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The Pillars of Islam

I have stressed it many times that you should not be satisfied merely with that you are Muslims and profess that there is no one worthy of worship beside Allah. Those who have studied the Holy Quran know well that God Almighty is not pleased merely with words. The Holy Quran sets out the annals of the Jews that they were in the beginning bestowed great bounties by God Almighty, but when the time came that they were satisfied with only verbal professions and their hearts became full of deceit and dishonesty and evil thoughts, God Almighty imposed diverse types of torments upon them, so much so that some of them were designated apes and swine; and this happened despite the fact that they had the Torah and the Psalms and they professed to believe in them and acknowledged all Prophets. But God was not pleased with them because all their professions were mere words and they had nothing in their hearts.

Reflect on the meaning of the credo, La ilaha illa Allah. By affirming this by his tongue and confirming it with his heart a person proclaims that he has no god beside Allah. Ilah is an Arabic word and connotes the One worshipped Who is the Beloved and the True God. This credo which the Muslims have been taught is the epitome of the Holy Quran. It is difficult for every one to commit long books to memory. God Almighty is All-Wise and has announced a brief credo. Its meaning is that till God is preferred to everything, till He is acknowledged as the only One to be worshipped and till He becomes the True Goal, man cannot achieve salvation. It is mentioned in the Hadees that he who declares; There is no one worthy of worship beside Allah; will enter paradise. People have misunderstood this hadees. They imagine that it is enough to repeat the credo verbally for a person to enter paradise. God Almighty is not concerned with words. He is concerned with hearts. This means that those who impress the true concept of the credo upon their hearts, so that the greatness of God Almighty is fully impressed on their minds, will go to heaven. When a person truly believes in the credo, no one beside God can remain the object of his affection or worthy of his worship or his desired one. The status of abdaal and aqatab and ghaus means only that the credo should be believed sincerely by the heart.

This credo excludes all deities beside Allah. It is, therefore, necessary to push out of one's heart all personal and universal gods so that the heart is purified for Allah alone. Some idols are manifest but some are subtle. For instance, to rely on material means beside Allah is also an idol, but a subtle one. . .

Those subtle idols that people carry about under their arms are difficult to throw out. Great philosophers and wise people cannot get rid of them. They are very fine insects which cannot be perceived except through the microscope of the great Grace of God. They inflict great harm on a person. Those idols are personal emotions which carry men a far distance in repudiation of the rights of their fellow beings and of God Almighty. Many who are called learned and erudite and maulvis and who study the a hadees cannot recognize these idols inside them, and worship them. To avoid these idols is possible only for a very brave man. Those who follow these idols cultivate rancor in their hearts, deny the rights of others, and imagine that they have captured a quarry. They rely entirely upon material means. Till these tendencies are removed altogether, the Unity of God cannot be established {Speech at the Annual Conference, I906, pp. 1-5 (Malfoozat vol 9 p. 101)}.

After comprehending the meaning of the credo, pay full attention to the Prayer services, the observation of which has been repeatedly emphasized in the Holy Quran; but along with this it is said: Woe unto those who pray but are unmindful of their prayers (107: 5-6); that is to say those who are unaware of the reality of Salat. It should be well understood that Prayer is an entreaty which a worshipper makes to God at the time of his separation from Him in torment and with a melting heart that he may be granted a meeting with God, inasmuch as no one can be purified unless God purifies him and no one can meet with God until God brings about a meeting. Man is held in a diversity of chains and collars. He desires to get rid of them but they persist. Despite man's intense desire that he may be purified his ego stumbles. It is for God to purify a person from sin. There is no power that can purify you by force. God has prescribed Prayer for the generation of pure sentiments. The Salat is a prayer which is submitted to God in travail and burning with a heart aflame, so that vicious thoughts and evil designs may be got rid of and a holy love and a pure relationship may be established and one may be enabled to keep God's commandments. The word Salat indicates that true Prayer is not offered only with the tongue but must be accompanied by burning and sizzling and being consumed by fire. God Almighty does not accept Prayer until the worshipper at the time of prayer arrives on the edge of death.

