the prayer invalid, being one of the most significant expressions of servitude.
Ruku’ is a courtesy while sujud (prostration) is the proximity, and he who performs courtesy correctly is the one who can attain proximity to God. This is the meaning of the statement of Imam as-Sadiq (as) when he said: 72
وَ في ٱلرُّكُوع أَدَبٌ وَ في ٱلسُّجُود قُرْبٌ وَ مَنْ لاَيَحْسُنُ ٱلأَْدَبَ لاَيَصْلَحُ لِلْقُرْبِ.
There are examples of ruku’ and sujud of the spiritual leaders recorded in the traditions that will put to shame one’s ruku’ and sujud.
The Commander of the Faithful (as) had such a long ruku’ that his forelegs would sweat and the soles of his blessed feet would moisten.73
Someone came into the house of Imam as-Sadiq (as). He saw that while in the state of ruku’, the Imam was busy performing tasbih (glorifying Allah such as saying, “subhanallah” (glory be to Allah)), repeating the tasbih 60 times.74
It is recorded in another hadith that Imam as-Sadiq (as) used to recite the invocation (dhikr) in ruku’ (subhana rabbiya’l-’azim wa bihamdih) and sujud (subhana rabbiya’l-a’la wa bihamdih) 30 times.75
Faydh Kashani says: “The repetition of tasbih more than 30 times was during congregational prayers. Since the Imam had to take into account the condition of the weak among the worshippers, it shows that those who were joining him in the congregation consented to this prolongation.”
In the ruku’ we say, subhana rabbiya’l-’azim wa bihamdih “Glory be to my Lord, the Great, and praise belongs to Him.” When the verse, “So celebrate the Name of your Lord, the All-supreme,”76 was revealed, the Prophet (S) thus ordered:
اِجعَلوها فى ركُوعِكم
“recite it in your ruku”77
The angels of God are always in the state of worship. Some are always in ruku’ while others are always in sujud and tasbih. In this regard, ‘Ali (as) said as recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah:
مِنْهُمْ سُجُود لاَيَرْكَعُونَ وَ رُكُوعٌ لاَ يَنْتَصِبُونَ وَ صَافُّونَ لاَ يَتَزَايَلُونَ وَ مُسَبِّحُونَ لاَ يَسْئمُونَ.
“Some of them are in prostration and do not kneel up. Others in kneeling position do not stand up. Some of them are in array and do not leave their position. Others are extolling Allah and do not get tired!”78
The worshippers who are engaged in ruku’ are in the company of angels, nay, all atoms of the world that are busy in glorifying God, the Glorious.79 Which honor is more sublime than this?! And which form of negligence is more grievous than that of those who are alien to prayer, ruku’ and sujud?!
Sujud (prostration) symbolizes the peak of humility and submission to God, and is the highest degree of worship.
By doing sujud, man unites himself with the universe: “To Allah prostrates whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth,”80
Sujud is the best state for man to approach God.
Sujud is the code of the four stages of human life. ‘Ali (as) says: “The first sujud means that I was mud clay in the beginning, and as I raise my head from sujud, it means that I came to the world from the soil.
The second sujud means that I will again return to the soil, and as I raise my head from sujud, it means that on the Day of Resurrection I will rise up from the grave and be summoned.”81 This is the subject of this Qur’anic verse:
“From it did We create you, into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you forth another time.”82
Since sujud is a symbol of servitude (‘ubudiyyah), it is forbidden to prostrate on items that are meant to be eaten and worn as garments. In the state of proximity to God, it is not correct to prostrate on something which one is dependent on (while not in the state of prayer)!83
It is not permissible to prostrate before other than God.84 If ever the brothers of Yusuf (Joseph) (as) prostrated before him, it was in reality a form of worship to God and gratitude to Him who had brought Yusuf from the bottom of the well to such honor and glory.85
According to the Holy Qur’an and the divine worldview, all created beings have consciousness (shu’ur) and are engaged in praising and glorifying God, the Exalted, as well as prostrating before Him. There are many verses in the Glorious Qur’an in this regard, an example of which is the following verse:
“Have you not regarded that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth, and the sun, the moon, and the stars, the mountains, the trees, and the animals and many of mankind? And for many the punishment has become due.”86
In his poetry, Mawlawi87 has also pointed out the consciousness and faculty of speech of all beings in the universe, saying:
نطق آب و نطق خاک و نطق گِل هست محسوس حواس اهل دل
جملهٴ ذرّات، در عالم نهان با تو مى گويند روزان و شبان
ما سميعيم و بصير و باهُشيم با شما نامحرمان ما خامُشيم
از جمادى سوى جانِ جان شويد غلغلهٴ اجزاى عالم بشنويد
فاش تسبيح جمادات آيدت وسوسهٴ تأويلها بزدايدت
The voice of water, soil and mud can be heard by the gnostics.
