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Books Section > The Muslim Prayer-Book by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Nature and Value of Prayer


Nature and Value of Prayer:


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A belief in God is the fundamental principle of every religion; nevertheless the object of religion is not simply to preach the doctrine of the existence of God as a theory; it goes far beyond that. Religion seeks to instil the conviction that God is a living force in the life of man; and prayer is the means by which it is sought to achieve this great end. The real conviction that God is, comes to man, not by the belief that there is a God in the outer world, but by the realisation of the Divine within himself; and this realisation is attained through prayer. Though to most people, nowadays, the existence of God amounts to little more than a theory, yet in every age and among every nation there have been men who, through prayer, have realised the great truth of the Divine existence within their hearts, and have laid down their lives for the good of humanity. In their case belief in the existence of God was a moral force which not only worked an entire change in their own lives, but also enabled them to transform the lives of entire nations for centuries and change the histories of peoples and of countries. Their selflessness and truthfulness were beyond reproach, and their testimony, which is really the testimony of all nations in all ages, establishes one fact, that belief in the existence of God becomes a moral force of the first magnitude when once it is realised in the heart of man through prayer to the Divine Being; so great a moral force is it, indeed, that even the most powerful material forces give way before it. Is not the experience of those great personalities a beaconlight for others, showing them that they also can make God a moral force in their lives? The powers and faculties that are given to one man are also given to another, and through their proper use one man can do what another, before him, has done.

Again, if, apart from the experience of humanity, we consider the question rationally, prayer to God is the natural sequel of the acceptance, in theory, of the existence of God. The aspiration to rise to moral greatness is implanted in human nature more deeply than even the aspiration to rise to material greatness; but the only way in which that aspiration can be realised is to be in touch with the all-pervading Spirit, the fountain-head of purity and the source of the highest morality, and prayer is but an attempt to be in touch with Him. In the sayings of the Holy Prophet, prayer is spoken of as munajat or confidential intercourse with the Lord. In one hadith it is related that man should worship God as if he sees Him. Such descriptions of prayer show its real nature to be that of being in actual intercourse with the Divine Being.

The right development of human faculties depends upon the purification of man's inner self and the suppression of evil tendencies "He surely is successful who purifies it" (91:9). Prayer is spoken of as a means of purification for the heart "Recite that which has been revealed to thee of the Book and keep up prayer; surely prayer keeps one away from indecency and evil" (29:45). Elsewhere loo "And keep up prayer in the two parts of the day and in the first hours of the night; surely good deeds take away evil deeds" (11:114). In a hadith the saying of prayers is compared to washing in a river "Abu Huraira says that he heard the Holy Prophet say, If one of you has a river at his door in which he washes himself five times a day, what do you think? Would it leave any dirt on him? The Companions said, It would not leave any dirt on him (and he would be perfectly clean.) The Prophet said, This is an example of the five prayers, with which Allah blots off all the evils of a man." There are many other hadith in which it is stated that prayer is a kaffara; in other words, it is a means of suppressing the evil tendencies of man. The reason is plain. In 20:14, "the remembrance of Allah" is stated to be the object of keeping up prayer, while in 29:45, it is stated that "the remembrance of Allah is the greatest (restraint)" upon sin. A little consideration will show that a law generally requires a sanction behind it, and behind all Divine laws which relate to the development of man and to his moral betterment, the only sanction is a belief in the great Author of those laws. The oftener, therefore, a man reverts to prayer, to that state in which disengaging himself from all worldly attractions, he feels the Divine presence as an actual fact, the greater is his certainty shout the existence of God, and the greater the restraint upon the tendency to break that law. Prayer, thus, by checking the evil tendencies of man, purifies his heart of all evil, and sets him on the right road to the development of his inner faculties.

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Books Section > The Muslim Prayer-Book by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Nature and Value of Prayer

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