Salat is a sure way of taking one nearer to God

Salat is Prayer at a very high level, but people do not appreciate it duly. In this age many Muslims are devoted to frequent repetition of pious formulas, as, for instance, the Naushahis and Naqshbandis, etc. It is a pity that all these are innovations. These people are unaware of the reality of Salat and defame God's commandments. For a seeker none of these innovations is of any benefit compared with the Salat. The way of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, was that at a time of difficulty he made his ablutions and stood up in Salat and made his supplications in the Salat. My experience is that nothing takes one so near to God as Salat. The various postures of the Salat demonstrate respect, humility and meekness. In Qiyam (standing posture) the worshipper stands with his arms folded as a slave stands respectfully before his master and king. In Ruku (bowing) the worshipper bends down in humility. The climax of humility is reached in Sajda (prostration) which indicates extreme helplessness (Speech at the Annual Conference, 1906, pp. 6--8).

Observe Prayer services regularly. Some people content themselves with one Prayer service daily but they must remember that no one is exempt from them, not even Prophets. It is narrated in a hadees that a company of men who had just accepted Islam requested the Holy Prophet peace be upon him, to be exempted from the Salat. He observed: A religion that does not demand action is no religion at all (Malfoozat, Vol. I, p. 263) .

I tell you again that if you wish to establish a true relationship with God, hold fast to Salat in such a way that your body and your tongue and your spiritual designs and emotions should all become Salatt (Malfoozat, Vol. I, p. I70).

What is Salat?

What is Salat? It is a supplication addressed to the Lord of Honor without which a person cannot be truly alive, nor can he procure any means of security and happiness. When God Almighty bestows this grace upon a person it is only then that he obtains true comfort. From that moment he will begin to feel pleasure and delight in Salat. As he derives pleasure from delicious food he will begin to derive pleasure from his weeping and crying in Salat. Before he experiences that condition in his Salat it is necessary that he should persist in Salat as he swallows bitter medicine so that he may be restored to health. In the same way it is necessary for him to persist in Salat and in making his supplications while he derive no pleasure from them. In such condition he should seek pleasure and delight in Salat with the supplication: Allah Thou knowest how blind and sightless I am, and at the moment I am like the dead. I know that in a little while I shall be called and shall present myself before Thee and no one will be able to stop me. But my heart is blind and unenlightened. Do Thou cause to descend upon it such a flame of light that thereby it may be inspired with Thy love and devotion to Thee. Do Thou bestow upon me such grace that I shall not be raised up sightless and join the blind.

When he supplicates in this manner and persists in the supplication he will see that a time will arrive when something will descend upon him while he is engaged in such type of prayer which will melt his heart (Malfoozat, Vol IV, p.321-322).
Those who are strict in the observance of their Prayers (23: 10); this means those believers who are themselves watchful over their Prayers and do not need any reminder from anyone else. Their relationship with God has the quality that the remembrance of God becomes dear to them and becomes the source of their comfort and their very life, so that they are constantly watchful of it and every moment of theirs is devoted to it and they do not like to be parted from it at any time.

It is obvious that a person is extremely watchful every moment only of that the loss of which he deems would spell his ruin, like one who, while traversing a waterless wilderness in which there is no likelihood of his finding water or food for hundreds of miles, is most watchful of such provisions as he has with him, holding them as dear as his life because of his conviction that their loss would mean his death. Thus the true believers are watchful of their prayers like such a traveler. They do not neglect their prayers even at the risk of loss of wealth or honor or of incurring anyone's displeasure. Any apprehension of missing their prayer causes them great anguish and brings them near unto death. They cannot endure the thought of being neglectful of the remembrance of God for a single moment. They deem prayer and the remembrance of God their essential nourishment on which depends their very life. This condition is reached when God Almighty loves them and a bright flame of His personal love, which is the very soul of their being, descends upon their heart and bestows a new life upon them and thereby their spiritual being is illumined and becomes alive. In such a condition they occupy themselves with the remembrance of God, not out of any sense of formality or desire for appearance, but because God makes their spiritual life, which they hold dear, dependent upon the nourishment provided by His remembrance, as He has made man's physical life dependent upon physical nourishment. Therefore they love this spiritual nourishment more than physical nourishment and are apprehensive of its loss. This is the consequence of the spirit which is caused to descend upon them like a flame and which generates perfect inebriation with the love of God in their hearts. They do not desire to be separated from it for a single moment. They suffer for it and endure torments on its account but do not wish to be separated from it for a moment, and are constantly watchful of their prayers. This becomes natural for them, inasmuch as God has made the Salat which is their loving remembrance of Him an essential nourishment for them, and by manifesting His personal love for them has bestowed upon them the delicious delight of Divine remembrance. In this way the remembrance of God becomes as dear to them as, and even dearer than, life itself. The Personal love of God is a new soul that falls on their hearts like a flame and makes Salat and the remembrance of God a nourishment for them. Thus they believe that they live not by bread and water but by the Salat and the remembrance of Allah.