All particles of the world say secretly to you during the day and night:
“We are hearing, discerning and vigilant. We are silent with you, the strangers.”
This worldview is also highlighted in some ways in the verses of the Qur’an.
God taught the logic and language of birds to certain prophets.88
Hadhrat Sulayman (as) could understand the conversation of the ants.89
All the creatures glorify (tasbih) God but you cannot understand their tasbihs.90
After discussing this issue in detail, ‘Allamah Tabataba’i says: “The fact is that the tasbih of all creatures is a reality (and not metaphorical) and with speech and voice (and not instinctively).”91
Of course, it is not necessary for all expressions and voices to be identical.
It is true that one meaning of the tasbih of creatures is that their existence bears witness to the Perfect Essence of God, the Exalted.
Yet, the verses of the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions refer to something higher than this. It is stated in a hadith: “Do not beat the face of an animal as it is doing tasbih to God.”92 And it is also stated in another hadith: “Wash your clothes because dirty clothes do not perform tasbih to God.”93
The Glorious Qur’an mentions the report given by the hoopoe (hudhud) to Sulayman (as).94
In any case, the sujud and tasbih of the worshipper are in symphony with the world of beings that are all humble and obeisant to the command and majesty of God.
Being acquainted with the sujud of the divine saints inspires us with humility and submission in worship. We shall deal below with some instances of their sujud:
Imam as-Sajjad (as) used to perform his prostrations with such concentration and repetition of the Names of Allah that whenever he would rise up, his blessed body would be full of perspiration.95
After the dawn (subh) prayer, Imam al-Kazim (as) would place his forehead on the ground and he would remain in that state of prostration for hours until the sun was already high in the sky.96
The reason behind Hadhrat Ibrahim’s (as) attainment of the station of “Khalil Allah” (Friend of Allah) was his long prostrations.97
Salman al-Farsi used to say: “If there were no sujud, I would have wished for death (that is, it is only sujud that I like in the life of this world).”98
After every supererogatory prayer, Hadhrat Musa (as) used to place his right and left cheeks on the ground.99
A certain person said: “I saw Imam as-Sadiq (as) while in the state of prostration repeating the invocation “subhan Allah” (glory be to Allah) 500 times.”100
The reason why the fourth Imam (as) earned the title of “As-Sajjad” (he who is fond of prostration) is that the mark of prostration could be seen in mawadhi’ as-sajdah—all the seven parts of his body that are engaged in prostration (forehead, both hands, both knees, and toes of both feet).101
The Glorious Qur’an describes the companions of the Messenger of Allah (S) that
“(They) are hard against the faithless and merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating (in worship), seeking Allah’s grace and (His) pleasure. Their mark is (visible) on their faces, from the effect of prostration.” 102
Prostration closes man to God, washes away sins, brings satan to his knees and causes man to enter the paradise.
Someone came to the Prophet (S) and said: “I have many sins and only little good deeds.” The Prophet advised him: “Increase your prostrations, because just as the wind blows away the leaves of a tree, prostrating before God washes away sins.”103
Some people came to the Prophet (S) and asked him to guarantee their admission to paradise. The Prophet (S) said: “I will do so provided that you help me in this task (of ensuring your admission to paradise) through your long prostrations to God.”104
Imam as-Sadiq (as) said: “Prolong your prostrations because the most troublesome for Satan is man’s prostration to God. The reason behind it is that he was commanded to prostrate before Adam (as) and he disobeyed, but man obeyed and he was delivered.105
The Prophet of Islam (S) said to one of his companions: “If you want to be with me on the Day of Resurrection, you should make long prostrations to God.”106
Sometimes, some common material things call to mind lofty spiritual moral values and concepts. Such is the soil where the blood of the greatest Martyr was spilled.
It is recommended for one to prostrate on the soil of the grave of the Martyr of Martyrs (sayyid ash-shuhada’).107 It is because prostration on the pure soil (turbah) of al-Husayn (as) calls to mind the epic and spiritual value of the event in Karbala.
It acquaints the worshipper with the culture of jihad and shahadat (martyrdom). From the turbah of the Imam, one can smell the fragrance of sacrifice and selflessness and learn a lesson daily from the school (maktab) of martyrs (shuhada’).
Imam as-Sadiq (as) would not prostrate on anything except the soil of the grave of Imam al-Husayn (as),108 saying: “Prostration on the soil of Imam al-Husayn (as) has such radiance that it penetrates the veils that conceal the Truth.”109
Sanctifying the inviolability of God, and regarding Him free of defect and deficiency in all aspects are contained in the concept of this invocation (dhikr).
