Friday Sermon: Strive for real worship of Allah

August 26th, 2011

Hudhur said in his last Friday sermon he gave a discourse on the Quranic verse ‘Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help’ (1:5) based on the commentary of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace). It is an enormous favour of God on us that He has enabled us to accept the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), who has expounded the profound meanings of the Qur’an for us. Hudhur has received many letters expressing how much insight last Friday sermon gave into the verse ‘Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help’ and how people are truly savouring reflecting on it and deriving spiritual pleasure in Salat. Some Arabic-speaking Ahmadis have written to Hudhur that although they had read the book of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) ‘Karamatus Sadiqeen’ from which most of the extracts Hudhur presented were taken, but the spiritual knowledge they achieved after listening to the sermon was unprecedented. Certainly, the writings of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) are such that one needs to read them repeatedly. In the month of Ramadan one is drawn to prayers and as such, the subject of prayers is more appreciated. Therefore, Hudhur continued with the theme of the commentary of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace).

Hudhur said the summary of his discourse last week was that in ‘Thee alone do we worship’ one is drawn to God with sincerity to become His servant and in ‘Thee alone do we implore for help’ one prays for steadfastness in being a servant of God. This is because, strength and steadfastness is also granted by God and without this one cannot discharge the dues of being a servant of God. Worship which is not accompanied by God’s help fizzles out in substance after a while. People write to Hudhur that after the spiritual ambiance of Ramadan which helps them concentrate on Salat, they feel their Salat does not retain the same quality. Thus one should pray for the fervour and flair for prayer that one has during the ambiance of Ramadan to be enduring so that one is able to pay the dues of being a servant of God.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) teaches that following this entreaty, a believer should be aware of what sort of prayer to make. If there is no direction that leads to the way of guidance one will only end up struggling in the dark, unaware as to what kind of servitude of God one is in search of. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) thus explained that one should make the prayer of: ‘Guide us in the right path’ (1:6). This prayer is to have one’s worship blessed and for one to be ever enabled to follow guidance as a true servant of God. The prayer of ‘Guide us in the right path’ is to give one the knowledge of steadfastness, which is imperative for constant servitude of God. In light of the writings of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) the summary of the three prayers is that unless one has extreme sincerity, makes extreme effort and is able to fully understand guidance, one should not deem that one is guided or one has achieved one’s objective or has attained a high degree of God’s love; the degree that is the goal of a believer. Hudhur said the concept that one will not rest unless one has attained this, one will be concerned about safeguarding one’s Salat and will be fasting in Ramadan in the rightful and proper manner and will carry this fervour and flair as well as intensity even after Ramadan.

Hudhur said last week he explained a little regarding the verse ‘Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help’ in light of the commentary of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace). Today, Hudhur explained the deep significance and the essence of ‘Guide us in the right path’. Hudhur said it would help explain to us how extensive the subject of this brief prayer is and how it encompasses all our affairs.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote):

‘In this Surah (the Fatiha), Allah, the Sublime, teaches His Muslim servants, so to say, in these words: O My servants, you have observed the Jews and the Christians, beware then of acting like them and hold fast to the rope of prayer and uprightness and forget not the blessings of Allah like the Jews, lest His wrath should afflict you, and disregard not the true sciences and prayer and slacken not in seeking guidance as did the Christians, otherwise you will be lost. He has urged the seeking of guidance by pointing out that perseverance in guidance is not possible, except through constancy in prayer and humility before Allah. It is also stressed that guidance comes from Allah and that man can never be guided aright except when Allah guides him and admits him among the rightly directed. A further point is that guidance is endless and that man can climb up to it by means of the ladder of prayers. He who gives up prayer loses his ladder. He alone is deserving of guidance who keeps his tongue occupied with the remembrance of his Lord and prays with earnest constancy.’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, p. 214]

Hudhur explained that this is the instruction for a believer; never leave the rope of prayer and steadfastness and never be indolent in seeking guidance and always remember that one’s resolve on remaining guided is from God alone. A believer should remember that temporary worship is not a source of attaining guidance. Only those people achieve guidance who are ever constant in remembering God. As such, we should try and make constant the practices inculcated during Ramadan.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote:

‘The word Sirat means the way that is straight, so that all parts of it are in orderly array and are properly adjusted to one another.’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, p.216]

