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Acceptance of prayer and attaining nearness to God

Summary of Friday Sermon

delivered by the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

September 28 th, 2007

NOTE: Alislam Team takes full responsibility for any errors or miscommunication in this Synopsis of the Friday Sermon

And when My servants ask thee about Me, say: ‘I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and believe in Me, that they may follow the right way.’ Surah Al Baqarah (2:187)

Huzur based his Friday Sermon on the above verse. He explained that the verse is placed in the Holy Qur’an between two verses that expound the excellence of the month of Ramadan and related matters. Therefore it indicates that this month is distinct in terms of attaining nearness to God and forgiveness of sins.

Relating Ahadith Huzur said Angel Gabriel said that destroyed is one who experiences the month of Ramadan but does not acquire forgiveness and that the sins of one who wakes up at night during Ramadan with the intent to fulfil the requisites of faith and to do good are forgiven.

Huzur said during Ramadan Allah bestows a special station to those who seek Him. Although He listens to those who supplicate to Him with sincerity at all times, yet due to the specific ambience of prayer during Ramadan He listens more than at other times.

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said at the onset of Ramadan, ‘People a great and blessed month is about to dawn on you which has a night that is better than a thousand nights.’ Huzur explained that the first ten days of Ramadan are days of mercy, the next ten days are days of forgiveness and the last ten days are days of salvation from hell. He said the days of mercy have passed and we are going through the days of forgiveness. In a few days the days that grant salvation from hell will be upon us, among them will be the night that is the night of acceptance of prayers, whoever may find it. In these last few days we should try and focus to seek the beneficence of Allah’s mercy, to seek the covering of His forgiveness, to rid ourselves of the impurities of this world and seek the Hereafter. To try and seek that Omnipotent God Who says ‘I am near’. However, Huzur added, acceptance of prayer has its conditions.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote with reference to the above verse that Allah makes a distinction between believers and the others, in that the believers are near Him while the others are not and He listens to their supplications and grants them acceptance, therefore they should be firm on faith.

Next Huzur elucidated the ‘conditions’ that necessitate acceptance of prayer.

The first condition is to have a certainty about the existence of God; an unshakeable certainty. That He is the Lord of all the worlds and Master of everything, that by virtue of His quality of Rububiyyat (quality to sustain and nurture) He provides for all living things and in Him all qualities culminate.

The second condition is not to just have certainty that there is a God but to have complete faith in Him and to be desirous to seek Him, to seek union with Him. To inculcate taqwa (righteousness) and Godliness for this objective, to purify oneself, or as the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said ‘to make oneself such that God may speak to one’.

The third condition is that although it is our firm belief that all prophets are from God, to accept that acceptance of prayer is now associated with the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). As the above verse indicates - My servants ask “thee” – therefore we will have a means of approach to Allah only if we have complete faith in the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Faith in him also entails believing in his prophecies and in fulfilment of his prophecies to accept his true and ardent devotee, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace). Accepting him is also a condition of faith.

The fourth condition is that our supplication to Allah is to seek His pleasure, with a desire to seek Him. Allah says when one makes an entreaty in order to ‘meet Me’ one will find Me near.

Huzur said if an entreaty is made merely for worldly reasons it is selfish and one-sided. If one wishes for Divine response one has to put in practice what the verse terms as ’hearken to Me’.

The fifth condition is to try and avoid all sins. Such a situation would corroborate the declaration as made in the verse. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said when one repents and confesses to avoid all sins, a splendorous light is created as if the person is calling Allah to come and free him/her of the sins. The most fundamental and important prayer is for avoidance of sin and purification of self. Once this prayer gains acceptance and one is truly pure in Allah’s eyes, then one does not even require to pray for all one’s needs and wants as they are met by Divine design.

The sixth condition is to give precedence to faith over worldly matters. Huzur said this adage is part of the Khuddam pledge as well as it is the eight condition of Bai’at of the Promised Messiah (on whom peace). Huzur said one should be mindful that one is a Muslim who has accepted the true and ardent devotee of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and be careful lest one makes an error of judgment that may bring faith in disrepute. Huzur added even if one has to suffer worldly loss for the honour of faith one should be willing to endure it.