Salat strengths a believer's spiritual faculties

The remembrance of God surcharged with love which is called the Salat truly becomes their food without which they cannot survive and which they guard and watch constantly, like a traveler who in the midst of a stark wilderness guards his scanty supply of bread and water. The Absolute Bestower has appointed this condition also as a stage in the spiritual progress of man which is the last stage. The remembrance of God surcharged with love, the technical name of which is Salat, truly becomes for a worshipper a substitute for nourishment. Indeed he repeatedly seeks to sacrifice his soul in return for this nourishment and cannot survive without it, as fish cannot survive without water. He deems a single moment away from God as death itself. His soul is always in prostration at the threshold of God and he finds all his comfort in God. He is convinced that if he were parted from the remembrance of God for even a moment, he would die. As food generates a feeling of freshness in the body and strengthens the physical senses like seeing and hearing, in the same way at that stage the remembrance of God which is surcharged with love and devotion strengthens a believer's spiritual faculties, that is to say, his eye acquires the faculty of beholding visions clearly and in a subtle manner, and his ears hear the word of God Almighty and his tongue gives expression to that word in a clear, bright and delightful manner. He sees true dreams frequently which are fulfilled like the advent of the dawn, and on account of his pure and loving relationship with God he partakes of a great number of true dreams that convey good tidings to him. This is the stage at which a believer feels that the love of God serves him as nourishment. This new birth takes place after the spiritual framework becomes ready, and then the spirit which is aflame with the Personal love of God falls upon the heart of such a believer and suddenly a superior power lifts him above the stage of humanity. This is the stage which is designated spiritually as a new creation. At this stage God Almighty causes a blazing flame of His Personal love, which is designated the spirit, to descend upon the heart of a believer and thereby removes all its darkness and pollutions and weaknesses. With the breathing of this spirit the beauty of the believer which hitherto was at a lower stage arrives at its climax and he acquires a spiritual glory, and the narrowness of a vicious life is totally removed and the believer feels that a new spirit has entered into him which was not there before. He acquires a wonderful sense of serenity and contentment through the spirit. His personal love surges up like a fountain and waters the plant of his servitude. The fire that hitherto had only possessed a certain degree of warmth blazes up at this stage and burning up all the straw and tinder of the human self brings it under the complete control of the Divine and comprehends all the limbs. Then, like a piece of iron which when it is heated in a fierce fire becomes red and looks like fire itself, such a believer manifests Divine signs and actions, as the red hot piece of iron manifests the effects and qualities of fire. This does not mean that such a believer becomes God. Only it is a characteristic of Divine love that it bestows its own color upon that which is manifest, while the inner qualities of servitude and its weakness continue. At this stage God becomes the bread of the believer which sustains his life, and God becomes the water by drinking which the believer is delivered from death, and becomes the cool breeze that comforts the heart of the believer. At this stage it would not be inappropriate to say metaphorically that God enters into the believer and saturates his whole being and makes his heart His throne; then he beholds not through his own spirit but through the spirit of God and hears through it and speaks through it and walks through it and overcomes his enemies through it inasmuch as at this stage he arrives at the station of non-being and the spirit of God bestows upon him a new life through the manifestation of its personal love for him. Then he becomes the illustration of the verse: Then We develop it into a new creation; so blessed be Allah, the Best of creators (23: 15) (Zameema, Braheen Ahmadiyyah Part V , Now published in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984) vol. 21. , pp. 54-58).