‘Istiqamat (steadfastness) is identical with fana (sacrifice of self) the term used by the Sufis. They interpret: Guide us along the straight path; also as meaning fana; that is to say, the soul, emotions and designs should all be devoted to Allah, the Exalted, and all one's personal sentiments and desires should suffer a total death. Those who do not give priority to the will and designs of Allah, the Supreme, over their personal aims and concerns, depart this life in the midst of the frustration of their mundane affairs and aims. Salat is the pinnacle of prayer and Allah, the loftiest name of God, has precedence in the Salat. Similarly, man's highest quality is steadfastness. Ism-i-Azam (highest attribute) signifies the means of attaining perfection in human excellences.’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, pp. 217 – 218]

Hudhur explained that when one prays ‘Guide us in the right path’ one should be mindful of God’s commandments as well as be aware of discharging the dues of God and the dues of mankind. Fulfilling the dues of mankind also take one to God. When one turns to God with steadfastness and only calls on Him, one stays on the ‘right path’. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) further wrote:

‘The proper way of prayer is that the loftiest name of God, Allah, and the highest quality of man, steadfastness, should be combined, and man should turn only to God and to no one else, not even to the idol of his ambitions and desires. When this state is reached one realises the significance of: Call on Me, I shall respond to you. (40.61) [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, p.218]

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) expounded that prayer comprises every grade of people:

‘In short, the prayer: Guide us along the straight path; delivers man from every shortcoming, explains clearly to him the abiding faith, and leads him out of a desolate abode to the garden of fruits and fragrance. Whosoever supplicates more intensely in the course of this prayer, Allah grants him a larger share of the garden. Through this prayer the Prophets became recipients of the love of the Gracious One, and they did not give up praying even for as much as the twinkling of an eye, until the last moment. It does not behove any one to dispense with this supplication or to turn away from this goal, even if he be a Prophet or an Apostle. The high grades in righteousness and guidance have no ending ever; in fact, they extend without limit and the eyes of wisdom cannot compass them. That is why Allah, the Sublime, has taught this prayer to His servants, making it the heart of Prayer so that people may benefit by its guidance and may perfect their faith in unity thereby and keep in mind its promises and be purified of the polytheistic streaks of the polytheists.

One of the excellences of this prayer is that it comprises every grade of people and every individual person and it is a prayer that is unlimited and has no ceiling, no ending, and no terminal point nor any confines. Blessed are those then who are constant in it with bleeding hearts and enduring souls and tranquil minds like those servants of Allah who know their Lord. This is the prayer that comprises every good and security and firmness and steadfastness and glad tidings from the Lord of Universal Providence.’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, pp. 227 228]

Elaborating, Hudhur said being in ‘the right path’ saves one from satanic attacks. Today when the world is going away from religion, this is a tremendous prayer. Providing it is made with constancy and resolve. When a person belonging to any religion or even no religion seeks guidance from God, God guides. The only condition is that one’s intention is good.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that the concept of Tawheed (Oneness of God) is completed through this prayer. He wrote:

‘The seventh verity comprised in Surah Fatiha is: Guide us along the straight path. This means: Guide us along the path that is straight without a deviation and make us steadfast and upright in it. The true prayer of man aims at seeking the straight path, leading to God. For, it is the natural rule to strive for procuring means that lead to the attainment of the objective and this is the natural rule that God has laid down in respect of our every objective that the means that are necessary for securing it should be procured and the ways that lead to it should be adopted. When man treads the straight path steadily and takes the measures that are necessary for achieving the objective, the goal is achieved. But it can never be attained if the ways that have been appointed to lead to the objective are abandoned. It is the eternal law that for every goal there is a fixed way and until one treads it one can never reach the objective. Therefore, the sirati-mustaqeem (the straight path) is the means that must be sought through effort and exertion and prayer and humility. He who does not strive to attain it, in disregard of its value, is in error in the sight of God. If he were to beg of God heaven and comforts of the hereafter, Divine wisdom would direct the foolish one to seek first the straight path which would bring everything within his reach. Hence the primary prayer which the seeker of truth most urgently needs is supplication for the straight path.’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, p. 229]

In explaining the essence of the prayer and the standards one should try and attain, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote:

‘The reality of sirat-i-mustaqeem, as designed in the firm Faith, is the servant's love for His gracious Lord, and his complete acceptance of the will of Allah and committing his soul and his heart to Him, and dedicating his whole attention to Him Who created man, and praying to none but Him, loving Him with all his heart and supplicating Him alone and seeking His mercy and compassion, and emerging out of his stupor, and walking straight and fearing the Gracious Lord, His love permeating his whole being with Allah helping him, strengthening his belief and faith. Then the servant inclines totally towards his Lord with all his heart and desires and reason and limbs and land and harvest, turning away from everything besides Him until there remains for him nothing but his Lord and he follows naught but His wishes and comes to Him with a heart emptied of all besides Him and seeks none but Allah in the paths of his journey and repents of priding himself or of being fascinated by wealth and the wealthy and presents himself before the Presence of the Lord like one destitute.’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, p. 234]