The seventh condition is to continually seek to improve oneself in spiritual and practical terms. Huzur said in light of what the above verse indicates ‘they should hearken to Me’ we are always in need to improve our practices and our spirituality. The road to spiritual development is without limit for a believer and the more one works on it the higher one’s spirituality gets and with it acceptance of prayer also increases.

The eighth condition is to make prayers remaining within the laws of Allah. It is vital to abide by His commandments, to fulfil the right of fellow human. For example a person may usurp the rights of another but seeks mercy for himself from Allah. Huzur said it happens in cases of parental custody that either parent tries to take the child away from the other. Worse still, Huzur said, they write in to Huzur asking for prayers that the child may stay away from the other parent. Huzur said the commandment is not to hurt either the mother or the father because of the children but people continue to usurp the rights of other even after a verdict is passed by the Qadha Board.

Huzur related further instances of unwarrantable prayers and cited the example of the so-called saints and Pirs of Pakistan who practice ways which are contrary to Islamic teachings and said that thank God Ahmadis are free from this ignorance.

The ninth condition is to be always mindful not just to pray in times of trouble and hardship but to remember Allah in good, prosperous times. Huzur said if one concentrates on prayers other than during Ramadan then the prayers made during Ramadan gain greater acceptance.

The tenth condition is to avoid hastiness and not to ever tire of praying. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said ‘Remember no person can ever seek beneficence from prayer unless he/she surpasses in patience’. Huzur related the story of steadfast prayers as made by the father of Prophet Joseph (on whom be peace) over a period of forty years to see his son. Huzur added that even the most miserly person ends up giving to a beggar who is persistent – there is no way Allah would not listen to sincere prayers made over a period of time.

Steadfastness and patience is indeed a big condition as regards supplicating for prayers and it is the way of Divine communities. Huzur addressed those in Pakistan and other places where the Community is being persecuted and told them not to worry, Allah’s help will certainly come and it shall be followed by His mercy and grace more than before. Huzur urged them to make use of the sanctity of Ramadan to make their entreaties to Allah.

The eleventh condition is to inculcate tenderness, angst and lamentation in one’s supplications in order to seek high standard of prayers. Indeed the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said to assume the helpless crying of a child when making supplications to Allah to attract His mercy.

In short a prayer that is made in accordance with Allah’s commandment and with perfect faith will gain acceptance and those who make such prayers are those who are referred to as the guided ones, they shall continue to develop in spirituality and will never presume to say, where is Allah? In accordance to Hadith they will be those who attain the station where they can ‘see’ Allah. Huzur urged to seek this zenith during this Ramadan where our Salat is the pinnacle of our fast and our fast is the pinnacle of our Salat.

Huzur spoke of the dual heat/radiance of Ramadan, one is the physical heat generated by hunger and the other is the heat of the fervour and passion with which we make prayers. Huzur urged to also focus on fulfilling the rights of fellow human during Ramadan. He said the fact that the Qur’an was first revealed in the month of Ramadan signifies that the Quranic teachings which speak of fulfilling rights of Allah and rights of mankind need to be followed more specifically and with greater dedication in the month of Ramadan.

Huzur explained that in the month of Ramadan the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) would gives alms so profusely that his charitable practice is likened to the force of a fierce wind.

Huzur prayed that may Allah enable us to attain these high standards of worship during Ramadan, may our spiritual development enable our prayers to gain acceptance in the heavens and may we witness the banner of Islam and Ahmadiyyat raise all over the world.

Next Huzur announced the tragic deaths of two Ahmadi martyrs in Karachi, Pakistan. They were both doctors. Dr Hameed Ullah was martyred on 20th September as he was returning home from his clinic. He was kidnapped and then shot. His body was found after two days. Huzur said Dr. Hameed Ullah had devoted his life (Waqf) in the time of Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih III (may Allah have mercy on him) and had served in West Africa for many years.

The other martyr was Dr. Prof. Sheikh Mubasher Ahmad who was martyred on 26th September outside his clinic. Huzur prayed that may Allah grant lofty stations in Paradise to the both and grant the bereaved families steadfastness and patience. Huzur said he would lead the funeral prayers in absentia for both after Jummah prayer.