Salat should be carried out in an excellent manner

It is folly to be satisfied with the outward performance of Salat. Most people observe the Salat only formally and get through it quickly as if it were a burdensome tax which should be got rid of speedily. Then there are those who get through the Salat quickly and thereafter occupy themselves with long drawn out prayers which take twice or three times as much time as the Salat, whereas the Salat itself is nothing but prayer. He who does not observe it in that spirit and does not occupy himself with supplication in the course of it fails to observe the Salat. You should seek to make your Salat delicious like food and cold water, lest it should bring woe upon you rather than blessing. Salat is an obligation due to God. It should be carried out in an excellent manner (Malfoozat, Vol VI p. 370).

Supplication should be made during Salat

The Salat is the effective criterion of the piety of a worshipper. He who weeps throughout his Salat is bestowed security. As a child weeps loudly in its mother's lap and is comforted by the love and compassion of its mother, in the same way he who supplicates God with humility and a melting heart in his Salat places himself in the lap of God's providence and compassion. He who finds no delight in the Salat has not yet truly tasted the pleasure of believing. Salat does not merely mean physical postures and movements. Some people get through the Salat quickly like the nibbling of a hen and then start long supplications, that is to say perform the Salat quickly as if it were a formal ceremony, whereas that is the time for supplicating God Almighty. Having emerged from it without any gain they start their supplications. Make your supplications during the Salat, make the Salat a means of supplication and prayer (Malfoozat, Vol. II, p. 145).

Recitation of Fatihah is obligatory in Salat

Prayer is the purpose and spirit of the Salat and that purpose cannot be achieved through prayer after finishing the Salat. Such a worshipper is like one who is granted an opportunity of presenting himself before the Sovereign and submitting his petition, but he says nothing at the time and after he leaves the presence he presents his petition. That would not avail him anything. That is the case of the people who do not pray humbly and earnestly during the Salat. Make all your supplication during the Salat and observe it with all its due requirements.

God Almighty has taught us a prayer at the very beginning of the Holy Quran and has also instructed us in all the requirements of prayer. The recitation of Surah Fatihah is obligatory in the Salat, which indicates that true prayer is offered only in the course of the Salat (Malfoozat, Vol III, p. 358).

The Salat may not be observed in any language except the language of the Holy Quran. But after the prescribed prayers and supplications you may supplicate God Almighty in your own vernacular also. You must not neglect the prescribed prayers. The Christians having departed from this principle have lost everything. (Malfoozat, Vol III, p. 288).

What is the Salat? It is the supplication made humbly in the form of glorification and praise of God, proclaiming His Holiness, seeking His forgiveness and calling down His blessings on the Holy Prophet. When you are occupied with the Salat do not confine yourselves only to the prescribed prayers like heedless people whose Salat is all formality and has no reality at the back of it. When you observe the Salat, then besides the prescribed prayers taught by the Holy Quran and by the Holy Prophet, you should set forth your supplications in your respective vernaculars so that your hearts may be moved by your humility and your earnestness {Kashti Nuh (Qadian, Ziaul Islam Press, 1902) Now printed in Ruhani Khazain, Vol.19,p. 63}.

Supplications may be offered in one's own vernacular

Make your supplications during your five daily prayer services. You are not forbidden to supplicate in your own vernaculars. The Salat is not properly observed except with concentration, and concentration cannot be achieved without humility, and humility is generated by a comprehension of that which is said. Therefore, eagerness and travail of the soul are generated more easily by supplication in one's vernacular. But this does not mean that you should dispense with the prescribed prayers and offer the Salat in your own language. That is not what I mean. What I have in mind is that after the prescribed prayers you should also supplicate in your own language. There is a special blessing in the prescribed prayers. Salat means prayer. Therefore during the Salat pray for deliverance from the calamities of the here and hereafter and that your end may be good. Pray also for your wives and children. Be good and shun all evil (Malfoozat, Vol. VI, p. 146).