Subhan Alah states a fact which is the root of all Islamic belief and thought, and the infrastructure of man’s relation to God and the Attributes of Perfection. Let us explain in detail:
Tawhid (monotheism) is based on glorifying God; that is, considering Him immune from partnership (shirk) and partner (sharik):
سُبحان اللهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكون
“Clear is Allah of any partners that they may ascribe (to Him)!”110
‘Adl (justice) is founded on glorification (tasbih); that is, to think of God as guiltless of any form of injustice (zulm). God cannot be unjust to anyone. And if there are to emerge problems, misfortunes and calamities for mankind, they are trials, or means of enhancing human potential, or as products and consequences of our own making:
مَا أَصَابكُمْ مِنْ مُصِيْبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيْكُم
“Whatever affliction that may visit you is because of what your hands have earned.”111
So, God is blameless. It is we who are unjust to ourselves:
سُبْحَانَ رَبِّنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ
“They said, ‘Immaculate is our Lord! We have indeed been wrongdoers!’”112
Prophethood (nubuwwah) and Imamate (imamah) are rooted in tasbih in the sense that in order to save man from the yoke of instincts and taghuts and guide him toward the truth, perfection and felicity, God sends down leaders and guides for him and does not leave him alone. As such, God does not leave mankind without guidance.
And those who think otherwise have not recognized God and do not consider Him as All-wise, and thus attribute such a thing to Him:
وَمَا قَدَرُواْ اللّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ إِذْ قَالُواْ مَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ عَلَى بَشَرٍ مِّن شَيْءٍ
“They did not regard Allah with the regard due to Him when they said, ‘Allah has not sent down anything to any human’.”113
Ma’ad ((belief in) the Day of Resurrection) is anchored in tasbih. Without eternal life, the hereafter and the return of human beings for reckoning, reward and punishment, life and creation would be futile and the right of human beings would not be given to them. God is immune from creating all beings in vain and not setting the Day of Resurrection:
أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ عَبَثًا وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لاَ تُرْجَعُونَ
“Did you suppose that We created you aimlessly, and that you will not be brought back to Us?”114
Love of God is based on tasbih because He is Absolute Perfection, the Faultless and Flawless Being. So, why should we not love Him?
The pleasure of man is also founded on tasbih. Anyone who is pleased with God does not find fault with His acts, and glorifies and sanctifies Him to the utmost.
Obedience is also rooted in tasbih. Man becomes obedient, submissive and humble before whomsoever he regards as the Perfect Deity and immune from any shortcoming, abomination and defect.
Reliance on God (tawakkul) is anchored in tasbih. He who trusts in God is the one who believes in His power and Mercy, and regards Him guiltless of any form of ignorance, weakness and hardheartedness.
God-wariness (taqwa) is based on tasbih. The God-conscious person thinks of God as All-aware, Reckoning and Just, considers the universe as the Presence of God and Him as free and immune from any form of ignorance and negligence. Therefore, he is heedful of God and does not commit any sin.
Hence, tasbih—this blessed and profound word—has a world of meanings, as regarding God as Pure is the edifice of man’s love and affection, servitude and reliance, God-wariness and obedience, as well as belief in tawhid, nabuwwah, ma’ad, imamah, and ‘adl (divine justice). Since He is blameless, God is worthy of praise and eulogy.
For this reason, in the tasbihat al-arba’ah,115 we immediately say al-hamdulillah (praise be to Allah) after the utterance of subhan Allah.
The Holy Qur’an declares God free from any partners:
سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
“Clear is Allah of any partners that they may ascribe (to Him)!”116
And He is also immune from what they attribute to Him and what they imagine about Him:
فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَرْشِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ
“Clear is Allah, the Lord of the Throne, of what they allege (concerning Him).”117
He is equally free from poverty and need:
سُبْحَانَهُ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ
“Immaculate is He! He is the All-sufficient.”118
He is guiltless of creating things aimlessly and vainly:
رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ
“O Lord, You have not created this in vain! Immaculate are You!”119
He is not guilty of committing injustice to His servants. It is rather the people who are unjust to themselves:
سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ ٱلظَالِمِينَ
“You are immaculate! I have indeed been among the wrongdoers!”120
He is immune, from having daughter.
وِ يِجْعِلونِ للهِ البناتِ سُبْحانَهُ
“And they ascribe daughters to Allah, glory be to Him..” 121
And these are the secrets behind the many repetitions of this invocation in the ruku’, sujud, and many other states in prayer and other than prayer, which is a lesson in monotheism.
The Messenger of Allah (S) who is especially favored and nurtured by God also has distinct commands from God. The order for him to glorify Allah (tasbih) is the foremost of these commands.
If we try to examine the verses of the Glorious Qur’an, we will find out that God commands the Prophet (S) to trust Him (tawakkul) eight times; to prostrate (sujud) two times; and to seek His forgiveness (istighfar) eight times.
