Muslims, this week we celebrated the anniversary of the night of Isra and the Mi’raȳ, an event which we spoke briefly about in the Khutba last week and which reminds us how grateful we must be to be linked to the Prophet, who was honored above all creation, and for the wonderful blessing and gift of prayer, for it was on that night 1443 lunar years ago, 3 years before hiȳra, that Allah made the five prayers an essential and obligatory part of our din. And they really are something extraordinary, for each prayer is a direct audience with the Lord of all worlds, the King of the Day of Remuneration, by which we engage in an intimate conversation with Him. The Prophet said:
“The one who is praying is speaking intimately with his Lord. Thus, through prayer, Allah the Almighty invites the humble servant into His presence and grants him an audience, listening and responding.”
In another famous hadith, transmitted by Imam Muslim, the Prophet said:
“Allah says, ‘I have divided the prayer between Me and My slave into two halves, and My slave will have what he wants. When the slave says, ‘Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds, Allah replies, ‘My slave has praised me. When he says, ‘The All-merciful, Most Merciful’, Allah replies, ‘My slave has glorified Me. When he says, ‘The King of the Day of deen,’ Allah says, ‘My slave has handed his affair over to Me.’ When he says, ‘You Alone we worship and You Alone we ask for help’, Allah says, ‘This is between Me and My slave, and My slave will have what he asks for. When he says, ‘Guide us along the straight path, the path of those whom You have blessed, not of those with anger on them nor of the misguided,’ Allah says, ‘This is for My slave and My slave will have what he asks for.'”
And in the course of prayer, Allah addresses the slave directly and not through intermediaries, as mentioned in a hadith:
“When the slave stands in prayer, Allah lifts the veil between them and faces him directly, while the angels that are on the slave’s shoulders do the prayer with him. And in the course of these hearings, Allah fills us with gifts and rewards, for He is the most generous of hosts. Muhammad ibn ‘Ali at-Tirmidhi said:
“Allah invites those who affirm His Oneness to these five prayers out of His mercy for them, and readies all sorts of hospitality for them in them, so that the slave receives gifts for every word and for every movement.
Among the gifts that Allah gives us through prayer is the one that the Garden guarantees us. The Prophet said:
“There are five prayers that Allah has made obligatory for His slaves. Whoever does them and does not miss any of them through not attaching much importance to them, has the Promise of Allah that he will enter the Garden. But whoever does not do them has no promise from Allah, and so if He wills, He will punish him, and if He wants, He will grant him entry to the Garden.”
And he said in another hadith, “The key to the Garden is prayer. Without it, the door is closed.”
Another gift he gives us through prayer is to purify us from our evil deeds. The Prophet said:
“The likeness of the five prayers is that of a river of sweet water that flows swiftly by the door of your house and into which you plunge five times every day. Do you think that any dirt will remain on you?'” They replied, No, nothing would remain.” So the Prophet said, “The five prayers remove wrong actions in the same way that water removes dirt.”
And another gift is that prayer is the secret of our rizq. The Prophet said:
“O Abu Hurayra, command your family to pray, for if you do then Allah will bring you provision from where you know not.”
Muslims, each time each of us enters into prayer, we renew our connection with Allah. The Arabic word for the prayer ‘salat’, according to some scholars, derives from the word ‘sila’. Therefore, through the salat, we reconnect to the source, and are tuned and harmonized by our inner self when problems and distractions exhaust us and cause us to lose sight of our purpose. And that is why the Prophet called the prayer ‘raaha’, ‘rest’ when he told Bilal:
“Bilal, bring us our rest through the prayer.”
And this is also why, when he faced difficulties, he took refuge in prayer. Because Allah says:
“Seek help in steadfastness and the prayer.” (2:45)
We ask Allah to accept our salat and grant us concentration and presence in doing so.
Muslims, some ulama have considered prayer as our own Laylat al-Mi’ray, because in the course of it, each of us emulates the Prophet’s journey by traveling to the presence of His Lord, arriving, in our sayda, at a station that is as close as human beings can get to be to their Lord in this life. Abu Hurayra said:
“The closest a slave can get to Allah is when he is in prostration, so make lots of dua when you are there.” If we knew how close we are to our Creator and to Whom we bow, we would not want to leave prayer. This is the reality of prayer, the secret of that action we perform five times a day. It is a reminder, since very often we do it hastily and without giving it due attention.
The reality of prayer and many of its secrets and gifts are wonderfully summed up by the Prophet in a truly extraordinary hadith. The Messenger said:
“The prayer is the pleasure of the Lord, the love of the angels, the sunna of the Prophets, the light of gnosis, the source of iman, the answering of dua, the acceptance of action, baraka in provision, rest for the bodies, a weapon against enemies, hated by Shaytan, an intercessor between you and the angel of death, a lamp in the grave, a soft bed under your side [in the grave], a barrier between you and the Fire, a proof for the believers when they are in front of their Lord, a heavy weight in the balance, a swift crossing of the sirat and a key to the Garden. And that is because prayer is glorification, praise, recitation and dua. The best of all actions is doing the prayer in its time.”
There is no action in this world that contains so much, it is a treasure that we have with which nothing can be compared. We ask Allah to make us constant and present in it and to grant us access to all its secrets.