The philosophy of five daily prayers

What are the five daily prayer services? They are pictures of your different conditions during the course of the day. You pass through five conditions at a time of trial and your nature demands that you must pass through them. The first of these is when you are warned that you are about to be afflicted with a calamity. For instance, imagine that a warrant has been issued for your presence in court. This is the first condition which disturbs your serenity and contentment. This condition resembles the time when the sun begins to decline, as on the receipt of the court warrant. Corresponding to this condition the noon prayer service has been prescribed, the time of which begins with the decline of the sun.

You experience the second condition when you are drawn close to the place of the calamity. For instance, when having been taken into custody under the warrant you are produced before the magistrate. At that time you are in terror and the light of security seems as if it were about to depart from you. This condition resembles the time when the light of the sun diminishes and the human eye can fix itself upon the sun and it becomes obvious that the time of its setting is near. Corresponding to this spiritual condition the afternoon prayer service has been prescribed.

The third condition sets in when you lose all hope of deliverance from the calamity. For instance, when after the recording of the prosecution evidence which is designed to bring about your ruin, you are charged with an offense and a charge-sheet is prepared. At this time you almost lose your senses and you begin to think of yourself as a prisoner. That condition resembles the time when the sun sets and hope of daylight comes to an end. The sunset prayer service is prescribed corresponding to this spiritual condition.

The fourth condition is when you are afflicted by the calamity and its deep darkness envelops you completely. For instance, when after the close of the evidence you are convicted and sentenced and are committed to the custody of the police. This condition resembles the time of nightfall, when everything falls into deep darkness. The evening prayer service is prescribed corresponding to this spiritual condition.

When you have spent a certain time in the darkness of the affliction, Divine mercy surges up and delivers you from the darkness, as the dawn succeeds the darkness of the night and daylight begins to appear. The dawn prayer service is prescribed corresponding to this spiritual condition. God Almighty in view of your five changing conditions has prescribed five prayer services for you. You can thus understand that these services have been prescribed for the benefit of your soul. If you desire security against these calamities you should not neglect the five daily services, as they are a reflection of your inner and spiritual conditions. The Salat is a remedy for the calamities that may threaten. You know not what type of circumstances the new day might confront you with. So before the beginning of the day supplicate your Divine Master earnestly that the day may prove to be a source of benefit and blessing for you {Kashti Nuh (Qadian, Ziaul Islam Press, 1902) Now printed in Ruhani Khazain, Vol.19, pp. 63-65}.

The Salat is an instrument for delivery from sin. It is a quality of the Salat that it makes a person secure against sin and vice. So seek a Salat of that type and try to make your Salat such. Salat is the soul of bounties. The grace of God Almighty is received through the Salat. Then observe it duly so that you might become heirs to the bounties of God Almighty (Malfoozat, Vol. V, p. I26).

What is the Salat? It is the submission of one's humility and one's weakness to God and to seek the fulfillment of one's needs from Him. In the course of the Salat the worshipper sometimes stands before God with folded arms signifying his consciousness of the glory of God and his eagerness to carry out His Commandments; at other times he falls into prostration in complete humility and devotion and seeks the fulfillment of his needs. Sometimes like a beggar he praises Him from Whom he begs and proclaiming His greatness and His glory seeks to move His mercy and supplicates. Him. A faith that has nothing comparable to the Salat is altogether empty.... Salat means the love and fear of God and the preoccupation of the heart with His remembrance. That is faith. He who seeks escape from Prayer is no better than an animal. To eat and drink and sleep away the hours like an animal is not faith. This is the practice of the disbelievers...For him who desires to meet God and is anxious to reach Him the Salat is a conveyance by climbing into which he can arrive at his goal speedily. He who gives up the Salat, how shall he arrive?