God orders the Apostle (S), however, to glorify Him (tasbih) in 16 instances, and these are in different conditions and diverse circumstances, so that the Prophet (S), in a sense, always remains heedful of God. Therefore, along with the order to perform tasbih, there are the following lines:
1. “Before the rising of the sun and before the sunset;”122
2. “And glorify Him in watches of the night and at the day’s ends;”123
3. “And celebrate the praise of your Lord morning and evening;”124 and
4. “And celebrate the praise of your Lord when you rise (at dawn).”125
These bespeak of the importance of the “subhan Allah” invocation (dhikr) and show its constructive effect on the mind and action of the one praying. Imam as-Sajjad (as) said: “Whenever the servant of God says “subhan Allah” all the angels send benedictions to him.”126
Qunut127 means obedience, supplication and heedfulness of God as well as humility in prayer. And in prayer, it is one of the recommended acts (mustahabbat) in which the worshipper raises both his hands adjacent to his face and supplicates. The late Shaykh as-Saduq has even regarded it as an obligatory (wajib) act in prayer.
According to the Prophetic traditions, the performance of qunut during the Friday congregational prayer, as well as the dawn (subh) and sunset (maghrib) prayers has been given more emphasis. Particular supplication is not necessary in qunut and according to Imam as-Sadiq (as) whatever supplication to be recited is correct and good,128 but some supplications are recommended as better.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has recommended the prolongation of qunut in prayers, considering it a means of deliverance and relief of man during the different stages of reckoning on the Day of Resurrection.129 It is also stated in a hadith that the best prayer is that which has the longest qunut.130
In the qunut, which is a state of imploring and asking for requests from God, the better the supplications and more sublime the requests, the better. Some ‘ulama’ (such as Haj Mulla Hadi Sabzewari) used to recite in the qunut of his night supererogatory prayers the Jawshan al-Kabir Supplication, which is a very long supplication and contains a thousand Names and Attributes of God. Such a prayer is a symbol of love of God and fondness of making litanies to Him.
Tashahhud is among the obligatory acts of prayer. After every two rak’ahs (and also in the third rak’ah of maghrib prayer) one must sit down and perform tashahhud, which includes bearing testimony to the Oneness of God, the apostleship of the Prophet(S), as well as salawat (sending benediction to the Prophet and his progeny).
The one praying must sit down and place his left foot under the right foot in such a manner that the weight of his body is on the left side. Since in the words of the Qur’an, the right is the symbol of truth while the left is the symbol of falsehood, the Commander of the Faithful (as), in reply to the question regarding the reason behind placing one’s left foot under the right foot, said: “It means, ‘O God! Let falsehood perish and truth remain’.”131
Tashahhud is the repetition of the same testimony and announcement uttered at the beginning of prayer as well as in the adhan and iqamah, and it serves to call to mind the correct line we stated at the beginning.132
In the tashahhud, testimony to the Oneness of God is stated along with that of the apostleship of the Prophet (S), and this signifies the attachment of prophethood and leadership with monotheism and servitude to God.
In Surah al-Fatihah we express servitude and seeking of assistance in plural form.133 It is in first person, singular form in the tashahhud.134 Perhaps, it implies that one must express these testimonies with consciousness and profound faith, and renew allegiance to God and the Messenger (S).
In this testimony apostleship and servanthood of Hadhrat Muhammad (S) lies the grandeur of his station. God has set testimony to his apostleship alongside monotheism.
It also connotes the link of the person praying with the line of divine leadership and its acknowledgment by him. It equally indicates the preeminence of his being a servant (‘abd) to his being a messenger (rasul), as the secret behind the apostleship of the Prophet (S) lies in his being a ‘servant’ of God, due to which he has been selected to occupy the station of prophethood.
The other highlight of tashahhud is the salawat.
Sending salutations to the Prophet and his progeny (al) (as) is the identification mark of Islam and that of Shi’ism in particular, and without which the prayer is incompelet. Although the Ahl as-Sunnah do not recite it in the tashahhud, Imam ash-Shafi’i, the founder of one of the four Sunni schools of thought, has recited the following in his poem:
يَا أَهْلَ بَيْتِ رَسولِ اللهِ حُبُّكُمُ فَرْضٌ مِنَ اللهِ فى ٱلْقُــرْآنِ أَنْزَلَه
كَفاكُمْ مِنْ عَظيمِ ٱلْقَدْرِ أنَّكُم مَنْ لَمْ يُصَلِّ عَلَيْكُمْ فَلا صَلٰوةَ لَه
O members of the Household (Ahl al-Bayt) of the Messenger of Allah! Loving you is an obligation, which God has revealed in the Qur’an.
On the greatness and loftiness of your station, it is enough that anyone who does not invoke blessings on you (in invoking blessings on the Prophet (S)), as if he has not invoked blessings at all.135
Regarding the essence and manner of sending salutations (salawat) to the Prophet and his progeny, there have been numerous hadiths recorded in Sunni exegesis (tafsir), jurisprudence (fiqh) and hadith books. It is even narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that the Prophet (S) was asked: “How should we send blessings to you?” The Prophet (S) said: “You say,
أَللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلىٰ مُحَمَّد وَ عَلىٰ آلِ مُحَمَّد.