‘The Muslims have available to them three sources of guidance towards the sirat-i-mustaqeem; (1) the Holy Quran, the Book of Allah. We have nothing more conclusive and certain than this, the Word of God, free from all doubt and vagueness; (2) the Sunna, that is, the example of the Holy Prophet. It should be remembered that Sunna and Hadeeth are not identical. Sunna is the example of the Holy Prophet, which is attested by continuous practice since his time. It is contemporaneous with the Holy Quran and shall so remain. In other words, the Holy Quran is the Word of God, the Exalted, and Sunna is the practice of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) illustrating the values propounded in the Holy Quran. It has ever been the way of Allah that when the Prophets (peace be on them all) communicate the revealed word of God for the guidance of people, they illustrate it in practice through personal example, so that its import may be clearly grasped, and make others practise it likewise; (3) the Hadeeth. By Hadeeth we mean the reports of what the Holy Prophet said that were collected through narrators some 150 years after the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be on him).’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, pp. 236 237]

Hudhur said thus is the detailed modus operandi for believers. When seeking guidance from God one should have all these points in view. Some people mistakenly get involved with Pirs and ascetics. Hudhur receives the odd complaint that even Ahmadis are sometimes influenced by others and follow the erroneous custom of going to ascetics for prayers and even magic etc. People who do this do not follow any of the right practices themselves and do not pay any attention to personal prayer. Hudhur said while there may be the odd Ahmadi involved in this, the majority of non-Ahmadis follow these customs.

The Promised messiah (on whom be peace) wrote:

‘In teaching the prayer: Guide us along the straight path; Allah desires that the worshipper should take good care of three aspects; beliefs, morals and conduct. In other words a worshipper should reform his condition through employment of his God-given capacities and then pray to Allah. This does not mean that during the process of self-reformation he should not pray. He must keep asking even then, but must not neglect the other aspect.’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, p. 267]

‘Islam has been called steadfastness in the Holy Quran, as it teaches the prayer: Guide us along the straight path; that is, make us steadfast in the path of righteousness, the path of those who became the recipients of Thy bounties and for whom the gates of heaven were opened. It must be remembered that steadfastness of attitude is determined with reference to the ultimate object of the creation of each species. The ultimate object of man's creation is the worship and service of God. The steadfastness of man, therefore, is that having been created for perpetual obedience to God, he should be dedicated solely to Him. When he becomes wholly devoted to Him with all his powers and capacities, he is rewarded with what may be described as the pure life. As you observe that when a window facing the sun is opened, its rays enter through the window. Similarly when a person faces up to God, the Supreme, and there is no intervening screen between him and God, the Sublime, then at once a luminous flame descends on him and illumines him and dispels all his inner uncleanliness. Then he becomes a new person and experiences a great change. It is then said that he has been given a pure life. This change takes place in this very life. It is to this that Allah, the Lord of glory and honour, draws attention in the verse: Whoso is spiritually blind in this life and is not bestowed the light wherewith to see God, will be blind in the hereafter also (17.73) [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, p. 237]

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that it is essential for all Muslim to be mindful of ‘Thee alone do we worship’ while praying ‘Guide us in the right path’ because it has been given precedence to ‘Thee alone do we implore for help’. He said this order/sequence should also be practised, meaning first make the necessary plan and then then turn to prayer. He also wrote that God willed man to keep three things in view when praying ‘Guide us in the right path’. Firstly one’s moral state, secondly the state of one’s beliefs and finally the state of one’s deeds. One should reform oneself through one’s God-given ability and then turn to prayer. This does not mean that one should not supplicate when going through reformation. Rather, one should continue to implore God during this phase. Prayer is made with tongue, heart and practice. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote: ‘When a person supplicates God for a virtuous life, he feels a sense of shame and yet this is the prayer that resolves his embarrassment.’