Since the Muslims have abandoned the Salat or have given up observing it with the serenity and comfort and love of the heart, being neglectful of its true reality, Islam has begun to decline. The time when the Salat was observed properly was a great time for Islam, when it had become dominant in the whole world. Since the Muslims have given up the proper performance of the Salat they themselves have been abandoned. It is the Salat performed with heartfelt earnestness that delivers a person from all difficulties. It is my repeated experience that I pray for the resolving of some difficulty and while I am still occupied with the Salat God resolves the difficulty.

What happens in the Salat? One raises one's hands in supplication and the Other listens to him well. Then a time comes when He Who listens speaks and responds to the supplicator. This is the situation in the Salat. The worshipper falls into prostration before God Almighty and submits his difficulties and his needs to Him. The result of true and real Salat is that soon the time comes when God Almighty responds to the supplicant and comforts him with His words. Such an experience is not possible without the true observance of Salat (Malfoozat, Vol V, pp. 253-255).

The Salat is truly so called when a sincere and holy relationship is established with God and the worshipper becomes so devoted to the pleasure of God Almighty and His obedience and so upholds his faith above all worldly values that he is ever ready to lay down his life in the cause of God. It is only then that it can be said that his Salat is worthy to be called by that name. So long as this condition is not established and the worshipper does not become a model of sincerity and faithfulness his prayers and other actions are without effect (Malfoozat, Vol. VI, p. 240).

Do not perform the Salat as a mere ceremony, but observe it with the burning and the melting of the heart and supplicate continuously in the Salat. It is the key to the resolving of all difficulties. In addition to the prescribed prayers and glorification supplicate much in your vernacular so that your heart should melt, and continue this effort till you arrive at that condition for that is the means of the achieving of all true objectives. All physical postures during the Salat should represent the condition of the heart also. When the worshipper stands in the Salat his heart should also be standing erect for God's obedience; when he bows down the heart should also bow down; and when he goes into prostration the heart should also prostrate itself, which means that the heart should not let go of God at any time. When he reaches that condition he will begin to get rid of sins (Malfoozat, Vol. VI, pp. 367-368) .

Salat means relationship between
man's servitude and God's providence

The Holy Quran mentions two gardens; one of these is the garden that is bestowed in this life and that is the delight of the Salat. The Salat is not a burdensome tax but is a permanent relationship between man's condition of servitude and God's Providence. God Almighty has prescribed the Salat for the establishment of that relationship and has charged it with delight which serves to maintain the relationship. For instance, if married couple do not find delight in their relationship, the relationship is likely to be disrupted. In the same way if there is no delight in Salat the relationship between the servent and the Master is disrupted. Supplicate behind closed doors that that relationship may be continued and may become a source of delight. The relationship between man's servitude and God's Providence is very deep and is full of light, the realitly of which cannot be expressed in words. Till that delight is experienced man continues in a state which resembles animals. Even if that delight is felt only two or three times the worshipper experiences a taste of it, but he who has not even that much experience continues blind as is said: He who is blind in this world will continue blind in the hereafter (17:73), (Malfoozat, Vol. VI, p. 371).

Istighfar means that the light has been obtained from God Almighty may be safeguarded and may be fostered. The Salat is prescribed for this purpose so that five times daily this light may be repeatedly sough from God. He who possesses insight knows that the Salat is a spiritual exaltion and that the only way of deliverance from spiritual ills is repeated supplication in Salat which is charged with earnestness and melting of the heart (Malfoozat, Vol, VII, p. 124-125).

If a worshipper finds that he has lost the eagerness and delight that he used to experience in the Salat he should not become weary, nor be discouraged. He should seek to recover with great eagerness that which has been lost; the appropriate means for which are repentance, Istighfar and earnestness. Salat should not be neglected because of lack of delight init, but should be on that account multiplied and intensified, as an alcoholic does not give up drinking because he cannot get drunk but goes on drinking till he begins to feel the effect and delight that he desires in liquor. Thus a worshipper who finds the Salat insipid should multiply the Salat and should not become weary of it. In the end his insipidity will be turned into delight. A person who starts digging a well in his search for water has to continue digging till he reaches water. Those who give up digging before water is reached deprive themselves altogether, but those who persist and do not become weary reach water in the end. To find delight in Salat what is needed is Istighfar, eagerness, steadfastness and multiplication of Salat and Prayer (Malfoozat, Vol. V, p. 432).