“O Allah! Send blessings on Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.”136
It is a pity that in quoting the same hadith, the phrase “ali Muhammad” is omitted in writing the salawat to the Prophet(S)!
In other hadiths “al Muhammad” has been mentioned also alongside the name of the Prophet (S).137 And in the hadiths, those who at the time of sending salutations to Muhammad (S) do not include his Ahl al-Bayt (as) have been reproached. For example, the Prophet of God (S) said: “Those who deprive my progeny of salawat cannot smell the fragrance of paradise on the Day of Resurrection.”138
And on the contrary, those who also send salutations to the Prophet’s Household (as) have also been appreciated and the reward of intercession (shafa’ah) and nearness to the Prophet (S) have been stated.139
It is narrated in a tradition that a certain person was clinging steadfastly to the Ka’bah and sending salawat but not including the progeny of Muhammad (S). Imam al-Baqir said: “This is an act of injustice against us.”140 In many hadiths, such salawat is deemed incomplete and cut off (abtar).141
In any case, mentioning the progeny of Muhammad (al Muhammad) in the salawat is a gesture of appreciation of the pious descendants of the Prophet (as) and obedience to the command of the Prophet himself.142
And according to many hadiths, the very salutations to Muhammad and his progeny are a light that will illuminate your hereafter, and our salutations are heard by the Prophet (S) and he answers them. Salawat begets a remuneration that sheds our sins and becomes a means of our purification.143
It is stated in another hadith: “Send salawat collectively and loudly so as to uproot hypocrisy (nifaq) in you.”144
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “Your salawat to me brings about the acceptance of supplication, pleasure of God, your purification and increase of good deeds.”145
It is mentioned in the hadiths that God and the angels also send salutations to anyone who sends salutations to the Prophet (S), and he will be among the nearest ones to the Prophet (S) on the Day of Resurrection.146
As the salawat has such rewards and importance, it is enough to say that it is a part of the tashahhud in prayer, we shall hereby repeat it so as to get those rewards:
أَللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلىٰ مُحَمَّد وَ عَلىٰ آلِ مُحَمَّد.
“O Allah! Send blessings on Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.”
After tashahhud, there are three salams at the end of prayer.
The first salam is addressed to the Messenger of Allah (S).
The second salam is addressed to ourselves and the righteous servants of God.
The third salam is addressed to all the angels, believers, etc.
The salam that we give to the Prophet (S) during the prayer is accompanied by divine mercy and blessings, and this is the best form of salam.
أَلسَّلامُ عَلَيْكَ أَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِىُّ وَ رَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَ بَرَكاتُه.
“May Allah’s peace, mercy and blessings be upon you, O Prophet!”
(Assalamu ‘alayka ayyuha’n-nabiyyu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh)
Our salam to the Prophet (S) is a token of appreciation of his efforts in guiding us, and acquainting and connecting us with God.
At the moment of extending salam during prayer to all the faithful, righteous servants of God including himself, the person praying feels that he is not alone, as he is part of the great Muslim ummah and he feels a sense of solidarity with the men of God everywhere on earth.
At times outside of prayer, to extend salam in meeting Muslims in the Islamic society is considered as one of the forms of courtesy in social intercourse, civility and morality, which engenders love and friendship, is a sign of humility, and has spiritual reward as well.
The angels also convey salam to the people of salvation.151
The dwellers of paradise also say salam to one another:
تَحِيَّتُهُمْ فِيهَا سَلامٌ
“…Their greeting there in will be ‘peace!’”. 152
These are a few examples of the Qur’anic verses in which the issue of salam is mentioned.
Let us now examine the Prophetic traditions.
One may notice so many hadiths about salam, its rewards and manner of doing it recorded in the books of hadith. We shall suffice here to give some examples which contain points regarding salam:
“The laziest of people is he who is lazy in conveying salam to others.”153
Imam as-Sadiq (as) regards conveyance of salam to anybody as one of the signs of humility and the absence of arrogance and pride.154
Sometimes, giving salam is regarded a means of encouragement while not giving salam is deemed a sort of reproach and forbidding of evil (nahy ‘anil-munkar).
