Friday Sermon: Requisites of acceptance of prayer

August 13th, 2010

Hudhur gave a discourse on the requisites of acceptance of prayer. He recited verse 187 of Surah Al Baqarah at the start of the Friday Sermon today, its translation reads: ‘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.’ (2:187).

Hudhur said the aforementioned verse is cited in the Qur’an next to the commandment and details regarding fasting. This signifies that in order to become an Abd (servant) of God and to experience acceptance of prayer one is required to undergo the endeavour of spiritual exercise (mujahida) and fasting in Ramadan is a mujahida. Therefore, believers should fast with this insight and with full awareness of the requisites of fasting. God is not interested in man’s starvation or apparent worship. Thus, aforementioned verse makes the acceptance of supplicant conditional; it does not state that the call of anyone will be listened instantly or regardless of what is the condition of the person. It is thus stated ‘…they should hearken to Me…’ and ‘…believe in Me…’. Hudhur said this commandment is for Muslims, yet it states belief. Explaining, he said a single verbal declaration does not comprise ‘belief’, rather there should be development of faith and one should move towards sincere piety, then alone would one be guided and would attain the status of a true believer. It is also stated ‘…that they may follow the right way …’, moving towards true piety and searching perfection in guidance.

Hudhur said the ways of how to hearken to God after hearing His commandment are explained in the Holy Qur’an, which is a collection of guidance, in which it is stated in the very beginning; ‘This is a perfect Book; there is no doubt in it; it is a guidance for the righteous,’ (2:3). Hudhur further expounded that for those who search for guidance, who wish to strengthen their belief in God, attain the heights of piety and wish that their prayers are accepted there is no other way but to turn to the perfect Qur’an. In this Book are all the ways taught by God to accomplish one’s life in this world and the Hereafter. We find the examples of these ways in the blessed model of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) whose life was a living example of all the excellent teachings of the Qur’an. God states: ‘Verily you have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent model, for him who fears Allah and the Last Day and who remembers Allah much.’ (33:22). All that is cited in the aforementioned verse is acceptable if effort is made to adopt the blessed model of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Adopting his blessed model is in compliance with the verse 2:187, for only ‘servants’ of God would ask the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) about gaining nearness to God and it is God’s commandment to follow the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).

Hudhur said a Muslim cannot imagine following anyone else’s model. If there is any other model for believers it is of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who were perfectly obedient to him. In the current age it is the true and ardent devotee of the Holy Prophet, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) who taught us new ways of understanding the Qur’an and to totally lose ourselves in ardent love of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). There could not be another perfect Abd of God until the end of time that could attain the standard of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). God thus said to His perfect Abd that those who gathered around him and asked about God should be told that He is near but attainment of this nearness requires keen insight of spiritual knowledge and for this they have to look to God’s beloved.

Those who put the blessed model in practice and truly loved the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) became true servants of God. They experienced Divine nearness, acceptance of prayers and God’s help and support. Today, the answer for those who supplicate God remains the same as it was 1,400 years ago. The God of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is Living today as He was then and will always be. What is required is putting the blessed model into practice, to time and again keep it in view so that we may develop in piety and can keep an eye on our weaknesses, so that our belief in God is strengthened and we are able to understand the philosophy of prayer.

Hudhur said Ramadan is a month of heightened worship of God, avoiding sin and discharging rights of mankind. The blessed practices of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) used to gain tremendous momentum during this month. He was a very magnanimous person but in Ramadan his magnanimity would greatly increase in intensity. Although an ordinary person cannot reach his status, yet we are required to follow him. Hudhur explained that God has given each person individual capacity and whatever capacity one has been given, one is commanded to utilise it fully. God is fully aware of our capacities, He states that the blessed model of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is before us and we have to follow it. Each person will be recompensed in this regard in accordance with his or her capacity. It is not for man to determine the level of capacity because God knows this best, it is for man to try the utmost and then leave the matter to God. Indeed, it is for man to do Jihad (striving). Explaining the term Jihad, Hudhur said it signifies to make an effort with one’s entire capacity, to strive and endeavour and to try with all one’s enthusiasm and eagerness to such an extent that one is exhausted.

God states in the Holy Qur’an: ‘And as for those who strive in Our path — We will surely guide them in Our ways…’ (29:70). Here the Arabic word Jahadu is used to signify that one who want to attain nearness to God has to do Jihad. This is a constant effort which is exhausting. By virtue of God’s attribute of Al Karim (The Noble), in spite of this commandment, He informed the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) to tell people that if they took one step towards God, He would take two steps towards them and if they walked to God, He would run to them. Hudhur said our Beloved God is such that when He sees that His servants hearken to Him and take their very first step in doing so, out of His mercy He lessens the distance and embraces the wish of a weak person to become Abd ur Rahman (servant of the Gracious God). By virtue of Divine quality of Rahmaniyyat, man is brought closer to God.

Reverting to the earlier subject Hudhur said the perfect and blessed model of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) was extraordinary during Ramadan but even in ordinary times it presented unique examples. Once due to falling from horseback, a part of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) body was badly injured and he could not offer Salat standing up. He led congregational Prayer while seated but did not miss it. When his blessed cheek was badly injured during the battle of Uhad and he was in pain he came for Prayers as he normally would. Hadhrat ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) has of course related many incidents about the length and the beauty of the Salat the Prophet offered which cannot be described in words. Thus was the blessed model set by him. Hudhur explained that God states that He grants His nearness when man hearkens to Him and the first and basic phase for this is keen worship. This eagerness should not be limited to Ramadan, rather like the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) it should be remembered during other times, even times of distress.