The weapons for our achieving supremacy are istighfar, repentance, knowledge of the faith, the upholding of the majesty of God Almighty and observance of Salat five times a day. Salat is the key to the acceptance of prayer. Supplicate throughout Salat and do not be neglectful. Shun every vice whether it relates to the obligations due to God or to the obligations due to your fellow beings (Malfoozat, Vol. V, p 303)

In order to estimate the degree of a person's fear of God it is enough to observe his regularity in Salat. I am convinced that a person who observes Salat diligently and is not held back from it by fear or sickness or worldly trials undoubtedly believes truly in God Almighty. But this degree of faith is bestowed mainly upon the poor. Few of the wealthy partake of this bounty (Izalai Auhan (( Amritsar, Riyaz Hind Press 1308 A.H.) , Now published in Ruhani Khazain (London, 1984) vol. 3, p. 814).

Fasting and Salat are both forms of worship. The fast affects powerfully the body and Salat affects powerfully the soul. Salat generates a condition of burning and melting of the heart, and is, therefore, a higher form of worship than fasting. The latter fosters the capacity for visions. (Malfoozat, Vol. VII, p. 379).

Salat purifies the spirit and the fast illuminates the heart

The verse: The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran began to be revealed (2.186); indicates the greatness of the month of Ramadan. The Sufis have recorded that this is a good month for the illumination of the heart. One who observes the fast has frequent experience of visions in this month. The Salat purifies the spirit and the fast illumines the heart. The purification of the spirit means that one may be delivered from the passions of the self that incites to evil; and the illumination of the heart means that the gates of vision may be opened so that one may be able to behold God (Malfoozat, Vol. IV, p. 256-257).

On one occasion I began to reflect on the purpose of the prescribed expiation of missing a fast and I conceived that the expiation is prescribed so that one may be bestowed the capacity and the strength to observe the fast. God Almighty alone can bestow such strength and everything should be sought from God Almighty. He is the All-Powerful; if He so wills He can bestow the strength for observing the fast on one who is afflicted with tuberculosis. The purpose of the prescribed expiation is that one may be bestowed the strength for the observation of the fast, and this can be achieved only through the grace of God Almighty. One should supplicate: Lord this is Thy blessed month and I am being deprived of its blessings. I know not whether I shall be alive next year, or would find the opportunity of observing the fasts that I am missing. Do Thou bestow upon me, by Thy grace, the strength that should enable me to observe the fast. I am sure that one with such a heart would be bestowed the needed strength by God Almighty. If God Almighty so wished He would not have prescribed limitations for the Muslims as He had prescribed for earlier peoples; but the purpose of the limitations is the promotion of the welfare of the people concerned. According to me the principle is that when a person supplicate God Almighty with perfect sincerity that he should not be deprived of the blessings of the month of Ramadan, he is not so deprived, and if such a one should become ill during the month of Ramadan his illness becomes a source of mercy for him, inasmuch as the value of every action is determined by the motive that inspires it. It behoves a believer that he should prove himself brave in the cause of God Almighty. He who is heartily determined that he would observe the fast but is held back from doing so on account of illness while his heart yearns after the observation of the fast would not be deprived of the bounty resulting from the observation of the fast and angels would observe the fast in his place. This is a subtle matter. If a person finds the observation of the fast difficult on account of the slothfulness of his spirit and imagines that he is not in good health, and that if he misses a meal he would suffer from various types of disorders, such a one, who imagines that a Divine blessing would sit heavy on him, would not deserve any spiritual merit. On the other hand, a person who feels happy at the approach of the month of Ramadan and is eager to observe the fast, but is held back by illness from doing so, would not be deprived of the blessings of Ramadan. Many people merely seek excuses and imagine that as they can deceive their fellow beings they can also deceive God. Such people make their own interpretations and deem them correct, but they are not correct in the estimation of God Almighty. The field of such interpretations is vast and a person given to them might become accustomed to the performance of the Salat throughout his life in a sitting posture and may abstain altogether from observing the fast. But God is well aware of the motive and design of a person whose conduct is inspired by sincerity and devotion. God Almighty knows that his heart is eager and He bestows plentifully upon him, for the eagerness of the heart is valuable in the estimation of God.