The Prophet of Islam (S) said: “Do not convey salam to the drunkard, sculptor and gambler.”155
It is stated in a hadith that the closest to the morality of the Holy Prophet (S) and the grace of God is he who gives salam first.156
Imam ar-Ridha’ (as) says: “On the Day of Resurrection, God shall have wrath on the person who makes distinction between the poor and rich in conveying salam (or giving reply to salam).”157
Conveying salam is recommended (mustahabb) but replying to it is obligatory (wajib), and it is better to give a warmer and more enthusiastic reply to salam. The Glorious Qur’an states:
وَإِذَا حُيِّيْتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّواْ بِأَحْسَنَ مِنْهَا أَوْ رُدُّوهَآ
“When you are greeted with a salute, greet with a better one than it.”158
Giving salam not only demonstrates humility but increases honor and endearment. The Messenger of Allah (S) used to extend salam to everybody including the children, while being proud of this act.159
It is stated in a hadith that for every salam there are seventy rewards, sixty nine of which are for the conveyer of salam, while one are for the replier of salam.160
The Holy Qur’an thus enjoins: “Extend salam to yourself when you enter the house, as the salam and salutation from God is blessed and pure.”161 On the commentary of the said verse, Imam al-Baqir (as) says: “It means giving salam to the members of the household.”162
It is because the wife and children are the apple of one’s eyes, and such a way of dealing with one another from the viewpoint of the Qur’an is wholesome and blessed. It is a sign of life’s pleasure, and a remover of fatigue.
It is true that extending salam brings about honor and not disgrace, but it is better for the young to convey salam first to the elder; the one riding to the one walking; the one entering a room to those already present; and the small group to the large group.163
We shall end this section about salam with a tradition from the Commander of the Faithful (as).
He (as) said: “The Messenger of Allah (S) used to extend salam to men and women.”
But ‘Ali (as) himself did not convey salam to young women, saying: “I am afraid that their soft answer will effect me and instead of obtaining a reward, I will fall prey to the trap of Satan’s insinuation (waswasah).”
In explaining this hadith, ‘Allamah Majlisi writes, thus:
The Imam (as) used to do and say so in order to teach the ummah that men have to lessen contact with young women (who are not their mahram), for as a matter of fact, an infallible Imam would never fall prey to the insinuation of Satan.164
- 1. All the descriptions mentioned are taken from verses of the Holy Qur’an.
- 2. That is, the first takbir uttered in prayer.
- 3. Surah al-Munafiqun 63:1.
- 4. Muhajjah al-Baydha’, vol. 1, p. 385.
- 5. Ibid.
- 6. Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 191 (Khutbah al-Muttaqin or Hammam).
- 7. Surah Hud 11:119.
- 8. Tafsir Safi, vol. 1, p. 51.
- 9. For example, in setting off the ark, Hadhrat Nuh (Noah) (as) said: “In the name of Allah be its course and its mooring. Lo! my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful” (Surah Hud 11:41). Hadhrat Sulayman (Solomon) (as) also began his letter to the Queen of Sheba with the name of Allah: “Lo! it is from Solomon, and lo! it is: In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful” (Surah an-Naml 27:30).
- 10. Surah Al ‘Imran 3:101.
- 11. Tafsir al-Qurtubi, vol. 1, under the exegesis of “Bismillah”.
- 12. Tafsir Fakhr ar-Razi; Majma‘ al-Bayan, vol. 1, under the exegesis of “Bismillah”.
- 13. Tafsir Safi, vol. 1, p. 52.
- 14. Surah al-Isra’ 17:67.
- 15. Surah al-Isra’ 17:83.
- 16. Surah Ya-Sin 36:77.
- 17. Surah al-Infitar 82:6.
- 18. Surah al-‘Alaq 96:6-7.
- 19. Surah al-Qasas 28:78.
- 20. Surah as-Saffat 37:13.
- 21. Surah al-An‘am 6:164.
- 22. Surah al-Baqarah 2:222.
- 23. Surah al-An‘am 6:54.
- 24. Surah az-Zumar 39:53.
- 25. Surah al-Furqan 25:70.
- 26. Surah al-Infitar 82:19.
- 27. Surah al-Ghafir (or al-Mu’min) 40:16.
- 28. Surah Ibrahim 14:48; Surah al-Ghafir (or al-Mu’min) 40:16.
- 29. The Messenger of Allah (S) said to Abu Dharr Ghaffari: “Reckon yourself before you will be reckoned.” Makarim al-Akhlaq.
- 30. Nur ath-Thaqalayn, vol. 1, p. 16, hadith 78.
- 31. Surah Hud 11:56.
- 32. Surah az-Zukhruf 43:43.
- 33. Surah Ya Sin 36:62.
- 34. Nur ath-Thaqalayn, vol. 1, p. 17.
- 35. Surah Al ‘Imran 3:101.
- 36. Tafsir Nemuneh, as quoted in Tafsir Safi.
- 37. Surah Maryam 19:76.
- 38. Tafwidh: the belief that after creating all beings, God has left them to administer their own affairs and follow their own wills. In other words, it is the upholding of freewill (ikhtiyar) vis-à-vis predestination. (Trans.)
- 39. For example, there are those who regard Hadhrat ‘Isa (as) and Hadhrat ‘Ali (as) as divine.
- 40. For example, the Wahhabis.
- 41. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 24, p. 9.
- 42. Ibid.
- 43. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 8, p. 65.
- 44. Nahj al-Balaghah, Saying 108.
