Bismi’Llāhi ir-Ramān ir-Raīm

In the Name of God, the Universally Merciful, the Singularly Compassionate


The final nights of Ramaḍān are calling. The Friend ﷻ is near. Who is eager for the meeting with their Lord ﷻ? Who is seeking Him ﷻ in the dark of the night?

Have you not considered that unto Allāh prostrates
whosoever is in the heavens and the earth
—sun, moon, stars, mountains, trees, and animals,
and many among humanity?
Al-Ḥajj (The Pilgrimage), 22:18:1-21

All of creation praises Allāh ﷻ, though humanity must consciously choose to do so. Even our bodies remember Allāh ﷻ, though our hearts can be unfaithful and our minds in disbelief. The form of the ritual prayer of Islām has cosmic significance, each movement reflected in the celestial dance. The ritual prayer is a sacred rite replete with meaning and alchemical power. It begins with the ablution, which cleanses the subtle light body of the soul. As the subtle body is excited, it becomes more luminous. This body of light dominates the physical body, so that with the ablution we are physically cleansed, refreshed, and rejuvenated. Once our consciousness is no longer preoccupied with the accumulated stuff of the day, we can be focused in the present moment, which is exactly where we need to be when facing the Almighty ﷻ.

The ritual prayer follows the ablution. Standing, we symbolically orient the microcosm of the body towards the inviolate sanctuary in Mecca and its beating heart, the Ka’aba —the terrestrial reflection of the celestial House of Allāh ﷻ. Our next task is to inwardly step into a state of prayer. This may take some time as it requires getting out of the way (i.e. getting out of the chattering mind) and approaching Allāh ﷻ with sincerity and humility. It is He Who ﷻ receives us. We can only knock on the door. Nevertheless, there are basic steps you can take to prepare yourself. First, establish a rooted and upright stance. Then, allow your being to relax into position while maintaining the integrity of the form. Breathe rhythmically and with ease as you find your composure. Focus your attention in your body, in the present moment. Allow your attention to withdraw into your heart space, then orient your inner gaze towards your Lord ﷻ. As you recite, give each letter its due so that your recitation is concentrated, measured, and flowing. Allow the meanings to wash over you and permeate your soul. Allow your body to be as still as possible in each position of the prayer.

As you enter the state of prayer, you will be transported into a spaceless space and a timeless time. When Imām ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib ع was once wounded in battle by an arrow that pierced his foot, his companions were unable to remove the arrow, so excruciating was the pain. Knowing the profound depth of his worship, such that he was oblivious to his surroundings even when performing the ritual prayer on an active battlefield, his companions removed the arrow without difficulty while he was in prostration.

The physicality of the ritual prayer is a powerful means of engaging and educating the soul. The act of prostration, for example, engenders humility in the Divine Presence ﷻ and cultivates an attitude of surrender to the Almighty ﷻ. As Allāh ﷻ says in the Qur’ān: “They fall down on their faces, weeping, and it increases humility in them” (Al-‘Isra’, 17:109). Each position of the ritual prayer is both symbolic and alchemical (i.e. it can change the soul). The position of prostration holds a special significance. The Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ said: “The closest position that a person can be from Allāh is at the time of prostration…” Those who prostrate are changed to the extent that you can recognize them in a crowd. May we be among those who are humble before their Lord ﷻ. And Allāh ﷻ knows best.


© Ḥakīm Ilyās Kāshānī