He further wrote:

‘The supplication: Guide us along the straight path; comprehends all mundane and spiritual requirements; for, until the right way of approach is available in respect of a problem, there can be no progress. A physician, a farmer, in short everyone needs the right approach in respect of every undertaking.’[Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, p.281]

‘The best prayer is in the Fatiha, for it is the most comprehensive prayer. When a farmer learns the correct method of farming he will have found the right path to farming and will succeed. You should, in like manner, seek the straight path of meeting God, praying: Lord, I am a sinful servant of Thine and a fallen one, do Thou guide me. Seek of God all your requirements, major and minor, without hesitation, for He is the true Bestower. One who prays most is the most virtuous.’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, pp. 281 822]

‘The goal and aim of human life is to seek and to tread along the right path which has been mentioned in this Surah in the words: Guide us along the straight path, the path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours. This is the supplication that is made in every rakaa of every Prayer service. Its very repetition stresses its importance. Our community should remember that this is no ordinary matter and that the mere parrot-like repetition of the words is not what is required. In fact this prayer is an unfailing and efficacious prescription for making a man perfect and it should be kept constantly in mind, as the objective and as a sure safeguard. This verse propounds a supplication for the attainment of four kinds of excellence. If a person attains to these four excellences, he will have performed the duty of prayer and of fellow-service and of having made worthy use of the faculties and talents he has been endowed with. I want to warn you against those who aim at attaining these excellences by means of their self-invented prayers and incantations. Remember that a course that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) did not adopt, is futile. Who is a truer guide to the way of the Divinely favoured ones than the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him)? All the excellences of prophethood reached their climax in his person. The way adopted by him is the most right and nearest to the purpose. Abandoning his way in favour of a self-invented one, even if it looks alluring, spells ruin in my view, and so has God, the Exalted, revealed to me.

In short, to attain to the virtues of the Divinely-favoured ones to which Allah, the Sublime, has pointed in: The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours; is the goal appointed for every person. Our community should pay particular heed to this. For, by establishing this Movement, Allah, the Exalted, has designed to prepare a community like the one organised by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) so that it may bear witness to the truth and glory of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, pp. 291 292]

‘In respect of prayer it should be remembered that in Surah Fatiha, Allah, the Exalted, has taught the supplication: Guide us along the straight path, the path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours. In respect of it three aspects should be kept in mind; namely, that one should include in it all mankind, all the Muslims, and all those who are present in the service. By such intent all mankind will be included in the prayer and that is what Allah, the Supreme, desires. For, in the preceding verses of this Surah He has named Himself Lord of Universal Providence, which urges towards universal compassion even including the beasts. Next He has named Himself Rahman, the Gracious One, which urges towards sympathy with all mankind, for Rahmaniyyat includes all mankind in its ambit. Then He has called Himself Rahim the Compassionate. This attribute promotes compassion for believers, for Rahimiyyat is confined to the believers. Finally, He has named Himself Master of the Day of Requital, which urges towards compassion for the company present. For, the Day of Requital is the Day when companies will be present before God, the Supreme. The supplication: Guide us along the straight path, thus takes into account all these categories. This arrangement shows that the prayer comprises mercy for all mankind; and this is the Islamic principle, that a Muslim should be the well-wisher of all.’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, pp.294 295]

‘Call on Allah to enlighten you concerning the nature of His attributes and to make you grateful; for those before you lost the way because they lost the understanding of the attributes of Allah, the Glorious, and His bounties and His pleasure. They wasted their lives in the pursuit of activities that augmented their sinfulness. The wrath of God then visited them, and they were afflicted with humiliation and joined the doomed. Allah, the Exalted, has referred to this in His words: Not the way of those who incurred Divine wrath. It appears to be the rule that the wrath of Allah afflicts only those who had been favoured by Allah, the Sublime, with bounties before they incurred His displeasure. In this verse the expression: Those who incurred Divine punishment; comprises the people who violated His commandments in respect of the gifts and bounties which Allah, the Supreme, had bestowed upon them especially, and followed their own devices, forgetting the Gracious God and all that was due to Him and joined those who denied Him. Those who have gone astray are those who were minded to take to the right path but lacked true knowledge, illuminating insights and protecting and strengthening prayers. They became a prey to superstitions and yielded to them and wandered away from the right course and missed their true calling. Thus they were lost and did not let their thoughts pursue the channels of righteousness.’ [Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (Vol. 1) - Surah Fatiha, pp.334 335]

Hudhur said those who do not accept the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) are also lost and have gone astray. Hudhur prayed that may God enable us to pray with sincerity and never make us those who, having received guidance, become guilty of God’s chastisement. Who are led astray and thus destroy their life in this world as well as their final end. May God grant us His correct spiritual insight and always keep us on the right path. May He make this Ramadan a means of spiritual development for us as His continuing beneficence and may we always turn to Him.