- 45. Nahj al-Balaghah, Saying 70.
- 46. Nahj al-Balaghah (Subhi Salih), Saying 347.
- 47. Mizan al-Hikmah, vol. 8, p. 546.
- 48. Surah al-Furqan 25:67.
- 49. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:69.
- 50. Tafsir Nemuneh, vol. 1, p. 53.
- 51. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 24, from p. 30 onward.
- 52. Surah al-Qasas 28:17.
- 53. Surah al-Qasas 28:40: “So We seized him and his hosts, and threw them into the sea. So observe how the fate of the wrongdoers was!”
- 54. Surah al-Qasas 28:81: “So We caused the earth to swallow him and his house.”
- 55. Surah as-Saff 61:3: “It is greatly outrageous to Allah that you should say what you do not do.”
- 56. See Surah an-Nisa’ 4:93; Surah Hud 11:59-60; Surah al-Hijr 15:74.
- 57. Surah al-Ikhlas (or at-Tawhid) 112:1-4.
- 58. Payam al-Qur’an (Tafsir al-Mawdhu‘i), vol. 1.
- 59. Surah ar-Ra‘d 13:16.
- 60. Surah al-An‘am 6:164.
- 61. Surah Al ‘Imran 3:189.
- 62. Surah al-An‘am 6:57.
- 63. Surah an-Naml 27:62.
- 64. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 3, p. 223.
- 65. Ibid.
- 66. Surah ash-Shura 42:11.
- 67. Surah al-Mu’minun 23:1-2: “Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers.”
- 68. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, p. 228 as quoted from Mizan al-Hikmah.
- 69. Kumayl ibn Ziyad was born in Yemen. He belonged to a famous tribe of Nakha‘, which later settled in Kufah, Iraq. Kumayl was a staunch supporter of Islam and a loyal companion of Imam ‘Ali (as). He received his training from Imam ‘Ali, who filled his heart with the love of Islam.
He was an honest and pious Muslim and more than that he was a mystic. During the Caliphate of Imam ‘Ali he was appointed Treasurer of the Exchequer (Bayt al-Mal) and for some time the Governor of Hyt. Kumayl, the sincere soldier of Islam, also participated in the battles which Imam ‘Ali fought against Mu‘awiyah, and those who had deviated from Islam.
The mystic position of Kumayl was so elevated that Imam ‘Ali personally taught him the Supplication of Khidr, which was later known as the Supplication of Kumayl. At last Kumayl ibn Ziyad was killed by the despotic Umayyad Governor Hajjaj ibn Yusuf for his being an affectionate friend of the family of the Holy Prophet (S). (Trans.)
- 70. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 81, p. 230.
- 71. Muhajjah al-Baydha’, vol. 1, p. 390.
- 72. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 108.
- 73. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 110.
- 74. Al-Wafi, vol. 2, p. 107.
- 75. Ibid.
- 76. Surah al-Waqi‘ah 56:74.
- 77. Al-Mizan, vol. 19, p. 160.
- 78. Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 1.
- 79. Surah al-Isra’ or Bani Isra’il 17:44: ““The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein praise Him, and there is not a thing but hymneth his praise; but ye understand not their praise.”
- 80. Surah an-Nahl 16:49.
- 81. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 139.
- 82. Surah Ta Ha 20:55.
- 83. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 3, p. 591.
- 84. Surah al-Jinn 72:18: “The places of worship belong to Allah, so do not invoke anyone along with Allah.”
- 85. Surah Yusuf 12:100: “And he seated his parents high upon the throne, and they fell down prostrate before him. He said, ‘Father! This is the fulfillment of my dream of long ago, which my Lord has made come true.”
- 86. Surah al-Hajj 22:18.
- 87. Mawlawi Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi (1207-1273) was the greatest mystic poet in the Persian language and founder of the Mawlawiyyah order of dervishes (“The Whirling Dervishes”). He is famous for his lyrics and for his didactic epic, Mathnawi-ye Ma‘nawi (Spiritual Couplets). (Trans.)
- 88. Surah an-Naml 27:16: “Solomon inherited from David, and he said, ‘O people! We have been taught the speech of the birds, and we have been given out of everything. Indeed this is a manifest advantage.”
- 89. Surah an-Naml 27:18-19: “An ant said, ‘O ants! Enter your dwellings, lest Solomon and his hosts should trample on you while they are unaware.’ Whereat he smiled, amused at its words.”
- 90. Surah al-Isra’ 17:44: “The seven heavens glorify Him, and the earth (too), and whoever is in them. There is not a thing but celebrates His praise, but you do not understand their glorification.”
- 91. Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur’an, vol. 13, p. 117.
- 92. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 8, p. 353.
- 93. Tafsir Nemuneh, vol. 12, p. 140.
- 94. Surah al-Naml 27:22-26.
- 95. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 137.
- 96. Qassar al-Jamal, under the word “sajdah” (prostration).
