In salat I find the refreshment for my eyes. - Hadith
Salat is the ascension of the believer. - Hadith
Al-Kabir - Allah, the Supremely Great
The Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him with the peace of perfect union, calls salat the dhikrullah al-akbar, the greatest divine remembrance.
On the night of his Ascension, the Prophet witnessed the angels in each of the seven heavens perpetually worshipping Allah in unique ways: standing, bowing, prostrating, kneeling, and chanting the Holy Names. In the boundless love of Allah Most High for Muhammad and humanity, all those modes were gathered together into one glorious form of praise called salat, and granted to the community of the Prophet to be offered five times daily for Allah’s pleasure alone. Salat is the crown of prayer, containing in itself all forms of praise flowing within the creation, from the angelic plane to beings on all planes of existence. It is the ascension of the believer, following the Ascension of the Prophet, and the witnessing of the Beloved. The lover comes to prayer knowing that Allah is longing and waiting. The lover is also longing to meet with the Beloved in the intimate bridal chamber of union, which is salat. Enter salat with complete faith that you meet Allah.
As you call out Allahu Akbar feel that you have left everything behind you—your dominion, your possessions, your relationships, your physical sustenance, your pleasures and your obsessions. Leave also your self on this threshold. You are a faqir, a poor and empty one, who has come to be filled with the radiance of Allah. You are flooded with the praise of Subhanaka allahuma wa bi hamdika wa tabaraka asmuka wa ta‘ala jadika wa la ilaha ila ghayruk. Audhu bilahi minash shaytan ir-rajim bismillah ir-rahman ir-rahim. “Glorious are you O my beloved Allah, and all hearts are constantly praising You, Your Name is pure blessing, Your might is exalted and beyond reach and there is no reality apart from You alone. I take refuge from all negativity in Your boundless Love.” Filled with the radiance of this praise we now offer the Fatiha, the magnificent prayer which is shared between Allah and the servant:
In the name of Allah Most High
Who is Tenderly Compassionate, Infinitely Merciful
Perfect praise flows to Allah alone, Lover and Sustainer of all Worlds,
Most intimately called Rahman and Rahim,
Presiding magnificently over the Day of Divine Awakening.
O Lord, we worship only You and rely upon You alone.
Reveal Your Direct Path, the mystic way of those who,
through Your Mercy, have received and truly
assimilated Your sublime Guidance,
Those who never wander from the spiritual path
and therefore never experience Your awesome Correction.
The first part of the Fatiha is pure glorification and praise. The second part beginning with “O Lord, we worship only You” initiates the supplication of the servant, and here opens the flood of what has been hidden in one’s own heart. So salat is both praise and petition. Salat is sometimes painful because we will be facing what we have hidden, and shedding what we have gathered from prayer time to prayer time. We offer these to the only One Who can truly help us. This is why the Prophet, may divine peace be upon him, has likened the practice of the five daily prayers to bathing in a beautiful river flowing in front of our house. All dust and stain are removed through immersing ourself in pure Mercy. In fact they will never have existed.
The graceful movements of salat are the lover’s ecstacy. While standing as the primal Alif and the sacred pen, the lover praises the Beloved with His own words in rhythmic verses of Holy Koran. Then she beseeches the Beloved in bowing low and glorifying Him. Then rising up for a moment with the affirmation that Allah hears the one who praises Him, the lover falls into deep prostration, in the bliss of submission. Twice the lover travels through the cycle of praise, and then comes to her knees. This position represents the station of intimate communion with Love experienced by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, on the night of his ascension when he came nearer than two bow lengths to the Essence of Reality.
Hazreti Ali, the mystic guide of all tariqats described an exalted degree of prayer when he proclaimed, “I do not pray to a God I cannot see.” This is the state of Ihsan, spiritual perfection. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, tells us that if we do not see Allah directly, then we should pray knowing that Allah is seeing us. In salat, feel Allah’s gaze within your heart, filling the entire heart, so that the heart itself becomes the divine gaze. Then, the body and all the space around becomes Allah’s gaze. We enter true salat and allow Allah alone to be present in the station of prayer. It is Allah Who calls to prayer, it is Allah Who comes to prayer, it is Allah Who performs the prayer and speaks the prayer. Salat is pure presence of Allah.
Distraction in prayer is experienced by most practitioners. Shaykh Muzaffer said that one moment of presence in salat is sufficient to validate the prayer. Bring your awareness into the heart, and feel Allah’s gaze there. Remain longer in the postures of bowing (ruku) and prostration (sajda). This will increase your concentration, and salat will become profound meditation.
The noble Prophet, may Allah shower endless Peace upon him, has shared with us that communal salat is twenty-seven times more powerful than salat offered individually. If you are alone, then offer the intention of leading the prayer, for a community of angelic beings is praying with you.