Those who seek excuses rely on their interpretations, but such interpretations have no value in the estimation of God Almighty. On one occasion when I continued observation of the fast for six months I met a company of the Prophets in a vision who admonished me against imposing so much hardship on myself and directed me to desist. Thus when a person imposes hardship upon himself for the sake of God, He takes pity on him like the parents of a child and directs him to desist. (Malfoozat, Vol. IV, pp. 258-260).

The purpose of fasting is purification

I have already spoken of the Salat. Next in order is worship in the shape of the fast. It is a pity that some who call themselves Muslims at this time desire to modify these forms of worship. They are blind and are not aware of the perfect wisdom of God Almighty. These forms of worship are essential for the purification of the spirit. These people seek to intervene absurdly in a sphere of which they have no knowledge and devise false schemes for the improvement of a territory that they have not visited. Their lives are devoted to worldly affairs; of spiritual matters they have no notion. To be moderate in eating and drinking and to bear hunger and thirst are necessary for the purification of the spirit and promote the capacity for visions. Man does not live by bread alone. To discard all thought of eternal life is to invite Divine wrath. But it should be remembered that the fast does not mean merely that a person should abstain from food and drink over a certain period. During the fast one should be occupied greatly with the remembrance of God. The Holy Prophet, peace be on him, occupied himself greatly with worship during the month of Ramadan. During that month one should discard one's preoccupation with eating and drinking and cutting asunder from these needs should address oneself wholly towards God. Unfortunate is the person who is bestowed material bread and pays no attention to spiritual bread. Material bread strengthens the body, and spiritual bread sustains the soul and sharpens the spiritual faculties. Seek the grace of God, as all doors are opened by His grace.

The institution of Hajj

Another form of worship is the Pilgrimage; which does not mean that a person should carry out the formality of the Pilgrimage by providing for his journey across the ocean with money lawfully or unlawfully acquired, and having repeated the prayers and formulas according to the directions of the servitors of the Kaaba, should come back and boast that he has performed the Pilgrimage. The purpose that God Almighty has appointed for the Pilgrimage is not achieved in this manner. The truth is that the last stage of the seeker's journey is that withdrawing himself altogether from the demands and desires of self he should be completely engulfed by the love of God and complete devotion to Him. A true lover sacrifices his soul and heart; and the circuit of the House of Allah is a visible sign of such a sacrifice. As there is a House of Allah here below on the earth, so there is one in heaven. Until a person performs the circuit of the House above, his circuit of the House below is not truly performed. One who performs the circuit of the House below puts aside all garments, retaining only one of them to cover his body, but he who performs the circuit of the House above discards all garments altogether and becomes naked for the sake of God. The circuit is a sign of the lovers of God. They go round the Kaaba as if they have no will of their own left and they are devoted wholly to Him.

The paying of Zakat

Another form of worship is Zakat. Some people pay the Zakat but take no care whether that which they pay as Zakat was lawfully or was unlawfully acquired. If a dog is slaughtered and at the time of its slaughter the name of Allah is pronounced upon it, or a pig is slaughtered in the same way, would the eating of the flesh of the dog or the pig become lawful? That which is unlawful will remain unlawful in all circumstances. The root of the word Zakat means purification. When a person who acquires something lawfully and out of it spends in the cause of the faith, the rest of it is purified. Many people are involved in these errors and they do not recognize the reality. All this must be discarded. All the ordinances of Islam are means of salvation, but through their errors people go astray. One should not take pride in one'-s good actions, nor be pleased with them until such sincere faith is achieved that no one is associated in one's worship of God Almighty and one is enabled to worship righteousness all the time. (Speech at the Annual Conference, 1906 pp. 20-21)

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