God has stated that the sign of believers is that they ‘…observe Prayer…’ (2:4) that is, they offer their Prayer in congregation. How could then, the perfect man, through whom God declared: ‘Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’ (6:163) ever disregard this commandment. Indeed, even in his last illness when he was extremely frail, he came to the mosque with support. Hudhur said this was due to him being totally lost in the love of God. Enhanced belief and climax in practice is attained when love surpasses and God has stated that we have a blessed model of surpassed love before us. So, when it is asked where God is, God should be found in the practice of His beloved and we should thus try and become true Abd of God.

Hudhur said populating mosques during Ramadan and then being forgetful, or vying with each other to come to the mosque when times, like currently, are difficult, and when situation improves being forgetful does not comprise hearkening to God. It is self-interest. Hearkening to God will be when the current situation, the emotional state of affairs and Ramadan with its spiritual ambiance will be gone but effort will still be made to put the model of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) in practice. Hudhur said due to the current situation there is attention towards worship. The circumstances regarding Ahmadiyyat in Pakistan have inclined the Ahmadis of the entire world towards improving the standards of worship. Many have received assurance due to prayers and Divine nearness and they have personally experienced manifestation of ‘…I am near…’. The difficult times in Pakistan and the following two Jalsas have sustained the condition. Now, it is Ramadan with its opportunities of acceptance of prayer. While an utmost effort should be made in this regard it should also be prayed that this state of affairs becomes permanent. Ahmadis understand that the condition that the two Jalsas generated will be further enhanced by Ramadan. However, effort should also be made that this becomes an enduring and lasting way and we continue to raise our standards of worship higher and higher. We should try to attain that Divine nearness through prayer, worship and good works that is enduring and the level of our taqwa and our worship should continue to enhance.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that our primary prayer should be for purification from sin. Once this prayer is accepted and man is pure in God’s sight then man does not even need to make other prayers. However, it is a difficult prayer and it requires extremely hard work.

Hudhur said the Qur’an carries numerous commandments and it is not possible to mention them all in one session. In Ramadan attention is drawn to recitation of the Qur’an and to listen to Dars (lesson) of Qur’an. Quranic commandments should be reflected on during these. Hudhur remarked that as he said before he will briefly mention a few aspects of the blessed model of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). A brief insight into his worship of God was given in the beginning. God states in the Qur’an: ‘…and fulfil the covenant; for the covenant shall be questioned about.’ (17:35) The extent to which the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) adhered to this is evident from a tradition when two Muslims left home in Makkah to join other Muslims for battle of Badr. The pagans of Makkah stopped them on their way and asked where they were going. They told them they were going to Medina. The pagans took a promise from them that they would not join the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) in battle. When the two reached the Prophet they narrated everything to him. He said, ‘go and fulfil your promise, we will ask for God’s help against the enemy with prayer.’ Hudhur said this is a supreme example at a time when Muslims were in an extremely vulnerable position against a well-armed pagan army to ask his Companions to fulfil their promise and not join in battle. However, history bears witness how God manifested signs of His nearness to the perfect Abd that the vulnerable side visibly triumphed over a well-armed army. Then at victory of Makkah when a woman decided to give refuge to enemy the Prophet said’ O Umme Hani, whoever you give refuge to, we give refuge to.’ Thus upholding the undertaking of a believing woman.

Hudhur said we note that these days promises are broken over trivial matters. Such situations also present themselves in our Community. On top of breaking promises, at times falsehood is also used. Hudhur said God has declared falsehood comparable to shirk (associating partners with God) and it expels a person from being God’s Abd. The Qur’an states: ‘…Shun therefore the abomination of idols, and shun all words of untruth,’ (22:31). The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that the Qur’an has called untruth filth and has equated it to idols and one who indulges in shirk cannot claim to an Abd.

Hudhur said this is alarming as some people do not think much of saying the odd untrue thing whereas the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) said that it is sufficient for a person to be a liar if he/she spreads all unfounded information. In one Hadith it is related that God is certainly not in need of a person to forgo food and drink if he cannot stop speaking and practising untruth. Another Hadith relates fasting is a shield, until such time that a person does not tear it up with falsehood and back-biting. Hudhur said during Ramadan we should reflect on our weaknesses and try and remove them. Then alone can we be true Abd of God and be among those who hearken to Him and then can listen to the sound of ‘I am near’.

Hudhur said the life of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) gives a detailed insight into how he discharged the dues to society. For example there is the right of the ties of kinship/ relationships as mentioned in 4:2. The verse is recited at the Nikah ceremony yet there is little attention given to discharging the dues. Hudhur said many problems arise due to lack of attention given to this and it is a big reason for breakup in relationships these days. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) not only fulfilled the rights of close relations he also honoured foster-relations. Hudhur said it is often noted that each others’ relations [in marriage] are not respected and this causes breakups. God states that if His beneficence is to be had then along with His worship dues of mankind must also be paid. This can be seen in the blessed model of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and he has also enjoined us to inculcate these principles.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that God states He is near but man is distant. If man reforms his deeds and goes to God he will find Him near. Hudhur said this is a reciprocal matter and in it in any which way, man has to take the initiative. May God make it so that we practice this so that our prayer to be protected from sin and God grace is granted to us in this blessed month and we are among those who are close to God.

Hudhur said another prayer during Ramadan should be, which the Community is making anyway and Hudhur was reminding, particularly regarding Pakistan and particularly regarding the Ahmadis in Pakistan. The prayer is that may God ever keep us wrapped in His mercy, may He bring the schemes of the enemy to naught, keep the Community in His special protection, manifests His Power and may He destroy those who in God’s sight are evil among men. The leadership of Pakistan does not seem to understand the condition of the country, where it is going, what is impending. God alone may have mercy and show us the progress of Islam and Ahmadiyyat greater than before.