- 97. Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 1, p. 329.
- 98. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 6, p. 130.
- 99. Qassar al-Jamal, under the word “sajdah” (prostration).
- 100. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 4, p. 977.
- 101. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 4, p. 977.
- 102. Surah al-Fath 48:29.
- 103. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 162; Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 1, p. 329.
- 104. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 164; Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 1, p. 329.
- 105. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 163.
- 106. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 164.
- 107. Imam al-Husayn: grandson of the Prophet, and also known as the Doyen of the Martyrs (Sayyid ash-Shuhada’). In 60 AH (680 CE), Imam al-Husayn refused to swear allegiance to Yazid, son of Mu‘awiyah and second caliph of the Umayyad dynasty, since Yazid did not possess legitimate authority and had succeeded to the caliphate by hereditary succession. The ensuing death of the Imam in the battle at Karbala’ has always been commemorated by Shi‘ah Muslims as the supreme example of martyrdom in the face of tyranny. (Trans.)
- 108. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 3, p. 608.
- 109. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 103, p. 135. Traditions related to the turbah of Imam al-Husayn (as) are found in the same volume from page 106 up to page 140.
- 110. Surah at-Tur 52:43.
- 111. Surah ash-Shura 42:30.
- 112. Surah al-Qalam 68:29.
- 113. Surah al-An‘am 6:91.
- 114. Surah al-Mu’minun 23:115.
- 115. Tasbihat al-Arba‘ah: literally, the four tasbihs; it refers to the recital of “Subhan Allahi wa’l-hamdulillahi wa la ilaha illallahu Allahu akbar” (Glory be to Allah; praise be to Allah; there is no god but Allah; Allah is the great). (Trans.)
- 116. Surah at-Tur 52:43.
- 117. Surah al-Anbiya’ 21:22.
- 118. Surah Yunus 10:68.
- 119. Surah Al ‘Imran 3:193.
- 120. Surah al-Anbiya’ 21:87.
- 121. Surah an-Nahl 16:57.
- 122. Surah Ta Ha 20:130.
- 123. Surah Ta Ha 20:130.
- 124. Surah al-Ghafir (or al-Mu’min) 40:55.
- 125. Surah at-Tur 52:48.
- 126. Shaykh as-Saduq, At-Tawhid, p. 312.
- 127. Qunut: supplication recited in the salat after the second rak‘ah, in the standing position, with the palms of the hands are raised upward. (Trans.)
- 128. For whatever ruling about qunut mentioned, see Jawahir, vol. 10, pp. 352-362.
- 129. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 199; Jawahir, vol. 10, p. 367.
- 130. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 206. In this voluminous book, a lot of hadiths about qunut has been narrated.
- 131. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 4, p. 988; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 283.
- 132. It refers to the hadith from Imam ar-Ridha’ (as) recorded in Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 284.
- 133. Iyyaka na‘budu wa iyyaka nasta‘in (You (alone) do we worship and to You (alone) do we turn for help).
- 134. Ashhadu an la ilaha illallah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasulullah (I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah).
- 135. Al-Ghadir, vol. 2, p. 303 quoting Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, vol. 6, p. 323.
- 136. Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 8, under the section (bab) “as-salat ‘ala Muhammad” (sending salutations to Muhammad).
- 137. Tafsir Fakhr ar-Razi, vol. 25, p. 227; Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 1, p. 495.
- 138. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 4, p. 1219; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 91, p. 48.
- 139. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 4, p. 1221.
- 140. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 4, p. 1218.
- 141. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 4, p. 1222.
- 142. See Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 1, pp. 488-489; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 91.
- 143. Ziyarah Jami‘ah Kabirah; Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 1, p. 492.
- 144. Qassar al-Jamal.
- 145. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 91, pp. 64-65.
- 146. Ibid.
- 147. Surah al-Hashr 59:22: “He is Allah… the Peace.”
- 148. Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur’an, vol. 19, p. 256.
- 149. Surah Ya-Sin 36:58: “‘Peace!’—a watchword from the all-merciful Lord.”
- 150. Surah al-An‘am 6:54: “When those who have faith in Our signs come to you, say, ‘Peace to you!’”
- 151. Surah ar-Ra‘d 13:24: “Peace be to you, for your patience.”
- 152. Surah Ibrahim 14:23
- 153. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, p. 4.
- 154. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, p. 3.
- 155. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, p. 8.
- 156. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, p. 12.
- 157. Qassar al-Jamal, vol. 1, p. 321.
- 158. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:86.
- 159. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, p. 10.
- 160. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73, p. 11.
- 161. Surah an-Nur 24:61: “But when ye enter houses, salute one another with a greeting from Allah, blessed and sweet.”
- 162. Tafsir Nemuneh, vol. 14, p. 553.
- 163. Mizan al-Hikmah, vol. 4, p. 538.
- 164. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 40, p. 335.